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The Arock & Sylvia Soul Story, CD (£11.50)
One of the pleasures of researching labels is the information submitted from the legions of collectors, anoraks and out and out pervs who are as badly into the minutiae of black music as we are. Working on the Arock And Sylvia Soul Story was a case in point.
We are already proud to be the working home of Peter Gibbon, a man who appreciates a new matrix number as much as a vintage bottle of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. Peter had done the hard leg work and negotiations for the purchase of the labels a few years ago and had subsequently arranged the tape copying, acetate dubbing and had done the discographical investigation to complement the project. When a general plea for more information went out on the Soul Talk" internet discussion group we didn't expect any more than a few related label stories, but Dave Flynn surprised us with a new title and the actual record to fill a gap in the label list. Only true collectors will realise the joy that gives a discographer and the raising of Peter's eyebrow was well worth it. "
Though not directly employed by the Ace megacorp, Mick Patrick gets seconded to many projects in his field and the songwriters of the Brill Building era are one of his specialities. His particular skill on this project was in helping us identify some of the singers on the demos that emanated from the publishing side of label owner Al Sears' business. To find that we were sitting on previously unheard recordings from Junior Lewis, Marie Knight and Sam Hawkins was very exciting and helped us realise we had enough quality material to make this into a two-CD project. Mick also helped us work out who wrote several of the previously unheard numbers, which all helps to tell the story.
Soul Talkers" also put us on the trail of Sylvia artist Sterling Magee whose story incorporates being a one-man band on the streets of Harlem and appearing in a U2 video and soundtrack. Now that's something we weren't reckoning on.
Despite its odd name and uninspired design, Arock has pleasantly surprised us with the quality of its soul output and with the addition of Sylvia, Serock, assorted demos and unreleased finished masters, we now have a very worthy addition to the annals of New York City soul.
Great uptown style records from the Corvairs, Billy Washington, Joan Moody, the Diplomats, Garrett Saunders and Tutti Hill show just what that city was capable of, while Gene Burks' southern sounding ballad proves how adaptable it could be. Chet "Poison" Ivey seemed to work independently of the mainstream but came out with a diamond of a mid-60s dance record with his [probably] unissued L O V E. The Philly sound wandered up from PA with the Larks' For The Love Of Money and Sterling Magee's contributions reveal that his Mississippi roots were still very strong despite his move to the metropolis. The original demos of Tommy Hunt's And I Never Knew (by Junior Lewis), Junior Lewis' Tears On My Face (though ironically not by him) and Marie Knight's Come Tomorrow are enough to send shivers up the spine of any lover of classic ballads.
We've taken the liberty of including three recordings where we have failed to identify the singers. They've made it into a twenty eight tracker on their aural strengths, so those can be looked on as a bonus. Please make fools of us by telling us who they really were and if there are any gaps in the discography you can fill, give at least three middle aged gentlemen one last thrill.
By Ady Croasdell"