Sunday, 27 December 2009


Following four volumes of Kent’s Birth of Soul CDs, documenting the gospel, doo-wop, rhythm and blues, and even pop records that lay the foundations for soul, they now turn their attention to just one city: Chicago.

No man is more associated with the soul of Chicago than our old friend Curtis Mayfield and he pops up on at least a third of the tracks as writer, producer or performer with glorious results almost every time. He is here – as a sixteen year old - at the very beginning, on a previously unreleased, intimate 1958 demo of “For Your Precious Love” with that unmistakeable strum of his guitar and the taping of a foot providing the sole instrumentation for Jerry Butler and The Impressions. I’ve never thought the song particularly memorable (I’m always surprised it was such a success as it lacks any hook whatsoever) but Butler betrays his later “Ice Man” tag with a rich, warm vocal.

Mayfield gets to sing the following year for The Impressions on his own “Senorita I Love You” and donates some of the hundreds of songs that flowed effortless from his pen to Jan Bradley (“Behind The Curtains”), Wade Flemons (“At The Party”), Gene Chandler (“Think Nothing About It”), Jerry Butler (the eerie “Isle of Sirens”) and Major Lance (“I’ve Got A Girl” and “Phyllis”) – all stamped with the Mayfield seal of quality.

Elsewhere, Rosco Gordon’s dreamy “Let ‘Em Try” is a world away from his more famous rocking sides of the 50’s, The Accents gliding “Enchanted Garden” is equally as beautiful and one to gently float around the room to, as is “Tell Him” by The Drew-Vels.

The 24-track CD, covering the years 1959-64, doesn’t register too highly on the footstompers or floorshakers but The Radiants “Father Knows Best” gives “Shop Around” a nip around the heels, Don and Bob show The Yardbirds and Rod Stewart how to do “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”, Major Lance’s “I’ve Got A Girl” chugs along, and The Kayetts obscure “I’ve Got A Story To Tell You” will have you searching on ebay before the song is over (don't bother - there's isn't one there, and if there was, it'd be mine...).

Dee Clark’s irritating “That’s My Girl” is over-familiar and should have been kept away but the inclusion of Sugar Pie Desanto pouring her heart out to the unreleased “My Baby’s Got Soul” provides more than adequate compensation.

Rating: Seven bananas.

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