required listening

CD Review


This Is It! : More From The Van McCoy Songbook 1962-1977

Kent Soul (UK) CDTOP 489

KENNY CARLTON-Lost And Found; CHRIS BARTLEY-The Sweetest Thing This Side Of Heaven; SANDI SHELDON-You’re Gonna Make Me Love You; EXCITERS-Hard Way To Go; BOBBY REED-I Wanna Love You So Bad; BETTY EVERETT-Gonna Be Ready; PEACHES & HERB-We’re In This Thing Together; SPELLBINDERS-Baby I Miss You; ERMA FRANKLIN-Abracadabra; MAJOR LANCE-Wait Till I Get You In My Arms; TONI LAMARR-Just In The Nick Of Time; VONETTES-Touch My Heart; FRANCINE BARKER-Mister D.J.; KENNY YOUNG-Ain’t It Funny What Love Can Do; AD LIBS-Show A Little Appreciation; SHARON RIDLEY-Where Did You Learn To Make Love The Way You Do; BRENDA & the TABULATIONS-Little Bit Of Love; CHOICE FOUR-If I Don’t Love You; LAURA GREENE-Memories And Souvenirs; FAITH, HOPE & CHARITY-You’re My Peace Of Mind; GLADYS KNIGHT & the PIPS-Baby Don’t Change Your Mind; BILL HARRIS-Am I Cold Am I Hot; DAVID RUFFIN-Everything’s Coming Up Love; MELBA MOORE-This Is It

We have had to wait patiently since 2010 for this second Kent cd taking a look at the songwriting prowess of Van McCoy, the earlier set being ‘The Sweetest Feeling’, CDKEND 334.  McCoy, who in many cases added production and arranging to his relevant chores, died of a heart attack at the age of just 39 years in July 1979 but, over his short life, his impact on soul music was profound, whether from ballads through to disco, brought to life by some of the genre’s finest artists or his own, rather sporadic, recordings.  The two dozen outings here span the years from 1962 to 1977, not in chronological order but kicking off in 1968 with Kenny Carlton’s northern-slanted ‘Lost And Found’, cut for Blue Rock and ending in 1976 with Melba Moore’s ‘This Is It‘ title track, which surely needs no introduction.  Indeed, much of the content here will fall into such a category but, despite the adage of familiarity breeding contempt, that is far from the case here and it is always a joy to listen to such as Chris Bartley’s appropriately sweet ‘The Sweetest Thing This Side Of Heaven‘ - the 45 which debuted McCoy and Bill Downs‘ Vando label - the Spellbinders‘ sublime mid-paced album track, ‘Baby I Miss You’, the effervescent Gladys Knight & the Pips with ‘Baby Don’t Change Your Mind‘ and the oh-so-soulful vocals of David Ruffin on ‘Everything’s Coming Up Love’, a top ten r&b hit on 45 and an album title track.  Early examples of Van’s work include the Exciters‘ ‘Hard Way To Go’, issued as the flip to their ‘Tell Him‘ hit, Erma Franklin’s powerful, sterling, choir-supported ‘Abracadabra‘ and the ballad beauty in Curis Mayfield style, ‘Gonna Be Ready’ from Betty Everett, who had previously scored a success with McCoy’s upbeat ‘Getting Mighty Crowded’.  At the latter end of the timespan, alongside the aforementioned Gladys/Pips, David Ruffin and Melba Moore, we find a pair of RCA releases: Bill Harris‘ 1975 ‘Am I Cold Am I Hot‘ and Faith, Hope & Charity’s ‘You’re My Peace Of Mind’, both nicely vibrant offerings.  From either side of the half-way mark of the years covered, I’m going to alight on the gorgeous doo-wop style ballad, ‘Mister D.J.’ by Francine Barker - also represented as being the ‘Peaches’ in the Peaches & Herb track here - and the gutsy ‘Memories And Souvenirs’ by Laura Greene, which owes more than a little to the output of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Invictus/Hot Wax set-up.  In apologising for not singling out every track, let me say there’s not one item less than 100% perfect in every way.

US R&B Chart statistics  (peak positions: BB = ‘Billboard’, CB = ‘Cashbox’)...

Betty Everett  -  Gonna Be Ready  (Vee-Jay 45, 683)  -  CB 41

Chris Bartley  -  The Sweetest Thing This Side Of Heaven  (Vando 45, 101)  -  BB 10, CB 10

David Ruffin  -  Everything’s Coming Up Love  (Motown 45, 1393)  -  BB 8, CB 14

Faith, Hope & Charity  -  You’re My Peace Of Mind  (RCA 45, 10749)  -  BB 83, CB 84

Gladys Knight & the Pips  -  Baby Don’t Change Your Mind  (Buddah 45, 569)  -  BB 10, CB 16

Melba Moore  -  This Is It  (Buddah 45, 519)  -  BB 18, CB 14                                                                                                                                           

review posted 19/9/19