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5.0 out of 5 stars 'Back Beats' Soars Again, 1 April 2012
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This review is from: Backbeats: 2 Steps to Soul Heaven-More 70s & 80s Steppers (Audio CD)
The 'Back Beats' series continues to slowly and steadily expanded, with veteran compiler extraordinaire Ian Dewhirst adding a further ten volumes to an already impressive catalogue, still informed by a desire to explore "the rich musical tapestry known as soul music". For '2 Steps To Soul Heaven', the 26th in the series, Dewhirst once again mines an impressive roster of label catalogues, including SSS International, Invictus, Curtom and Brunswick, covering the period 1974 to 1983. As always Dewhirst continues in his role of exploring and informing with a light touch expertise that is never patronising.

The collection opens with Arnold Blair's 'Trying To Get Next To You' (1975), originally appearing on the Curtis Mayfield owned Curtom label. This is a timeless track that still retains the ability to impress, and one can hear why it would have been rediscovered during the mid to late 1980s 'Rare Groove' explosion. Leroy Hutson's 'Lover's Holiday' (1976) first appeared on the album 'Feel The Spirit', providing a great example of Hutson's productions skills and ability to deliver a well honed mellow groove. 'Ain't It A Shame' (1977) has featured previously on the Dewhirst helmed 'Original Mastercuts' series (on 'Rare Groove 3'), and it remains a classic, with wonderful harmonies weaving over lightly tripping orchestration and a deceptively driving bass. The Jones Girls' 'This Feelling's Killing Me' (1979) is taken from their work for Philadelphia International, and is another example of a beatifully swaying groove with tightly delivered vocals and light orchestration. 'Sweet Music, Soft Lights & You' (1976) by Ken Williams bears the musical influence of Marvin Gaye, melding a sweeteness of sound with a funk influenced lean. 'Take It Slow' (1975) is smoothly delivered before Leroy Hutson features again with 'Lucky Fellow' (1975). Older Hip Hop fans will recognise the use of the opening break on 'Love Sounds' (1975) by Intimate Strangers, having also appeared on 'Dusty Fingers Volume 5'. Having been warmed up, worked hard and worn out the listener is then greeted by The Staple Singers' 'Let's Do It Again' (1975), originally featured on the soundtrack of film with the same name (featuring Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier). 'I Touched A Dream' (1980) is a ravishing reminder of the vocal power of a group that had been preforming since the early 1950s. This is a track to simply savour, a gorgeous example of soul at its very best. The quality continues with The Natural Four's evergreen 'Try Love Again' (1974) and Jean Carn's 'We Got Some Catching Up To Do' (1981). Fans of Nelly and Kelly Rowland will also learn where the lead vocal line for 'Dilemma' (2002) came from, with Patti LaBelle's 'Love, Need And Want You' (1983).

So. Do you buy?

Fans of the 'Back Beats' series will be reassured that '2 Steps To Soul Heaven' manages to continue the pattern of providing exceptionally high quality catalogue at an outstandingly good price. This is a testament to the quality of the music recorded during the period covered and the artists featured. Some collectors might argue that many of the tracks have been featured previously on a number of compilations, including Dewhirst's 'Original Mastercuts' series in the early to late 1990s, but this is music that deserves to be heard and discovered by new audiences. 'Back Beats' works so well because it provides a tangible product (despite the continuing growth of download driven markets) within a well considered and coherent musical framing (and at a ridiculously cheap price).

Congratulations to Ian Dewhirst and the Harmless / Demon Music Group for issuing another great compilation, and for their continuing hard work.

Simply buy.

10/10.
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