Thursday, 28 March 2019

The Northern Soul Scene


  

This is a really interesting compilation, but an odd one in that, as someone who owns around 1200-1300 Northern Soul downloaded tracks, I was unfamiliar with nearly all of the album’s twenty-five tracks. Only one of them appears on any of my many other compliations. They were all recorded on the UK-based Decca and Deram labels, so you are not going to get any copper-bottomed soul recordings from Georgia or Tennessee, although some of the artists are American, but produced by British producers, notably Wayne Bickerton. Most of the tracks are “blue-eyed” Northern Soul, however.

Obviously, the concept of “Northern Soul” had not really taken off in 1968 (it was just beginning, but took several more years to really take off), so these records were sort of trying to get in on the act that their producers were becoming aware of. Presumably they were just trying to ape the US records that were trying to ape Motown. Whatever, they certainly did a good job as there are lots of convincing songs on here, and the sound is absolutely top notch too. Seriously so. It obviously was de rigeur around 1967-1968 for artists such as Tom Jones, Dave Berry and Amen Corner to record these beaty Northern Soul numbers as ‘b’ sides or album tracks.

TRACK LISTING

1. I'll Hold You - Frankie & Johnny
2. So-Called Loving - David Essex
3. Nothing But A Heartache - The Flirtations
4. Don't Change - Fearns Brass Foundry
5. Baby You've Got It - Cyde McPhatter
6. Name It You Got It - Micky Moonshine
7. My Love - Ronnie Jones
8. Ask The Lonely - The Fantastics
9. Stop Breaking My Heart - Tom Jones
10. Billy Sunshine - Billie Davis
11. Our Love Is In The Pocket - Amen Corner
12. Whose Little Girl Are You - Danny Williams
13. Heart Trouble - Eyes Of Blue
14. Everybody Needs Love - Bobby Hanna
15. Picture Me Gone - Dave Berry
16. I Wanna Know - John E. Paul
17. The Way You Do The Things You Do - Elkie Brooks
18. I Just Made Up My Mind - Jon Gunn
19. Something Beautiful - Adrienne Poster
20. Reach Out Your Hand - Brotherhood Of Man
21. Giving Up On Love - Sonny Childe
22. My Smile Is Just A Frown (Turned Upside Down)
23. All The Time In The World - Stevie Kimble
24. Let The Good Times Roll - Tony Newman
25. Listen To My Heart - The Bats

“I’ll Hold You” by future blues rock vocalist Maggie Bell (“Frankie”) and “Johnny” and a young David Essex’s “So-Called Loving” both have Northern Soul-style backing, but I just can’t take them seriously as Northern recordings.

“Nothing But A Heartache” by black US female vocal trio The Flirtations is the real thing. It was written, however by Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddintgon who produced The Rubettes in the mid-seventies. “Don’t Change It” by Fearns Brass Foundry also has credible credentials. The Drifters’ Clyde McPhatter’s “Baby You’ve Got It” was also a Bickerton production.

Apparently popular at Wigan Casino was “Name It You Got It” by Micky Moonshine, which has a disco-ish wah-wah guitar backing. “My Love” by Ronnie Jones sounds like a catchy sixties pop record rather than a Northern Soul one, though.  Tom Jones chips in with a mega-soulful, convincing “Stop Breaking My Heart”. “Everybody Needs Love” by Bobby Hanna is one of my favourites - this one  has a true Northern sound to it.

A real unearthed gem, for me, is the supremely catchy “Billy Sunshine” by Billie Davis. “Our Love Is In The Pocket” is the one track that, of course, was familiar to me due to the JJ Barnes Northern classic. Here it is done by UK pop band Amen Corner. Danny Williams’ “Whose Little Girl Are You” has a real Northern beat to it and an authentic black vocal and brass section. “Everybody Needs Love” by Bobby Hanna is one of my favourites - a true Northern sound to it.

The one track I did know is one of my absolute favourite rarities - “I Wanna Know” by John E. Paul (credited on my other compilation as just “John Paul”). A proper Northern classic, this one. Jon Gunn sings about travelling on the underground on "I Just Made Up My Mind", a UK experience. It comes over as a swinging London pop song as opposed to a Northern Soul one. I like it though.

Whe I saw the name Adrienne Poster I thought “is that sixties Lulu look-alike actress Adrienne Posta?”. Indeed it is. A real rarity, this one. Her song is “Something Beautiful”. It is a very sixties poppy number. Also an unusual name for the Northern Soul scene is Elkie Brooks. Here she gives us a vibrant rendition of Smokey Robinson/The Temptations’ “The Way You Do The Things You Do”. Then we also have the early incarnation of The Brotherhood Of Man with the funky, gospelly soul of “Reach Out Your Hand”. This has very vague hints of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons’ “The Night” about it, for me.

Truly Smith’s “My Smile is Just A Frown (Turned Upside Down)” is a nice rarity, but its pop ballad strains are a long way from Northern Soul, for me. The same applies for the Hollies-esque “Listen To My Heart” by The Bats.

So, in conclusion, this is an eminently listenable mix of “blue eyed” Northern Soul, a few genuine Northern cuts from black US artists and some carefree sixties British pop. For the real thing, I would recommend the four volumes of “The Northern Soul Story”, the soundtracks to “Northern Soul” and “Soul Boy” and “The in Crowd”.

B

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