Various Artists

On the Real Side: The Modern End of Northern Soul

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The roots and foundations of Britain's Northern soul club scene lie in the obscure Motown sound-alikes that were mass-produced throughout the U.S. during the late 1960s, but the scene never stopped evolving -- the superb On the Real Side: The Modern End of Northern Soul charts the community's growing pains, documenting its expansion into the sophisticated, upbeat sound that defined the Northern sound in the 1970s and beyond. The best track here is also the most important -- the Carstairs' "It Really Hurts Me, Girl": it's an absolutely brilliant record that bridges the deep soul of the late 1960s and the shimmering, propulsive Philly soul of the early 1970s, and in the process, singlehandedly altered the direction and sensibility of the Northern scene. Though it was not a hit back in the U.S., Ian Levine -- the now-legendary DJ at the landmark Blackpool Mecca club -- got his hands on a copy and began spinning it regularly; with its slick, contemporary arrangement, and pulsating, pre-disco rhythm, "It Really Hurts Me, Girl" was unlike anything ever spun at a Northern all-nighter, sharply dividing crowds who either embraced Levine's evolution beyond the Motown aesthetic, or rejected the song and Blackpool Mecca out of hand. Now unequivocally recognized as an underground classic, "It Really Hurts Me, Girl" opened the floodgates for more post-1960s soul music to enter the Northern pantheon, and a good number of those latter-day classics are present here -- other highlights include Larry Saunders' "On the Real Side," the Continental IV's "What You Gave Up," and Lezli Valentine's "I Won't Do Anything."

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