Various Artists

King Northern Soul, Vol. 2

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Like Vol. 1, this assembles King soul records, mostly of the up-tempo variety, that you've probably never heard of unless you spend a great deal of your time collecting old soul 45s. The chronological reach is 1957-1973, though most of the cuts come from the late '60s and early '70s; three of them were previously unreleased. The only artist that most listeners will know is Freddy King, represented by his 1962 single "One Hundred Years." Those formalities out of the way, this is a pretty average soul compilation, acceptable but unexceptional in the quality of the material and the distinction of the artists. There's some funk chops in the beats and arrangements, but it's not particularly James Brown-indebted for the most part. There's not much here that demands attention as a neglected gem, and indeed some is forgettable, though at its best it's pleasant soul of various stripes, from mild funk to girl group-dipped soul to Aretha Franklin imitations. The Solars seem to be doing their damnedest to cross the Impressions with Mel and Tim on "Here's My Heart," and Charles Spurling's "Mr. Cool" has a waltz-like beat that's pretty unusual for soul of the era. Freddy King's "One Hundred Years" is a standout in his catalog in that it doesn't bear blues influence, but sounds rather like the New York soul of the Drifters. The King Pins' "It Won't Be This Way (Always)," which sounds like Sam Cooke's lightest efforts, was actually a Top 20 R&B hit in 1963. If it sounds like this all still doesn't add up to anything substantial, that's correct, but it'll fill in some gaps for diehards.

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