CALIFORNIA SOUL-FUNK AND SOUL FROM THE GOLDEN STATE 1967-1976.
CALIFORNIA SOUL-FUNK AND SOUL FROM THE GOLDEN STATE 1967-1976.
Even today, many people still see California as an idyllic paradise. They see the Golden State as a place where the sun shines all summer long on a sparkling blue Ocean. Meanwhile, the beautiful people arrive at the beach in their Little Deuce Coupe, where they join their friends, before worshiping the sun on golden beaches. It is like something from a Beach Boys song. All that’s needed is a soundtrack about surfing, hot rods and California Girls. Wouldn’t it be nice if that was what California was like that during the sixties and into the seventies? It wasn’t though.
Instead, California was very different to Brian Wilson’s musical portrayal of the Golden State between 1961 and 1964. During that period, surfing and hot rod culture played an important part in Californian culture. After that, Californian had a rich, eclectic and vibrant music scene.
Especially, in San Francisco which was the home of psychedelia. It became a haven for people wanting to follow the advice of Dr. Timothy Leary and “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.” Meanwhile, The Doors, The Byrds, Grateful Dead and The Seeds provided the soundtrack to the psychedelic era. This was only part of the story.
Still, the British Invasion groups were taking America by storm. Groups like The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who, The Animals and Rolling Stones were winning over America. This included a new breed of Californian musicians who were inspired to form their own bands.
They went out and formed their own bands. Suddenly, new bands were playing everything from garage rock, psychedelia and rock. A new music era was dawning. However, some of the previously popular genres were seen as yesterday’s music.
This included blues and jazz. Neither genre was as popular as they had once been. So much so, that many blues players were struggling for gigs. They were reduced to playing small clubs. That was despite groups like the Rolling Stones, Cream and The Animals flying the flag for the blues. It was changed days for blues and jazz. Meanwhile, soul and funk were still proving popular.
Labels like Atlantic Records, Stax and Motown were three of the biggest soul labels during the sixties. They had released countless hits, and made household names of once struggling singers. Suddenly, small labels were formed across America, as the search went on for the next big name. Surely, there was another Sam Cooke or Otis Redding out there? Similarly, there had to be other groups like The Supremes, The Temptations or The Miracles awaiting discovery? The race was on, in what was the modern day equivalent of a gold rush.
Between 1967 and 1976, labels in Florida, Memphis, New York and Philly struck gold. They released some of the best, and most successful soul and funk. Among the winners, were T.K. Records in Miami, Philadelphia International Records and Stax and Hi Records in Memphis. It was proving to be a golden age for soul and funk. However, across America smaller labels were releasing singles that went under the musical radar. This included several labels in California.
This included Ace, Dootone, Dore, Hill, Jasman, Kent, Mesa, Money, Music City, Omnivore, Pzazz and Watts Way. They’re just a few of the West Coast labels that were releasing soul and funk between 1967 and 1976. Songs from each of these labels feature on BGP Records recently released compilation, California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976. It features twenty-two tracks from familiar faces and new names.
Among the artists on California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976, are Choice Of Colours, Brenda George, Z.Z. Hill, Little Johnny Hamilton and The Soul Pack, Chucky Thurmon,The Soul Sensations, Eddie Horan, Alvin Robinson and Rulie Garcia. They’re a reminder of the soul and funk being released on West Coast between 1967 and 1976.
Opening California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976 is Choice Of Colours’ If She Wants To Go. It’s a track that was recorded for Money Records in 1971, just after Choice Of Colours decided to reform. They had split-up in the mid-sixties, but by 1971, were on the comeback trail. Ruth Dolphin at Money Records decided to take a chance on Choice Of Colours, and they went into the studio with Arthur Wright. He who arranged and produced If She Wants To Go. Despite being sweet, soulful and funky, Ruth Dolphin decided not to release the song as a single. Three years later, and history repeated itself.
In 1974, it was decided that If She Wants To Go would be remixed. Surely, Ruth Dolphin was about to reissue Choice Of Colours’s single? After some thought, she decided not to release the 1974 reissue. Since then, it’s been one of the hidden gems in the Money Records’ vaults. Not any more. This delicious slice of soulful music makes a welcome debut on California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976. It’s the perfect way to open the compilation, and whets the listener’s appetite for the rest of this musical feast.
Brenda George was ‘discovered’ by Miles Grayson, a stalwart of the L.A. music scene. He was a keyboardist, producer and member of The Charles Wright’s Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Section. Over the years, Miles had discovered a number of artists. However, Brenda George was a cut above other discoveries.
With a powerful, bluesy voice Brenda George looked as if she would enjoy a long and successful career. Her most successful single was I’m Not Trying To Make You Pay. However, Brenda’s finest hour was the 1971 single I Can’t Stand It (I Can’t Take It No More), which featured What You See Is What You’re Gonna Get on the flip-side. It was double-A-Side. What You See Is What You’re Gonna Get which features an emotive, vocal powerhouse is a soulful tour de force.
Z.Z. Hill is one of the best known names on California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976. By the early seventies, Z.Z. Hill was between labels. He had just recorded an album with Swamp Dogg, and was looking for a new label.
Luckily, his brother Matt had founded his own label, Hill which released several singles by Z.Z. Hill. One of the singles was a cover of Earl Foster’s Think People. It was co-produced by Matt Hill and Miles Grayson, and features lyrics full of social comment. They’re brought to life by of the founding fathers of bluesoul, against an arrangement that’s bluesy, funky and soulful.
Chucky Thurmon’s story is one that deserves to be told. It’s a story of triumph over adversity. The young Chucky Thurmon was born into poverty, but by sixteen was already a talented multi-instrumentalist who could read and write music. By the time he was twenty-two Chucky had founded his own record label, Thurmoe Black Music, which released the funk rarity Turn It Over. Four years later, Chucky wrote and recorded Thank You For The Party, which is based on a real life experience.
Back in 1968, eighteen year old Chucky was at a party, and someone handed him a joint. Dope was being smoked, whiskey being drunk and pills being popped. Chucky tried them all that night, and fell into a deep sleep where he regressed. Thank You For The Party documents what happened to Chucky that night. It’s a truly captivating song from a truly talented soul man. It’s delivered against a funky, jazz-tinged backdrop. Sadly, Thank You For The Party was never released..,until now, and makes you want to hear more from Chucky Thurmon.
The Soul Sensations’ When I Had You, Baby is a beautiful example of vocal harmony soul. It was the B-Side to The Soul Sensations 1973 single A Man That Is Not Free. It was produced by Ray Dobard and released on the Music City label. Sadly, A Man That Is Not Freee was The Soul Sensations only single. Maybe things would’ve turned out differently if the hauntingly beautiful When I Had You, Baby had been released as a single?
In 1973, Eddie Horan took four songs he had written to Hadley Murrel. He was so impressed, that he decided record a single with Eddie. The songs they chose were Losing You and I’m Gonna Speak Out which features lyrics full of social comment. Hadley Murrel took the songs to Money Records, who decided to release a single.
Losing You was chosen as the single, and I’m Gonna Speak Out was relegated to the B-Side. That was a missed opportunity. Not only did I’m Gonna Speak Out feature an impassioned vocal from Eddie, but was relevant to what was going on socially in 1973. The lyrics spoke to a generation. Alas very few got the chance to hear it. However, this rousing, anthemic tracks is a welcome addition to California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976.
It’s thought that Warm Excursion (Terrible Three) were one of the many house bands that played in L.A.’s clubs. They unleash a funky, soul-jazz tinged jam on this John Richardson and Bill McCloud composition. It was produced by Bill McCloud and features a tight and talented band showcasing their considerable skills in what’s a genre-melting track.
Singer and guitarist Alvin Robinson’s career began in his hometown of New Orleans, when he worked at the Imperial label in the early sixties. Within a few years, Alvin had hooked up with Leiber and Stoller in New York. He released several singles for their labels. However, later in the sixties, Alvin moved to the West Coast.
That was where he recorded Tuned In, Turned On for AFO. It was one of the songs that Alvin recorded, but wasn’t released until 1993. Although Tuned In, Turned On references Dr. Timothy Leary’s famous quote, the song is a heartfelt, soulful paean which is the perfect introduction to one of soul music’s best kept secrets, Alvin Robinson.
Eleanor Rigby was a Los Angeles based soul singer. She released several singles in the early to mid seventies. These singles were all produced by Miles Grayson. He also produced Is It Worth It All, which was never released. This soulful gem makes its California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976, and is a reminder of a talented and underrated vocalist, Eleanor Rigby.
My final choice from California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976, is the closing track, Earthquake, which was released by Rulie Garcia in 1971. It was hidden away on the B-Side of the Dore single Be My Brother. It’s a fusion of disparate musical styles. Everything from jazz, Latin and lounge, to psychedelia and rock can be heard on what’s the perfect introduction to the truly talented Rulie Garcia. He enjoyed a five decade career, where seamlessly, he switched between musical genres.
That’s only part of the story of California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976, which was recently released by BGP Records. It’s a compilation that oozes quality, and will appeal to anyone with an interest in soul or funk.
They’ll find a compilation where familiar faces sit side-by-side with new names. There’s also a trio of unreleased tracks, which are a welcome addition to California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976. Of these unreleased songs, Chucky Thurmon’s Thank You For The Party is a real find. It also has a fascinating backstory, and showcases a truly talented musician. It’s just a shame he didn’t release more music. That is the case with other artists on California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976.
A degree of mystery surrounds Warm Excursion (Terrible Three). Nobody seems to know who they were. Were they really a house band in one of Los Angeles’ many clubs? Then there’s Alvin Robinson, one of soul’s best kept secrets. He deserved to enjoy mush more commercial than he did. The same can be said of Brenda George, whose bluesy, soulful vocal should’ve bought fame and fortune her way. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, and many of these artists are now a footnote in the West Coast’s musical history. Not any more.
The release of California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976 will introduce the twenty-five artists on the compilation to a whole new audience. This could be the start of a musical journey.
Many people have discovered an artist on a compilation that they’ve wanted to hear more of. They head of in search of their albums, and eventually, have accumulated everything the artist has ever released. After this, they start tracking down music produced by the producer, or released on the same label. Who knows where this journey will end up. It’s a magical mystery tour, that began when they bought a compilation. This could be the case with California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976.
CALIFORNIA SOUL-FUNK AND SOUL FROM THE GOLDEN STATE 1967-1976.