P.P. Arnold - "A Likely Piece Of Work" (Get Ready: UK Floor Fillers Vol. 3)
In the era covered by Get Ready: UK Floor Fillers Vol. 3 (the cover promises “20 blue-eyed soul gems 1966–1971"), the spanking percussion and pristine harmonies that Motown used to conquer the world were being interpreted with precise adoration by a group of artists from across Europe, sustained by labels operating out of the UK. Some of these acts’ releases went on to become continental smashes in their own right; some were churned out as 45s that were seemingly born directly into obscurity. By now, all these tunes are rare indeed, with a handful marking their creator’s only contribution to musical history.
But the sounds on this disc should still be familiar to anyone who’s ever turned on a radio. Skeletally, these tracks are pure Motown, directly referencing stateside soul hits. The piano and cymbal march that opens Frankie & Johnny’s “I Wanna Make You Understand” could just as easily have led in to a cut from the Supremes. The harpsichord intro to the Mighty Dodos’ “Honey (I Need Your Love)” feels like an only slightly-reworked strand of “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch).” With “Come On Along, Girl,” Ian & the Zodiacs’ come-hither horns and sauntering bass-line might be suspected of sharing some DNA with Jr. Walker and the All Stars. P.P. Arnold’s “A Likely Piece of Work” hails from the more ferocious end of the funk/soul spectrum, echoing the crescendoing horns and percussion of her first gig in Ike and Tina Turner’s Ikettes. Held together by fat, deep horns, Lee Tomlin’s “Save Me,” with its swaggering vocal, could even have slipped into a Tom Jones’ set.
Although these artists obviously worshiped fervently at the altar of soul, in a sublime example of transatlantic reciprocity, their soul sounds were often paired with the British Invasion-influenced trends concurrently flourishing in the States, garage and psychedelic rock. Elements like husky, untrained yowls and yips on Swinging Soul Machine's "Take Your Time" and the sinister bass lead-in to Los Bravos' "Save Me Save Me" temper the rhythm and blues flavors elsewhere on the album. The eponymous opening track by Graham Bonney features a tidy psychedelic verse/pop chorus sandwich.
Garage’s influence is as much in the rawness of these tracks as it is in the music being played. This stylistic mash-up has a sense of joyful abandon, sacrificing technical slickness and artistic virtuosity for a more earthbound commitment to the simply playful. If American soul ran the gamut from the street life to the glamorous life, the blatantly erotic to the sweetest of love, its European imitators on Get Ready play the sounds of teenage infatuation and sunshine breaking out all over checkerboard dance floors. None of the pain of life in the ghetto here, nothing stuck to The Man. Ultimately, this is soul music without its claws but dressed up in a slim suit and a good pair of dancing shoes – Soul-Lite, the dance floor as escapism, not catharsis.