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Tommy Hunt - A Sign of the Times: The Spark Recordings 1975-1976

  by Dave Goodwin

published: 29 / 7 / 2014

Tommy Hunt - A Sign of the Times: The Spark Recordings 1975-1976
Label: Shout
Format: CD


First-rate compilation from ex-Flamingos star and soul giant Tommy Hunt of material recorded in the mid-1970s for Northern Soul label Spark

Tommy Hunt was born on the 18th June 1933 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. His earliest memories of his love for music were of singing for family and his mothers’ friends at the age of seven where his schoolmates named him Tommy because they reckoned he didn't look like a Charles, his real name, and it has stayed with him throughout his entire life. He formed a group called the Five Echoes after moving to Chicago and, after a stint doing National Service in the Air Force, followed by a prison sentence, then returned to Chicago to rejoin the Echoes. He was approached by Zeke Carey of the Flamingos one night at a gig, and was asked to join the group and temporarily took Carey's place whilst he served his time in the army. Tommy kept on singing with the Flamingos after Carey returned. They moved to New York and started to gain national recognition, and in 1958 they had their biggest hit ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ for which they are world renowned. Tommy left the group in 1960, mainly because he and Nate Nelson were not Jewish as were all the other members of the band. Within three days of leaving, he was approached by Luther Dixon and released ‘Parade of Broken Hearts’ which was slow to be picked up until one day in New York a DJ flipped it by mistake and played the other side ‘Human', which turned out to be Tommy’s biggest hit in the USA. He became a regular performing at The Apollo in New York along with Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Shirelles, Dionne Warwick, Chuck Berry and Sam and Dave, to name but a few. Several years later Tommy crossed the waters and sang for the U.S. Army in Germany. In 1969 he left his homeland and travelled back to Germany, through Belgium and across the Channel to England. After several performances in the clubs throughout the UK, Tommy sang at the second anniversary of the Wigan Casino which gave birth to his success on the Northern Soul scene. Tommy was then approached by Russ Winstanley and Mike Walker of Wigan Casino fame and released several hits on Spark, firstly a cover version of Roy Hamilton's ‘Crackin’ Up’, followed by 1976 chart hit, ‘Loving on the Losing Side’. Unfortunately, following the decline of the Northern Soul Scene, Tommy’s success dwindled, and he hit the cabaret circuit, moving to Amsterdam in 1986 and then travelling the world with his cabaret shows. In 1996, however, Tommy won the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award for the Flamingos' contribution to music. The following year he moved back to England and returned to a new and revived Northern Soul scene, experiencing all the love and dedication once again from a crowd who had never faltered in their appreciation for his music. The awards didn't stop coming and the Flamingos entered the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000, followed by the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame in 2001 but the best was still to come later on that year when the Flamingos were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of America for their outstanding contribution to music. Tommy still lives in England, and over eighty now still does shows here and there. 'A Sign of the Times' charts the Spark era of Tommy's career. He spent around a year recording and performing songs on the UK label with hits such as 'You Got Me Where You Want Me', 'One Fine Morning' as well as 'Loving on the Losing Side'. It also boasts Tommy's live set from Wigan Casino in 1975 when he thrilled a packed house at 4.30 a.m. in the morning, which went down in Northern Soul history as one of the greatest performances the scene would ever witness. The inner booklet that accompanies the CD is packed full of memorabilia and photos of from the Flamingos era and Tommy's days afterwards recording for the Scepter and Dynamo labels before jumping ship to Spark after he hit Britain. For older Northern soul fans this is a great collector's item. Many of them will have the originals on vinyl, but this collects together all the singles and his lesser known tracks in one place as well as, of course, his legendary Wigan show. For younger fans just breaking into the world of Rare and Northern Soul, this will be a key item to own and listen to. It is a glimpse into a world few normal folk dared to venture, but for those who were there it is a piece of history to be remembered and cherished.

Track Listing:-
1 Loving On The Losing Side
2 Upon My Soul
3 Get Out
4 A Miracle Like You
5 You Go Me Where You Want Me
6 A Sign Of The Times
7 Sign On The Dotted Line
8 Loving You Is
9 Crackin' Up
10 Help Me Make It Thru' The Night
11 Sunshine Girl
12 Never Can Say Goodbye

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Interview (2014)
Tommy Hunt - Interview
Dave Goodwin chats to Pittsburgh-born ex-Flamingos star and Northern Soul veteran Tommy Hunt about his lengthy career, and new double CD 'A Sign of the Times', which compiles together some of his 1970s' recordings

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