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I reviewed the preceding 10 volumes in this incredible series from 1961 to 1970 (probably the best Bear has ever done) and loved them to distraction. Jurgen Crasser was the remaster engineer for those. This time around (1971 to 1975) the sound hero on all five volumes bears the unlikely moniker of WOLFGANG MANNS. And I swear I may have to get "Wolfgang Is My Main Mann!" tattooed on my frumpy Irish derriere - because these expertly crafted CD compilations are sonically sensational in every way. They’re going to blow the minds of Seventies Soul fans everywhere. Here's the butt-bumping details for "1974"...

UK released Friday 14 February 2014 (11 Feb 2014 in the USA) on Bear Family BCD 16884 AS (Barcode 5397102168840) - the CD compilation "Sweet Soul Music - 23 Scorching Classics From 1974" breaks down as follows (82:32 minutes):

1. Boogie Down - EDDIE KENDRICKS (Tamla T 54243F)
2. Lookin' For A Love - BOBBY WOMACK (United Artists UA-XW375-W)
3. Mighty Mighty - EARTH, WIND and FIRE (Columbia 4-46007)
4. You Make Me Feel Brand New - THE STYLISTICS (Avco AV-4634)
5. Be Thankful For What You’ve Got - WILLIAM DeVAUGHN (Roxbury BRBO-0236)
6. The Payback, Part 1 - JAMES BROWN (Polydor PD 14223)
7. Dancing Machine - THE JACKSON 5 (Motown M 1286F)
8. Sideshow - BLUE MAGIC (Atco 45-6961)
9. Rock Your Baby - GEORGE McCRAE (T.K. Records 1004)
10. Hollywood Swinging - KOOL and THE GANG (De-Lite DEP 561)
11. Rock The Boat - THE HUES CORPORATION (RCA Victor APBO 0232)
12. Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On - YVONNE FAIR (Motown M 1306F)
13. Hang On In There Baby - JOHNNY BRISTOL (MGM M14715)
14. Do It ('Til You're Satisfied) (7" Single Edit) - B.T. EXPRESS (Scepter SCE 12395)
15. Let's Straighten It Out - LATIMORE (Glades 1722)
16. When Will I See You Again - THE THREE DEGREES (Philadelphia International ZS7 3550)
17. Everlasting Love - CARL CARLTON (Back Beat BB-630)
18. Woman To Woman - SHIRLEY BROWN (Truth TRA-3206)
19. I Wouldn't Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me) - BOBBY BLAND (ABC Dunhill D-15015)
20. You Got The Love - RUFUS featuring CHAKA KHAN (ABC Records ABC-12032)
21. You Little Trustmaker - THE TYMES (RCA Victor PB-10022)
22. As Long As He Takes Care Of Home - CANDI STATON (Warner Brothers WBS 8038)
23. Fire - OHIO PLAYERS (Mercury 73643)

The three-way fold-out card digipak of the preceding 10 volumes has been kept as has the  live-on-stage Jackie Wilson photo on the spine that is now extended (when you line all 15 spines they make one photograph). This "1974" set features EARTH, WIND and FIRE on the front cover while the stock 7" of "You Make Me Feel Brand New" by THE STYLISTICS graces the inside flap with a further photo of a pensive-looking YVONNE FAIR on the center lip. The detachable booklet is properly beautiful - a 76 oversized-pages wad of deep liner notes by world-renowned R'n'B and Soul expert BILL DALH with Discography info by DAVE "Daddy Cool" BOOTH. There’s black and white/colour publicity pictures of the artists (more afro hairdos than you can shake a stick at), reproductions of the single labels and album covers in colour and adverts from the US music press. Quality all the way...

As you can see from the catalogue numbers provided above all tracks are US 7” singles and like "1971" it opens with a cleverly chosen triple-whammy of crystal clear sound quality - the hissy but ballsy "Boogie Down" by Eddie Kendricks followed by a truly huge remaster of Bobby Womack’s chipper "Lookin' For A Love" and a blasting Earth, Wind and Fire laying down a template that would serve them well for years to come. The gooey but lovely “You Make Me Feel Brand New” by The Stylistics sounds amazing - full of extraordinary presence (the kind of Soul your sister liked). It’s followed by a real gem - William De Vaughn’s car-crawling genius of a song “Be Thankful For What You’ve Got” - the sound quality on this one track alone is worth the price of admission (lyrics from it title this review). We’re back to serious funk with Part 1 of “The Payback” by James Brown which sounds ludicrously brilliant and is guaranteed to make stone dead hair follicles grow again.

A brave and clever choice is the unexpected “Dancing Machine” by The Jackson 5 where they try to leave the teenybopper behind and tap into the funk of the time and just about succeed. The pretty “hurry hurry” talking song “Sideshow” by Blue Magic sounds lush and full while the ogre of Disco is being ushered in by a quad of huge hits - “Rock Your Baby”, “When Will I See You Again”, “Rock The Boat” and “Hand On In There Baby”. I hate them all personally but for those who want them in top sound quality - then look no further.

Far tastier is the genius choice of Yvonne Fair’s utterly brilliant “Funky Music...” - an irresistible chunk of dancing dynamite liable to make Granny boogie that hip-replacement. Falling into the same territory is the “whatever it is...” bump and grind of “Do It...” by B.T. Express. And another nugget is the slow groove of Benny Latimore’s hypnotic piano on “Let’s Straighten It Out” - with its “tossin’ and turnin’ in your sleep...” lyrics - gorgeous stuff. The audio gurus will flip for the sheer sonic improvement contained in Bear’s remaster of Carl Carlton’s jubilant “Everlasting Love”. And a really great double funk act is Bobby Bland and Chaka Khan with Rufus - both sounding fantastic. I even have to admit to a soft spot for the ‘dooby dooby’ Pop/Soul of “You Little Trustmaker” by The Tymes.

Niggles - like "1972" there's those irritating exclusions (probably due to licensing rights). Where’s the crossover hit “Pick Up The Pieces” by Average White Band, maybe a bit of Lou Bond, Willie Hutch, Chairmen Of The Board, Ashford & Simpson, The Commodores, Billy Paul? And I’d admit that at least 5 of the Disco-orientated tracks make me cringe even now - but there’s no doubting that the compilers had to touch all bases (most are USA R&B Number 1 hits). But yet again there’s that nice mixture of the common and the obscure (all sounding as pert as a grunting gay gymnast in the Russian Winter Olympics). I also had no problems with playback despite the jam-packed value-for-money playing time of 83 minutes. 

These sets have been a long time coming - but man have they been worth the wait. I know long-term Soul fans will look at the track list and price and perhaps baulk at duplicity and cost - DON’T. You’ve not heard these classics until now. And if you’ve any joy for Seventies Soul - then you need to have this volume and the other four compilations in your life - because GLORIOUS is the word that comes to mind. These are already my reissues of the year for 2014 (I've also reviewed 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1975).
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