These original R&B 45s are treasured among music collectors, and this anthology is the first in the release of all Loma Records' singles.
Are you a fan of '60s rhythm and blues, or a fanatic? If you're just a fan or not even one of those people, you can ignore the rest of this review. There's nothing for you here. The 50 songs on this collection, over half never recorded on CD before, are far from essential listening. Go back to your stacks of Stax or whatever turns you on -- these are for the connoisseur of the obscure.
But if you are a record collector with eclectic tastes that go beyond the classic sides and the weird esoterica, you probably already know about the Loma label. Started by Mike Maitland as a Warner Brothers imprint, Loma released about 100 singles and a half dozen albums in its four short years (1964-1968). The R&B inflected 45s are rare and treasured among hoarders who believe too much of a good thing is never enough. This anthology is just the first one of Real Gone Music’s plan to release all of the label’s singles.
In a world where changes in technology have made '60s soul more accessible to more people than ever before, do we need even more? Well, yes -- so that we don’t forget the fabric of history and the rich tapestries of the past. But do we as individuals need to hear all music from the past, in all styles, and by a diversity of musicians from all segments of society? Where one draws the line determines how you view this anthology.
On one level, there's little here that merits attention. There are some notable tracks. The Olympics’ pre-Young Rascals rendition of “Good Lovin’” is here, and fine cuts recorded by other luminaries such as Ike & Tina Turner, Little Jerry Williams (a.k.a Swamp Dogg), and Smiley Lewis. There are also productions by well-regarded arrangers such as James Brown and Jerry Ragavoy. However, the bulk of the tracks are from unfamiliar artists with inexperienced producers taking a shot at stardom. Performers such as Walter Foster, the Enchanters, and Dick Jensen & the Imports have little name value.
Some cuts are better than others, but there are no unknown masterpieces here. And there are many failures. Without going through the cruelty of naming names from 50 years ago, the bulk of this material has artefactual value only. They capture the spirit of an era through their distortions and attempts to copy popular sounds. Their failures are the mutations by which one can measure what has value and what hasn't. One learns not only by examining the best-preserved evidence, but also by understanding the entire scene from which everything emerged.
All but one of the singles here was taken from the original tape source and remastered for clarity. The collection also includes rare photos from the period. Real Gone Music has done their best to maintain the high standards demanded by today’s listeners. (One imagines that back in the day, these sides were played as scratchy 45s on cheap record players.) Welcome to the future, by diving into the past.