The general equation runs something like this: rare, in Northern Soul parlance, is generally qualified by the number of known copies of each 45 being in single figures. Ergo, demand far outstrips supply and the ensuing clamour between the cognoscenti of hardcore collectors & DJs usually creates a price far beyond the means of mere mortals!
In the 70s and 80s it was considered a result just to obtain the desired side on tape which you would swap with other like-minded souls at the Allniters or via the pages of the dedicated soul fanzines. This activity is still prevalent today and it's virtually impossible to put into words the sheer thrill and delight on hearing a quality 'new' side on tape which leaps immediately to the top of your 'wants' list and you spend the next twenty years in the fervent hope that one day you WILL unearth a copy!
Whilst there can never be a substitute for owning the original 45s (anyone with a spare copy of Dan Folger for sale?!!)...a CD such as this goes a long way in easing and catering for that desire, and all without having to remortgage the house!
Breaking away from the general Kent tradition of same label / subsidiary label compilations, Classiest Rarities consists of a dozen or so labels from all corners of the USA. New York, LA, Detroit, Memphis, Nashville, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Norfolk are all represented here.
But that's enough geographical information, as Billy Harner would say, What about the music?"
Well, whatever your bag, be it big beat ballads, floaters, footstompers, modern, cross-over, R&B, girl groups... it's all catered for here. Space dictates that I cannot wax lyrically about the merits of each track, so here is a selection of four that I've deemed worthy of special attention.
Turning tradition on its head and commencing with an 'ender', and a side that was first spun by Randy Cozens at the very early 6T's sessions and also championed by Eddie Hubbard via his Slow And Deep column in Shades Of Soul, Dan Folger's - The Way Of The Crowd is a real gem. Well-produced, heavy on sentiment and nostalgia it is a positive delight of strings...things...and everything else that makes for a resplendent and emotive big beat ballad. First time on CD too.
Another 'ender', and indeed the final track on this esteemed CD, is the previously unissued Audrey Matthews - I Have No Choice, a superior version of the Johnnie Mae Matthews' issue on Big Hit. Plays from acetates have already stirred hearts and legs all over the country, where the discerning have been suitably impressed by the superb vocals and ingenuous, sublime delivery.
First time on CD too for Karmello Brooks' Tell Me Baby and it's been well worth the wait. Originally issued on legendary jazz label, Milestone, the combination of the catchy, uptempo vocal, enhanced by the full-blown orchestral back up, renders this an undisputed classic and inspires reverence the length and breadth of the country. Regular spins by respected Northern DJs and an unfavourable ratio as regards known copies and prospective buyers has seen price increases more commonly associated with property in London.
Finally, an outstanding side that was first played at the Casino by Richard Searling, originally covered-up as Maurice McAllister and then eventually revealed as Mr Soul, What Happened To Yesterday. Quite simply, it's a work of art, structured around a highly-addictive backbeat and complemented by a infectious saxophone along with some compelling guitar work. Throw in the imploring vocal, with some key changes that are reminiscent of If I Fell by the Beatles and you have a truly gorgeous side that thoroughly deserves its legendary status. Unequivocally a master of its genre.
These four sides, combined with the calibre and talent of the Imaginations, the Diplomats, Joe Simon, Eddie Whitehead, Bettye Swann, Johnny Wyatt, the Delfonics, Unique Blend et al create an unparalleled collection of sides that will surely enhance your life.
Special mention in dispatches for Barbara Redd's I'll Be All Alone, which potentially may raise a few eyebrows.
By Dave Timperley