It’s about time BGP got seriously funky and over the next few months we will be serving up some fantastic collections of rare funk and groovy soul from the depths of the black American recording industry. In the last decade funk has gone from the forgotten cousin of soul to the genre that has been most quickly excavated and then sometimes discarded. It often seems that every rare record has been snapped up and compiled already (it’s not true but sometimes it seems like it). However, the Ace collective really does have the ability to go deeper; as with the world of rare soul, our access to the tape vaults of various companies allows us to bring the world some exceptional music that has never been heard since the day it was recorded. “Street Sounds From The Bay Area” is the result of our examination of the recordings made, and then on the whole not released, by Ray Dobard’s Music City outfit between 1971 and 1975.
In his exhaustive sleeve notes Alec Palao throws lights on the idiosyncratic working practises of Dobard, who was a fixture of the Bay Area’s musical scene from the early 50s with his Music City store, studio and record label. With the shop as a local musical landmark, he was an obvious stop off point for any young musician looking to take his or her first steps in the industry. However, Dobard was not an especially artist-friendly producer, and by the early 70s, with better recording facilities available locally, he was starting to lose his pre-eminence in the area. As a result, much of what was recorded at the time remained in the can. Of the 17 cuts on this CD, only the two by the Two Things In One have seen the light of day before, and only the recordings of Darondo – whose Music City single ‘Didn’t I’ is a cult classic these days – have anything of a legend around them. What we have then are 15 undiscovered slices of street funk which, had they been released at the time, would be highly sought-after collectors’ items today.
The music here shifts through virtually all the shades of sounds beloved by funk collectors down the years. The Two Things In One singles are wonderful and make a great taster for a whole CD of their recording which will be released further down the line. The same can be said for Darondo, who gives us a slick soul-funk workout under the title ‘Gimme Some’. There are some storming funky jazz cuts from Al Tanner, Charles “Doc” Williams and the Love Uprisers and a great funk cut from Chucky Thurmon (to go alongside his rare 45 ‘Turn It Over’), while the discovery of another Houston Outlaws recording to add to their slim catalogue is a major find. To my ears, the Soul Messengers are the discovery of the collection. As Alec explains in his note, very little is known about them but, if their session of political jazz-tinged funk had made it to record, it would be held in the same esteem as super rarities such as Boscoe’s or Soul Expedition’s self-titled albums.
The wealth of music that has yet to see the light of day from American studios big and small is breathtaking. This is just a small but highly rewarding sample.
By Dean Rudland