Two of my favorite compilations from Harmless Records’ Backbeats series have been the two crossover compilations. The first of these was I Get My Groove, released in 2010. Then in 2011, came They Call It Crossover, which somehow, surpassed the quality of its predecessor. Now, two years after the release of They Call It Crossover, comes the next installment of crossover soul, Crossover To Soul on 25th March 2013. Compiled by Sean Hampsey, Crossover To Soul features twenty-three tracks from the vaults of Hi, Wand, Invictus, Kudu and Okeh. This includes tracks some of the giants of soul music. Aretha Franklin, The O’Jays, Esther Phillips, Major Lance, The Soul Children and Maxime Brown. So without any further ado, I’ll pick my ten highlights of Crossover To Soul.

Opening Crossover To Soul, is Lou Courtney’s stepper The Common Broken Heart. This was a track from Lou’s classic 1974 sophomore album I’m In Need Of Love, which was released on Epic. It was the followup to his 1967 debut album Skate Now/Shing-A-Ling. Of the three solo albums the former member of The Fifth Dimension released, I’m In Need Of Love Is Lou’s greatest album. Quite simply, it’s an album that belongs in every record collection. After listening to Lou’s tender, pleading vocal you’ll realize why.

One of my favorite tracks on Crossover To Soul, is The O’Jays’ People Keep Telling Me. This was the B-side to their 1973 single For The Love Of Money, which reached number nine in the US Billboard 100 and number three in the US R&B Charts.Written by McFadden and Whitehead with Victor Carstarphen, it was the track that closed Ship Ahoy, The O’Jays 1973 platinum album. Here, The O’Jays and Philadelphia International Records’ house-band M.F.S.B. combine to create a track that’s way too good to be a B-side. Not only is it soulful and funky, but is upbeat, joyous and features a harmonic masterclass by The O’Jays.

Of all the artists to record for Hi Records, Syl Johnson was one of the most underrated. Between 1973 and 1979, Syl released a quartet of albums for Hi. 1973s Back For A Taste Of Your Love, was followed by 1974s Diamond In The Rough, 1975s Total Explosion and 1979s Uptown Shakedown. Main Squeeze was released as a single in 1975. It epitomizes the Hi sound, and Syl pays homage to Al Green as his hurt-filled vocal, unleashes waves of sadness and regret. Adding to the sheer emotion of the track are Rhodes, Chalmers and Rhodes, Hi’s legendary backing vocals. For anyone whose yet to discover Syl Johnson, wait no longer.

It would almost be remiss of me not to mention Aretha Franklin contribution, Cry Like A Baby, which was released as a single in 1966. This was a track from her album Soul Sister. Produced by Clyde Otis, Cry Like A Baby was released towards the end of Aretha’s time at Columbia. Indeed, after leaving Columbia, she signed to Atlantic, where she was crowned Queen of Soul. Cry Like A Baby is a glimpse of what was to come from Aretha.

While most people will have heard Gil Scott Heron’s Home Is Where The Hatred Is, fewer will have heard Esther Phillips’ version. It’s spine-tingling, captivating and mesmeric. It breaths new life, meaning and hitherto unrealised emotion into the song. This was a track from Esther’s debut album for Kudu, where she’d release the best music of her career. Compiler Sean Hampsey’s inclusion of this track is is to be applauded. Hopefully, it’ll introduce more people to the music of the unmistakable and evocative voice of Esther Phillips.

Ike Lovely released Fool’s Hall Of Fame is one of the real hidden gems of More Crossover Soul. It was released as a single in 1973, on New York’s Wand label. Arranged by Horace Ott and Robert Banks, it doesn’t take more than a few bars to realize something special is unfolding. It’s the combination of Ike’s pleading, heartfelt vocal and an arrangement where horns blaze, strings swirl and harmonies sweep in. They sooth the hurt and heartache Ike sings about, as he lays bare his soul and delivers a vocal that’s raw, emotive and enthralling.

Crossover To Soul is proving to be something of a musical treasure trove of music, thanks to compiler Sean Hampsey. His inclusion of Major Lance’s Think Nothing About It which was written by Curtis Mayfield, is a real treat for anyone who loves crossover soul. This was the B-side of a 1964 single on Okeh. It’s one of his rarest son and most obscure cuts. With so many tracks to choose from, Sean must be applauded for digging deep. Most compilers would’ve plumped for a familiar track, Not Sean, he’s come up with this delicious and rare slice of crossover soul, which after one listen, you’ll cherish forever.

Back in 1968, California born Freddie Hughes released his debut album Send My Baby Back on New York’s Wand label. One of the singles released from Send My Baby Back, was I Got To Keep My Bluff In, which was produced by Lonnie Hewitt. It’s an irresistible introduction to one of soul’s best kept secrets. Dramatic, filled with emotion and joy, Freddie unleashes a heartfelt, soaring vocal. Stabs of horns and sweeping harmonies drive Freddie on, as he unleashes a vocal that’s peerless in its sheer soulfulness.

Given the quality of the music is so consistently high throughout More Crossover Soul, choosing the ten best tracks isn’t easy. However, one track I had to mention was The Soul Children’s Midnight Sunshine. This was a track from their first album after Stax’s demise. They’d signed to Epic, where they released their fifth album Finders Keepers in 1976. The title-track Finders Keepers was released as a single. On the B-side was the soulful delight that is Midnight Sunshine. Sensual, needy and laden with emotion, it’s an impassioned plea that truly, you’ll be unable to resist.

My final choice from More Crossover Soul picked itself. Indeed, I couldn’t overlook Maxine Brown’s It’s Gonna Be Alright. Written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, it was released as a single in 1964 on Wand Records. It then featured on her 1965 album Spotlight On Maxine Brown, which featured the seminal Oh No Not My Baby. From the opening bars of It’s Gonna Be Alright, Maxine’s vocal is reassuring and soothing. You believe her when she sings with sincerity and soulfulness, “It’s Gonna Be Alright.” Once you’ve heard Maxine sing these four words, you too, will believe her every word.

More Crossover Soul is a worth successor to I Get My Groove and They Call It Crossover. So good is More Crossover Soul, that it somehow, manages to surpass the two previous compilations. From the first track right through to the last, there’s no drop in quality. Quite the opposite. Compiler Sean Hampsey ensures standard of music is consistently high. Unlike many other compilations, you’re never tempted to skip a track. Indeed, you’re more likely to press repeat, and revel in some soulful gems. Whether it’s the bigger names like Aretha Franklin, The O’Jays, Esther Phillips, Major Lance, The Soul Children and Maxine Brown, or lesser lights like Ike Lovely or Winfield Parker, the quality just keeps on coming, like a Soul Train, driven along by compiler Sean Hampsey. He takes you on a captivating, emotive and soulful musical journey. After this musical journey is over, you’ll find yourself further investigating the artists and labels featured on More Crossover Soul. The starting point of this journey is when you press play and let the twenty-three tracks on More Crossover Soul wash over you. Thankfully, you haven’t long to wait until this journey begins, as More Crossover Soul, which is part of Harmless Records’ long-running Backbeats series will be released on 25th March 2013. Standout Tracks: Esther Phillips Home Is Where The Hatred Is, Major Lance Think Nothing About It, The Soul Children Midnight Sunshine and Maxine Brown It’s Gonna Be Alright.



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