Soul In Clover … or What The Doctor Ordered
I am not a purist. Authenticity is not my middle name. I would, for example, cheerfully argue that Lulu’s as great a soul singer as James Carr ever was. And what she did in Miami with Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin, the Dixie Flyers and the Memphis Horns is up there with what Dusty did in Memphis and Philadelphia. Which is really saying something. So it’s sad that her Melody Fair set is out of print.

So similarly it’s criminal that Kiki Dee’s ‘60s recordings are out of circulation. Her sole (soul!) set for Tamla is among the best the label ever released, but who’d believe it? I did at least have a lovely surprise over Christmas to find her on the soundtrack of Doctor In Clover, a classic slice of mid-‘60s comic nonsense. I have a separate obsession with such films, and will religiously watch any old film with the likes of Leslie Phillips, James Robertson Justice, Joan Sims, Irene Handl, and so on in it.

One of the things that’s appealing from a distance about the Northern Soul scene was the lack of concern in certain quarters about authenticity. If it had that driving beat, it would do nicely. For some. Now one of the treasured compilations I bought back in the day was the 1980 This Is Northern Soul set on Grapevine. I still go weak at the knees at the sound of 'Exus Trek' by the Luther Ingram Orchestra, and other tracks like 'This Man In Love' by the new Wanderers and Tony Middleton’s 'To The Ends of The Earth' remain very close to my heart. Grapevine was also of interest for releasing Judy Street’s 'What' as a single, becoming a huge underground success. The song would later be covered by Soft Cell if I remember rightly.

Anyway I had forgotten about Grapevine until a couple of years ago when Big Daddy magazine ran a few articles on Grapevine’s founder John Anderson, King of the Record Dealers. This was at the time when Big Daddy was temporarily the coolest thing on the planet, running in depth serialisations of interviews with Anderson and the great (Bexleyheathen) Dave Godin, along side all sorts of hip hop, funk and b boy culture features.

I remember then reading John was reactivating Grapevine and putting out some soul 7”s. What I hadn’t realised was that this would flourish into a huge salvage operation to get very excited about. The first soul salvage set of the new Grapevine generation I have come across is Troubled Waters, which is subtitled Deep Soul From The Deep South, or if you like a gorgeous rummage through the Malaco archives.

And if you like your soul deep then there is enough here to make you a very happy person. Perhaps the stand out track is Dorothy Moore’s 'Two of A Kind', which implies the lady we love for 'Misty Blue' has a country soul portfolio to rival that astonishing set of Candi Staton recordings the good people at Honest Jons recently treated us to.

The presence of other names on the credits like George Soule, Wardell Quezergue, Sam Dees (his astonishing five minute version of 'My World' redefines big soul balladry!), Frederick Knight will have the pulses racing. And the fact that the selection reaches through to the end of ‘70s is a timely reminder that soul didn’t die when the Sex Pistols kicked other doors in for a new underground explosion to swarm through. Indeed I still argue if you catch up with the current soul underground you will find people like Jaguar Wright who will make you drop your drink.

And the great thing is there are according to the Grapevine website a great selection of new soul compilations out there to catch up on. This is not good news for my bank account, but I’ll at least be the one with the beatific smile on my face during the daily commute as I absorb all that soul power.

Keep the faith!

© 2004John Carney