Various Artists “Move With The Groove – Hardcore Chicago Soul 1962-1970” (2-CD set) (Charly 645 X).
By Pete Nickols
Bobby Davis ~ Damper Down; Lonnie Brooks ~ The Popeye; Lonnie Brooks ~ Mr. Hot Shot; McKinley Mitchell ~ The Town I Live In; Betty Everett ~ I’ve Got A Claim On You; Benny Turner ~ Come Back Home; Harold Burrage ~ Master Key; Big Daddy Rogers ~ Be My Lawyer; Big Daddy Rogers ~ I’m A Big Man; Five Du-Tones ~ Shake A Tail Feather; Dorothy Prince ~ If I Could Live My Life All Over; Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson ~ The Whip Pt.1; Five Du-Tones ~ That’s How I Love You; Johnny Sayles ~ Don’t Turn Your Back On Me; Johnny Sayles ~ You Told A Lie; McKinley Mitchell ~ Tell It Like It Is; Lucky Laws ~ Who Is She; Accents ~ New Girl; Johnny Sayles ~ You Did Me Wrong; Alvin Cash & The Crawlers ~ Twine Time; Joe & Mack ~ Don’t You Worry; Sharpees ~ Do The 45; Harold Burrage ~ Got To Find A Way; Beverly Shaffer ~ Where Will You Be Boy; Duettes ~ Every Beat Of My Heart; Sharpees ~ Tired Of Being Lonely; Big Daddy Simpson ~ Give Me Back My Ring; Cicero Blake ~ Sad Feeling; Joseph Moore ~ I Still Can’t Get You; Alvin Cash & The Registers ~ The Philly Freeze; Josephine Taylor ~ What Is Love; Andrew Tibbs ~ I Made A Mistake; Harold Burrage ~ More Power To You; Stacy Johnson ~ I Stand Alone; Josephine Taylor ~ Ordinary Guy; Liz Lands ~ One Man’s Poison; Admirations ~ Wait Til I Get To Know You; Miss Madelaine ~ Behave Yourself; Ultimations ~ Without You; Ultimations ~ Would I Do It Over; Otis Clay ~ That’s How It Is; Wylie Dixon ~ Gotta Hold On; Otis Clay ~ A Lasting Love; Willie Parker ~ You Got Your Finger In My Eye; Alvin Cash ~ Keep On Dancin’; Bull & The Matadors ~ The Funky Judge; Thomas East & The Fabulous Playboys ~ I Get A Groove; Simtec & Wylie ~ Socking Soul Power; Bull & The Matadors ~ Move With The Groove; Toddlin’ Town Sounds ~ It’s Your Thing.
Ernie and George Leaner formed their United Record Distributors in Chicago way back in March 1950 but it was some 12 years later in March 1962 that George created One-derful records after hearing McKinley Mitchell’s great song “The Town I Live In” (included here). Subsidiary labels Midas, M-Pac, Mar-V-Lus and the gospel offshoot Halo were soon included and the One-derful ‘empire’ lasted some 6 years until 1968 when George went into semi-retirement, although continuing to handle publishing. The Midas label was retained by Ernie Leaner and his son Tony, who added the new Toddlin’ Town logo, and these ran on till early 1971.
The sub-title of this nicely-packaged 2-CD bookstyle-set from Charly (“Hardcore Chicago Soul”) accurately sums up the very best of One-derful’s output; Robert Pruter underlined this in his fine book “Chicago Soul” when he referred to “the city’s many fine raw and gritty singers of hard soul” and described Leaner as specialising in “urban heavily-blues-flavoured soul”. The company’s biggest commercial success, perhaps unsurprisingly, did not stem from this type of performance, however, but from the St. Louis-raised Alvin Cash, whose dance records like “Twine Time” and “The Philly Freeze” (both included here) made the R&B and the Pop charts. Nevertheless, Leaner (a Lester Melrose-trained bluesman at heart) later dismissed such records as “merely money-making endeavours of little merit”. It’s clear his heart was much more into producing the likes of the great Harold Burrage, Otis Clay and Johnny Sayles.
The hard, blues-derived soul sound on the very best – and most potent - of these recordings (Sayles’ “You Told A Lie” and “You Did Me Wrong”, for example) owes much to the fine musicians who played on these sessions – guys like Cash McCall, Mighty Joe Young, Jimmy Jones and Ira Gates. Some of the brass riffing is also very telling, again something noted in his book by Pruter.
Now, it may be that long-term soul fans will already have in their collection 3 Charly CDs of material from this source which were all issued in 1998 (“Chicago Twine Time”, “Windy City Soul” and “Chicago Soul Cellar”). For convenience, I have highlighted in the track-listing above those tracks (in italics) which do NOT appear on any of these three CDs, although you may find some of these in CD format elsewhere, such as the McKinley Mitchells, which are on a very fine UK Shout CD of that singer’s early material, and Harold Burrage’s driving “More Power To You”, which appeared on a Goldmine collection (also in 1998) entitled “One-derful, Mar-V-Lus Northern Soul”, a set which included several of the other tracks on offer here.
The nice deep soul-ballad “Gotta Hold On” from Wylie Dixon at track 17 of the second disc and all of the last six mainly ‘northern-soul’ styled tracks on that CD are Toddlin’ Town sides and are therefore from a slightly later period than the material included on the earlier three Charly CDs, which featured nothing from that label.
Wylie’s track is sandwiched between two other standouts, namely Otis Clay’s powerfully dramatic “That’s How It Is” and his absolutely beautiful and melodic big ballad “Lasting Love”.
Whilst I’m not personally a ‘northern soul’ fan, there’s a lot for them to enjoy here and indeed some tracks favoured by the all-niter fraternity are, to me, simply top-class rhythmic soul anyway. Into that category I would certainly place the Sharpees’ great ‘gets inside you’ groove, “Tired Of Being Lonely” plus two other terrific ‘dancers’, the same group’s “Do the 45” and Willie Parker’s “You Got Your Finger In My Eye”.
Other tracks I really enjoyed included the vocally superb Cicero Blake’s lilting uptown big-ballad “Sad Feeling”, the always-impressive Stacy Johnson’s tough, driving opus “I Stand Alone”, Josephine Taylor’s “Ordinary Guy” which is in a similar potent vein (and so much better than her other track, the rather poor “What Is Love”), Betty Everett’s R&B-into-soul pacy piece ”I’ve Got A Claim On You”, the out-and-out blues of Big Daddy Rogers’ “Be My Lawyer” and the always amazing frenetic madness of the Five Du Tones irrepressible “Shake A Tail Feather”, not forgetting their very different but equally impressive gospelly soul-ballad “That’s How I Love You”. With other tracks by quality singers like Harold Burrage and McKinley Mitchell also on offer, it just remains for me to make mention again of two superb blues/hard-soul outings by Johnny Sayles, the very impressive “You Told A Lie” and the even stronger, and deeper “You Did Me Wrong”, so intensely ominous and so aggressively sung by the magnificent Sayles that it’s almost frightening. For me, this has always been quite simply one of the greatest tracks I’ve ever had the goose-bump-inducing privilege to hear. It’s a shame the set didn’t include Sayles’ almost just-as-good “Got You On My Mind” (his other ultra-deep hard-soul outing). Mind you, his pacy “Don’t Turn Your Back On Me” also highlights what an impressive, assertive soul-voice Johnny possessed.
I think this nicely presented 2-CD set is terrific value if you haven’t already got most of the sides in your collection – there’s some real quality soul on offer, in a variety of styles, and, at time of writing, Amazon UK were offering it for just £7.49, cheap enough for one good CD, never mind two.