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Cherry Red, RPM Are “Looking Good” On New Girl Group Box

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Looking Good boxWhat is “femme mod soul,” you might ask?  Cherry Red’s RPM imprint has the answer with a new 3-CD box set, Looking Good: 75 Femme Mod Soul Nuggets.  This set aims to chronicle the girl group sound “from and for the underground.”  As Lois Wilson points out in an introductory essay, the box doesn’t paint a full picture of the girl group era.  Not only have there been countless compilations on the theme, but Rhino’s four-CD box set One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found remains the definitive, Grammy-nominated gold standard.  Indeed, Wilson doffs her hat to that delicious 2005 collection which was presented in a hat box!  Looking Good serves as a complement to that comprehensive set, placing “the girl group sound in a club soul setting.  It’s aimed at the hand-clappin’, finger-poppin’ mamas and foot-stompin’, finger-clicking daddies.”  The box, loaded with rare and hard-to-find treats in an uptempo Northern Soul vein, is designed in the style of RPM’s previous Looking Back: 80 Mod, Freakbeat and Swinging London Nuggets.

Despite the emphasis on hidden gems, the box still features numerous familiar names and even some hit records from labels including Columbia, Warner Bros., ABC-Paramount, United Artists, Cameo, Scepter and Wand.  The Three Degrees brought sweet soul to “T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)” in the seventies; Looking Back opens with “Do What You’re Supposed to Do,” the B-side of their 1964 Swan debut single.  Before Sheila Ferguson joined the Three Degrees, she recorded with The Kittens as well as solo.  From her solo discography comes 1965’s “And in Return,” written by Norman “General” Johnson of the Chairmen of the Board.  Among the other well-known artists here are The Toys of “A Lover’s Concerto” fame, heard with the 1968 flipside “I’ve Got My Heart Set on You”; Candy and the Kisses with their infectious 1964 hit dance record “The 81”; Reparata and the Delrons with their immortal “I’m Nobody’s Baby Now” as well as “Panic”; Barbara “Hello, Stranger” Lewis with her No. 11 hit “Make Me Your Baby” from 1965; and Skeeter “The End of the World” Davis with 1964’s “Let Me Get Close to You.”  The Blossoms – Darlene Love, Fanita James, Gloria Jones, and sisters Annette and Nanette Williams – were recognized for their lengthy C.V. as background vocalists in the 2013 documentary 20 Feet from Stardom.  Two of their solo singles have been selected, both from the Challenge label: 1961’s “Write Me a Letter” and “I Gotta Tell It,” unreleased until 1995.

“Let Me Get Close to You” came from the pen of Gerry Goffin and Carole King; the work of numerous other top-tier songwriters are heard here.  The Brill Building scene also yielded Jeff Barry’s song “I’m Nobody’s Baby Now” for Reparata and the Delrons and Barry and Ellie Greenwich’s “That Boy  is Messing Up My Mind,” recorded by The Orchids.  Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector’s “Baby Baby You,” originally known as “You Baby” for The Ronettes, is heard here in a version by The Lovenotes.  Gary Geld and Peter Udell, known both for pop hits like “Hurting Each Other” and the Broadway musicals Purlie and Shenandoah, wrote “Here’s to Our Love,” recorded by Cathy Carroll.  And Al Kooper teamed with onetime writing partner Irwin Levine (“This Diamond Ring”) for “Bobby’s Come a Long, Long Way” by the oddly-named Eight Feet.  Even singer-songwriter Bob Lind of “Elusive Butterfly” fame got into the girl group act with Ronnie and Robyn’s “Blow Out the Candle.”

After the jump: more details on what you’ll find in Looking Good, plus the full track listing with discographical annotation and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 29, 2013 at 10:26