Rembrandt’s oeuvre was deep dark shades of mystery; Hieronymus Bosch depicted devilish incarnations from the most fevered, hell-troubled imagination, while Warhol drew tins of soup: each in its own way a masterpiece. The Modern Soul world has its own, equally diverse, aural classics which get their share of the spotlight here.
Who would deny Grover Mitchell, a Georgian flowering in the City Of Brotherly Love, his musical piece de resistance ‘What Hurts’? Master arranger Thom Bell does some fabulous colouring in on the background, while Len Barry and Sherman Marshall sketched the composition with him. The Chargers more psychefunk shaded number comes from the same Pennsylvanian school of art.
Over on the West coast, arranger and writer Miles Grayson was laying down tracks at such a rate that three of them have only recently come to light. Of these, the most fascinating find has to be Betty Fikes’ southern soul shaded ‘The Fool Who Used To Live Here’. Apart from being a soulful groove it turns out Betty was a leading light and campaigner in the 60s civil rights movement. Her activism from her home town of Selma, Alabama eventually led to her performing for Secretary Of State Colin Powell at his White House gatherings. In contrast Brenda Wayne parked her taxi cab outside the studios, cut the pounding disco inspired dancer ‘More Than Just Somebody I Know’, and then got back behind the wheel to pick up more fares. Two very different stories and styles but both great music, premiered here. Miles also came up with a southern-style, funkified gem from his regular singer Lynn Varnado. ‘Staying At Home Like A Woman’ first pictured on our sister label BGP. This is a chance for Kenters to katch on.
We move to the barely released. Higher Feelings’ ‘I Wanna Stay High On You’ was one of Kent/Modern’s hopes for the 70s that was sadly dashed due to group politics and a break-up that was ironic in the extreme, when you consider that the group are still together 35 years on. It’s a wonderful two-stepper that is rare enough not to be featured in any of the price guides and we, the owners of the label, also had no idea of its existence until a kind collector passed on all the info.
Ty Karim was an LA city girl with a wonderful recording history. Featured twice here, once with her fabulous 70s update of ‘Lighten Up Baby’, ‘Lightin’ Up’ and also in her group incarnation as Towana And The Total Destruction (check out that fantastic front cover photo). As Towana, Ty recorded ‘Wear Your Natural’ in a slow funky groove that was eventually speeded up for the 45’s release. Here we give you the unadulterated original speed recording.
Back east in NYC, David A Blake was producing classy soul recordings and his and Frankie Nieves’ song ‘It’s Better To Cry’ has a complex history. However it is the quality of Johnny Watson’s 70s recording of it that really matters here; good enough for DJs to pay 4 figure sums until a most unusual scam was revealed. Dave’s soul group harmony production of the Radiations’ ‘That’s The Way Our Love Is’ is absolutely exquisite and though possibly of an earlier date than this CD would normally entertain, demands inclusion.
Memphis is raided for three Sounds Of Memphis / XL recordings; recently out on different Kent CDs but well worthy of reappraisal here on a dancers’ CD. One of the triumvirate is now credited to a mystery vocalist; feel free to enlighten us with your opinions.
Chicago’s Darrow Fletcher continues to impress with his sensitive soulful singing and the discovery of ‘Hope For Love’, a previously unreleased 70s master, is a treat for everyone concerned. Other key tracks include the jazz-flavoured Fantasy recordings of Freddie Hubbard & Jeanie Tracy, the Pacesetters and the Checkmates Ltd. Garland Green adds another excellent vocal portrayal to his Kent output and the Pretenders, Bobby Burn, Act 1 and Mayberry Movement all get neglected works reappraised in this entertaining new setting.
By Ady Croasdell