60s and 70s soul ballads of the very highest quality from across the USA. Many unreleased treasures.
The “Best Of Kent Ballads” CD series covers the whole of the soul era and most genres. This volume has a particularly impressive 20-year span, ranging from the mournful New Orleans-recorded Turquinettes’ 1962 track to the early 80s quiet-storm groove of Jimmys Scott’s ‘Sure Thing’ enhanced by electronic instrumentation. Further contrast comes from the sophisticated orchestration of Lorraine Chandler’s title track, representative of the northern USA cities’ approach to recording a slower number, and the sparser raw-gut emotion of Joe Mayfield’s ‘How’s Things With You’, typical soul from the south.
There are 10 recordings that failed to make it to vinyl, several of which are of such quality they could easily have been R&B hits. The Turn Arounds’ stunning ‘Stay Away’ is a classic soul recording while ‘Apartment #9’ by Little Johnny Hamilton is as intense and raw a blues ballad as will ever be heard. Other previously unissued tracks include Peggy Gaines’ bittersweet vocals on ‘Everybody Knows’, a Bob Holmes’ Nashville production from the mid-60s, and Julius Wright’s Florida-cut ‘Lonely Girl’.
Some of the issued singles featured aren’t easy to pick up. Eddie Parker’s ‘Crying Clown’, in particular, fetches $10,000 for an original in good nick. You could knock a zero off that for Eddie Whitehead’s ‘Give This Fool Another Chance’ and still be skint, or just enjoy it from the master tape here. But it’s quality rather than rarity that qualifies a track for this series. The Lee Williams and John Edwards 45s both charted, while the Lou Johnson, Wanderers and Dori Grayson are easy to pick up on original but wonderful to hear in this quality and context.
Eddie Parker’s tour-de-force comes from the same Detroit stable as Lorraine Chandler’s superb cover of Teddy Randazzo’s ‘Lost Without You’; both have superlative and probably very costly arrangements. Southern soul fans are served with previously unheard finished Excello masters from Jerry Washington and the Exotics, whose ‘Nobody But You’ is far superior to their released tracks. Big city soul is represented by the Wanderers’ ‘After He Breaks Your Heart’, recorded in NYC, and June Jackson’s ‘Don’t Let Her Make You Cry’, which emanated from Los Angeles with a similarly resplendent production.