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Soul For The Dancefloor, CD (£11.50)
Joe Simon was such a prolific artist and so successful a soul singer in so many styles in the USA that us Europeans sometimes struggle to appreciate his true worth. Admittedly a man who can jump from the beautiful balladry of ‘Your Time To Cry’ to the fun and frolic-filled ‘Get Down, Get Down (Get On The Floor)’ without batting an eyelid is unusual if not unique. That serves to emphasise his versatility, but more importantly he has a rare voice and range that can deliver on whatever song is presented to him.
Joe Simon is the second Spring artist to have a “Soul For The Dancefloor” compilation of their work. As on the well-received Millie Jackson CD of the same title, this showcases the mid- to up-tempo tracks with a high soul quotient for the discerning Kent collector. The die-hard will already own our seven Southbound CDs of Joe’s Spring albums as well as possibly having snapped up his “Greatest Hits” and the Ace compilation of his earliest work, “Mr Shout”. We’ve managed to duplicate only six of the 24 tracks from the “Greatest Hits” CD which came out twelve years ago. Four of the tracks here are completely new to CD, including a previously unissued, in any form, dance version of ‘(You Keep Me) Hangin’ On’ his Sound Stage 7 ballad hit. Three tracks have substantial edits that make the LP tracks more pertinent to this fast moving celebration of Joe’s dancers.
Though Joe was moved periodically from the Nashville studios, where he cut his SS7 label career and his first Spring recordings, to those of Philadelphia and New York, he still recorded both ballads and up-tempo numbers wherever he worked. Ironically the most country-sounding track on this CD, to my ears, was written by Gamble and Huff and recorded in the City Of Brotherly Love. ‘Ole Night Owl’ is a track chosen by compiler Sean Hampsey who has often programmed it in his forward-thinking modern soul DJ spots and it only took a couple of plays to win me over. Conversely ‘Easy To Love’ was a Donnie Fritts and Tony Joe White song produced by the legendary country soul DJ and entrepreneur John R down in Nashville, but could so easily have been a sophisticated east coast session.
There were many gems hidden away on Joe’s albums. ‘Still At The Mercy Of Your Love’ is an incredible remake of a Walter Jackson mid-60s Okeh ballad treated to a whole new uptempo style which, like its neighbouring track ‘Who Was That Lady’ (a Brad Shapiro song), has benefited from some judicious editing. Speaking of ladies, we’ve included the single of Joe’s duet with Clare Bathé ‘Deeper Than Love’ that was issued on the early 80s Posse label. Clare was a talent that Joe brought to the label; he also cut two great solo tracks on her.
We’ve included the big hits ‘Power Of Love’ and ‘Step By Step’, because they’re great soul dance records and even though they are very well known, the CD would be incomplete without them. On the slower side we’ve included another of Sean’s favourites, the beautiful ‘Georgia Blue’, with which he closes many of his DJ spots. The Spring single, non LP track, ‘Love Ain’t Never Hurt Nobody’ starts off slowly, but then builds to a respectable modern soul dance tempo: it has evaded release on CD until now.
Other dancefloor fillers include ‘I. O. U.’, ‘Let Me Be The One (The One That Loves You)’ and the sensationally stormy ‘In My Baby’s Arms’.
At 78 minutes plus, we’ve squeezed as many Joe Simon dancers in as possible and the quality of the music makes it an essential purchase for believers, converts and those who are just about to see the light.
By Ady Croasdell