thu 13/06/2024

Music Reissues Weekly: Loma Northern Soul | reviews, news & interviews

Music Reissues Weekly: Loma Northern Soul

Music Reissues Weekly: Loma Northern Soul

Top-quality collection of an intriguing label’s Sixties soul sides

The Marvellos, whose ‘It's Your Love That I Need’ kicks-off ‘Loma Northern Soul’Alec Palao

One of the essays in the booklet accompanying Loma Northern Soul describes the titular label as an “outlet aimed at secondary or tertiary record markets, issuing product that it was hoped would prove strong in R&B radio, yet had the potential to crossover and do battle with Motown in the pop charts”.

In this reading, Loma Records was either addressing distinct markets – as other labels specifically did for, say, country – or was a dumping ground for recordings which didn’t make the grade as records which could be promoted as chart friendly or for pop radio. Or some of both at the same time. As a combination of research-based hindsight and contemporaneous self-fulfilling prophecy, this view of Loma seems fair as it didn’t issue any smashes. Even so, it had a decent lifespan. More importantly, as was latterly clear once record collectors got on the case, it released a heap of great records.

Loma Northern SoulLoma was an imprint run by Warner Brothers in parallel with its main label. In business from around September 1964 to October 1968, Loma issued 111 singles. The last release was John Wonderling’s “Midway Down”, which UK band The Creation swiftly covered. The post-Van Morrison Them spin-off band The Belfast Gypsies were with the label, as were garage rockers Butch Engle and the Styx, Limey and the Yanks, and The Poor. Music biz hustler Kim Fowley had a Loma single.

Whatever the nature of the overall roster, soul has come to define Loma. Better-known genre names with spells there included Lorraine Ellison, Bobby Freeman, Ike and Tina Turner, and Lonnie Youngblood. Other soul stalwarts on the label included J.J. Jackson, Linda Jones and The Olympics – whose original version of “Good Lovin'” was on Loma; one the label’s few hits. Loma Northern Soul Classics & Revelations 1964-1968’s tack is as per its title.

The first of this comp’s 25 tracks is “It's Your Love That I Need” by The Marvellos, recorded in 1966. This is the first time it has been issued. Written by Willie Hutch, it’s a terrific performance of a terrific song with an enviable forward motion, an alternately declamatorily and pleading lead male vocal and a full, brass- and string-assisted arrangement. Its swooning backing vocals are especially striking. The booklet says “It's Your Love That I Need” is “two minutes 37 seconds of soul perfection”. This is not hyperbole. As to why this was never released? No one knows.

Loma Northern Soul_bobby freemanThere are six previously unheard cuts on Loma Northern Soul. There are also four which were not issued when they were recorded: they first appeared on comps last decade. All are great. As great as everything else collected, and as great as tracks which were issued. Loma, it appears, had a surfeit of quality material – more than it could get into shops. Yet the label didn’t became a Motown. This despite, in LA, giving work to top arrangers and producers such as James Carmichael, Marc Gordon, Jerry Long and Gene Page. The budgets must have been very healthy as Loma operated on both American coasts. At sessions in New York, those working on the label’s recordings included Robert Banks, Don Costa, Jesse Herring, George Kerr, Van McCoy, Jerry Ragovoy and Richard Tee. Add to this exclusive songs from writers like Willie Hutch, Lorraine Ellison and Sam Bell, Van McCoy, Randy Newman and the Mort Shuman-Jerry Ragovoy partnership. (pictured left, Bobby Freeman)

This top-drawer list of credits is supplemented by the equally mind-blowing recordings selected here. Take Bobby Freeman’s harpsichord-driven “Lies”. He was a proven hitmaker yet made no major waves at Loma. The swinging, Marvin Gaye-esque “I'm Getting Weaker” by The Soul Shakers sounds like a big hit – yet it wasn’t. Then there’s Linda Jones’s brilliant “My Heart Needs a Break”. There’s a touch of “Reflections” in there, but overall it’s its own thing. All of what’s heard does the right business. Loma ought to have attracted much more attention – and sales – than it actually did.

The intriguing story of Loma and its survival is gone into in the booklet. Without Warner Brothers’s deep pockets, it would not have had the lifespan it did. A different overseer would have been pulled the plug a lot earlier than late 1968 due to the lack of hits. All of which helps make the diligent, thoroughly enjoyable Loma Northern Soul an A-Grade collection – one for any fan of Sixties soul.


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