He's best known as tour DJ and resident sample-digger for downtempo hitmakers Portishead, but as his The Document series of mix CDs shows, Andy Smith's true love runs from the funk and disco he heard growing up in late-'70s Bristol to the underground hip-hop of today. He also makes heads bounce to the storming dance sounds of rare 1960s Northern soul and early reggae, as heard at his monthly residency at London's Jazz Café, his crate-digging Sunday night party Lost and Found with Keb Darge, and on mix discs like Andy Smith's Northern Soul (BGP) and The Trojan Document (Trojan). Here, Smith picks his top five Northern soul spins.
1. Rubin "You've Been Away" (Kapp)
Every time I hear the bassline intro I know that within 20 seconds I'll be dancing if there is a dancefloor nearby...or even if there isn't! I never tire of hearing this record–it's totally uplifting. Who can care about any problem during the barely three minutes that this one's on?
2. The Pointer Sisters "Send Him Back" (Atlantic)
I usually stick to the '60s side of Northern soul but tracks like this [make me] happy to delve into the '70s sound–the vocals, the instrumentation, the arrangement, the "Sha la la la la boom boom"...I blast this out on a hot summer's day trying to drown out the nasty new R&B being played in the car next to me at the traffic lights.
3. Frank Beverly and The Butlers "If That's What You Wanted" (Sassy/Inferno)
Up there as one of my all-time favorites of any genre! The vocals by Frankie (later of Maze fame) are fantastic. Combine them with all around top arrangement, and this makes for a total killer Northern track that always ignites the floor!
4. Joy Lovejoy "In Orbit" (Checker)
One of the earlier Northern soul tracks that I first heard on my Soundburger portable player while in a record store in the States. The positivity of the vocals combined with those horns makes for a top track. I always wonder what happened to Joy Lovejoy; I've never heard another record by her.
5. Sam Dees "Lonely For You Baby" (SSS International/Goldmine)
When I need to take the tempo down a bit after the 200mph dance numbers, there's no better way than this. Possibly one of the classiest soul tracks I know; top-notch vocals from Sam coupled with a killer bassline, great horns, and tight drums, and the way the horn breaks keep the track in check is just perfect. Everything a Northern soul track should have.