Various Artists

The Arock & Sylvia Soul Story

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In the mid-'60s, veteran saxophonist Al Sears ran the Arock and Sylvia labels, which put out a couple dozen or so obscure New York soul records. Typically, Kent manages to make a CD out of its catalog, the 28 tracks split about half between 1962-1966 singles and previously unissued sides. In fact, much of the unreleased material was sung by unidentified demo singers, and although Kent has identified a few of these with confidence, three cuts are for the time being ascribed to "unknown." Often this kind of thing is something that only die-hard genre specialists can hear in one sitting, but though it'll be those collectors that comprise this disc's listenership, it's better than the average such archival anthology. You have to stare long and hard at the track listing for any of these names to ring bells, though some might recognize two of the "demo singers," Marie Knight (who did the original of "Come Tomorrow," covered by Manfred Mann for a British Invasion hit) and Sam Hawkins (who had a 1965 Top Ten R&B hit with "Hold on Baby"). Sterling Magee, represented by pretty straight soul tunes, might be better known to latter-day listeners as half of the blues duo Satan & Adam, who had some indie success in the 1990s. The name of Van McCoy pops up too, as the singer and songwriter of "Too Much," a 1964 single credited to the DC Playboys. Still, despite the relative anonymity of the other contributors, there's some good period pop-soul here, sometimes with a gospel feel. The Corvairs sound halfway between the Drifters and Gene Pitney on "A Victim of Her Charms"; Tutti Hill sounds a lot like Mary Wells on the original version of "He's a Lover," which Wells herself covered in 1965; two of Joan Moody's tracks are pretty accurate Supremes imitations; Gene Burks sounds like an early Stax artist on "Can't Stand Your Fooling Around"; and Garrett Saunders' "A Day or Two" is an upfront imitation and rewrite of Chuck Jackson's "Any Day Now," if an enjoyable one. The numerous demos are as a whole considerably inferior to the singles in both production and the quality of the songs, but it's interesting to hear a sparse piano-voice-dominated demo of Knight's "Come Tomorrow," though the single from which Manfred Mann learned the song isn't here, as it came out on a different label. The Larks, who do the 1964 single "For the Love of Money" here, by the way, are a different Larks than the group who did the hit "Cool Jerk," though "For the Love of Money" isn't a bad tune all the same.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
2:51 Spotify
2 2:33 Spotify
3 2:38 Spotify
2:14 Spotify
5 3:09 Spotify
6 2:49 Spotify
3:14 Spotify
8 2:42
9 2:58 Spotify
10 2:26 Spotify
2:37 Spotify
13 2:08 Spotify
14 2:41 Spotify
15 2:26
2:10 Spotify
17 2:23
2:06 Spotify
19 1:49
21 2:08 Spotify
22 2:22 Spotify
23 1:58 Spotify
24 2:17 Spotify
25 2:47
26 3:29 Spotify
28 2:24 Spotify
blue highlight denotes track pick