Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Birmingham Sound: The Soul Of Neal Hemphill Vol. 1

1.Specify / Little Lois Barber 2.Believe in Me / David Sea 3.Even If You Got Love / Blue Notes 4.Here After I'm Hereafter / Frederick Knight 5.Funky Soul / Cold Grits 6.Groove Me Mamma / Eddie Steele 7.I Love the Way You Do Your Thing / Pat Peterman 8.I Got Married Too Soon / Chuck Strong 9.Set Me Free / Ralph ""Soul"" Jackson 10.Let Me be Myself / Roscoe Robinson 11.Love Keeps Hanging On / Bill ""Butterbean"" Flippo 12.Psychedelic Excursion / Broadneck 13.Thank You Baby / Little Lois Barber 14.High Time / Blue Notes 15.I Thought It Over / Chuck Strong 16.You've Never Really Lived / Frederick Knight 17.You Gonna Reap It / Pat Peterman 18.Train To Tampa / Sam Dees 19.Two Heart Accident / Roscoe Robinson 20.Let's Just Get Together / David Sea 21.Take Me Back / Ralph ""Soul"" Jackson 22.California Cool Ride / Broadneck 23.Self / Eddie Steele

This cd is the first of two planned volumes documenting both the soul music recorded at Neal Hemphill's Sound Of Birmingham studios in Birmingham, AL in the 1970's and the people who were involved. Let me say first that the music is superb. but of that, more later. Perhaps unusually I'd first like to spotlight the liner notes to the cd. Despite producing a number of well known records and some high profile soul folks like Sam Dees and Frederick Knight having worked there, the Birmingham scene has not been well documented. Until the production of this cd that is. The liner notes are a treasure trove of rare photographs and oral history from the people who were there. What I personally find especially gratifying is that as well as information on the often obscure artists, there are recollections from the musicians, writers & technicians and DJ's who were also a key part of the scene. These guys are the oft unsung heroes who were literally instrumental in giving this music its distinctiveness. yet so often they are uncredited. To anyone interested in the history of soul music, and southern soul in particular, the liners are worth the price of admission on their own. And the music is just as good! The set opens with 'Specify' a side from the terminally obscure Little Lois Barber which is the kind of deep southern soul that raises the hairs on the back of my neck. (does anyone out there know anything else about Lois?) In a similar vein are killer sides by Roscoe Robinson (Two Heart Accident) & Sam Dees (Train To Tampa) & Chuck Strong (I Thought It Over). As one might expect the focus is on southern soul, of a variety of tempos and consistently high quality. There are a few tracks which are more of a modern or sweet soul bent, David Sea (now of the Temptations) being particularly strong to these ears. The solitary psychedelic curio by Broadneck I personally can take or leave, although by the sounds of it the guys had a lot of fun cutting it..
Sound is generally pretty good, taken from the masters, but occasionally the ravages of 3 or 4 decades on magnetic tape do occasionally make themselves felt.
Of the material on this cd that was actually issued, and I'm not sure exactly how much of it was, the original 45's are serious wallet crunchers, assuming you could even find a copy. Ralph Jackson's Black Kat 45 alone would cost you a small fortune. As such approx $14 for a 23 track cd represents value for money. Assuming of course you're not the kind of person who'll then have to have the 45's... If you're looking for a copy of the cd, try DustyGroove or Amazon, Dave Porter in the UK.

If you want to hear more of the great Roscoe Robinson, just about anything of his is worth getting but check out his wonderful PVine cd Heavenly Soul Music which showcases his Paula & Wand soul sides and his gospel material (I might blog that one in future).

Finally a mention for John Ciba. This cd was his brainchild. Where people like me sit around and whinge about astronomically priced vinyl and the lack of cd-reissues, John has got out there and put together a thorough and painstaking effort. Hats off to you John. Here's looking forward to the next volume!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is indeed a great collection. Who knew that Birmingham had such a rich Soul history? Why did it take a guy from Chicago to bring it to the forefront...oh, but I'm so glad that he did.

The Little Lois Barber track "Thank you Baby" is probably my favorite from the CD and "Set Me Free" keeps me dancing.

2:17 PM  

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