various artists, DECCA SOUL DIAMONDS, Buried Treasure (France) CDR
In the 1960’s Decca Records was a relatively unhip company. In terms of the youth revolution in music and culture, they were clueless—-some good bands made some good albums on Decca, and many more bands made great singles on Decca, but the label had no idea how to handle them. The Who’s US success was very much IN SPITE OF being on Decca rather than because they were on Decca (undoubtedly, the Who’s exciting live shows and word of mouth helped a lot too—at least Decca could get the product into stores, having national distribution). Even an established Decca artist such as Rick Nelson did not find his label up to the task of helping support his growth into a singer-songwriter and a country-rock performer. Decca was best-suited for its country roster (including Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn) and artists such as Bing Crosby or organist Lenny Dee who had an older following. Similarly, Decca was not a label that was tuned in to the Black youth and Black radio and promotion network of the 1960’s. However, since SOUL music was selling, and selling big, it was inevitable that Decca, a label that wanted to be all things to all people but was not on top of the particulars of the various sub-genres of popular music, would want to release some soul singles to throw them against the proverbial wall to see what would stick. A single did not require a significant investment, and most regional performers would probably be ecstatic to get their music picked up by a major label. Thus, DECCA SOUL DIAMONDS, a collection of material (except for the final two tracks, more on that later) released on 45’s in the US on Decca, pretty much all of which are obscure, although many of the artists will be familiar to the fan of regional 60’s soul.
The random collections of US 1960’s soul 45’s that have been compiled over the years for the European “Northern Soul” and “Popcorn” markets are quite fascinating, showing the depth and breadth of the Black music scene in the 1960’s, the many regional variations, and the many subdivisions within the “soul” music marketplace. While labels such as Brunswick and Atlantic had an identifiable core of producers/songwriters and thus an identifiable “sound” (not to mention in-house production companies as one had at Stax), a label such as Decca licensed in, or at most commissioned, sessions from regional producers and regional labels, or hustling producers (such as Jimmy Curtiss, of Hobbits fame, who seemed to have an “in” at Decca) who were located in their homebase of NYC. Therefore, an album like this provides a fascinating and enjoyable archival dig that’s like a core sample of soul styles of the era, none of which most of us have ever heard…like a grab into a pile of radio station 45’s that one would have found at a junk store in the early 70’s, singles that had been sitting there for a few years that you had to blow the dust off of. Journeymen (and women) performers/writers such as Eldridge Holmes and Leon Haywood rub elbows with previously-famous talents such as Clyde McPhatter and established local talents such as Louisiana’s Katie Webster and out-sized characters such as The Mighty Hannibal. Besides Louisiana and New York City, we find random tracks from Atlanta, the Carolinas, Texas, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Philadelphia. The effect is almost like a delicious smorgasbord of obscure soul from all over. Decca being a relatively conservative label, you don’t really hear performers in the vein of, say, James Brown or Syl Johnson or Alvin Cash or Andre Williams or Otis Clay, but there is a wide variety of styles from R&B flavored workouts to supper-club soul, from Deep Soul to orchestrated elegant Soul to tracks with a girl-group feel. The liner notes explain that one track here, by the Free Movement, was actually on the soul charts (It’s the slickest song here and my least favorite), but everything else is rare, and if you are basically a record collector at heart who enjoys an hour-long set of music that is new to you, but from the mid-late 60s Golden Age of American Soul, then this collection is VERY welcome. Alas, only a “collector” label is going to issue something like this, and I thank Buried Treasure for excavating these soul diamonds for all of us to share. And the good news is that the liner notes suggest there will be further entries in this series! If you are just a casual soul fan, there are no absolute classics here, few songs the casual fan will be humming after hearing, but it’s all above average and covers a wide range of styles, so the person like me who is always hungering for more new vintage soul 45’s should get this NOW.
Oh, what about the last two tracks? Well, as this is a European release, two tracks come from foreign Decca releases. Track 16 is by Pic and Bill (well known for their work on Major Bill Smith’s labels Le Cam and Charay, with some tracks also appearing on Mercury’s Smash and Blue Rock subsidiaries), and appeared on Smash in the US but on Decca in France, and track 9 is a British recording (produced by Mike Vernon, of Blue Horizon fame) by British/Jamaican vocalist Errol Dixon, which appeared on UK Decca. Both are deep and soulful tracks and fit well on the collection.
20 classic tracks from rare 45’s….can’t wait for volume 2!
1. EVERYDAY WILL BE LIKE A HOLIDAY – LEON HAYWOOD
2. THAT’S CUZ I LOVE YOU – LOUIS JONES
3. A LOVE PROBLEM – ELDRIDGE HOLMES
4. CHECK YOURSELF – DEBBIE TAYLOR
5. SOMEONE’S KNOCKIN’ AT MY DOOR – GROVER MITCHELL
6. I’VE FOUND SOMEONE OF MY OWN – THE FREE MOVEMENT
7. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS – JACKIE VERDELL
8. THE RIGHT TO LOVE YOU – THE MIGHTY HANNIBAL
9. TRUE LOVE NEVER RUNS SMOOTH – ERROL DIXON
10. I’LL BELONG TO YOU – CLYDE McPHATTER
11. THE LIFE OF THE PARTY – ANNA CRAIG
12. SEA OF LOVE – KATIE WEBSTER
13. I FEEL LIKE CRYIN’ – SAM & BILL
14. IF YOU LET ME MAK ELOVE TO YOU THEN WHY CAN’T I TOUCH YOU – JIVE FIVE
15. I’VE BEEN LOVING YOU TOO LONG – LARRY DAVIS & THE MARVELS
16. SAD WORLD WITHOUT YOU – PIC & BILL
17. I’M GIVING UP BABY – RAYONS
18. I CAN GET YOU ON T.V. BABY – RAY SCOTT & THE SCOTTSMEN
19. I’LL GO CRAZY – TONY ASHLEY
20. WANDERLUST – RAY POLLARD