Over the last ten years, I’ve watched as many record companies, especially small, independent labels, release a compilation that catches the record buying public’s imagination. For these record companies, they’ve hit the jackpot. Sometimes, they even hit the jackpot twice, when another compilation series proves popular. So, every year, as they’re working out their release schedule, you can guarantee that another volume in each of the compilation series is released. While this might seem like good business sense, in the medium to long term, they end up risking alienating their audience.
Previously, I’ve watched as record companies year in, year out, released another volume in what originally was a popular compilation series. Soon, though, record companies see these compilation series as a safe bet. They’re viewed as easy money. So, often these compilation becomes an annual event. That’s often when the quality suffers. The compilation is hurriedly thrown together. No longer is the compilation lovingly compiled. However, sometimes there’s often another reason for the quality beginning to suffer.
Often, the longer a compilation goes on, the amount of hidden gems and rarities reduces. Replacing them, are tracks that are best described as filler. Eventually, this once successful compilation series is a shadow of its former self. Its once loyal audience turns its back on the series, and eventually, this once successful compilation series is no more. The compiler and record company are left regretting making the compilation an annual event.
After all, releasing a compilation annually isn’t easy. Ask Dean Rudland. He compiled the latest instalment in the SuperFunk series, Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk. It was recently released by BGP, an imprint of Ace Records. Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk is a lovingly compiled compilation, and is the eighth volume in the SuperFunk series. However, nearly four years have passed since the previous volume, SuperFunk’s Mission Impossible: Hard To Find And Unreleased Funk Masters was released in July 2011. Since then, Dean Rudland will have been looking for potential tracks for Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk. That’s not surprising.
Finding and licensing the tracks takes time. The best compilers, including Dean Rudland, take time looking for the right tracks. They’re unwilling to throw together a selection of random tracks. No. Instead, they often they head off on a crate-digging expedition, searching for elusive, hard to find tracks. This takes time, effort and patience. Warehouses, damp, dusty basements, backstreet record stores, thrift stores and charity shops are the territory of the crate-digger. That’s where often, they find the hidden gems, rarities and killer tracks, including many of the tracks on Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk.
Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk features a total of twenty tracks. There’s forgotten classics, hidden gems, rarities and killer tracks from George Jackson, Billy Cee, William Bostic, Mary Love, Viola Wills, Tribe, McKinley Mitchell and Chuck Brooks. There’s even a quartet of unreleased tracks from Raymond Parker, The Funky Kids, Obrey Wilson and LaMont Johnson. They’re real finds, and are real hidden gems. However, much of the music on Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk is best described as funky soul.
Recently, the funk and soul scenes seem to have been converging. Whereas previously, they were two very different genres, there’s a commonality between the soul and funk scenes. So, Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk, which I’ll pick the highlights of, will appeal to both the soul and funk fraternities.
Samson And Delilah’s You Bring The Tears opens Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk. It’s a real rarity, released on Polydor in 1972. Polydor licensed You Bring The Tear from Malaco Productions. It was written by Anthony Mitchell and produced by Jerry Puckett. This was only Samson And Delilah’s second single. Will You Be Ready? had been released on ABC Records in 1967, but wasn’t a commercial success. That seemed to be the story of Samson And Delilah’s career. While they went on to release singles on various labels, including King James Records, Match Records and Saturn Records, commercial success eluded them. Their finest hour was the funky soulful sound of You Bring The Tears.
George Jackson’s recording career began in the early sixties, when he was signed by Ike Turner. After that, George spent the rest of the sixties touring, writing and recording. One of his most productive periods was spent at Fame Recording Studios. That’s when George wrote one of his best known, and most successfuls songs, One Bad Apple. It gave The Osmonds a million selling single. Later, George penned songs for Candi Staton and Clarence Carter. However, he hadn’t turned his back on his recording career. In 1971, George released Love Highjacker as a single on Verve. This fusion of funk and soul, sounds as if it belongs on an early seventies Blaxploitation soundtrack. It’s also the perfect introduction to one of the biggest names on Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk.
Funky. That describes William Bostic’s Sweet Thang. So, does soulful and irresistible. This little known single, was produced by Scorpio Productions, and released on Sound Of Richmond Records in 1984. It was the followup to William’s 1983 debut single, What You Do To Me which also features on Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk. It’s a funky, soulful and inventive track where William seamlessly combines soul and funk. While What You Do To Me is a good track, the hook laden Sweet Thang is a truly irresistible, funky and soulful dance-floor friendly track.
As the seventies dawned, Mary Love signed to a new label, Elco. Her one, and only, release was Born To Live With Heartache, which was released in 1971. It saw Mary given a musical makeover by arranger Roger Hamilton Spotts and producer John W. Cole. Stabs of blazing horns, wah-wah guitars and a funky rhythm section set the scene for Mary. She’s reinvented and delivers a vocal powerhouse. It’s a mixture of power, bravado, emotion and hurt. Especially, with cooing, soaring harmonies accompanying Mary. They play their part in what’s without doubt, one of the highlights of Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk.
In 1973, The Huck Daniels Co. released Foolish Man (Pt1) as a single on Kent. On the flip side was Foolish Man (Pt2). Just like the A-Side, it was a fusion of jazz and funk. Mostly, though, The Huck Daniels Co. kept things funky. However, there’s a noticeable jazz-tinged sound, as The Huck Daniels Co., featuring Johnny Adams enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs on this long forgotten rarity.
Earl Foster only ever released one single. That was Jodine, which was released on the Earthquake label in 1971, and distributed by Kent. It was penned by Earl and Larry Nettles. It’s a tale of infidelity, caused by Jodine. Against a slow, funky, bluesy backdrop Earl delivers a vocal that can only be described as judgmental and soulful. He turns the track into a modern day morality tale, with Jodine is cast as the “other woman.” Sadly, Earl Foster never released another, single, but continued to write, arrange and produce. However, if you’re only going to release one single, make it one as good as Jodine.
McKinley Mitchell’s career began in 1959, when he released Lazy Dizzy Daisy as a single. This was the start of a career that lasted four decades. By 1976, McKinley Mitchell was signed to Chimneyville Records, a subsidiary of Jackson based Malaco Records. His first single on Chimneyville Records, was Trouble Blues. On the flip side was one of McKinley’s compositions Days Got Brighter. It’s a fusion of funk, soul and blues where McKinley delivers a needy, hopeful vocal. It proves the perfect showcase for a talented, and versatile vocalist, who sadly, died in 1986, aged just fifty-two.
Many artists have covered the Lennon and McCartney classic We Can Work It Out. Mostly, they’ve stayed true to the original. Not Raymond Parker. When he covered We Can Work It Out in 1976, he was determined to reinvent the track. That was a brave move. After all, the definitive version had been released. That didn’t bother Raymond. He and his band combined a wah-wah guitar, an uber funky bass and effects. To that, they added Raymond’s tender, heartfelt vocal. The result was the funkiest version of We Can Work It Out that you’ll ever hear.
Back in 1971, Chet Ivey and His Fabulous Avengers covered Johnny Otis’ So Fine. It was released as a single on the Sylvia label, and finds Chet drawing inspiration from James Brown. He vamps his way through the track, yelping and hollering. Meanwhile His Fabulous Avengers provide a funky backdrop on this funky rarity.
If ever a track was designed to tug at the heartstrings, it’s Obrey Wilson’s Daddy Please Stay Home. It was recorded in 1975, and produced by Phillip Rault. However, it was never released. Since then, this tale impassioned plea to a two-timing father “Daddy Please Stay Home,” has remained in the vaults. Thankfully, not any more. Obrey’s impassioned plea, the funky arrangement and soulful harmonies make a very welcome debut on Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk, where it’s one of the compilation’s highlights.
Closing Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk, is LaMont Johnson’s Forgotten. Just like the other unreleased tracks, Forgotten was produced by Phillip Rault in 1975. By then, disco was more popular than soul. That’s despite Forgotten being full of hooks and dance-floor friend. There’s even a Northern Soul sound, to the version on Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk. It’s mixed by Alec Palao and is the perfect way to close, Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk, as it leaves you wanting more, much more.
That’s the way it should be with any compilation. It should be a musical journey, which when it finishes, leaves you wanting more. That’s the case with Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk, which was recently released by BGP, an imprint of Ace Records. Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk is the eighth volume in the SuperFunk series, but the first in nearly four years. No wonder.
Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk is best described as a lovingly compiled compilation. Compiler Dean Rudland must have searched high and low to find the hidden gems, rarities and killer tracks on Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk. This means spending countless hours on crate-digging expeditions, searching for elusive, hard to find tracks. Often, it’s soul destroying search. Hidden gems and rarities are in short supply. There’s always the temptation to call it a day. Whether it’s record company vaults, warehouses, damp, dusty basements, backstreet record stores, thrift stores or charity shops there’s always the thought that long lost rarity will turn up. The crate digger, it seems, has to be the eternal optimist, always hoping to strike musical gold.
Dean Rudland, who compiled Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk struck gold several times when compiling the latest in the SuperFunk series. There’s a couple of reasons for this. He’s one of the most knowledgeable compilers of soul and funk compilations. His almost encyclopaedic knowledge of soul and funk was put to good use compiling Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk. However, the other reason for the success of Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk, is that volumes of the SuperFunk are churned out annually. They’re an occasional series. Three or four years can pass before another volume in the SuperFunk series is released. That’s no bad thing.
With only the occasional volume in the SuperFunk series being released, the compiler has plenty time to seek out the best music. That’s how it should be, and why after fourteen years, the SuperFunk series is stroll going strong. During that period, other compilation series, and indeed record companies have come and gone. However, the SuperFunk series is still going strong.
No wonder. Quite simply, Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk oozes quality. Forgotten classics, hidden gems, rarities and killer tracks sit side-by-side on Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk, the latest instalment in the SuperFunk series. Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk features twenty slices of funky soul. So, Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk is bound to appeal to both funk and soul fans alike. Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk will make a welcome addition to any music collection, and for newcomers to the SuperFunk series, then Soul Emissaries-SuperFunk is sure to whet their appetite.