Various Artists

New Breed R&B with Added Popcorn

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The driving concept behind this anthology of soul from the late '50s and (mostly) the early '60s is going to baffle most consumers not clued in to the intricacies of the European scene based around collectors gathering at clubs to dance to their favorite obscure records. Basically, however, "New Breed R&B" is, in the words of Ady Croasdell's liner notes, a label applied to "records that combine a tough R&B approach to a catchy pop song." More obscurely, the Belgian "Popcorn" clique favors a "midtempo dance rhythm that the crowd could slow jive to." Here's a translation for the layperson: the 24 tracks on this compilation are largely early soul sides with a bluesier bent than most such recordings in the genre, in which you're apt to hear more minor keys and humorous/dance-oriented lyrics than you do in the classic straightforward discs played on the "Northern soul" scene. But you really don't need to be steeped in the in-crowd lingo to dig this record, which is a way above-average collection of obscure early soul, precisely for the reason that it doesn't observe conventions as to what's hip or within a fairly strictly defined soul style. None of these records were hits, that's for sure, though there are some well-known performers like B.B. King, Joe Simon, Nappy Brown, and Merry Clayton (represented by a 1963 single in which her name was misspelled "Marry Clayton"); in fact, about a third of this was previously unreleased. But though there aren't any deathless classics (and quite a few of songs seem to take at least a bit of their inspiration from "Fever"), most of the tunes are pretty fun listening, especially if you're in the mood for music from a time when soul's boundaries had yet to be rigidly codified. A young Luther Ingram's brassy, moody "Oh Baby Don't You Weep," which makes its first appearance ever on this CD, is a real highlight, as is the Charmaines' take on "I Idolize You" (more famous as done by Ike & Tina Turner). So is Mr. Dynamite's fairly good James Brown imitation "Sh'mon," even if it turns out that Mr. Dynamite was a white guy.

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