Posted by: Necci – Apr 13, 2012
Richmond based DJ Pari is the host of the monthly Soulpower dance party at Balliceaux and co-host of Midnight Soulstice on WRIR 97.3 FM (every Friday from 11pm until 1am). Pari spins at clubs and festivals worldwide, and he has worked with Soul legends like James Brown, The Impressions, Marva Whitney, Bobby Byrd, Mandrill, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, and many more. For this monthly column, he reviews five records from his collection - rare vinyl, common finds, new and old jams.
Magnum - Fully Loaded (The Phoenix)
If there ever was one classic Funk album that never got its due, it's this powerful release by a group from the West Coast called Magnum, released in 1974 on The Phoenix Records. The group was founded by brothers Harold and Michael Green. The latter was but 16 years old when the album was recorded - and he played piano, organ, percussion and sang lead vocals. This record - which remains the only release Magnum ever put out - is the perfect playground for B-Boys, beatmakers and sample-happy home producers. With the exception of just one, every single one of these tracks could be sampled to death, among them the fuzzy Jazz-Funk of "Witch Doctor's Brew" and, of course, the classic "Evolution," which was one of the biggest hits in the Deep Funk scenes back in the 1990s, and has not lost its magic to this day. My personal favorite is the hallucinogenic naughtiness of "Natural Juices," with spaced out rambling such as "some people get off on a needle / then there is a thumb and blanket. But the ultimate pacifier is a warm, wet nipple." For fans of groups like early Sly and the Family Stone and Mandrill, this album is an absolute must - all killer and no filler.
Where to get it: The original vinyl has been on many want lists for decades. Go the easy route and grab a reissue from Dusty Groove. [Actually, Dusty Groove is temporarily out of stock, but Amazon has a few. -ed.]
Listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNHq4pMhCJ4
The Inclinations - The Harder We Try (Janus Records)
I just copped a copy of this 45 from my buddy Kevin Coombe, aka DJ Nitekrawler from D.C., who's a serious collector and archiver of Chocolate City Soul. The Inclinations were a group from Baltimore, and this record surprisingly remained their only release. I initially fell in love with the B-side of this record, a mellow mid-tempo groover entitled "I'm Gonna Make Love last," which is laced with wah-wah guitars and a hypnotic beat lingering at the bottom. But once I flipped it over and heard the first five bars of the hypnotic "The Harder We Try," I knew that I was listening to one of the most breathtaking Sweet Soul ballads that I've ever heard. The lead vocals seem to simmer in perfection and the background harmonies are the prettiest a songwriter can come up with. It was so good that I had to be careful not to wear this record out.
Where to get it: I consider this record medium-rare. If it pops up on eBay, it usually goes for between $30 and $50, simply because so many people sleep on it. Don't be one of them.
Listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QDEEOtapp8
Roy Porter Sound Machine - Inner Feelings (Vistone)
Back in LA in the 1940s, Roy Porter was the man! While most of his fellow SoCal Jazz musicians struggled to embrace the Be-Bop movement developing back East, desperately clinging on to the Swing era, Porter perfectly understood that Bop was the latest thing. When Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie came out to California for several sessions for Dial Records, they hired Porter, because he was the only West Coast drummer who could keep up with Boppers like Kenny Clarke. After that, Porter played behind every Jazz great coming through Cali. Even in his later life, Porter always chased after what was hip. In 1975, he formed a group of local musicans and recorded his first and only Funk album at Spectrum Records in Venice Beach. The result is Inner Feelings, an album with plenty of heavy beats and hard hitting horns. Tracks like "Party Time" and "Panama" have become Funk anthems of the Rare Groove movement, but other tunes, like "Jessica" and a cover version of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Wavering," please Jazz lovers as well. First released on the local Bel-Ad label and later on Vistone Records, this gem remains one of the truly hard to find records out there and a perfect example of Jazz-Funk cooked to perfection.
Where to get it: A re-issue pops up on Dusty Groove or eBay every now and then.
Listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zqqqszncvbw
The Curtis Liggins Indications - What It Is? (KayCee Records)
Kansas City isn't exactly known for producing great Funk and Soul artists - the one exception being Soulsister #1 Marva Whitney, who enjoyed some hits during her two-year tenure with James Brown. Whitney's husband Ellis Taylor also had moderate success with his small indie label Forte. But to me, Curtis Liggins is the true king of Kansas City Soul - mainly because of this record, which is his only release, of which less than 50 copies have survived. "What It Is?" is the perfect uptemp Soul dancer that even die-hard Soul fans could easily mistake for a Chicago record. The flip-side, "Funky Monkey Right On," is a fine example of nitty-gritty Midwestern Funk. Maybe Curtis Liggins would eventually have claimed national fame (with a record and a name like this, how could he not?). But tragically, he and most members of the Indications died in the 1970s when their tour bus crashed. All that is left of this artist is this single, which his band members would give away at their shows before the fatal accident.
Where to get it: Try rare Soul and Funk collector web forums, maybe someone will sell you a copy.
Listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-m-t27CYnBM
Michael White - Land of Spirit and Light (ABC Impulse)
Growing up in Texas, Michael White may have been exposed to the fiddle as a young boy. That might explain why he chose to study the violin - a rather unusual pick during a time when this instrument was hardly relevant in Jazz music, despite attempts from pioneers like Don "Sugarcane" Harris to amplify it electronically. White didn't make the violin relevant either, but he surely played some incredible and timeless music with it. As a side man for experimental Jazz artists like Joe Henderson and Pharoah Sanders, White made a name for himself, and eventually he signed with ABC Impulse as a solo artist. Many critics consider his 1973 release Land of Spirit and Light his crowning achievement - an incredibly adventureous and audatious attempt at mixing avantgarde with Jazz-Fusion, clearly influenced by the sounds of the Motherlands. White's violin work, apparently fully improvised, is a testament to his own quest for spirituality and maturity as an artist. This is the perfect record for lazy Sunday afternoon meditating.
Where to get it: The vinyl isn't exceptionally rare, try eBay or a local record store like Steady Sounds. Amazon sells a CD reissue.
Listen here: http://www.amazon.com/Land-Spirit-Light-Michael-White/dp/B000AMJEKK
The next Soulpower party is on Saturday, April 21, at Balliceaux, 203. N. Lombardy Street. 10:30pm until 2 am. And be sure to check out next month's Soulpower Five Years in RVA Celebration Weekend with Sir Joe Quarterman & the Funk Ark live + guest DJs Phast Phreddie (NYC), DJ Girlsoul (NYC), Lord Thomas (Norfolk), Michael Murphy and Grits-n-Gravy (C-Ville). May 18th/19th/20th, 2012. See the flyer at the top of this article for details.