Sunday, 13 October 2019

Masterpieces Of Modern Soul - Kent Soul Compilation


  

It is a strange phenomenon, "modern soul". It is made up of seventies (mainly US) soul obscurities, but, as opposed to Northern Soul, which was all about upbeat Motown-influenced danceable pop/soul, this is more of a smoochy, smooth, "late night" soul sound, but still with a catchy beat to it. It is more upbeat than Luther Vandross or Barry White, with a bit of a Harold Melvin/Philly soul feel to it. While there are hints of Northern Soul in some of the songs, you can, after a short while, pick out a "modern" song from a "Northern" one.

This is the first in an excellent series of compilations from the much-respected Kent Soul Records label. The sound quality is superb throughout. All these songs are genuine rarities and, listening to the sheer, joyful exuberance to them, you have to wonder why. These are songs that deserved success, but unfortunately didn't get it.

TRACK LISTING

1. It's The Same Old Story - Act 1
2. Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right - Mayberry Movement
3. Shake Off That Dream - Eddie Billups & The CCCs
4. Just A Little Ugly - Gail Anderson
5. I Don't Play Games - Nightchill
6. Do You Really Love Me - Darondo
7. If That Don't Turn You On - Millie Jackson
8. If There Were No You - Natural Resources
9. Go Away - The Hesitations
10. Momma Had A Baby - Street People
11. Never Felt This Way Before - New Experience
12. Gotta Be Loved Part 2 - Herman Davis

Act 1 were a group launched in Los Angeles in 1972 by producer Rafael Gerald. They released only one album, in 1973. They had a surprise hit on the Northern Soul scene in the UK in 1975 with the funky, lively groove of Tom The Peeper. Their song on here, It's The Same Old Story is a marvellous O'Jays-style Philly-influenced piece of orchestrated, catchy soul. It has hints of Diana Ross & The Supremes' Some Things You Never Get Used To.

My favourite track on the album is the wonderful Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right by Mayberry Movement. They were a 1974 soul group based around brothers Russell and Jesse Mayberry. The song is an infectious Tavares-style number that has a real uplifting hook. It is classic mid-seventies soul and really should have been a hit. It is the sort of song that has the feel of a Northern Soul classic about it, although the sumptuous Philly soul type backing sort of slightly discounts that. I've just listened to it four times. Lordy, what a record.


Eddie Billups's deliciously groovy Shake Off That Dream has more solid Northern credentials, to be honest. It is a stonker of a track, full of irresistible hooks, deep, rumbling, rubberband bass and a great lead vocal. It has become a bit of a cult favourite among the soul cognoscenti.

Gail Anderson was around singing for quite a while, from the sixties through to the eighties and Just A Little Ugly is a muscular serving of down 'n' dirty funk with a bit of a Blaxploitation, brassy feel to it. It is a seriously high quality "rarity".

Nightchill were a mid-seventies Detroit male vocal group, and their I Don't Play Games is a slow burner of a soul/funk song. It could almost be an eighties/nineties soul song in many ways. Again, it deserved far more success than it got. It is a top notch cut.

Darondo was an interesting character from the San Francisco area with a bit of a dodgy reputation. His cut here, Do You Really Love Me, is a jazzy shuffle of Brazilian-sounding soul. The only really well-known artist is lovable sexpot Millie Jackson, who contributes the fabulously appealing and punchy If That Don't Turn You On. Millie is quality, end of. This is a great track. Try keeping still to it. No? Told you.

If There Were No You by Natural Resources is a typical piece of upbeat mid-seventies soul, (although funnily enough I think it dates from the late sixties) while Go Away by The Hesitations has a real slightly faster, almost, but not quite Northern Soul beat to it. I can find no information about the record or the group, other than that they existed from 1965-68.

Momma Had A Baby by Street People is a great track with hints of The Temptations' psychedelic soul era to it. It features some sublime funky wah-wah guitar and also some impressive shared vocals. They were another group who only released one album, in the mid-seventies. That was a real shame because this is a seriously good record. They are pictured left.

Never Felt This Way Before by New Experience is a corker of a funky groove. This record and the group are a mystery, unfortunately. How is that great records like this are so obscure?

 Herman Davis's Gotta Be Loved Part 2 dates from 1971. Strangely, it appears to be one of those "Part 2" "b"sides that basically involves fade out backing vocals as it only lasts a few minutes. Why couldn't we have had Part 1? That appears on Volume Four of this series.

As I said at the beginning, I can't believe that this stuff comes from the vaults. They were some vaults in the seventies, weren't they?

B+

Rufus



Rufusized (1974)

Rufus - Rufusized (1974)

Once you get started....

  

Released on 5th December 1974

Running time 37.06

Rufus had released on very unsuccessful debut album of funk/soul in 1973, and changed their line-up considerably for this comparative breakthrough offering the following year, so much so that they were virtually a new band. The album provided a showcase for the vocal talents of one Chaka Khan.

TRACK LISTING

1. Once You Get Started
2. Somebody's Watching You
3. Pack'd My Bags 
4. Your Smile
5. Rufusized
6. I'm A Woman (I'm A Backbone)
7. Right Is Right
8. Half Moon
9. Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me Of A Friend)
10. Stop On By                                                                   

With a few seconds of the upbeat funky brass and wah-wah-driven Once You Get Started beginning, Chaka Khan arrives with her distinctive multi-pitched vocals. Sometimes high, sometimes low, sometimes gruff and gritty, sometimes sweet and melodious - her range is most impressive. Fellow vocalist Tony Maiden provides a great contribution too and the music is top notch - ass-kicking funk of the highest quality. Just check out that throbbing, rubberband bass and those funky guitars. Rufus gained appearances on Soul Train on the back of this and you can hear why. The song's rhythm has an early disco groove that was actually quite ground-breaking. The sound is superb too - big, full, warm and bassy.

Somebody's Watching You is a cookin' piece of down 'n' dirty funk/soul - tuneful and earthy at the same time. Its influence on Michael Jackson's Off The Wall era material is clear. Pack'd My Bags is more of a straight ahead sumptuous slow soul number than a funker, despite a funky break in the middle. Your Smile is far more laid-back and sublimely soulful. The sound quality on here is outstanding and again, I can't state it enough, this is some of the best seventies soul around. Khan's vocal on this song is magnificent.


Rufusized is an early Commodores-style, organ-driven funky semi-instrumental with only occasional backing vocals, great saxophone and funky guitar as well. The solid funk of  I'm A Woman (I'm A Backbone) is a prototype I'm Every Woman and typical of the burgeoning number of strong female singers and songs that emerged in the early mid-seventies. Sisters were doing it for themselves. Right Is Right is so deliciously funky it hurts. That guitar is right on the money, man. The funk continues apace on the upbeat, frantic Half Moon, which is chock full of organ breaks, pulsating bass and fast shuffling drums.

Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me Of A Friend) is representative of a lot of the soul songs of the period with a mini-story based within its three soulful minutes. Stop On By ends this excellent album with an appealing slice of slow-burning, bassy funky soul. It was a cover of a Bobby Womack song. Overall, this album was one of the seventies' finest examples of funk-edged soul.

Below is a clip from Soul Train of Rufus performing Once You Get Started.


B+

Friday, 11 October 2019

Boz Scaggs - Fade Into Light (1996/2005)


  

Released on 19th November 1996 (Japan)
Released on 27th September 2005 (US)

Running time 54.23

For some reason, this superbly soulful, soothing album was released twice, nine years apart. Either way, it is a masterpiece of smoochy, romantic soul/AOR. Scaggs is rarely mentioned as a master of the genre, but he truly is. This appealing album is proof.

Scaggs uses many musicians on the album and the quality shines through on both their playing and the sound quality.

TRACK LISTING (US version)

1. Lowdown
2. Some Things Happen
3. Just Go
4. Love TKO
5. Fade Into Light
6. Harbor Lights
7. Lost It
8. Time
9. Sierra
10. We're All Alone
11. Simone
12. I'll Be The One                                                

Lowdown is a deliciously laid-back piece of soul/slow burning soft rock, featuring some Sade-style late night saxophone. Scaggs' vocal is appealing mellifluous and supremely soulful. Some Things Happen has an infectious, rhythmic guitar and gentle percussion intro. Once again, Scaggs is seductively attractive on his vocal and perfect for late night radio. The Lighthouse Family's vocalist had a similar voice. The backing vocals interplay with Scaggs on the chorus is sublime.

Just Go is just a wonderful, slow, romantic and sensitive number. Love TKO is a Bobby Womack song previously covered by Teddy Pendergrass which Scaggs does highly credible justice to. The soul feeling on here is peerless, as indeed is the guitar work. Fade Into Light is a classic Scaggs ballad with that distinctive We're All Alone-sounding vocal. Harbor Lights is a gentle piano-powered ballad with a real jazzy feel to it and a lovely deep stand-up bass sound. It has an excellent piano/bass/drum instrumental bit at the end.

Lost It is just beautiful - slow, romantic and sensual. Check out that heavenly organ break too. Time continues in a laid-back, vaguely Latin American acoustic guitar-driven groove. The song breaks out into a fast-paced bit of bluesy rock half way through, impressively. There is a great wah-wah guitar solo on it too. Sierra is simply delightful, airy, melodic and breezy in a very late seventies Al Stewart way. Once again, some fantastic guitar brings the track to a close.

Scaggs revisits his huge hit We're All Alone in slightly unplugged style, with just him, the piano and some subtle strings. It is simply a marvellous song and needs little further comment from me. Simone is a samba-influenced slow ballad. It is a bit Chris Rea-ish. I'll Be The One washes over you in a very laid-back, waves on the shore fashion. It utilises some contemporary r 'n' b scratching soinds on the backing, probably unnecessarily.

Stick this on as a late night album, it can't fail.

B+