When Bob Shad founded Brent Records in 1959, he was no newcomer to the music industry. Music had been his life. Originally, Bob, a native New Yorker, started life as a session guitarist. Bob made it his business to know everyone within the New York music scene. He knew everyone that mattered. Whether it was Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker or Coleman Hawkins, Bob knew them. There was a reason for this. Bob Shad was looking to the future.

Bob Shad didn’t want to remain a session player. The role of musical hired gun wasn’t for Bob. He had ambition and saw the bigger picture. Soon, Bob Shad was working as a producer in post-war New York. Mostly, Bob was producing R&B. This was just the next step in Bob’s game-plan.

In 1948, Bob founded his first label  Sittin’ In With. He was inspired to do this because of his love of jazz. This resulted in Bob discovering the blues. With his portable tape recorder, Bob Shad headed South and taped some of the greatest names in blues music. Lightnin’ Hopkins, Memphis Slim, Big Bill Broonzy and Smokey Hogg. Having recorded one blues player, they would tell Bob about another. So he criss crossed the South taping blues players. Mostly, these singles appeared on his own labels. 

Somehow, Bob still found time to freelance. Some of the artists he discovered were released on other labels. This includes Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Savannah Churchill. While these records sold in vast volumes, Bob didn’t make much money. It taught him an important lesson. That was only to release music on his own labels.

During the early fifties, Bob founded a series of labels. This included the Castle, Harlem, Jackson,  Jade, Jax and Spirituals’ labels. He realised the importance of having separate labels for separate genres of music. Bob realised that when record buyers saw a label, they had to know what type of music it would release. This was the case throughout his career.

Later in the fifties, Bob Shad founded further labels, including Shad, Time and Warner. Then in 1959, Bob founded Brent Records, which for eight years, was Bob Shad’s soul label. Between April 1959 and October 1967, Brent Records released seventy-five singles. Some of these singles feature on Brent Superb 60s Soul Sounds, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records.

Brent Superb 60s Soul Sounds features a total of twenty-four tracks. This includes fifteen of the singles released on Brent Records. The other nine tracks are either unreleased tracks, or tracks that weren’t released until after Brent Records closed its doors. There’s contributions from Dave Crawford, Jeannie Trevor, The Moovers, Brenton Wood, Clyde Wilson, Laura Johnson, Clarence Hill, Ronnie White and Bertha Tillman. Essentially, Brent Superb 60s Soul Sounds is a mixture of familiar faces and hidden gems, which I’ll now choose the highlights of.

Opening Brent Superb 60s Soul Sounds, is Dave Crawford’s Praying For The Rain To Come It was released in 1967, the year Bob Shad shut Brent Records’ doors. Praying For The Rain To Come, which was written by Dave, was a double-A side. The flip side was Millionaire, which was penned by Van McCoy and Luther Dixon. Originally, Praying For The Rain To Come and Millionaire was meant to be a demo. However, with Bob closing Shad’s doors, he decided to release it as a double-A side. Sadly, success eluded the single. Given the quality of quality of both tracks that’s surprising. Praying For The Rain To Come is akin to an outpouring of hurt and pain, while Millionaire features a wistful, emotive and needy vocal from Dave. 

Originally, Jeannie Trevor was a jazz singer. She recorded a jazz album for Bob Shad’s mainstream label in 1964. The following years, she recorded two soul cuts. Neither tracks have been released before. They’ve languished in the Brent Records’ vaults. Both tracks were recorded at a session on 24th August 1965. The first track is You Did It Before, which is also known as You Did It For Me. Jeannie’s other contribution is Tinklin’ Bells. It’s the best of the two tracks. It was written by Robert Banks, Miriam Lewis and Rose Marie McCoy. Joyous, soulful and full of hooks, Tinklin’ Bells is a real find.

Another unreleased track is Julius Wright’s I Pray That Things Will Change. Very little is known and Julius or the song. All that’s known is that it was written by Julius. It was probably recorded in New York, with one of Brent’s vocal groups adding harmonies. What I do know about I Pray That Things Will Change, is it oozes quality and emotion. It’s also bound to find favour within the Northern Soul community.

The Moovers were one of Brent Records’ soul vocal groups. They only released one single, I Love You Baby, which was written by Arnold Albury, Willie Clark and Johnny Pearsall. I Love You Baby is a slow, heartfelt ballad, which showcases The Moovers’ considerable vocal talents. It’s a truly beautiful paean. Almost as good is the B-Side, One Little Dance. Penned by Willie Clark and Johnny Pearsall, it features a needy, pleading, heartbroken vocal. Sadly, The Moovers never released another single. I Love You Baby, which was released in 1967, was their one and only single. Later, in 1967, Brent closed its doors.

Brenton Wood also features twice on Brent Superb 60s Soul Sounds. His first contribution is the beautiful balladry of I Want Love. Penned by Joe Hooven, Alfred Smith and Jerry Win, it was released as single in 1966. Cross The Bridge is Brenton’s second contribution. Released in 1966, it’s a real rarity. It was never released as a single. A promo was pressed and copies change hands for nearly $200.

Ronnie White released Begging You as a single in 1967. It was written by Mike and William Leanburg. Accompanied by harmonies, Ronnie unleashes a needy vocal powerhouse. Emotion, hurt and insecurity are ever-present. Got To Give You Up is Ronnie’s other contribution, which wasn’t released until 2006. Driven along by bursts of blazing horns, Ronnie reigns in the power somewhat and delivers a despairing vocal. Incidentally, if you’re wondering what Got To Give You Up reminds you of, it’s Knock On Wood.

Laura Johnson was an accidental singer. She originally worked in Correc-Tone’s offices. After her coworkers remarked upon the her voice, she started singing semi-professionally. By 1962, she cowrote Wondering If You Still Miss Me with Robert Bateman and Wilbur Herbert. It was released on Brent Records in 1962. It’s two-and-a-half minutes of heartbreak, hurt and melancholy.

Linda Lyndell was born in Gainesville, Florida. By the sixties, she was signed to Bob Shad’s Brent Records. She recorded Pretty Boy, a track she wrote herself. It was never released, though. Until now. Pretty Boy makes its debut on Brent Superb 60s Soul Sounds. It’s storming slice of soulful music. A stomping musical juggernaut, it deserves to be heard by a wider audience. So does My Man, He’s A Loving Man, which wasn’t released until 2011. Written by James Bennett and Johnnie Mae Matthews, Linda delivers a sassy, sultry vocal. After leaving Brent, Linda signed to Volt Records in 1967 and released Bring Your Love Back To Me.

Clarence Hill wrote A Lot Of Lovin’ Goin’ Round, and released it as a single in 1965. Accompanied by stabs of braying horns and cooing harmonies A Lot Of Lovin’ Goin’ Round is a delicious slice of soulful music.

Marvel Harrell recorded Don’t Play With My Heart on 19th December 1962. It’s never been released since then. Belatedly, Don’t Play With My Heart makes its debut on Brent Superb 60s Soul Sounds. It features a heartfelt, pleading vocal. The way Marvel sings the lyrics, it’s as if he’s lived the lyrics.

My final choice from Brent Superb 60s Soul Sounds is Bertha Tillman’s Someone (Who Needs You Like I Do). It’s another of the unreleased tracks. It must have been released around 1962. That’s when Brenda was signed to Brent. She released two singles in 1962, Oh My Angel and (I Believe) Something Funny Is Going On. Someone (Who Needs You Like I Do) is a missed opportunity. It could’ve given Brenda a hit single.

Against a slow, understated arrangement Brenda delivers an impassioned vocal that’s a mixture of emotion and sincerity. Listening back to this hidden gem, it’s obvious that Bertha Tillman was a talented singer who should’ve enjoyed more success than she did.

During the eight years Brent Records were in business, Bob Shad travelled coast to coast in search of talent. Starting in New York, Bob headed to Los Angeles and Detroit. He was constantly searching for new talent. After all, they could be the artist who brought fame and fortune to his door. However, Bob didn’t just have one label.

After founding Brent in 1959, Bob founded Mainstream in 1964. He also had labels like Shad, Time and Warner. Mainstream released mainly pop and jazz. Then in 1969, two years after Brent closed its doors, Mainstream became a soul label. Jazz was still released on Mainstream. Not pop. Bob turned his back on pop. It was as if he decided to stick with what he knew.

Blues, jazz, R&B and soul were what had brought Bob Shad success. For this serial musical entrepreneur, it was a case of sticking to what he knew and loved. However, there was no sentiment involved. His record labels were businesses. They had to make money. That was their raison d’être. Too often, owners of record labels fail to realise this. Not Bob  Shad. 

When Bob realised that Brent Records wasn’t making money, he closed its doors. He tried a few throws of the dice before that. They failed to succeed. So some of Brent’s artists were moved to Bob’s Mainstream imprint. Then Bob closed Brent Records’ doors. By 1967, Mainstream was Bob’s only label. His Time imprint had closed its doors in 1965. Only Bob’s Mainstream imprint remained after Brent closed its doors in 1967.

Things weren’t looking good for Bob Shad. His fortunes improved in the seventies. Mainstream became a successful label. So Bob founded two further labels, Brown Doors and IX Chains. Now into his fourth decade in the music industry, Bob Shad remained one of music’s pioneers.

This was the case throughout his career. In 1948, Bob had founded his first label  Sittin’ In With. He was inspired to do this because of his love of jazz. Soon, Bob discovered the blues. he bought a portable tape recorder, and headed South, where he taped some of the greatest names in blues music. After that, Bob Shad founded a string of labels over the next twenty years. One of these labels was Brent Records, a soul label founded in 1959.

For the next eight years, Bob Shad headed across America in search of artists to sign to Brent Records. He found Dave Crawford, Jeannie Trevor, The Moovers, Brenton Wood, Clyde Wilson, Laura Johnson, Clarence Hill, Ronnie White and Bertha Tillman. They all feature on Brent Superb 60s Soul Sounds, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. Brent Superb 60s Soul Sounds is a cornucopia of soulful delights, which will be a welcome and worthy addition to any record collection.









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