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This review is from: Northern Soul - The Essentials (Audio CD)
There are a frankly ridiculous number of introductory compilations that look to tell the story of the strange world of the Northern Soul movement. Therefore, it is something of a difficulty for each one to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack.
This basically-presented 40 song set looks to do it by pairing a 55 minute DVD with its double CD. But the quality of the material chosen for that enterprise isn't of the highest standard. It begins with an underwhelming, low-budget 15 minute short film, 2003's Function At The Junction that tries to encapsulate a night out on the Northern Soul scene. The choreography and music far outshine the unrealistic narrative and setting, and forgettable acting here. That is followed by a relatively slow-paced 40-minute documentary called Way Of The Crowd, which looks to trace the growth and development of the northern soul scene through the format of talking heads. It has some interesting comments from DJs like Keb Darge and Russ Winstanley, and artists such as Bobby Hutton and Geno Washington, but it does veer dangerously close to hagiography at times, and doesn't feature much archival footage either.
Thankfully, Northern Soul is blessed with plenty of superlative soul sounds, including: Jamo Thomas's 'I Spy (For The FBI)'; Dobie Gray's 'Out On The Floor', and Betty Everett & Jerry Butler's 'Getting Mighty Crowded'. But such songs do tend to repeatedly feature on similarly-themed compilations. (Indeed, all selections here can be found on another Union Square Music release: the descriptively-titled 50 song Stompers, Floaters, and Floorshakers, a relatively enjoyable double CD from 2011). On only a couple of occasions in the 100 minutes of music - such as the duo Joe & Mack's obscure 'Don't You Worry' on CD2 - does quality control noticeably waiver.
Unfortunately, the budget-priced Northern Soul doesn't quite match up to its hubristic subtitle (The Essential Collection).