Another compilation out now: the 5th installment of “The Wants List” on Soul Brother Records, the London-based Soul and Jazz record shop which turned into a veritable music label in 1997, first as Passion Music, later as Soul Brother Records. They have come up with an incredible amount of compilations, artist anthologies and a total of 150 albums so far.
“The Wants List” focuses on Rare Groove specialties, mostly from the 70s. Some of the tracks on offer here have been a part of my own DJ sets in the past, like the album opener “Playing Your Game, Baby”, the 1977 gem by the late great Barry White. Or the 1971 Stax classic “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” by The Dramatics. And the 1973 cover version of the Curtis Mayfield track “Give Me Your Love” by Sisters Love.
Some of the tracks here have been amazingly hard to find. Probably the most precious is “Evil Vibrations” by Mighty Ryeders. Their 1978 LP “Help Us Spread The Message” is currently circling around for 600€ or thereabouts. It’s a heavily grooving funk track and one of the highlights on the album. Thankfully, Luv N’ Haight re-released the LP a couple of years ago. Etta James is featured with “All The Way Down” from 1973 – I have used her sequel, recorded a year later under the name “Out On The Streets Again”, in clubs throughout the city. What a nice surprise to hear “Yes It’s You” again by Sweet Charles. The James Brown-produced anthem is still resonating in more ways than one.
I have never been a downheart Four Tops fan myself, so it comes as a bit of a surprise to discover the wonderful midtempo pacer “Strung Out For Your Love”. Makes me want to check out their 1976 ABC LP “Catfish”. I think their better material was recorded after they quit with Motown, in the early 70s, anyway. Another highlight. The Reflections are also right on track here, with another wonderful mellow soulfully flowing track, co-written by the great J.R. Bailey, who has written songs for the Main Ingredient or Isaac Hayes and recorded two albums under his own name. “She’s My Summer Breeze” is from the only Reflections LP the group recorded back in 1975 called “Love On Delivery” and reminds me of the title track and sheer bliss Bailey recorded a year earlier for his own debut album “Just Me ‘N You”.
More 2-step heavenly sounds can be heard from Ronnie McNeir with his 1975 masterpiece “I’m Your Lover” which boasts with superb backing vocals. I’m glad I can call the German version of Thelma Houston‘s self-titled 1972 LP my own, simply because it features four more tracks than the original US version. Among those is the earcandy “Nothing Left To Give”, with Thelma crying her heart out. I always liked the thick soprano of Jeannie Reynolds, sister of L.J., who wrote “I Don’t Want To Be Second Best” for one of her two albums she recorded in the 70s. There is a singer I haven’t heard of before: Penny Goodwin. She sang in church with Al Jarreau when they were still living in Milwaukee. Penny recorded only one LP in 1974: the ultra rare “Portrait Of A Gemini” features cover versions of songs by Gil Scott-Heron and Marvin Gaye, or the Mancini classic “Slow Hot Wind”. Among the originals is the uber-catchy, funky and soulful diamond “Too Soon You’re Old”, with superb musicianship (Phil Upchurch, Don Myrick, Richard Evans, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra strings). Too bad she didn’t record more songs. Her voice sounds like a more demanding, upfront, darker and funkier Randy Crawford. A real discovery here!
This fine compilation concludes with the legendary Marlena Shaw with her fantastic version of Marvin’s “Save The Children” and another obscure track by Mike James Kirkland from 1972, the very relaxed and easing “Hang On In There”, so up to date and fitting for the times we’re living in right now.