Aside from one-offs by the Equals and the Foundations, British soul made little international impact in the late '60s and early '70s. Perhaps the 27 tracks on this compilation, all made on the UK's Beacon label, weren't anything to give Motown or Stax sleepless nights. But they're actually pretty good second-division soul, and not much different from decent second-line American soul of the period. There's an occasional reggae/West Indies influence in the rhythms and vocals, and maybe a touch more pop-rock to many of the arrangements, but otherwise this can hold its own among the many anthologies of the era's U.S. indie label soul. It's fairly varied as well, even if sometimes the nods to American influences -- such as the Motown and Stax stables -- are pretty overt. At times the ska/reggae influence becomes pronounced enough to almost push it closer toward a Jamaican direction than an American one, as on Black Velvet's "African Velvet," with its throbbing beats and pulverizing organ; more ultra-cool organ and very Jamaican-like goofball sound effects are heard on the Clangers' "Dance of the Clangers." But then the program turns to something that few would suspect to be anything but American, like Paula Parfitt's sweetly Motownish "Love Is Wonderful." (In fact, one act here, the Showstoppers, actually came from Philadelphia, although the cut selected for this compilation is not their U.K. hit "Ain't Nothin' But a Houseparty.") The disc is recommended to the committed soul collector looking for, and adventurous enough, to try something a little different. Incidentally, Eddy Grant produced and wrote the 1972 single by Tony Morgan and the Mussel Power Band (both sides of which are compiled here, one of them a cover of the Equals' "Black Skinned Blue Eyed Boys"), while Black Velvet cover another of Grant's Equals tunes with "Peace & Love Is the Message" (done by the Equals under the title "Give Love a Try").
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