This month's selector series is helmed by Egon, the boss don at Now Again records (you may remember his label from our Wells Fargo release). Egon picked four records that are in the store today, and here he is on why he chose those four albums. You can also listen to Egon explain his picks on our podcast, which is on iTunes, Stitcher, and Buzzsprout.
A decade in the making, Soul Cal is the definitive survey of America’s best, independent, '70s soul-ensembles. Profiled within this album and book are the bands that transitioned from funk to disco; the bands that kept up the backbeat as rhythm moved to the backseat. Against the odds, they left recorded artifacts to dig out, dust off and restore. Collected here for the first time are the musical dreams of dozens, dreams that were deferred but were never discarded.
Damon’s Song Of A Gypsy is generally regarded as one of the finest privately-pressed psychedelic rock records and has, for over twenty years, been one of the most sought after late '60s American rock artifacts. Bad bootlegs and scrappy reissues have spread his music, but left Damon’s story untouched, leaving Song of a Gypsy high on its own plateau: out of reach and indescribable.
Finally, Damon’s story can be told. Done under the supervision of Now-Again’s Egon and Damon himself, and over a five year period, Song Of A Gypsy has been researched and documented, and has now been pitch-corrected and remastered. It now sees what we’d like to call its definitive issue.
This edition investigates a seemingly impossible story – one that encapsulates the last bloom of the flower power movement before it decayed into the haze of the '70s underground. It traces a pop hopeful descending into chaos, and becoming the tortured soul who would create an LP to file alongside works by other lost greats of the late ‘60s, from Shuggie Otis to Rodriguez.
Arno Lucas, L.A. Carnival’s experienced singer who grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, some forty years ago, recalls his hometown: “It was tough, man. Hostile, but not in your face hostile.” He continues, “If you turn your back, anything can happen hostile. That was Omaha, man.” This is the Midwestern city that birthed L.A. Carnival, arguably one of America’s best equipped, most unique funk ensembles. If the multi-cultural Mickey and The Soul Generation’s open, hopeful music was a product of their Southern Texas roots, if the Detroit Sex Machines’ jagged vamps were the product of a bleak, harsh Motor City rearing, then L.A. Carnival would never have created the music they did without the uncharted hope that their frontier birthplace once exuded and the stark injustice of Omaha’s late 60s racial divide.
Their solitary release – the woefully rare Pacific Avenue 45 “Blind Man” – treads the well known path of the jilted lover with an angst that the subject matter wouldn’t normally call forth. The superlative B side “Color” hints at the reason why – “I am of one color/Payed the price to be around/I am of one color/Don’t put me down.” L.A. Carnival confronted dirty problems in their troubled city with the same intensity that they recorded their music.
They also recorded – and then shelved – an entire LP, full of progressive funk and soul music circa 1970. Now-Again issued Pose A Question for the first time in 2003, and it stands as one of the Midwest’s finest examples of funk music.
Soul singer Gloria Ann Taylor has no rags to riches tale to tell. Her story is one of personal sacrifice, failed relationships, and missed opportunity. She was leading a hard knock life before being swept-up by the flash and promise of a marriage and business partnership with a successful record producer. She would be nominated for a Grammy, rub shoulders with James Brown and Bootsy Collins, and turn heads from Motown. But in the end she rejected professional singing, the music business, and the lifestyle that came with it. Thankfully for music lovers, before Gloria closed the doors on her singing career, she left us with some amazing soul songs. Deeply shaded by gospel roots, her haunting sound clearly comes from the gut. Gloria did not fake the funk.
Gloria was a partial owner of the Selector Sounds label, along with her husband/producer Walter Whisenhunt (one of James Brown’s many Cincinnati flunkies, and the first person - through his House Guest label - to issue a post-JB, pre-Funkadelic Bootsy Collins and his family band’s psychedelic funk). They released five Gloria Taylor singles between 1971 and 1977. They also released the three-song Deep Inside You EP, under the name Gloria Ann Taylor and Walter Whisenhunt’s Orchestra. It was this EP – sought after for decades – that made Taylor’s resurgence possible, but her music has stood the test of time, and sounds fitting as an album-that-should-have-been.