Various Artists

Keep the Faith: The Cream of Rare Soul

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It's not totally obvious from the title, but this is a follow-up compilation of sorts to another anthology on Pilot, Northern Soul: Cream of 60s Soul. Collections of Northern soul (i.e., 1960s soul that's danceable, a little more pop-oriented than down-home Southern soul, and, often, very rare) usually make their song selections on the basis of both quality and rarity. It sounds as if rarity might have been getting the upper hand over quality on Keep the Faith: The Cream of Rare Soul, though, since it's blander than Northern Soul: Cream of 60s Soul and more typical of the average okay-but-not-great Northern soul comp. There's an agreeable up-tempo competence to most of the cuts, which are pretty low on recognizable artists if you're not in with the in-crowd of those who collect this stuff, though Eddie Holman, the Parliaments, and J.J. Barnes will probably be known to many non-specialists. (Incidentally, the track by People's Choice is not by the funk group of the same name who had hits in the early '70s, but an entirely different outfit.) There are occasional above-average moments, like the Agents' "Trouble," with its gliding beat and effervescent lead-backup vocal weaves; the early-'60s Motown-like "Someday" by Rose Batiste; and the Parliaments' ebullient "Heart Trouble." The occasional instrumental tracks (some of which sound like backing arrangements waiting for a vocal to get laid on top) actually make for a nice change of pace and hit some grooves that are among the better cuts. The fidelity, as on Northern Soul: Cream of 60s Soul, is variable, and it's obvious that many if not all of the cuts have been taken from vinyl rather than the master tapes, though it's not bothersome unless you're really a purist about such things and have the unlimited time and bucks to track down the scarce original singles. And as with Northern Soul: Cream of 60s Soul, the documentation is inadequate: there are eight pages of liner notes, but no release dates, scant biographical details, and more attention lavished on the rarity of the discs than descriptions of the music.