Various Artists

Hitsville West: San Francisco's Uptown Soul

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With the exception of Sly & the Family Stone, the San Francisco Bay Area was not noted for having an especially large or important soul scene in the 1960s. Like most major cities, however, it produced more in the genre than is generally realized. This 24-track anthology principally draws on rare 45s issued between 1965-1969 on an assortment of small labels, also including five previously unreleased cuts. If you're accustomed to how collections of local soul rarities are usually packaged, you know the drill: these are largely promising singers and groups who are consciously trying to imitate bigger artists and national trends (most frequently Motown, though also some soul-pop dance sounds), never getting anywhere commercially or even getting a chance to record much. As such compilations go, though, it's decent, and largely geared toward uptempo pop-tinged soul that's guaranteed to put smiles on the faces of many a Northern soul fan on British dancefloors. There's some good, slightly rough-around-the-edges energy to many of the performances that makes them less formulaic than many such regional releases. Of course, sometimes the role models get a little too obvious; Troy Dodds' "The Earthquake," for instance, is trying its damnedest to sound like early Marvin Gaye circa "Can I Get a Witness," and fooling no one in the process. The Magicians' far more likable "Why Must You Cry (I Deeply Love You)" is a spot-on emulation of the early Miracles, but quite enjoyable and accomplished despite its unoriginality. The Tandels' previously unissued sweet soul ballad "Why Did Our Love Go" makes for a nice change of pace, as does the aforementioned Magicians' lush "Why Do I Do These Foolish Things."

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