PIED PIPER FOLLOW YOUR SOUL.

PIED PIPER FOLLOW YOUR SOUL.

In the history of soul, production partnerships have been responsible for some of the most successful music. That was the case throughout the sixties, and into the seventies. Stax Records had Isaac Hayes and David Porter, Motown had Holland, Dozier, Holland and Philadelphia International Records had Gamble and Huff. These were three of the most successful production teams in the history of soul music. However, across America, other production teams were hard at work. This included the Detroit based Pied Piper Productions. Their music is celebrated on the recently released compilation  Pied Piper Follow Your Soul, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records.

Pied Piper 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 released. 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 worked 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 is the sixties, was one of the 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, 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 realised this was a partnership to watch. 

He was right. Jack and Mike head to Jack’s hometown Philly, to produce I Can’t Change 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 Jack Ashford and Mike Terry  masterminded Pied Piper Productions. Twenty-four of these productions feature on Pied Piper Follow Your Soul.

The twenty-four tracks that feature on Pied Piper Follow Your Soul. All the tracks were recorded between 1965 and 1967. However, only fifteen were released during this period. This includes tracks from Sharon Scott, The Cavaliers, The Dynamics, Harry Hester, Mikki Farrow, The Metros, Sam E. Solo and Freddy Butler. Then there’s nine previously unreleased tracks from September Jones, The Pied Piper Players, Nancy Wilcox and Lorraine Chandler. Previously, these tracks have lain in record company vaults. Not any more. Belatedly, they make a welcome debut on Pied Piper Follow Your Soul, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Opening Pied Piper Follow Your Soul, the first of three tracks from September Jones. She enjoyed a hit with I’m Coming Home in 1966. This Pied Piper Production was released on Kapp. On the B-Side was No More Love, Jack Ashford and Mike Terry composition. It’s a beautiful tender ballad. Very different is the moody and atmospheric Voo Doo Madamoiselle. It wasn’t released until 2014, when it was released as a single on Ace Records’ Pied Piper imprint. September’s other contribution is You Had Better Know Why. It’s a real find, and featured on the flip side of a single released by Kent Records in 2014. It too, is a showcase for a talented and elusive September Jones.

Many people won’t have heard of Nancy Wilcox. Her only single was 1967s Coming On Strong. However, two of Nancy’s unreleased recordings feature on Pied Piper Follow Your Soul. He’ll Be Leaving You, which was penned by Jack Ashford, Mike Terry and Lorraine Chandler, is bound to appeal to the Northern Soul crowd. More Than A Memory is a Jack Ashford and Randy Scott composition. It’s the perfect showcase for Nancy Wilcox, one of soul’s forgotten names.  

Sharon Scott released Could It Be You in 1966. It was penned by Jack Ashford and Joseph Hunter. Herbie Williams arranged and conducted Could It Be You, which was released on RCA Victor.  Could It Be You proved to be Sharon Scott’s only single. However, if Sharon was only going to release one single, make it one as soulful as Could It Be You.

The Cavaliers are another group who feature on Pied Piper Follow Your Soul. Their first contribution is a previously unreleased version of Ooh It Hurts Me. Again, it’s bound to appeal to the Northern Soul crowd. So will Without Someone To Tell Me. This is another unreleased track. Given its quality, one can’t help wonder why a record label weren’t willing to take a chance on Without Someone To Tell Me?

From the opening bars, of The Dynamics’ I Need Your Love, it’s obvious that one of the highlights of Pied Piper Follow Your Soul is unfolding. Soon, it becomes apparent that hooks haven’t been spared on this irresistible dancer. It was arranged and conducted by Joe Williams. Need Your Love was released on RCA Victor, in 1967. Since then it’s been guaranteed to fill dance-floors.

The tempo drops on Harry Gates’ hopeful ballad Love Will Find A Way. It’s another of the unreleased tracks. This is a real hidden gem that was penned by Tony Hester. Belatedly, it’s being heard by a wider audience.

Two tracks from Freddy Butler’s 1967 debut album With A Dab Of Soul feature on Pied Piper Follow Your Soul. The first is They Say I’m Afraid (Of Losing You). It’s a soul-baring ballad full of emotion. Give Me Lots Of Lovin’ is a much more uptempo track. This allows Freddy to cut loose, and deliver an impressive vocal powerhouse.

Lorraine Chandler wasn’t just a singer, she was also a talented songwriter. Ironically, she didn’t write Lost Without You. It’s another of the unreleased tracks. Here, Lorraine brings the lyrics to life, as she delivers a needy, pleading vocal. What Can I Do, which Lorraine cowrote, is her debut single. It was released on Giant Records in 1966. Dance-floor friendly and truly irresistible, it’s like a call to dance.

The Hesitations were based in Cleveland, Ohio. They drop the tempo on Wait A Minute. It’s a Jack Ashford, Lorraine Chandler, Joseph Hunter and Randy Scott composition. Wait A Minute was the B-Side of The Hesitations’ 1967 single Soul Kind Of Love. Very different is That’s What Love Is. Just like Wait A Minute, this stomper featured on The Hesitations’ 1967 debut album Soul Superman. These two tracks show two sides of The Hesitations.

On the 18th July The Pied Piper Players went into the studio, and recorded Hold To My Baby. It’s a driving instrumental, replete with braying horns and surf-tinged guitar. Four days later, and The Pied Piper Players returned to the studio. This time, they recorded another instrumental Love Sick. After that, it was a case of waiting. They’ve been waiting a long time. Neither track was ever released, until now. These two instrumentals make a welcome and overdue debut on Pied Piper Follow Your Soul.

The final tracks I’ve chosen from Pied Piper Follow Your Soul, come courtesy of The Metros. It’s Now was recorded in 1967, and released in 1969. Originally, the track was credited to Joe Buckman and released on Sepia Records 3. Now, a wrong has been righted, and The Metros receive the credit for this mellow, and hopeful slice of soul. You Don’t Know Me Do You has a tougher, harder sound. As The Metros vamp their way through You Don’t Know Me Do You, it’s hard to believe it’s the same group. The Metros weren’t for standing still, and were reinventing themselves. However, You Don’t Know Me Do You was never released, and lay in the Pied Piper vaults until now, when we can hear another side to The Metros.

Two years ago, Kent Soul, a subsidiary of Ace Records released Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul. It was one of the most eagerly anticipated compilations of 2013. Soul fans weren’t disappointing. Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul made its way onto many end of year lists. Since then, soul fans have been wondering if, and when a followup to Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul would be released. Recently, Kent Soul announced the release of Pied Piper Follow Your Soul.

Compiler Ady Croasdell returned to the Pied Piper vaults, and chosen twenty-four tracks for  Pied Piper Follow Your Soul. They’re a mixture of classics, old favourites and hidden gems. Fifteen tracks have been released before. This includes contributions from Sharon Scott, The Cavaliers, The Dynamics, Harry Hester, Mikki Farrow, The Metros, The Dynamics and Freddy Butler. The other nine, make their debut on Pied Piper Follow Your Soul. This includes some soulful delights from September Jones, The Pied Piper Players, Nancy Wilcox and Lorraine Chandler. Ady Croasdell’s exquisite taste and encyclopaedic knowledge of all things soulful, shines through. 

For the umpteenth time, Ady has compiled an uber soulful compilation. Whether your preference is for ballads or dance tracks, there’s plenty of both on Pied Piper Follow Your Soul. What there’s not, is filler. Instead, Pied Piper Follow Your Soul is crammed full of top quality, soulful music. This makes Pied Piper Follow Your Soul the perfect followup and companion to Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul. These two compilations are the perfect introduction to the soulful delights of the Pied Piper production partnership.

PIED PIPER FOLLOW YOUR SOUL.

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