The title of track 21 sums this project up. Al Perkins' swinging slab of Memphis marvellousness, Nothing Is Impossible might well serve as the motto for Kent's long-standing servant of soul, Ady Croasdell, and also for his quest to bring you the greatest dance recordings of the 60s and 70s in the finest possible sound. Having ceaselessly badgered the owners of the Atlantic catalogue for a chance to assemble their best known soul tracks into collections that do much to define the genre they represent, he's at last getting to grips with what they've got in a manner that can only be described as splendid. Having already given us the discotheque-oriented 60s overview that was last month's blockbusting At The Club (CDKEND 168), the erstwhile Harboro' Horace now points your feet a few hundred miles up the motorway with a stack of tracks that have ignited Northern dancefloors for three decades or more.
As any long-term soul lovin' fule kno, Still Payin' Our Dues is a well-overdue and very welcome update (and expansion) of Kent's earlier vinyl opus Payin' Our Dues. The extra playing time afforded by the small shiny format gives Ady the chance to assail our ears with even more fingersnappers, floaters and floorshakers from the Atlantic vaults. You won't catch me complaining - and neither should you be when most of these cuts are making their first-ever appearance on compact disc. Many of the sides included first saw UK action at the rightfully legendary Blackpool Mecca, among them Barbara Lynn's Motown clone Take Your Love And Run, The Drifters' You Got To Pay Your Dues and Esther Phillips' slidin' slab of Miami magic Catch Me I'm Falling - all three of which had barely fallen stillborn from the presses (thank you, Bill Millar!) when reassessed and repromoted by discerning Northern chaps like Tony Jebb, the late Les Cokell and Ian Levine. The Mecca crew were also the first to acknowledge the greatness of Bobby Wilson's brilliant Volt mid-pacer Feels Good, and your correspondent shyly admits to introducing Tony and Les to the fingerlickin', fingerclickin' goodness of Wendy Rene's Bar-B-Q during the same period.
Other goodies here had already been rediscovered and raved about during the "pre-Northern" period of the Twisted Wheel, and the other clubs that kept a soul flag flying in the face of psychedelia. Included in this number are Mary Wells' relentless Chicago-Detroit hybrid Can't You See and the Astors' glorious Mayfield homage, Candy.
Still more winners came to light when Northern Soul became a national phenomenon, and they came from all sorts of sources including 50s comedy doo woppers the Coasters, former child star and (mostly) purveyor of classy MOR Leslie Uggams, respected 50s/60s pop arranger-pianist Jimmy 'Kokomo' Wisner and future African-American R&B legends the Pointer Sisters. Once the Northern scene opened its arms to the burgeoning disco movement, new releases such as Sister Sledge's New York-recorded, Philly-influenced pounder Love Don't You Go Through No Changes On Me also became acceptable to - and happily accepted by! - the assembled multitudes. Some of these tracks were sold at premium prices virtually from the point of their discovery, some were discovered in 8-records-for-two-quid soul packs, and at least one already-rare and popular title was found on the ceiling of a second hand shop (read Ady's notes for further clarification!) Some of them even made the national charts when Atlantic's UK arm realised their potential, eg Archie Bell's Here I Go Again - a Northern side which was originally popularised by pioneer London DJ Terry Davis at his various London venues, before it found a more natural and predictable home "Up North". All have something in common, which makes them as listenable and danceable now as they were when we first heard them, and that's their sheer excellence. This is as true of Tony & Tyrone's 'who needs a tune when you got a beat like this?' thrasher Please Operator as it is of the Soul Brothers Six' gutbucket groover Thank You Baby For Loving Me - surely one of the hardest, funkiest records ever to bear the sobriquet of 'Northern Stomper'. There can surely be few compilations for which the phrase 'All Killer, No Filler' was ever better suited.
As some dancin' fool once said, can't dance to these, you got no business havin' feet. He's not included here (maybe next time, Ady?) but as another Atlantic artist, Rex Garvin, once put it "I Gotta Go Now, Out On The Floor"...
...Dues paid. In Full!
By Tony Rounce