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 year. 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 feature the magic words: “A Pied Piper Production.” That means quality is guaranteed.

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’s brought together twenty-four 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.


Although many musical genres divide opinion, some musical genres that tend to divide opinion way more than others. Everyone can think of their own example, but for me, three immediately spring to mind. These are disco, punk and prog rock. Of these three musical genres, when it comes to opinions, not many people tend to occupy the middle ground. You’re either for or against each of these musical genres. Prog rock, however, tends to divide the opinion the most. Even forty years after the genre’s birth, the merits or otherwise of prog rock are still debated. For prog rock’s accusers, they perceive the music as overblown, overindulgent and pompous. To them, prog rock is a musical genre that belongs in firmly in the past. That however, only tells one side of the story.

Proponents of prog rock point to a musical genre that’s inventive, innovative and complex. Influenced by art rock, jazz and classical music, prog rock drew inspiration from a many other influences.It eschews traditional time signatures, song structures, rhythms, instruments and influences. In many ways, prog rock was an innovative genre, one that railed against the blues’ influence in rock music. Groups like Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Genesis, Yes and Gong were among prog rock’s pioneers. They lead the way, and now, four decades later, new generations of prog rock groups are following in their footsteps, during the latest resurgence in prog rock’s popularity. To mark this resurgence in prog rock’s popularity, a new five-disc compilation Prog Rocks has recently been released by EMI. 

Having spent some time immersed in the five discs that comprise Prog Rocks! I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not just people who enjoy prog rock that’ll enjoy this box set. After all, not every track on Prog Rocks! can be categorized as prog rock. Indeed, many tracks could just as easily be categorized as rock, folk, psychedelia, garage or rock. However, I often think we spend too much time putting music into categories. That’s often an unhealthy obsession that gets in the way of what’s important, discovering new and old music. For many people, there’s so much great music awaiting discovery on Prog Rocks! Indeed, there are seventy-two tracks over five discs awaiting discovery on Prog Rocks! 

What I do hope that Prog Rocks! does, is change people’s perception of prog rock. After all, prog rock far too often, gets a bad press. Sometimes, prog rock is the butt of cheap jibes and sarcastic comments. Hopefully once people have heard the music on Prog Rocks! they’ll change their opinion on prog rock. Maybe then they’ll realize that it’s an innovative and inventive musical genre, one that’s been Influenced by art rock, jazz and classical music. Prog rock drew inspiration from a many other influences. It eschews traditional time signatures, song structures, rhythms, instruments and influences. That’s what makes prog rock and the music on Prog Rocks! unique, innovative and groundbreaking.


Sometimes, when you buy a compilation, the first time you play it, you’re blown away by its sheer eclecticism and totally smitten by the music. That was me, when I came across Leng Records’ latest compilation, Psychemagik Presents Magik Sunrise. This is a double-album, compiled by the prolific UK production team of Psychemagik. Disc One is a compilation of what’s describes as a mixture of cosmic disco, psychedelic funk, Balearica, Middle Eastern beats and much more On Disc Two, the  tracks are seamlessly mixed by Psychemagik. These  tracks showcase Psychemagik’s passion for crate-digging. With such an eclectic collection of music, finding the tracks must prove problematic? Not for Psychemagik.

Psychemagik are passionate and persistent crate-diggers, when it comes to unearthing hidden gems. Their quest in unearthing those elusive hidden gems, sees Psychemagik go where other crate diggers fear to tread. Whether it’s dusty basements, thrift stores, warehouses or record shops, nowhere is off limits. As a result, and unlike many other crate diggers, Psychemagik’s choice of music is truly eclectic. Rather than focus on one genre of music, no genre of music, it seems, is overlooked. Given that Psychemagik have such eclectic and discerning taste in music, it’s no surprise that Psychemagik Presents Magik Sunrise oozes quality.

As you’ll have realized by now, I was hugely impressed by Psychemagik Presents Magik Sunrise. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the best compilations I’ve heard this year. There are several reasons for this. Of course one of these is the sheer eclecticism of the compilation. There’s everything from cosmic disco, psychedelic funk, Balearica and Middle Eastern beats right through to rock, Latin, jazz and even prog rock. Describing the compilation as eclectic, is almost an understatement.

 It seems Psychemagik no crates have been left unexplored by Psychemagik, in their quest for not just quality music, but outstanding music. Most of the tracks on Psychemagik Presents Magik Sunrise will be new to most people, even the most devoted and persistent crate-digger. Unlike other inferior compilations, neither is there any filler or poor tracks. All killer and no filler describes Psychemagik Presents Magik Sunrise. That’s a tribute to Psychemagik’s crate-digging skills and their discerning taste in music. As an added bonus, Disc Two features each of the twelve tracks seamlessly mixed  by Psychemagik. So for anyone who likes their music eclectic and loves discovering new music then Psychemagik Presents Magik Sunrise is a must-have compilation. 


Sometimes, when it comes to compilations, sequels don’t quite live up the first volume in a series. Often, the first volume in a series has exhausted the supply of seminal music. So, when the eagerly awaited sequel is released, there’s often a sense of disappointment. Too often, the musical memory of the first volume ends up tainted by a disappointing sequel. The lesson to be learnt, is that once you’ve released one or two successful compilations, quit while you’re ahead. Sadly, often record companies realising that there’s an audience for their compilation series, let greed and avarice get in the way of common sense. After all, with some musical genres, there’s often a limited supply of quality music. Conversely, other musical genres have a plentiful supply of quality music awaiting discovery by enthusiastic and knowledgeable compilers. This includes what’s become known as Krautrock, which has become musical shorthand for a fusion of musical genres. Mining this plentiful supply of music have been Soul Jazz Records, for their compilation Soul Jazz Records Presents: Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2, which was released in February 2013.

For those yet to discover Krautrock, this musical genre is a melting pot of influences. Indeed, there’s everything from rock, prog rock, jazz, psychedelia, folk and electronic music. While many people will have heard the music of Kraftwerk, Neu, Can and Faust, there’s much more to Krautrock than this. So, for anyone looking to discover Krautrock, then Soul Jazz Records’ latest release, Soul Jazz Records Presents: Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2, is the perfect starting point.  On the two discs  are twenty-seven tracks released between 1971 and 1983. They’re described as “experimental German rock and electronic musik.” This is the perfect description of the Krautrock. Together with the 2010s Soul Jazz Records Presents: Deutsche Elektronische Muzik, this is the perfect primer for the newcomer to Krautrock.

Not only does it feature tracks from some of the genres giants, including Can, Neu and Faust, but hidden gems like Niagara S.U.B’s and Electric Sandwich’s China. Having said that, there’s so much more to discover on Soul Jazz Records Presents: Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2. These tracks are inspired by an eclectic variety of musical genres and influences. This includes rock, prog rock, jazz-rock, psychedelia, jazz and avant garde classical music. To that, I’d add electronic, industrial, ambient and funk. Krautrock was inspired by all these genres and was a musical melting pot. Since then, Krautrock has inspired a new generation of musicians and producers. Sadly, despite this, Krautrock is often portrayed negatively in the musical press. That’s quite unfair, given how much quality music is awaiting discovery. There’s much more to Krautrock than just the music of Kraftwerk, Can, Neu and Faust. Not only will Soul Jazz Records Presents: Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2 act as a primer to anyone looking to discover the delights of Krautrock, but will lead them on a voyage of musical discovery, which could last a lifetime.


Ska was born in Jamaica during the late-fifties. At first Jamaican musicians seemed determined to replicate the sound of American R&B. Both the beat and tempo were similar. Then having tired of copying their American counterparts, Jamaican musicians decided to give this new musical genre a Jamaican twist. So, Caribbean and Jamaican musical genres, including calypso, rhumba, merengue and mento found their way into what became known as ska. Soon, Ska became Jamaica’s most popular musical genre. It was replicating the success of R&B in America. Quickly, labels were born and bands were born, and a whole host of records released. One of these labels was founded by Coxsone Dodd, one of the legends of Jamaican music.

It was in October 1963, that Coxsone Dodd founded the Jamaica Recording and Publishing Studio, at 13 Brentford Road, Kingston. What was a former jazz club The End, became a one-stop musical shop. Musicians could head to what became known as Studio One, to write and record music. They could meet with other songwriters and musicians, and this musical meeting point, was where some of the biggest names in Jamaican music recorded some of the finest music of their career. This included the music on Soul Jazz Records’ recent compilation Studio One Ska Fever! 

If you’re a newcomer to ska, wanting to hear some of the legends of Jamaican music, then Studio One Ska Fever is a good place to start. Lee Perry, The Wailers, Jackie Mittoo, The Ethiopians and The Skatalites all feature on Studio One Ska Fever. These eighteen tracks are a delicious taste of ska. So good is Studio One Ska Fever, that I’m sure it won’t be the last reggae compilation you buy. A good starting point is Soul Jazz Records’ back-catalogue. Just like Studio One Ska Fever, they’re lovingly compiled and feature some of the best music in the history of Jamaican music.


Ever since the fifties, country music has influenced soul music. That’s no surprise. After all, many soul singers grew up in the southern states, listening to the country music coming out of Nashville, Memphis and Muscle Shoals. Back then, country music was King. There was no alternative to the country music being played on radio states in the South. All there was, was country music. Ruling the airwaves were Hank Williams, George Jones, Webb Pierce, Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard. They provided the soundtrack to the lives of those living in the southern states. This just so happened to include a generation of soul singers. Their voices, delivery and style were influenced by country music. As such, country and soul music became inextricably linked. Proof of this is the latest compilation of country soul from Kent Soul, Sweet Dreams: Where Country Music Meets Soul Volume 2, which was released in May 2013.

Just like Behind Closed Doors: When Country Meets Soul, which was released in June 2012, the songs that feature on Sweet Dreams: Where Country Music Meets Soul Volume 2 were originally recorded by country singers. For many aspiring soul singers living in southern states, they must have heard several of the tracks that feature on Sweet Dreams: Where Country Music Meets Soul Volume 2 when they were growing up. For all we know they could have influenced their musical careers? Whether that’s the case or not, many years later, these artists were now covering the songs they’d heard growing up.

Where Country Music Meets Soul Volume 2 is crammed full of contributions from soul music royalty. This includes Queens of Country Soul Etta James, Bettye Swann, Esther Phillips and The Sweet Inspirations. Among the rivals for the title of King of Country Soul are Oits Redding, James Carr, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Joe Simon, ex-Temptation David Ruffin and Johnny Taylor. There’s also contributions from Hank Ballard, Eddie James and Millie Jackson. Most of the music on Sweet Dreams: Where Country Music Meets Soul Volume 2 was released between 1962 and 1976. The exception are James Carr’s Tell Me My Lying Eyes Are Wrong and Orquestra Was Featuring Sweet Pea Atkinson’s Forever’s A Long Time. They’d weren’t released until 1995 and 1996. Both are hidden gems, worthy of their place on Sweet Dreams: Where Country Music Meets Soul Volume 2.

The music on Sweet Dreams: Where Country Music Meets Soul Volume 2, covers the period between 1962-1976. This allows you to hear how country soul evolves. By 1976, the traditional country soul sound, has been replaced by a much more fuller, orchestral arrangement. With lush strings key to the sound, this is reminiscent of Philly Soul. This works. Most tracks feature that unmistakable country soul sound. This is a delicious fusion of musical genres. Occasionally there’s a welcome addition of gospel harmonies. This includes The Sweet Inspirations’ But You Know I Love You, which is one of the real highlights of Sweet Dreams: Where Country Music Meets Soul Volume 2. That was the perfect way to open Sweet Dreams: Where Country Music Meets Soul Volume 2. After that the quality kept on coming. Indeed, the quality continued for another twenty-two tracks. Quite simply, there’s neither faux pas nor filler on Sweet Dreams: Where Country Music Meets Soul Volume 2 just quality country soul.


After disco’s demise in 1979, dance music had to change. No longer were record companies willing to throw money at dance music. Budgets were cut as music began to evolve. Disco was almost a dirty word, and was no longer filling dance-floors. Instead, boogie became a favourite of dancers and DJs. Boogie was a lo-fi, low-budget alternative to disco. Despite that, it’s still a hugely popular musical genre. Compilations of boogie are still being released, including BGP’s recent compilation, The Get Down Boogie Sound. 

The Get Down Boogie Sound is a thirteen track compilation, which features tracks from the back-catalogues of Vanguard, Fantasy and Posse. Among the artists that feature on The Get Down Boogie Sound are Carol Williams, Sylvester, The Mynks, Convertion, Marlon McClain and Shock. Released between 1981 and 1983. For newcomers to boogie,The Get Down Boogie Sound, is the perfect primer to boogie.

All killer, no filler describes The Get Down Boogie Sound. That’s unusual. Usually, there’s the odd musical faux pas along the way. Not here. Compiler Julian Johan has chosen well. He’s chosen a mixture of old friends and new faces. Along the way we hear from some familiar faces, including Carol Williams, Sylvester, Convertion, Shock and Marlon McClain. There’s also hidden gems from Mynks, Ritz and Rare Essence. The Get Down Boogie Sound is a thirteen song musical journey. It’s a journey where we hear references to disco, funk, Go-Go, jazz, Latin and soul music. All these genres can be heard on The Get Down Boogie Sound. These songs are quite different from disco, which preceded boogie.

Boogie is very different from disco. The tempo was slower, usually between 90 and 110 beats per minutes. Gone were lavish arrangements. They were a thing of the past. Strings and horns were no more. Synths and drum machines took their place. Despite all theses changes, boogie quickly found favour amongst discerning dancers and DJs. Just like disco, there’s no let up in our love affair with boogie. Thirty years later, and boogie is just as popular. That’s why there’s so many boogie compilations released. Very few are as good as The Get Down Boogie Sound, which is one of the best boogie compilations I’ve heard not just this year, but in recent years. That’s why I’d recommend that you get down with The Get Down Boogie Sound.


Although Johnny De Mairo’s name is synonymous with Henry Street Records, the label he founded with Tommy Musto in 1993, that wasn’t the only label he founded. Not at all. Once Henry Street Records was an established label, and had forged a reputation as one of the most innovative and influential labels in house music, Johnny D decided to found a new label. There was a good reason for this. Henry Street Records had established a reputation for specialising in releasing soulful house that had been influenced by disco. Johnny wanted to release a much more eclectic selection of music. So, a few years after founding Henry Street Records, Johnny D founded Muggsy Records. 

Originally, Johnny planned to release music with a more tribal sound on Muggsy Records. This tribal sound would launch Johnny D’s nascent label. The problem was, finding the right track. That wasn’t going to be easy. Then fate, luck or the musical gods intervened. Chris “TKC” Staropoii approached Johnny D with a track entitled Black Jack. It was the perfect track, with the sound Johnny was looking for. Not only was it tribal, but had a harder sound and was innovative. Without hesitation, Johnny D signed Chris “TKC” Staropoii to Muggsy Records. Black Jack became the first single released on Johnny D’s newly founded Muggsy Records. Soon, Muggsy Records were releasing tracks by some of house music’s luminaries, including Chicago’s Robbie Rivera and Ralphi Rosario, Miami’s Mike “Da Mooch” Mucci and New York’s Kenny Dope and Johnick, Kenny D’s studio partnership with Nick Palermo. Tracks from each of these innovative producers feature on The Muggsy Story, which was released by BBE Music in May 2013.

The ten tracks on The Muggsy Story are the perfect introduction to Johnny De Mairo’s “other” label. While most people remember Johnny D for Henry Street Records, overlooking Muggsy Records is something they should do at their peril. After all, Muggsy Records was a label that was synonymous with innovative, influential and eclectic music. Indeed, one of Johnny D’s reasons for founding Muggsy Records, was to release a much more eclectic selection of music. This was music that Henry Street Records might not release. Given Johnny D’s reputation within the music industry, he’d soon, some luminaries of house music beating a path to his new label’s door. With producers of the standard of Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez, Robbie Rivera, Ralphi Rosario, Mike “Da Mooch” Mucci, Brutal Bill and JohNick on their roster, Muggsy Records concentrated on quality not quantity. Better to release ten great tracks than twenty average tracks seems to be Johnny D’s thinking. So, while Muggsy Records may not have been one of the most prolific record labels, their releases had one thing in common…their quality. Proof of this are the ten tracks on The Muggsy Story.


There are some labels whose music epitomises everything that’s good about a musical genre. Think of Stax Records and Southern Soul, Blue Note and jazz, Chess Records and Chicago blues, Salsoul Records and disco or between 1972 and 1975, Philadelphia International Records and Philly Soul. Each of these labels produced some of the best music in the history of modern music. To that list, I’d add Trax Records. Trax Records were one of the most influential and innovative Chicago house labels. 

Founded in 1983, Trax Records enjoyed a longevity that few other house labels enjoyed. Trax were responsible for releasing some of the most important releases in the history of house music. Think of just about any of the Chicago house classics, and most likely, it’ll have been released on Trax Records. Along with DJ International, Trax Records dominated house music. Indeed, when it comes to Chicago house, its history can be divided into to periods. B.T, before Trax, and A.T. after Trax. 

Trax as you can see, was hugely important in the development and growth of Chicago house music. Would house music have become as popular as it has, without Trax. Similarly, would house music have enjoyed the longevity it has without Trax? In some ways, with Trax helped spread the Chicago house gospel far and wide. However, in the eyes of some people, Trax wasn’t a benevolent benefactor. 

No. Then again who is? Controversy and allegations surrounds some of its business practices. The same can be said of many labels. In the case of Trax, whether there’s any truth in these rumors, who knows? What I can say, is that it’s become part of the myth and aura that surrounds Chicago house music’s biggest label, who in 2013, celebrate their thirtieth anniversary. However, their clubbing days are far from over. No. Trax are reliving the heady, hedonistic days of Chicago house’s heyday with the release of Trax Box. 

Released by Harmless Records in September 2013, Trax Box is no ordinary box set. Far from it. It’s a sixteen-disc box set that features Trax Records’ first seventy-five releases. This includes the A and B sides. There are many a glittering hidden gem awaiting discovery during the sixteen discs. A voyage of discovery awaits the diligent crate-digger. It’s well worth spending the time listening to each disc. To do this, set aside two days. Do what I did, and immerse yourself in some of the finest Chicago house ever released between 1985 and 1989, which the Trax Box covers. Relive the music music that’s timeless and groundbreaking. That certainly is a good way to describe the music on Trax Box, which is a glorious reminder of Chicago house’s premier label, Trax Records.


When ZR Records released Under The Influence Volume 1 back in 2011, Red Greg was the compiler. He chose twenty-four slices of rare soul and disco, many of which he edited. Given the quality of Under The Influence Volume 1, I eagerly awaited the next instalment. Sadly, Under The Influence Volume 2 saw a change of compiler. Paul Phillips replaced Red Greg. The music also changed. There was a much more boogie influence. It wasn’t just the music that changed. So too had the quality. Volume 2 just wasn’t as good. So when Under The Influence Volume 3 was released in June 2013, again, there was a change of compiler. That was no bad thing. After all, a change of compiler was what I felt was needed to rejuvenate the series. The DJ chosen to do this, was James Glass. 

From what had been one of the compilations of 2011, the Under The Influence compilation series was at a crossroads. I felt that Under The Influence Volume 3 would be crucial. It would either make or break what could be a long-running and successful compilation series. 

Under The Influence Volume 3 is the comeback kid. That’s thanks to James Glass’ crate-digging and musical choice. His choice of music was innovative, imaginative and intriguing. Mostly killer with little filler, what was a make or break instalment of Under The Influence saved the “brand’s” future. After all, it’s hard for any compilation series to recover from consecutive flops. That wasn’t the case with the Under The Influence compilation series. Thankfully, Under The Influence Volume 2 was merely a blip. Under The Influence Volume 3 the latest instalment in the Under The Influence series, is very much a return to form and sees the series get back on track.

Choosing my fifty best compilations of 2013 wasn’t easy. I was spoiled for choice. This year has been a vintage year for compilations. In what’s a fiercely competitive market, record companies have raised their game. They’ve released compilations of every musical genre. This includes compilations from the four corners of the globe, featuring every musical genre known to man. Since January, I’ve listened to a mountain of compilations. The fifty I’ve mentioned are the creme de la creme. They feature everything from Acid House, Afro-beat, blues, Chicago House, electronica, funk, jazz, Latin, Philly Soul, prog rock, psychedelia, reggae, rock, Southern Soul and zydeco.

If I was to sum up the compilations released during 2013 using one word, it would be eclectic. That describes the compilations on my list of fifty best compilations of 2013. So whatever your musical taste, there’s something for you. My list of the fifty best compilations reflects how eclectic a year 2013 has been. It features some of the best compilations released during 2013. Cutting-edge, groundbreaking, innovative and pioneering, whether it’s old or new music, each of the fifty compilations I’ve mentioned feature one thing in common, their quality. So good have the compilations been that were released during 2013, that already I’m looking forward to 2014, and doing this all again in a year’s time.

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