Mary Love’s music was the foundation of our Kent label. Her recordings opened and closed the first two vinyl LPs and various artists CD, as well as appearing on the A-side of the initial Kent 45. She headlined the bill at the premier Cleethorpes Northern and Rare Soul weekender and helped Ace and Kent mark their 25th anniversaries, appearing at the celebratory live gigs. Her death in 2013 was a very sad day for us and her many fans.
This career overview CD features all Mary’s pivotal Modern sides, re-mastered from the original tapes. Nine of those 13 tracks are from the multi-track tapes and are therefore presented in their best sound quality ever. They are followed by both sides of Mary’s Josie hit, ‘The Hurt Is Just Beginning’ and ‘If You Change Your Mind’, and her wonderful Elco 45, ‘Born To Live With Heartache’, a major deep funk play in the last decade. The people involved with those recordings include Arthur Wright, Frank Wilson, Richard Parker, Miles Grayson, Ray Charles and Marc Gordon – as talented a bunch of Los Angeles musicians as ever produced records.
Despite her achievements and superficial success, Mary’s complex and troubled life contrasts starkly with her career. Family and personal issues kept her away from the studios in the early 70s but she came back impressively, writing and performing two tracks on each of the soundtracks for Rudy Ray Moore’s films Dolemite and Petey Wheatstraw. ‘Loving You’ from Petey Wheatstraw would have been a great number for Bettye Swann or Irma Thomas, not that they would have necessarily improved on Mary’s stunning performance or Nat Dove’s subtle arrangement. After an inevitable flirtation with disco, which we felt inappropriate for this compilation, she returned to recording religious music, devoting her life to God’s word and works. Her 1980s Co-Love gospel recordings were of such quality that they were partly responsible for rejuvenating the modern soul scene in the UK, where ‘Come Out Of The Sandbox’ and ‘The Price’ became indispensable for lovers of inspired black music of any genre or period.
Over her career, Mary amassed a large number of UK fans, of the mod, Northern, modern, gospel and even rare groove persuasion. She performed over here on several occasions, and that transatlantic story is featured in the booklet with photos of some of her treasured appearances. The detailed note covers the whole of Mary’s life and features some fabulous previously unseen photos, as well as a scan of a Japanese release which had eluded us for a couple of decades. We feel it will serve as an appropriate musical epitaph to Mary’s fascinating and creative life.
By Ady Croasdell