In the late 60s King Records was in the midst of a funk revolution. This upheaval was spearheaded by James Brown who, on his return to the label in 1965, after a couple of years away, had changed the course of music with the groundbreaking single ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’. This may not have been pure funk but it was certainly a large step towards it. Over the course of the next two years he honed the style until he stormed to an R&B #1 position (and Top 10 Pop) with ‘Cold Sweat’, the opening salvo in a torrent of hits that marked him indelibly as Soul Brother #1. He became the only artist that really counted at the label. If King wasn’t releasing records by Brown himself, they were releasing the work of his entourage, or records that were trying to sound like him. King became the home of funk with a healthy dose of soul and the label never really recovered when he left to join Polydor.
“Royal Grooves” examines this latter period of King’s existence, from the glorious point in the late 60s when the money from their most successful artist allowed a vast array of records to be made and released, to the desperate search for the next big thing in the early part of the next decade.
The collection contains James Brown productions by Wendy Lynn, Kay Robinson and Leon Austin which have had collectors salivating for years, and even harder to find unrelated 45s by artists such as Elaine Armstrong, whose ‘Sad But True’ has only recently made it onto the radar. We also have a spectacular single by the Brownettes (previously and subsequently known as the Jewels) and a couple of 45s from the Indiana funk-masters the Presidents. If you’ve heard King Coleman’s ‘Boo Boo Song’ and thought it was a mindless novelty, you have the chance to check out ‘Pt 2’ and change your mind.
From the post-James Brown period we have the Coasters with their latin-ised version of ‘Cool Jerk’ and the wonderful Texas soul of Gloria Edwards. Best of all is Barbara Burton & the Messengers who as the Messengers Unlimited and with Sonny Morrison as lead singer released the rare “Soulful Proclamation” album. For their one single on De Luxe Barbara was put upfront on ‘Love’s Sweet Water’, a smouldering funk masterpiece.
King was a label of many facets and we try to cover most of them here. This is high quality soul and funk.
By Dean Rudland