High calibre Detroit soul from Jack Ashford’s Just Productions company, including 10 previously unissued masters.
This second and final volume of Jack Ashford’s independent soul productions, spanning 1967 to the mid-70s, is an equal to the first well-received compilation. It opens with the revered original version of Softouch’s ‘After You Give Your All’, sung by the co-writer Sandra Richardson, previously available only the 2016 100 Club anniversary single. Richardson’s great Inter Soul 45 ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, from the same 1974 session, is also included, as are Softouch themselves with their highly prized Prodigal B-side ‘Say That You Love Me Boy’. The Magnificents’ ‘I Can Fly’, from last year’s 100 Club 45, is the original version of the song Jack Ashford sang as ‘I’ll Fly To Your Open Arms’ on his “Hotel Sheet” album (this is the full version; the 45 was edited by 40 seconds). Ashford himself was a more than capable singer. Witness here ‘This Ain’t Just Another Dance Song’ and ‘Let Me Take Care Of Your Heart’. His delivery of the latter is immaculate, a real ear-opener.
Thanks to DJ Roger Banks’ acetate we have the original Lorraine Chandler version of ‘Don’t Leave Me Baby’, later covered by Ray Gant on Jay Walking, a notable Dave Godin Deep Soul Treasure. Speaking of Deep Soul, this CD is brimming with superb tracks of that ilk. There are beautiful newly discovered ballads from Billy Sha-Rae and Cecil Norman Jr but the one that will create a minor earthquake among genre fans is Eddie Parker’s 1976 updating of ‘Crying Clown’. Cut at the same sessions as his ‘But If You Must Go’ masterpiece, it takes the great 60s ballad down a pace or two and features magnificent singing. Parker’s overlooked Jay Walking single ‘Can’t You See (What You’re Doing To Me)’ sounds great and label mates Ray Gant & the Arabian Knights deliver some social comment with ‘Air’ and ‘The First Depression’.
Back in the late 60s, Ashford placed a sultry instrumental on the Sir-Rah label by Detroit drummer J.C. Heard which utilised the track of Freddy Butler’s Kapp 45 ‘This Thing’, a Pied Piper production. Al Gardner’s ‘Watch Yourself’, which utilised the backing track of Willie Kendrick’s then-unissued ‘Watch Yourself (She’s Foolin’ You)’, was also placed on Sir-Rah, while the Four Sonics’ compelling recording of ‘Easier Said Than Done’ came out on the label’s Sport subsidiary. Further group harmony tracks are provided by the Perfections and Four Sonics Plus One, while Billy Sha-Rae’s ‘I’m Gone’ is the great soul stomper of the set.