To the uninitiated I won't go into the full explanation of Modern Soul, there are more than enough words in the sleevenotes. Suffice it to say that it is primarily danceable 70s soul music with a solid, as opposed to a funky beat.
Having said that, the Modern Soul crowd has a very liberal view on what is danceable and having emerged at least partly as an antidote to the 100mph Northern Soul stompers, are willing to wander on to the dancefloor to the most laid-back of tunes. In fact the intimacy of many of their venues and the occasional lack of floor space often sees discerning soul fans grooving to their favourites on linoleum, sticky carpet or even table tops. The quality of the song and the singer's performance are given higher priority than the correctness of the rhythm, while clever dance moves are considered less important than say flowery bowling shirts or an encyclopaedic knowledge of Tyrone Davis' recording career.
One of the most typical Modern Soul tracks on this CD would be Ted Taylor's recently discovered master tape Fair Warning. Ted was a southern USA style, emotional soul singer with an accomplished roster of recordings. The song was provided by some of Leon Haywood's admired writing team, has a memorable melody, apt lyrics and moves at an easy mid tempo pace for 30+ year-olders. It has a full production with string and horn sections and a few funky guitar licks thrown in at the change of tempo breaks. Some discerning Modern Soul DJs have been given advance copies of the track to insinuate it into the subconscious of their unquestioning followers (joke!), so as this is the only form in which it is available to the public, sales are assured and I could shut up now.
But checking my word count and the rest of the music on the CD, I won't. Similarly soulful 70s offerings include tracks by Millie Jackson, Jacqueline Jones, the Four Tees (no relation to the 6TS) and Garland Green. Even more laid-back crossover numbers abound in Sam Nesbit's rare and expensive Chase Those Clouds Away and the Millionaires' great soul group sound I'm The One Who Loves You.
Several of the items will appeal to Northern fans too, especially the Houston Outlaws' vinyl rarity Ain't No Telling: a hugely tuneful and attractive song. The opening track, previously unissued, will excite all kinds of soul fans, as Debra Johnson's To Get Love You've Got To Give Love is danceable, soulful and features the kind of classy Miles Grayson arrangement that made Lynn Varnado's Wash And Wear Love such a rare soul classic. This song also features the noteworthy lyric I don't want to be just your appetiser: now your main course is someone else" (note to self, must approach KFC with view to licensing). Lynn's super rare single Second Hand Love is also featured and, like the Ronnie Walker and Pretenders tracks, is more old school 70s Northern than Modern but falls under the latter's big musical umbrella.
Like most good Kent CDs, there are some pleasant surprises that many might have missed. I was particularly chuffed with the Jean Shy Fantasy track that I found lurking in my racks after collector Dave Welding reminded me of it. Similarly I hadn't realised how much I enjoyed the Renfro Records oddity Love Me Baby by Tender Loving Care until I'd listened through the finished master a couple of times.
Some of the tracks have been out in one form or another but probably have been missed by most Modern Soul devotees. It's not too likely that soul fans would have added the double LP, BGP CD of jazz brother Idris Muhammad just to get the soulful I'm A Believer on to their sound system. Similarly many will have missed out on the early 80s soul of Gil Billingsley as it was featured on a primarily 60s Kent Detroit soul CD. Al Christian's Chant single version of Bobby Wilburn's I'm A Lonely Man is quite different from the original, and as Steve "Guru" Guarnori pointed out to me, is not to be found on either of the Bill Haney Chant CDs on Kent.
We've jumped at the chance to re-release Mary Love Comer's Modern Soul anthem Come Out Of The Sandbox simply because we could. It's not been out since Kent's Mary Love solo CD that combined her early Modern songs with the later Colove recordings. Listening to it again for this compilation, I was bemused as to why it had sold in relatively low numbers-.-it really is a good CD (hint, hint).
Finally I was hit by a piece of glaringly obvious inspiration and managed to license a 2002 recording from Lou Pride to round of this disc. Bringin' Me Back Home is a great soul song for any decade and reflects well on the Modern Soul crowd who are constantly seeking out the best US soul tracks for their appreciation and enjoyment, whatever the date on the disc is.
by Ady Croasdell