Rita Wright: Touch Me, Take Me
From 7″ (Jet, 1976)

Soul Survivors: City of Brotherly Love
From S/T (TSOP, 1975)

Both from The Wants List.

Masterplan: Clinton Park
From 7″ (De-Lite, 1974)

Sly, Slick and Wicked: Sho’ Nuff
From 7″ (People, 1973)

Both from Soulful Thangs Vol. 1.

San Francisco TKOs: Ooh Baby Baby
From 7″ (Golden Soul, 1971)

Emulations: These Are the Things (snippet)
From 7″ (Emulate, 1970s)

Both from Big Bad Bay Area Vol. 1.

It’s not easy to put together a good compilation (believe me!) since song selection can both be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, a hardliner could claim that a comp is only as good as its weakest song but I also find that, personally, I’m willing to forgive more mediocre inclusions if there’s some stunning material on there to help balance things out. But the most important factor for me is whether or not a comp has songs that are so good, it makes me want to go out and hunt down the original (of course, some folks would just be content with having a mastered version on the song off the comp…alas, my vinyl affliction does not allow for such easy satiation).

Keep in mind: it’s not always about rarity/obscurity. Case in point, The Wants List is something I originally picked up because I was looking for a copy of Rita Wright’s “Touch Me, Take Me.” It’s a mid-70s female funk groover whose intro drums sound a great deal like Barry White’s “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More” (note: this is a good thing) and is rare as hen’s teeth. Not that I actually know how rare hen’s teeth actually are. But the original single is not easy to come by.

In getting the comp though, I realized that many of the other songs on there weren’t, per se, rare…but they were very good and in some cases, turned me onto songs that I hadn’t known about or had slept on. For example, there’s a Carl Carlton song, produced by Leon Haywood, called “This Feeling’s X-tra Rated” which is off the same LP as “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” – you can find this LP in dollar bins – but I had never bothered to peep it before. However, to me, what I really enjoyed discovering was the Soul Survivors’ “City of Brotherly Love.” It’s not a heavy soul piece by any means but it’s also an obvious album that modern soul folks look for (unlike, say, Collins and Collins). The whole LP (which I promptly sought out) is excellent – classic Philly soul sound production (much of the album is produced by Holland-Dozier). This song, in particular, lays down a sweet groove for the waning days of summer.

Soulful Thangs is part of a large series (at least 7 volumes) that focuses on sweet, harmony soul – think AM radio in the droptop, after sunset songs. The consistency in the series is very, very good overall – you may not love everything, but there’s much more that’s likely to appeal to folks who are into sweet soul (and really – who isn’t into it?) This comp is how I first heard the Masterplan’s “Clinton Park,” a song about a girl who lives in the Clinton Park housing projects in Oakland, CA. I like songs with geographic identities attached to them – gives you a better sense of time and place and besides, I just like how Masterplan sings (they did “Only You” which I posted back in January).

Soulful Thangs Vol. 1 also features “Sho’ Nuff,” a James Brown-produced sweet soul tune by the Sly, Slick and Wicked though it should be noted, this is not the same Sly, Slick and Wicked as these guys (who bill themselves as the “Original Sly Slick and Wicked” these days), nor should people get confused with the song, “Sly, Slick and Wicked” by the Lost Generation.This group is from Cleveland, Ohio (thus explaining their connection to James Brown’s People imprint). Great little number and one of those People releases that I’ve probably let pass under the radar for too long.

Big Bad Bay Area is from the same label (Latin Soul Recordings) and is, as you might guess, a Bay Area-centric compilation of similar sweet/harmony soul recordings. They get even more deep on here though, with a few songs that are truly tough to find, like the Emulations’ sublime “These Are the Things.” I got hepped to this through a friend earlier in the year and apparently, it’s one of those 45s that were pressed so poorly on styrene that playing it even once effectively destroys it (even on the CD, which was clearly mastered from the vinyl and not original tapes, you can hear a touch of cue burn).

This comp also has a great version of “Ooh Baby Baby,” done by the San Francisco T.K.O.s, one of those local groups who never made a huge splash yet have become legendary on the collector’s circuit. This is actually the b-side of “Herm,” a slick little funk number previous comped on the Bay Area Funk album from a few years back. Not often you find a 2-sider 45 of this quality (read: I need this.)