When the Zombies' Time Of The Season finally hit big on this side of the pond in 1969, many people had no idea that the group of Hertfordshire lads responsible for the psych-pop masterwork Odessey And Oracle had broken up two years earlier and were busily fiddling about in various studios on separate projects.
The album was a commercial disaster on its initial release, leading resident songwriters Rod Argent and Chris White to try their luck composing and producing hit songs for other artists while soulful choirboy-voiced singer Colin Blunstone found employment in the insurance business before being coaxed back to the studio under the alias Neil MacArthur.
Into The Afterlife (Big Beat) compiles those experimental studio projects, including Argent and White's remarkably polished demo sessions and Blunstone's over-the-top solo excursions, along with a few Zombies outtakes dubbed into shape at the time to capitalize on their unlikely chart success. It should be noted that this is not a lost Zombies album (in fact, most of the stuff wasn't made for the public to hear), but serious fans of the group and those who appreciate anything-goes studio adventures will find the disc a charming revelation. www.acerecords.com.
A parade of precocious youngsters warbling off-key might not sound like a winning idea for the latest in a series of Eccentric Soul compilations by the Numero Group, but there's an undeniable charm to kids singing about going to school, riding buses and carrying books home - at least at this time of year - over a funky backbeat.
The massive success of the Jackson Five was to blame for a sudden explosion of junior jammers recording one-off vinyl documents of their own, and Home Schooled: The ABCs Of Kid Soul collects some of the best indie releases from the kooky soul subgenre's early-70s peak years.
Patrizia & Jimmy kick things off in righteous fashion with their hard-bumpin' plea for parental understanding, Trust Your Child, while the Eight Minutes demonstrate some floor-filling potential with Here's Some Dances, and the 3 Simmons, offspring of Chicago shouter Little Mack Simmons, show off their good genes with You Are My Dream (School Time).
There's trouble ahead with the Atons' ill-advised crack at Tony Orlando and Dawn's Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree, but, thankfully, the few corny missteps are outweighed by the inclusion of overlooked stunners like Right On by the Man Child Singers and the unhinged 2009 Cherry Soul Sound by Jr. & His Soulettes. www.numerogroup.com.
For as long as there have been reissues, label sharpies have been trying to gain access to the riches from the 50s and 60s hidden in the Fortune archives of Detroit husband-and-wife indie music moguls Jack and Devora Brown - without success.
Despite numerous lucrative offers, the Browns seemed determined to be buried with their master tapes of sloppy-genius R&B, blues, rockabilly and gospel recordings by Andre Williams, John Lee Hooker, Nolan Strong, Doctor Ross, Eddie Kirkland, Johnny Powers, the Gospel Believers and hundreds of others.
But Spain's Vampi Soul label somehow found a way to put out a comprehensive collection of Nathaniel Mayer's sought-after Fortune sides called I Want Love And Affection (Not The House Of Correction) that places the versatile singer at the leading edge of the early-60s soul revolution. The thoroughly annotated 23-track set reveals that even though Mayer is best known for crooning Village Of Love, he was capable of belting hard and getting funky before James Brown made it a genre unto itself.
Also just released by Vampi Soul is ¡Gózalo! Bugalú Tropical, Vol. 2, a stellar second instalment in their amazing document of the searing Latin jazz, storming R&B and bruising boogaloo jams recorded in Peru during the 60s and 70s.
Colombia might be the hot scene at the moment for those scrounging for James Brown and Fela Kuti soundalikes, but thoses searching for unique booty-bumpin' Latin hybrids need to check the righteous rawness that Coco Lagos, Lucho Macedo and Tito Chicoma were putting down. www.vampisoul.com.