SOUL-FUNK TRAIN Now-Again Records and “Loving On The Flip Side”

The Cali collectors slip into the groove and come
up smooth.

 

BY
CARL HANNI

 

Hot
on the heels of their Soul Cal compilation, the archivists at Now-Again are back this month with another substantial collection that probes American
soul music’s obscure recesses to unearth more hidden treasures. And like Soul Cal,
Loving On The Flip Side
is packaged with a 5 1/2 by 8 1/2, 80 page book
that details all the acts and tracks and has a wealth of classic photos and 45
covers. 

 

Their
raison d’etre this time: “Sweet Funk,” loosely anything that fits into
the ballad or down tempo side of the equation. To that end they have collected
21 numbers by 21 acts recorded between 1969 and 1977, most of which were
recorded on small, local or regional labels and released as singles. No
Atlantic, Motown, Stax, Hi or Philadelphia International here; but you’ll find
releases from True Soul, Pzazz, Black Top, Get Down, Love, Phantom, Mod-Art and
many other labels. Some of these acts and labels had at least a passing
connection to the wider world, but most of them are known only to hardcore soul
fans and collectors, if at all.

 

Twenty-one
slow and serious numbers runs the threat of stylistic over-kill, but Now-Again
largely side-steps the issue with judicious selections and an eye towards the
emotional bottom-line. Not every single number here is knock-out stellar, and
two or three probably could have been cut without any great loss, but for those
with a love of deep soul, slow funk and the emotion-wrenching ballad, it’s a
rich and rewarding collection. 

 

Starting
off on the right groove w/the torchy, slow funk of “I Don’t Think I’ll Ever
Love Another” by the sweet voiced Darling Dears right through to the
tumultuous, dubby “Who Do You Think You’re Fooling (Pt. II)” by the Symphonic
Four, Loving On The Flip Side makes a convincing argument for the ballad
as being the preeminent form in the field of soul music. Not to take anything
away from the party-up/dance side of the equation, topical soul, psychedelic
soul and classic R&B, but the ballad and funky slow jam is where singers
and players really got to let it all hang out. This is evident in any number of
should-be classics like “Slippin’ Around” by Thomas East (previously
anthologized by Now-Again on the terrific True Soul: Deep Sounds From The
Left of Stax
collection), “Merry Go Round” by The Equatics, “Young Girl” by
Jazzie Cazzie and The Eight Sounds, “Whatcha Gonna Do?” by Rhythm Machine, “And
I Love You” by Darling Dears, “I’ll Find a True Love” by Lee Bonds and the
fabulous “Is It Me You Really Love” by Black Velvet. Really, you could name
check most anything here and get to the emotional, beating heart of soul and
funk.

 

The
book is jammed with incredible, period photos that could tell most of the
stories themselves, sans any text. This was the 60s and 70s, after-all: massive
afros, insanely huge bell bottoms and floppy hats and other brightly patterned
and colored attire totally rule. But the text is a minor marvel of archival
research, and shows just how much work producer Eothen Alapatt and the rest of
the crew at Now-Again put into uncovering and compiling this collection. Extra
props to them for the highly detailed production credits for each number at the
end of the book. 

 

Now-Again
are definitely – continue to be! – on a roll with these compilations; here’s
hoping they keep rolling.

 

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