I wanted to start with a charming little collection of Parisian Chanson and beyond that was released last year.
VA: Paris in the Spring (2018)
Paris In The Spring is a collection of new music, put together by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, from France between 1968 and the mid-70s. It is an extraordinary blend of several previously independent strains – French chanson and yé-yé, American jazz and funk, British chamber pop – shot through with the era’s underlying mixture of optimism, uncertainty and darkness. This is the first collection of its kind, released on the 50th anniversary of the Paris uprising. All are represented on Paris In The Spring, making it a continental cousin to Stanley and Wiggs’s hugely popular 2017 Ace compilation English Weather.
VA: Seção Rítmica: Instrumental Funk from ’70s Brazil (2017)
In the late ‘60s and ‘70s when the talented players of Rio and Sao Paolo turned their focus towards the North American funk scene, bands like Kool & the Gang, the Meters and the JBs, a new element was added to the mix. As the more polished sound exemplified by Quincy Jones and CTI Records took hold, Brazilian musicians came right back with their own distinct twist on the sound, one that inevitably revolved around a rhythm section laying down grooves that were both the tightest and the most supple imaginable. If that combination seems paradoxical, this collection will make the notion clear. Culled from the times no vocalists were claiming the spotlight, these instrumentals focus firmly on the rhythm section and its funky accompaniment, a journey through the ‘70s heyday of instrumental funk from Brazil from its rawest roots to refined boogie gems.
El Barrio: the Ultimate Collection of Latin Boogaloo, Disco, Funk and Soul (2011)
An enormous collection of boogaloo from 2011 heavily featuring the Fania All-Stars.
Bamboola Boogie (2016)
“An exciting compilation release featuring some fresh music. With no restrictions on the music styles, we are thrilled to present you our compilation Bamboola Boogie. The tracks were selected carefully by Timewarp (the man behind everything on the label) together with his fellow friend from The Zuzu Club. The Zuzu Club is a blog that was created with a warm concept, to present to the people out there some great fresh music from all around the world.
We dig only great & fresh music, and this compilation will travel you in great paths and styles of modern electronic music forms. From dub – reggae and dancehall to nu funk, soul – breaks and nu disco and from world and international styles to electro blues and nu swing. This is what we call Freestyle!”-Timewarp Rec.
VA: Ghetto Discotheque (2002)
13 Tracks celebrating the disco kings and queens who kept the faith with the funk.
VA: Will You Love Me Tomorrow-Girl Groups of the 50s and 60s (2012)
2 whole discs of truly satisfying oldies to blissfully daydream your hours away.
Double Trouble: The Cobra Records Story (2013)
Another double disc set presenting 40 classic tracks released on the Cobra label between 1956 and 1959. Featured artists include Shakey Horton, Magic Sam, Ike Turner’s Kings Of Rhythm, Jimmy Kelly & The Rock-A-Beats, Harold Burrage, Guitar Shorty, Sunnyland Slim, Betty Everett and many others. Good Ol’ Rockin’ Rhythm and Blues.
VA: That Driving Beat-Doin’ the Mod Vol. 5 (2003)
Vol. 5 is the first one in this series that I’ve listened to and it is a real solid disc! This collection includes some of the finest from the 60s U.K. soul scene.
One of the minor strains of mid-’60s U.K. pop was a re-creation of American soul. It never crossed back over to America like other British music of the time because the real thing was so good that nobody wanted to hear a whiter shade of imitation. The sound never really took off in the U.K. either, but a great many bands played it. Castle’s Doin’ the Mod series is an attempt to round up the bands that were melding soul (Northern and otherwise) with mod and pop. There are also some girl group-style songs mixed in as well as some bubblegum soul. Vol. 5 of the series, That Driving Beat, lives up to its title and features 30 uptempo dance tracks, many of them lost classics, most of them top-notch blue-eyed soul. Most of the groups are obscure, the biggest names being Geno Washington (an American expatriate), the Alan Bown Set (whose “Headline News” is a charging and melodic highlight of the set), and the Koobas. If those are the big names, you know you are dealing with a bunch of unknowns. Names you should know after hearing the disc are Lucas & the Mike Cotton Sound (“Step Out of Line”), Kim D (the sultry “Come on Baby”), the Exotics (the bubblegum soul of “I Don’t Want Nobody [To Lead Me On]”), Timebox (“I’ll Always Love You”), Young Blood (a stomping cover of the American Breed’s “Green Light,” which pounds the original to dust), and Ways & Means (whose reverb-drenched and super-hooky “Make the Radio a Little Louder” may be the best song here). There are only a few bad songs lurking around: the Blue Chips’ stiff “Tell Her,” Stella Star’s oversung “Say It,” and Felder’s Orioles’ cover of “Something You Got,” which comes too close to Tom Jones territory. Still, that leaves 27 great songs that show that the Brits weren’t too shabby when it came to hijacking American soul and giving it a uniquely British sound.
VA: Soul in Harmony-Vocal Groups 65-77 (2013)
Kent/Ace revive their Harmony soul series with 2013’s Soul in Harmony: Vocal Groups 1965-1977, a 24-track collection of little-heard soul from the golden age of harmony groups (six of the tracks are unreleased). Strictly speaking, this collection runs to 1979, not 1977 (that’s the date the shimmering “Baby (There’s Nothing That You Can Do)” by the Joneses showed up on Spring, and there’s a 1984 version of “Once Again” by Nightchill included for licensing reasons), and most of the cuts were recorded somewhere between 1968 and 1971 — just after the rise of the Impressions and Motown and just before the dominance of Philadelphia International. Appropriately, this music is pitched somewhere between these eras, sometimes riding an effervescent groove but often sounding luxuriously dreamy in its rich harmonies. Often, the sound is more familiar than the names — the Dramatics, the Pretenders, and the Mad Lads are arguably the most recognizable names here, but there are echoes of the Stylistics, the Impressions, and the Miracles here (the Magnificent 7 cover the latter’s “Ooh Baby Baby”) — but there’s much to be enjoyed in this, not just because it’s comforting to hear this timeless sound performed well, but there are quirks and idiosyncrasies in the group interplay worth cherishing.
Oonops Drops Vol. 1 (2018)
‘Oonops Drops’ is the eponymous name of DJ Oonops’ monthly broadcast on Brooklyn Radio (NYC). It’s your not average radio show without talk and comments for which he invites renowned guests with their exclusive mixes from around the globe to create timeless and thematic episodes. In the last sixty shows he got visited by artists like Morcheeba, Guts, Nickodemus, The Herbaliser, Nostalgia 77, Boca 45, Blundetto, Chinese Man and many more.
Born in 1977 he got in contact with music at an early stage and soon discovered his medium of choice: vinyl. Oonops is a dj, selector, digger and is known for his smooth mixing skills to rock parties in his unmistakable wildstyle of jazz, soul, funk, hip hop, beats, edits, reggae, dub and afro. He shared the stages with acts like Nightmares on Wax, The Beatnuts, Jeru The Damaja, Ebo Taylor, Myron & E, Akua Naru and The Artifacts to name just a few.
As a longtime friend of the Agogo label and resident of its own club night, he now gets a compilation series to showcase his manifold taste in digging, selecting and mixing. His compilation finds genres of undiscovered, previously unreleased, and for the first time on vinyl, delicacies for any avid listener and dj.
Westbound Funk (2003)
Detroit’s Westbound label (and its sister Eastbound imprint) might be best known for recording Funkadelic, who have a couple of cuts there, but it did a lot of other funk in the years 1969-1976, as demonstrated by this 20-track compilation. It is rare stuff: aside from Funkadelic, only a few artists here are likely to ring a bell, those including the Ohio Players (with a previously unissued cover of Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright”) and Bootsy Collins (with the previously unreleased slow-burning bass-heavy instrumental “RPM,” credited to Boots). Westbound also briefly corralled Alvin Cash (who had a hit instrumental in 1965 with “Twine Time”) with the 1970 dance chant riff-driven single “Stone Thing Pt. 1,” Albert Washington (known more as a blues-soul man than a funkster), and Melvin Sparks (who’d done soul-jazz for Prestige). The rest are names that only show up in crates of DJ records for funk nights. But whether no-names or names, this is good varied funk, both vocal and instrumental, even if some of the reference points are obvious. Freddie Wilson’s previously unreleased “In Born Soul,” for instance, is one of the most accurate late-’60s James Brown imitations ever, though vocally he sounds a little like Brown in a pinched high register; Jackie Harris’ “Get Funky Sweet a Little Bit” also follows the hem of the Godfather’s garment, though vocally he doesn’t sound quite as much like Brown. Elsewhere there is some quality instrumental jazz-funk with Melvin Sparks, who provides a touch of action soundtrack flair on “Get Ya Some”; Robert Lowe’s sleek but cookin’ “Back to Funk”; and the 19th Whole’s seven-minute, organ-dominated cover of Sly Stone’s “You Caught Me Smiling.” The influence of the Norman Whitfield-era Temptations is felt on some of the vocal outings, like Funkadelic’s “You Can’t Miss What You Can’t Measure.” Some of the rest is of more ordinary quality, but it is the kind of compilation that helps prove there was way more worthy funk recorded in this period than the relatively small amount that made it to mainstream ears. It’s too bad the liner notes are in such painfully tiny print, though.
Crème de la Crème: Philly Soul Classics and Rarities from the Vaults of Atlantic, Atco, and WB Records 72-76 (2003)
While the music produced by hitmakers like Leon Huff, Kenny Gamble, and Thom Bell remains the best-known of the myriad hits coming out of Philly in the pre-disco era, countless other titles were coming out of the city’s studios, some of them by superstars and most of them by unknowns, but all possessed of the same silky-smooth universal groove. Crème de la Crème: Philly Soul Classics and Rarities From the Vaults of Atlantic, Atco, & Warner Bros. Records 1972-1976 documents the best Philly soul singles from a label not really associated with its particular time and place, which is not to suggest that this material is remotely subpar — quite to the contrary, some of it ranks alongside the very best of acts like the O’Jays and the Spinners, even though virtually none of it came within miles of reaching the charts. Highlights include the Aristocrats’ “Let’s Get Together Now,” Major Harris’ “Loving You Is Mellow,” Bettye Swann’s “Kiss My Love Goodbye,” Vivian Reed’s “Save Your Love for Me,” and Clyde Brown’s “You Call Me Back.
VA: Groove With A Feeling ~ Sounds Of Memphis Boogie, Soul & Funk 1975-1985 (2015)
This installment of BGP’s examination of the Sounds Of Memphis label, focuses on the decade between 1975-1985, as regional differences faded and soul changed into funk and boogie. The 19 tracks are all, bar one, previously unreleased. There are three tracks by the highly collectable Lee Moore, one by the Ovations Louis Williams, one by Vision and two by former Hi records backing singer Erma Shaw. The booklet includes previously unseen photographs and a 2500 word essay that includes interviews with Lee Moore and with label and studio boss Linda Lucchesi. The release offers an insight to a largely overlooked period of the Memphis recording story.