Various Artists

Era Records: Northern Soul

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The Los Angeles-based label Era didn't specialize in soul but in the late '50s, co-owners and cousins Lew Bedell and Herb Newman made a conscious decision to strengthen their R&B roster. This move paid off in 1962, when Jewel Akens' "The Birds and the Bees" turned into a major hit, ushering in era where Era recorded a lot of pop-oriented soul. A lot of this didn't hit the charts, and even more of it was never released, which makes Ace/Kent's 2014 compilation Era Records: Northern Soul a bit of a godsend for collectors, as it unearths a ton of rarities recorded between 1962 and 1968. Eight of the 24 songs see their first release here, but the rest are hardly well-known, with Akens and future Motown star Brenda Holloway being the only recognizable stars here. Even if the names aren't familiar, the sound certainly is: it's the slick, cool pop-soul called Northern soul in the U.K., a sound that relies heavily on the uptown strut of the Windy City and the propulsion of the Motor City. Era had a slightly splashier spin on this sound, and there are plenty of moments here that deliver pleasure, including Othello Robertson's effervescent "So in Luv," the swinging minor-key groove of Steve Flanagan's "I've Arrived" (he also has a brighter, sunnier single in "I Need to Be Loved So Bad"), the funkier attack of Jimmy Lewis on "What Can I Do Now?" and the Impressions-styled harmonies of the Turn Arounds.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:28
2 1:57
3 2:25
4 2:40
5 2:26
6 2:32
7 2:48
8 2:22
9 2:09
10 2:35
11 2:21
12 2:31
13 2:20
14 2:15
15 2:35
16 2:38
17 2:23
18 2:22
19 2:14
20 2:24
21 2:22
22 1:56
23 2:29
24 2:55
blue highlight denotes track pick