Though we’ve come to expect delightful and deeply soulful compilations from Ace’s Kent label, one of Kent’s latest is a particular trip: a trip, in fact, to the Cleethorpes Northern Soul Weekender. The 6Ts Rhythm and Soul Society has been throwing these bashes on a yearly basis since 1993, offering up plenty of dancing and some of the best names in soul music, among them Doris Troy, Barbara Lewis, Tommy Hunt, Bettye LaVette and Maxine Brown. Kent’s The Cleethorpes Northern Soul Weekender, 1993-2012: 20 Soulful Celebrations offers a variety of songs from the performers who have made Cleethorpes, a town in North East Lincolnshire, an annual destination for Northern Soul fans. It makes for a fine souvenir of these events, but also stands alone as an exhilarating listen that just might make you want to hit the dancefloor.
First things first, however! If you’re not familiar with the term “Northern Soul,” you just might be familiar with its distinctive style of music. The late journalist (and dedicated compiler of many CDs) Dave Godin is credited with coining the phrase, which he used to describe music in the mid-1960s soul vein preferred by enthusiasts in the northern part of England. Godin told Mojo in 2002 that he had first devised the term in 1968, to help employees at his Soul City record shop differentiate the rapidly-proliferating funk style of R&B from the smoother, Motown-influenced soul of just a few years earlier. (In The Soul Stylists, renowned DJ Ady Croasdell described the prototypical Northern Soul song as The Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” although the song was too mainstream to achieve popularity in the Northern Soul scene.) The movement championed lesser-known tracks over big hits, and it soon spread, with clubs popping up throughout the north and midlands of England. The Twisted Wheel Club, The Wigan Casino and the Blackpool Mecca, just to name three, all became synonymous with Northern Soul. The Kent label has kept the heavy beats, fast tempi and passionate vocals of Northern Soul alive with its intelligently curated compilations, and also given new leases on life to many of the talented, once overlooked, artists from the world of sixties R&B. Cleethorpes Northern Soul Weekender is the latest such compilation.
What will you find on this jam-packed new disc? Hit the jump!
The new disc has been produced and annotated by Ady Croasdell, co-founder in 1979 of the 6Ts Rhythm and Soul Society. 6Ts’ first dance was held at the Bedford Head pub in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden in London’s West End. Soon, 6Ts launched all-nighters, including the famed Saturday nights at the 100 Club in London’s Oxford Street, which began in 1981 and continue to this very day. 6Ts’ first weekender took place in 1993, presented in association with Kent Records, natch. Mary Love, Tony Middleton and Willie Tee all headlined that first event, along with live bands and of course, top DJs. All three appear on the new anthology, represented by “I’m In Your Hands,” “Drifting” and “I’m Only a Man,” respectively. The impressive 42-page booklet (housed in a colorful digipak) details each and every one of the Cleethorpes weekenders in detail, and is lavishly illustrated with each event poster and plenty of full-color photographs of the festivities.
There are tracks new to Kent CDs, while other previously-on-CD tracks have benefitted from the new remastering by Nick Robbins. Croasdell’s notes detail all of the variations on the songs which have appeared before on Kent. “The Pretty Part of You,” from Scepter Records artist Tommy Hunt (the first person to record Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself”) makes its premiere here; Hunt has been a legend on the Northern Soul circuit since performing at the second anniversary of the Wigan Casino. He appeared at Cleethorpes’ third celebration in 1995. Another track making its debut here is an underdub of Bettye Swann’s single on the Money label, “Lonely Love,” minus the handclaps on the originally released version. Swann hasn’t appeared yet at the weekender, but is already slotted for 2013!
Also from the Scepter family comes Maxine (“Oh No, Not My Baby”) Brown’s seductive – and submissive! – “Let Me Give You My Lovin'” from 1966 on the Wand label. Barbara (“Baby, I’m Yours”) Lewis is represented with the irresistible, astrology-minded “The Stars” from 1969 on Enterprise, while the late, legendary Doris Troy (“Just One Look”) appears on her 1967 Capitol recording of “Face Up to the Truth.” Among other highlights is H.B. Barnum’s 1965 Capitol single of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “I’m a Man,” produced by the iconoclastic David Axelrod. Barnum himself arranges a produces the similarly-titled “I’m Only a Man” for Willie Tee, produced again by Axelrod in 1969 at Capitol. Van McCoy also makes a couple of appearances, as writer/producer of Kendra Spotswood’s infectious “Jive Guy” and as writer/arranger of The Diplomats’ “Help Me.” Powerful Northern Soul could come from the unlikeliest of places; 1962’s “Drifting,” from Tony Middleton and the Highjackers, was a New York-flavored, Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller production penned by George Fischoff (“Lazy Day,” “98.6”) and Ed Miller. Northern Soul even takes in a little Southern Soul (so-called for the slow-burning soul emanating from the southern region of the United States) courtesy of Spencer Wiggins’ 1966 “Walking Out on You” on Memphis, Tennessee’s Goldwax label. (Though Northern Soul refers to the region of England in which the movement was popularized, more Northern favorites do hail from the north United States than from the south!)
Although the number of artists who have performed at Cleethorpes exceeds the number that could be represented on disc, the collection is a more than generous selection of classic soul rarities from labels big and small, and artists known and unknown. They all share a beat that doesn’t let up. The 25 tracks on The Cleethorpes Northern Soul Weekender could very well become your favorites, too. This unique compilation of 20 years of storming soul celebrations is available in stores now, and can be ordered below!
Various Artists, The Cleethorpes Northern Soul Weekender 1993-2012: 20 Soulful Celebrations (Kent CDKEND 374, 2012)
- Gonna Hang On in There, Girl – Jesse Davis (Era 3187, 1967)
- It’s Written All Over My Face – Marva Holiday (GNP Crescendo 411, 1968)
- Who Are You Trying to Fool – Little Ann (Kent CDKEND 177, 1999)
- He Broke Your Game Wide Open – Frank Dell (Valise 6900, 1967)
- My Young Misery – Darrow Fletcher (Groovy 3004, 1966)
- Me and You Doin’ the Boogaloo – Lou Courtney (Riverside LP RM-2000, 1967)
- The Pretty Part of You – Tommy Hunt (previously unreleased)
- Face Up to the Truth – Doris Troy (Capitol 2043, 1967)
- Two Lovers Make One Fool – The Serenaders with Sidney Barnes (Riverside 4549, 1963)
- Help Me – The Diplomats (Arock 1008, 1964)
- Jive Guy – Kendra Spotswood (Tuff 407, 1965)
- Let Me Give You My Lovin’ – Maxine Brown (Wand 1128, 1966)
- The Stars – Barbara Lewis (Enterprise LP 1006, 1969)
- Words Can’t Explain – The Belles (Mirwood 5505, 1966)
- I Feel Good (All Over) – Bettye LaVette (Calla 104, 1965)
- I Idolize You – The Charmaines (Kent/6Ts 6T18, 2002)
- Walking Out on You – Spencer Wiggins (Goldwax 312, 1966)
- Wedding Bells – Melvin Davis (Ke Ke 1007, 1964)
- I’m a Man – H.B. Barnum (Capitol 5391, 1965)
- Bricks, Broken Bottles and Sticks – Dean Parrish (Musicor 1099, 1965)
- The Next in Line – Hoagy Lands (Laurie 3381, 1967)
- Drifting – Tony Middleton with the Highjackers (United Artists 410, 1962)
- I’m Only a Man – Willie Tee (Capitol 2369, 1969)
- I’m In Your Hands – Mary Love (Modern 1006, 1966)
- Lonely Love – Bettye Swann (underdub of Money 129, previously unreleased)