Since Ace Records did a deal with Dave Hamilton’s estate eight years ago, some truly mighty Northern Soul cuts have emerged from the vaults. These have included masters by Little Ann, Tobi Lark and OC Tolbert that the rare soul scene immediately took to its heart. As more became known about Hamilton’s output, it became clear that his TCB, Demoristic and New Day labels had put out as much, if not more, funk records than straight-ahead soul, so I presumed that there must be a wealth of tapes with unreleased funk gems waiting to be unleashed on the world.
Well, yes and no. There are certainly plenty of tapes, and the early discovery of Billy Garner’s Brand New Girl, released by BGP in 1998 to instant dancefloor acclaim, was certainly promising. But Dave’s tapes were not of the well-organised, well-logged variety. It has taken us this long to get enough of them worked through to be sure that we had a CD’s worth of stuff that didn’t lean too heavily on what we had already released. The results are an unmissable feast of great, slightly twisted Detroit funk, produced by Dave and his team at his studio in central Detroit in the late 60s and early 70s.
Of the previously released material, the most numerous are the five sides that we feature by Billy “Sugar Billy” Garner. Garner released two 45s on New Day around 1971. They were produced by Dave and Johnny Allen and are incredibly raw funk masterpieces. Both 45s came with what looks like the same track on both sides (no part 2 reference), but the B-side is in fact completely different. In the case of You’re Wasting My Time, it is a new vocal over the same backing track, whilst with I Got Some it’s a totally different version of the A-side cut with an incredible opening drum break. The final, of three, releases on New Day was by OC Tolbert, probably the most prolific artist in the Hamilton tape vault. He only had one release on a Hamilton label and the A-side, Goodness, sounds a bit like Baby Huey’s Hard Times, so we’ve decided to go with this wonderful deep ballad, Message To Mankind.
OC Tolbert has seen a lot of dancefloor action on the Northern scene recently. With the discovery of the pulsating The Grown Folks Thing, we hope to replicate that action in the funk world.
The bulk of the rest of the previously released material here comes the TCB label The Webb People and Gip Roberts singles are gritty early 70s funk records. The Barrino Brothers’ track is the male vocal version of a song that was featured on our “Return Of The Funk Soul Sisters” (CDBGPD 170) by the Ebonettes. The three other tracks are all exceptional. The Future Kind’s The Devil Is Gonna Get You is propelled by a bass line that is plain and simply pilfered from Sly’s Thank You, though the vocals owe more to a night in with Funkadelic. Johnny Walker had a single on New Detroit Records called Love At First Taste, which was comped by Keb Darge on BBE. Funky Trip is based around a similar groove, but it’s faster, crazier and, to these ears, better.
Because I Love You which we have credited to the Dave Hamilton Voices, is a total mystery, but is probably my favourite track on the whole album. The twin lead vocals and the jazzy arrangement make it sound like a Charles Stepney arrangement for the Rotary Connection, and if that’s Dave’s guitar, he deserves to take an extra bow.
By Dean Rudland