This release is the second CD to focus on the labels owned by Al Sears, a renowned saxophonist of the 40’s and 50’s. The first CD was way back in 2002. This compilation has been a long time coming and continues were the first left off. Here we have unreleased masters, demos, flips sides of the previously featured 45s and more.
Without spoiling the reading of the liner notes a brief bit of background may be needed. Al, after writing the hit “Castle Rock” in the early 50’s set up two publishing firms, the first one named after taking the first two letters of his and his wife Ruth’s Christian names, the other was named after his daughter Sylvia.
With his publishing flourishing and he himself producing it was only natural labels were to follow. The first was Gator in 1960 with four releases. Serock was next located in 1650 Broadway next door to Scepter who distributed the label. This was then replaced by Arock, which in turn was replaced by Sylvia.
The music recorded by Sears followed no set pattern and covered various styles, from Group Harmony to R&B to Soul.
Preview Player from Juno Records
The Corvairs kick off the CD with “Love Is Such A Good Thing” . This is the flip to “A Victim Of Her Charms” which featured on the first CD. An excellent male group double sider with this side just edging it for me.
Stirling McGee follows with the flip to “Keep On” which was popular in the UK some years ago at some venue in Wigan. “Get In My Arms Little Girlie” is again for me the better side than “Keep on” and we are treated to a remix from the master tapes and have the added bonus of a missing 21 seconds added.
Gene Burks it appears had a very brief recording and just two releases for Arock. Again we have another remixed flip in “Take My Hand”, a more up-tempo and catchy dancer than the top side and one of my favourites of this release.
Tutti Hill is a strange one. “When The Going Gets Rough” should have been the flip to “He’s A Lover” but all copies of the 45 despite being correctly labeled played “Baby Take It Slow” something all the anoraks had missed. So we have the first ever release of “When The Going Gets Rough” an excellent soulful mid pacer again better than its intended topside.
Joan Moody featured on the first compilation with three tracks including her Northern Soul classic “We Must Be Doing Something Right”. This time she pitches in with two tracks, the first “I Can’t Stay Away” which until last year was still unreleased and saw the light of day on a Kent 45, here it receives its first outing on a CD. “Music To My Ears’, similar to “I Can’t Stay Away” was on Joan’s fourth 45 release for Sylvia.
Gary & Gary’s “I’m Leaving For Parts Unknown” has seen plenty of turntable action here in the UK over the years in particular during the mid 1980s. The duo are actually Gary Klyvert and Carl Gould who had replaced Garrett Saunders who went on to record solo releases for Sears.
The Diplomats were the most recorded act for the stable of labels and here we have “I Really Love You”, a Van McCoy song and previously unreleased until it saw the light of day on a Kent Anniversary 45 and a CD dedicated to the group.
The aforementioned Garrett Saunders features with two tracks. One being another flip, this time to “A Day Or Two”. “Easier Said than Done” an excellent soulful mid-tempo offering. The other is previously unissued and unfinished. I Keep Coming Back For More” is a sparsely backed soul number, basically a piano and Garrett in a similar vein to “A Day Or Two”.
Another unreleased number from who it is believed Freddie Solomon is “I Don’t Care”. Again the backing is basic instrument wise and with a bit of femme backing it does get your foot tapping and does grow on you after a listen or two. Ansler Montell is next with “Chained Am I”. Again originally unreleased it is recorded in the style of the Chain Gang songs of the day but instead of working on the chain gangs he is chained to his love.
Detroit and a Mike Hanks production gives us Vivain Collians with “Hey Officer” see her pleading with a Police Officer to let her man go who has been naughty. Theola Kilgore gives a great soulful performance with “This Is My Prayer”. Here we are treated to the unedited take. Sinner Strong is next with “Nobody But Me” from 1963 it has a choral backing giving it a gospel influence.
The great Van McCoy, a staff writer at Sylvia gives a great vocal performance on “It Ain’t No Big Thing”. It was the only release on Rockway and is an excellent dancer with some female greats supplying backing vocals, Cisssuy Houston, Dee Dee Warwick, Sylvia Shemwell and Estelle Brown no less. The 45 has had some turntable action here in the UK over the years, mainly by collectors rather than the regular DJs. McCoy also features on the DC Playboys “You Were All I Need”.
Two mid 60’s R&B recording follow, Billy Washington with “I Wanna Come In” an dChet “poison” Ivy with “Something Else”.
Marie Knight with Junior Lewis backing/answering Marie on “Nothing In The World”. Initially released on Okeh we have here the demo version. Junior Lewis also chips in with two recordings of his own. “It Won’t Work Out” and “Where Are you”, both previously unreleased. The first another piano backed vocal, possibly another demo whilst the second is a more typical Big City New York ballad.
Another demo is next. “Did You Hear” was performed by Don Covay. It is a shame this wasn’t finished and released as it is a very soulful number although it did see the light of day via Barry Seidel but I can’t say I have heard that version. Big Wheel whilst in the main featured Detroit artists and productions was in fact a New York label and one of the owners was an executive at Sylvia. Discovered amongst the Sylvia tapes was the mistitled recording of “Kindness, Love and Misunderstanding” which was found a release via Eddie King on Big Wheel.
The CD closes with one of my all time favourite male group harmony 45s. The Larks (the Philly group) with “For The Love Of Money” is a firm favourite of mine and was featured on the first compilation. Here we are treated to the excellent flip side, “Another Sleepless Night”, another fine example of male group harmony.
Although many of the tracks may not be familiar with many we are still treated to a strong compilation of varying styles that I would give a strong three out of five, possibly three and a half. For the anoraks we have the usual excellent liner notes courtesy of Ady Croasdell packed with plenty information, photos and label scans.
01 Love Is Such A Good Thing - The Corvairs
02 Get In My Arms Little Girlie - Sterling Magee
03 Take My Hand - Gene Burks
04 When The Going Gets Rough - Tutti Hill
05 I Can't Stay Away - Joan Moody
06 I'm Leavin' (For Parts Unknown) - Gary & Gary
07 I Really Love You - The Diplomats
08 I Keep Comin' Back For More - Garrett Saunders
09 I Don't Care - Freddie Solomon
10 Chained Am I - Ansler Montell
11 Hey Officer - Vivian Collins
12 This Is My Prayer - Theola Kilgore
13 Nobody But Me - Sinner Strong
14 It Ain't No Big Thing - Van McCoy
15 You Were All I Needed - The D.C. Playboys
16 Music To My Ears - Joan Moody
17 I Wanna Come In - Billy Washington
18 Something Else - Chet "Poison" Ivey & His Fabulous Avengers
19 Nothing In The World - Marie Knight with Junior Lewis
20 Easier Said Than Done - Garrett Saunders
21 It Won't Work Out - Junior Lewis
22 Where You Are - Junior Lewis
23 Did You Hear - Don Covay
24 Kindness, Love And Understanding - Eddie King
25 Another Sleepless Night - The Larks
Purchase options, release notes and more images are available via
The Arock Serock Sylvia: Soul Story Continued
Cat: CDKEND 453