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Dave Godin's column for Soulful Kinda Music. Issue 38

My good friend of many years standing, Izzy, recently told me she and a mate had visited Madame Jo-Jo’s Club in Soho on the occasion of a Northern Soul and Funk music fest, and was duly impressed by the Northern Soul faith-keeping of the DJ Ion. They fell into conversation, and apparently Ion was a friend of the late, and still lamented, Pete Lawson, and was one of the many mourners at his funeral. But, although, to quote Berthold Brecht, “nothing you can say or do can help a dead man”, what better way to keep Pete’s memory alive, and all he passionately believed in, and the principles by which he lived his life, than by keeping the Soul of the music alive with verve and vibrancy as Ion is doing? In a strange kind of way, Soul music bestows a kind of immortality on all of us. Certainly when my time comes, just dig out your copies of the “Treasures” CDs, and what I was but no longer am will still be there alongside you all! Madame Jo-Jo’s is located in Soho, and is detailed in all the London listings magazines, so check out the Northern night if you are ever down that way. 

More sad news reaches me that Roger Eagle finally succumbed to the illness which had been stalking him for some considerable time. I know he was an ardent influence on, and worker for, the UK Soul music scene over many, many years, and still had so much more to contribute and do for the music, but sadly, it was not to be. We spoke on the telephone some weeks before his death, and I discovered in our conversation that like me, he was also a fan of hard-driving blues influenced R&B, and I was able to put on tape for him a record in this vein which he had never before heard, and which is an ace example of the genre. The title now has an even more poignant ring to it in view of how things worked out, “A While Ago”.... 

Unlike some DJs, when I used to review records when they were brand new, I didn’t have the luxury of waiting 20 years or more before finally proclaiming a side to be great; I had to make up my mind, and have my verdict ready to go into permanent (and back referable) print after just 20 minutes thinking about it!  

Richard Searling continues his sterling efforts to spread the faith, what with his hugely popular radio programme, and his compilation CDs aimed squarely at the Northern Soul classic aficionado. Many will remember his “Jumpin’ At The Go-Go” album which came out on RCA 23 years ago, which made available rare and esoteric tracks from the company’s US vaults. Well, now he has done it again on CD, using the same title and upping the number of tracks to 23. (RCA CD 74321 660382). Albums like this are difficult to review because they are simply self-recommending. They are all tracks which have made a major impact in Northern Soul circles, and, it has to be said, sides which, when new, were often a little too ahead of their time to find much acceptance amongst Soul fans even. (The Metros’ LP, which has its cover photo lovingly reproduced here, I remember from “Soul City” days as an album that I think we sold all of two copies of!!). But, times change, and it is another sterling Searling compilation that is faultless in both taste and execution. 

And, if that weren’t enough for one week’s record buying budget, he’s also done “Soul Satisfaction” for MCA (MCLD 19398) which, if anything, is even more specifically focussed on the Northern Soulie front line troops. I was especially delighted to see he had included Jaibi’s “What Good Am I”, the flip of her classic “You Got Me”, since this is what I regard as an “orphan” record; sides which are great, but are difficult to sometimes fit into themed or genre collections either because the artists didn’t sadly, record enough material to have a whole CD dedicated to their work, or because the side defies simplistic stereotyping. Progressive DJs have over the years broadened out the range of Northern Soul without compromising its basic tenets, and due credit must be given to Richard for his gentle persistence in this area. 

It is all too easy for DJs to pursue their own personal popularity at the expense of those whose creativity keeps them where they are, but Richard has never lacked the courage to take a chance, (as evidenced by the fact that he has people like me guesting on his show and allows me total freedom to play whatever takes my fancy!) and has thus helped bring about perceptible shifts which have broadened the tastes of even former hard-line dogmatists. 

Looking at the cover photo too, of an all-nighter holdall covered with emblems, made me wonder whatever became of the cult for embroidered badges? “Soul Satisfaction” is well named, and on this occasion, the selection has been made from a variety of labels that are now under the wing of MCA. All classic sides, and, it has to be said, all deeply nostalgic. 

Another highly recommendable set is Westside’s “Bluesoul Belles”, the complete CALLA recordings of the one and only Betty Lavette, and the hugely talented Carol Fran. Some of the sides included never actually made it to release, and others are alternate takes of well-known and well-loved sides, and there is a substantial bonus in the incredibly exhaustive, informative and detailed booklet notes by Malcolm Baumgart and Mick Patrick. (How I love conviction, and how it shines through in the words of these two guys). Betty Lavette will always have a special place in my consciousness since one of the very first singles that I reviewed in print was her ATLANTIC outing “My Man, He’s A Loving Man”. But, it was at CALLA that she was able to give her remarkable talent its fullest and most enriching expression. A valuable addition to any collection. 

Finally, ACE/KENT continue to track down small independent labels of yesteryear and issue their product through proper signed contracts, negotiation and financial payment, and their latest acquisition in this field is “Stone Soul” (KENT CDKEND 166) which gathers together 24 tracks from San Francisco based LOADSTONE label. A few of these sides were, when new, issued in Britain on Ed Kassner’s pioneering JAY BOY label, (they even more remarkably put out at the time, an Eddie & Ernie single, (under the name of Ernie & Ed) that wasn’t even issued in the States!), but this more complete overview shows just how well the Soul scene was served in the 60s and 70s by the smaller, independent labels, and although air-play was often denied because they couldn’t lay enough on corrupt DJs or programme managers, or they never had much aesthetic good taste to begin with, their quality is undeniable, and we are richly served in Britain in being able to collect so much Blackamerican Soul music that passed by the wider consciousness of the USA. 

Finally, speaking of embroidered badges earlier, made me want to ask if you have a Soul music related tattoo? If you do, and don’t mind sharing this knowledge with others, write and let me know what it is, where it is, (well, you all know I don’t believe in censorship, so be frank!), and perhaps we can compile some sort of dossier on how Soul music has not only touched our hearts, but, in some cases, our actual flesh too!!   

Until next time,

Keep the faith, and keep the infidels at bay!