Sunday, 16 August 2015

"Ian Levine's Solid Stax Sensations" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2015 Ace/Kent-Soul CD – Duncan Cowell Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...You're My Only Temptation..."

I love enthusiasm. Take "Your Love Is Strange" by The Dramatics. British DJ and Northern Soul devotee IAN LEVINE practically endangers his undergarments when describing the song - calling it "Awesome Detroit" and "So Cooooooool!" And when its incessant hooky groove (that literally gets under your skin) combines with the stunning gravel-for-breakfast lead vocal of Ron Banks – I have to say that the obsessed Englishman is absolutely on the money. Rave on my son...

"Solid Stax Sensations" is brilliant stuff – a stormingly good CD compilation in a sea of lesser competitors. Mostly made up of American Stax and Volt singles from 1969 to 1974 – you get 25 primo tracks - lesser-heard gems sitting nicely alongside Club favourites and one Previously Unreleased Stax outtake. It also boasts truly wonderful Audio and a double-album's value for money at 73 minutes. Here are the solid sender details...

UK released 31 July 2015 (August 2015 in the USA) – "Ian Levine's Solid Stax Sensations" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Ace/Kent-Soul CDKEND 435 (Barcode 029667243520) breaks down as follows (72:58 minutes):

1. And I Love You – BOBBY WHITLOCK (1968 USA 7" single on Hip HIA-8001, A)
2. Ain't No Need Of Crying – THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP (1974 USA 7" single on Truth TRA-3210, A)
3. Can You Win – CHARLENE (1970 USA 7" single on Paradox PAR-105, B-side to "Love Changes")
4. (Let Hurt Put You In The) Loser's Seat – JONI WILSON (1971 USA 7" single on Volt VOA-4070, A)
5. You're My Only Temptation – ROZ RYAN (1970 USA 7" single on Volt VOA-4040, A)
6. City Of Fools – COLETTE KELLY (1969 USA 7" single on Volt VOA-4018, A)
7. Hang On – ANNETTE THOMAS (1972 USA 7” single on Stax STA-0118, A, from the film “Class Of ‘74”)
8. If You Look Into My Eyes – PROUD AS PUNCH (1970 USA 7" single on Stax STA-0081, A)
9. I Refuse To Be Lonely – THE STINGERS (1969 USA 7" single on Stax STA-0035, A)
10. The Man In The Middle – WILLIAM BELL (1973 USA 7" single on Stax STA-0157, A)
11. I Still Love You – THE T.S.U. TORONADOES (1969 USA 7" single on Ovide 243 and Volt VOA-4030, A)
12. Habit Forming Love – REGGIE MILNER (1969 USA 7” single on Volt VOA-4028, A)
13. Put Me In The Mood – SYLVIA & THE BLUE JAYS [Previously Unreleased, 2015]
14. Where Would You Be Today – ILANA (1971 USA 7" single on Volt VOA-4064, A)
15. Special Kind Of Woman – PAUL THOMPSON (1970 USA 7" single on Volt VOA-4042, A)
16. One More Chance – MARGIE JOSEPH (1969 USA 7” single on Volt VOA-4012, A)
17. Your Love Was Strange – DRAMATICS (1972 USA 7” single on Volt VOA-4029, A)
18. Cool My Desire – THE CHEQUES (1969 USA 7” single on HIP HIA-8014, A)
19. The Stars – BARBARA LEWIS (on the 1970 US LP "The Many Grooves Of Barbara Lewis" on Enterprise ENS 1006 and a 1991 UK Reissue 7" single on Horace's HRH-007, B-side to "I'll Never Stop Loving That Man" by Carla Lewis)
20. The Whole World's A Picture Show – THE NEWCOMERS (1974 USA 7" single on Truth TRA-3213, A)
21. I Know A Man Who – THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP (1973 USA 7" single on Gospel Truth GTA-1212, A)
22. The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy – JOHN GARY WILLIAMS (1974 USA 7" single on Stax STA-0205, A)
23. Since I Lost My Baby's Love – MAJOR LANCE (1972 USA 7" single on Volt VOA-4069, A)
24. If I Give It Up, I Want It Back – DAVID PORTER (1971 USA 7" single on Enterprise ENA-9037, A)
25. Gonna Make It Alright – THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP (1973 USA 7" single on Gospel Truth GTA-1208, A)

The 16-page booklet features wildly enthusiastic liner notes from Genre Lover and Expert IAN LEVINE (a well respected UK Soul Music DJ) - and to say his joy at this music shines through is like saying Picasso liked the odd cube. Levine’s heart and life is in this music and his impeccable taste comes shining through time and time again. As much of the Volt and Gospel Truth stuff from 1969 to 1972 (both Stax subsidiary labels) is pretty much a mystery to most – the newcomer is going to love this feast of Northern Soul while the old hands will admire the clever choices and the pace of the sequencing. This is a fabulous Soul CD to listen to – tracks like the joyous "Where Would You Be Today" by Ilana (a Van McCoy tune on which he also sings backing vocals) or the impossibly expensive yet utterly brilliant "Special Kind Of Woman" by Paul Thompson are proper knockouts.

You also have to mention the superb AUDIO – remastered to perfection by DUNCAN COWELL. Cowell has been an Audio Engineer for Ace compilations for years now and handled most of the brilliant Blue Horizon label CDs of which I’ve reviewed at least 20. The sound is warm, full of presence and hits you time and time again. When you play "The Whole Wide World's A Picture Show" by The Newcomers – vocals, brass, guitars, rhythm section and strings – it all sits centre stage and feels alive and full of well – Soul. Thankfully the compilation avoids anything that's Disco masquerading as Soul (the latest tracks being 1974 with the earliest 1969) and it’s a good strategy (all killer – no filler). There's a heavy bias towards Northern Soul dancers like the wicked groove of "City Of Fools" by Colette Kelly (" behind every door...") and "I Still Love You" by The T.S.U. Toronadoes (deliberately spelt that way). Levine calls the wonderful William Bell socially conscious track "The Man In The Street" as being "P for perfect" – and I’d agree. Another sweetheart mid-tempo tune is "You're My Only Temptation" by Roz Ryan (titles this review) while the Previously Unreleased "Put Me In The Mood" by Sylvia & The Blue Jays was probably canned because of its "...ain't gonna let you kiss me unless you put me in the mood..." racy lyrics. And who can resist the gorgeous vibe to "Since I Lost My Baby's Love" by Major Lance – sounding utterly stupendous here too.

Stax compilations are ten-a-penny in truth and with The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Volume 2 and 3 Box Sets (9 and 10 discs) now reissued in 2015 and selling for below forty quid (I’ve reviewed both) – you could argue that it would simply be better to bulk up and make your own compilations. But that's to miss the point. "Ian Levine's Solid Stax Sensations" has been made with real love, affection and expertise - and when you groove to the lovely Barbara Lewis album cut "The Stars" – resistance is not just futile but silly. And would we want it any other way. Way to go Ian – time to get the talcum powder tins at the ready again...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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