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Spinning Around - A History of The Soul Lp - Book Review

Spinning Around - A History of The Soul Lp - Book Review cover

BOOK REVIEW         SPINNING AROUND – A History of the Soul LP Vol.1 by John Lias


If any soul fans have coffee tables, then this is the definitive book to place atop that table. Not only does it look very impressive with it's bold black hardback cover and red graphics with white text, but it will impress any visitors that pick it up. What it does is what it says on the cover; this encyclopedia of soul knowledge runs to over 400 pages and lists just about every detail a fan would wish to know about all soul LP's made by artists who's names fall into the A to K band.


However, if you're not looking for a 'coffee table' item to show off your credibility, what would this book do for you. Put simply, if you're into albums made by soul artists then this will complete your life. You don't get any facts on how much each LP listed is worth, but then why would you want to depress yourself with such information. A 'little birdie' informs me that at least one LP has been missed from this weighty tome but I'm not the type to snitch and inform you what that is. The book opens with a preface and then an introduction which explain what it is that is about to follow. Then it's straight into the 'meat & two veg' facts. On page one of the album listing we get both Ace Spectrum and Barbara Acklin, so it doesn't take long to get to the good stuff. To say that the descriptions of both's album output is complete is an understatement. You get life facts on the artists where appropriate (& known) – for instance did you know that Barbara Acklin started out at her record company as a secretary !! With regard to Ace Spectrum, we learn who the main (long term) group members were and about all the different writers / arrangers that they worked with. The book is a very wordy affair so if you're wanting visual reminders (LP cover pictures) to go with the text, then you're going to be disappointed. But, that would make it a whole different manual. Plus the colour printing required and extra space needed would push the price up beyond the reach of most prospective buyers.
 

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Of course, John brings his own perspective to each album that is dealt with in this volume. If you're a massive fan of mid 70's Casino stompers then I doubt John's view on all things soulful will mesh with yours. But then if you're a Wigan-era zealot, you'll mainly be interested in facts on 45's not LP's. We don't get any info on compilation albums in here, though the finest of such releases (for instance the Impressions UK 'Big Sixteen' releases) do get a mention in passing. Indeed, over four pages are needed to cover the complete works of Chicago's most magnificent group – the Impressions. The facts on the group and their LP releases are split up into different sections to account for the changes in their personnel / sound down the years. I like John's opinion on this outfit (one of the greatest groups of all time) so I will not let my bias show by quoting detail by the shovelful. Lets just say, that mentions for Big 16 Vol.1 and Vol.2 had to be made even though these were compilations, however as they are single-artist affairs, they just managed to scrape in (getting over John's qualification bar). Mind you, the group's last ABC outing (a collection of mainly old standards that must have been sitting in the vaults) does get a panning.


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But you just need to open up the book at any random page; lets say for this review the spread on pages 302/303 and you get the whole truth with regard to some artists LP output. On these two pages we get the lowdown on Brenda Holloway (including her UK 'Artistry of' release), Eddie Holloway & Loleatta Holloway. John starts the review of Brenda's work with a statement that may get some Motown fans pondering. In his piece on Eddie Holloway, the guy's 45 output features large in the explanatory facts and Loleatta gets over a complete page of fascinating detail to cover her output. Each artist takes their turn in alphabetical order, both the greats and the minor players. So not only do you get to read all about Marvin Gaye, Eddie Kendricks and Gladys Knight but also about the likes of Perk Badger, the Bell Brothers, Beverly & Duane, the recently passed C L Blast (I have that elusive 'Made In Africa' LP John !!) and Lou Bond. It's not a book to read from cover to cover in one go (IMHO) but as a resource for reference, I don't think it could have been improved. If Wikipedia ever decided to set up a dedicated section on soul music, they wouldn't need to go anywhere else than this book to have (almost) the complete story. John has already assured buyers that, as long as sales levels meet expectations, then Volume 2 is a stone cold certainty. It needs to be, as that coffee table has just the empty spot that another scholarly work would fill to perfection. If, however, what you're after is the definitive reference book on soul, then I don't think you need to look any further than this 5* effort.


JOHN Roburt SMITH: March 2016

 

Added by site

@johndelve posted the below ordering information in his earlier forum post

Anyone who is interested in buying a copy contact me directly at john.lias@googlemail.com and I can ship copies directly.
Price is £20 + £2.80 postage anywhere in UK.
Same selling price holds true for other parts of the world but postage is going to be expensive, I'm afraid, as book is heavy.

 

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John did a terrific review of the Spinning Round Volume 1 above;  I thought it might be acceptable to add a few favourable words urging anyone interested to support this book release.

Very briefly, the book arrived this morning and absolutely exceeds expectations - a tour de force on a huge subject!   Aside from the actual putting words down on paper, it occurs to me that in order to write each review, the author actually had to listen to each album.  And given the number of albums, that is truly mind-boggling.  Firstly, getting access to each album to listen to, secondly the time it takes to listen through each album, carrying out the background research on the album, and then the setting down of the opinion. This is a massive undertaking in the same spirit and commitment as the DFTMC and Motown Junkies websites.

Like the author, I abandoned 45s at the outset for LPs and for exactly the same reasons, back in 1966! I have long recognised the soul LP lives in the shadow of the soul 45 and has been somewhat neglected.  I have long thought there was a need for a definitive soul album reference book, and this is exactly what ‘Spinning Around – The History of The Soul LP ‘is.

First thing I did was RTFM rather than my usual habit of delving straight into the tome.    I took time to read the preface and introduction, thereby understanding the house rules and locking into the methodology John Lias employed.   I'd urge anyone else to do likewise to get the very best out of the book.

Secondly, it rapidly dawned on me that unlike numerous other soul books/ encyclopaedias/ discographies/ reviews, the book is written in a conversational style, i.e., the author sets out his personal opinion and one finds oneself silently responding in agreement or otherwise.   I’m sure many of us have strongly held views on what are great soul albums or otherwise and have our own favourites and disappointments, but don’t necessarily discuss our views with anyone.   The format and style of this book very much facilitates that kind of engagement.

It stimulates, challenges and reaffirms one's own opinions and causes one to dig out those neglected albums sitting in those crates and reacquaint oneself with all those sadly unheard tracks.

This is as comprehensive study of the American Soul LP as one could ever wish for; the layout is easy to negotiate, the writing style is knowledgeable and to the point, the sheer size of the subject necessitates being split into two volumes, it’s worth every penny/ cent and it will be indispensable to anyone who is passionate about soul music. It will definitely not disappoint. Oh, and it just proves that no matter how deep one is in the subject matter, one never stops learning and discovering new aspects of the music, the artists and the art form.

 

 

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