Kent Records cut its teeth on these great New York labels’ recordings. The imprints were so much more than the sum total of their hits. Many of the big records are out on Kent already, so we have gone back to the one-offs, neglected sides and the newly-discovered that have turned up more recently: for soul collectors only.
Dancers are catered for by Northern Soul’s adopted sides such as Marie Knight’s ‘That’s No Way To Treat A Girl’, here in the intriguing long version that Kent first discovered, Betty Moorer’s Latin-tinged ‘Speed Up’, Diane Lewis’ Detroit opus ‘Without Your Love’ and J.B. Troy’s current in-demander ‘Live On’.
There are some choice unissued recordings from the unknown Helen Henry, singer/producer Ed Townsend (who purveys a beaty proto-soul number written by none other than a Poet) and a terrific slab of early funk from the mighty Jackie Moore. An Ashford, Simpson and Armstead number ‘One Time Too Many’ is a mouth-watering taster of a forthcoming CD of unissued Shirelles’ recordings. A further previously unheard debut comes from the Fabulous Dinos (a group well from their King recordings as the Fabulous Denos), whose ‘Diamond Ring’ is a different song to Sammy Ambrose’s ‘This Diamond Ring’, although cut for the same Musicor stable. Conversely, debutant recording artist Lee Thomas’ ‘Millionaire’ is the same song Chuck Jackson cut in the early 60s and which caused quite a stir in rare soul circles when first played out and eventually released in the mid-80s.
The more modern sounds of the labels’ influential 70s singles are represented by a southern-sounding Ann Bailey, a Curtis Mayfield-inspired Patti Jo and the oddly named, but surprisingly soulful, Buckeye Politicians, whose fascinating biog is featured in the booklet. Two crossover ballads cut in Philadelphia by Winfield Parker and George Tindley are from the turn of the 60s and show how Wand had a great ear for quality music, even if the sales were disappointingly low – what they lost in $, we’ve repaid them in admiration over the past decades. From the same city, but from a musical era a world away, comes one of the first deejays to cut (as opposed to spin) a disc, Douglas “Jocko” Henderson. His ‘Blast Off To Love’ is a catchy mover that was style over soul, as befits a hip wordsmith.
Overlooked 45s such as the Tabs’ ‘Take My Love Along With You’ sound great from a new mix-down from the original multi track tape, while Johnny Maestro’s ‘Afraid Of Love’ (the flip of ‘Stepping Out Of The Picture’) has been neglected solely because of the attention paid to its topside (well, that and the four-figure price tag). Dan & the Clean Cuts substantially cheaper ‘Walking With Pride’ epitomises cool long before the term was universally applied to anything vaguely half-decent.
The booklet has some stunning photos of the artists along with a nice selection of label scans to pretty up the several thousand word musical and historical appraisal. Welcome back Scepter, Wand and Musicor. It’s been too long.
By Ady Croasdell