Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s.

Label: Tramp Records.

When a record labels releases the first instalment in a new compilation series, the hope is that this will be the start of a  long-running and successful series that will prove profitable and give the label a much-needed injection of cash on a yearly basis. There’s several examples where this has happened, and has transformed a record company’s fortunes, and indeed, balance sheet. 

Some of these record labels have even used some of the profits made from a successful compilation series to subsidise loss-making but worthy releases, which under normal circumstances they wouldn’t have been able to release. Sadly, nothing lasts for ever, and even the most successful compilation series comes to an end. However, by then, they’ve been the lucky ones.

Every week dozens of compilations are released, and many are one-offs, that have been a labour of love for the compiler, but fail to attract the attention of record buyers. Sometimes, two instalments in a compilation series will be squeezed out, the second often more in hope than in expectation. After that, the dream is over and the compiler and sometimes, the record company are forced to admit defeat.

Over the last twenty years, the majority of compilations series have been relatively short-lived, with only two, three or four or volumes being released before the series vanishes from the record shops forevermore. That has been the case with some high profile and previously successful compilation series which were released to critical acclaim. Many of these compilation series were once guaranteed to boost the coffers of the record company releasing them. Sadly, that is no longer the case.

That is why many within the music industry have jumped to the conclusion that nowadays, there are very few long-running and successful compilation series. However, these naysayers  are overlooking a number of successful compilation series that have slipped under the radar of many record buyers. This includes the Praise Poems’ compilation series which the German label Tramp Records launched three years ago in 2015. 

Three years later, and the Praise Poems’ series is now one of Tramp Records longest running and most successful compilation series. Proof of that is Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s, which features sixteen tracks, including contributions from Verses, Monopoly, Tony St Thomas, Federico Cervantes, Fusion, Lola Falana, Robert Cote, Michael Kiser,  Waves, Daybreak, Elrige Anselmi and Flood.

Opening Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s is  Cherokee which is a slow, soulful and jazz-tinged hidden gem from Verses. It features lyrics that deal with racial discrimination of the Cherokees, and they’re delivered by a vocal that full of emotion, frustration and longing. Especially as he sings: “you know they want to be free.” The vocal is framed by a  genre-melting arrangement that meander along complimenting this a poignant and powerful hidden gem. 

The quality continues with Monopoly’s Things I Could Be which is a welcome addition to the compilation. It’s sad that it’s taken forty years for this wistful and timeless sounding Latin-jazz cut to find the wider audience it so richly deserves.

Ever since Buffalo Springfield release the Stephen Stills’ compassion For What It’s Worth in 1966, many artists and groups have covered this classic song with varying degrees of success. Sadly, when Cesar’s Children from Ontario, Canada, covered For What It’s Worth their beautiful, soulful, hopeful and joyous cover passed record buyers. Nowadays, though, Cesar’s Children For What It’s Worth is a highly sought after single, and after one listen you’ll realise why.

Tony St Thomas was born in the US Virgin Islands, and during his globetrotting musical career worked a singer, songwriter, arranger and producer. By 1979, Tony St Thomas was a veteran of several thousand shows, and owned and ran his own restaurant with his wife Sabina. At night, Tony St Thomas would take to the restaurant’s small stage and entertain the patrons, which proved popular. Afterwards, many patrons would head home clutching a copy of Tony St Thomas’ latest recording a single which featured Love Is Forever. His vocal an impassioned and soulful plea as he vamps and reminds the listener that: “Love Is Forever.” 

Tragedy struck for Frederico Cervantes when he lost his sight in a car accident as a teenager. This wasn’t going to stop this talented multi-instrumentalist forging a career as a musician, and in the early fifties, Chico Hamilton discovered Frederico Cervantes and took the young jazz pianist to Los Angeles. However, by 1965 he had reinvented himself as a jazz trumpeter and a new chapter began for this self-taught musician. By the seventies when he recorded Betcha Never Knew, Frederico Cervantes is back playing the piano and delivering a defiant and emotive vocal that is a reminder of a man who Chico Hamilton regarded as a musical genius.

Another multi-instrumentalist is Rama Dyushambee whose career began when he joined a doo wop group in high school in the late-fifties. However, after receiving his call up papers in 1961 his career was put on hold. Upon leaving the US Navy, Rama Dyushambee spent three years studying music with a private tutor completing his musical education. Only then did Rama Dyushambee head out on the college and club circuit with the Bill Colwell Band, who opened for John Lee Hooker when he played in Boston in the early seventies. By the late-seventies, Rama Dyushambee recorded several singles, including For All The Good Times which is a timeless slice of feelgood jazz.

During the seventies, fusion was still popular, and many new groups were formed in America. This included Fusion who released Going Crazy as a private press. Fusion play with an urgency, fluency and freedom as they showcase their skills and versatility during this progressive fusion track. There’s even hints of psych and soul in an equally urgent vocal during Going Crazy. It’s one of the highlights of Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s.  

Lola Falana was born in New Jersey in 1942, and was working in Harlem as a dancer when Sammy Davis Jr discovered her, and cast her as the lead dancer in the Broadway musical The Golden Boy. This was just the start for Lola Falana who released her debut single in 1966. After this, she made her film debut in A Man Called Adam, and went on to feature on various television shows. By the seventies, Lola Falana was known as the Queen of Las Vegas, and also recorded It’s A Good Feeling which is a cinematic and dramatic mixture of soul and jazz that showcases a talented singer. Sadly, Lola Falana was diagnosed with MS but was able to continue working for two more until 1989, when she retired from the entertainment industry and devoted her life to charity. 

When Orange Lake Drive recorded their single Move On, the band hadn’t a suitable song to record for the B-Side. Fortunately, Robert Cote had written Rare Thing a few years earlier, and when he played the song to Orange Lake Drive they agreed it was perfect for the B-Side of Move On. Rare Thing which is billed as  Robert Cote with Orange Lake Drive is a beautiful, hopeful and optimistic paean that breezes along. The addition of a lengthy flute solo was a masterstroke and was final piece of the jigsaw on one of the highlights of Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s.

Michael Kiser was born in Houston, Texas and started writing songs in the sixties, but didn’t make his performing debut until the early seventies. Soon, Michael Kiser was making up for lost time, and Melting The Ice in August 1981. It was well received by Billboard magazine, and Melting The Ice gave Michael Kiser a regional with this jazz-tinged and soulful single.

Alan Burton was just six years old when he played a guitar at a school talent show, and little did anyone in the audience realise that sixteen years later he would decide to cut a single in 1973. This was the lysergic sunshine pop of Sunshine You’ll Love It which is a real find and welcome addition to the compilation.

Another purveyor of quality sunshine pop were the Buffalo based band Waves. They rose like a Phoenix from the ashes of another local group, The Road in 1972. The story began when couple of members of The Road headed to Nashville with some other local musicians.  This left the three remaining members of The Road, Ken Kaufman, Phil Hudson and Ron Lombardo without a rhythm section and spelt the end of the band. However, as one door closed, another opened and the remaining members of The Road recruited drummer Glen Bowen and bassist John Burgio and Waves was born. This new five piece band recorded and released the single Feelin’ The Sunshine in 1973. It’s a jazz-tinged and progressive sunshine pop hidden gem that oozes quality and is guaranteed to brighten your life. Sadly, that was Waves’ only released. Although they began work on album a fter the release of Feelin’ The Sunshine, it was never completed before the band split-up.

During the sixties, when the Ohio based band Daybreakk! played live one of the songs in their set was Richie Havens’ Freedom. The strummed guitar instrumental always caught the attention of the crowd, and was one of the most popular songs in their set. It was no surprise that when Daybreakk! decided to record a single that they chose to record Freedom at the Courier Recording Studio. The newly recorded single was released on the RLB label and when it was played on the radio was mistaken for The Who. 

From the opening bars of Ted Ritchie And Friends’ melodic ballad Soda Creek Ferry, it’s cinematic and rich in imagery. Ted Ritchie, who was born and grew up in British Columbia, in Canada, and later worked as a cowboy in the Rocky Mountains paints pictures of a trip on Soda Creek Ferry which  a cable ferry that used to cross the Fraser River. After taking a trip on the Soda Creek Ferry, Ted Ritchie wrote the song sitting round a campfire. Over forty years later, this beautiful ballad is being discovered by a new audience who sadly, will never get the chance to take a trip on the Soda Creek Ferry.

In the mid-sixties, Elrige Anselmi was suffering from rheumatic fever, and decided to swap his boat for an acoustic guitar. Within a few years, he was playing in his high school band, and later playing saxophone in a cover’s band. By 1970, Elrige Anselmi and his thirteen year old brother Pookie who was a drummer formed the band Apollo, and in 1973, a new band Boone’s Farmers was born. They recorded four tracks at a studio in Thibodaux, Louisiana, including  Laughing In The Sun. That day, Elrige Anselmi delivered a vocal that is heartfelt and full of emotion as harmonies accompany him on another beautiful ballad.

Closing Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s is Flood’s White Bird. Flood was signed to Michael Thevis’ Atlanta based GRC label, and recorded the soundtrack to the film Blood Of The Dragon. Flood’s soundtrack was released to critical acclaim, and the band were about to fly to Jamaica for a record session when Michael Thevis was arrested for murder. Sadly, the recording session and Flood who were rising stars, never got the chance to fulfil their potential. However, by then they had recorded their six-minute psychedelic epic White Bird, which closes the album on a high.

Many compilation series have run steam by the time they get to the sixth volume, but that isn’t the case with Tramp Records’ Praise Poems. Just like previous instalments in the series, Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s oozes quality on album that is crammed full of hidden gems. They were recorded by truly talented artists and bands who sadly, never reached the heights that their talent warranted. Now some forty years after many of the tracks on Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s were released, they make a welcome return on this wonderfully esoteric and eclectic collection of music.

There’s everything from soul, funk and fusion to jazz, sunshine pop and psychedelia on Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s which will introduce the listener to  Verses, Monopoly, Cesar’s Children, Federico Cervantes, Fusion, Lola Falana, Robert Cote, Michael Kiser,  Waves, Daybreak, Elrige Anselmi and Flood. They’re just a few of the sixteen artists on Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s which is one of the most eclectic instalments in this long running and successful series that hopefully will run and run, and continue to uncover hidden gems by some of music’s unsung heroes.

Praise Poems 6: A Journey Into Deep Soulful Jazz and Funk From The 1970s.


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