Edwin Starr ‘Soul Master’ (BBR) 4/5

edwin-starrThe song writing prowess of soul legend Edwin Starr is showcased on this handy mid-1960s re-issue of northern soul-inflected grooves. Northern fans will be all too familiar with ‘Agent Double-O-Soul’ and it is at once and brassy and classy number complete with some gospel piano. Equally convincing is ‘Headline News’ that has a stunning drumbeat and memorable piano vamp with Edwin laying down a rasping vocal delivery. Starr scored an early UK Top Forty hit with ‘Stop her on Sight (SOS)’ and after the lovely intro, this leads into an anthemic tune with some wonderful female background vocals. Arguably the strongest performance on the entire album. It is a set noteworthy for Edwin Starr’s development as a songwriter and in fact almost half the songs on the album were written by him. A case in point is ‘Oh how happy’ which was written by Starr and later covered by the Jackson 5. However, among the other writers present are no less than the cream of Motown’s talent with Ashford and Simpson offering a ballad of quality in ‘I am your man’, a stomping drum beat and driving bass line from the pen of Smokey Robinson on ‘Way over there’ and the catchy ‘I want my baby back’ from the trio of Grant, Kendricks and Whitfield. The latter would play a pivotal role in the next stage of Starr’s career. Of the numerous bonus cuts, several of which are single version of the album cuts, the laid back groove of ‘Harlem’ is impressionistic in emphasis, depicting street life in the New York suburb, is one to listen out for. While not quite in the same league as the masterpiece ‘Involved’, the collection of singles contained on ‘Soul Master’ stands the test of time comfortably and was a foretaste of what Edwin Starr would become in the decade to follow.

Tim Stenhouse