Various Artists Masterpieces of Modern Soul CD
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Description & Features+
Liner Note Author: Ady Croasdell.
Photographer: Millie Jackson.
Arrangers: Vince Montana; Harvey Fuqua; Lou Stallman; Mike Lewis ; Miles Grayson; Arthur Wright; Vernon Bullock; David Van De Pitte; Brad Shapiro.
Outsiders of the U.K. soul collecting scene might expect a CD with a title as generic as Masterpieces of Modern Soul to have songs by the likes of the Temptations or Al Green, or maybe Anita Baker and the like if it's much more "modern." But no, we're talking the cliquish British soul fiend culture here, where modern soul, according to the liner notes, is evidently a quite distinct animal from Northern soul. Modern soul, y'see, focuses on the smoother sounds of '70s soul, as opposed to Northern soul, which favors the more dance-oriented soul tunes of the '60s. It's all a bit befuddlingly hair-splitting for more general (or all American) listeners, who like soul music depending on how they like it, not what decade it's from. If you like '70s soul enough to pick up collections of obscurities from the genre, though, you could do worse than this two-dozen-strong anthology of tracks. Some of these singers were marginally popular, like Millie Jackson, Ted Taylor, Vernon Garrett, Denise LaSalle, Ronnie Walker, and Garland Green, but the majority of them aren't going to be known to any listeners except the most dedicated specialists. The tone is more pleasantly grooving than compulsively memorable, to be honest. But most of these are decent enough slices of '70s soul, often strongly reflecting trendy early-'70s sweet soul sounds from Philadelphia, though a few tracks postdate the mid-'70s, with one hailing from as late as 2002. There are some nice cuts that move away from that vibe, though, like Debra Johnson's previously unissued "To Get Love You've Got to Bring Love," which recalls Betty Everett's Vee Jay sides, though perhaps with more contemporary production; Sam Nesbit's gritty "Chase Those Clouds Away," which takes some cues from Young-Holt Unlimited's "Soulful Strut"; and Idris Muhammad's "I'm a Believer," which with its strong jazz-gospel flavor is the most distinctive track on the disc. ~ Richie Unterberger
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