Various artists: Home Schooled: The ABCs of Kid Soul

Various artists
Home Schooled: The ABCs of Kid Soul
Numero Group

In its classic phase, soul music partook of an exploitation that seems inseparable from the genre's charm. And while soul has always had its teenaged stars—Little Willie John, Carla Thomas, and Michael Jackson come to mind—the Jackson 5's early-'70s success redefined it as bubblegum and motivated a generation of budding performers for whom the innovations of Sly, Jimi, and James Brown existed in cartoon versions. "Time" and "Time After Time," the tracks that close Home Schooled: The ABCs of Kid Soul, recall the prog-rock of Yes and Flash—bands popular around 1972, the same era most of these 17 tracks were recorded. "Time After Time," Milwaukee kid group Step by Step's sole single, boasts Leslie organ and a jazzy, effete lick that's a dead ringer for something by Flash guitarist Peter Banks, while "Time," by Chicago's Otis the 3rd, mentions a trip to Disneyland and shimmers like great summer pop.

Some of these adolescents had stage fathers whose ambitions approached those of Joe Jackson himself, and San Francisco's Man Child Singers benefited from the connections of daddy Merl, who played with Jerry Garcia. Still, lemonade-stand enterprises such as Chicago's Eight Minutes seem sensibly named and prudently abandoned for more lucrative pursuits, given the fascinating banality of Eight Minutes' "Here's Some Dances," which rolls along in self-satisfied, incomprehensible fashion. Home Schooled spells out the childish roots of '70s pop as clearly as one might expect, now that everything has been spoiled by uncool adults who will never understand.

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