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

New York’s Frederiksberg Records have been on quite a roll recently, firing out fiendishly obscure and long lost big hitters from the vaults that all sound just wonderful all these years down the line. Personal favourites include the boogiefied bottom-end business of Hugo Moolenaar and the righteous Abysinnian grooves of Admas, but in truth the whole back catalogue is well worth investigation – it`s a treasure trove of under appreciated musicianship from back in the day.

And so we come to the latest installment: a private press self-release from a group of jazz-loving musicians from New York that’s steeped in early `70s soulful vibes which translate perfectly to today’s open-minded dancefloors. Eight cuts, seven from the original pressing and a bonus track, all prime examples of flowing, freeform grooves, supple and flexible, warm and inviting – beautifully executed and funky as hell.

The group comprised saxophonist and bass clarinetist, Rick Lawn, keyboardist, Joel Chase, bassist, Tom Ives, and drummer, Al Colone, with additional conguero, Ken Parmele. Together they rip into opener, Cleanin’ Up: moody modal manouevres, handled perfectly – Lawn’s sax leading the way, swooping and diving, ducking and rucking: Chase’s keys melancholically rolling underneath – relaxed and vibing. The main theme hooked into the ears, tight and steady as she blows. A great introduction.

Sunflower‘s bassline comes on like Omar’s Nothing Like This, twenty years before the fact, leading into a lovely four minutes of souljazz stylings. Warmth, swing, groove: the players listening, responding, surging forward together – elegance incarnate.

Pharoah’s Thing goes way deep, meditationally-inclined chords reverberating, blue skies invoked wordlessly, an aching melody kissing the heavens, moody blues for misty-eyed travellers. A perfect coda for the original album.

Schizoid features more yearning soprano sax from Lawn, haunting in the way that it shimmies around the beats, low-end keys hammering away – solid foundations for the flights of fancy. The bonus cut, Rain Dance, is a live recording made just before the group disintegrated and sounds great: clouds of sound gathering ominously, bass prominent in the mix, calling down the weather, calling forth the gods of rhythm for one last reel around the fountain.

All told it’s another unmissable offering from the folks at Frederiksberg – another peek into a past that might have been, lives lived and loved, traces of the unknowable and the ineffable, rescued and rediscovered for us all to enjoy. Compass rises again, and we’re thankful to bear witness to the sound of the renewal. Amen brethren, amen.

Compass Rises is out now, on the fabulous Frederiksberg Records.

You can hear some super soulful musical selections from Cal Gibson, the first Tuesday of every month, between 4 – 6PM UK time, on his Holy Rollers Radio Show, for Universal Rhythms. If you can’t catch it live, you`ll can find it archived here. 

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