Groove & Grind Rare Soul ’63-’73 – Rock Beat Records (4-CDs)

Groove & Grind Rare Soul ’63-’73 – Rock Beat Records ROC-CD-3255 (4-CD box set & 127-page hardbound book) [8/18/15] ****:

(Featuring Carla Thomas, Ike & Tina Turner; The Ascots; The Dynamics; Kenny Gamble and The Romeos; Big Ella; Eddie Floyd; Al “TNT” Braggs; Moses Dillard And The Dynamic Showman; Little Ben And The Cheers; Dave Mitchell And The Screamers; Lloyd Hendricks; Charles Lattimore; Bobby Parker; King Earnest; Jay Wiggins; The Soul Shakers; King Floyd; The Four Perfections; Nat Hall With The Mellow 3; Winfred Parker and many more!)

Rockbeat Records has released an historical, exhilarating collection of soul music, Groove & Grind Rare Soul ’63-’73. This four-disc set consists of 112 tracks of lesser- known, regional label acts. While the recordings are obscure to many, they represent a varied group of performers and composers. Many of these songs have never been on CD, so their digital introduction is very noteworthy.

Disc 1 is simply titled Urban Soul and reflects music that emanated from New York, Philadelphia, Chicago Los Angeles and Detroit. This music has the grit and arrangement complexities of larger soul labels like Motown and Stax, but never got the commercial exposure. Don Gardner (a Philadelphian who had formed a trio with Jimmy Smith) cooks on the dance number “My Baby Likes To Boogaloo”. His Otis Redding-caliber vocals are surrounded by a raucous horn section and organ, and this easily could have been a hit. Each cut has a distinctive style.  “I’m Hip To You” has the lush strings and “girl group” (although this group had three women and one man). Gail Anderson delivers “love gospel” on “They’re Laughing At Me”, and Betty (original spelling) LaVette sizzles on “Almost”.

There are some familiar names as well. Ike & Tina Turner deliver the grooves on “You Can’t Miss Nothing That You Never Had” in a tight structure and funk. Kenny Gamble (who with Leon Huff was responsible for the Sound Of Philadelphia) previews his signature sound with his group The Romeos on “Hard To Find The Right Girl”. More often the artists remained obscure. In the case of “Little Charles Walker, he had a composition by Bobby Darin and Rudy Clark (“Got My Own Thing Going”), but it did not meet commercial success. But on tracks like “Everybody’s Talkin’” (Joan Baker) or “Walkin’ And Talkin’” (King Floyd), the performances are great. The closest thing to a well- known hit is the slow-grooved “Love On A Two Way Street” by Lezli Valentine.

Disc 2 is an anthology of soul groups that emphasizes the ebullience of this genre. The Tempos’ “Here I Come” has all the hooks of any Motown number. From the Newark Smoke label, “I Don’t Love You Anymore (by the Exsaveyons) is sharp with a biting organ line. Cities like St. Louis (“A Memory Best Forgotten”/ The Sounds Four), Chicago (“You Shook Me Up”/The Specials, “Peace Of Mind”/The Vontastics), Detroit (“Bingo!”/The Dynamics, “Love Creeping Up On Me”/Holidays) and Los Angeles “The Young Hearts Get Lonely Too”/The New Young Hearts), Van McCoy’s “I’m In A World Of Trouble”/The Sweet Things) and Washington D.C. (“Miss Heartbreaker”/ The Ascots) show their mettle as soul capitals. There is a familiarity to these unknown gems. “But Then You Left Me” has a light falsetto touch, while Pearlean Gray belts out “I Don’t Want To Cry”

No true soul collection would be complete without Southern influences. Disc Three: Gospel-tinged soul flourishes on songs like “Don’t Turn Away” and Eddie Floyd’s (think Sam Cooke) “Hey Now”. But it’s the straight-ahead foot stomping r & b that distinguishes this disc. Lee Edward & His Continentals exude powerful eminence on “(On The) R-E-B-O-U-N-D”. There is star power in the Stax recording of “Every Ounce Of Strength’ by Carla Thomas. Her vocals are outstanding. “Understanding”, “Show Me”, “I Gotta Come Back” and “Get Right” approximate the frenetic energy of the Southern scene.

Disc 4: Funky Soul will get everyone up dancing. One of the many highlights is the New Orleans call and response opus “Free And Easy”. Like most of this extensive collection, the music is infectious and accessible. As you listen to these songs, echoes of James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Motown and assorted other soul acts wash over the arrangements. Strong guitar riffs, horn choruses and inspired backup singers all work together perfectly.

The packaging of this box set is terrific. The liner notes provide a concise synopsis of each track and the performer. Included are photos and reproductions of the original 45 rpm labels. The informative notes by Bill Dahl are in a hardbound book with glossy artwork and slots for the discs. Due to the lack of master tapes, there is a discernible tininess that adds shrill tonality at times. But soul music was intended for partying, so cut loose, have some fun!

TrackList: 

Disc1 Urban Soul; My Baby Likes to Boogaloo; I’m Hip To You;You Had Me Fooled; They’re Laughing At Me; Please Consider Me ;Are You Gonna Leave Me; Almost My Baby’s Gone ;Got My Own Thing; Going; Everybody’s Talkin’ ;Follow My Heart; Suffer; You Brought My Heart Right Down Too My Knees; The Queen; Walkin’ And Thinkin’; Mr. Shy; Do You Know What Life Is All About; Searchin’; For Love; No One To Love; I’m Mad About You; Love On A Two Way Street;; You Can’t Miss Nothing You Never Had; Don’t Hurt Me No More; He’s Coming Back To Me; Hard To Find The Right Girl; Big Train; Love That Guy

CD 2: (Countdown) Here I Come; It’s You And Me; Don’t Love You No More; A Memory Best Forgotten; You Stood Me Up; Bingo; Peace Of Mind;  Love Creeping up on me There Will Be Tears Pt.1;Never Ending Love; You’re A Gas With Your Trash; The Young Hears Get Lonely Too ;Forgive Me If Cry; I’m In A World Of Trouble; Cry No More; Mild Heartbreaker; But Then You Left Me; Just Keep Your Love Strong; Just Like A Baby (Mama’s Rocking In A Cradle); I Don’t Want To Cry; Beggar of Love; You’re Good Enough For Me; Say You’ll Be Mine; She’s The One I Love; Savin’ My Lovin’ For You; Got To Be Your Lover; Victim Of Loneliness; I’m Not Strong Enough

CD 3: Don’t Turn Away; Mr. Clean (Part 1); Now You’ve Got The Upper Hand; Forgive Then Forget; Don’t Make Me Cry; The James Brown Boogalou; Mr. Lucky; I Can’t Stop Crying; It’s All Wrong (It’s All Right); (On The) R-e-b-o-u-n-d; I’m Telling You; Hey Now; The Good Got To Suffer With The Bad; I Gotta Come Back; A Broken Hearted Clown; The Grass Is Always Greener (On The Opposite Side Of The Fence); Still My Life Through; Every Ounce Of Strength; I Don’t Want To Hurt Nobody; I’m A Good Man; I Gotta Have My Baby’s Love; I Confess; Understanding; Show Me; Pretty As A Picture; Hurry Up Little Girl; Everybody Makes A Mistake Sometimes; Get Right

CD 4: Can You Handle It; Free And Easy; Show Stopper; Soul Affection; The Soul Stroke (Can You Handle It); Riccasha; Soul Walkin’; Wake Up; The Bushman; Funky Bandwagon; F.L.A.; Do It; People Talking About Me; Original Funky Bell Bottoms; I’m A Lonely Man; I Got A Habit (Of Lovin’ You); Do The Bobby Dunn; We Do It All Up In Here (Loosen Up); Ratty Ratty; It Must Be Love; Do The Dog Funk; What You See Is What You Get; Do The Thing; The Sno-Cone; I’ll Pay You Back; Hep Squeeze; The Poo Poo Man; The Trip; I Got A New Thing

—Robbie Gerson

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