MAINSTREAM FUNK / WE WANT SOUNDS – By Cal Gibson

Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.

In a forty year-plus career, during which he worked with Janis Joplin, Sarah Vaughan, Lou Reed, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Ted Nugent, Lester Young, Airto, Eddie Henderson and Carmen McRae amongst many, many others, music producer – and ex-head of A&R at Mercury records – Bob Shad’s defining legacy was / is without a doubt his own label, Mainstream. As influential as Strata East and CTI, it was a fiercely independent outlet for early `70s Miles Davis-inspired jazz musicians – with the Mainstream 300 series focusing on the intoxicating sounds percolating up from the streets, the new fusions being minted on the fly by some of the world’s finest players. A treasure trove of jazz, funk, and soul, vibes, that’s overseen these days by his grandchildren – who include Judd Apatow – the wonders within are here mined once again by WeWantSounds, as they curate twelve rather large selections from the back catalogue. An almost faultless ensemble cast ensures that this is another unmissable collection.

Take your pick, essentially. Barry Miles gently, soulfully rocking out on electric piano with John Abercrombie and Pat Martino juking it out on guitar? Absolutely firing on all cylinders: a definite highlight.

Or Dave Hubbard tearing through Family Affair, the familiar melody reinterpreted, reimagined, relaunched as an after hours throwdown: soulfully swinging, taking no prisoners. This one will work wherever it’s played and then some.

Another fine version excursion is Sarah Vaughan taking on Inner City Blues: sassier than a weekend in a bordello, Marvin’s cry against injustice tweaked and twisted into a horn-led lament – bustling, hustling, and beautiful. Nothing ever changes: make you wanna holler.

How about a little taste of orchestrated romanticism from Blue Mitchell: the old bebopper running down a louche, easy-going groove on Last Tango In Paris – way too short at just under three minutes, this one could play all night with no objection from this corner.

The jazz gets buckled up by the funk on Prophecy’s Betcha Can’t Guess My Sign – steeped in seventies signifiers but sounding super sleazy all these years later – late nights, love fights and everything’s all right. Jumping on the one. 

With John White’s sublime six-string theatrics rounding things off in great style, The Shad grandchildren must be delighted that they’re sitting on such a goldmine of wonderful music. I’ve got a feeling they’ll be digging into Bob’s funky emporium for some time to come. 

Mainstream Funk is a available to preorder from Wewantsounds.

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