There aren’t many compilation series’ that last sixteen years and eight volumes. That longevity is almost unheard of, in what is, an increasingly competitive compilation market. Especially when there’s no letup in the quality. Usually, there’s a drop in quality, with compilers running out of top quality music. That’s not the case with Ace Records’ critically acclaimed Where The Girls Are compilation series. Where The Girls Are 8, which comes four years after the release of Volume 7, has been well worth the wait.

Where The Girls Are 8 is we return to the sixties and the golden of age of girl groups and soul sisters. Featuring twenty-five tracks, Where The Girls Are 8, compilers Malcolm Baumgart and Mick Patrick have dug deeper than they’ve dug before. Determined to keep up the standard expected of one of the longest running, commercially successful and critically acclaimed compilation series. They’ve delved into the back-catalogue of nearly twenty record labels. Malcolm and Mick’s dogged determination and crate-digging skills have paid-off. 

They’ve dug deep into the back-catalogues of Ode, Cameo, Mercury, Parkway, ABC, Diplomacy, Night Owl, Domino, Mira, Ava, Roomate, Bell, BT Puppy, Tuff, Unical, Amy, BJR, Stacy and Keetch. This resulted in a combination of familiar faces and hidden gems. Among them are contributions from The Blossoms, The Orlons, Dee Dee Sharp, Carol Connors, The Bonnets, Little Eva and The Darlenes. Then there’s a trio of unreleased tracks from The Four-Havens, The Fran-Cettes and The Del-Ohis. Where The Girls Are 8, which I’ll pick my ten tracks from, is a welcome addition to the Where The Girls Are family.

My first choice from Where The Girls Are 8, just so happens to be the opening track, The Blossoms’ Cry Like A Baby. It was released on Lou Adler’s newly founded Ode label in 1967. Cry Like A Baby was the B-Side to Stoney End, which was also written by Josephine Armstead with Ashford and Simpson. The Blossoms featured Darlene Love, Gloria Jones, Nannette and Fanita Barrett. Darlene’s vocal is like a cathartic outpouring of emotion. Accompanied by punchy, soulful, heartfelt harmonies, it’s a soul-baring opus. Why it was only a B-Side, seems strange?

The Orlons’ I Ain’t Coming Back showcases what would be one of the most successful production partnerships of the seventies, Gamble and Huff. Written by Kenny Gamble and Jaunita Boone, I Ain’t Coming Back was the B-Side of the 1965 single Come On Down Baby Baby. Released on Philadelphia’s Cameo label, The Orlons were one of Philly’s top groups of the early sixties. No wonder. Their lineup was a musical ying and yang. While lead singer Rosetta Hightower was at the heart of group’s success, Marlena Davis and Shirley Brickley’s harmonies played equally important parts. That’s the case on this feisty tale of love gone wrong, from Philly’s first girl group. 

To save you wondering where you’ve heard Sandy Borden’s Deeper, it’s a track first recorded by Aretha Franklin in 1963. I much prefer this version, which was released in 1965 on Diplomacy Records. Written by Rudy Clark, very little is known about the song. It’s thought that Sandy Borden is Patty Lemann, who released I Could’ve Loved You So Well for Warner Bros. in 1965. What I do know about Deeper, is that this Versil Production is irresistible, deeply soul and full of glorious hooks. Sandy Borden’s Deeper is glittering hidden gem that’ll make your life a whole lot better.

Jan Bradley’s career is another case of what if?  Initially, she released the Curtis Mayfield penned Mama Don’t Lie in 1963 on her manager Dan Talty’s Formal label. When Chess Records, heard the song, they loved it and released it. This resulted in the single reaching number fourteen. It looked like Jan would enjoy a long and successful career. There was a problem though. Dan Talty was only willing to lease some of her records to Chess. Other songs he released on smaller labels, who lacked the promotional expertise Chess had. Curtis Mayfield wasn’t happy. He declined to write any more songs for Jan. Her manager Dan Talty, wrote and produced Pack My Things (And Go). Released in 1963, on Night Owl, stabs of blazing horns respond to Jan’s hopeful, joyful vocal. Sadly, Pack My Things (And Go) failed to replicate the success of Mama Don’t Lie. What it does do, is demonstrate what Jan was capable of. She never reached the heights she should’ve and sadly, turned her back on music, becoming a social worker.

Carol Connors’ My Baby Looks, But He Don’t Touch sounds as if it’s been inspired by Phil Spectors early sixties productions. No wonder. She was the lead singer of The Teddy Bears and sang on their 1958 classic To Know Him Is To Love Him. Her tender, wistful vocal on My Baby Looks, But He Don’t Touch marked the end of her career. Having said that, she forged a success career as a songwriter. Released on Ava in 1966, it was written by Roger Christian and Carol. Richard Podolor was the arranger and conductor, while Marshall Leib produced this melancholy, poignant and beautiful tale of love gone wrong.

As The Del-Phis’ My Heart Tells Me So opens, the drama builds, and you expect an epic track to unfold. You’re not disappointed by this previously unreleased track. It falls firmly into the category of hidden gem. Produced by Dave Hamilton, doo wop, soul, R&B and pop unite on My Heart Tells Me So. The Del-Phis had lost a member and were working as a trio. Then they met singer Martha Reeves. It’s as if the stars were aligned. She’d been trying to forge a career as a solo singer. Joining The Del-Phis marked a change in fortunes for everyone concerned. Two years later, Martha was working at Motown and got The Del-Phis hired to sing backing vocals. From there, The Del-Phis became Martha Reeves and The Vandellas. My Heart Tells Me So is a tantalizing taste of what was to come.

Although she’s best known for her Norther Soul anthem You’re Gonna Make Love To Me, there’s more to Kendra Spotswood than that. She was briefly a member of The Shirelles, but never recorded with them. Having joined in 1964, she spent the next couple of years touring with them. By1965, Kendra and Van McCoy were working together. Van McCoy penned and produced Stickin’ With My Baby. Released on Tuff in 1965, it’s akin to a reaffirmation of her marriage vows, as she resists temptation and vows that she’s “Stickin’ With My Baby.” 

Little Eva’s best known for doing the Locomotion. Although it’s her best known song, it doesn’t exactly do her voice justice. Her cover of the classic Leiber and Stoller penned with Ben E. King does. That’s the soul classic Stand By Me. While Ben E. King released the definitive version, Little Eva’s version is an impassioned and dramatic plea. Released on the Amy label in 1965, it was produced by the Feldman, Goldstein, Gottehrer production team. Despite an arrangement where soul, R&B, jazz and blues combines with drama and melancholia, Stand By Me failed to replicate the success of the Locomotion.

Ravita Marcell’s That’s My Man is akin to an outpouring of pride. Against a punchy backdrop, she fires a warning shot across any potential rival’s bows, warning them: “That’s My Man.” Written by Matt Sanders wrote the track with Feldman, Goldstein, Gottehrer, who also produced it. Released in 1963, on the short-lived BJR label, it’s a two minute outpouring of pride, emotion and love.

Fittingly, my final choice from Where The Girls Are 8, features Darlene Love who was a members of The Blossoms, my first choice from the compilation. Darlene was one of The Blossoms, and her vocal features on The Darlenes’ 1963 track I Still Like Rock And Roll. Written by Joel Hill and Jim Lee, it was produced by Lee Hazelwood. His career took off when his partnership with Duane Eddy proved productive. Soon, he established a reputation as an inventive producer, capable of pushing musical boundaries. One of his main rivals was Phil Spector. The pair were locking horns musically. Ironically, Darlene Love was a pawn in their rivalry. Previously, she’d worked with Phil Spector, but wasn’t under contract to him. For Lee this was an opportunity he couldn’t resist. He used a variety of guises, to produce a range of different types of music. I Still Like Rock and Roll was frantic fusion of country, pop, soul and pop. An example of sixties girl groups at their best, there’s plenty of clues in the lyrics from Lee to Phil.

So, four years after Volume 7, Ace Records have recently returned with Where The Girls Are 8. Featuring twenty-five tracks, familiar faces, plus a few old friends, join new and hidden gems. Then there’s a trio of unreleased tracks. The best of that trio is The Del-Phis’ My Heart. Produced by Dave Hamilton, it’s essentially Martha and The Vandellas before they were famous. This is a theme that runs through Where The Girls Are 8. 

There’s pre-Philadelphia International Records’ productions from Gamble and Huff and a pre-Hustle production from Van McCoy. Then there’s Carol Connors, the voice of The Teddy Bears’ To Know Him Is To Love Him. Carol went onto enjoy a prolific and successful song, including With You I’m Born Again, which gave Billy Preston and Syreeta a huge hit. Little Eva contributes an impassioned rendition of Ben E. King’s Stand By My. These are just a few of the backstories to Where The Girls Are 8. Others include the ones that got away.

Some of the songs on Where The Girls Are 8 should’ve been huge commercial successes. Sadly, either fate, bad luck or bad decisions dictated that commercial success eluded them. The Blossoms’ soul-baring opus Cry Like A Baby, deserved a better fate than to languish on the B-Side, undiscovered for nearly forty years. Sandy Borden’s deeply soulful, irresistible Deeper is full of hooks, and is a true hidden gems. Jan Bradley was destined for big things, if she’d signed to a big label. With Chess Records promoting songs penned by Curtis Mayfield, she’d been huge. Kendra Spotswood’s Stickin’ With My Baby and Ravita Marcell’s That’s My Man are examples of love gone right, rather than wrong. Full of passion and pride, these songs reiterate that the devil doesn’t have the best songs. Far from it.

Love songs, tales of heartbreak, anthems, dancers and opus,’ they’re all on Where The Girls Are 8, the latest instalment of Ace Records award winning, critically acclaimed and commercially successful Where The Girls Are compilation series. So good was Where The Girls Are 8, that I’m already looking forward to Volume 9. Standout Tracks: The Blossoms Cry Like A Baby Sandy Borden Deeper, Jan Bradley Pack My Things (And Go) and Carol Connors My Baby Looks But He Don’t Touch.


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