Westbound Detroit Northern Soul

Various Artists

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Westbound Detroit Northern Soul Review

by Richie Unterberger

The Westbound label is most known for recording Funkadelic, but was a pretty active Detroit-based soul company in the late '60s and early '70s with numerous artists on its roster, though it never tallied heavy sales. This 26-track compilation has, as the title indicates, some of the poppier and more upbeat sides it cut during the period, though one track postdates the mid-'70s, hailing from 1977. Funkadelic are represented by "Can't Shake It Loose," originally scheduled as a 45 release around the time the 1960s ended, but not officially issued until 1992. A few of the other names achieved some recognition (Denise LaSalle, the Detroit Emeralds, Melvin Sparks, the Fantastic Four), but most of them are quite obscure. Westbound recorded some notable music, and not all of it was by Funkadelic, but this particular compilation isn't anything too special. It's an assortment of period soul, the kind of sounds that, en masse, leave the impression the label (like many if not most companies) was throwing a lot stuff out to see what would stick, though maintaining a competent standard of performance and production. Sometimes the influences are pretty apparent, especially from nearby Motown. Joe Matthews' 1969 single "What Every Little Girl Needs," one of the best tracks, strongly recalls Marvin Gaye, and others bear the influence of the Temptations' productions. There's a lot of sweet soul, and not so much in the heavier and more adventurous funky mold, whether derived from Funkadelic or anyone else. The idea of a soul artist covering the Association's "Never My Love," as Emanuel Laskey did on a very Motown-ish 1969 single included here, is at least novel, if not all that good. Three of the tracks are previously unreleased.