Various Artists

King Northern Soul

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In the last half of the 1960s, the King label was most known for the explosive soul-funk of its one superstar, James Brown. It is not so well known that King also released a wealth of soul music by other performers, not all of who were following soul brother number one's path. Indeed, as this 24-track compilation of 1963-1971 sides demonstrates, many of King's soul artists were pretty normal, mainstream soul singers. That's an interesting thing to discover, but it does not, alas, make for music that's nearly as interesting as James Brown's. Nor, actually, does it even make for music that's even as interesting as the King projects done by Brown's sidemen, associates, and protégés. Kent made a conscious decision to steer clear of product with ties to Brown (such items are available on some other compilations), resulting in a disc of agreeable but ordinary period soul, even if such rare 45s, like rare soul 45s of almost any kind, have found favor on England's Northern soul circuit. There are some mild standouts, like the high (indeed womanish) wails of Junior McCants on "Try Me for Your New Love" or Pat Lundy's quite Aretha Franklin-like "Prove It" (no surprise as Franklin did the original). As in much rare soul from the time, often it's derivative of trends in Motown and Chicago; the Expressions' "You Better Know It" is a blatant cop of the Impressions (down, of course, to the similar group names). As it ends up, there are a couple of things here with James Brown connections. Marva Whitney is represented by a 1968 single that predates her association with Brown. Brown himself produced the Determinations' "Bing Bong Goes My Heart" and co-wrote the Brownettes' ballad "Never Find a Love Like Mine," though both of those numbers are more normal sounding than Brown's usual bag. Also, the very young Bootsy Collins and Catfish Collins were in the group of Charles Spurling, represented by the 1967 single "She Cried Just a Minute."

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