Nobody does exhaustive, barrel-scraping, obscurity-focused excavations of material from US labels better than the Japanese P-Vine label. I can’t tell you how much joy their volumes devoted to Vee-Jay, Jewel-Paula, Modern/RPM/Flair/Kent, etc. have brought to me. When I am on long road-trips, or just driving to or from Houston (3+ hours each way), these kind of albums are perfect listening…..one single after another, and we need to remember that in those days, labels were ought to issue SINGLES that would have appeal and would sell, at least regionally or to some core audience. Each obscure 45 has a fascinating story behind it, although of course I DON’T KNOW what it is!
P-Vine turned its sights on Scepter’s WAND subsidiary for these two volumes. A New York label, Scepter-Wand also licensed in a lot of material from regional producers and smaller labels, and these volumes present a nice mix of NY masters and material from the South. Of course, Scepter-Wand’s soul, R&B and pop-soul recordings have been issued on a number of single artist volumes (Maxine Brown, Chuck Jackson, Tommy Hunt, etc.), but there’s also been many various artists compilations issued under the “Northern Soul” banner, both on ACE UK and also on the late, lamented GOLDMINE SOUL SUPPLY label (in particular, Goldmine had a 2-cd set called BIG CITY SOUL VOL. 4: , 60 Northern Soul Classics from the Vaults of Scepter, Wand, Musicor, Dynamo & Subsidiaries, which contained SIXTY lesser-known tracks from Scepter-Wand!!!!), and it’s stunning how rich a catalog the Scepter-Wand family of labels had to offer. Hey, I wish Clint Eastwood had put together a film about Scepter’s amazing FLORENCE GREENBERG instead of about the Four Seasons. What a pioneer she was—-what a fascinating person—-what spirit and spunk and vision she had! With songwriter-producer-renaissance man LUTHER DIXON working alongside her, Scepter-Wand was truly an indie powerhouse with a rich and deep catalog.
SOULFUL BROADWAY 1650, VOLUME 1: WAND DEEP SOUL, P-Vine (Japan) PCD 2121
Volume 1, the “deep soul” volume, will probably be more of interest to most than Volume 2 as it’s devoted to material from Southern-based indie producers such as Chips Moman, Tommy Cogbill, Larry Rogers, and Buddy Killen, meaning they are Memphis or Nashville-based (vocalists and groups came to those two cities from all over the South, even from Texas). With the gruff pleading vocals and the uncluttered, spacious but simple production one associates with the best Southern soul 45’s, this material is all worthwhile. The single by Benny Conn was produced by Charles Greene, which suggests a West Coast origin, and indeed, according to some soul websites I consulted, Conn was an L.A.-based artist for much of his career. One British website suggests that the Conn single’s rhythm track was recorded at Muscle Shoals with the vocals recorded in L.A., but no evidence is provided of that. Maybe the L.A. musicians were that good? Like any worthwhile barrel-scraping archival reissue, there are a few tracks by unknown artists, and those close out the album. Some of the names on here are well-known (Clarence “Blowfly” Reid….Sam Cooke’s brother L.C. Cooke), but these tracks were new to me.
1. Let’s Face Facts / The Masqueraders
2. I Don’t Want Nobody To Lead Me On / The Masqueraders
3. Do You Love Me Baby / The Masqueraders
4. Sweet Lovin’ Woman / The Masqueraders
5. Let’s Do It Over / L.C.Cooke
6. Half A Man / L.C.Cooke
7. What Can I Call My Own / Marvin Preyer
8. It’s Coming To Me /Marvin Preyer
9. Satisfy My Hunger / Benny Conn
10. I Just Wanna Come In Outta The Rain / Benny Conn
11. somebody Will / Clarence Reid
12. i Refuse To Give Up / Clarence Reid
13. Part Of Your Love / Clarence Reid
14. Your Love Is All The Help I Need / Clarence Reid
15. I’m Your Yes Man / Clarence Reid
16. I Don’t Want Nobody But You / Unknown Singer
17. Dancing Through The 60’s / Unknown Singer
SOULFUL BROADWAY 1650, VOLUME 2: WAND R&B GROUPS, P-Vine (Japan) PCD 2122
Volume 2 features vocal groups. The Esquires were Chicago-based and produced by Bill “Bunky” Sheppard, who also co-wrote all their material. It seems as though every label had an R&B vocal group indebted to Curtis Mayfield’s IMPRESSIONS, and the Esquires fill that bill well for Wand, with the brassy Chi-town arrangments and the falsetto Mayfield-esque lead voice in the trio vocal harmonies. The Esquires issued an album on Sheppard’s BUNKY label, which was distributed by Scepter-Wand, and which includes two of their six songs on this comp. You can still find that album at reasonable prices (ie, under $10).
- THE ESQUIRES : GET AWAY
- THE ESQUIRES : PICKIN & CHIPPIN
- THE ESQUIRES : SHE’S MY LITTLE PLAYTHING
- THE ESQUIRES : GET ON UP
- THE ESQUIRES : I WANT TO GO
- THE ESQUIRES : MONEY
- UNKNOWN GROUP : SWEET DARLING
- UNKNOWN GROUP : LOVIN’
- RICHIES ROOM 222 GANG : I’D RATHER STAY A CHILD
- RICHIES ROOM 222 GANG : GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS
- THE TABS : TWO STUPID FEET
- THE TABS : THE WALLOPP
- THE DIPLOMATS : THERE’S STILL TOMORROW
- THE DIPLOMATS : LOVE AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE
- THE DIPLOMATS : I’VE GOT A FEELING
- UNKNOWN GROUP : I NEED LOVE
The ‘Richie’s Room 222 Gang” single is a cash-in on the early 1970’s urban high-school TV show (it ran from 1969-1974 and starred Lloyd Haines, Michael Constantine, Denise Nicholas, and Karen Valentine…..I remember having a crush on both Nicholas and Valentine ). There was a character called Richie on the show, played by Howard Rice, though I have no idea if he appears on this single or if Wand was just trading on the name. Someone online compared the Room 222 single with the Jackson Five, but to me it’s not as cloying as the J5 and has balls to it. The Tabs remind me vaguely of Eddie and Ernie, and of course there’s also an Unknown Group here to remind us that this is a deep archival dig. Except for the Esquires’s “Get Away” and “Get On Up” (the two title tracks from their LP mentioned above), most of this material should be fresh to most ears, and once again, it reminds us of how deep the Wand catalog is. If these fine tracks are cast-aside odds’n’sods, that gives you some idea of Wand’s quality (and Wand’s superb ear)….and also, what a Golden Age the mid-to-late 60s was, with THOUSANDS of little-known first-rate soul singles coming from all over the USA.
As an odd footnote to my comments on these albums, I should say that I do not have an original P-Vine CD of either Wand volume (I do of all the other P-Vine comps I mentioned). A certain midwestern Soul record store with a large mailorder presence, which I’ve done business with for decades, offered their own xeroxed-cover CDR reissues of these, advertised as CDR’s! I bet they would not try that today! 🙂