When the definitive history of soul music is written, several cities will loom large in the story. A triumvirate in particular, have played a hugely important part in the development of soul. This triumvirate are Memphis, Philadelphia and Detroit. Some of the best soul music ever released, came out of these three cities. They however, are the gift that keeps on giving. Why? Well, hidden in the vaults of the record companies that called these cities home are a whole host of unreleased tracks. 

This includes the twelve unreleased tracks that featured on Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul, which was released on Kent Soul, a subsidiary of Ace Records, earlier this years. They’re not just any unreleased tracks. No. The unreleased tracks on Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul are some of the most exciting Detroit and Northern Soul tracks to be discovered in recent years. Quite simply, this is sixties soul gold. These unreleased tracks feature plus contributions from Lorraine Chandler, Nancy Wilcox, The Cavaliers and Willie Kendrick. Of the other twelve tracks, they were released on labels like Giant, Kapp, Karate, Musicor, Ruby and Wand. Each of these tracks have one thing in common, they were produced by the magic words: “A Pied Piper Production.” That as you’ll soon discover, means quality is guaranteed. Before I pick the best of the Pied Piper Production’s I’ll tell you about the men behind Pied Piper Productions.

Pied Piper Productions was founded in 1965 by Sheldon “Shelley” Haines, a music industry veteran. His first job in the music industry, was as a distributor for King Records. This was the late-forties. By, 1952, Sheldon and Jack Gale, a local DJ, formed the short-lived Triple A record label. It lasted a mere five releases. After that, Sheldon became interested in Detroit’s emerging R&B scene.

Soon, Sheldon was a familiar face on the Detroit R&B scene. By 1954, Sheldon and songwriter Perry Stevens found themselves working with doo wop group The Spartans, for the Capri label. A year later, Sheldon and Irving Lief formed a production partnership and several record labels. This included labels like Pix, Plaid, Sterling and Studio. Groups and artists like The Coronets, Cool Papa Jarvis and The Jet Tones. The pair also recorded The Womack Brothers, who later, became The Valentinos. Sheldon and Irving’s partnership lasted until 1960, where they recorded artists at their own studio. It wasn’t just artists signed to their own labels, but artists signed to RCA’s Groove imprint. This was a sign of how well thought of the production partnership were. Despite this, Sheldon returned to becoming a distributor in 1961.

For the next four years Sheldon was happy working as a distributor. Occasionally, he produced artists, and in 1965, made his comeback. Ed Wingate hired Sheldon as Vice President and General Manager of Ric-Tic, Golden World and Wingate record labels. His remit was  overseeing marketing, promotion and product control. For his new business venture, Sheldon called the company Pied Piper Productions. The first two single produced by Pied Piper Productions were releases by Bob Santa Marie and Frank Meadow and The Meadowlarks. While they were neither successful nor groundbreaking releases, once Sheldon put together his production team, success wouldn’t be far away.

The two men who masterminded Pied Piper Productions were Jack Ashford and Mike Terry. Jack Ashford had studied music at college. He was a vibes player and a familiar face in Philly’s jazz scene. When he was asked to become a member of Marvin Gaye’s touring band, Jack went from jazz musician to Funk Brother. 

Through meeting the Motown musicians, Jack decided to base himself in Detroit. Soon, he became part of Motown’s legendary studio band The Funk Brothers. Jack’s trademark tambourine sound became a staple of Motown recordings. However, Jack was more than a tambourine player. He studied arrangers, engineers and producer and soon, was able to learn from them. Jack was also a talented songwriter. Essentially, Jack Ashford was a musical all-rounder, which made him perfect for Pied Piper Productions. His partner would be Mike Terry.

Mike Terry played baritone saxophone first in Popcorn Wylie’s Mohawks, then with Joe Hunter’s band. Like many musicians, he gravitated to Motown, which in the sixties, was one of soul music’s most successful labels. He was part of the touring and studio bands, and his trademark sound features on numerous Motown recordings. Despite being on Motown’s payroll, Mike, like other musicians, including Jack Ashford, Mike felt the fees they were paid weren’t enough. So the pair left Motown.

Having left Motown, Jack and Mike briefly worked for Ed Wingate’s Golden World label. Mike with George Clinton and Sidney Barnes, formed the Geo-Si-Mik songwriting and production partnership. At the same time, Jack and Mike formed a songwriting and production partnership. One of their songs, Lonely One, for The San Reno Strings album on Ric-Tic came to the attention of Sheldon “Shelley” Haines. He realized this was a partnership to watch. 

He was right. Jack and Mike head to Jack’s hometown Philly, to produce I Can’t Chang for The Sensations with Yvonne Baker. This was their first production, which was released on the Junior label. Later in 1965, the pair produced Joe Douglas for the Playhouse label. With Bobby Martin penning the B-Side, this was a single that was made has Philly. Ironically, it wasn’t in Philly Jack made his name as a producer. No. It was in Detroit, where with Mike Terry they masterminded Pied Piper Productions. Twenty-four Pied Piper Productions feature on Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul.

There are four tracks from Lorraine Chandler on Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul. One of these, I Can’t Hold On is a previously unreleased version of this Northern Soul classic. The only difference from the original, is the tempo is quicker. Written by Jack Ashford, Ermastine Lewis and Ray Monette, it’s a truly irresistible track. Especially with the blazing horns enveloping Lorraine’s emotive, vocal powerhouse. Lorraine contributes a trio of other tracks, including the unreleased, heart-wrenching and deeply soulful Mend The Torn Pieces Of My Heart. Then there’s her 1966 single Tell Me You’re Mine, written by Jack and Mike. This was released after Pied Piper folded. With a vocal that’s heartfelt and needy, Lorraine brings the lyrics to life.  Previously unreleased is I Hear Music which was penned byJack Ashford and Ermastine Lewis. It has a wistful, thoughtful sound, it’s a real find and falls into the category of hidden gem.

Nancy Wilcox’s Gamblers Blues has Northern Soul written all over it. Penned by Jack Ashford, Ermastine Lewis and Joseph Hunter, for some reason, it’s lain unreleased since it was recorded in July 1967. Arranged by Joe Hunter, bluesy and soulful, horns, piano and a stomping beat ensures this track swings. Especially when Nancy sings: “you lost me baby.” In The End Nancy’s other contribution is an unreleased track. Although it’s a slower tracks, it’s still dance-floor friendly, with a vocal that’s accusing and full of hurt.

Back in 1967, The Hesitations released their debut album Soul Superman on Kapp Records. It featured She Won’t Come Back and I’m Not Built That Way. George Scott’s lead vocal on She Won’t Come Back is best described as soul-baring. Delivered against what’s the arrangement to Tell You’re Mine it’s a hugely powerful, emotive outpouring of heartache. As for I’m Not Built That Way, penned by Jack Ashford, Joseph Hunter and Ed Hillert, it’s a real Northern Soul stomper.

The Cavaliers’ We Go Together was written by Shelley Haims and Perry Stevens. Recorded in 1966, it’s never been released before. It reminds me of the type of music Chess were releasing during the first half of the sixties. As for the lyrics they’re best described as innocent. A fusion of soul and doo wop, it’s a song that’s a reminder of another and more innocent musical era. 

It wasn’t often that Jack Ashford got the opportunity to dust off his vibes. He did on Freddy Butler’s That’s When I Need You. Just like I Fell In Love (Can’t Help It), it’s taken from his 1967 album on Kapp, With A Dab Of Soul. Jazz-tinged, soulful and understated, with a late-night sound, it’s  one of the highlights of Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul. I Fell In Love (Can’t Help It) featured on With A Dab Of Soul. This is an alternate version, but hasn’t been released before. Listening to the two version side-by-side, I’d suggest that this version is better than the original. Why? Gone is the ponderous rhythm section. This to me, brings new life to the song and improves this slice of Northern Soul.

Recorded in February 1967, Willie Kendrick’s version of Time Changes Things transforms a track made famous by The Metros. Written by Jack Ashford, Ermastine Lewis and Ray Monette, the tempo is quicker and the track is much more dance-floor friendly. Willie’s vocal is vampish and powerful. Behind him, the band fuse elements of soul, funk and psychedelia. That’s the recipe for a groundbreaking and innovative track.

September Jones has a trio of tracks on Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul. Only I’m Coming Home was released as a single, on Kapp, in 1967.  Moody, broody and dramatic describe a track written by Jack and Penny Ashford with Joseph Hunter. Waves of harmonies unfold, while September’s vocal is an outpouring of emotion. Sassy and soulful describes Give Me All Of Your Love, this uplifting, joyful track. Quite simply, it’s one of the highlights of the compilation. The other contribution from September Jones is Chink A Chank Baby. It bursts into life, featuring an arrangement that is not unlike many other tracks released in 1967. That’s down to the guitar, which punctuates the arrangement, which over forty years later, has stood the test of time.

The Sandpipers’ Lonely Too Long closes Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul. Written by Ed Hillert and arranged by Mike Terry this track by the little-known Sandpipers, has lain unreleased since it was recorded in 1966. With a vocal that’s full of sadness and loneliness, and an arrangement that draws inspiration from pop, rock and soul, it’s a moving tale of heartbreak and love gone wrong.

When Kent Soul, a subsidiary of Ace Records released Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul, it was one of the most anticipated compilations of 2013. After all, Pied Piper Productions were know for the quality of their productions. They’d high standards. Jack Ashford and Mike Terry, just like the man who hired them Sheldon “Shelley” Haines, had high standards. Theirs was a quest for musical perfection. Nothing else was good enough. That’s obvious here. Even the tracks that have lain unreleased for over forty years are the highest quality. That’s testament to Jack Ashford and Mike Terry. It’s also credit to compiler Ady Croasdell, who compiled Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul.

Ady brought together twenty-four tantalizing tracks that showcases Pied Piper Productions. Jack Ashford and Mike Terry, two former Funk Brothers, discovered that there was life after Motown. Their time at Pied Piper Productions was the first step in what would be long and successful careers. At Pied Piper Productions, they worked with Lorraine Chandler, Nancy Wilcox, The Cavaliers, September Jones and Willie Kendrick. Artists were discover, careers were rejuvenated and stars were born. Sheldon “Shelley” Haines’ decision to bring Jack Ashford and Mike Terry to Pied Piper Productions was vindicated. For a few short years, they were a potent and successful partnership. Proof of this is the music on Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul. For anyone with an interest in either soul music, soul music recorded in Detroit or Northern Soul, then Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul is a compilation that belongs in your record collection. One listen to Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul, and you’ll realise why. Standout Tracks. Standout Tracks: Lorraine Chandler I Can’t Hold On, Nancy Wilcox Gambler’s Blues, Freddy Butler That’s When I Need You and September Jones Give Me All Of Your Love.


Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul

Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul

Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul

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