By James Calemine
The Arkansas label Now-Again Records release True Soul: Deep Sounds From The Left of Stax Volumes 1 & 2 contain 60s and 70s Soul, Funk, Disco, Party-Rap and Boogie music. This anthology has been 12 years in the making. Label owner Lee Anthony founded Soul Brothers in 1966, the first black-owned record shop in Arkansas.
In the collection’s liner notes Lee explains his modus operandi regarding recording artists: “Anyone that had a good song, we recorded them. No one paid for tape; no one paid for a recording session. And no one was turned away.”
The label’s official release explains the roots of this inimitable release: “True Soul’s story intertwines with the renowned Sam Phillips–an early mentor and patron–and Memphis’s Al Bell and Willie Mitchell–with whom Anthony collaborated as he cultivated Little Rock’s funk and soul scene under the shadows of Stax and Hi Records. The Gap Band’s genesis is but one sub-plot, as Anthony’s recordings of a stranded funk ensemble made their way to Leon Russell and lead to the foundation of one of the decades’ best known showbands.”
Volume 1 and 2 are sold separately with beautiful individual packaging. Volume 1 begins with Thomas East’s smooth “Slippin’ Around” that contains a great piano lick. Albert Smith plays a memorable instrumental version of the Beatles tune “Come Together”. York Wilborn’s Psychedelic Six emerges as one of the most notable artists on this collection. The group’s instrumental “Wheezin’” demonstrates a high order of versatility.
Ren Smith’s funk number “Smog” features traces of Funkadelic at their strongest. The Psychedelic Six’s “Funky Football” is truly hallucinatory with the frenetic horns, organ and guitar. Their rendition of “Psychedelic Hot Pants” is beyond words. The group Classic Funk’s “Hard Times” should be played on the radio now. An instrumental by The Leaders titled “Rat Race” incorporates ska and jazz into one potent blend of music.
Volume 2 commences with Albert’s Smith brilliant instrumental version of B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone”. Again, York Wilborn’s “Psychedelic Six” deliver a groovy horn-laced instrumental on “Thank You”. The Right Track’s instrumental “Maybe Yes, Maybe No” calls to mind The Meters. John Craig’s “I Believe” counts as a jewel that amazes it never made it to the mainstream. Le’ Chance’s “Get Down” almost sounds like an outtake from an Isaac Hayes album. Soul, Mind & Body’s rendition of “I Took Your Love To Be True” closes Volume 2 with a swinging soul. True Soul contains funk & soul music that is very difficult to find these days. Seek and ye shall find…