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Act I (MP3), MP3 (£7.99)
In compiling the two volumes of “The Soul Of Spring” CDKEND 151 & 268 and the Southbound CD “The Spring Story” CDSEWD 103, we have already drawn on Act 1’s impressive catalogue. The group has two tracks on each of those CDs, very much on merit. We could easily have chosen even more if the other Spring acts hadn’t been up to the task. The recordings we utilised varied from the irrepressible, uptempo, funk groove of Tom The Peeper, a UK dancefloor smash back in the day when it hardly made a ripple in its homeland (all kudos to the UK’s hip 70s DJs, like Chris Hill and Froggy who chose their playlists on merit), to sophisticated Philly-style floaters like It’s The Same Old Story. Act 1’s harmonising was showcased in the ballads Friends Or Lovers, their biggest hit, and the sublime Bob Babbit, Andrew Smith and Perry Boyd-written You Didn’t Love Me Anyhow.
With another “Soul Of Spring” pencilled in for late 2008 we would have issued most of the group’s material, but the demand for Friends Or Lovers in the USA, where it has been extensively sampled on Hip Hop records, has given us the extra impetus we needed to put out the whole of the group’s output. That consists of the eleven LP tracks in their original sequence and the three non LP singles: unfortunately no previously unissued material was found in the vaults.
Researching the group has been tough, as the main man - producer, writer and general svengali, Raeford Gerald - died several years ago. Old contracts have thrown up several group members’ names and changes within the line-up, but speculation is inevitable as several questions remain unanswered. Unfortunately no photos of any of the group’s line-ups could be found.
However what is unquestionable is that the music is of the highest quality. Raeford Gerald was a top-70s soul producer, up there with Thom Bell and Gamble & Huff. I Don’t Want To Know What You Do To Me has a Love Train feel to it while Party Hardy People is more in the Kool & The Gang groove. An epic five minute version of the Tops’ Still Water is a great example of how different producing ideas can transform a song into a different, though valid interpretation; check out those gulls! His talents were more famously rewarded on his work with Millie Jackson and Joe Simon, but there’s no doubt he gave his all on what seems to be his pet project, Act 1.
All three Babbit, Smith and Boyd songs are excellent compositions, Goodbye Love was rather dwarfed by its funky Tom The Peeper flip, but sounds more majestic with the passing of time. Legendary Funk Brother Bob Babbit kindly supplied us with some information for the notes. The melodic dancer It Takes Both Of Us was a small R&B hit but was inexplicably left off the original album and the same fate befell the joyous A Whole Lot Of Love Makin’ and the stomping I Never Had A Love Like Yours.
The CD’s mid price category is a reflection of the number of tracks available. Don’t miss out on this superb soul group’s opus. If the Hip-Hoppers can dig it, you’ll just love it.
By Ady Croasdell