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V/A - Eccentric Soul: The Dynamic Label

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Artist: V/A

Album: Eccentric Soul: The Dynamic Label

Label: The Numero Group

Review date: Apr. 18, 2013

Like the bounties of northern soul music scattered across countless compilations of obscurities, the Numero Group’s Eccentric Soul series poses a pointed question about greatness in popular music: How can it be so easy, even commonplace? That is not to say that the putative lost treasures that fill such collections don’t include a fair share of also-rans and pale imitations. But it remains striking how much effervescent pop-soul, from the 1960s in particular, devoted crate-diggers have been able to unearth and meticulously repackage for wider discovery.

The latest release in the Eccentric Soul line, The Dynamic Label is merely the newest fruit of the Numero Group’s remarkable taste and dogged archival work. Yet it’s also an infectious amalgam of Brill Building style melodies and harmonies, Stax-light organs and horns, and even hints of pop-oriented garage rock. The Dynamic label was one of a host of different music outlets spearheaded in the 1960s by Abe Epstein, a San Antonio-based regional music mogul.

From the opener “Hey It’s Love” onward, the gently ramshackle quality of these generally short productions serves only to reinforce the sense that the vocalists and musicians are putting in heart and soul. Beginning with a sparse and simple drumbeat and an arpeggio guitar-strum, “Hey It’s Love,” is a grab bag of fragmented pop-soul tropes (“I know when a boy meets a girl,” “Mama said that there’d be days like this”). But The Commands, the male vocalists behind “Hey It’s Love,” also supply some of the album’s highlights, including the striking “I’ve Got Love for My Baby” and “No Time for You.” Whereas the former features charming “whoa-oh” harmonies over soul organ punctuated by a trumpet lick, the latter is swaggering “doobie-doobie” doo-wop. Other numbers reveal the diversity of influences that made their way into the Dynamic label’s sound. With its faintly psychedelic, reverberated guitar work and Tex-Mex horns, Little Jr. Jesse & The Tear Drops’ “Give Your Love to Me” could be as at home on a Nuggets spinoff as an Eccentric Soul release. The Tonettes’s “I Gotta Know,” by contrast, is insistent girl-group pop that stands up with the assembly line genius of say, Goffin and King, or Barry and Greenwich.

Not all the tracks reach the highs of this somewhat front-loaded compilation. But even the misses retain some of the same ace-amateur grit and charm that make unsanitized pop-soul so endearing. The opportunities to appreciate it may be pilling up, but it’s a pleasure that doesn’t fade as quickly as these two-and-a-half minute songs.

By Benjamin Ewing

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