Music Reviews

Soul Sides Volume Two: The Covers [coll] – [Zealous Records]

Hunter Gatherer   8/16/2007   12-inch, Soul

How can one go wrong with 12 soul covers? One can’t! Most of these songs were big enough hits that they should be familiar with listeners. But the covers are sufficiently obscure that they should be new discoveries with the possible exception of Al Green‘s I Want To Hold Your Hand. Personally I like covers because singers tend to cut loose to put their stamp on the song, and this album doesn’t disappoint.

My favorite track is Home Is Where The Hatred Is by Esther Phillips (originally by the great Gil Scott-Heron), informed by Ms. Phillips own struggles with heroin. “Did you ever try/to turn your sick soul inside out/so that the world/can watch you die?” After that I love O.V. Wright‘s cover of Latimore‘s classic Let’s Straighten It Out, which contains excellent relationship advice like “Instead of lying there crying your eyes out honey/you and me ought to be getting it on.” And be sure to check out the reggae-inflected covers of Express Yourself and Be Thankful For What You Got.

While these tracks are a little more produced than I usually like on my soul 45s, I love every track on this album. Drop the needle anywhere and give the Bay Area a badly needed dose of soul.

–Hunter Gatherer

Notes: #1 has a key change; #9 is an instrumental

Crash of Thunder [coll] – [Vampi Soul]

ArtCrimes   5/22/2007   CD, Soul

[collection] Crash of Thunder ???Boss Soul, Funk and R&B sides from the vaults of the King, Federal and DeLuxe labels???
Sid Nathan???s King label, based in Cleveland, was James Brown???s original home, but the output from King and its affiliates covered a wide range of artists, including R&B, Doo Wop, Soul and Blues. This collection covers deep soul, funk and dance tracks from fairly obscure vocalists and combos, most of which feature some very hip horn charts. These tracks for the most part are closer to the laid-back Southern soul sound than Motown, and other than Mickey Murray, none are much like James Brown. The instrumental tracks are pretty hot, and some have charmingly out-of-tune guitars, like The Presidents??? ???Which Way??? (an instrumental knock-off of Eddie Floyd???s ???Big Bird???). And some great shoutin??? here.

Black Merda – “Folks From Mother’s Mixer, The ” – [Funky Delicacies]

Thurston Hunger   5/3/2007   CD, Soul

When is the “psychedelic soul” revival coming? Call it what you will but
this is a genre that really needs to be more pronounced. Black Merda had
two releases in 1970 and 1972, combined here. Mississippi mud steeped in the shadows of Motown with a healthy dose of homage a Hendrix, this is a
killer. Great liner notes are worth a read, and evidently the surviving
members are still gutting it out to this day. Part of me wants to review
this double dip in more important civil rights tones, but really this is
just a righteous rock album with fantastic funk flavor at times. Anytime
you get that exhorting kind of manly vocal often teamed in chorus with
a party vibe, that feels so good. Toss in a bassline that has more than
enough “uhhhh” and then let the brothers work it out on guitar (and I
mean biological brothers as well), Anthony and Charles Hawkins are
super tasteful here, from the fuzz to the weep to the blitz to the
more subdued acoustic jangle. Hell if I know why these guys weren’t
huge, I hear a track like “Long Burn the Fire” or the almost asiatic
blues over crunch on “The Folks from Mother’s Mixer”, mighty mighty!
Loop the first few bars of “Prophet” and sell that as a wonderdrug.
A lot of diversity on here as well, I just happen to dig the numbers
that bring the hammer.

-Thurston Hunger

Robinson, Wanda – “Black Ivory ” – [Breathless Records]

Thurston Hunger   2/8/2007   CD, Soul

Every month is Black HerStory month at KFJC when it comes to Wanda
Robinson…but honestly this album strikes me as more about the
nakedness of people rather than the color of their skin when they
achieve such nakedness. In particular, Wanda likes that moment of
epiphany when a mirror is held up or when a reflection of one’s self is
captured in the pupils of another; illusions stripped away, pooled at
your feet like castoff vestments and vexments. She’ll start one poem
with “suddenly, i saw me” and another she’ll devote to the collapse of
a fated relationship as in “The Final Hour.” An unflinching frankness
fills in the spaces between her lines, and that includes her 1971
take on sex, which can be brutal or arousing, but ultimately just another
one of the things that seems to get in the way of people trying to
connect. “Parting Is Such” is a pretty take on the lack of give-and-take
of love, underscored by some killer swinging stings. The music on here
covers a lot of turf, blues on the corner, subway sax, funk in the alley,
a blacker shade of pale on “Tragedy No. 456” but its Wanda’s voice that
rises up over it all like the moon. Loose, lucid and guileless, she
possess a different kind of power than one might want to ascribe to her.
Check out her liner autobio for a flavor of that, and multiply it by
her gentle but never weak voice. Thirty six years later she goes by Laini
Mataka, but here’s to you and yesteryear, Ms. Robinson.

-Thurston Hunger

Check out this article on Wanda/Laini from last year…

The Brazilian Funk Experience [coll] – [Nascente Records]

Mr. Lucky   10/3/2006   CD, Soul

This is a beautiful collection of sounds by Brazilian players doing what they do best. These South American song crafters have an uncanny knack for composing fun, hip shaking songs who’s pop laden melodies meld with funky beats. We’re hearing Samba, Bossa, and traditional Brazilian percussive rhythms combining with Pop, Funk, Soul, Psyche, and Rock sounds drawn from their influences world wide. The varied cast of players/composers all seamlessly blend these sounds to create something distinct and uniquely Brazilian. It’s hard to name a favorite since most of these songs contain something attractive to my ear. There’s the diva Samba Soul of Elza Soares on “Chove Chuva”, the somber string arrangements of Marcos Valle’s “Garra”, Doris Monteiro’s delicate “Maita”, Joao Donato brings the funk on “Cata Boca Menino”, Simone’s countryside groove on “Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser”, Djavan’s synth-trip on “Aquele Um”, and the list goes on. This is an excellent collection, so don’t pass it up! -Mr. Lucky

Eccentric Soul – Mighty Mike Lenaburg [coll] – [Numero Group]

Thurston Hunger   9/28/2006   CD, Soul

Lenaburg had a killer ear for soul, and the evidence here is
abundant. His story is well-laid out in the liner notes here,
absolutely killer grade on so much of this…flutified funk
on #11 and #3, the latter with crazy clop-clop foley horse
percussion, nearly sharing the same crypt with the Vampyros
Lesbos! Sheila Jack on #4 gets her tight voice doubletracked
as she pines for her man (who “even is good for hair”), you
get the feeling a little dab won’t do her! Cool crumpled
guitar on that number too. If you are looking for fuzzed out
soul psych, dig the conjunction of “Function Underground.”
A lot of the menfolk deliver the finger-in-the-socket vocals
here, but none with more volts than Lon Rogers. Something
tells me Ronnie Whitehead’s singing comes complete with dance
steps, check out “Out of Breath” and “Cold Feet.” Those feet
would fire up the old Cold Tub, respect to DB and SSU! Check
out Whitehead’s plead and screech on the balld “Begging You.”
Small Paul gets lacrimonious without being acrimonious while
stealing 96 Tear’s keys! Dig those winding up guitar on
“Blending Soul” but as cool as all of these are, there is a
track on here that is too amazing to mention, you’ve got to
discover it. This collection is an argument against global
warming, cuz it’s hard to imagine Phoenix being hotter today
than it was during the 60’s-70’s when these were originally
put out by Mighty Mike.

-Thurston Hunger

The JB’s “Funky Good Time: The Anthology V.1” [Polydor]

Mr. Lucky   9/13/2006   12-inch, Soul

This is it! It’s hard to know what to say about a body of work like this. The band that would replace The Flames as James Brown’s stage and studio band can easily go down as one of the tightest, most influential bands of the last century. The J.B.’s not only spawned countless copycat funk bands in the U.S., but would go on to be an influence on musicians worldwide. They would also lay the groundwork for groups like Funkadelic/Parliament, Prince, and countless others. And once samplers came along, the J.B.’s would be the foundation for another genre of music that would soon rule the world, HipHop. KFJC’s library holds MANY records that have sampled works by this badassmotherfuckin’band, and the hits don’t stop coming. Handpicked by the Godfather himself, this group was a ferocious funk monster that laid down the baddest grooves ever committed to wax, and here on this anthology we witness all their glory. From the famous (and also oft-sampled) intro to the final cut, this is all thriller, no filler. If I had to pick one at gunpoint it would have to be the ear splitting “The Grunt”, to which you can find me freaking out every time. -Mr. Lucky

Chocolate Genius Inc – “Black Yankee Rock ” – [Commotion Records]

mitch   7/16/2006   CD, Soul

Craig Street-produced third LP from Marc Anthony
Thompson is multi-faceted MOR, tapping adult
contemporary/pop/soul/jazz/etc., elements for
an eclectic demographic :
???It???s a destination ??? more than a sound
or a statement. Where hair extensions are
halos. Heaven without a Golden Gate.
Everybody gets in. All the ashtrays are
are clean. The wine won???t hurt you because
the Grapes have no Wrath.???
It is also well-written and staged, built upon the
solid & familiar foundations of Black (ISAAC HAYES)
Moses, the CEO of Unlimited Love (BARRY WHITE),
guitar astrologists (DENNIS COFFEY) and other
purveyors of post-coital musical afterglow who have
favored the laid-back mink glove over the prurient
flash of the funk ???n bump. CHOCOLATE GENIUS INC
lives in Brooklyn, scores films, meets MOBY ( # 8),
exemplifies the art of backdrop & mood. ALL CLEAN.
MITCH July 2006

Funk Soul Sisters [coll] – [None]

Thurston Hunger   5/29/2006   12-inch, Soul

Ebony chiffon grace and grit, voices of vitality
and vulnerability. Etta James spells out what it
is to be W-O-M-A-N, the buttery entreat of Nina
Simone coos to be rescued, while Dione Warwick
eschews the saintly high road, with enough
pride to hide the pain inside. Music like this
is so strong, simple and true…I don’t mind
writing or hearing cliches. A haircut is a simple
thing, but if you spend all day in the beauty
parlor, look OUT. Similarly these ladies can
gussy up phrases like “Hang On in There” and
“Shake Your Booty.” I dug the brisk guitar flicks
behind Little Denice, the strangely Fripplike
soundscaping with Lynn Christopher. On the funk
to funny phase, Susan struts down Sesame Street
and Patrizia plucks soul from the mouths of babes.
Are you my mother? -Hunger Hears a Hoo Yeah

Wright, Betty – “Clean Up Woman and Many More Golden Classics ” – [Collectables Records]

Thurston Hunger   4/27/2006   12-inch, Soul

Oh man, this just nails the battle of the sexes in all its
anguish and glory. Betty takes turns being the other woman
on this record at times, but ultimately she is The Woman.
Her voice has supreme sassiness, a little smokiness around
the edges, she sings notes all the way and when she needs
to scream, like at the end of “Lovemaker” it’ll knock the
stripes off that little zebra-stripe number she’s wearing on
the cover of this hits collection. Included among them, two
penned by Blowfly, the title track and “Girls Can’t Do What
The Guys Do.” How that set with the other “Echoes of Joy”
(Betty’s original family/gospel group), one can only imagine.
But the fact is Betty’s voice and groove, are rock solid
and thus unshakeable. Check out, “The Wrong Girl” a soul
spellbinder if ever there was, with Greek tragedy twisting
through. How about the “Baby Sitter,” a cautionary tale to
dead-beat moms complete with “Rock a Bye Baby” quoted in.
Solid soul pop from the sixties and seventies… -Thurston Hunger

Darondo – “Let Me People Go ” – [Ubiquity Records]

Thurston Hunger   3/30/2006   CD, Soul

Maybe Daron’s going to get that Dough after all? One love nugget
of a soul strike delivered here, and nicely rough around the
edges. This is physical therapy that applies some deep tissue
work to your hips. Darondo’s a man who knows the sexual/sacred
strength of the falsetto. “Legs” has got a flirty kick, and
his voice screeches with a *need* to pleased. And those bass
boop backups give it a nice Sly fly feel. For a relative
unknown, it’s great how easily this album slides in with
James Brown, Al Green and such. His voices oozes confidence,
and clearly he’s having fun slipping and sliding with it.
This album feels a lot sexier than it is lyrically, Darondo
seems more focused on the hearts and minds with his words,
but for me his voice takes the short cut past all that, and
stirs things up. I wish there more sections where they’d just
drop the music down to a drum, a minimal bass line and let
the voice work things out. The backing music comes and goes,
well on “How I Got Over” it attains a solid Al Green gospel
groove. And again noodly gritty bits generally here make this
thing feel more real typically…like its happening out on
the back porch of some mom and pop diner from the late 70’s.
The only thing that didn’t click with me wa “I Want Your Love
So Bad” which has a sort of Sproul Plaza sunshine lazy jam,
but the rest of this could raise a People’s Party in Berkeley
any time, any decade. Sweetback snack! -Thurston Hunger

Rogers, Lee – Sock Some Love Power To Me – [Soul-Tay-Shus Recordings] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   12/27/2005   12-inch, Soul

Lee Rogers (1939-1990) is a soul singer from Detroit who never strayed far from his gospel roots. (Don’t confuse him with KSFO morning man Lee Rodgers.) Soul-Tay-Shus Records (part of Tuff City Records) has re-released 14 of his tracks that were originally released on 45s.

The majority of his career is covered in this compilation. The earliest tracks ’64-’66 were released on D-Town records. Later releases (’66-’69) came out on Wheelsville and Premium Stuff. On the back of this release I indicated the labels, date, and which side the track was on as best I could find out.

Proud of his roots as a gospel singer, Mr. Rogers said in an interview that the only difference between the singing he did in church and the singing he does on his records is that he wears a more expensive suit when he sings on his records.

These songs have a much rougher production than the tracks of a certain other Detroit-based label, and the sound is much more authentic as a result. On some of the D-Town singles, the instrumentals were recorded ahead of time and when Mr. Rogers would come in from touring he would record the vocal tracks separately. The instrumental track would be played over the loud speakers (no headphones in Detroit?), which would bleed through the mic as he sang. It gives these tracks a muddy sound, particularly noticeable at the end of You’re the Cream of the Crop (A4). These tracks clearly weren’t recorded with posterity in mind.

The highest charting single here is I Want You To Have Everything, which hit #16 in Jan ’65 on the R&B chart. This is the slickest track on the album. I prefer the more raw sounding Love For A Love (A3) and How Are You Fixed For Love (B1) and in particular the horns on ‘I’m A Practical Guy (A1). All tracks are short; the longest one is 3:02.

–Hunter Gatherer

Breakestra?Hit The Floor – [Ubiquity]

Hunter Gatherer   10/31/2005   CD, Soul

The world has waited four years for this release from L.A.’s live soul ensemble Breakestra. (2001’s The Live Mix, Part 2 is in Hip Hop/CD.) They appear to have moved from Stones Throw to Ubiquity.

Breakestra mastermind Miles Tackett and his inhumanly talented musician friends give us just over an hour’s worth of original funk/soul/hip hop/soul jazz compositions. They ask (and answer) the music question: Why go to all the trouble of sampling break beats and digging around in musty record stores when you have the DNA to soul music embedded in your head, heart, and butt?

The music is 2/3rds looking backward and paying homage to 70’s soul and funk masters like The Meters, The J.B.s, and countless others while the other third is looking forward to the unlimited possibilities that lie between genres.

Instrumentation: guitar, bass, drums, sax, trumpet, trombone, fender Rhodes, flute, bari sax, organ, upright [sic] cello. Vocals are provided by Mix Master Wolf and Music Man Miles with guest vocals by Darryl Jackson (14) and Chali 2na (of J5), Soup, DoubleK, & Darryl ‘Munyungo? Jackson (11).

This CD sounds good on every sound system in my house. How do they mix it to do that?

Instros: 4, 6, 10, 12
Language: 14: ‘Kiss my ass?
–Hunter Gatherer

Turner, Ike – The Bad Man – [Night Train International]

Hunter Gatherer   10/4/2005   CD, Soul

This CD contains 20 ultra-rare tracks produced by guitarist/producer/polymath Izear Luster Turner, better known as Ike Turner, from a period of his life between starting his own labels after moving to L.A. in 1962 and signing to the Kent and Modern labels in 1964/65.

With a carefully assembled band from his stints in Memphis and St. Louis, Mr. Turner started five labels (Innis, Teena, Sonja, Prann, and Sony) to record them in various configurations and under various names. This is a project that would only be undertaken by someone with boundless energy and serious control issues. Check out the CD insert for the full story.

The music is R&B with a southern feel, and it’s interesting to hear Mr. Turner trying out different arrangements sounds from song to song. A DJ in his teenage years, he was known to play everything from country and western to jump blues.
The two brightest voices on the CD are Anna Mae Bullock, better known as Tina Turner, (3-5, 8, 9) and the great Fontella Bass (10, 16)(check her out on Cinematic Orchestra‘s All That You Give on A/CD).

Mr. Turner‘s instincts were not always true. For example on (4) Tina is supposed to be crying but it sounds like she’s laughing her head off. It’s a bizarre effect. One major complaint about the album is that there isn’t enough of Ike on guitar. I’ve always been a fan of his guitar playing.
This is the sound of one pimp slapping.
–Hunter Gatherer

Eccentric Soul [coll] – [Numero Group]

Hunter Gatherer   10/4/2005   CD, Soul

This is an amazing compilation of soul singles from an obscure label called Capsoul from Columbus, Ohio. Recorded between 1970 and 1974, it’s a miracle that enough 45s were extant to make this compilation after the master tapes were destroyed in a flood and the label founder Bill Moss recycled all the 45s he could find in a fit of pique. Check out the CD insert for the full story.

The music is straight ahead soul music with a lot more heart than technique. For the most part it is excellent, but a few of the tracks sound like the ‘let’s put on a show and save the farm? climax of an after school special. I like the slow tracks the best. I swear I recognize some of these records from growing up in Toledo.

There are seven artists represented on nineteen tracks. Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr sounds like like a law firm, but check out tracks 1 and 11. Marion Black is great growling away on track 2. Elijah & The Ebonites do a semi-tasteless song called Hot Grits!!! (12), a tribute to Al Green‘s being scalded by an ex who then committed suicide. They redeem themselves with Pure Soul (18) with fake audience noises in fine, hallowed tradition. The aforementioned Bill Moss scolds the player haters with two versions of Sock It To ‘Em Soul Brother (4, 19-instro).

–Hunter Gatherer

Lord Loves A Working Man “Lord Loves A Working Man” [self]

Hunter Gatherer   9/5/2005   CD, Soul

Lord Loves A Working Man — or Lord Loves for short — is a 9-piece band (with 4 alternates) based in San Francisco’s Mission district. This self-titled, self-released CD is a studio recording from 1/2005.

This isn’t a Rush cover band, like I hoped when I saw the cover. Even better, it is horn-driven soul and vintage R&B, music that they clearly love and respect. 8 of the 10 songs are their own compositions. The two covers are Clay Hammond‘s I’ll Make It Up To You and Curtis Mayfield‘s Hard Times.
Ben Flax‘s vocals are earnest but always on the right side of over the top. The horn section, rhythm section, and rest of the band are in tune and on time.

My only complaint about this CD is the songs they picked to record are too slow and ballad-y. The band simmers but never boils. I want to know that the drummer is working his ass off, and I want to hear this horn section unleashed and playing something more interesting than block chords.

3, 5, 7, and 9 are instrumentals
–Hunter Gatherer

Cold Heat: Heavy Funk Rarities 1968 – 1974, Volume 1 [coll] – [Now-Again Records] (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   7/24/2005   12-inch, Soul

All hail Egon (nee Eothen Alapatt) for compiling this collection of rare funk music from the late 60’s and early 70’s and putting it out through his offshoot of Stones Throw called Now-Again. This is the official follow up to The Funky 16 Corners collection (which we have in Soul/12″). He also put together the compilation Third Unheard – Connecticut Hip Hop ’79-’83 (which we have in Hip Hop/CD).

Sadly this double LP didn’t come with the 28-page booklet of liner notes promised on the web site. (I’ll steal one from Amoeba the next time I go there, since that’s where I got this copy.) For brief bios of the bands, you’ll have to go to http://www.stonesthrow.com/nowagain/artists.htm

The sound quality is excellent, which sets it apart from most other funk compilations. But more importantly, the tunes are all smokin’ and funky as you might expect. Check out in particular the mellow middle section of Free Your Mind by Amnesty (A2) and the cover of War‘s Slipping Into Darkness by the Dayton Sidewinders (B3), and the alternate extended jam take of Mr. Chicken by The Soul Seven (D1). Most of the tracks were recorded in that hotbed of Funk known as the Midwest (OH, IN, MI, NE, KY) and a few were recorded in AZ and TX. It’s always interesting to hear the different local sounds.

Judging from the rarity of these tracks, maybe we should send Egon to Iraq in search of WMDs.
–Hunter Gatherer

Spike’s Choice [coll] – [Desco]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Soul

DESCO. Need I say more? In little over a year, Desco have established themselves as a hallmark of quality when it comes to funk and soul music. Now, here comes the first Desco compilation, and it’s a MONSTER, collecting all the limited- edition 7″ singles they’ve released to date. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was a collection of classic 70’s tracks…IT’S THAT GOOD! All your favorite Desco artists are here, plus a few you might not have heard before. (Be sure to check out the sitar-funk of Ravi Harris and the new tracks from Lee Fields’ upcoming album.) 100% heavy, heavy funk!

Get It!, the [coll] – [None]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Soul

Good God! This be the real thang: funky funky funky soul from 1967-69, by some of the most obscure groups you’ve never heard of, like Willie Tell & the Overtures, or Jimbo Johnson & the Violators. They’re singing and shouting about dances like the Popcorn, The Get It, and the Yak-a-Poo. Lo-fi as hell, with loud, snotty horns, and wailin’ guitars, and unrelenting FUNK! All killer, no filler! And remember: “If ya can’t do the Get It, ya got ta quit it!”

Funky Music Machine [coll] – [Soul Patrol]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Soul

The 45 RPM record labels featured on the cover of this LP represent just a few of the “holy grails” in the world of the fanatical funk and soul collector. Fortunately, for those of us too poor or perhaps just less knowledgeable about the genre, Soul Patrol has assembled yet another fine collection of these super-rare 45 gems on one extremely affordable LP. Twelve straight shots of lo-fi, hi-energy funk and soul from the 60’s and 70’s: all killer, no filler. Be sure to check out Hebrew Rogers’ “Can’t Buy Soul” and Al Reed’s “99 & 44/100 Pure Love” for starters.

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