Soul Voices-60s Big Ballads.

Label: Kent Soul.

For many soul afficianados, the sixties was a golden age with labels like Stax, Atco, Goldwax and Motown releasing some of their best and most successful singles. Five decades later, and some of these singles are now regarded as classics and are favourites of radio DJs. 

Sadly, many other singles failed to find the audience they deserved, and passed record buyers by. It was a case of what might have been as they were consigned to the bargain bin or lay unloved in warehouses for many a year.

It was only much later that some of these tracks belatedly found an audience. That was the case when Northern Soul DJs crossed the Atlantic on crate-digging trips and when they returned home with boxes of rarities and hidden gems which they added them to their sets.

Some of these tracks were also discovered by compilers looking for new material for compilations. They made the same journey as the Northern Soul DJs searching out dancers, floaters stompers and ballads like those on a new compilation from Kent Soul, Soul Voices-60s Big Ballads.

There’s twenty-four tracks on Soul Voices-60s Big Ballads, including eight previously unreleased tracks. Just like the rest of the tracks on the compilation they showcase the considerable talents of some top male soul balladeers. This includes Ben E King, Clyde McPhatter, Garnet Mimms, James Carr, Lou Johnson, Roy Hamilton, Tommy Hunt, Tony Mason and Walter Jackson. Each of these vocalists deliver a soul-baring vocal against a subtle arrangement. Strings, horns and harmonies provided to the backdrop to these three-minute kitchen sink dramas.

Opening Soul Voices-60s Big Ballads is Walter Jackson’s Forget The Girl, which was recorded in 1968, during what was his last session for the Okeh label. The track lay unreleased until 2007, when it featured on Kent Soul’s Walter Jackson compilation Speak Her Name: The OKeh Recordings, Volume 3. It finds him laying bare his soul as he delivers a vocal full of hurt and heartbreak. 

Heartache (Hurry On By) was released by Roy Hamilton on RCA in 1965, and his vocal bristles with emotion and is filled with regret at the thought of the one he loves in the arms of another man.

After leaving The Drifters, Clyde McPhatter embarked upon a solo career that initially was successful. However,  by the time he released Lonely People Can’t Afford To Cry on Amy in 1967, the hits had dried up. Despite that, Clyde McPhatter was able to breath meaning and emotion into this mid-tempo ballad that later, was popular on the UK Northern Soul scene.

Gloomy Day was written by Jimmy Bishop and Kenny Gamble and recorded by Herb Johnson. He released the single on Arctic in 1965, which showcases wistful vocal full of hurt and despair. It’s delivered against an orchestrated arrangement complete with pizzicato strings and is a tantalising taste of the music that would soon emerge from Philly.

Just Outside Of Lonely was recorded by Clarence Pinckney in 1973, and was meant to be the B-Side of Climax’s Life and Breath. However, the single was never released and Just Outside Of Lonely makes a welcome debut on Soul Voices-60s Big Ballads. Given Clarence Pinckney’s impassioned delivers the lyrics it’s as if he’s experienced losing someone he loved, and the loneliness that followed.

In 1962, Dionne Warwick released a cover of Bacharach and David’s Don’t Make Me Over as her debut single. The following year, 1963, Tommy Hunt covered the song for the Scepter label, who never released it. It lay unreleased until 1986 when Kent released the Tommy Hunt compilation Your Man. He delivers a needy vocal     against as orchestrated arrangement where backing vocals answer his call which is akin to an impassioned plea.

Another Bacharach and David song is Reach Out For Me with was covered by Lou Johnson. It was produced by the legendary Burt Bacharach and released on the Big Top label in 1963 and reached thirty-three on the US R&B charts. The song benefits from a symphonic arrangement and backing vocalists who accompany Lou Johnson’s tender, heartfelt vocal. It’s a beautiful version of this classic. However, a year later, in 1964, Dionne Warwick recorded what’s now regarded as the definitive version of Reach Out For Me.

Van McCoy wrote I Can’t Stand To See You Cry, which  was recorded by Chuck Jackson for Wand in 1965. Sadly, the song lay unreleased until 1987 when it made its debut on the Kent Records’ compilation A Powerful Soul. It returns for a well deserved encore on Soul Voices-60s Big Ballads and is a mixture confusion, drama, emotion, regret and sadness.

There’s a frustration and despair in Gene Burk’s vocal on  Can’t Stand Your Fooling Around which was released on Arock, in 1963. This cathartic confessional has a Southern Soul influence and is one of just three singles the New York born singer released between 1963 and 1967.

When Southern Soul great James Carr released Lover’s Competition on Goldwax in 1965, producers Quinton Claunch and Rudolph Russell combined Latin rhythms with pop and soul. When it was combined with a needy, hopeful vocal full of emotion the result is a timeless ballad and one of the compilation’s highlights.

You Are A Lucky So And So was produced by Kenny Gamble composition which he produced with Jerry Ross and Joe Renzetti for Sammy Sevens. The single was released on Swan in 1963 and features an impassioned and emotive vocal. This was one of two singles that were credited to Sammy Sevens. At the time, it was rumoured that the singles had actually been recorded by Chubby Checker. However, that was highly unlikely as he was enjoying one of the most successful periods of his career and had just had several hit singles on a rival label. 

Closing Soul Voices-60s Big Ballads is Junior Lewis’ I Love You So Much. It was recorded for the Arock label in 1962, but has lain unreleased since then. That is a great shame given it features a tender, heartfelt vocal delivered against an understated arrangement that allows Junior Lewis’ paean to take centrestage.

For anyone who has even a passing interest in soul music, Kent Soul’s Soul Voices-60s Big Ballads features twenty-four tracks on including eight that have never been released before and make their debut on the compilation. These tracks, like the rest on the compilation showcase the considerable talents of some top male soul balladeers. 

They deliver heartfelt, impassioned, needy and soul-baring vocals against a subtle and sometimes symphonic  arrangements. Strings, horns and harmonies provide the backdrop to these ballads from soul greats, familiar faces and what will be new names for many people. 

They breath life, meaning and emotion into these songs about love and love lost, and tales of hurt and heartbreak. It’s as if they experienced the lyrics on Soul Voices-60s Big Ballads and lived to tell the tale on these three-minute kitchen sink dramas about the fragility and importance of relationships.

Soul Voices-60s Big Ballads.





  1. I was thinking about doing an episode of The Happening based on the Kent record label. There are definetly some tunes in your review that I would include. Watch this space.

    • That sounds like a great idea. The only things is where to start? There’s so many great compilations and reissues of albums. You’re going to be spoiled for choice. The Soul Voices-60s Big Ballads definitely has a number of tracks worthy of inclusion. You could even do a Kent Northern Soul episode. There’s lots of possibilities. I’ll look forward to seeing what tracks you choose.

  2. Lol I’ll probably have to present several parts, I downloaded a list recently – it’s a vast catalogue.

    • Definitely. There’s over thirty years of reissues and so much great music. I’ll look forward to the Kent Soul mini series.

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