As any California-based habitual vinyl junkie will attest, it's hard to avoid the bright yellow label of a Double Shot single when plowing through racks of dusty 45s in the vinyl emporia of the Golden State. For their stewardship of the great Brenton Wood alone, the company has its place in the soul music pantheon. They were also part of a dying breed - Double Shot was amongst the batch of Los Angeles indies, like GNP Crescendo, White Whale and A&M, who still managed to apply the independent spirit of the 1950s-early 1960s record biz at the twilight of the decade, in the death throes of the industry as they had known it.
DOUBLE SHOT OF SOUL focuses specifically on what, with hindsight, was the label's greatest strength: a commercial, yet hip brand of R&B and funky soul, seasoned with the appropriate rock/pop touches. Though the label hit paydirt with the 1966 garage rock smash Psychotic Reaction by Count Five, the bulk of their catalogue was in fact soulful in nature. Double Shot's other big act was Brenton Wood, and his success with hits such as Gimme Little Sign drew mostly black acts to the company over the next five years.
Label owners and producers Hal Winn and Joe Hooven were veteran songwriters with a keenly honed sense of the commercial. Despite a lack of success for most of their artists, the material and production values were always strong and the quality of releases high. With the release schedule centering on the late 1960s, much of the material, from artists such as Kent & The Candidates, Foxy and the Real Thing, has an appealing funky edge. The Candidates' The Neck and Foxy's version of Trouble are guaranteed floor-fillers, whilst the Real Thing are featured with, amongst other items, the audio-verite What Is Soul?, whereby a cast of characters rap with their feelings about that question over a funky backbeat, including the little girl who opines "my daddy only gets soul when he gets paid!"
Major artists on Double Shot and its Whiz subsidiary included Bobby Freeman and Shirley (of Shirley and Lee). Freeman is represented here with a slew of storming sides including Can You Stand The Pressure and Oughta Be A Law. The Invincibles and the Georgia Prophets are well known to soul collectors for their work on other labels, but their lone Double Shot singles are amongst their best. The Bagdads were a highly regarded vocal outfit led by the late Ken Sinclair, with a smooth, Impressions-like sound on the numbers Love Has Two Faces and the previously unissued Push Me Baby.
Many tracks feature the songwriting and production prowess of Maurice "Mo" Rodgers, the company's in-house R&B staffer, and recording artist in his own right (check out his fabulous Coming In Out of The Rain) and nowadays a well-respected blues musician. Virtually everything on "Double Shot Of Soul" is making its debut on compact disc. Additionally, meticulous tape research in the vaults has thrown up superlative unissued material. Winn, Rodgers and Freeman all contribute to an extensive liner note that details the history of this fascinating - and rarely heralded as soulful - imprint.
by ALEC PALAO