Various Artists

Ain't Nothing But A House Party

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A generally enjoyable and occasionally enlightening collection of (mostly) soul classics, dating from the late '50s to the early '70s, from the orbit and vaults of producer Jerry Ross and his Heritage and Colossus labels, Ain't Nothing but a House Party is aimed at U.K. listeners, though Americans will obviously be able to enjoy it. Starting with the achingly beautiful, rousing "Bless Your Soul" by the Dreamlovers, this disc never really lets you go, even as it jumps between the decades, and between the continents -- the Showstoppers of Philadelphia had their first success as part of England's "Northern soul" boom with "Ain't Nothin' but a House Party" -- and between soul and pop. It's not convincing that "And Suddenly" by the Cherry People belongs here, alongside the title track or Virgil Henry's sweaty "You Ain't Sayin' Nothin' New" (which rated a release on the Tamla label), but their presence doesn't break up the mood, either. And one genuinely improbability, the instrumental "Bok to Bach" by Father's Angels -- an ad hoc group of ten players associated with a priest from Allentown, PA -- does fit. Not everything is a lost classic, but there are enough songs worthy of fresh hearings, such as the Devonnes' girl-group soul-style "Pick Up My Toys," to more than justify the purchase price, especially with sound quality as good as this disc offers, with a surprise or two, such as the Festivals' soul rendition of "Green Grow the Lilacs" and "I Dig Everything About You" by the Mob, who sound like a more soulful version of the David Clayton-Thomas version of Blood, Sweat & Tears. The producers have saved the most obviously marketable and most ambitious tracks, "I'll Get by Without You" and "Someday You'll Be My Love," by Kenny Gamble and Tommy Bell, for last.