As someone who likes a bit of Northern Soul but not enough to be travelling the country going to allnighters (a few RSG nighters in the 80s and 90s was my thing), I am constantly amazed when another compilation arrives that I find myself enjoying. Granted the soul that gets my feet tapping may not be the rarest around and such albums often have a certain amount of duplicated tracks, but for me it’s the quality of the content on offer and the order in which it’s delivered that makes a good compilation.
While last month’s budget Northern Soul compilation CD was a good introduction to the genre, this soundtrack album to the SoulBoy film contains 50 tracks over two discs, either of which could be played in their entirety at a scooter rally and each keep the dance floor filled from beginning to end. Disc 1 is from the film while disc two is lead character Joe McCain’s ‘mix tape’, something that many of us I’m sure can remember making ourselves for those long journeys or a party. Indeed that particular disc includes a couple of tracks I’ve not had in my grubby mitts since the mix tape a friend made for me back in the 80s was lent out to another friend who promptly had his van stolen, cassettes and all, including Goodbye (Nothing to Say) by Nosmo King.
Over the pair there are tracks which some consider get too much airplay today; The Snake and Do I Love You for example (Tainted Love may seem cheesy thanks to the Soft Cell cover in the 80s, although it doesn’t seem to get played much today). But these are part of the scene, especially back when SoulBoy was set, and remind you how big some tracks have become and the influence they’ve had both in and outside of the soul scenes. Besides, when followed by Too Late by Larry Williams & Johnny Watson, Gloria Jones’ classic sits just fine.
Where to stop listing tracks is a tough one here, for in between personal faves such as You Didn’t Say a Word by Yvonne Parker, a reminder of the 80s rally scene in the guise of The Joker by The Mylestones, Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy by The Tams, Helpless by Kim Weston, Let’s Wade in The Water by Marlena Shaw and If I Could Only Be sure by Nolan Porter, there are less known numbers (to me) of equal quality. Ain’t That a Lot Of Love by Homer Banks offering a hint of Stax-style brass, the storming pace of Cracked Up Over You by Lee Rodgers and the more mellow organ-led All of My Life by Detroit Soul.
And then there’s tracks like the funky So Is The Sun by World Column that I’ve enjoyed for years, but only just discovered the title and artist of. There’s even a brand new track, On a Magic Carpet Ride by Gabriella Cimli which fits in perfectly and I could imagine would create a stir if played anonymously at certain events with the label scratched off.
I was too young to go to Wigan and other nighters ‘back in the day’, but having recently attended a soul night where Russ Winstanley played a set and then listened to the SoulBoy soundtrack, I can only conclude I missed out (and I’m not even a soulie!). This album sounds to me like the next best thing.
Listen to: Yvonne Baker – You Didn`t Say a Word
• Scootering magazine – October 2010