What a magnificent record! There’s a spellbinding story to go with the music, too... and it’s a true story. Kenny Carter is a first-rate singer, who had two mildly noted singles released in the early 1960s, after which he signed with the big RCA company in 1965, which must have felt like a dream come true. Five grandiose recording sessions were organized and an album titled Lotsa Soul with big expectations was scheduled for release... only to be shelved! Millions of dollars were invested in that project, but only three singles saw the light of day in 1966 and they went practically unnoticed at the time. Kenny still had two non-charted single releases in the 1970s. Sadly he passed away in 1990 at the age of only 50.
“Big ballad” is an established term in music meaning dramatic, growing downtempo songs with a rich orchestration. This CD is full of those powerhouse songs. To create these masterpieces, as an example in one session there were as many as 7 rhythm section players, 2 trumpets, 10 violins and 5 background vocalists, including the young Ashford & Simpson. Common to those days, they cut also standards and evergreens - Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye, I Believe in You, Time after Time, Body and Soul, I’ll Know, I’ll Get By and Smile – but they all were enriched with innovative and unaccustomed arrangements.
Many of the new songs were co-written by Kenny and Larry Banks - other partners were also involved - and interestingly two of those ballads, Don’t Go and I’ve Gotta Find Her, were covered by the Hesitations two years later. In this parade of big ballads there are actually only three upbeat tracks midway through: What’s That on Your Finger, Round in Circles and I’ve Got to Get Myself Together.
Being a fan of big ballads, it’s rather difficult to pick up personal favourites on this set, but I must give a special mention at least to the terrific Showdown, the big-voiced Like a Big Bad Rain, the tear-jerking How Can You Say Goodbye, the powerful Lights Out (remember the great cover by Zerben R Hicks & the Dynamics?) and the dramatic I Can’t Stop Laughing.
The ‘Sound’ of the R&B Hits (CDTOP 1578; 28 tracks, 74 min.; track-list at https://acerecords.co.uk/the-sound-of-the-rb-hits) is actually a re-release in a CD format of the similarly titled LP in 1964 in the U.K. full of Tamla-Motown tracks... plus 14 bonus tracks from that same period of 1959 and ’64. In the notes Kevin Howlett - with a few lines from Mr. Roger Armstrong, too - describes, how the Detroit sound crept into the U.K. with the help of the radio Luxembourg, a few labels distributing Motown in the early 1960s, pop magazines and also some British pop groups playing those songs. In his annotations Kevin not only gives us history details but also small tales on some of the tracks.
On this set along with big hits, such as Bye Bye Baby, Money and What’s So Good about Goodbye, there are also some not so obvious tracks included, such as Barrett Strong’s Oh I Apologize, the Valadiers’I Found a Girl, the Marvelettes’I Want a Guy, the Miracles’I’ve Been Good to You and Mike & the Modiefiers’I Found Myself a Brand New Baby. There are many B-sides and covers of hits by other Motown artists included. At the end of the booklet there’s a list of all Motown releases in the U.K. up to May 1964, the month of the release of this original album. There’s also a selected list of UK covers of Motown hits.
According to my calculations, in this second volume of the West Coast/Texas blues on the Bihari brothers’ labels there are only four tracks that were released at the time. If I Have to Wreck L.A., subtitled Kent & Modern Records Blues into the 60s, Vol. 2 (24 tracks, 78 min. notes by Dick Shurman, track-list at https://acerecords.co.uk/if-i-have-to-wreck-la-kent-modern-records-blues-into-the-60s-vol-2, offers this time straight blues mostly from the late 1960s. Stars of the show on this set include Willie Headen, Willie Garland and Long Gone Miles with as many as 18 tracks combined, but also Big Mama Thornton (Before Day) and Lowell Fulson (Blues Pain) are featured with slow blues numbers. Music moves mostly at a slow pace on this set, as there are only nine jumps and mid-tempo tracks. This CD is aimed at blues devotees.