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Various Artists: Birth of Soul – Special Detroit Edition 1961-64

Reviewed by Heikki Suosalo

Rating: 8/ 10

(CDKEND 460;; 24 tracks – 5 previously unreleased *, 61 min.)

The Sonnettes: I Cried For My Last Time * / Barbara Lewis: Think A Little Sugar / La Wanda William: Come Back To Me / Timmy Shaw & the Sternphones: I’m A Lonely Guy / J.J. Barnes: Just One More Time / Leon Peterson: Everything’s Gonna Be Alright * / Marva Josie: You Lied / Betty Lavett: Here I Am / Priscilla Page: My Letter / Laura Johnson: I Know How It Feels / The Falcons: Oh Baby / James Lately: Tears Running And Falling From My Eyes * / Melvin Davis: Wedding Bells / Gino Washington: Til The End Of Time / The Pyramids: Shakin’ Fit / Tony Clarke: It’s Easy * / The Pen Etts: That’s No Way To Spend My Time / The Donays: Devil In His Heart / Charmaine: Don’t You Know (How You Thrilled Me When You Kissed Me / The Volumes: Why / Geraldine Hunt: It Never Happened Before / Harry Reid: Can’t We Get Together (One More Time) / Vivian Collins: Answer Me / The Del-Phis: Nosey Folk *

  During the last decade or so we’ve been blessed with compilation CDs that have enlightened us on the budding Detroit soul music scene in the late 1950s and early 60s.  We’ve become more and more aware of the rich music heritage and vibrant and varied sounds created in that area.  And we’re not talking about Motown now, but the music that was made alongside and in addition to that company.  Now as the 6th CD in their fine Birth of Soul series U.K. Kent enlightens us even more by way of Special Detroit Edition 1961-64.  The release date is March the 31th, 2017.

  In the credits to the tracks on the set many familiar names pop up, and we can enjoy some early efforts by such masters as Ollie McLaughlin, Mike Hanks, Don Davis, Norman Whitfield, Dave Hamilton, Johnnie Mae Matthews, Robert Bateman, Richard Wylie, Janie Bradford etc.  Some of these recordings were released on big labels like Atlantic, Wand and Vee-Jay, but mostly on smaller ones like Ke Ke, Rose-G, Brend, Serock, Temple and Becco.  The CD was compiled by Ady Croasdell and Graham Finch wrote the informative and detailed notes.

  The set kicks off with an unreleased track at the time, a gentle and sorrowful ballad called I Cried for My Last Time co-written by Thelma Gordy and sung by the Sonnettes.  Charmaine’s Don’t You Know has a similar teenage agony feel to it, whereas Laura Johnson’s I Know How It Feels is a more dramatic and the FalconsOh Baby a more gospel-infused ballad.

  Besides the Falcons, you can spot other familiar names.  Think a Little Sugar by Barbara Lewis is a mellow song and the b-side to her Hello Stranger hit, J.J. Barnes delivers a soft dancer titled Just One More Time, while Marva Josie belts out the fast You Lied.  The swinging Here I Am by Betty Lavett is another b-side, and in fact that’s how they spelt her name on the Atlantic label in 1963.  Also the tracks by Melvin Davis, Gino Washington and Tony Clarke are all uptempo, even poppy dancers.

  Uptempo pop sound is dominant also on I’m a Lonely Guy by Timmy Shaw & the Sternphones and It Never Happened Before by Geraldine Hunt, while with Leon Peterson’s Everything’s Gonna Be Alright we slip into rock ‘n’ roll.  Nosey Folk by the Del-Phis – later the Vandellas – is a swinging jazz number.  To still add variety, there’s Vivian Collins’ bluesy Answer Me and – more importantly - fledgling Detroit beat can be recognized on two mid-tempo numbers, Tears Running and Falling from My Eyes by James Lately and Devil in His Heart by the Donays.  Overall, this is feel-good music, perhaps a bit nostalgic, but fun and exhilarating... and innovative (8).

© Heikki Suosalo

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