All-Ages Soul

home_schooledHome Schooled: The ABCs of Kid Soul (Numero)

The soul aficionados at Numero have dug deep into the crates for this one – only experts will recognize any of these artists – and handily matched the glories of their Eccentric Soul series. “Children should be seen and not heard” definitely doesn’t apply to the kiddie acts featured here – more like “you’ve got to hear this to believe it.” Yes, Michael Jackson wasn’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 “Can't Let You Break My Heart” by the Quantrells, which also has a superb arrangement: the drummer’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 group’s.

You may not hear a track this year funkier than “2009 Cherry Soul Sound” by Jr. & His Soulettes, unless it’s the hyper “If You're Looking for Love” by the Triads. Another highlight (the lyrics are quite witty) is “I'm Not Ready For Love” by Promise. Even “Yellow Ribbon,” 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 “Sweet Pea” by Altyrone Deno Brown), “Don't Leave Me Mama” 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 “Jersey Slide,” you’ll wonder how it didn’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). – Steve Holtje

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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.

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