Soul In Harmony ~ Vocal Groups 1967-1977 Original recording remastered
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After a brief break, Kent's strong-selling group soul series returns with a third volume that's every bit as harmonious as the first two. The focus is firmly on the sweet and the deep, and the majority of the tracks (including five previously unissued) are making their CD debut here. Centres of harmonic excellence all across the USA are represented in our track listing: from NYC to Memphis and on to Detroit and San Francisco. One title was recorded in Bangkok; now that's a story! Some featured artists are more familiar than others but all are outstanding in their field. The better-known groups include the Mad Lads, Dramatics, Pretenders and the Festivals. The Four Sonics charted with You Don't Have To Say You Love Me as did the Mad Lads with Don't Have To Shop Around although in this instance we have used a previously unreleased version. The rarities include records from the Inconquerables, Love Generation and Salt & Pepper and would set you back thousands of pounds for the original vinyl. Group soul is really popular, as proven by the success of Kent's previous excursions into this territory (CDKEND 252 and CDKEND 219).
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Ps. The running order is different on the cd.
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Of particular interest to me on this CD was the track by Salt and Pepper. This was a group composed of servicemen stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War. I live in Bangkok and that's where the song on this collection, the lovely balled "Linda," was recorded back in 1970. Salt and Pepper also recorded another song, "A Man of My Word," at the same studio in Bangkok. That tune, which has a much funkier and uptempo vibe than "Linda" was included on another excellent Kent CD compilation, "Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities, Volume Four."
I think each listener will have their own personal favorites on this CD. Listening to the 24 tracks, there are quite a few standouts, all of them overflowing with sweet soul vocal harmony. If you enjoyed this magical era of Soul and R&B music, I think you'll find a lot on this CD to please you. As with all Kent/Ace CD reissues you get a deluxe booklet that's packed with information about each artist and some cool old photos too.
While Volt is the best-known soul label here, I'm going with the Flodavieur label and its 1967 offering "Wait for Me" by the Inconquerables as the single most striking selection. Done in a purposely passé 1950s doo-wop ballad style, it tells the harrowing coeval story of a soldier who, while "crawling through this muddy water," (presumably in Vietnam) has the simultaneous fear that his girlfriend back home may be "playin' with every guy in town." On the Dial label, most famous for being home to Joe Tex and 35 of his chart hits, the white septet from Lexington, Kentucky, the Magnificent 7, simply amaze with their 1968 rendition of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "Ooo Baby Baby" from three years earlier. It features the most thrilling of the high tenor voices I referred to. If the gracious and generous Smokey Robinson had ever heard this, I'm sure he would have been very pleased with this brilliant remake of his classic romantic harmony ballad. And on the lesser-known '70s Stax subsidiary, Respect, around the time the whole company was going under, came a 1975 beauty of a ballad titled "Boom-A-Rang," penned by the ultra-talented Sam Dees (who also produced) and Frederick Knight, and performed by the Birmingham, Alabama four-boy/two-girl group, the Dynamic Soul machine. This record got lost in the shuffle and only became known in Birmingham where it was a #1 soul hit. (This nugget of information is from the 18 pages of text by "Soul in Harmony" compilers, Ady Croasdell and Tony Rounce, contained in the accompanying booklet filled with photos and colorful record label repros. Since they're British, I'll excuse their reference to the Joneses as having come together as a group in "Pittsburgh, Philadelphia").
Of the previously unissued tracks, Springfield, Massachusetts' The Quotations display the finest harmonic talent on "Anytime You Want Me" for the DiVenus label (obscure enough for you?). Unfortunately, their record had two strikes against it: it was likely too early-sixtyish-sounding for 1968; and worse, the company went belly-up before it could be released.
Kent Soul of London, England has come through again, bringing us the best of classic American soul.
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