Here goes Palao, poking his nose into fellow consultant's territories yet again. Well, the great thing about our one big, happy family at Ace is that nobody really seems to mind when their manor is stomped upon. I don't expect the esteemed Mr Rudland to be compiling garage rock collections any time soon (though he is a Sonics fan - and aren't we all?), and I can assure him as far as I am concerned the funky ball stays strictly in his funky court. However, I can attest to having been a fan of the Se ors every since espying the psychedelically-inclined cover to their erstwhile long player, SEÑOR SOUL PLAYS FUNKY FAVOURITES, way back in the Dark Ages (that's the 1980s to you, sir).
But after grooving to los Señors' whacked-out acid jazz interpretations of toons like Psychotic Reaction and Sunshine Superman for many a moon, imagine my surprise when I learned that this relatively obscure outfit was in fact the precursor to those long-lived denizens of Los Angeles multi-racial funk and soul, War. You'll find little if any mention of Señor Soul in the history books pertaining to War - unsurprising when, decked out in ponchos and sombreros for the promo pix, the Señors' label, Double Shot, promoted the band with a pseudo-Chicano image that they would probably rather forget (though like the pidgin Spanish on their early records, in retrospect it's sorta charming). However, the sounds Se or Soul produced were anything but novelty: a hip synthesis of Latin-flavoured jazz and dead-on-the-one psychedelic funk.
What It Is, Y'All is the first ever Señor Soul retrospective and it leans heavily on the most floor-friendly numbers from their two albums - the aforementioned Play Funky Favourites and It's Your Thing. Whilst future War-rior Chuck Miller defiantly helmed the combo for the first record, by the time of It's Your Thing there didn't really appear to be a Señor Soul, seeing as the album is composed partly of outtakes from the first LP sessions, or recycled backing tracks from other Double Shot/Whiz releases. Not that that's a problem - the choice cuts are all represented here, including Hypnotizer, Make The Funk Jump and The Mouse, the latter two and half minutes of pounding, fatback groove issued as a now much sought-after single in July 1969.
However the kicker, historically speaking, is the last Se or Soul release - the writer credit for the cracking Don't Lay Your Funky Trip On Me is indeed none other than the nascent War, a couple of months from Spilling the Wine with Eric Burdon. When I ran into Lee Oskar a few years ago, he acted like he'd never heard of Señor Soul, but hey, his harmonica is plainly in evidence on both Funky Trip and the relaxed I Ain't Got No Soul Today (What It Is Y'All). These are all killer grooves that no War-monger should be without. Did I mention there's a couple of unissued sides from the vault too? I don't speak a word of Spanish, but I can tell you los Se ors are mucho funky. And then some.
By Alec Palao