required reading

Book Review

Spinning Around : A History Of The Soul LP, Vol.1 - A-K


John Lias (UK) ISBN-978-1-5262-0072-3  (hardback)

Putting together a near-as-dammit discography of every soul album ever released on vinyl is the sort of daunting task most likely to be dished out by the devil to new entrants to hell, certainly not one self-chosen by saner mortals, even soul junkies like John Lias, the man behind this weighty but far from heavy-going tome.  To then expand on such an exercise by, not just setting out the relevant statistics but, in addition, opting to review said albums in as informative and unpretentious manner as possible smacks of extreme masochism.  Indeed, to some, self flagellation on a daily basis might have seemed preferable but, in declaring having been privy to John’s intention to undertake this ‘labour of love’ prior to day one, I feel able to confirm that, far from embarking on and carrying out the writing of this book - volume one, with a second volume already started - with any sense of drudge, John’s enthusiasm throughout knew no bounds, never faltering in the enjoyment of seeing the growth of this project and ultimately being able to delight in the finished product.  And the delight is not just of the author/compiler but of any true soul music fan who picks up this book.

Of course, we all have personal tastes and ideas as to what does and what doesn’t constitute what we think of as soul music and, whether reading from cover to cover or - and I think this will be the approach of the majority - dipping in and out, we may pause to question certain omissions.  In the preface, John seeks to explain where he has chosen to draw the line and, whilst his line may not be in quite the same place as yours or mine, it is only reasonable that a line has been drawn somewhere and it must surely be the prerogative of the creator of such a personal work to decide - and if it gives rise to a touch of controversy, that’s even part of the fun.  What one can be sure of is that, after undertaking such thorough research, right down to listening to the most obscure and/or occasionally virtually unpleasant albums, non-deliberate omissions will be few - although the chances of being totally definitive, whatever that can be, will naturally be nil.

So, looking at the content in more detail, the 406 glossy pages include twelve colour pages of reproduced album covers in the centre of the book but, otherwise, it is all text, nicely laid out in an easy-to-read font and in alphabetical order of artist(s) based on surname or group name.  Albums are reviewed individually or in groups, generally the more in-depth coverage being dependant upon John’s positive feelings for the subject matter.  As, I think it is fair to say, with all of us who seek to review material, we can be somewhat too self-opinionated at times but John manages to put his points across in the manner of what could be a convivial round-table discussion and without the hectoring that could have been easy to creep in.  Information on group members, album producers and chart placings are provided wherever possible and numerous cross-references will ensure that, should you pick this up simply to look at a single entry, you will not fail to be drawn to something elsewhere in the book, finding the time passing in the most pleasant and absorbing of ways.  Thus, from Aalon to Kwick, this is a delight and volume two will be eagerly awaited.

review posted 1/4/16