Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Lost and Found Music

by Wayne Robins

A walk through the odds and ends of recorded music that I come across by chance, and sometimes really like.

I'm pretty sure of myself when it comes to rhythm and blues, soul and funk from the '50s, '60s and '70s. There's not a lot I haven't heard, or heard of, or so I think. I own vinyl albums by the Mighty Marvelows, Lazy Lester, Chris Kenner, the Jaynettes, and even the Turbans, the great uptempo doo-wop group that sang the unforgettable "When You Dance." (And what's really interesting about the latter is that some '50s experts believe that the Turbans never recorded an album, and that what I own is a lovingly-put together bootleg of, like I said, an album that never existed).

So I was pretty surprised to come across what appears to be a
U.K. compilation of soul and funk called "One-On" Volume 3. What intrigued me about it was that a number of artists had the right sounding names. But I had never heard of them. And as the names of the acts roll off my fingers: the New Process, the Mighty Imperials, the Aristocrats Organization, Wanda Davis...I realized you had probably never heard of them, either.

The disc originally came as a free promotional disc with issue three of Grand Slam magazine, a U.K. publication apparently devoted to the pursuit of unexamined funk. And the music is fascinating, much of it sounding like it was recorded in the first funk era, the early and mid-'70s, in some place like Birmingham, except it's hard to tell whether it's Birmingham, Ala. or Birmingham, England.

Actually, Grand Slam comes out of Nottingham, England. The Web site, gsmag.net, has little but the cover of the April/May 2004 issue (Vol. 2, issue 1). The cover shot: a proudly Afro'd Jimmy Castor. There are also cover lines for Jay-Z, Rakim, and Nas, which strikes me as a sound marketing move: sell the accessible hip-hop to underwrite the weirder funk explorations. In fact, the last half of the 13 song disc is mostly hip-hop, but there is some sharp stuff: C$ and DJ Chase's "Ladies Can I Have Your Attention" is a fun track in the De La Soul vein.

But the first six tracks are pure phantom funk. Wanda Davis has a terrific delivery on "Save Me," but the drummer sounds like he's using a hammer and nails to hang a picture somewhere else in the building. The Mighty Imperials featuring Joseph Henry do a whiz-bang version of Eddie Floyd's "I Never Found Me A Girl." The New Process (what a name!) kicks in with "Freedom," a social-consciousness tune in the Isley Brothers vein. The best is by a fine yet obscure singer named Silky Vincent, whose "Funky World Part I" is a gritty but smooth topical soul blues that is probably playing right now in the jukebox in the poolhall wherever Original Gangstas go to meet and greet.

(c) 2004. Wayne Robins. All rights reserved. Write to me.

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