INNERPEACE-RARE SPIRITUAL FUNK AND JAZZ GEMS: THE SUPREME SOUND OF PRODUCER BOB SHAD.

Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad.

Label: Wewantsounds.

During his long and successful career, Bob Shad always managed to see the big picture musically, and as a result, was always step ahead of the competition. In doing so, this allowed him to survive and thrive for forty years within the fiercely competitive music industry. This included the years he spent running Mainstream Records.

Bob Shad founded Mainstream Records as a jazz label in 1964. By 1965, Bob Shad realised that music was changing, and decided to that Mainstream Records should release a much wider and eclectic selection of music. This would include rock music. For the next five years, Mainstream Records’ new roster proved popular and profitable. That changed in 1970. When the label went into the red, Bob Shad decided to relaunch Mainstream Records. 

The newly relaunched Mainstream Records would feature a newly designed label and would release just jazz albums, and even the occasional single. Bob Shad had devised a criteria for the albums he was willing to release. They had to be traditional jazz albums. Bob Shad wasn’t willing to release albums that featured synths and electronics. Soon, he realised this was unrealistic as fusion’s popularity was on the rise. The new policy didn’t last long. Another change was that Mainstream Records began to release soul and jazz.

That came as no surprise. By then,there had been a blurring of the lines between what was soul and jazz. Even critics and record buyers were confused. This blurring of the lines resulted in Mainstream Records’ musical policy changing, and the label releasing a much wider selection of music including the eleven tracks on Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad, which was recently released by Wewantsounds. It’s the followup to Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. These two compilations are a reminder of the ambitious, inventive and eclectic music that Bob Shad’s newly relaunched Mainstream Records released post 1971. However, when Bob Shad’s career began, music was very different.

Bob Shad’s career began as a session musician in the forties. For Bob Shad this was just the start of his career. He didn’t plan on spending his life as a session player. He knew that he was destined for greater things. Although he was just a session musicians, Bob Shad made it his business to know everyone within the New York music scene. Soon, he knew everyone that mattered. Whether it was Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker or Coleman Hawkins, Bob Shad knew them. There was a reason for this. Bob Shad was looking to the future.

Bob Shad didn’t want to remain a session player. The role of musical hired gun wasn’t for Bob. He had ambition and saw the bigger picture. Soon, Bob Shad was working as a producer in post-war New York. Mostly, Bob was producing R&B. This was just the next step in Bob’s game-plan.

In 1948, Bob founded his first label  Sittin’ In With. He was inspired to do this because of his love of jazz. This resulted in Bob discovering the blues. With his portable tape recorder, Bob Shad headed to the South and taped some of the greatest names in blues music including Lightnin’ Hopkins, Memphis Slim, Big Bill Broonzy and Smokey Hogg. Having recorded one blues player, they would tell Bob about another. He continued to crisscross the South taping some of the legendary blues players. When he had eventually returned to the Big Apple, Bob Shad started to release these singles on his own labels. 

Somehow, Bob Shad still found time to freelance. Some of the artists he discovered were released on other labels. This includes Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Savannah Churchill. While these records sold in vast volumes, Bob didn’t make much money. It taught him an important lesson. That was only to release music on his own labels.

Despite founding  a series of labels during the early fifties, Bob Shad agreed to work full-time for Mercury Records. Still, Bob Shad founded a series of labels. This included the Castle, Harlem, Jackson,  Jade, Jax and Spirituals’ labels. He realised the importance of having separate labels for separate genres of music. Bob Shad realised that when record buyers saw a label, they had to know what type of music it would release. This was the case throughout his career.

By 1958 had tired of being a company man, and decided to focus entirely on his own labels. Bob Shad founded further labels, including Shad, Time and Warner. Then in 1959, Bob founded Brent Records which for eight years, was Bob Shad’s soul label. Between April 1959 and October 1967, Brent released seventy-five singles. However, midway through this, in 1964, Bob Shad released a new label Mainstream Records.

When Bob founded Mainstream Records in 1964, it was originally a jazz label, which mainly released albums and a few singles. However, by 1965, rock was King and Bob Shad decided that Mainstream Records should release a wider range of music. This included rock. 

For the next five years, Mainstream Records’ new roster proved popular and profitable. That was until 1970, when Mainstream Records started to lose money. Bob Shad knew he had to take action, and soon, he had hatched a plan  to relaunch Mainstream Records.

The newly relaunched Mainstream Records would feature a newly designed label and would release just jazz. Mostly, Bob Shad intended to return to releasing mostly albums, with the occasional single. However, Bob Shad had a criteria for the albums he was willing to release. 

He was going to only release what he saw as traditional jazz albums. Bob Shad didn’t want to release albums where synths and electronics featured. This was somewhat unrealistic given that fusion’s popularity was growing. It was no surprise that this new policy didn’t last long. However, that wasn’t the only change in Mainstream Records’ policy. The newly launched label began to release soul and jazz.

This came as no surprise. By then, the there had been a blurring of the lines between what was soul and jazz. Even critics and record buyers were confused. However, this blurring of the lines resulted in Mainstream Records’ musical policy changing, and the label releasing a much wider selection of music.

This included Harold Land,Roy Haynes, Charles Williams, Buddy Terry, Hadley Caliman, Frank Foster and Pete Yellin. That isn’t forgetting Dave Hubbard, Sonny Red, Lamont Johnson and Shelly Manne. Tracks from these eleven artists feature on Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. It’s tantalising taste and reminder of the spiritual sounding music that Mainstream Music were producing from 1971 onwards.

Bob Shad at Mainstream Music wasn’t the only producer making this music. Bob Shiele at Flying Dutchman Productions and Creed Taylor at CTi were both producing style of music. Each producer gave it their own twist. The recipe for this music included the spiritual jazz of the early seventies and modal jazz chords. To this, a myriad of Eastern influences and funky beats were added. Producers like Bob Shiele, Creed Taylor and Bob Shad gave this musical dish a stir, and added a few other ingredients.

That was what Bob Shad started doing in 1971, when he released the first of the MRL 100 jazz series. Little did he realise that he would end up releasing nearly 100 albums. While these albums featured ambitious, inventive and inimitable music, some of it had been inspired by music’s past. 

This ranged from the blues which Bob Shad had crisscrossed the South recording much earlier in his career. Other albums in the MRL 100 jazz series seemed to draw inspiration from big band music and jazz. However, much of the music on that Bob Shad recorded for the MRL 100 jazz series was unique and groundbreaking. Some of it was way ahead of its time. Eleven tracks from the MRL 100 jazz series feature on Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad.

It opens with Harold Land’s In The Back, In The Corner, On The Dark (aka Blues For Oliver The Tall Pilgrim). It’s a track from the 1972 album Damisi, where Harold Land is accompanied by a stellar selection of top class session players. This includes drummer Leon Ndugu Chancler, bassist Buster Williams and Bill Henderson on electric piano. They accompany tenor saxophonist Harold Land as he incorporates elements of modal and fusion on this memorable example of spiritual funk.

A year after releasing Hip Ensemble on Mainstream Records, drummer Roy Haynes returned with Senyah. It shown a new light on Roy Haynes, as he reinvented his music with the help of producer Bob Shad. One of this critically acclaimed album’s highlights was the title-track, Senyah. Roy Haynes and his multitalented band kick loose and showcase their considerable talents. Especially,  tenor saxophonist George Adams, the fluid and understated sound of  Roland Prince’s guitar and Carl Schroeder on the  electric piano. They play starring roles in this blistering,  post bop masterpiece.

In 1972, Charles Williams released Stickball, which was his third album for Mainstream Records which featured Iron Jaws. It was also released as a single in 1972, but failed to make an impression on the charts. That is a great shame. Iron Jaws is a near seven minute, jazz-funk workout, where the Charles Williams and his all-star band enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs.  Gradually, this nuanced, slow burner, starts to reveal its secrets as organist Don Pullen and guitarist Cornell Dupree play leading roles. They play their part in a mesmeric and spiritual sounding epic that isn’t was one of the highlights of Stickball.

Buddy Terry had signed to Mainstream Records in 1971, and released Awareness, which was his third album. The followup Lean On Him was released in 1972, and featured Buddy Terry and a band that featured the crème de la crème of sessions players. They enjoy the chance to shine on what was the highlight of Lean On Him, Inner Peace. It’s a ten minute spiritual funk epic that ebbs and flows, rising and falling and in the process revealing its beauty, secrets and subtleties. Quite simply,  Inner Peace is a spiritual funk classic, and that epitomises everything that is good about the genre.

It wasn’t until Hadley Caliman signed to Mainstream Records that he recorded his debut album. Bob Shad spotted the potential in the tenor saxophonist and flautist, and knew that Hadley Caliman was ready to make the step up from sideman to bandleader. He led a sextet on his 1971 eponymous debut album. It opened with Cigar Eddie, which is a story of two a blistering but beautiful and impassioned tenor saxophone solos. When the first drops out, John White Jr lays down a flawless, fluid guitar solo. Hadley Caliman then returns and plays with fluidity, control and emotion on this beautiful and uplifting interpretation of spiritual jazz.

When Frank Foster released The Loud Minority in 1974, the album failed to find the audience it deserved. This only came later, when a new generation of record buyers discovered the track  Requiem For Dusty. Suddenly, DJs, sample hungry hip hop producers and jazz fans started looking for copies of The Loud Minority. Before long, the album was a cult classic. That is still the case today, with Requiem For Dusty a favourite of many a DJ. They’ve been won this glorious musical tapestry where Frank Foster weaves the big band sound with funk, fusion and modal jazz. The result is a vivid, joyous and truly irresistible sounding track where Frank Foster and his all-star band kick loose.

Having signed to Mainstream Records, saxophonist Pete Yellin released his debut album Dance Of Allegra in 1972. It featured four lengthy tracks, including Mebakush, a nine minute suite. It’s the perfect showcase for the septet that Pete Yellin leads. They enjoy their moment in the spotlight, and embrace they opportunity to improvise on this soulful, ruminative and spiritual epic that is guaranteed to invite reflection.

When Bob Shad signed saxophonist Dave Hubbard, he too,  was still to release his debut album. That would change in 1971 he released his eponymous debut album. It featured BC, which was released as a single in 1972. BC was the perfect showcase not just for Dave Hubbard and his tight and talented band. They all play their part in the sound and success of BC. Especially Albert Dailey’s fleet-fingered, shimmering electric piano solo. It comes close to sealing the show. However, Dave Hubbard’s playing is fast, fluid, as he combines power and passion. Always, though he’s in control as his saxophone breezes alone, playing a leading role in this spiritual jazz hidden gem.

Alto saxophonist and flautist Sonny Red came to prominence during the hard bop era. By 1971, music had changed, and Sonny Red was trying to reinvent himself with the help of Bob Shad. He had signed him to Mainstream Records, and in 1971 he released his eponymous album. It opens with Love Song, which Sonny Red wrote using his real name, Sylvester Kyner. While each member of the band plays their part, the triumvirate of pianist Cedar Walton and Sonny Red on tenor saxophone and flute are at the heart of the action. They carve out a beautiful, captivating, mesmeric and spiritual jazz opus.

LaMont Johnson released his debut album Sun, Moon and Stars on Mainstream Records in 1972.  It featured Libra’s Longing, which closed the album. As is often the case, it was a case of keeping the best until last.  Libra’s Longing ebbs and flows taking twists and turns as it reveals a myriad of surprises and subtleties. Elements of a much more tradition jazz sound combines with funk and even a hint of jazz-funk as LaMont Johnson and his band play with freedom, fluidity and invention. Libra’s Longing is a reminder of LaMont Johnson’s oft-overlooked album Sun, Moon and Stars.

Closing Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad is Shelly Manne’s 1972 album Mannekind has long been a favourite of sample-hungry hip hop producer. However, there’s much more to Mannekind than a source of samples. It’s also one of the best albums of albums released on Mainstream Records in 1972. A reminder of Mannekind is Infinity, forty-four seconds of inimitable percussive sounds that can be found on many hip hop albums.

The eleven tracks on Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad are a reminder of the quality of  music that Bob Shad’s Mainstream Records consistently and constantly released throughout its fourteen year history of Mainstream Records. It was founded by Bob Shad in 1964, and closed its doors in 1978. During that fourteen year period, Bob Shad ensured that Mainstream Records remained relevant. 

During that period, music was constantly changing. Bob Shad saw what this happening, and decided to change direction musically. This was something that many independent labels shied away from. However, Bob Shad embraced changed and knew that the only way Mainstream Records to stay relevant and ergo solvent, was to release different type of music.

By the early seventies, the lines between what was soul and jazz were blurring. Bob Shad decided that Mainstream Records should release a much more eclectic selection of music, including soul, funk and jazz. This included the spiritual funk and jazz that features on Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. It features a mixture of new names like Hadley Caliman, Pete Yellin, Dave Hubbard, plus familiar faces like Shelly Manne and Sonny Red, who with Bob Shad’s help, were in the process of reinventing their music. Whether they were newcomers or veterans, they were all creating ambitious inventive and spiritual funky and jazz.

The recipe for this music included the spiritual jazz of the early seventies, modal jazz chords,  funky beats and a myriad of Eastern influences. Given a stir by producer Bob Shad, and this delicious musical stew featured on Mainstream Records MRL 100 jazz series. Eventually, the series numbered nearly 100 albums. This includes the eleven albums that provided the music on Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad, which was recently released by Wewantsounds. It’s the second in what hopefully, will be a long-running series that looks back at the music Mainstream Music released during the seventies

After  Bob Shad relaunched Mainstream Records in 1971, the success story continued. Meanwhile, some of his competitors were shutting their doors. Meanwhile, Bob Shad continued to rejuvenate the career of artists whose careers had stalled, and launch the career of the new, up-and-coming artists. To do this, Bob Shad didn’t hesitate to employ top quality musicians, arrangers and producers. Especially when he believed in an artist and saw that they had untapped potential. 

With Bob Shad’s help and guidance, older artists reinvented themselves, while new and up-and-coming artists released new and innovative music. At last, some of the new artists were fulfilling their potential and enjoying the commercial success and critical acclaim that their music deserved. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

Sometimes, the commercial success eluded albums, and it wasn’t until later they were discovered by a new generation of record buyers. Sometimes, the problem was that the album was way ahead of the curve, and record buyers failed to understand groundbreaking albums. Another problem was that Mainstream Records was a small fish in a big pond.

Major labels and independent labels funded by majors had much bigger budgets, to promote and distribute their releases. Bob Shad was fighting a losing battle. Still, he continued his search for talented artists that might bring Mainstream Records that elusive hit single, as the label released a much wider and eclectic selection of music. This included music on Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Bob Shad.

Despite releasing music that was ambitious, inventive, innovative and timeless, Mainstream Records never enjoyed the commercial success that the music so richly deserved. Instead, Mainstream Records was an underground label, whose music was enjoyed by cultured coterie of musical connoisseurs. 

Although Mainstream Records never enjoyed the widespread success that its music deserved, the company continued to release albums until 1978. Then after fourteen years, Bob Shad decided the time had come to close Mainstream Records’ doors. That day music lost one of its great labels.

Mainstream Records was relaunched in the early nineties by another member of this musical dynasty,Tamara Shad. Sadly, one man was missing when Mainstream Records reopened its doors…Bob Shad. Sadly, he had passed away on March 13th 1985. Bob Shad was just sixty-five, but had enjoyed a long and successful career. He had founded numerous labels, including Mainstream Records in 1964.

Fifty-three years later, and the music Mainstream Records released between 1964 and 1978 lives on. It’s more popular than ever, and with every year that passes more people discover the delights of Mainstream Records’ illustrious back-catalogue. This ranges from DJs and sample-hungry hip hop producers to a new generation of music fans. 

Many of them have discovered Mainstream Records through recent reissues and compilations, including Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. It’s the recently released followup to Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad, which was released in late 2016. These two compilations are the perfect introduction to the ambitious, innovative and timeless music that Mainstream Records released after its relaunch in 1970. They’re also a reminder and celebration of a legendary music man Bob Shad, and what’s regarded as his greatest and most enduring label,..Mainstream Records.

Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad.

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