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And the beat goes on: Music columnist Paul Nixon breaks down some of his favourite albums this month

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Paul Nixon is a Suffolk-born photographer with a lifelong passion for music. He has worked as a producer or consultant on over fifty albums and met many of his 60's soul and Motown idols. In this new monthly column, Paul will delve into a rich stream of back catalogue material and remastered tracks, as well as new releases and music news. Check back in to read his next column on November 26.

1. Various Artists - Good Good Feeling, More Motown Girls (Ace)

The third instalment in the ‘Motown Girls’ series is another cornucopia of the more obscure femme back catalogue from Detroit, Michigan’s most famous label.

Good Good Feeling, More Motown Girls is the third instalment in the ‘Motown Girls’ series
Good Good Feeling, More Motown Girls is the third instalment in the ‘Motown Girls’ series

Fans having become used to these collections containing unreleased may be disappointed to find Good Good Feeling contains just 6 such titles this time.

Brenda Holloway, Hattie Littles, Barbara McNair, Connie Haines and the Lewis Sisters all contribute unheard songs with This Love I’ve Got from Martha and the Vandellas being the strongest.

The remainder of the 25 tracks have all been available before either as digital downloads or on other compilations.

At its height in the mid 50’s label boss, Berry Gordy made an effort to make his label appeal to all audiences and signed middle of the road artists such as movie star Barbara McNair and big band singer, Connie Haines. Haines released very few songs and left behind in the vaults a credible cover of a track that would be recorded by a plethora of singers but remain unreleased in any form for over 40 years.

Her version of In The Neighbourhood (Avenue) would eventually see release on the Cellarful Of Motown by Jimmy Ruffin.

McNair on the other hand had two LP’s released but left behind the best of her recordings in the vaults with the wistful, Watching A Plane In The Sky making an appearance here for the first time.

My guess is Motown completests, who tend to buy anything new, will be rushing to get this latest set. Featuring the more obscure ladies of label including Oma Heard, Debbie Dean, Chris Clark, Blinky and Kim Weston but it’s not one of the most exciting Ace official Motown releases.

2. Petula Clark – Splendido the Italian Singles Collection (Ace International)

Petula Clarke Splendido the Italian Singles Collection (52727417)
Petula Clarke Splendido the Italian Singles Collection (52727417)

Back in the 60’s it was not uncommon for pop stars to re-record their singles for the foreign market and one of the most prolific at doing such a thing was English rose, Petula Clark who recorded songs in French, Italian and German during her most popular years..

Splendido concentrates on those she recorded for the Italian market and let’s be honest you could sing the KFC menu in the language of love and have your audience begging for more.

Between 1962 and 1970 our Pet released 31 such tracks all featured here on this rather splendid (sorry) 2 CD set compiled by David Hadzis and expertly mastered by Nick Robbins.

Stuffed to the gills with those you will know (in other version) and others you may not – although my guess is this will appeal to staunch PC fans who will know just about everything.

Expertly annotated and superbly illustrated with rare 45 picture covers the 30 page booklet is makes for great reading while songs such as Chariot (I Will Follow Him), Ciao Ciao (Downtown), Ma (Heart) and Cara Felicita (This My Song) make for great listening.

3. Mike Hurst – In My Time (Strawberry/Cherry Red)

Mike Hurst - In My Time (52727525)
Mike Hurst - In My Time (52727525)

Mike was originally a member of the British folk trio, The Springfield’s with Dusty Springfield and her brother Tom and can first be heard on the groups US (but not UK hit, Silver Threads and Golden Needles.

The track Included on CD one of this extensive 4 CD set as a bonus along with their UK smash, Island Of Dreams is largely a collection of tracks that he either recorded himself or produced on other artists.

Featuring an extensive line up of familiar and not so familiar pop artists and legends that include Paul and Barry Ryan, Colin Blunstone, Shakin’ Stevens and Showadddywaddy, this collection is a real gem.

As a producer it seems Hurst worked with some of the the finest with Cilla Black (Heart Get Ready For Love), Four Tops (For Your Love), P.P.Arnold (First Cut Is The Deepest) and The Move (Curly) being perhaps the best known.

4. Tammy Wynette/The Dooley/Paul Nicholas/Bangles – Gold (Crimson/Demon)

Tammy Wynette Gold (52727537)
Tammy Wynette Gold (52727537)

Four of the latest additions to the Gold range from country to pop. For the uninitiated these releases comes simply packaged in a cardboard gatefold sleeve and generally consist of greatest hits and LP cuts from a particular artist’s repertoire. No frills of fancy essays, the sets retail at less than the cost of a couple of coffees.

As you would expect country singer Wynette’s set features huge hits such as Stand By Your Man, D.I.V.O.R.C.E along with country hits, Cowboys Don’t Shoot Straight (Like They Did) and You Can Lead A Heart To Love (But You Can’t Make It Fall).

70’s pop sensations The Dooleys were best known for the lead track, Think I’m Gonna Fall In Love With You, The Chosen Few and Wanted amongst others.

Paul Nicholas (of Just Good Friends and latterly Eastenders) made a big chart impression also in the 70’s with Gradma’s Party, Dancing With The Captain and Reggae Like It Used To Be.

But think of the 80’s and you would be hard pressed not to remember The Bangles. Walk Like An Egyptian, Manic Monday and Eternal Flame were hardly off the radio and are all featured on their 40 track 3CD set.

Aimed at the casual buy who wants the greatest hits and a broad selection of album tracks these Gold sets really are a delight

5. The Whispers – The Definitive Collection 1972-187 (Robinsongs)

The Whispers - The Definitive Collection (52727577)
The Whispers - The Definitive Collection (52727577)

If you were in the clubs during the 80’s then you would have been hard pressed to have missed the Whispers, in fact you would probably have had to be tuned into obscure radio stations to have also missed them for they were just about everywhere.

And The Beat Goes On was and continues to be a massive floor filler at discos and wedding as does, It’s A Love Thing, Out Of The Box and the rather wonderful, Rock Steady.

This 3 CD box set explores the period between 1972 and 1987 and although the group had already been formed for some 16 years before they hit pay dirt with And The Beat Goes On on Solar Records they had achieved considerable success on Janus Records out of New York and a selection of the tracks released on their 3 Janus albums are featured here.

Sounding as fresh now as they did almost 40 years ago this set also features two bonus festive sides from the groups Christmas album, Funky Christmas and Happy Holiday To You.

6. Perry Como – Lightly Latin/In Italy/ Look To Your Heart/Seattle (BGO Records)

Perry Como - Four remastered albums on two discs (52727629)
Perry Como - Four remastered albums on two discs (52727629)

Having been brought up in a musical family it was a rare thing that the radio or the record player was ever off in our household and one of my parent’s favourites was the crooner, Perry Como.

So to find Bury St Edmunds record label, Beat Goes On turning their attention to his back catalogue was a very welcome surprise.

Having been so successful with the catalogue of Andy Williams, Como now comes under the spotlight and here you’ll find four of the crooners out of catalogue LP’s lovingly transferred to the world of compact disc.

Yes that’s right four whole LP’s spread across this sets two CD’s. Lightly Latin and In Italy as you would expect see the Italian – American singer explore songs associated with his parent’s home country.

Beautiful standards such as Arriverderci Roma, Forget Domani, How Insensitive (Insensatez) and Santa Luica while the remaining two LP’s, Look To Your Heart and Seattle are very much home grown US in origin.

Listen carefully to the late great singers renditions of The Father Of Girls, How To Handle A Woman, In These Crazy Times and Try To remember if you really need any further evidence that this guy was up there with the best - perfect Sunday morning or late night, lights down low listening.

7. The Beatles -Let It Be (Apple)

Let it be -The Beatles, remastered (52727636)
Let it be -The Beatles, remastered (52727636)

Available in a multitude of formats and editions this 2021 celebration of the Beatles 1969 LP Let It Be, jokingly described as produced by George Martin and over produced by Phil Spector, hits record shop and websites this month.

The Let It Be album has been newly mixed by producer Giles Martin and engineer Sam Okellin in stereo, 5.1 surround DTS, and Dolby Atmos and follows the universally acclaimed remixed and expanded anniversary editions of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017), The BEATLES (‘White Album’) (2018), and Abbey Road (2019).

This latest project features a new stereo mix of the album as guided by the original “reproduced for disc” version by Phil Spector and was sourced directly from the original session and rooftop performance eight-track tapes.

The physical and digital Super Deluxe collections also feature 27 previously unreleased session recordings, a four-track Let It Be EP, and the never before released 14-track Get Back stereo LP mix compiled by engineer Glyn Johns in May 1969.

Sounding just about as good as it gets the original 12 track version I have heard has all those trademark Beatles vocals sounding just like they were recorded yesterday and not 50 years ago. Maggie Mae, The Long And Winding Road, Across The Universe and of course the fitting finale, Get Back.

You’ll need to dig deep though if you want the Deluxe, The Super Deluxe, The Special Edition - it’s an expensive thing nowadays to keep up with all the variations.

8. Various – Motown A Symphony Of Soul (Motown/Island/Universal)

Motown with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (52727689)
Motown with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (52727689)

Traditionally at this time of the year we get the so and so with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra a reimagining orchestral wise of a singers back catalogue with brand new instrumentation.

So far we’ve had amongst others, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Aretha Franklin and Rod Stewart and now they have turned their attention to not one single artist but to a whole catalogue of hits.

So here’s the real problem and one that has obviously determined which tracks to ‘remix’. When your hit song is as famous and popular for its backing track as it is its vocal you are really on a hiding to nothing and Motown’s Funk Brothers are as famous as its singers.

Therefore many of the obvious songs that could have been included on this woefully short set of 11 songs clocking in at just under 40 minutes, have been overlooked.

The lead single featuring the gorgeous Beverley Knight posthumously duetting with the late great Marvin Gaye on Abraham Martin and John is so much better than I would have imagined as Bev’s soulful vocals dip in and out of Gaye’s original recording.

Others of note include The Miracles, Tear Of A Clown which receives a thorough makeover in an even more circus like fashion and two heartbreakers from The Temptations, My Girl and Just My Imagination get extensive additional strings.

In the main though it’s often difficult to distinguish these ‘new versions from the originals as the producers have had to be very careful where they tread.

Where massive changes have been made as on the Vandellas, Dancing In The Streets it really doesn’t work.

Mica Paris duets with Jimmy Ruffin on a rather lacklustre, What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted and makeovers on hits by The Supremes - I Hear A Symphony (naturally), The Jackson 5 – I’ll Be There and 4 Tops – Reach Out I’ll Be There are also reimagined.

In the end it’s an opportunity missed, but still head and shoulders above the awful Motown Remixed set of a few years back.

9. Manfred Mann – The Greatest Hits (Decca)

Manfred Mann - The Greatest Hits (52727717)
Manfred Mann - The Greatest Hits (52727717)

Nothing says the 60’s more than Manfred Mann’s 5-4-3-2-1 which kicks off this 20 track compilation released to coincide with a 28 day tour coming to the Ipswich Regent Theatre on 20th November.

And the line up on the tour is something pretty special as well featuring both lead singers, Paul Jones and Mike D’Abo along with Mike Hugg (keys) and Tom McGuinness (bass & guitar) and will feature additional solo hits from them - sounds like it could well have all the makings of a great night.

Tracks on the CD feature lead vocals from both legendary front men, and include Ha Ha Said The Clown, Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Pretty Flamingo, Mighty Quinn.

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