Various Artists

The Soul of Money Records

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Based in Los Angeles, the Money label issued a fair amount of soul music without getting much national exposure or pioneering a notable house sound, though they did have some success with the Larks and Bettye Swann. Those are the only two names (along with Ted Hawkins, more noted for his post-1980 recordings) from this 24-song compilation that will be reasonably well-known even to major soul fans (the Johnny Adams who has two songs was apparently an obscure local singer, not the same as the more famous Adams from New Orleans). Even Swann and the Larks are better represented by their own compilations on Ace. Here they're heard amidst some pretty average if pleasant and well-produced period soul music, most of it from the 1960s, and some from the early to mid-'70s. Los Angeles may be in southern California, but this sounds much like the urban soul of the northern United States, with Motown as a notable influence for sure, though there are some similarities with the sounds of Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. This is far from the least impressive of such collector-oriented anthologies, but it's a struggle to come up with any descriptive zest, positive or negative, for the sounds. Nothing's close to a lost gem; it's usually good-natured romantic soul, sometimes getting into dance-themed songs like the Larks' "The Temptation Walk" and the M&M's & the Peanuts' (that's their real name) "The Phillie." Ted Hawkins' 1966 Sam Cooke-like single, "Baby," might seem like a real rare find since he didn't become well-known until playing folky blues-soul as an album-oriented artist in the 1980s and 1990s, but actually it had already been reissued on his Rhino best-of, The Ted Hawkins Story: Suffer No More. Three of the tracks are previously unreleased, and actually include some of the best material here: the Question Marks' "Don't Drop It (That's My Love You've Got)" has a nice minor-keyed groove and doo wop harmonies, while Ted Walters' "If We All Were Rich" features his rich near-falsetto vocals and fine pop-soul production.

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