Various Artists (Cellar of Soul)

There is no such thing as infallible good taste, and it is always worth remembering this when either making one’s own critical assessments or reading the critical assessments of others...such as myself! We adore certain records because they press certain buttons in our psyches, it’s as simple as that, and since we all have personalised “buttons” waiting to be pressed, tastes will vary according to our needs.

There can however be areas of general agreement, and in an historic perspective, the albums issued in the 60s under the generic title of “Bell’s Cellar of Soul” were landmark occasions in the establishment of black American music in Britain. Pioneered by Derek Everett and the ever-loving Trevor Churchill, they made available aspects of the music which at that time were considered too “difficult” to put out as 45rpm singles, but which had such outstanding quality in their own right, more than justified inclusion in the LP format. Many of the recordings reflected the avant-garde of soul - a sound that was so un-Motown sometimes that it took time to assimilate and find its audience here.

But there were other fine examples of music that was entirely accessible, and although 30 odd years on it is easy to forget what was then fashionable and what was then not-yet-fashionable, this present revival of the genre most certainly reflects and retains the spirit of those pioneering days! The impact of the new is always exciting, and although some sides mellow with age and lose the dramatic impact they first had, they nevertheless retain their musicality, and, when all’s said and done, that has always been the prime mover in the black American experience.

These sides all of which were once the exclusive province of the specialist music collector, are now entirely familiar, dare one even say “popular”? And although hard-core soul fans will probably have most, if not all of them on old 45s, this re-mastering and restoration of them makes them available for a new generation of fans on whom, I have no doubt, they will impact as much as they once did on their parents. 

The test of all great cultural works is “Do they endure?” Well, these sides have, and not only that, they have also maintained! And, as we all once used to say to each other, “keep the faith”, so too do these outstanding performances and compositions.

A cellar full of soul indeed...and then some!

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