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Unexpoited and Underrated Indeed
on 12 May 2013
Backbeats has being doing a wonderful job of bringing various genres of soul music to a wider audience. The quality of the recordings and the sharp pricing has certainly helped. Unexploited and Underrated is a more ambitious collection, however, being aimed as much at those who think they know their soul music as those that don't.
We all have our preferences and blind spots when it comes to the music we like. Sometimes we close our ears in a way we will later regret and the music we dismissed becomes a collectible item for the next generation. This particular collection is based on the Motorcity and Centrecity labels, both seriously under appreciated by the soul cognoscenti.
Those soul cognoscenti will know that many, but not all, of the Motorcity releases from the late 80s/early 90s suffered from under-nourished synth backing tracks. As a result, every Motorcity track was tarnished with the same brush and many wonderful performances by the likes of J.J. Barnes, David Ruffin, the Originals and other former Motown stars were neglected.
What many will not be aware of was a project in the early 2000s to re-work those backing tracks and give those stellar vocal performances the vehicle they deserved. Several of the tracks on Unexploited and Underrated are the beneficiaries of that project while the other Motorcity tracks stack up pretty well in their original mix.
It has occurred to me that Unexploited and Underrated starts at a disadvantage. If you are a soul music lover, you will have already heard many of the tracks on the other Backbeats releases. That familiarity makes for easier listening. While you will have heard the names of the former Motown stars on this release, the tracks themselves will be new to you. It will take more effort. Moreover, it's no good if you mentally draw a line at June 1972 and expect to expect these singers to sound as they did in mid-60s Detroit. Don't make a mistake. These songs are strong, the vocal performances are peerless and the stars themselves were appreciative of the chance to perform again that the Motorcity label gave them.
Look out for a companion CD Memories and Souvenirs released on May 20th 2013 and compiled, as I understand it, by no less a soul music aficionado as Ralph Tee.