Various Artists

For Connoisseurs Only, Vol. 2

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Like volume one of this series, this 25-song compilation assembles soul rarities from the Modern and Kent sister labels, these selections dating from the mid-'60s through the early '70s. The Kent/Modern operation wasn't a major force in soul music -- not nearly as much as it had been in rhythm and blues in the late '40s and 1950s -- and this isn't the top of the label's soul barrel by any means. The tracks here (seven of them previously unreleased) are mid-level-at-best soul, lacking in big names even by cult favorite standards, though Johnny Copeland, Arthur K. Adams, and Mary Love all have their followings among blues and soul collectors. The disc does reflect most of the major trends in soul during the period, with the exception of the gritty Southern varieties of the genre. Yet there's nothing in the way of first-rate songs, though there's plenty in the way of energetic emulation of sounds that were setting the charts alight for other labels. It would be a lot harder to pick on, admittedly, if you were hearing these singly instead of all at once, where the lack of anything outstandingly original becomes wearisome. Still, a couple of tracks ask for it -- Felice Taylor sounds like Diana Ross with a bad cold on "Captured Your Love," and the Sweethearts' "No More Tears" is close enough to the Supremes' "Stop! In the Name of Love" that it comes dangerously close to crossing the border from emulation to plagiarism. If nothing else, much of the rest of the CD is likewise a reminder of how pervasive Motown's influence was in this era, though some of the sourly off-key horn charts would have never passed through that label's quality control meetings. As for the more interesting detours taken from that tributary, the Styles' "I Know You Know That I Know" is very much in the Philly soul mold of a group like the Delfonics, and is one of the better songs here, though Trini Lopez's early pop-rock-soul oddity "Sinner Not a Saint" (written by future Who/Kinks producer Shel Talmy) is a bad fit in these surroundings. No offense taken at the service this compilation provides for fanatic soul collectors who are looking to find anything they can, but it's definitely not one of the better such compilations of little-exposed music in the style.

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