Sunday, 28 August 2011

"After Hours The Collection – Northern Soul Masters". A Review Of The 2011 3CD Digipak Reissue.


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"…Don't You Know I'm Glad I Found You…I'll Dedicate My Life To You…"

Eagle-eyed collectors will notice something similar about this new August 2011 3CD set – it’s a repackaging of 3 Volumes already released in the 2000’s. I bought them then and they were fantastic (I also bought the 2LP vinyl versions). But there are changes on all three on these new discs that need pointing out – here are the details…

The original 2002 "After Hours" (1965 to 1973) had 24 tracks - the new version in this set has 25 – the running order is exactly the same except that Track 17 "Call On Me" by The Dynells is an addition (it’s been moved from Track 26 on the original "After Hours 3").

The original 2003 "After Hours 2" (1964 to 1972) had 26 tracks, but this 2011 version has 25 – and there is also some alteration of the track line up. Tracks 4 and 19 from the original CD have been dropped – "Lil Ole Man (Uptight – Everything's Alright)" by Bill Cosby and "That's What You Do To Me" by Deon Jackson. "Yes To The Lord" by The Stovell Sisters was Track 26 on the original CD, but has been moved to Track 18. Track 25 is "West 4th Street" by Valerie & Bobby Capers (it’s been moved from Track 29 on the original "After Hours 3"). Outside of these changes, the track running order remains the same as the original.

The original 2005 "After Hours 3" (1965 to 1974) had 29 tracks – the new version has 25. Tracks 1 to 18 remain the same running order – "Frantic Escape" by The Innocent Bystanders was Track 28 on the original CD and is now moved to Track 19. Tracks 20 to 25 are the same. Of the remaining four – two have been moved to Disc 1 and 2 as already noted above – the one dropped is "Astral Fire" by The Mystic Moods.

So - across the entire 3 CDs on this 2011 reissue only three of the original songs have been dropped (possibly due to licensing difficulties).

Each of the first two CDs had an 8-page booklet (12-pages on Volume 3) with a short but informative paragraph on each track. Roger Searling (a DJ at Jazz-FM and Radio Presenter at Smooth-FM in the UK) and Rick Conrad (from Warners Music) compiled and annotated all three – with each set expertly remastered by GIOVANNI SCATOLA.
The new booklet simply repros those issues and has the same excellent mastering the original discs had.

With regard to the sound - because of the wildly varying sources and recording dates (many tracks were new to CD at the time of release), the audio quality varied enormously – from superb to just very good – but I’ve not found any of the tracks anything less than listenable on this new version. Also because of their rarity value, most collectors simply relished having the tracks at all.

Musically – it’s an embarrassment of riches – huge hauls of ultra-rare and desirable Soul 45’s on legendary labels like Atlantic, Atco, Carla, Fame, Loma, Reprise, Stax and Warner Brothers. Most of the tracks are aimed squarely at the feet - upbeat dancefloor fillers that slaughtered the crowds at the 'Wigan Casino' in the early Seventies. This is joyful stuff – finger-clickers like "I Love Her So Much It Hurts Me" by DAVID & RUBEN from 1969 on Warners 7316 and the fabulous "Angel Baby (Don’t You Ever Leave Me)" by DARRELL BANKS from 1967 on Atlantic 6484 with an infectious bassline that just won’t quit (lyrics above).

To sum up - I’m a fairly voracious collector of all things Atlantic so I had to have all three of the original jewel-case CD versions when they came out (cost me a five spot each at the time of purchase). Well this new 3CD card-digipak reissue at less than a tenner online (despite the loss of 3 tracks) is still incredible value for money. And if you’re new to the compilations and the music, then you’re in for a treat.

Now excuse me while I get some talcum powder out, scuff up the laminate on the kitchen floor and badly show my age…

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