Year of Release: 1968
Now here is an absolute stormer, and one I'd been trying to find at a reasonable price for years on end. As occasionally happens, I took a punt on a very battered looking copy at a highly reduced price, and contrary to my expectations, it plays perfectly OK.
"The Soul of a Man" begins with a thudding, thundering bass line, Mod inspired crashing drums, then finally Robbi's victorious roar of "Right in the palm of your hand is the soul of a man". James Bond inspired brass patterns join the foray, and the track bashes and crashes around, ricocheting off the walls. One of those rare examples of a great record that seems to be all chorus and virtually no verses at all, it does a lot with very little, a veritable firework display of a two minute single.
The flip can't be ignored either. "When Diana Paints The Picture" is gentle, considered popsike with another high quality and effective arrangement. That both sides were coated with such fairy dust shouldn't be too surprising when you considered Vic Smith's close involvement. Vic later went on to become produce Vic Coppersmith-Heaven, producer of choice for The Jam and, perhaps less famously, Peter Wyngarde on his "When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head" album.
Robbi Curtice was Wiltshire based songwriter Robert Murphy in real life, who had recently scored a Denmark Street publishing deal with Mills Music. "When Diana Paints The Picture" was co-written with Curtice's regular working partner Tom Payne and was being held in reserve by the company for Cilla Black for a possible future single, which obviously never emerged (and with all due respect to the deceased superstar, it's hard to imagine her version topping this one anyway). "The Soul Of A Man", on the other hand, was entirely a Ralph Murphy and Vic Smith composition, and recorded pronto after Curtice "learned the song in minutes after learning it on the back of an Embassy cigarette packet". Allegedly all concerned were disappointed with the final production of the track, and it only saw the light of day in the USA where it was almost entirely ignored, bar rumoured consumer interest in Sacramento.
Curtice's songwriting career continues, and in 2007 he saw a song of his ("Gospel Lane") emerge on the soundtrack for the Serge Bozon film "La France".