I use a basic if somewhat ridiculous method of musically grading my 45s. Firstly I describe the tempo as S, M or U. There are the obvious variations like M/U and S/M for which I run the risk of myself being classified as a bondage fan or preserver of jams. If there is a certain amount of funk in the rhythm it may get an additional 1/4 F or 1/2 F and waltz, rockabilly or cha cha cha tend to get described longhand.
Next I give my value judgement of musical merit by awarding marks out of 10. This sounds simple, but I have managed to make it a lot harder by narrowing down the limits so that no record gets more than 71/2 or less than 51/2 - NB there are also marks like 63/4 / 7 / 7 which I don't think I can explain. This means that something as perfect as say the Impressions I Need You only gets two points more than Hayley Mills Let's Get Together-.-a hard world indeed.
Finally if there's an obvious sound to the record that reminds me of a better known artist, I'll put that beside the score. Such standards include Otis, JB, Jackie Wilson, Beatles, Spector and Shads. The most often described acts though are definitely the male soul vocal groups. Whether they consciously copied other acts or not I couldn't say but they sure are easy to pigeonhole.
Possibly because the layout of the singers within the group was distinctive, or because their lead vocalist heroes were such individuals, they seem to instinctively slip into categories. The Drifters are obvious contenders with their strong NYC influence and the Miracles soundalikes tend to copy Smokey's lead. There are noticeable influences from the Temptations, though I'm sure most of the groups copied their looks and footwork. Even the Superbs' beautiful West Coast soul sounds get described as a genre on my old singles bags. However the most influential group of them all has to be Curtis Mayfield's Impressions, particularly in their mid 60s heyday.
Imps" or "Impsy" gets scribbled regularly and the records may have originated from any part of the US, not just that swingin' Chicago stronghold. Sometimes it's an instinctive thing and when I later play the single I wonder what aspect of the music made me think it was Curtis related in the first place. If we analyse the music too much we could find a case against all of the selections on Impressed, if only because they aren't the Impressions, but some of them get damned close so why spoil the fun?
Now to the tracks: the Players He'll Be Back, a beautiful ballad concerning a lost love in Vietnam, is one of the better known tracks, having been a fair sized R&B hit on its 1966 release. Less well known, but arguably as good, is the Pacesetters What About Me, Baby released on the same Minit label two years later. By then the bandwagon had moved on and although the song is of comparable quality it made no impact whatsoever. On the plus side however it has saved a small musical gem for our appreciation thirty plus years on.
Shamefully I probably wrote "Imps" too quickly on the Astors' Just Enough To Hurt Me and filed it before I realised what a great song it was. I've played it at least twenty times since my rediscovery of it - and it's not enough. I can allow myself a bit of pride on the next track as no one had heard the Enjoyables' 'Bout My Baby until it was summoned up from Capitol's tape vaults to see the light of day for the first time since 1964. It's as fine a finger clicker as you could wish to come across on a new CD.
I've snuck on a few long time favourites from the Climates, Poets, Saints and Falcons, and I was alerted to the Imps-like qualities of the Dontells, Brilliants and Sonics by fellow enthusiasts. If you don't know the tracks by the Presidents, Expressions, Voice Masters or Realistics then you're in for a treat, in fact I can hardly wait for it to come out.
Apart from supplying excellent sleevenotes Peter Burns helped guide the whole project with suggestions for and against inclusion - to have the co-operation of one of the world's foremost Impressions experts was invaluable.
I think the project is a worthy tribute to the Impressions and if it does half as well as I think it will, there will be more volumes to come. And of course we're working on similar tributes to the Miracles, Drifters etc: now where's Bill Millar's phone number?
By Harboro Horace