In the early '60s, the growing crossover success of Berry Gordy's Tamla/Motown empire encouraged a lot of young Detroit singers, musicians, and hopeful entrepreneurs to explore the record business. There's a seemingly endless supply of Motor City soul (and rock) music from the era still being hunted down and sorted out to this day by collectors and discographers, from better-known small labels such as Golden World and Ric-Tic to one-off custom jobs.
One of those youths drawn to get the bug was Gino Washington, who launched his career with "I'm a Coward" in 1962 on legendarily obscure Detroit label Correc-Tone. His second release made enough noise locally to get picked up nationally by Wand, though the military draft would come calling before stardom did. Washington managed to do some recording during furloughs and put out a few singles during his service time -- and many, many more afterwards -- though his early commercial momentum was never regained.
His discography at Soulful Kinda Music lists a dizzying array of obscure releases continuing right into the 1980s, though few probably made it much beyond the city limits at the time. For those of us outside Detroit who aren't likely to find many of his original singles these days (or can't afford them), Washington's career has been ably documented by the inveterate record collectors over at Norton Records. Back about a decade or so ago came a "hits" collection, Out of This World, and following in 2002 was a second, more intriguing collection, Love Bandit.
While the first comp may contain the cream and be a better starting point for casual listeners, the second LP is a goldmine for rare soul collectors and serious Washington fans. After starting off with a couple tracks which could have made the defacto hits collection -- "Hey I'm a Love Bandit" and "Puppet on a String," the flip of his first single -- the album takes a quick left turn into collectordom.
Drawing on unreleased material from one-of-a-kind acetates, more tracks from his post-Army days and some production work for others, the Love Bandit album recalls the eclectic nature of some of the comps devoted to another prolific Detroit soul man, Andre Williams, both in the often raw sound quality and the diversity of styles on display. There's harder funk numbers such as "You Should Have Been True" or the James Brown turned sideways of Nathaniel Mayer's "I Don't Want No Bald Headed Woman Telling Me What to Do." There's the sweet, if raw, group soul of "Like My Baby" and "Rat Race," two sets of lyrics which use the same backing track! And there's the classic early-Motownesque sound of Pearl Jones' "My Man," and the Northern Soul classic "I Really Love You" by The Tomangoes. As usual with Norton releases, there's also well-written and informative liner notes telling the story for those who love the details.
Anyone who's a serious fan of '60s Detroit soul looking for something different would be well served by checking out both of Norton's reissues of Gino Washington's recordings, which remain in print on both LP and CD. While Washington never became a star, in an odd coincidence a similarly named Indiana soul singer named