Casino Classics: 5 Of The Best From Northern Soul's Finest Club Label

Born in the heart of a Wigan all-nighter...
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The alchemy of any musical movement can be traced to the participants of its times. Usually working class kids looking for a spotlight thrill and the need for escapism. It's a gravitational and generational pull that usually centres around a club or a band before branching out into a thousand different places.

The resurgence and origins of the Northern Soul movement are no different, but one club in particular seems more than any other to be the historical pivotal point for the blueprints of the scene. The infamous Wigan Casino would become a meeting point for like minded soul rebels looking to dance the night away under the influence, and searching for the abandon of the dance groove.

More than just a club however, the Casino imprint would eventually look to progress into more creative waters. Running from 1978 to 1981 the Casino Classics label aimed to draw on the vast source material of American soul archives. It succeeded too, mainly due to the enthusiasm of DJ Russ Winstanley and Casino Manager Mike Walker, who managed to make the club constantly progressive beyond its legendary all-nighter.

Fast forward over three decades later and a new compilation from Cherry Red records brings together all those tracks. It's a fascinating glimpse into what was the biggest soul club in the world at the time. Featuring staple classics such as 'Tainted Love' and 'The Snake', it's the lesser known cuts however that really get to the heart of what the Casino night was really about. Listed below are five such gems: which without doubt are a true representation of the Northern Soul movement.

1: Gerri Grainger - I Go To Pieces

A well known face on the Johnny Carson show, Grainger split her time between acting ambitions and musical ones in the late sixties and early seventies. 'I go to pieces' however set the standard which she never quite reached again. There's something in Grainger's voice that suggests she'd had more than her share of doomed love affairs and railing against the light. 'Pieces' in fact remains heartbreakingly sad and somehow still a dance track, despite itself.

2: Jimmy Radcliffe -  Long After Tonight  Is All Over.

Burt Bacharach and Hal David penned this evocative number to the coda of everlasting love, but it's really Jimmy Radcliffe's vocal that makes it. Both soulful and haunting, it would end up becoming a huge cult hit in later years, but unfortunately Radcliffe's early death meant he hardly had time to enjoy it. It still stands up today however as pretty much a masterpiece. A stone cold classic.

3: Tammy St John - Nobody Knows What's Going On

Psychedelia may not have been a pressing influence on the Northern Soul recording scene but from time to time it popped its head above the barricades. None more so than here. Tammy St John's 'Nobody Knows...' is an off kilter Northern Soul track as mysterious as the singer herself. St John wouldn't last in the music industry long but what she left behind was certainly unique and original. As 'Nobody Knows...' certainly is.

4: Len Barry - I Struck It Rich

Almost gospel like optimism is hardly staple subject matter for the broken hearts and running mascara of most soul classics, but here Len Barry sings with an erection of the heart to deliver a seminal track. The Philly soul man would score a couple of Uk top ten hits with other tracks, but he never sounded better than on this killer cut.

5: The Javells - Goodbye Nuthin' To Say

Soul music with a pop sensibility, you can almost hear the flashes of Motown and Sly Stone's soul revue bursting through the grooves of this underrated classic. This Javell's track should have been huge but sunk without a trace before slightly denting the Uk singles charts. Whereupon the Northern Soul scene rightly embraced it. 

Follow Craig on Twitter- @midnighttapes

Casino Classics - Complete Collection is out now on Cherry Red.  Pick up a copy here