Various Artists

The Best of Del-Val Records, Vol. 1

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Del-Val and its sister label, Pentagon, were extremely minor Philadelphia soul labels in the 1960s and early '70s. You haven't heard any of their singles unless you have a very good memory, lived in Philadelphia at the time, and happened to be by a radio on one of the rare occasions that one of their discs got a spin on a local station. You can't bury a 1960s soul label as if it never existed, however; the British will rediscover it, if no one else. So at long last listeners have this 26-song retrospective of the Del-Val output, covering much of what came out on the Del-Val and Companion singles, as well as some unreleased acetates and a 1969 Bell single by Bernie Williams produced by Del-Val chief Joe Stevenson. There aren't any future or past notables on hand, unless you count Kenny Gamble, who wrote (but does not appear on) the obscure 1965 single by the Casinos, "If I Told You." The disc is reasonable, though not excellent, period soul music before Philly soul got too slicked up, but after it had evolved from 1950s doo wop/R&B roots. The production's pretty good and brassy, the harmonies are pretty sweet, and the tunes often have a danceable swing, as opposed to the slow smoochy feel for which Philadelphia might be more renowned. Junior high school student Gene Woodbury's voice had yet to break, judging from his singles, and he sounds very much like a girl-woman on his four tracks. Bernie Williams' "Ever Again" has a part where the horn line sounds like the brass is trying very hard for a Cliff Nobles "The Horse" feel, but hasn't yet quite mastered the riff; the B-side, "Next to You," sounds rather like a '60s Jamaican single with its island rhythm and very thinly recorded orchestration. Joe Adams takes a funkier approach than most of his company, sounding a little like a minor-league Fantastic Johnny C on his 1969-1970 numbers; a couple of incongruous 1975 slick sweet soul tracks he did close out the program. No great gold mine, this CD, but pretty nice if you like that vintage East Coast pop-soul sound and can't get enough of it.

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