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Dave Hamilton's Detroit Soul


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  • When the Ace/Kent label began issuing material from Detroit soul producer Dave Hamilton's vaults back in the 1990s, as the liner notes to this comp reveal, it expected to only issue a couple of anthology CDs. The deeper it dug the more its appetite was fed, however, and this rather generically titled collection marks the seventh CD compiled from Hamilton's holdings. As Hamilton is not exactly a household name even among soul specialists, and the artists with whom he worked are unknown even throughout much of soul collectordom, it goes without saying that this is for the particularly fanatical aficionado. About half of the 25 tracks appeared on singles on small labels between 1964 and 1977 (though mostly in the 1964-1970 period that attracts the core interest from the soul fans apt to consider buying something like this); the others were previously unreleased, or only surfaced on an obscure CD compilation. Even considering that not a one of these artists has even a cult reputation -- and that the tracks are sequenced in a herky-jerky, back-and-forth chronology, though most of them were cut in the mid- to late '60s -- it does hold some appeal for genre enthusiasts. Like numerous small-time soul entrepreneurs throughout the U.S., Hamilton was trying almost everything in his quest to make an impact, though much of it sounded derivative of much bigger labels and artists. So you have James Brown-ish funk; obviously Motown-ish productions, Priscilla Page sounding like a yet peepier-voiced Diana Ross on "I'm Pretending" and Chico & Buddy credibly emulating the Temptations in their Norman Whitfield-produced psych-funk era on "A Thing Called the Jones"; pop-disco on the New Experience's 1977 recording; and gospel-tinged early Southern-style soul on Gene Cooper's "Look Up and Smile." Hamilton himself gets into funky blues and instrumental jazz-soul on tracks credited to his own name, and Frenchy & the Chessmen (you couldn't make these billings up) sound like a cross between Junior Walker and Booker T. & the MG's on "Beetle Bebop." It would be too generous to call any of these cuts lost nuggets, but they're not of solely trivial value. It's the sound of somewhat, but not abundantly, talented artists reaching for a level somewhat beyond their grasp, yet doing so with a winning sincerity and less polish than those that did get the brass ring. The inclusion of a few cuts with glossy 2011 remixes is a misstep considering that the overwhelming majority of listeners interested in an anthology like this will not enjoy them, and indeed be repulsed by the production. These only afflict a few tracks, however, and the package boasts Kent's verging-on-academia research into these obscurities in the accompanying 20-page booklet. ~ Richie Unterberger
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