The Contempo Story 1973-1977: The Original Home Of Soul – Soul Time/ Cherry Red Records

Located just off Oxford Street at 42 Hanway Street, London you would find Contempo, a record shop and mail order company opened in 1970 by Blues And Soul magazine founder John Abbey. They dealt out some of the hottest Black Music of the time as well as becoming established booking agents and promoters. This brand new compilation of their record releases pays testament to the strength of both the label and the music which existed then – like a bygone age, acting in defiance of today’s often bland, mechanical repetition. Spanning three cd’s of bliss as voices soar, feelings are realised and music transcends it seems like a strange, hidden pleasure to discover such an experience in the digital reality of 2018. The other vital thing that becomes quickly apparent is the sheer diversity of the sounds from Northern Soul’s up-tempo R&B with the likes of Major Lance etc to the low-slung Funk of The Masai’s ‘Cross The Track’ alongside Cymande’s timeless ‘Brothers On The Slide’ – which still sends shivers. Of course, the music evolved with the years and fresh styles where absorbed as the second disc flies by. 1975’s Howeefeel ‘Just Can’t Do Without Love (A Thousand Faces) feels like a long lost breezy classic and there’s a whole lot more revealed of that calibre too. Disco never was a dirty word and Crown Heights Affair delicious ‘Dancin’ testifies to the fact. Sam And Dave’s wonderful version of ‘Why Did You Do It’ is also excitingly included, as is JJ Barnes uplifting take on How Long from 1977, ending the journey on a high which you sometimes might wonder where it has all disappeared to.

Release: August 24


Mr M’s Northern Soul No 1. Oldies Room 1974-1981 – Soul Time

Discussing Northern Soul and all its implications was once described to me like opening a can of worms. Everyone had their own opinion, their own strongly held point of view. And for me having almost zero interest in much music that predated my own youth in the 1970’s it all sounded pretty much like a not so quiet storm in a teacup. Decades later when I came to interview Richard Searling and Colin Curtis about those very differing approaches to what was ‘old’ and what was then ‘new’, with the emergence of Disco and then Jazz-Funk. It did indeed feel like the clash of two era’s, which despite one laying the foundations for the other, evolved into two contrasting scenes via Wigan Casino and Blackpool Mecca. Personally, I always sided with the latter’s embrace of the new, although of course time has played out well in the formers collection of what are undoubtedly (for the most part) great songs about love and heartache. This compilation focuses on the Casino’s second room, Mr M’s and their defining, defiantly strictly ‘Oldies’ only playlist. Politics – plus questions about over-hyping nostalgia – aside when you listen to all three CD’s, look at the accompanying photographs (that word in itself feels delightfully dated), read the testimony curated from the sleeve-notes and then listen to one of the original DJ’s Dave Evison’s interview, it all breathes a nostalgic sigh of relief. Through the temptations of the music it is just possible to glimpse at the world the dancers experienced as they lived their lives through Saturday night/ Sunday morning. Words contained in songs which sang out to the converted essentially reached back to the origins of the Blues and the redemptive promise of the church, with its keep the faith inspired promise of better days ahead. The first song on the first CD is the highly charged ‘Hey Sah-Lo-Ney’ by Mickie Lee Lane from 1965. The final number from the collection is JJ Barnes wonderful cover of Ace ‘How Long’ from 1977. Preceding that is N.F Porter’s ‘Keep On Keeping On’ (1971). Little else needs saying at that point.

Release: December 8