The soul aficionados at Numero have dug deep into the crates for this one â€“ only experts will recognize any of these artists â€“ and handily matched the glories of their Eccentric Soul series. â€œChildren should be seen and not heardâ€ definitely doesnâ€™t apply to the kiddie acts featured here â€“ more like â€œyouâ€™ve got to hear this to believe it.â€ Yes, Michael Jackson wasnâ€™t the only prepubescent popster making the scene in the Seventies. He may not even have been the best, just had the benefit of the slickest production.
Certainly the Jackson Five never cut a ballad as great as â€œCan't Let You Break My Heartâ€ by the Quantrells, which also has a superb arrangement: the drummerâ€™s spraying perfect fills all over the place, the horn and guitar riffs interlock irresistibly, the bass burbles in a quirky start-stop pattern, and the harmony vocals match any adult groupâ€™s.
You may not hear a track this year funkier than â€œ2009 Cherry Soul Soundâ€ by Jr. & His Soulettes, unless itâ€™s the hyper â€œIf You're Looking for Loveâ€ by the Triads. Another highlight (the lyrics are quite witty) is â€œI'm Not Ready For Loveâ€ by Promise. Even â€œYellow Ribbon,â€ one of the most annoyingly sappy tracks of the decade, sounds much better here after the Atons speed it up and apply a healthy dose of wah-wah guitar.
Sure, a few tracks get by on cuteness (such as â€œSweet Peaâ€ by Altyrone Deno Brown), â€œDon't Leave Me Mamaâ€ by Little Murray & The Mantics is saccharine sentimentality, and the problem kids have with singing in tune occasionally pops up, although not as much as you might fear, but by and large this music is much more than a gimmick. Most of these tracks are just great soul, period. When you hear the 3 Stars do the â€œJersey Slide,â€ youâ€™ll wonder how it didnâ€™t become a national sensation.
As usual, Numero documents its finds assiduously with a detailed booklet. Anyone into Seventies soul needs to check out this compilation, and the aforementioned Eccentric Soul series (the separate entries spotlighting the Capsoul, Twinight, and Big Mack labels are especially rewarding). â€“ Steve Holtje
Mr. Holtje is a Brooklyn-based poet and composer who last year recorded his original soundtrack to Bystander, a documentary film by John Reilly.