The Odyssey

A Northern Soul Time Capsule 1968-2014

In the last year, there’s been lots of speculation as to whether a Northern Soul revival was on the cards. Those on the scene itself would scoff at such a claim, as it never really went away – just forced underground, away from public conscience as newer trends and fashions came and went. Evidence to suggest Northern Soul is again capturing the minds of the masses, would point to last year’s award-winning feature film Northern Soul. Directed by Elaine Constantine, the numerous CD compilations released in the last 12 months and viral YouTube dancing videos of Bristolian teen, Levanna Mclean.

And now there’s The Odyssey: A Northern Soul Time Capsule From 1968-2014. It claims to be the most comprehensive and extensive compilation of the sub-genre there’s ever been. From the outset it’s hard to argue – there’s 8 CDs, 2 DVDs featuring interviews with Philadelphia Soul legend Kenny Gamble and a ‘Keep On Keeping On’ documentary waxing lyrical on the history of the Northern Soul scene itself. Not to mention a 160-page book of detailed liner notes, featuring an in-depth look at the post-Wigan years.

The CDs themselves are a chronological timeline, beginning in the late 60s with Manchester’s legendary Twisted Wheel, featuring tunes such as Darrell Banks ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’ and the O’Jay’s ‘I Dig Your Act’. The songs align themselves with Motown tracks that had a rougher, spit-and-sawdust edge to them and were scarcer than the more mainstream releases. At this point in the mid-60s, Mods preferred the uptempo four-by-four beats while dancing the night away, off their heads on red and blue pills to Billy Butler’s ‘Right Track’ or Leon Haywood’s ‘Baby Reconsider’. 

From there, The Odyssey runs through The Golden Torch in Stoke. It was at this point where Northern Soul began to really start being taken more seriously as more than just merely being a scene – but more importantly, the anthems that would become synonymous with the scene itself for years to come begin to emerge. Sandi Sheldon’s ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Want You’ remains – to this day – a favourite amongst many on the scene and features on pretty much every Soul compilation one can lay hands on. Notable tracks that hark instant nostalgia of The Torch are Archie Bell & The Drells, ‘Here I Go Again’, Major Lance ‘You Don’t Want Me No More’ and ‘Somebody Somewhere Needs You’ by Darrell Banks. 

With the Blackpool Mecca, tracks such as R Dean Taylor’s ‘There’s A Ghost In My House’ and Mecca closer, Young Holt Unlimited’s instrumental ‘California Montage’ feature. Though the venue was known for pushing the envelope musically with disco and experimental soul, it isn’t featured enough, giving preference for the traditional Northern Soul sound. 

For all the talk of the flagship and world-famous Wigan Casino – and there’s been plenty of it throughout the decades – 3 CDs are generously allocated to allow for the extensive catalogue of anthems. And there’s plenty of them: 55 to be precise. The songs we all know and love are present: Gloria Jones’s infamous ‘Tainted Love’, Frankie Valli’s ‘The Night’, the MVP’s ‘Turnin’ My Heartbeat Up’ and the euphoric ‘I’m On My Way’ by Dean Parrish barely scratch the Casino surface. 

But that isn’t to say the rest of the tunes on the compilation are necessarily overshadowed by Wigan. The Cleethorpes Pier CD completes the 1970s era with a nod to a more crossover slant. Where Blackpool Mecca tracks lack in variation, Cleethorpes delivers. Disco and Modern Soul begin to become more prominent here with the racy ‘Hung Up On Your Love’ by the Montclairs and the Rodger Collins boogie laden ‘You Sexy Sugar Plum’. 

As for the 1980s, they are represented well – despite being seen by many as a dark age on the scene with infighting and disagreements as to where the scene should head – by the 100 Club and Stafford Top Of The World venues, taking through to the 90s and the present day via soul weekenders throughout the country. Examples of these are The Moments’ ‘I’ve Got The Need’ and Bobby Womack & The Brotherhood’s ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’.  

On the whole, The Odyssey is a painstaking, meticulous compilation for a sub-genre whose endurance and timeless quality lives on the hearts and minds of many 50 years on. As time has passed, the quality control on these songs – that were overlooked and ignored upon their release stateside – is as phenomenal as ever. Very few, if any, scenes encapsulate the feeling of love, pain, euphoria and heartbreak as well as Northern Soul does. It’s almost too good for its own good. 

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