Northern Soul - The Essentials Box set, CD+DVD, Explicit Lyrics, PAL
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2013 three disc (two CDs + PAL/Region 2 DVD) collection. This set is bursting at the seams with Northern Soul's biggest anthems and most cherished tracks, among them Jamo Thomas's 'I Spy For The FBI,' 'Gene Chandler's 'Nothing Can Stop Me,' Betty Everett's 'Getting Mighty Crowded' and many collectable classics. All this. plus an outstanding short film encapsulating a night out on the Northern Soul scene with superb performances from an all-star cast including John Hershaw and the hilarious Paul Kaye. This bumper pack of Northern Soul delights also includes an informative documentary 'Way Of The Crowd' with in-depth interviews from the movers and shakers of the time and those that were at the forefront of the Northern Soul movement including insightful interviews from Fashion Designer Paul Smith, DJ aficionado's Ashley Beedle, DJ Paulette and many others. Metro Sound & Vision.
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Begun in February, with an expected release date in July, the album was to be the latest in a series of collaborations with Levine's long-time song writing partner, Clive Scott. However, more than a decade of melody making drew to a close just two months later with Clive's untimely death.
The 15 completed tracks were not enough and the small, close-knit, team around Levine had been dealt a heavy blow. Ian Levine is often criticised for being difficult to work with, but I have to say that without some of his `crash or crash through' attitude, the beacon that soul music has been in the lives of its fans all over the world would have been visibly diminished. There was only one way to respond and it's what Clive would have wanted.
Ian Levine and Clive Scott's song-writing output had been prodigious. There are probably hundreds of unreleased tracks in the Ian Levine discography. How fortunate it was that Levine was able to hook-up with fellow producer Glenn Keiles to unearth these from the vaults. Keiles has followed a very different musical path to Levine. Yet, in spite of that, it is a compliment to his abilities that the songs co-produced by Keiles mesh so well with the others. They all have that Centre City sound.
I was very pleased to see a new track by Gina Foster, `My World Will Never Be The Same.' The song is especially poignant as the lyrics were written just a week after Clive Scott's death. As Levine has said, `we poured out our anger and frustration into the words of the song.' There was talk of a Gina Foster album at one point.
Four of the songs are only available on the accompanying DVD. The first of these sees the return of Holly Harrison. Holly's `Bright Lights Of The City' was one of the great unrealised hits of 2008. It was criminal (really) that `Bright Lights' wasn't a hit. That track fell foul to the collapse of Pinnacle distribution, although it has recently become available on i -Tunes. The new track, `Double Dealing' is in a similar vein and gives this prodigiously talented young lady another chance to shine.
Many of these tracks deserve to be on rotation play on soul shows all over the world. Ralph Tee has got behind Peter Lamarr's `Holding My Heart In Your Hands,' his third track for Centre City. I think back to the days when Lionel Richie and Luther Vandross made it to the top of the charts and I can readily see Peter in their illustrious company.
Don't you just love The Flirtations? They bring a real touch of class to whatever they do. Track 4 on Northern Soul 2009 is their latest offering. `Make A Good Thing Better' is a sumptuous slice of 60s soul in the Burt Bacharach - Hal David mould. Looking ahead to January 2010, Pearly Gates of The Flirtations will have a solo album, `On A Winning Streak,' which will feature 3 of her Centre City tracks.
One of the great losses to soul music is the Steve Brookstein album that never was. Steve is one of the most talented soul singers in the UK. Having won The X-Factor, Levine had produced an entire album of the highest quality for him only to have it canned by Simon Cowell in favour of an album of covers. What can we can do about that now? But, not only is Levine producing Steve Brookstein again, but three of those unreleased tracks make it to Northern Soul 2009. Peter Lamarr's track along with Angelo Starr's `Back In The Middle Of A Broken Heart,' and Steve's own `How Many Times' settle that argument once and for all.
Like I said, along with a sense of triumph, there is a sense of sadness about this album. Clive's death marked the passing of an era, for sure. Will there be a Northern Soul 2010? As documented on his Facebook and Twitter sites, Levine is currently putting together a new boy band. He certainly has the song writing capacity to do both, but will he?
Although I don't own this set, I do have virtually all the tracks on various compilations. They appear to be licensed from Charley Record AKA licensemusic.com. Yes they've been licensed lots of times before, and in line with many of comps licenced from Charley, re-hashes from the same pool of 50 or so tracks,.Actually, it's two pools. Pool One is from the 3 'Rare Soul Uncovered' albums from the mid 80's which were expanded into two 'Up All Night' CD's in the early 90's (I own all but the first rare soul albums). The second is from the Chicago string of labels run by Curtis Mayfield, Ernie Learner and Bobby Robinson, plus a few more K-Tel 'Owned' tracks. The two Dobie Gray tracks are a mystery, as K-Tel own the rights to a re-recorded version of 'The In Crowd,' but not 'Out on the floor; (Both were originally on Charger records whose output is owned by the Maeslow Heirs). The rest all apear to be original recordings. At least 60% of the tracks are Bona Fide Copper Bottomed Northern Soul Classics, and the rest are quite good too. For me, stand out tracks include the first 8 tracks on disc one. the Ad Libs, Sid Barnes version of I hurt on the Other Side, and the Sharpees and Gene Chandler tracks.
Whilst there are too many 'Also Rans' to make it an excellent compilation, The DVD coupled with the CD's for the price makes it worth the money, but only if you don't have many of the tracks already. I have many CD's which duplicate a lot of the same tracks. If you don't have many these then it's a decent compilation for a fiver, and the DVD is a bit like your DVD extras. A Nice bonus, but not your main feature. Unlike what a couple of reviewers stated, these ARE original recordings, and it's not on the betway label, it's Union Square.
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