Various ‘Honeybeat: Groovy 60s Girl-Pop’ (Real Gone/Sony Legacy) 4/5

Taking a leaf out of the numerous ACE compilations devoted to female singers, this excellent new anthology complete with lavishly illustrated inner sleeve, focuses attention on some of the lesser known singers who recorded 45s on major and independent labels, and cuts across stylistic frontiers to incorporate examples of soul, rootsy country and pop genres.

It is in fact pop with an R & B flavour that opens up the CD with, ‘I’m gonna destroy that boy’, by the What Four, while for a soulful take on a jazz standard, ‘Why don’t you do right’, which Peggy Lee memorably interpreted. Here Michelle Nichols takes over vocal duties and is accompanied by instrumentation that betrays a strong Motown influence. One of the real discoveries on this compilation is the stunning 1967 45 by Detroit singer Sandra Phillips who delivers, ‘I wish I had known’, which features a gorgeous piano vamp with fine percussion work. This voice exudes soulfulness. Another uplifting soul number is, ‘I don’t want no mama’s boy’ , by Erma Franklin which was recorded in 1963 and another number with a Motown feel, including hand claps. Quality songwriters do not come much more highly praised than the combination of Jerry Goffin and Carole King and an early composition from 1961, ‘Talk that sweet talk’, receives a warm, relaxed and soulful reading from Dorothy James.

Some of the poppier oriented material has other influences such as the country-pop of Skeeter Davis with, ‘I can’t stay mad at you’, or the lush production by Van McCoy (later of the ‘Hustle’ disco phenomenon) for the 1965 girl group the Sweet Things and, ‘You’ re my loving baby’. Another group the Glories impress on what sounds like an attempt to replicate the Supremes sound on, ‘No news’, from 1968. This writer was similarly impressed by the mid-tempo R & B groove to, ‘Hangin’ on to my baby’, by Tracey Dey. Only the somewhat limp version of, ‘Stand by me’, by Little Eva (1965), does not stand comparison with the towering original penned by Ben E. King, but is worth the listening experience nonetheless. Overall, a well researched, annotated and delivered compilation that makes one wonder what other little known gems might still be out there. Full marks to Real Gone for the effort taken.

Tim Stenhouse