My Ace Top Ten
Back in 2005, I was asked to name my top ten Ace/Kent releases by the legendary label. At the time I had just started running How Does It Feel To Be Loved?, my now long-running indie pop and soul club night. A Kent staffer had been to the night, liked what we were doing, and got in touch to ask if I'd like to be part of a series which then included Bob Stanley and Stewart Lee. Here's what I selected. It would be five more years before I felt confident enough to start Great Big Kiss in 2010, as a spin-off of How Does It Feel To Be Loved?, but there's no doubt that being asked to compile this top ten started the journey that led to Great Big Kiss.
Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)
Possibly my favourite female vocal performance of all time. Everything about this track is perfect, from the dreamlike xylophone introduction to Thomas' haunting, heartbreaking delivery. The lyrics follow a familiar story for female-fronted soul - a woman ruefully coming to terms with her lover's infidelity - but not even Dusty managed to sacrifice herself for love in the way Thomas does here. The way she sings "You can blame me/Try to shame me/And still I'll care for you" at the start of the song is devastating.
From: Irma Thomas, Time Is On My Side
Let Me Down Easy
Before I discovered Irma, Bettye Lavette was my heartbreak heroine. Another slight, mesmeric introduction gives way to a sweeping melody and a vocal that seems to hang in mid air, split seconds away from crashing to the ground. As with "Anyone...", the song charts a woman facing up to the bitter truth, but in this case deciding to get it over with, once and for all - and it's the steel in Lavette's voice that grabs me every time. If I could pick two singers who capture the sweet melancholy of the phrase "How Does It Feel To Be Loved?", it would be Irma and Bettye.
From: Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures Volume 3
The Magic Touch
I could play this every second song at HDIF and never tire of a note. When I took the club to Glasgow in 2004, we even printed the lyrics as a hymn sheet for the city's hipsters. Just the piano introduction sends ripples of excitement through me, my body itching for what's surely the classic northern soul tune, and when the beat kicks in, that's it, I'm lost. I remember playing this at an indie club in Stockholm, also in 2004, and the crowd going berserk, myself along with them. You'll have this burned on your soul of course, but just in case you don't - you need this record!
From: Kent's Magic Touch
I first heard this on Kent's "6Ts; In The Beginning" album, which charts the inspirational story of Britain's longest running soul night. Reading the sleevenotes was like someone walking over my grave - whatever we've been through as a tiny, fan based club, playing whatever we want no matter what, they've seen it, done it, and dealt with it, twenty years before we even knew how to dance. Along with Billy Butler's classic "The Right Track", Bobby Bland's "Shoes" makes me think of faith and determination, that bulletproof certainty that you're doing the right thing.
From: 6Ts: In The Beginning
I Met Him On A Sunday (Ronde Ronde)
The Jesus And Mary Chain were always pegged as the noise of the Velvet Underground tied to the melodies of The Shangri-Las. But this track combines both elements to form a startling, fuzz-driven perfect pop mantra - all the more astonishing for being released in 1958. It starts innocently with a sweet doo-wop vocal before a filthy guitar line worthy of the Mary Chain's "You Trip Me Up" crashes in. As we have a strict policy of playing one indie pop song followed by one soul tune followed by one indie pop song and so on at HDIF, this straddles the divide perfectly. And it always sparks off a slew of requests for East Kilbride's finest.
From: Early Girls Volume 2
Taken from an album of paeans to stomping dance crazes, this ethereal, almost dreamlike track feels like it's been beamed in from a distant planet. Driven by The Larks' sumptuous, blissed-out harmonies and a guitar line that's waiting to drift into a David Lynch movie, "The Jerk" describes a dance like no other - more post orgasmic and half asleep than upbeat and unstoppable. It's only a matter of time before a post-Tarentino filmmaker sets this to a particularly gory murder scene.
From: Land Of 1000 Dances Volume 2
Hello, I Love You
Straight after leaving school, I moved into a studio flat behind a second hand record shop in Canterbury. A small fire broke out in the shop one night and the damaged stock was dumped in our back yard, resulting in a batch of vinyl albums with charred edges finding their way into my record collection. The pick of the bunch was "Dangerous Charms" by The Delmonas, who were Thee Milkshakes' version of Thee Headcoatees. I couldn't play the first song on either side due to the damage but the snarling girl garage of the other tracks got a hammering, especially "Please Don't Tell My Baby", the slower "I Want You", and this gum-chewing cover of The Doors tune.
From: Single Minded, Best Of The Big Beat Singles
When I first dreamt up HDIF, there were a few tunes I knew I wanted to play. "Everything Flows" by Teenage Fanclub. "Your Ghost" by Kristen Hersh. Anything by The Delmonas. And either "Behind The Beyond" or "June Rhyme" by The Stingrays. Best known for their high energy take on psychobilly, The Stingrays morphed into a melancholic sixties jangle band in the mid Eighties. I actually bought their "Cryptic And Coffee Time" album to cheer myself up after being dumped by a girlfriend, only to discover that it's one of the most depressing records of all time (still). As Bal sings at the start of this: "Twenty years of nothing and what have I learnt?/I've learnt nothing." Halfway between psychobilly and jangle pop, a truly amazing single.
From: The Stingrays, From The Kitchen Sink
Grits Ain't Groceries
The most cheering aspect of HDIF over the last three years has been the friendly family of people that's sprung up around the club. I'm constantly being introduced to new songs, thanks to gifts of CDRs from our regulars and this came to me via Big Steve, a stalwart of the club. Slightly funkier than our normal soul fare, this storming cut - recorded in the year of my birth - is brimful with passion, libido and the raw power of a pumping horn section. If this community feeling isn't what soul's truly about then, as MIlton sings, grits ain't grocery, eggs ain't poultry and - lawks a mercy - Mona Lisa was a man.
From: Chess Club Rhythm & Soul
In the end, it all comes down to Dave Godin. His series of Deep Soul Treasures albums has been revelatory for me, a collection of the most magnificent heartstopping soul moments and tearsodden vocal performances ever committed to vinyl in the name of love, loss and redemption. My pick of the bunch is volume four, but all are equally as essential. I'd been calling this stuff "sixties heartbreak", not sure of what I was hearing but needing to categorise it somehow, before these albums taught me how to say "deep soul". In many ways, "Slip Away" is slightly apart from the deep soul norm, but there's something hypnotic about the track that keeps me coming back again and again. Thanks Dave, we owe you the world.
From: Dave Godin Deep Soul Treasures, Volume 4
You can buy any of the above records from the Ace Records site here - https://www.acerecords.co.uk/