Welcome to Part Two of our Ace Records Round-Up! If you missed Part One’s spotlight on releases from Clarence Carter and James Carr, just click here!
Abe Tilmon, Iry Tilmon, and James Mitchell, a.k.a. The Emeralds, hailed from Little Rock, Arkansas, but once the vocal trio moved to the Motor City in 1967, they rechristened themselves The Detroit Emeralds and signed to Ed Wingate’s waning Ric-Tic label. It proved an auspicious start when their debut single, “Show Time,” made No. 22 on the national Billboard R&B chart, but Ric-Tic’s diminishing fortunes saw their next two 45s make little to no impression. In August 1968, the label released its final singles. But entrepreneur Armen Boladian saw an opening in the demise of Ric-Tic, and formed Westbound Records to pick up the local artists who were being increasingly overlooked by Motown (inheritor of most of the Ric-Tic roster). The Detroit Emeralds found a home at Westbound, and all 23 of their single sides have now been collected on I Think of You: The Westbound Singles 1969-75 (Westbound/Ace CDSEWD 160).
Distinguishing themselves from many contemporary vocal groups, the Detroit Emeralds wrote most of their own material (in particular, Abe Tilmon, sometimes in collaboration with James Mitchell). Familiar Detroit names – like former Satintone Sonny Sanders, producer-songwriter Norma Toney, arranger Johnny Allen, and songwriter William Garrett (“Please Mr. Postman”) – pepper the credits of these tracks. Surprisingly, though, basic tracks for many songs were laid down not in Detroit but in Memphis, at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios. A Memphis-Detroit blend wasn’t unheard of; Johnny Allen was just one of the talents who worked for both Motown and Stax (and earned a Grammy Award for Shaft at the latter), while artists like Mable John did the same. The combination of the two cities’ distinctive styles lent The Detroit Emeralds’ recordings a delicious sound.
The group became R&B chart mainstays and even dented the Pop charts on occasion (including the No. 36 “You Want It, You Got It” from 1971 and “Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms), a No. 24 entry the next year) with their upbeat, catchy, and inventively-arranged soul offerings. I Think of You chronicles not only the successes of the original line-up, but the group’s reinvention. When James Mitchell and Iry Tilmon left the ranks in 1974, Abe pressed on as A.C. Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds. (James and Iry even launched their own version of the Emeralds, leading to litigation.) The “A.C.” line-up’s two singles are included here. The collection ends in 1975, before 1972’s “Feel the Need in Me” was remixed and re-sung in 1977 as a bid for the disco market; it resulted in a hit U.K. single. That’s not here, but the unique British single edit of “I Think of You” is. Most tracks are in stereo, but three singles have been included in their rare promotional mono versions (as the stereo versions have been available on other Ace/Kent CDs.) Tony Rounce has supplied the notes, and Duncan Cowell has remastered this prime anthology from an underrated Detroit group.
Though it’s now on a sixth volume, there’s been no shortage of material for Kent’s long-running series of Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities. Volume 6 offers another wealth of upbeat, powerful, and most of all, danceable material from the 1960s and early 1970s. Not only do these tracks qualify as rare (sometimes, impossibly so) but the production values are almost uniformly top-notch and worthy of the “classy” appellation. One of the delights of any of these sets is discovering previously unknown works from a familiar artist, producer, or composer. Tamala Lewis’ 1965 “You Won’t Say Nothing” is an early song by George Clinton, written for the New York arm of Motown’s Jobete Music publishing company. There are other Motor City connections here, whether the presence of Richard “Popcorn” Wylie as co-writer of Johnnie Taylor’s 1970 Stax nugget “Friday Night,” or simply via Motown-inspired tracks like J.J. Barnes’ Marvin Gaye-emulating “Poor – Unfortunate – Me (I Ain’t Got Nobody”) or Peggy Woods’ brassy, infectious “Love is Gonna Get You.” Funk Brother Jack Ashford co-wrote and helmed The Magnificents’ 1973 “I Can Fly,” with its slinky and hypnotic take on soul with a dash of jazz and funk. Note that “Love Hangover,” however, is not the chart-topping song by Pam Sawyer and Marilyn McLeod popularized by Diana Ross, but rather a 1967 composition by Sidney Barnes and George Kerr.
Young Donny Hathaway arranged Betty Everett’s 1970 Fantasy single “I Got to Tell Somebody,” a No. 22 R&B hit that isn’t the rarest track here, but is certainly one of the most delicious. Ace favorite Jack Nitzsche, one of the architects behind Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, is represented by a couple of unexpected cuts. One, Daniel A. Stone’s “Young Boy Blues,” was previously unearthed by Ace for the 2007 CD Phil’s Spectre III, collecting Spector soundalike productions. But this one counts more than most, having been written by Spector and Doc Pomus for Ben E. King in the pre-Wall of Sound days of 1961, but produced in that grand style four years later by his close associate Nitzsche. Making its debut here is a track produced and arranged by Nitzsche for singer Nooney Rickett. “Sad Tomorrows” was written by Jack Greenbach and Motown veteran Jerry Marcellino, whose credits range from Michael Jackson to Bobby Darin, and also recorded by Trini Lopez; it’s a stunning ballad that deviates from the upbeat Northern Soul formula. Nitzsche’s grand, peerless chart is in the Righteous Brothers mold, and makes for one of the most exciting tracks here.
There are girl group sounds here (The Kittens’ urgent “Wait a Minute (You’re Getting Careless with My Heart))” and a bona fide surprise in the form of the alternate take of Maxine Brown’s very Motown-esque “One in a Million,” long a northern soul standard. The Detroit Emeralds pop up here, too, among the vocal group tracks, with their album cut “Long Live the King.” Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Vol. 6 offers a true cross-section of the genre, presented in typically lavish style. Compiler Ady Croasdell has provided the enlightening and entertaining liner notes, and Nick Robbins has remastered from the best available sources.
Both of these stellar collections are available now at the links below!
- Holding On (Westbound 147)
- Things are Looking Up (Westbound 147, 1969)
- I Bet You Get the One (Who Loves You) (Westbound 156/181, 1969)
- If I Lose Your Love (Westbound 156, 1969)
- I Can’t See Myself Doing Without You (Westbound 161, 1970)
- Just Now and Then (Westbound 161/172, 1970)
- Do Me Right (Westbound 172, 1971)
- Wear This Ring (With Love) (Westbound 181, 1971)
- You Want It, You Got It (Westbound 192, 1971)
- Till You Decide to Come Home (Westbound 192, 1971)
- Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms) (Westbound 203, 1972)
- I’ll Never Sail the Sea Again (Westbound 203, 1972)
- Feel the Need in Me (Westbound 209, 1972)
- There’s a Love for Me Somewhere (Westbound 209, 1972)
- You’re Gettin’ a Little Too Smart (Westbound 213, 1973)
- Heaven Couldn’t Be Like This (Westbound 213, 1973)
- Lee (Westbound 220, 1973)
- Whatcha Gonna Wear Tomorrow (Westbound 220, 1973)
- Set It Out – A.C. Tilmon & The Detroit Emeralds (Westbound 226, 1974)
- I’m Qualified – A.C. Tilmon & The Detroit Emeralds (Westbound 226, 1974)
- Rosetta Stone – A.C. Tilmon & The Detroit Emeralds (Westbound 5005, 1975)
- Yes, I Know I’m in Love – A.C. Tilmon & The Detroit Emeralds (Westbound 5005, 1975)
- I Think of You (U.K. Single Edit) (Westbound U.K. 6146 104, 1973)
- Love Is Gonna Get You – Peggy Woods (originally unissued 1966 Modern recording, rel. Kent 6T4, 1988)
- You Won’t Say Nothing – Tamala Lewis (Marton 1002, 1965)
- I Only Cry Once a Day Now – The Fidels (previously unissued 1966 Dore recording)
- Friday Night – Johnnie Taylor (Stax 0068, 1970)
- I Got to Tell Somebody – Betty Everett (Fantasy 652, 1970)
- I Can Fly – The Magnificents (originally unissued 1973 Just Productions recording, rel. Kent 6T33, 2017) (*)
- Why You Wanna Treat Me the Way You Do – The Hyperions (Chattahoochie 669, 1965)
- Sunshine Love – Di Fosco (Earthquake 2, 1971)
- I Wanted to Tell You – Little Mickey Soul (She 101, 1964)
- Young Boy Blues – Daniel A. Stone (originally unissued production, rel. Ace CDCHD 1149, 2007)
- Nomad Woman – Jock Mitchell with the Fabulous Agents (Golden Hit Productions 103, 1968)
- Sad Tomorrows – Nooney Rickett (previously unissued 1965 recording)
- Wait a Minute (You’re Getting Careless with My Heart) – The Kittens (Vick 300, 1963)
- One in a Million – Maxine Brown (previously unissued alternate of Wand 1117)
- Naughty Boy – Jackie Day (Phelectron 382, 1966)
- The Winds Kept Laughing – Betty Turner and the Chevelles (Crescent 637, 1964)
- Lost in a City – The Vows (Big Three 400, 1963)
- Poor – Unfortunate – Me (I Ain’t Got Nobody) – J.J. Barnes (Ring 101, 1964)
- Cry in the Arms of Another Love – Andre Scott with Jesse Otis & Shotgun (Sunflower 101, 1968)
- Long Live the King – The Detroit Emeralds (Westbound LP 2006, 1971)
- Love Hangover – Jean Carter (Sunflower 102, 1967)
- (Marriage Is Only) A State of Mind – O.C. Tolbert (originally unissued 1972 recording, rel. Remind 102, 2017)
- Dream Girl – The Lon-Genes (Romark 108, 1964)
- Little Boy – Carla Thomas (originally unissued 1961 recording, rel. Stax CDSXD 039, 1991)
Mono except (*) stereo