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Stax Northern Soul Disco LP Sleeve Notes

Stax Northern Soul Disco LP Sleeve Notes magazine cover

The current forum topic called Stax Dancers reminded me that had once 'ocr' scanned the sleeve notes of my copy of this old 70s lp comp titles Stax Northern Disco Sounds. While the cover has to be one of the worse northern comp covers around, the actual sleeve notes written back then by @Ian Dewhirst may now make interesting reading as they do provide a snapshot in time of attitudes and such and as have not seen them in easy to read text format thought they may be worth a pass on...

I did buy this lp back when it was released in 1975 and it was quite a memorable purchase. Memorable as it turned out to be one of the lps that did open/expand my ears/taste quite a bit.  At the time of purchase I was just a young 14 year scally type who thought he knew everything,  when I got my hands on this lp some of the tracks didn't really hit it off with me on first play, stuff like Little Sonny, Rance Allen etc was quite far out (in its literal meaning) to kids like me at the time. But slowly over time with repeat plays those tracks slowly drew me in deeper and deeper.

Anyway what does make the sleeve notes interesting reading is not so much the track reviews but rather the opening and closing paragraphs written by Ian d. This was the 'soul' narrative that was being said and pushed out at the time and being taken in by kids like myself. Though given the title of the comp and the cover picture the 'right on-ees' in the notes does make you smile now. No matter, here's the notes in easy to read text format...

northern-soul-stax.jpg

Cover (the worse northern soul ever comp cover ?)

At a time when the words 'Northern Soul' have become a rather hackneyed cliche of describing basic, brash, fast, dance music, it is a refreshing change to suddenly find an L.P. dedicated to the real thing! As various new records run up the charts under the guise of 'Northern Soul' one wonders exactly how long it will be before the record buying public will realise that they have been brainwashed into buying sub-standard product. For the people who look no further than the top thirty for their tastes in fast-beat soul, this album is not for you. For the people who are willing to discover authentic Soul with that Northern beat and for the legion of fans of Northern music who are already aware of the treasures around  this is the real McCoy!

Having said that, what better record to kick off with than the immaculate 'At Last'. Right from the first two beats the Temprees superb harmonies compliment the brisk backing and give the classic song a brilliant re-working. This record established itself as one of the biggest records in the North and quite rightly so! Possibly the most commercially successful record on this album is 'Happy'. Of course the title epitomises what the record is all about and William Bell's bouncy vocals belt along and carry lyrics which make everybody wonder why they've ever worried. A record which should be played everytime you're feeling low! Instrumental time and here we go with Little Sonny's re-working of Ramsey Lewis 'Wade in the Water'. A Northern favourite at the best of times, and Little Sonny's version adds a new dimension to this classic dancer.

The normally deep Soul and Funky Johnnie Taylor hits a solid Northern groove with Wylie and Hestors 'Friday Night'. Johnnie rips his soul out on this gutsy song .... and what a beat! A real 100% true Northern dancer which always packs the dance floors. The Gospel Veteran, Rance Allen turns up with a Northern goody and a high wailing rendition of 'There's Gonna be a Showdown'. Once again another gutsy item which belts along with Rances' voice hitting almost impossible notes. Of course Rances' roots show through this one right from the Gospel harmonies to the clanking piano in the background but this shows yet another branch of Northern Soul which the media continues to ignore.

Hitting back with the happy Northern sounds are Mel and Tim with Philip Mitchell's 'Free for All'. A fabulous intro immediately starts the record and then Mel and Tims sweet-soul voices carry the joyful singalong lyrics. As with the Temprees record, once again,.a brilliant arrangement and a credit to all involved. Annette Thomas, who still remains relatively unknown delivers a modern but unmistakably Northern sound with 'You need a friend like mine' This is one which gathered many plays. when first issued and is just the sort of record which will probably spring up in a year or two, and have people•kicking themselves for not getting to it first! 

The Staple Singers although not associated with Northern Soul somehow hit the groove with 'Oh la de da'. Yet again another happy beater (and why not) with Mavis, Pop and Co. yelling the title backed by a frenetic beat. Not a record for devout intellectuals but who the hell actually thinks on the dance floor! A record to shed inhibitions to. Little Milton leaves the monologues behind and comes up with a relatively little known Northern dancer entitled 'Bet you I Win'. As always that typical Stax sound in evidence and Little Milton gets in perfect voice for this strutting item.

Old Northern favorite Major Lance adds to his list of classics with 'That's the Story of my Life'. Perhaps not as well known as his other items but a completely captivating slab of Soul with the Major's smoothly shrill voice fighting against a perfect dance beat. As with the other records mentioned this side must be in line for some future plays.

Here we go again with stalwart Jimmy Hughes who brings us perhaps his best known dancer, 'Chains of Love'. This has always been a much loved side in the North and it fully deserves its unbending popularity from those who dig real Soul. And now what a classic, we have Jones and Bloomburg's invigorating version of the 'Right Track'. The song, which has now joined the ranks as one of the handful of true Northern Soul anthems is beautifully handled by J. and B. with that ever important beat very much in evidence. Finally Margie Joseph. Once again, not a Northern heroine but Margie teams up with 'Medicine Bend' and wraps her delicious vocals around the lyrics and creates a nice danceable little item.

And so there we are! Perhaps not a collection of sides which are all well known or even commercially viable but I do promise you that every cut is SOUL!, and that is a word which several parties do not seem bothered about. Look at the charts today. How many Soul records are there in the top thirty? 4? 6? 8?. But listen again are they not simply pop records sung by black people? When was the last time you saw a black singer really belting his heart out? Listen to the Staple Singers, Rance Allen and Johnnie Taylor tracks! When was the last time you heard a Soul record in the charts without computerised string sections and faultless harmonies? Listen to the Jimmy Hughes, Major Lance, William Bell and Mel and Tim tracks, and you'll realise what is missing in today's music! Hence for those of you who are already acquainted with these songs you'll already know what a gas this album is. For those of you who have just turned on to these records Congratulations you've got SOUL! 

D. J. FRANK (Ian Dewhirst)

Cleethorpes All Nighter

Lincolnshire Soul Club

Samantha's Sheffield All Nighter

Leeds Central 

Creative concept: Dave Godin 

italic emphasis added by site

Tracklist

1–The Temprees - At Last

2–William BellHappy

3–Little Sonny - Wade In Water

4–Johnnie Taylor - Friday Night

5–Rance Allen - There's Gonna Be A Showdown

6–Mel & Tim - Free For All

 

1–Annette May Thomas -You Need A Friend Like Mine

2–The Staple Singers - Oh La Da Da

3–Little Milton - Bet You I Win

4–Major Lance - That's The Story Of My Life

5–Jimmy Hughes - Chains Of Love

6–Jones & Blumenberg - The Right Track

7–Margie Joseph - Medicine Bend

Credits

Compiled By – Dave Godin

Sleeve Notes – D.J. Frank (Ian Dewhurst)

Notes

Sleeve Notes 
D.J. Frank AKA Ian Dewhirst 
Cleethorpes All Nighter 
Lincolnshire Soul Club 
Samantha's Sheffield Allnighter 
Leeds Central

 

 

 

stax-northern-lp.jpg


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markw's profile photo

Posted

Brilliant posting! I bought this LP brand new from the racks of a High Wycombe record shop in about 1978/79 and was also struck with how 'different' the sounds were to what I'd heard up to then as Northern Soul, though the guy who had introduced me to NS was originally from Grimsby, had been a Cleethorpes regular and was more Mecca than Casino. Great sleeve notes from ID - "one wonders exactly how long it will be before the record buying public will realise that they have been brainwashed into buying sub-standard product" ................... not much change there maybe? Though I must admit, among my favourites at that time were Tammy St John, Beverly Ann, Phil Coulter  :huh: 

 

Ian Dewhirst's profile photo

Posted

Blimey. Those were written 42 years ago. Sentiments spot on though!

Ian D :)

polyvelts's profile photo

Posted

Was a staple spin for me back in the day along with ian Levines scepter wand comp and this is Loma vol 1, does any one remember the abc comp 'out on the streets' - that was pretty great if my memory serves correctly !!)

PS tho grapevine 'this is northern soul' was the one that seldom left the turntable !

Pga1's profile photo

Posted

Hiya, still got stax album, some great tracks. Still got got out on the streets, very flimsy  vynil but a great mix of ballads and uptempo stuff. Cheers

kevinsoulman's profile photo

Posted

plonker then bought it on cassette which i still have gradually picked a lot of the 45's off though not all,were some album tracks or all 45's  kev

paul-s's profile photo

Posted

Great posting, thanks.

Freebie's profile photo

Posted

I've got a copy of this album. I bought it from a certain Pete Smith, who I believe contributes to this forum occasionally! Bought it aged 15/16 but haven't played it for years.Agree with Polyvelts above about the Grapevine LP, still have that as well.

soap's profile photo

Posted

the young lady pictured on the sleeve was a cleethorpes regular called steph.if my memory serves me correctly she lived in the walcott/sleaford area nr lincoln and at that time was married to a guy called tony. i seem to think tony was a doorman at the winter gardens

Alan Walls's profile photo

Posted

Wow, no pussyfooting around in those notes. Worth buying the album just for them! :thumbsup:

ady croasdell's profile photo

Posted

Compiled by Dave Godin; who'd have thought!

reforee's profile photo

Posted

On 1 December 2016 at 10:16, markw said:

Brilliant posting! I bought this LP brand new from the racks of a High Wycombe record shop in about 1978/79 and was also struck with how 'different' the sounds were to what I'd heard up to then as Northern Soul, though the guy who had introduced me to NS was originally from Grimsby, had been a Cleethorpes regular and was more Mecca than Casino. Great sleeve notes from ID - "one wonders exactly how long it will be before the record buying public will realise that they have been brainwashed into buying sub-standard product" ................... not much change there maybe? Though I must admit, among my favourites at that time were Tammy St John, Beverly Ann, Phil Coulter  :huh: 

 

Would that of been Harlequin Records in High Wycombe where you bought it? I used to get most of my UK released Soul from there as the manager used to tap up the reps for freebies for me.

markw's profile photo

Posted

42 minutes ago, reforee said:

Would that of been Harlequin Records in High Wycombe where you bought it? I used to get most of my UK released Soul from there as the manager used to tap up the reps for freebies for me.

I think it was! It was the shop just outside the Octagon centre but part of the same development, along that parade of shops next to the flyover leading to Oxford Street and Frogmoor. Is that where you meant?

Tomangoes's profile photo

Posted

Heard little Sony played at the 2017 Detroit a go go gig.

First time ever aside from the LP I bought around 77.

Rance Allen is top 10. 

Great choices from a great label.

Ed

JoeSoap's profile photo

Posted (edited)

The Stax LP seems an odd and quite underwhelming selection by today's standards, doesn't it? Feels like a budget LP. I just missed the 70s but were any / many of these tracks ever big sounds? 

Lots of things on Stax / Volt, etc that are revered and collected now are in the 'crossover' vein, so post-70s in popularity, I suppose. But there must be have been more impactful / in demand selections they could have gone for..? 

 

 

 

Edited by JoeSoap
seano's profile photo

Posted

On 22/04/2019 at 23:07, JoeSoap said:

The Stax LP seems an odd and quite underwhelming selection by today's standards, doesn't it? Feels like a budget LP. I just missed the 70s but were any / many of these tracks ever big sounds? 

Lots of things on Stax / Volt, etc that are revered and collected now are in the 'crossover' vein, so post-70s in popularity, I suppose. But there must be have been more impactful / in demand selections they could have gone for..? 

 

 

 

I can see why you'd say that Joe, but having bought the LP when it came out while only having been getting into the scene for a year or two, this was an inspiring eclectic mix that expanded my horizons (thankfully). As Ian's notes indicate, the focus was "dedicated to the real thing", and although I loved and still enjoy lots of pop stuff that was part of what got played at many venues, I suspect this was a timely jolt for those of us who might so easily have overlooked the depths of quality and history that really underpinned the music we were hearing.

The breadth of music that can get a hearing at soul events nowadays seems astonishing, and I think that projects like this album and input from many pioneering individuals and clubs before and since have kept this alive and continuing to thrive for pretty much 55 / 60 years now!

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