When the average person thinks of the Twin Cities as a hot spot for R&B and Funk, I assume they are generally thinking of the 80s, where iconic figures like Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Prince, Morris Day & The Time, as well as others, immediately spring to mind. Yet, music so powerful didn’t burst from this scene suddenly and without any warning, something had to inspire that surge of creative energy. Sure, some influence came from the already thriving scenes thru out the country, which were dominating the radio waves and filling the shelves at record stores, but a significant part of it undoubtedly brewed internally. Although, these early seeds may not have resonated universally, they were musically nutritious enough to feed the souls of a new generation of talent to inspire to harvest and grow them into something fruitful.
Local music heroes, Secret Stash Records, have done a par excellent job at telling the story of that previous generation. After the label has been mindblowingly successful at unearthing musical treasures from around the world; Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the through out US, they bring it all back home with the “Twin Cities Funk And Soul” Compilation.
Not content with giving you just the music, which is a blessing within it self, Secret Stash goes to great lengths to tell the story behind these artists, the music, and the scene they existed and often struggled in. If that isn’t service enough, they also went the extra mega-mile to add some new chapters to the book. First off, when Secret Stash embarks on these missions they go straight to the source. In compiling this collection of work they have been working with the original musicians, digging up the music and the stories, but also putting them back in action on stage. Fifth Element will be hosting a Live In-Store Performance with artists from the compilation, including The Valdons, on the album’s release date, 9.25.12!! RSVP NOW! There’s also a full revue of the album at The Cedar on 9.22.12! The label also compiled a 32-page Newspaper to coincide with the release that tells the story of the artists and the Twin Cities Soul & Funk Scene. Within you’ll read about the venues, radio shows, DJs and other movers and shakes. Plus there are plenty of photos, vintage advertisements, Record Label scans, all sorts of exciting information. It is a fantastic piece of history!!
As an additional layer of cool, the label worked with the Mayor and City Council to get the week leading up to the compilation’s release being official declared as “Twin Cities Funk & Soul Week”! During this time of Sept 16th-Sept 2nd, local record store around town, including Fifth Element, will be doing a variety of special deals/sales on their Soul and Funk collections!! At Fifth Element all of our Funk/Soul releases; CD, Vinyl, & Box Sets are priced 15% during that week!!
As for the music on the album, it is every bit as amazing as I had hoped it would sound upon hearing about this compilation. With music ranging from ’64-’79 you get a excellent range of styles and sounds, from high-paced dance smashes to slow and sexy ballads.
The Valdon’s kick the album off with “All Day Long” immediately set you up for a frenzy of dancing. The drums are fierce, the organ is soul-warming, and the voices are silky smooth. The group shows their other side with the emotional gripping “Love Me, Leave Me”. These guys should have been household names. If they had a catalog of on caliber with these two songs, then they could have gone toe-to-toe with the top competition of their time with no problem…this is the essence of soul.
It’s quite easy to envision the sounds of Dave Brady and The Stars song “Baby, Baby I Need You” finding it’s way into some High School Dances back in the day. The mood setting is absolutely perfect for locked eyes and hands placed on waists. This is the sort of music you fall in love to…
Wilie and The Bumblebees contribute two nice grooves. “Dipstick” sounds one part gritty Blaxploitation and one-part New Orleans Funk. Continuing that thought, their other offering is the fitting titled “Honey From The Bee” has a bit of a Allen Toussaint feel to it. It’s filled with smooth talk and playful flirtatiousness.
Jackie Harris & The Champions are specialists in getting you hot and sweaty on the dance floor. Don’t let the high energy and semi-risqué sentiment of “Work Your Flapper” blind you from the underlying consciousness of a people fighting to maintain their identity and preserve their history. Yes, even the hardships of the slave trade could not stop the impending coming of the Funk…
The selections from Morris Wilson are something that I imagine would make the ears of Pete Rock perk up and not just because of the fabulous horn work. Both are jazz-funk numbers, “Rusty McDusty” and “Saxaphone Disco” that reach right thru you and gently touch your soul.
The band name Prophets Of Peace is just so intriguing that I immediately expect some powerful music to match it. Thankfully, they deliver the goods. As the name suggests, the music is peaceful and uplifting. The first lines of “You Can Be” capture the vibe, “(Male Voice) If you want to succeed you better hear what we got to say…Yeah, Yeahhhhhh…..(Female Voice) Keep your mind on what you need when temptation is in your wayyyyy!” The two contrasting voices continue to go back n forth over the relaxing backing beat. Then as they transition into the chorus, the voices are raised for encouragement as the music is intensified for support. “The Maxx” follows a similar tone and sets out to embolden the listener with some simple, but effective information in a world when times are hard, “Whatever you do, better do it, do it to the maxx!”
Wanda Davis “Save Me” was the only song, and artist for that matter, that I was definitely aware of before this compilation. Her rendition of “Save Me” is a nice reworking of the original by Aretha Franklin. It slows down the pace a bit and allows Ms Davis to maintain the passion, but in a more relaxed tone. However, her other song, “Take Care”, might be a better representation of her singing abilities.
The Lewis Connection’s “Get Up” sounds like the newest song on the project. It’s probably what is representing that ’79 part of the date range. It’s one of those late 70s dance floor jams that was a picture-perfect look into where the 80s would be going. It’s got the disco clap, perfect for roller-skating, but still maintains the low-fi bassline and also gives a slight nod to the soon to be growing Hip Hop scene. It successfully sounds a little like a bunch of popular bands, but never enough to quite pinpoint it. As I listen I get flash images of Parliament, Rick James, L.T.D, Rose Royce and Fatback Band, but then I’m snapped back into their reality and realize they are just as much doing their own thing. Where as a lot of the compilation you can associate to the sounds of Motown, Stax or the New Orleans Sound, this is the one track where I could hear some seeds to 80s Twin Cities sound we know and love*.
In addition to what I mentioned above, offerings from Band Of Thieves, Maurice McKinnies & The Champions, Mojo And His “Chi 4”, and Wee Willie Walker also hit the mark and maintain the overall quality of the project. Ultimately, Secret Stash took quite a bit of care in selecting the tracks for this compilation. There is no filler. Every song pulls at you in one way or another. The result is that you want to dance, think, wrap your arms around the one you love or just zone out with your headphones on, eyes shut, trying to mentally time travel back to these various moments in time.
Written By Kevin Beacham
-*Editor’s Note: Before I wrote this I had only glanced thru the Twin Cities Funk & Soul Newspaper, but then I read it in full before posting and it was nice to find that some of my theories had real roots in their connections. Another key thing, perhaps the most exciting thing, the paper reveals is how many of those groups have so much intermingling amongst each other and how some of them had direct connections to that 80s scene I referenced, including one of these bands on the compilation being among the earliest groups that Prince recorded commercially released music with. You’ll have to get the album and read the paper to get all the awesome details…