The OKeh label travelled a long and winding road in its 50-year history. Founded by Otto Heinemann in 1920, OKeh issued what is generally considered to be the first commercial blues recording in Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues. It provided a musical home for Louis Armstrong, Lonnie Johnson and Bessie Smith inter alia, and after World War II released gems by Johnnie Ray, Chuck Willis, Screamin' Jay Hawkins and the like. But even these musical milestones were over shadowed by the quality of OKeh's output from 1962 (when Carl Davis took over as label manager) to 1970 when the parent Columbia company closed it down. His appointment coincided with the emergence of soul as the preferred dance music of black teenagers, and throughout the 60s the Chicago-based label did more than simply supply their requirements: Major Lance may have declared It's The Beat but, with its combination of gifted singers, strong songwriters and crack arrangers and producers, OKeh issued a stream of singles whose appeal extended far beyond the dance floor. Sure, you could dance to them, but each one was a carefully crafted slab of soul artistry. Ironically, OKeh's demise in its homeland coincided with an increased interest in its catalogue by young British soul fans. By the early 70s, the label had achieved cult status in the North of England. In Stafford and Stoke, Blackpool and Wigan, soul fans danced the night away every Saturday to 60s soul sounds, and naturally OKeh outings like Major Lance's The Beat and Billy Butler's Right Track were among the favourite spins. One of those young fans from the 70s, Ady Croasdell, is now of course the driving force behind Britain's leading northern soul label Kent Records. He's already delivered vol 1 of OKeh - A Northern Soul Obsession, and hard on its heels came volume 2, packed with 24 of the best Saturday night soul sounds you could ever hope for. The hits are here, tracks like Billy Butler's I Can't Work No Longer and Major Lance's Rhythm, two impeccably stylish calls to dance whose composer, arranger and producer credits read like a who's who of Chi-Town soul-.-take a bow Riley Hampton, Curtis Mayfield and Carl Davis! But as usual Ady has gone beyond the obvious selections and mixed rarities and album tracks with the hits. Cuts like Walter Jackson's chocolate-and-cream beat ballad After You There Can Be Nothing jostle for your attention with the high, crisp harmonies of Otis Leavill's former backing girls The Opals on You're Gonna Be Sorry, the sheer power of Little Richard on the surging A Little Bit Of Something and Cool Breeze by Gerald Sims. Who? Well, Mr Sims is best known in the UK as the lead singer of The Daylighters whose raving R&B workout Oh Mom Teach Me How To Uncle Willie saw issue on the Sue Label. Here, as befits the song title, he and The Daylighters are in more relaxed mood on a tune which has more than a hint of the Drifters about it. Just another ingredient in a rich Saturday night feast which will leave all OKeh obsessives replete.
- 01 Preview Ain't Gonna Move - Larry Williams & Johnny Watson
- 02 Preview End Up Crying - The Vibrations
- 03 Preview I Can't Work No Longer - Billy Butler & The Chanters
- 04 Preview I'll Leave It Up To You - The Artistics
- 05 Preview Let My Heart And Soul Be Free - Tan Geers
- 06 Preview Memories - The Triumphs
- 07 Preview Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad - Cookie Jackson
- 08 Preview Ask For One Good Reason - Larry Williams
- 09 Preview Cool Breeze - Gerald Sims & The Daylighters
- 10 Preview Rhythm - Major Lance
- 11 Preview You're Gonna Be Sorry - The Opals
- 12 Preview Just Another Dance - Marlina Mars
- 13 Preview After You There Can Be Nothing - Walter Jackson
- 14 Preview I Can't Make It Without You - Malcolm Hayes
- 15 Preview South Like West - Johnny "Guitar" Watson
- 16 Preview Let Me Show It To You - The Fundamentals
- 17 Preview Yesterday Is Gone - The Variations
- 18 Preview You Can't Take It Away - Azie Mortimer
- 19 Preview A Little Bit Of Something - Little Richard
- 20 Preview Second Class Lover - Jean Dushon
- 21 Preview The Train - The Belgianettes
- 22 Preview Can't Live Without Her - Billy Butler & The Chanters
- 23 Preview Hello Heartaches, Goodbye Love - Joyce Davis
- 24 Preview That's What Mama Say - Walter Jackson
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