A summer summary of a selection of soul sides that seem to have sidled their way into my possession.
Lincoln Ross AKA The 3 Pieces` Iwishcan William, reissued and remixed by Rogue Cat Resounds, is something you definitely need to look out for come the next installment of Record Store Day, and Strut`s Black Fire compilation contains some stellar soul / jazz / gospel crossover moments – such as Wayne Davis` Look At The People.
Be With Records – in addition to the Billy Paul East / Let The Dollar Circulate 12, and the TLC Waterfalls / Creep 45 – have a further 5 soulful releases stacked up. There`s another 12 from 8-piece Philadelphia band, Breakwater. Be With previously repressed their track, Release The Beast, on a 7, but now they’ve reproduced the highly sought after 1978 promo, which houses No Limit and Do It Until The Fluid Gets Hot. The former is squelchy bass-synthed boogie, brass and balladry, while the latter`s heavier funk mixes jazz and George Clinton`s Parliament – with crazy group vocals, and nods to the galactic battle between DJ Lollipop and Sir Nose.
While we’re on the Parliafunkadelicment Thang, Be With also have Suzie Supergroupie from former Parliament “musical director” Walter “Junie” Morrison. Far more sing-along than Funkadelic but equally stoned, and strange – all be it in a slightly different and less scary way. Maybe Junie was the “fun” bit, Clinton and co the “adelic”? Amid the bounty of bass and brass, funk and boogie, Junie`s What Am I Gonna Do is ripe with echoes of Sly Stone – with calls for unity, and a more sexual form of love. Later there are decidedly un-PC pleas for “pussy all night” – which may well be ironic. There`s a tribute to Hendrix, and all round groovy grinds – so tight, they’re loose. Surrender might be familiar to some from its John Morales & Sergio Munzibai “M & M” produced Fifth Dimension cover – which was big in Heavy Disco circles.
Soul of a significantly more sedate nature can be found on J.R. Bailey`s Just Me N You. Bailey, again, might be better known for a cover of one of his songs. Eramus Hall – more P-Funk alumni – turned the title track into a huge – if hard to find – modern soul hit. But the whole of this debut LP by James Ralph bears classic production and songwriting touches. These are large orchestral arrangements – big bands, choirs, and cinematic strings. Amazingly the recordings were – according to legend – made by Bailey – a former Doo-wop star and sideman of Donny Hathaway and Aretha Franklin – at his home studio and then overdubbed. The 2 segueing openers, After Hours and Heaven On Earth, both have the sophistication of Marvin Gaye`s What`s Going On while the fuzz guitar flourishes on the aforementioned title cut and Everything I Want I See In You resound with the sort of drama I`d associate with Isaac Hayes. Another favourite is the Leroy Hutson-esque Love Love Love – a song Bailey penned for Hathaway.
Be With also have licensed 2 albums from South African musician, Caiphus Semenya – the husband of singer Letta Mbulu. One of Be With`s first releases was Letta`s In The Music…The Village Never End LP – which was produced by Caiphus. 1982`s Listen To The Wind, and `84`s Streams Today, Rivers Tomorrow were both recorded in L.A., while the couple lived in exile from their homeland`s apartheid regime. The bulk of his songs are sung in his Bantu mother tongue, and the records were actually initially released on South African label, Munjale. The album`s are both collections of joyous, upbeat electronically-assisted highlife and Soul Makossa-esque jams. Featuring moving acca pella moments and uplifting mass choruses, whistling synths and tropical Wally Badarou-like Synclavier sounds. Nomalanya is a gentle sunset groove, suitable for cocktail-sipping, that should appeal to fans of say We Gotta Make It, by Caiphus` friend and fellow exiled compatriot, Miriam Makeba.
One standout exception to these Bantu celebrations is the soaring English language boogie-tempo`d jazz-funk of Without You.
The remainder of this round up is kinda random. Flagging up a few repro 45s that caught my ear. Outta Sight continue their mission to make affordable previously financially – for most – unattainable northern gems. The latest one I’ve found is a double-header from Wendell Watts. You Girl and Kiss A Good Thing Goodbye were both revival hits, and both were originally released in the late `60s on Ted Jarrett`s Nashville label, Ref-O-Ree. For me, You Girl is the cut. Written by Watts and produced by Bob Holmes, its strings are sweet, its piano ripples gently, while its bongos are enthusiastically bashed. A song of soul mates, it`s loved-up to the eyeballs and doesn’t even mention ecstasy once.
From northern gems to a deep funk nugget. Leroy & The Drivers came out of `70s Cincinatti. The Sad Chicken was originally the b-side of a Duo Records 45, now reissued by Ubiquity`s Luv N Haight. Allegedly an impromptu jam it features Chopin’s funeral march as an intro, was quite possibly inspired by James Brown`s 1969 track, The Chicken, and very likely named after its distinctive kinda crying guitar lick.
Living in Japan lovers of vinyl often get lucky as local labels, such as Octave, license and reissue sought after rare grooves. Usually getting homegrown stars, such as DJ Nori, Muro, and Ryuhei The Man, to provide edits and dance floor extensions. Octave have done just that with 2 tracks from Ike Turner & The Kings Of Rhythm`s 1969 album, A Black Man`s Soul. A record that found the troubled Mississippi musician – with the band he formed back in high school – moving away from the rock & roll that made them famous with a set of instrumental funk, recorded for Dallas label, Pompeii. With brass coolly blowing – adding the odd Batman theme biff bang pow, Moog a-squelching, and piano fucking rolling, Thinking Black gets extended out to twice its OG length – with pretty subtle edits – by the mysterious Conomark & Hong Kong.
I`ll end, though, on something new, Sound Of Superbad`s I Want Cha, on Izipho Soul. Slow, sultry, and driven by amazing vocals, a bit of bottom-end piano, and bass vamp on Led Zep`s Whole Lotta Love riff (think Tina Turner’s cover). A big thank you to The Meltdown`s Ross Allen for the tip.
JR Bailey – Love Love Love – Be With Records
Sound Of Superbad – I Want Cha – Izipho
Breakwater – No Limit – Be With Records
Caiphus Semenya – Without You – Be With Records
Wendell Watts – You Girl – Outta Sight
TLC – Creep – Be With Records
Junie Morrison – What Am I Gonna Do – Be With Records
Ike Turner – Thinking Black (Conomark & Hong Kong Edit) – Octave
The 3 Pieces – Iwishcan William (Lexx Mix) – Rogue Cat Resounds
Billy Paul – East – Be With Records
Wayne Davis – Look At The People – Strut
Leroy & The Drivers – Sad Chicken – Luv N Haight