Of all the many great compilations put out by ACE/KENT, I regard The Birth Of Soul as one that really can be truly described as "essential", for it represents a living musical document of black American music and its equally fascinating history and development. Compiled with skill and insight by Trevor Churchill and Adrian Croasdell, it is not only an imaginative collection of sides, but one that also shows that "Soul" didn't just "happen", but was a gradual process of evolution as the music of black America moved from its R&B tradition with its nostalgic rural roots, into the newly growing freedom of cultural expression that was to be found and explored in the urban centres. It also reflects the ability that small, independent labels had to influence the direction that black American music was beginning to take in the early 60s-.-and where they pioneered, it wasn't long before the majors were treading a similar path.Some of the artists featured have found fame and fortune along the way. The Impressions, Etta James and Sam Cooke are well known even outside strictly soul circles, but just as importantly in the evolution of soul from R&B, artists like Freddie Scott, Claudine Clark and Derek Martin are also wisely included, since it is often in the smaller outfit that innovation can find room and opportunity to take a chance.Some of these sides are not perhaps as well-known as they should be: Oh My Angel by Bertha Tillman was actually issued in the UK on (of all labels), ORIOLE, and probably sold less than 50 copies at that time-.-The Sound of My Man by Theola Kilgore was never released in the UK, nor indeed was She Ain't Ready by J. J. Barnes-.-whilst others built up a steady following on the Soul underground scene and that other stalwart keeper of the faith known as the Northern Soul scene, and became established classics such as I Do by The Marvelows, Hey Girl Don't Bother Me by The Tams, and Daddy Rollin' Stone by Derek Martin (whose name has at last been correctly spelt over here!).
Importantly too, The Birth of Soul includes sides which were so ahead of their time in terms of style and atmosphere, that the genre they were the precursors of, Deep Soul, was still that much further off in all our futures to be fully appreciated when these sides were first issued. But, the pioneering classics such as the sublime You'll Lose A Good Thing by the much adored Barbara Lynn-.-the great production values of Jerry Ragovoy and the splendid arrangements of Garry Sherman that are very seldom surpassed in Cry Baby by Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters-.-and the ambivalent introspection of Goin' Out Of My Head in its original take by Little Anthony & The Imperials-.-all hinted at a form of Soul yet to be fully realised at the time. But, the CD contains many, many gems, and part of the pleasure is in discovering those you missed out on first time around, or, as was so often the case for UK R&B and Soul fans, never had the chance of getting when they were new. Even so, I'd bet that there is at least one track on this compilation which will bring back a rush of nostalgic memories for veteran Soul people, as well as fresh delights for the younger aficionado. It could also be argued, (well, I'd argue it!) that the development "Soul" in many ways represented black America's reaction to the British invasion of the 60s-.-having seen their indigenous music forms profitably appropriated by imitators and plagiarists, for black American musical culture to survive, it had to move on and demonstrate that when it comes to original musical creativity, black America was still, (as it always had been), the well-spring from which all popular musical culture stemmed! The Birth of Soul is a fitting tribute to this fact of life.(Dave Godin).