THE BEST OF PERCEPTION AND TODAY RECORDS-COMPILED BY DJ SPINNA AND BBE SOUNDSYSTEM.

THE BEST OF PERCEPTION AND TODAY RECORDS-COMPILED BY DJ SPINNA AND BBE SOUNDSYSTEM.

All too often, compilations of soul, jazz and funk music, tend to focus purely on the bigger, better known labels. With soul music, compilers tend to focus on labels like Motown, Stax, Fame and Hi Records, while with jazz music it’s labels like Blue Note, Impulse, Verve and Pacific they concentrate on. Of course, these labels issued some of the most important, influential and innovative music of their genres, but by focusing on the major labels, compilers are missing out on some amazing music released by some of the smaller, lesser known labels. Many of these labels released just as important, influential and innovative music, music that often, is only known to crate diggers and purists alike. Sadly for many people, they never hear this music, meaning they’re never exposed to some wonderful music. Two of these labels are Perception and Today Records, founded in the late sixties by Terry Phillips and Boo Frazier, who ran the label until 1974. Today Records released an eclectic selection of music, with everything from jazz, soul, and vocal harmony soul, to Latin, rock and even proto-disco. Like the music Today released, their roster was equally eclectic, with artists from Dizzy Gillespie, Black Ivory and Astrud Gilberto to The Fatback Band, J.J. Barnes and Tyrone Washington. However, thanks to BBE Music music, fans can hear all of this wonderful music on BBE Music’s forthcoming compilation The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem, which will be released in April 2012. This is a two-disc set, with thirty tracks which are a perfect introduction the majestic music of  Today  and Perception Records. Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem features a combination of familiar tracks and hidden gems, which I’ll tell you about, after I’ve told you about the history of Today and Perception Records.

Perception Productions were founded in the late sixties by Terry Phillips and Boo Frazier in New York. Their first signings were some of the biggest names in the history of jazz music. This included pianist and vocalist Shirley Horn, legendary trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie and saxophonist and flautist James Moody. This trio of greats had produced some of the most important and influential music in the history of jazz music. By the seventies jazz music was changing and no longer was as popular with record buyers.Miles Davis had gone electric on Bitches Brew, and jazz fusion was becoming popular, with groups like Weather Report releasing a series of hugely popular albums. So many people wondered why Terry Phillips and Boo Frazier had signed a trio of jazz greats?

Terry Phillips and Boo Frazier would be proved right when Dizzy released a stunning album in 1971. Dizzy’s released a trio of albums for Perception Records, Real Thing in 1969, Portrait of Jenny in 1970 and Giants in 1971, an album where he collaborated with Brian Hackett. The best of these albums was Portrait of Jenny, a sumptuous jazz album, very different from Real Thing which had a much more moderne sound. These albums vindicated the signing of Dizzy, but having realized that jazz’s popularity was waning, decided to branch out into other genres of music.

Now that Perception had decided to branch out into other genres of music, they decided to found a new label, Today Records, which would release mostly soul and funk music. A young producer called Patrick Adams would prove to be crucial in the success of this new label. Together with Bill Curtis of The Fatback Band, the duo would drive the label on, releasing some of the most memorable music in the label’s history. 

One artists signed to Today Records was Julius Brockington, who was a young organist whose music is best described as a combination of soul, jazz and funk. Julius released two underrated albums for Today Records, Sophisticated Funk in 1972 and 1973s The United Chair, both produced by Patrick Adams and Boo Frazier. 

Adding to the eclectic nature of Perception Records’ roster were Baltimore poet Wanda Robinson. She released two albums for Perception, 1971s Black Ivory and 1973s Me and A Friend. On both albums, Wanda was backed by Julius Brockington and his band. While Julius Brockington and Wanda Robinson added to the eclectic nature of Today and Perception Records’ rosters, so would another of their signings, a singer who released a number of successful records in the sixties, Astrud Gilberto.

Brazilian born Astrud Gilberto, became one of the biggest jazz singers of the sixties, recorded a number of successful albums and singles. Best know for her Bossa Nova hit The Girl From Ipanema with Stan Getz, Astrud recorded eight solo albums for Verve Records, while collaborating with Stan Getz and Walter Wanderley. Having signed to Perception Records, Astrud recorded just one album for her new label, 1972s Now, an album of Bossa Nova and Latin Jazz. Having added a Latin influence to their Perceptions’ roster, Terry Phillips and Boo Frazier would sign two band’s that became Today Records’ biggest acts, Black Ivory and The Fatback Band.

Black Ivory had been founded in 1969 by Russell Patterson and Stuart Bascombe. Later, they’d ask their friend Leroy Burgess to join their group, then called Mellow Souls, and sing lead vocal. When they were trying to get a deal from record companies they happened to meet Patrick Adams. As someone experienced in the ways of the music industry, Patrick decided to mentor the group. One thing he decided was that the group change their name to Black Ivory. Having done this, Patrick signed the group to Today Records. Now signed to their new label, Black Ivory would release to stunning albums, Baby, Won’t You Change Your Mind and Don’t Turn Around, both released in 1972. Both were arranged and produced by Patrick Adams, who also wrote a number of the songs on these albums. These two albums were critically acclaimed and became some of the most popular albums released by Today Records. While Black Ivory’s music proved popular, another group would surpass even their popularity and success, The Fatback Band, which featured the talents of Bill Curtis.

The Fatback Band were signed to Perception Records in 1972, releasing their debut slice of funk and soul Let’s Do It Again in 1972. Featuring the talents of Bull Curtis, Earl Shelton, quickly, The Fatback Band became one of Perception Records most successful and popular acts. They’d release two further albums for Perception, People Music in 1973 and 1974s The Fatback Band. Sadly, not long after The Fatback Band’s third album for Perception Records was released, tragedy would occur for Terry Phillips and Boo Frazier, when Perception Records closed, just five years after it was founded. Thankfully, BBE Music have decided to revisit Perception and Today Records back catalogue on The Best of Perception and Today Records, on their two-disc set, which features thirty selections of eclectic music. I’ll now pick a selection of The Best of Perception and Today Records’ highlights, which I’ll now tell you about.

DISC ONE.

Disc One of  The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem features fifteen tracks with tracks by a combination of well known and lesser known artists. Among the well known artists are Dizzy Gillespie, Astrud Gilberto, Black Ivory, Wanda Robinson and J.J. Barnes, while there are some real hidden gems from lesser known artists like One Life, Joe Thomas. Madhouse and The Eight Minutes. These tracks range from jazz, soul, funk and Latin music. This demonstrates the real eclectic nature of Perception and Today Records. With so many great tracks choose from on  The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem just trying to pick a few tracks to talk about isn’t easy. However, having spent some time listening to The Best of Perception and Today Records, these are the tracks I’ve chosen as the highlights of Disc One.

Opening Disc One of The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem , is one of the compilations real highlights, Dizzy Gillespie’s Matrix, which shows a very different, funky side of Dizzy. Taken from Dizzy’s 1970 album Real Thing, featuring bassist Phil Upchurch and guitarist Eric Gayle, it’s a stunning mid-tempo slice of jazz groove. A combination of Dizzy’s trumpet and James Moody’s tenor saxophone punchily punctuate the arrangement, combining masterfully with Phil Upchurch’s trademark guitar sound. Meanwhile a subtle, understate rhythm section augment the rasping horns and chiming guitars. Later in the track, Dizzy and James kick loose, their horns soaring full of emotion and passion, as Dizzy demonstrates his versatility and virtuoso skills, on a track that although very different from his previous music, is just as incredible and quite brilliant.

Earlier, I spoke about the hidden gems on The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem . One of these is the soulful strains of The Eight Minutes I Can’t Get No Higher. This is a track from their 1972 album An American Family, and with its swirling strings and punchy horns accompanying a gentle, thoughtful female lead vocal, you’re quickly seduced by the track’s charms. With backing vocalists accompanying the swathes of strings that almost dominate the arrangement, the vocal grows in power and emotion. By the end of the track, you realize that this is a  hugely underrated, hidden gems, making you wonder why The Eight Minutes music wasn’t a bigger success. If the rest of An American Family is this good, I’d love to hear more of their music.

By the time J.J. Barnes released his only album for Perception Records, Born Again in 1971 he’d released eight singles and one album. This included singles released on Ric-Tic, Groovesville and Volt Records. One of the tracks on Born Again is You Owe It To Yourself, eight and a half minutes of stupendous, laid back soulful music, that rivals anything he’d previously recorded. The track has an understated introduction, before lush strings kick in, followed by the rhythm section and dark, moody horns. Add to this gentle wah-wah guitars and J.J.’s beautiful soaring harmonies. Having settled into a laid back groove, the strings, guitars and bursts of horns all play their part in creating the most soulful sound, before J.J.’s pleading vocal enters. From there on, his vocal is a combination of raw emotion and passion,  sung against this meandering, beautiful arrangement. It’s a track of epic proportions, but one that has the most gorgeous sound, and is very definitely one of the highlights of The Best of Perception and Today Records.

One of the biggest successes of the Perception and Today labels was The Fatback Band, who released three albums on Perception. Nija Walk (Street Walk) was from their 1972 album People Music and is a sizzling slice of the funkiest music. Wah-wah guitars, a funk laden rhythm section and percussion combine before the vocal enters. With a joyful variety of hollers and whoops, this is good time party music from The Fatback Band. Add to this, blazing horns, a driving rhythm section and a proliferation of percussion, and you realize that this is some of the funkiest music of the early seventies, a time when funk was King. For three minutes, the Fatback Band give a majestic masterclass in what funk music should really sound like. 

From one searing slice of funk to another in Bartel’s Naturally Good, which is a mass of blazing horns, percussion, soaring guitars and another funk drenched rhythm section. As if trying to outdo The Fatback Band, Bartel come close in out-funking one of funk music’s greatest groups. Mixing funk with psychedelic rock and jazz fusion it’s a totally compelling sounding track. It gets even better when a Hammond organ is added to the mix. Whoever played the Hammond is a true virtuoso, transforming the instrument, like Jimi Hendrix did with the guitar. Then, a rocky guitar solo enters, adding to the dynamic, nearly frenzied sound which marries rock, funk and jazz music quite brilliantly. Taken from Bartel’s 1972 album Bartel on Perception Records, this is one album I’d love to be reissued, if the rest of the album is as good.

Astrud Gilberto adds a Latin flavor to The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem , with her track Gingele, from her 1972 album Now, on Perception Records. With it’s drums and percussion giving way to Astrud’s beautiful, gentle vocal, this  bossa nova track gets underway. Like her work for Verve, her voice has the same quality and beauty. Accompanied by acoustic guitar a frenzied myriad of percussion, rasping horns and backing vocalists, it’s an uplifting and hugely catchy track with a real feel-good sound.

My final choice from Disc One is The Albert’s One Life, a track that reminds me slightly of Terry Caliier, but mostly Jon Lucien’s lilting vocal. It’s a gorgeous track, taken from The Albert’s 1970 album on Perception The Albert. When the track opens, the Jon Lucien similarity is apparent, with the arrangement similar to some on Terry Callier’s Cadet albums. Punchy horns rasp, while the rhythm section and backing vocalists accompany the beautiful, emotive lead vocal. There’s a real spiritual quality to the vocal, while the driving, energetic arrangement compliments the passion of the vocal.

Although I’ve only mentioned seven of the tracks on Disc One of The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem , there’s much more to this disc than these seven songs. There are also tracks by Black Ivory, Joe Thomas, Debbie Taylor and another by The Eight Minutes on Disc One of The Best of Perception and Today Records. This demonstrates the sheer consistency of quality music on the compilation. With tracks ranging from funk and soul and the psychedelic stew of rock, funk and jazz of Bartel’s Naturally Good, to Astrid Gilberto’s slice of bossa nova Gingele, it’s just one of the most eclectic selections of music you’ll have the privilege of hearing this year. However, will Disc Two of The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem  keep up the quality of Disc One?

DISC TWO.

Disc Two of The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem also features fifteen tracks, and like Disc One, features a real eclectic selection of music. These fifteen tracks vary in style, with sizzling funk sitting side by side with some soulful cuts, while there’s a Latin tinge comfortably sitting beside the psychedelic stew of Bartel. There’s even one of Wanda Robinson’s poems set to the music of Julius Brockington, whose track Rock Steady features on The Best of Perception and Today Records. This demonstrates the sheer quality of music that can be found in the back-catalogue of Perception and Today Records. However, with fifteen tracks to choose from, what are the highlights of Disc Two of The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem ? That’s what I’ll now tell you.

Having loved Bartel’s track Naturally Good on Disc One of The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem, they contribute two tracks on Disc Two. These tracks are Boogie and You’ve Just Been Bitten, both from their 1972 album Bartel on Perception Records. Of these two tracks, Boogie is a driving slice of jazz funk, with blazing horns, Hammond organ and rhythm section combining to produce a very different sound from Naturally Good. Whereas it was a psychedelic fusion of soul, jazz and rock, Boogie has a more jazz fusion, with some sizzling horns peppering the track. Later, the Hammond organ plays an important part in the track, driving it along with a spectacular solo, when the track becomes a psychedelic fusion of soul and jazz, before the horns howl brilliantly. With the Hammond and horns to the fore, Bartel produce another tremendous track, which blends a trio of genres seamlessly.

Black Ivory were the biggest, most successful groups on the Perception and Today labels. Discovered and produced by Patrick Adams, there are a trio tracks from Black Ivory on The Best of Perception and Today Records. On Disc Two are I Keep Asking You Questions and Surrender form their 1972 album Don’t Turn Around. With swirling strings, searing guitars and a driving, funky rhythm section, Black Ivory combine soul with a sprinkling of funk. When the vocal enters, it’s powerful and impassioned, sung against a joyous mid-tempo arrangement. With cascading strings, blistering guitars and a tight rhythm section, Patrick Adams arrangement provides the perfect backdrop for the soulful strains of Leroy Burgess and Black Ivory. Surrender is even better than Don’t Turn Around, with the vocals and harmonies even sweeter and more soulful. With a punchy arrangement, incorporating swirling strings, chiming guitars and that diving beat, the harmonies are tight, while Leroy Burgess’ lead vocal takes on a punchy style matching the arrangement. Like his vocal on I Keep Asking You Questions, Leroy’s vocal is hugely soulful and emotive, demonstrating just why Black Ivory’s music is still popular forty years later.

Julius Brockington’s track Rock Steady features on Disc Two of The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem. This is from Julius’ 1972 album Sophisticated Funk and is probably his best known track. Like many people, I’ve always been a fan of the Hammond organ, an instrument that sounds stunning in the right hands. Julius is another virtuoso of the Hammond organ, bringing the instrument to life, while accompanied by a tight and talented band. He marries soul, jazz and funk majestically during three and a half magical minutes of old school funk music. 

Earlier in my review I said how I’d like to hear much more of The Eight Minutes’ music, after loving Take My Love Don’t Set Me Free on Disc One of The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem. Thankfully, my wish has been granted, with two more tracks featuring on Disc Two, Looking For A Brand New Game and Find the One That Loves You. Both tracks are from their 1972 album An American Family. Featuring a sweet lead vocal accompanied by backing vocalists, Looking For A Brand New Game gets underway. The arrangement is equally soulful, combining rasping horns, cascading strings with the rhythm section. Although the track sounds quite different to Take My Love Don’t Set Me Free, it has several things in common with that track beauty, quality and soulfulness. As much as I liked Looking For A Brand New Game, Find the One That Loves You is an even better track, with a lovely understated and quite beautiful arrangement. Lush strings, piano and rhythm section accompany the sweetest of vocals, while beautiful, subtle backing vocals augment the lead vocal. Later, the arrangement, like the lead vocal grows, soaring high above the arrangement mixing emotion and beauty, with that lush arrangement.

The final track i’ve chosen to mention is the final track on Disc Two of The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem is Wanda Robinson’s A Possibility (Back Home), from her 1973 album Me and A Friend on Perception Records. Here, Wanda’s poetry is set to music, where she reads her poetry against an understated backdrop of funk music. Chiming guitars, rhythm section, flute and later Hammond organ combine to produce a slow, subtle arrangement while Wanda confidently reads her poetry. This works really well, with the contrast between the music and vocal intriguing and compelling. Wanda delivers her poetry with a mixture of confidence and emotion, while horns bray and stabs of Hammond organ augment her words. Although nearly forty years old, this track still works and is compelling combination of poetry married to funky music.

While I’ve only chosen to highlight just seven of the highlights of Disc Two of The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem, I can promise you that there’s much more to discover on this disc. Add to the tracks I’ve mentioned, tracks by James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Thomas and Astrud Gilberto, you can see just how much great music is on Disc Two of The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem. It truly is an album chock full of an eclectic selection of delights. There’s something for every musical taste, from funk, soul and Latin music, to jazz and psychedelic rock, married with soul and funk. The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem is one of these compilations where you discover one great track, get excited about it, only to discover the next track is even better. Another great thing about The Best of Perception and Today Records is that many people will be hearing the music for the very first time. This makes listening to the compilation almost a voyage of discovery. Having listened to the album, I’ll now start searching out much of the music on the compilation. Although I was familiar with a number of the tracks, there were a few hidden gems and welcome surprises awaiting my discovery. For anyone who loves finding and listening to new music, then The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem is a must have for any music lover. DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem have dug deep to discover thirty tracks as good as this. Like previous compilations from BBE Music like Al Kent’s The Best of Disco Demands, Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume One, this is yet another top quality release from BBE Music. From the first track until the last, what you get is quality music, which is consistent throughout both discs. So, whether you like soul, funk, jazz, Latin or a psychedelic stew of funk, rock and jazz music, then you’ll find plenty of stunning music on The Best of Perception and Today Records Compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem, which is due out in April 2012, on BBE Music. Standout Tracks: Bartel Naturally Good, The Albert One Life, Black Ivory Surrender and Julius Brockington Rock Steady.

THE BEST OF PERCEPTION AND TODAY RECORDS-COMPILED BY DJ SPINNA AND BBE SOUNDSYSTEM.

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