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Solid (but not outstanding) Northern Soul comp......
on 10 February 2013
I feel the five-star reviews for this compilation are somewhat overstating the case since they are in effect saying this compilation is a classic on the same level as say Aretha's "Lady Soul" or even KENT's own "Once Upon A Time In Wigan" Northern Soul compilation.... obviously absurd. My own rule on KENT's Northern Soul compilations is that those sourced from multiple labels are far stronger than those concentrating on a single label/studio (as this one is). That rule holds here that whilst this is a solid "3-star" compilation with excellent sound quality and songs professionally played with expert 'sub-Motwn' arrangements the songs themselves are pretty generic Northern Soul stompers with little variety (especially in tempo) throughout the 60-odd minutes. This lack of variety can be slightly monotonous even for fans of the genre (like myself) --- the better KENT compilations mix things up a bit more by throwing in the odd ballad or bluesier track.
The usual KENT care has gone into the package with comprehensive (if frankly exhausting!) liner notes relating the story of the Pied Piper Production house including snippets of contemporary interviews with surviving players. The sound as usual with KENT is extraordinarily good and it has to be said that considering well over half of these songs are unreleased the quality is actually surprisingly consistent despite the fact there are no lost classics here, almost every track consisting of medium-fast Motown-style rhythms and boilerplate arrangements. The best tracks are by the female singers with September Jones standing out from the pack with the moodier "I'm Coming Home" probably being the pick of the set. Lorraine Chandler, already well known in Northern Soul circles, also contributes very solid material with her "Mend The Broken Pieces Of My Heart" being the pick (again more downbeat in tone than the majority of tracks which makes it stand out). As ever with KENT there'll be a few mystifying choices of which Mike & Ray's "If You Only Knew" is a prime example with 'whitebread-pop' vocals and piffling lyrics over a Motown beat --- simply awful and KENT's statement that this song goes for hundreds of pounds on the collectors circuit just shows how easy it is to part a fool from his money!
Therefore in conclusion: solid enough for keen Northern Soul fans (is there any other type?) but please in no way is this a five-star item by any objective measure --- three-stars is probably a fair rating (ie. good if you like this type of thing but definitely not for the average soul fan; they should get "Once Upon A Time In Wigan" on the same label instead!).