'I thought this was one of yours Dean!', our esteemed sound engineer shouts at me from the other side of the Scalextric track that dominates Sound Mastering's open spaces. Strange that I thought it was his model of a McClaren F1 car, but seemingly he wasn't talking about the toys but rather a gloriously funky sound that was eminating from the speakers in his studio. I listened closely and you know what, so did I. But no, it was the glorious strains of the fantastic Vernon Garrett singing Satisfied Woman, Satisfied Man from his rather rare LP on the Grenade label. Turns out that it was another track from the POUNDS OF SOUL compilation on Kent. And by another I mean that Ady had already played me the title track by Betty Bibb and told me I could steal it for BGP at some stage. Was I going to have to steal the master and label it up as Super Funk: the West Coast years?
Well no. Because this latest excursion into the Kent Modern vaults follows its own distinct path. In his notes John Ridley describes it as an "emphasis on creating a setting for strong singers with gospel-based vocal styles...horns rather than string offer support". So although there are plenty of uptempo belters there are also some fantastic ballads and the sort of harmony vocals that all soul fans should rejoice in.
So what's what? Well for those who want to be serenaded by the ballads, I suspect you could always try the down right classic Without A Love by Jackie Day, although I would personally suggest checking the previously unreleased Johnny Durain cut Brighter Days. This gospel-drenched number reminds me a bit of It's Not Easy by Reuben Bell - the undoubted find of the Murco Story Kent CD. But of course there are plenty more from the likes of Freeman King, Joe Hayward or Betty Bibbs.
Now that's the second time I've mentioned Miss Bibbs, so lets be clear about this, the title track of this album is yet another undiscovered Kent Modern masterpiece and it is one of a handful of outrageously good but previously unreleased funk tracks that the Ace group of labels will be putting out this year. It gets us off to a flyer. It's a mid to down-tempo, bluesy, dirty groove and I for one will be inflicting it on dancefloors as often as I can. Also in this realm are the cuts by Vernon Garret, Brenda George and Jimmy Bee, who appears with his cover of Calvin Arnold's Funky Way. But just in case you get worried by the idea of repetitive grooves and James Brown grunts (you shouldn't, but I understand it happens) this is funk with songs and soul by the ton.
Of course there is more, fine harmonies on the Arthur and Mary and Sims Twins tracks, big names such as ZZ Hill and Johnny Copeland and unknowns such as Millie Foster and Jeb Stuart. This is without counting John Ridley's informative sleeve notes and not forgetting Freeman King's cigar or Jimmy Bee's jacket.
By Dean Rudland