The rare soul scene is overwhelmingly a 7” record-collecting world but there are a few notable exceptions. 1967 saw two Detroit-recorded LPs issued from one of the most admired production teams in the city – Pied Piper Productions. Motown musician Jack Ashford and his business partner Shelley Haims assembled the cream of Motown’s Funk Brothers musicians for the sessions and supplied classic sophisticated soul songs for the diverse artists who were to be given a shot at the album market. Cleveland group the Hesitations had hit with their debut 45 ‘Soul Superman’ and this success gave them a chance to expand into the album market. Detroit singer Freddy Butler’s more sophisticated ballad-singing was seen as ripe for an LP by the team.
The Hesitations’ album continued the hip 60s dance tracks of ‘Soul Superman’ with numbers such as ‘She Won’t Come Back’, ‘You Can’t By Pass Love’ and ‘That’s What Love Is’ – the backing track of which would be reused on Eddie Parker’s ‘I’m Gone’ 45 and be acknowledged as a pinnacle of Northern Soul. Every track has its admirers, the mid-tempo ‘I’ll Be Right There’, ‘Wait A Minute’ and ‘You’ll Never Know’ in particular, but the three subsequent singles taken from the album failed to chart and the LP was forgotten – until UK 60s soul connoisseurs later acclaimed it as a classic of the genre.
Freddy Butler was a big-voiced solo act who had already recorded for Detroit labels M&M, Samo, Starmaker and Wheelsville. The only single from this LP, ‘There Was A Time’, was recorded at United Sound studios in September 1966 and though it failed to chart, the project went ahead. There was more emphasis on big ballads such as ‘They Say I’m Afraid (Of Losing You)’ and ‘Just Because You’ve Been Hurt’, but the sound is still unmistakably Pied Piper, evident in the slick mid-tempo rhythms of ‘I Like Your Style’, ‘Deserted’ and ‘You’d Better Get Hip Girl’. The most famous track was the bouncy ‘That’s When I Need You’, which was played at the UK’s big Northern Soul all-nighters in the 70s when it was bootlegged onto a 45 despite having only legitimately been an LP selection.
The songs of Jack Ashford, Lorraine Chandler, Joe Hunter, Mike Terry and Herbie Williams – coupled with the best Detroit soul arrangers and musicians – mean this really is a case of dropping the needle anywhere and finding a gem.
With such high-quality music, it was inevitable the records’ prices would rise dramatically; originals are three-figure items. Here they are remastered from tape on one easily affordable CD.