Liner Note Author: Ady Croasdell.
A veteran of Motown's studio, Jack Ashford struck out on his own in the late '60s, helping to launch the Detroit soul imprint Pied Piper in the mid-'60s. Once Pied Piper shuttered in 1967, Ashford set off on his own, opening a production company fittingly called Just Productions. Ace's 2016 compilation Jack Ashford: Just Productions collects 24 of these tracks cut between 1968 and 1976. None of these were widely heard, and six of them receive their first release on this disc, so it's essentially a heavy dose of rare soul. Like a lot of compilations of rare '60s soul, a good portion of this comp could be conceivably dubbed Northern Soul -- it pulses to that joyous Detroit groove, plus the definition of Northern Soul keeps expanding -- but what makes Jack Ashford: Just Productions appealing to soul fans with something more than dancing on their mind, is a nice selection of smooth ballads and, especially, the high level of studio expertise and songcraft exhibited on this record. This isn't to say that the music is filled with sides that could've been hits in an alternate universe; as expertly constructed as they are, they're not galvanizing songs, and Ashford remained fond of the sound of the '60s well into the '70s. Instead, this disc shows the power of craft, with the musicians in Ashford's crew operating on nearly same level of skill as their compatriots at Motown and turning out singles that captured all the glories of the golden age of studio soul. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine