When we started Kent’s “Birth Of Soul” series, in 1996, the idea was to cover what was then a neglected area of our music. In recent years collectors, connoisseurs and DJs of various black music scenes, have delved deeper in time and discovered some wonderful songs and rhythms; in fact, it could be said a whole new musical world has opened up to them.
Many of the labels from this early 60s era were long-established black music outfits who struggled to adapt to the new soul scene, though they were, sometimes unwittingly, already issuing 45s in that genre. Labels like Flip, Rendezvous, 4J and J&S failed to last effectively past the middle of the decade. Tougher competitors like Old Town and Vee-Jay soldiered on and the majors carried on regardless, buffered by big stars and financial security. The main players of the soul years, though, was fresh talent that swept away much of the old music.
For UK soul fans, the new labels that they found while searching for this era’s best sounds are novel and intriguing. They have refuelled interest in buying vinyl at affordable prices, before the soul scene’s DJs and high rollers priced it out of sight. Of course, the crossover effect between the R&B and popcorn scene, on one hand, and the Northern Soul scene, on the other, has caused certain records to spiral in value. However, the relative accessibility of the discs, compared to the genuine scarcity of many Northern Soul items, means that even the highest-prices have a ceiling, whereas classic Northern rarities are now for wealthy people only.
The “5” Royales’ Catch That Teardrop sold well enough locally on the Home Of The Blues label to warrant an ABC national release. Although that disc hit the £500 mark, as it was the hottest record on the scene for a long time, it never went much higher as copies do turn up intermittently. A similar effect could be seen with Marv Johnson’s Come On And Stop, one of a series of his releases on United Artists that were hits and would have had a sizeable first pressing. Records like these have opened up the game for aspiring DJs with limited funds and they’ve only had to sell their scooter, not their car, to be able to say they’ve got the hottest sound around.
The BIRTH OF SOUL series is not particularly aimed at the dancers, though this CD reflects the increased interest in that area. These early soul efforts were just as exciting for ballad singers and the ‘black pop’ writers of the Brill Building and similarly-inspired workplaces. Ironically, it was these songwriters who inspired the Beatles and other British invasion groups so much, who eventually suffered from those group’s overwhelming success. The writers had to retire or adapt very quickly. The participants on and behind these songs were either coming to an end of their short-lived careers (the music business is, after all, ephemeral and ruthless) or starting out on a great adventure. For us watching from afar, in time and space, it is a fascinating drama with exquisite conclusions.
By Ady Croasdell