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The Magic Touch: Kent Label Celebrates 30 Years with Soulful New Anthology

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Kent 30

The Kent label (part of the Ace Records family) is turning 30, and you’re invited to the party.  In a year which has also seen celebrations for labels including A&M and GRP, Kent 30: Best of Kent Northern 1982-2012 stands out as the toe-tapping, floor-filling compilation most suitable for dancing!  With 30 selections in recognition of 30 years from soul greats like Chuck Jackson, Lorraine Chandler, Lou Johnson, Maxine Brown and Ben E. King, Kent 30 takes in previously anthologized tracks from the label’s catalogue as well as alternate versions and remixes.  (Nearly one-third of the CD is previously unreleased.)  It all makes for an enjoyable stand-alone collection of Northern Soul classics and rarities as well as a continuation of the label’s mission to preserve the best soul and R&B anywhere.

Compilation producer/annotator Ady Croasdell, a Kent mainstay from the very beginning, serves as tour guide in the 22-page full-color booklet that accompanies this release.  Croasdell’s notes entertainingly lay out the history of the label, but the real story is in the music, filled with big beats, irresistible hooks, impassioned vocals and potent brass.  All of the tracks on Kent 30 were recorded in the 1960s or early 1970s, but most weren’t heard until the Kent team rescued them from the vaults for one of the various-artists compilations that were, and are, the label’s calling card.

Some of these songs provided the title for beloved Kent compilations, such as Melba Moore’s “The Magic Touch,” recorded in 1966 for Musicor Records but unreleased at the time.  When the track saw the light, though, it became an instant classic.  As Croasdell writes, “if one record epitomizes the Northern Soul scene of the mid-‘80s, it is the thunderous production of ‘The Magic Touch.’”  Here, Kent introduces an alternate vocal from the singer, actress and Broadway star.  Musicor’s output has been anthologized by Kent on collections like Manhattan Soul (of which two volumes have been issued to date) along with New York’s Scepter and Wand labels.  Those labels have provided a true treasure trove for Kent over the years.  Florence Greenberg’s Scepter/Wand empire has yielded tracks including Chuck Jackson’s “I’ll Be a Millionaire,” written by the team of Luther Dixon and Van McCoy, and unearthed by Kent in 1987, and Maxine Brown’s “It’s Torture,” first released in 1985 but newly remixed here.  Another unexpected Scepter treasure is Johnny Maestro and The Crests’ dramatic and atypical “I’m Stepping Out of the Picture” from 1965.

There’s plenty more after the jump, including the track listing with discography, and an order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 18, 2012 at 10:13

I Feel Good (All Over): Dance All Weekend Long with Kent’s “Cleethorpes Northern Soul Weekender”

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Though we’ve come to expect delightful and deeply soulful compilations from Ace’s Kent label, one of Kent’s latest is a particular trip: a trip, in fact, to the Cleethorpes Northern Soul Weekender.  The 6Ts Rhythm and Soul Society has been throwing these bashes on a yearly basis since 1993, offering up plenty of dancing and some of the best names in soul music, among them Doris Troy, Barbara Lewis, Tommy Hunt, Bettye LaVette and Maxine Brown.  Kent’s The Cleethorpes Northern Soul Weekender, 1993-2012: 20 Soulful Celebrations offers a variety of songs from the performers who have made Cleethorpes, a town in North East Lincolnshire, an annual destination for Northern Soul fans.  It makes for a fine souvenir of these events, but also stands alone as an exhilarating listen that just might make you want to hit the dancefloor.

First things first, however!  If you’re not familiar with the term “Northern Soul,” you just might be familiar with its distinctive style of music.  The late journalist (and dedicated compiler of many CDs) Dave Godin is credited with coining the phrase, which he used to describe music in the mid-1960s soul vein preferred by enthusiasts in the northern part of England.  Godin told Mojo in 2002 that he had first devised the term in 1968, to help employees at his Soul City record shop differentiate the rapidly-proliferating funk style of R&B from the smoother, Motown-influenced soul of just a few years earlier.  (In The Soul Stylists, renowned DJ Ady Croasdell described the prototypical Northern Soul song as The Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” although the song was too mainstream to achieve popularity in the Northern Soul scene.)  The movement championed lesser-known tracks over big hits, and it soon spread, with clubs popping up throughout the north and midlands of England.  The Twisted Wheel Club, The Wigan Casino and the Blackpool Mecca, just to name three, all became synonymous with Northern Soul.  The Kent label has kept the heavy beats, fast tempi and passionate vocals of Northern Soul alive with its intelligently curated compilations, and also given new leases on life to many of the talented, once overlooked, artists from the world of sixties R&B.  Cleethorpes Northern Soul Weekender is the latest such compilation.

What will you find on this jam-packed new disc?  Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 6, 2012 at 09:59