Various Artists

Flying High: The Modern End of Northern Soul (On the Real Side, Vol. 2)

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Flying High: The Modern End of Northern Soul is one of the many discs that try to cash in on the Northern soul market without really having much to do with the classic sound associated with the style. Instead, it is a collection of smooth soul tracks from the early to mid-'70s, full of swooping strings and near-disco beats. Tracks like the Street People's "You're My One Weakness," J.J. Barnes' "Can't See Me Leaving You," the Moments' "Nine Times," and Universal Mind's "Something Fishy Is Going On" would sound more at home in a discothèque than at Wigan Casino. The split seems to be about 75/25 between these smooth tracks and those that have more energy and bite and sound more like traditional Northern soul. There are some gems among these, like Honey Cone's bubbly "Better to Have Loved and Lost," the Festivals' "Gee Baby," the Whispers' "Flying High," and the Duprees' "Check Yourself." There are also a few tracks from singers and groups who were past their hitmaking years but still making good music, chief among them being the Exciters, who turn in the marvelous "Learning How to Fly," and Bobby Sheen, whose "Come On and Love Me" is a sexy tune more suited for a bedroom than a dancefloor. That sort of sums up the whole disc: really good music but collected in a haphazard and ultimately misleading fashion. If being suckered in by the Northern soul angle doesn't burn you too much, Flying High is a pretty decent collection of soul, smooth and otherwise.

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