Mining the Soul
2008's overlooked reissues
By Thomas Fawcett,
3:02PM, Thu. Jan. 8, 2009
What’s better than great new music? Discovering great old music for the first time. Here is part one of my favorite reissues and compilations from the year that was:
1) Amanaz, Africa (Shadoks)
Where has this record been all my life? An absurdly obscure gem full of face-melting, fuzzy Zambian acid rock from 1975, Africa is guaranteed to blow your mind. Unfortunately, the reissue was a limited pressing of about 450 LPs, making it nearly as impossible to find as the original. Nonetheless, it’s worth tracking down in any format.
2) The Final Solution, Brotherman Original Soundtrack (Numero Group)
The world may have lost the voice of Shaft in ’08 but we gained a Blaxploitation soundtrack that – with all due respect to the late Black Moses – is even better than his revered classic. Chicago vocal group the Final Solution (here’s hoping that’s not a Nazi reference) was commissioned to record the soundtrack for the film, which was shelved in 1975. If the script is anywhere near as good as the soundtrack, some studio needs to make Brotherman a reality. Like Sweet Sweetback, these songs are baadasssss!
3) Jimmy Hughes, The Best of Jimmy Hughes (Fame)
Muscle Shoals, Alabama rarely gets the same props as Soulsville, U.S.A., but it’s as important as any Southern city not named Memphis or New Orleans in shaping modern American sounds. Fame Studios cranked out hits by stars like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and Joe Tex but the first recording in the longtime location on Avalon Avenue was “Steal Away,” featuring the velvet tenor of Jimmy Hughes. Hughes never achieved stardom but these tracks stack up nicely next to the choicest Southern soul hits.
4) African Scream Contest: Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds (Analog Africa)
The incredible title sums it up: Raw psychedelia drips from every track, the scream contest ensuing as screeching singers parrot James Brown to thrilling results. A true fusion of cross-continental sounds, few of these groups have the same precision that Brown demanded from his bands but enthusiasm bridges the gap as fuzzy wah-wah works overtime, screams reach an ear-shattering pitch and amps are cranked up to eleven.
5) King Khan & the Shrines, The Supreme Genius of King Khan & the Shrines (Vice)
Press play, pick yourself up off the floor and turn it up. This is serious get down music from the scion of the recent garage soul resurgence. Go see this lunatic the next time he steamrolls through your town in a pith helmet and loin cloth – you won’t be disappointed.
6) Carolina Funk: First In Funk (Now Again)
Heavy, heavy, heavy. Now Again Records can do no wrong in my book as they unearth the heaviest funk 45s in the U-S-of-A region by region, town by town. This set rolls down Tobacco Road with funk in the raw, more than a few fellows trying to fill the fast moving shoes of the Godfather.
7) Calypsoul 70: Caribbean Soul (Strut)
The always on-point Strut label takes listeners island-hopping across the Caribbean, unearthing rarities where funk, soul, and disco collide with steel pan, reggae, and calypso. Things get hottest when political, like Biosis Now’s call for an “Independent Bahamas.”
Stay tuned for picks 8-15, coming soon!