Various Artists

The Northern Side of Philly Soul

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The Northern Side of Philly Soul is a grab-bag of 18 rare 1960s Philly soul tracks cut for the Phil-LA of Soul, Jamie, Dionn, Arctic, Frantic, and Guyden labels. Most, though not all, date from the latter half of the decade (and at least a couple are from the early '70s); four were previously unreleased. And like many a compilation with the tag "Northern soul" attached somewhere, it's competent but a little generic, and primarily of interest to collectors who are trying to find almost anything they can in the style. Generally, it favors the upbeat and up-tempo face of the early Philly soul sound, with just a few names here and there that can be picked out by those not buried neck-high in rare soul 45s. Artists include Kenny Gamble, with his 1966 single "The Joke's on You," done before he'd become established as a star producer with Leon Huff; Benny Sigler, brother of Bunny Sigler; Dee Irwin; and the Temptones, a blue-eyed soul group that included a young Daryl Hall. Some of the better bets to click include the Volcanos' "A Lady's Man," which recalls the Temptations' harder-rocking sides; some of the members (the liner notes don't say which ones) later became the Trammps. Douglas Banks' "Ain't That Just Like a Woman," a 1963 single that's one of the earliest songs here, strongly recalls the stoic uptown pop-soul of Chuck Jackson. Dee Irwin's "Linda" has the slightly frantic string-laden soul of some of the late-'60s Dells sides; Kenny Gamble's "The Joke's on You" is one of the more downbeat and melodically sophisticated offerings. In all, it's rather slim on the excitement meter but, even at its least memorable, there are heavy streaks of the vibes, strings, and lush harmonies that would be characteristic of Philly soul as it attained greater prominence in a slightly later era.

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