After Pied Piper folded, Jack Ashford, Lorraine Chandler and their Detroit crew made more scintillating soul – 1968-1975.
Jack Ashford’s contacts from his time as one of Motown’s Funk Brothers were considerable and he continued working with some of Detroit’s top musicians and singers at Pied Piper. When he and Shelly Haimes closed down Pied Piper in late 1967, Ashford continued recording soul music with company artist Lorraine Chandler taking on a producer’s role.
His new Just Productions enterprise found a brilliant talent in gruff-voiced Eddie Parker whose ‘Love You Baby’ and ‘I’m Gone’ made little noise at the time but stunned UK northern soul fans in the 70s. The records took up-tempo soul to a new level and were perfect for the adrenalin-charged youths. Like ‘I’m Gone’, the Four Sonics’ ‘Tell Me You’re Mine’ and Al Gardner’s ‘Sweet Baby’ creatively utilised tracks from the Pied Piper days. In 1975 Parker cut the now in-demand ‘Body Chains’, featured here in a superior alternate take, and ‘But If You Must Go’, which wasn’t released until MAM-Miko put it out after Ashford relocated to Los Angeles around 1976.
Billy Sha-Rae was a Pennsylvania-based singer whose band the Soul Congress became the nucleus of the Just Productions musicians. Their song ‘Do It’ was a local hit but the instrumental version by ex-Funk Brother Johnny Griffith was even more powerful and is hugely popular in soul clubs nowadays. Sha-Rae was an exciting vocalist whose own recordings are featured, including his excellent take on the beat ballad ‘Crying Clown’.
Some of the company’s productions appeared on their own Sepia, Triple B, Ashford and Awake labels, while others were licensed to Jay-Walking, Buddah, Spectrum, Premium Stuff and Inter Soul. Ray Gant & the Arabians’ ‘Don’t Leave Me Baby’ came out on Soulville; we also found an alternative lyric and production for their ‘I Need A True Love’ called ‘Did She Do It To You’. The Smith Brothers’ brilliant mid-70s Soul Dimension double-sider ‘Payback’s A Drag’ / ‘There Can Be A Better Way’ approximates the Philly sound; they also have an unissued harmony ballad called ‘Don’t Worry’.
Sandra Richardson sings her modern soul classic ‘Stay Here With Me’, along with two previously unheard titles, of which ‘Deserted Garden’ is a sublime ballad. She wrote the in-demand mid-70s dancer ‘After You Give Your All’ for Softouch. Jack Ashford is proved to be a capable vocalist on ‘I’ll Fly To Your Open Arms’ from his 1977 LP and the swinging ‘Do The Choo-Choo’, previously issued as an instrumental.
Altogether an exceptional body of work from a musician whose day job was to produce music to set the world dancing.