Liner Note Author: Ady Croasdell.
Recording information: 10/1968; 1962-1971.
Photographers: Gilles Pétard; Bill Greensmith; Jim Pewter; John Ridley.
The Bihari Brothers' Modern and Kent imprints are two legendary postwar blues and R&B independent labels but neither are known for '60s soul. Ace's compilation Los Angeles Soul: Kent-Modern's Black Music Legacy 1962-1971 proves Kent-Modern not only wasn't dormant during the glory days of soul, but they tried many times to strike gold. This 2015 collection rounds up 24 attempts, not all of which were released at the time. Five of these cuts see their first release here, with an additional four showing up on previous archival comps, a pretty heavy dose of unheard music by any measure, but that doesn't mean the rest of the disc is familiar. Only Johnny Adams and Johnny Copeland were stars and neither of their selections here were hits (Copeland's didn't see release until 1995, actually), but the appeal of Los Angeles Soul is how it excavates a piece of soul history. Through a combination of licensing and recording at their own studios, Kent-Modern dabbled in pretty much every soul sound of the '60s: a bit of breezy uptown soul, plus grooving pop from the Motor City and Chicago, but a greater concentration on sounds emanating from the South. All this means the title Los Angeles Soul might be a touch disingenuous -- not all the acts were based in Southern California -- but there's often a strong Californian touch, particularly in how the label favored anything that might give them a hit. Still, the most striking sounds here date from the tail end of the decade, when soul got psychedelicized and got a conscience: an ode to Jesse Jackson by the Pace-Setters, the wild fuzz-funk of "I Know She's Gonna Leave" by Willie Gauff & the Love Brothers, the harder funk of "You Are My Sunshine." Still, the lighter numbers here are also infectious -- maybe not enough to argue that these should've climbed their way up the charts, but it's enough to make this an absorbing portrait of a forgotten side of the '60s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine