Mirwood Northern Soul LP.

Label: Kent Dance.

For many aficionados of Northern Soul, whether DJs, dancers or collectors, Randy Wood’s Mirwood Records, which was based in Los Angeles, is one of their go-to labels. Its discography has been, and still is, a source of many dancefloor favourites and fillers for DJs within the Northern Soul scene. They’ll welcome the recent release of Mirwood Northern Soul on vinyl by Kent Dance, an imprint of Ace Records. Mirwood Northern Soul features fourteen dancefloor fillers, that feature the label’s own unique and distinctive style.

The Mirwood Records story began in Los Angeles in 1965, when Randy Wood, a former Vee-Jay executive who owned and ran Mira Records decided to found another label. That label became Mirwood Records which mostly, would release soul and jazz recordings during its three-year existence.

Having founded Mirwood Records, Randy Wood brought onboard songwriter and producer Fred Smith. Along with arranger James Carmichael, they would forge Mirwood Records’ unique sound. It was variously energetic had a sophisticated and soulful sound befitting an LA label. 

Mirwood Records first single was The Gas Co’s Blow Your Mind, which was released in October 1965 baring the catalogue number 5501. With its garage rock sound this was very different to the soulful sound of the label’s next release.

In November 1965, Mirwood Records released its sophomore single The Duck, which was credited to Jackie Lee. The Duck gave the nascent label and Jackie Lee their first hit single. However, the only problem was that The Duck had actually been sung by Earl Nelson of Bob and Earl. However, the success of The Duck launched Mirwood Records, which over the next three years released over fifty singles. These singles include the: “fourteen outstanding stomping soul dancers” on Mirwood Northern Soul.

Side One.

Opening Mirwood Northern Soul is That Beatin’ Rhythm by Richard Temple. It was the B-Side to Could It Be which was released in 1967. That Beatin’ Rhythm was produced by Leonard Jewell Smith and Sir Graham and is a melodic stomper which showcases Mirwood Records sophisticated and soulful sound. 

A year after Jackie Lee’s The Duck launched Mirwood Records, she released The Shotgun and The Duck as a single in March 1966. Tucked away on the B-Side was Do The Temptation Walk a Fred Smith and Earl Nelson song. It was arranged by James Carmichael and produced by Fred Smith who had already crafted the Mirwood Records sound. All that was left was Jackie Lee, accompanied by backing vocalists to deliver a powerful soulful vocal on this timeless dance track.

The Olympics released a cover of Sherie Matthews’ The Same Old Thing as a single in November 1966. It’s another song that was arranged by James Carmichael and produced by Fred Smith. This uptempo dancer would go on to become a favourite of DJs and dancers on the UK Northern Soul scene, and even today would fill a dancefloor.

I Wanna Do Everything For You Baby by The Mirettes lay unreleased in the Mirwood Records’ vaults until 2006 when it featured on Kent Soul’s compilation The Mirwood Soul Story Volume 2. Somewhat belatedly, this soulful stomper penned by Sherie Matthews, made its debut and is a reminder of the quality of music The Mirettes released on Mirwood Records. 

Three years after Mirwood Records closed its doors for the last time, the Jay Boy label released The Bob and Earl Band’s single  My Little Girl. This is another Sherie Matthews that was arranged by James Carmichael and produced by Fred Smith. A driving, stomping slice of irresistible string drenched soul, it’s a pity it wasn’t released on Mirwood Records. It’s the one that got away for Randy Wood’s Mirwood Records and could’ve given The Bob and Earl Band a hit single.

Unlike the other tracks on Mirwood Northern Soul, Curtis Lee penned Is She In Your Town? which was released on Mirwood Records’ sister label Mira Records in 1967. It was arranged by Bob Mercereau, while Rod Krohn and Sonny Knight took charge of production. Despite being released on Mira Records, the stomping beat and blazing horns are still present. What’s different is the bluesy sound that comes courtesy of a harmonica. Meanwhile Curtis Lee’s vocal veers between pop and blue-eyed soul influence. on a track that later, would find favour in the British Northern Soul scene.

Closing side A of Mirwood Northern Soul is Oh, My Darlin’ by Jackie Lee. It’s a Sherie Matthews that was arranged by James Carmichael and produced by Fred Smith. Oh, My Darlin’ was released in October 1966 and featured a hurt-filled vocal that was delivered against the omnipresent stomping beat. This was a powerful and successful combination.

Side B. 

Bobby Garrett’s Oh, My Darlin’ opens Side B of Mirwood Northern Soul LP. It’s a Fred Smith, Earl Nelson and Robert Relf composition that was released in December 1965. It was produced by in-house producer Fred Smith who combines Bobby Garrett’s soul-baring vocal with soaring harmonies and rasping horns. They’re joined by the stomping beat that is the final touch to what’s one of the finest singles from Mirwood Records’ back-catalogue.

The Olympics released Mine Exclusively as a single in April 1966. It’s another Sherie Matthews composition that was arranged by James Carmichael and produced by Fred Smith. The triumvirate had formed a successful partnership, with Sherie Matthews’ songs being recorded by various artists and groups singled to Mirwood Records. They were also beneficiaries of the Mirwood Records’ sound that arranger James Carmichael and producer Fred Smith had masterminded. An example of this can be found on the hook-laden Mine Exclusively which features The Olympics at their best.

July 1966 saw singer-songwriter Jimmy Thomas release Just Tryin’ To Please You. Tucked away on the B-Side was another Jimmy Thomas composition Where There’s A Will (There’s A Way) which was arranged by James Carmichael and produced by Fred Smith. Where There’s A Will (There’s A Way) is a true hidden gem is every bit as good, if not better that the single.

For their debut single, The Belles released the Sherie Matthews composition Don’t Pretend in 1966. It was arranged by James Carmichael and produced by Fred Smith. They played their part is sweet soulful stomper that epitomises  the Mirwood Records sound.

Jackie Lee’s third contribution on Mirwood Northern Soul is Anything You Want (Any Way You Want It) which lay unreleased until February 2005. That was when this Sherie Matthews and Earl Nelson song made its debut on The Mirwood Soul Story compilation. Belatedly, aficionados of Mirwood Records were able to hear this driving stomper with testifying backing vocals accompanying Jackie Lee’s impassioned vocal.

Mirwood Records wouldn’t release many more singles after The Performers released I Can’t Stop in June 1968. It was penned by Lawrence Scarbrough and Robert McGlothin, who produced the single Hank Graham. Although the single was arranged by James Carmichael, it’s a move away from the Mirwood Records’ sound, with a rawer sound replacing the sophisticated sheen of earlier releases. Despite that, it found favour with DJ and dancers on the Northern Soul scene.

Stubborn Heart by The Sheppards closes Mirwood Northern Soul. It was penned and produced by Eddie La Shea and released in 1967. It’s a heartwrenching ballad from The Sheppards and a beautiful way to close Mirwood Northern Soul.

 Mirwood Northern Soul which was recently released on vinyl by Kent Dance, an imprint of Ace Records, is the latest compilation of music from the Mirwood Records’ vaults. It’s a  a reminder of Randy Wood’s LA-based Mirwood Records, which for the three years between 1965 and 1968 released fifty-two singles. Some of these singles, plus the occasional B-Side are joined by two tracks that were only released in the noughties. They’re part of what’s a lovingly curated compilation which aficionados of Northern Soul will embrace and enjoy. Whether it’s DJs, dancers or collectors, Mirwood Northern Soul is sure to find its way into record boxes or record collections. 

For newcomers to Mirwood Records, then Mirwood Northern Soul is the perfect place to start. After that, they can investigate the delights of The Mirwood Soul Story and The Mirwood Soul Story Volume 2 which were released on CD. They’re reminders of Randy Wood’s LA-based Mirwood Records, which for many soul fans, is one of the greatest sources of Northern Soul. Proof of that is Mirwood Northern Soul which features: “fourteen outstanding stomping soul dancers” that are still dancefloor favourites and fillers for DJs and dancers within the Northern Soul scene.

Mirwood Northern Soul LP.

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