Maurice & The Radiants - Baby You've Got It
Patti and the Emblems had a great record on Herald called ‘The Sound Of Music Makes Me Wanna Dance’. When it comes to 1960’s soul music, no phrase could be more fitting. Sure you have your classic ballads, but as any fanatical Northern Soul collector will tell you, it’s the dancers that matter. The records that strike a chord somewhere in your head (or more appropriately your feet) that makes you want to get up and wade into the crowd, limbs akimbo, ready to swing your arms, legs and ass in time to the beat. Whether or not you have the rhythmic wherewithal to do so without looking like a jackass is beside the point (and as long as you’re not stepping on your fellow dancers it shouldn’t matter to them either). Outside of your committed “dancers” (i.e. people that actually know and practice the steps to specific dances, and outside of your ballroom types who does that anymore?) anyone that is moved by the music to get up and shake it ought to be applauded. The impulse to move to the music is one of the last, real (and not explicitly sexual or religious) ecstatic outlets we have. Not to say that everyone on the dance floor is a dervish, spinning to the visions in their head, but that to be so taken by the beat and the greatness of a record is a special experience. I first heard ‘Baby You’ve Got It’ on a mid-80s compilation of tunes by UK 60’s mod band the Action. That band made covering great (but obscure) US soul records something of a cottage industry (see my man Bill Luther’s article on the subject). It was on their records that I first heard brilliant soul songs like ‘I’ll Keep On Holding On’ (Marvelettes), ‘In My Lonely Room’ (Martha & The Vandellas) and ‘Since I Lost My Baby’ (Temptations). Over the years, via other friends and collectors I managed to track down the original versions of many of these tunes, and was blown away by how much better the originals were. Maurice McAlister and the Radiants made a bunch of great 45s for Chess between 1962 and 1966 when McAlister left to record with Mac McLauren as ‘Maurice & Mac’ (also for Chess). ‘Baby You’ve Got It’ (co-written by McAlister) is both a great, hook laden pop song (with a brilliant lead vocal by McAlister and backing from a young Minnie Riperton among others) and a pulsing dance record. The backbeat is always strong (with a prominent bass line) and the arrangement (especially the strings) makes for one of the most stylish slices of mid-60’s urban soul ever committed to wax. Listening to this record, it’s easy to imagine dancers working it out in 1960’s Chicago (and London), and in Soul nights all over the world today.