The folks at Real Side Records did it again. Number 3 was reviewed on these pages in early March and here comes Volume 4. The 20-piece collection once again focuses on rare and obscure cuts mainly from the 70s, but also some late 60s gems and a couple of newer tracks.
The one song that continues the thread is “Blood Is Thicker Than Water” by William DeVaughn who was also featured on the last installment of this classy compilation series. Bobby Womack starts out the proceedings with his 1978 discofied “Never Let Nothing Get The Best Of You”, a Teddy Pendergrass/Philly-style groover produced by Don Davis. Some songs appear on CD for the very first time, like the 1975 early Boogie classic “Lady Are You Crazy? (For Me)” by Mel Hayes with its heavy string arrangement, or the 1975 mid-tempo Soul stepper “Don’t You Know” by Ron Shy, a nephew of Duke Ellington, and its superb, lushly produced, anthem-like hook, courtesy of H B Barnum who always had a golden hand in arranging and production.
The Manhattans are featured with a track from their second Columbia album “That’s How Much I Love You”, released in 1975 and the Philly Sound is best presented by “Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto” from The Philadelphia International All-Stars (1977). As always, there are some artists that I’ve never heard of before, like a hilariously positive-sounding Celeste Hardie on an otherwise pessimistic story (“You’re Gone”). The newer cuts fit in perfectly, like the retro-soul of Lack Of Afro featuring Jack Tyson-Charles on the brightly flowing “Recipe For Love”.
And there are three more H B Barnum productions: the 1973 Blaxploitation track “Five On The Black Hand Side” by Keisa Brown, the ultra-cool 1969 version of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by pianist Karen Hernandez, and the sweeter than sweet 1969 cut “That Love That A Woman Should Give To A Man” by Spanky Wilson. Elsewhere, we get some Afro Soul/Funk by Manu Dibango with his 1976 disco-inspired “Big Blow” and a fantastic, grooving instrumental version of the Boz Scaggs classic “Lowdown” by the group Brand New Funk, produced by Sylvia Robinson in 1978. The Dells are represented with their “Don’t Leave Me This Way”-ish “Your Song” from their 1980 LP “I Touched A Dream” which was produced by Carl Davis and Eugene Record. And Gene Chandler is always a winner, here with “Blind Heart” from his second album for Brunswick, the 1968 LP “There Was A Time!”.
More quality indie soul comes from Walter Thomas and his 2000 release “Hold On To The Blues”, a moving 1975 piece by the back-in-business Betty Lavette (“You Made A Believer Out Of Me”), and more tracks that see the light of day on CD for the first time: the soul/pop winner “Somebody Please” (1970) by Billy Keene and the short and lively “I’m Tired Of Running Around” by the Young Ladies. Finally, the downtempo bliss and vocal gymnastics of “(You Got Me) Hypnotized” bring a welcome change of tempo here by Ci Ci from a 1984 Creative Funk production.