Various Artists

Mirwood Soul Story, Vol. 2

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The second volume of '60s soul from this Los Angeles label offers two dozen sides, most of them from mid-'60s singles, though there are a few later tracks and previously unissued cuts and mixes. It might have been based in L.A., but for much of the time, Mirwood sure seemed to be trying to create a vibraphone-heavy facsimile of the Motown sound. They were hardly alone in that category, of course, but it does make much of this material derivative, if competent. The company's biggest hit, the 1966 Top Twenty pop smash "The Duck" by Jackie Lee (oddly not placed on volume one), leads off Mirwood Soul Story, Vol. 2 and sets the mood for most of what follows: upbeat Motown-ish soul with a pounding, dancefloor-ready rhythm, though usually not executed as memorably as "The Duck" itself. There are a few performers here who had experienced some success before landing on Mirwood (the Olympics, Bob & Earl, the Sheppards, and gospel singer J.W. Alexander), but none of these tracks would rate among their best recordings. To be uncharitable, the similarities to some of Motown's greats are often unavoidable, whether it's the Olympics' "Mine Exclusively" to Marvin Gaye; the Mirettes' "He's All Right with Me" to Martha & the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street": the Darlettes' "Sweet Kind of Loneliness" to Mary Wells; the Hideaways' "Jolly Joe" to Junior Walker: the Belles' "Cupid's Got a Hold on Me" to the Supremes, and so on. Perhaps unsurprisingly, J.W. Alexander takes a page out of Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me" on "Baby, It's Real," considering that Alexander played a role in Cooke's own career. To be more charitable, the formulas being emulated are good enough that this kind of near-imitation is at least more pleasant than annoying.

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