The Valentinos

Do It Right

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This 22-track anthology of the Valentinos material is almost certainly unauthorized, though it's on the who-are-they-kidding-with-that-name Official label. While the packaging is substandard (with no discographical information whatsoever other than the song titles), as of 2004 it was really the best soul fans could do if they wanted to hear music by one of the finest 1960s soul vocal groups never to be properly honored with a compilation. That lack of discographical data makes it difficult to determine exactly how large a slice of the Valentinos' work this disc captures, and how much it leaves out. But most of it's first-rate, early- to mid-'60s soul, although the amount of stylistic territory they covered makes it difficult to pin down an identifiable character on their sound. Sometimes it seems on the edge between doo wop and soul; at other times it sounds rather like the early Impressions; sometimes it's close in feel to their mentor, Sam Cooke; and sometimes it's churchy Northern soul. The standouts, of course, are the original versions of two songs that eventually became more famous in subsequent renditions: "It's All Over Now" (covered by the Rolling Stones, though the Valentinos did it in a jauntier, country-influenced manner) and "Lookin' for a Love" (which the group's Bobby Womack would revive for a Top Ten solo hit in 1974). Much of it has a satisfyingly rawer feel to both the vocals and guitar work than lots of comparable soul from the era, which is invaluable in making this more interesting than most comps of soul groups that never had a big hit. The sound quality is mostly pretty good, but some of the material is blighted by swish'n'hiss that wouldn't be acceptable in an above-board release. There are a variety of likely reasons that a sanctioned collection of Valentinos' sides hasn't appeared: The difficulty in licensing from several different labels at once; the ownership of their SAR catalog by a company (ABKCO) that has declined to reissue much of its holdings, and the uncommerciality of a group without chart success. But it really is about time someone took on the task, so fans don't have to settle for half-baked efforts such as this one in order to be able to hear some of these rarities at all.