Liner Note Author: Ady Croasdell.
Recording information: New York, NY (11/1964).
Illustrator: Ady Croasdell.
Photographer: Vicki Fox.
Kent Records, an offshoot of U.K. reissue label Ace Records began excavating obscure Northern Soul songs on a 1982 compilation album called For Dancers Only. As the years wore on, the label grew in profile and scope alike, licensing lost soul classics by the dozens and feeding a ravenous subset of soul collectors on their endless search for holier grails and more of the endless buried early soul gems that made up the often independently produced and distributed Northern Soul scene. Kent 30: Best of Kent Northern 1982-2012 is a highlight-heavy victory lap celebrating the label's 30th anniversary by collecting more unheard soul smokers and revisiting some of the label's greatest hits in a remastered form. Gene & Gary's early rock-informed vocal stomper "Baby Without You" dates back to that first compilation, while "I'm Shooting High (I Reach for the Sky)" by groovy progressive soul stirrer O.C. Tolbert appears in an alternate mix, resourced from the original master tapes. The collector's mentality runs heavy through the compilation, with a huge segment of the mix dedicated to records "so rare they didn't exist"; unearthed acetates of recordings that never made it to the often prohibitively expensive vinyl format. These tracks are among the rawest and most visceral productions on the record, including the killer, jumping soul cut "Love Keeps Me Crying" by Walter Wilson and the incredible alternate mix of Little Ann's "What Should I Do," shelved for decades waiting to be discovered by future generations. A remastering job renders Chuck Jackson's oddly eerie "I'd Be a Millionaire" especially electric as well. With 30 tracks of high-grade, no-filler Northern Soul, Kent 30 doesn't have much in the way of duds or dull moments, but its extensive running length can render even the best of its songs a little monotonous after an hour or so of deep cut listening. Taken piece by piece, however, Kent 30 has a bounty of top-notch, obscure, Northern Soul wonders and dancefloor burners. Collectors will especially enjoy the wealth of rarities and the expanded fidelity of the remastering, but even someone who just likes to dance will find a lot to enjoy here. ~ Fred Thomas