Various Artists

Soul Underground, Vol. 1: Feelin' Good All Over

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Soul Underground, Vol. 1: Feelin' Good All Over is one of many excellent Northern soul compilations to come out in the last several years on English labels like Goldmine/Soul Supply and Deep Beats. The "Northern soul" label refers to the many clubs in the north of England that particularly championed obscure, American soul singles from the '60s. This Sequel Records' release features many of those gems from the vaults of independent labels like Roulette, Port, and Calla. With their handclap-augmented rhythm tracks and baritone saxophone solos, cuts like Lenny Curtis' "Nothing Can Help You Know" and Doris Troy's "I'll Do Anything" show the influence of the Motown sound, but, like the majority of songs here, they are solid enough to avoid just being amateur imitations. In fact, the songs on Feelin' Good All Over stand out for the kind of unexpected elements usually missing from the more high-profile releases on Stax and Atlantic, like Jimmy Jones' Frankie Valli-esque, falsetto vocals on "Walkin'," or the discordant, almost avant-garde violin wailing on Frankie & the Classicals' "What Shall I Do." Besides, there are less idiosyncratic tracks here as well, like Bettye LaVette's incredible "I'm Just a Fool for You" and Harry Starr's "Step Into My World"; Starr's number almost comes off as a sort of Stax-Motown hybrid with its mixture of rough band production and slick strings. Rounding out the collection are some fine harmony vocal tracks by the Stoppers and Anita Humes. If you like your soul to be of the familiar, Top 40 variety, then this compilation is really not a must. If you want to hear some wonderful underground soul gems, though, then Soul Underground, Vol. 1: Feelin' Good All Over is definitely worth getting.

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