Thanks in large part to turntable culture and its enterprising young record labels (many of them run by the DJs themselves) classic soul, deep funk and regional R&B have seen a rebirth as of late. Peanut Butter Wolf's Stones Throw imprint, Now-Again Records, may be the most notable, reissuing beautifully packaged funk and soul gems from groups like Kashmere Stage Band, Detroit Sex Machine and L.A. Carnival. British-based Soul Jazz has gone down the same route with region-centric releases like Miami Sound
, Philadelphia Roots
and New Orleans Funk
Similarly capitalizing on import status, Australia's AIM label recently released a trio of records from little-heard funk and soul pioneers. Picking up where the superb Night Train To Nashville
(Lost Highway, 2004) left off, Moody Scott's Bustin' Out Of The Ghetto
, Lattimore Brown's Little Box Of Tricks
and Bobby Powell's Louisiana Soul
document the bluesy Nashville R&B sound and its gospel-infused New Orleans soul cousin.
As all serious reissue albums should, the three discs reviewed here come with informative liner notes, covering the artists' work from start to finish in a concise manner, and name-dropping when necessary to create a decent frame of reference. More details would be nicepersonnel information for instance but for such a tiny label, what we get is fine.
Moody Scott Bustin' Out Of The Ghetto AIM
Despite roots in New Orleans, Moody Scott found most of his success recording for Nashville-based Sound Stage Seven, run by renowned coast-to-coast disc jockey "John R" Richbourg. Here Scott helped define the Nashville R&B sound.
"Bustin' Out Of The Ghetto," the title track from this collection of all Scott's Sound Stage Seven recordings, is considered by some to be a "proto-funk" classic. With its shuffling beat, anti-drug message and boisterous horns, "Bustin' Out" recalls the great Curtis Mayfield as Scott calls on his people to "stop the pusherman." Contributions from the legendary Muscle Shoals Horns help to define Scott's sound. More often than not the blaring horns outdo Scott's hectic vocalizations, giving the tunes a vibrant, lively vibe, perfect for your next party.
Scott's roots, and most of his early success, were in gospel music and his organ playing reflects this. Vocally, Scott mixes things up, while from one track to the next, his organ lines also vary. He moves from compassionate crooning on "May I Turn You On" to the "dig on this" call and response of the player-hating "I Don't Dig No Phoney." A lot of funk and soul pioneers show up in Scott's music: Sly Stone ("We've Gotta Save It"), Bill Withers ("Groovin Out On Line"), and with orgasmic "ughs" and "yeah, yeahs," James Brown ("I Don't Dig No Phoney").
Little Box Of Tricks
Unlike Scott, Lattimore Brown was a Tennessee native, born and bred on Beale Street in Memphis. Brown was not a gospel singer by trade but a blues man, a point reflected in his instrument of choice, the guitar. An early partnership with Nashville-based Excello Records (who also recorded Scott) led to modest success and a roadlife with the chitlin circuit. Little Box Of Tricks collects Brown's recorded works for Sound Stage Seven.
Again, familiar names pop up in support of Brown. "Don't Trust No One" and "I'm Not Through Loving You" were recorded at Stax's studio and feature Booker T & the MGs, unmistakably so. "Cruise On Fanny, Cruise On" plays off the popular "Mustang Sally." Brown's sound contains strong elements of "Sally" singer Wilson Pickett, plus Otis Redding and even some Solomon Burke.
"I'm Not Through Lovin'" is a superb, steady blues number; likewise with "It's A Sad, Sad World." "So Says My Heart" has the sort of funky drummer breaks that make DJs' mouths water. While Little Box Of Tricks wins in the novelty category, its dissimilarity from more well-known blues artists renders it marginal.
Bobby Powell, like Scott and many others, cut his teeth in the world of gospel music, drawing influence from Ray Charles (like Powell, a blind pianist). Louisiana Soul collects Powell's recordings for Hep Me Records, recorded between the years 1979 and 1985.
With an opening track titled "Queen Size Woman" how can you not fall in love with Powell. Like most of Louisiana Soul, "Queen Size Woman" is a gospelized southern soul ballad of earth-shattering proportions. "I got room in my king size bed for all you queen size women," Powell croons over searing keys and sexually charged rhythms. Like Dr. John or Allen Toussaint, Powell's music is full of Crescent City grooves and laid-back night moves.
Complete with handclaps and silky keyboards, "Let Me Love You" is a fantastic R&B number, with Powell's voice literally soaring above his band, exhibiting an immense vocal talent. "Spread Your Love," "A Fool For You," and "Drifting Blues" are all great numbers, with Powell raising his passionate and sensual voice to higher and higher heights.
Moody Scott still records and disc jockeys. Living in Las Vegas, he runs Creole Home Records and still performs, opening for Buckwheat Zydeco and the Nevilles from time to time. Lattimore Brown disappeared from music in the 1980s and is incorrectly rumored to have passed away, currently residing in Biloxi after considerable losses as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Bobby Powell has revived Hep Me Records and continues to be active performing gospel music. All three deserve a close listen, for their contribution to Nashville, New Orleans, funk, soul, R&B and blues music.
Tracks and Personnel
Bustin' Out Of The Ghetto
Tracks: Bustin' Out Of The Ghetto; A Man In Need Is A Fool; Groovin' Out Of Life; A Woman's Touch; We've Got To Save It Pt.1; I Don't Dig No Phoney Pt.1; I Don't Dig No Phoney Pt.2; I Must Be Doing Something; Beauty, Soul And Style; I'll Find My Sunshine; May I Turn You On; Satisfy My Hunger; To Lay Down Beside You; We've Got To Save It Pt.2.
Personnel: Moody Scott: vocals, organ; unidentified accompanying personnel.
Little Box Of Tricks
Tracks: I've Got Everything; Cruise On Fanny, Cruise On; Little Bag Of Tricks; Bless Your Heart I Love You; I'm Not Through Lovin'; So Says My Heart; It Hurts So Bad; It's A Sad Sad World; I Know I'm Gonna Miss You; Don't Trust No One; Nobody Has To Tell Me; Please Please Please; Take A Little Time; Otis Is Gone Pt.1; Otis Is Gone Pt.2; Shake And Vibrate; Little Bag Of Tricks Pt.2.
Personnel: Lattimore Brown: vocals, guitar: unidentified accompanying personnel.
Tracks: Queen Size Woman; Let Me Love You; When You Move You Lose; Spread Your Love; A Fool For You; Drifting Blues; Sweet Sixteen; Night Time Is The Right Time; The Glory Of Love; Late In The Evening (and Reprise).
Personnel: Bobby Powell: vocals; unidentified accompanying personnel.