Hailing out of Memphis - I've had only three tracks by the Vocal Soul group The Newcomers to my name - all of which turned up on "The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Volume 2" 9CD Box Set in 1993 - over 20 years ago. So being a voracious Stax Records collector/fan - this CD caught my eye - and I'm so glad I bought it.
Released 30 September 2013 as a limited edition of 1500 copies, Ace/Stax CDLUX 010 (Barcode 029667056120) runs to a generous 77:48 minutes and breaks down as follows:
Track 2 and 1 "Open Your Heart (Let Me In)" and "Girl, This Boy Loves You" make up the A&B sides of their debut 45 on Volt VOA-4022 (issued September 1969).
Tracks 3 and 4 "You Put The Sunshine In My Heart" and "Still A Boy In My Heart" make the A&B sides of their 2nd 45 on Volt VOA-4049 (issued October 1970).
Tracks 5 and 6 "Pin The Tail On The Donkey" and "Mannish Boy" are the A&B sides of their 3rd 45 on Stax STA-0099 (issued September 1971). It was also their first of only two 45s in the UK - it was issued on Stax 2025 063 in 1972.
Tracks 7 and 8 "The Martian Hop" and "Humpty Dumpty" are their 4th 45 on Stax STA-0186 (issued 1973). It was also issued as the second 45 in the UK on Stax STXS 2023 in 1975.
Track 9 is "Keep An Eye On Your Close Friends" - the A-side is their 5th 45 on Truth TRA-3204 (issued September 1974). The 'Instrumental' B-side is not included on here.
Tracks 10 and 11 "(Too Little In Common To Be Lovers) Too Much Going To Say Good-Bye" and "The Whole World;s A Picture Show" are their 6th single on Truth TRA-3213 (issued January 1975).
They had one other 45 on Mercury in 1978 which is not within the reaches of this CD. They never made an album.
Track 12 is "Betcha Can't Guess Who" which was unissued until the Ace/Kent Soul CD compilation "More Perfect Harmony - Sweet Soul Groups 1967-1975" (CDKEND 252) in 2005.
Track 13 is "See Saw Lovin'" which was unissued unto the Ace/Stax CD "5000 Volts Of Stax" (CDSXD 116) in 1998.
Tracks 14 to 24 are all previously unreleased (14, 15, and 21 are Mono, the rest Stereo)
The group were made up of several accomplished singers all of whom auditioned at Stax for their parts - Bertram Brown, Terry Bartlett, Homer Garis, Carl Lloyd and Randy Brown were the original line-up. William Sumlin, Terry Bartlett and Randy Brown made up the core of the new line-up. The song-writers included Allen Jones, Bobby Manuel, Marshall Jones, Melvin Davis, Homer Banks and many others.
This compilation feels like a tale of two cities - the singles and the unreleased stuff. I say this because Stax clearly thought of The Newcomers as their answer to Tamla's Jackson 5 and therefore pitched some terrible A-sides to that effect ("Put The Tail On The Donkey"). And their B-sides were so much better than the A - which is probably why the opener here is "Girl, This Boy Loves You" - a glorious slab of high-vocals Sweet Soul - the kind of tune Northern Soul fans would throttle a close relative for. But stuff like their awful reworking of The Ran-Dells 1963 novelty hit "The Martian Hop" backed by the sickly "Humpty Dumpty" fail terribly. But then just when you're getting worried - you get the fantastic "Mannish Boy" and the truly aching "(Too Little In Common To Be Lovers) Too Much Going On To Say Good-Bye" which is properly gorgeous Slow Soul.
But what's most shocking is the sheer quality of the unreleased stuff - mostly consisting of slower ballads. Tony Rounce's typically superb liner notes point out that the six-minute slow stew of "The Exit" is the toppermost - and he's right. In fact listening to these tracks feels like some long lost smoocher album that somehow slipped through the net. Many of the songs feature The Bar- Kays as the backing band too (their cover of Steve Mancha's "I Don't Want To Lose You" is a highlight). Another nugget is the vocal harmonies achieved by Stax stalwarts Bettye Crutcher and Marvell Thomas on "What A Girl I've Got (Lovin' Me)" - 'so' good. The demos are not fluffs either but fully recorded tracks - and even they sound great. In fact the audio quality is superb throughout (typically top transfer work done by NICK ROBBINS at Sound Mastering).
Ace Records of the UK is beloved among fans and collectors - and this kind of release is testament as to why. You couldn't imagine a major label giving a monkeys about this stuff - but Ace have made the effort and made it available to Soul lovers everywhere.
Fabulous stuff - and easily one of my Soul reissues of the year for 2013.