Scepter, Wand and Musicor have been a staple of the Kent connoisseur’s diet for nearly thirty years, since Jack Montgomery’s ‘Dearly Beloved’ opened the “Club Soul” Kent LP in 1984. Along with stunning solo compilations from Maxine Brown, Tommy Hunt, Chuck Jackson and the Shirelles there have been about a dozen LP and CD compilations of all the great artists who didn’t have enough tracks for solo albums. These varied from out-and-out Northern Soul, to big city ballads, to Southern Soul to Modern and funk. We don’t categorise quite as much nowadays and Kent has always been liberal in its mixing of the genres, so it is not surprising to see a typically diverse selection on our latest Manhattan Soul volume.
One of the main reasons we’ve re-visited the series is the new access we have had to the multi-track tapes, which either contained previously unheard songs or offered great tape quality on seminal tracks that had been dubbed from disc n the past. The “new to our ears” recordings on this compilation include Jimmy Radcliffe’s original demo (or first stage recording) of his classic self-penned song ‘Deep In The Heart Of Harlem’, a Benny Gordon rousing vocal work-out to his fast and funky ‘Horsin’ Around’ groove, Lois Lane’s rhythm & soul with a touch of gospel ‘No Jealous Lover’ and the Catalinas’ blue eyed beach music of ‘Who Knows Better’.
Greatly improved sound quality can be heard on the Soul Brothers beat ballad ‘The Parade Of Broken Hearts’, Ed Bruce’s sublime study in melancholy ‘I’m Gonna Have A Party’ and the most infectious dancer since ‘Dance To The Music’ in Lou Lawton’s ‘Knick Knack Patty Wack’; don’t let that title phase you.
While we were recreating those sessions from the 60s we looked at the whole of the formidable catalogue and found some wonderful masters that hadn’t been available since the vinyl to CD switch. Tracks from soul legends such as Big Maybelle with ‘How Do You Feel Now’, Roscoe Robinson and his plaintive ‘Lonesome Guy’ and tommy Hunt's ‘New Neighbourhood’ which took me back to those rammed-out, steamy 100 Club all nighters of the mid 80s. Other gems like Willie Hatcher’s magnificent ‘Who Am I Without You Baby’, Joe Perkins’ atmospheric ‘Runaway Slave’ and the close soul harmony of the Premiers on ‘Lonely Weatherman’ had never graced a digital disc before.
Researching the music was no less interesting than listening to it. We unearthed a current member of the US House Of Representatives; a lead singer who flew his plane into a mountain; and a one-single wonder who still plies his trade crooning in Las Vegas.
Apart from the Big Apple, there’s a hunk of Philly, a splash of Chicago and some Memphis grits; all making for a soul food sandwich to savour.
By Ady Croasdell