Friday, June 19, 2009

Brooklyn Funk Vol. 2- Soul Fire Records

Now that we got Desco out there it's time to talk about my favorite label of the bunch and some of my favorite music to come out of the entire scene: Soul Fire Records. The label was formed by Phil Lehman in 1999 or 2000. Now that Lehman parted ways with Gabriel Roth he had complete control, which meant a label dedicated to the raw, gritty funk he loved. Here's what Soul Fire did in their few years as a label:

SFCD001 Calypso King and the Soul Investigators- Soul Strike (2001)

The first full length to come from Soul Fire is one of the best so far. It is 40 minutes of raw, instrumental, organ driven funk. The guitar melodies are worthy of the Meters and every drum beat is just begging to be sampled. The band is actually from Helsinki, Finland. Who knew something this funky could come from Finland...

SFCD002 JD & The Evil's Dynamite Band- Explodes Across the Nation (2001)

Once again, this CD is another batch of instrumentals, every one of which dirtier and more soulful than you could ever imagine. These guys know just how to hit a groove and keep it going for as long as they want. In my opinion, this is the pinnacle of everything that would be released in this entire scene. If you had to pick one CD out of this whole Brooklyn scene, this is the one I'd recommend.

SFCD301 Various- Grazing in the Trash vol. 1 (2001)

This is Soul Fire's first singles collection and its filled to the brim with heavy hitting funk. All of the tracks are instrumentals except for the two Lee Fields songs. They are also all exclusive to this CD except for one Lee Fields song which is also on Problems. The CD features songs by Calypso King and the Soul Investigators, Speedometer, JD and the Evil's Dynamite Band, Lee Fields and the Explorers, Third Point, The Soul Command, and 2 tracks of Soul Fire Educational drum beats.

SFCD302 Various- Grazing in the Trash vol. 2 (2002)

This is the second volume of singles compiled onto CD. This is the only Soul Fire CD I don't own so I can't give a review of the music on here. But I can tell you a little bit about some of the bands. The first two tracks are by Bama and the Family and if these two songs are anything like they're first single on Truth & Soul then this is some heavy afro-soul. Next up is the Soul Diggers, whom I unfortunately know nothing about. Next up are two songs each from the Sugarman Three and Lee Fields. None of their tracks appear on other albums. Next comes a Soul Fire funk reissue by The Detroit Sex Machines on the Soul Track label. They were a heavy funk band with a good horn section who knew how to hit a hard groove. The set closes out with two by Joseph Henry and the Soul Command (one's a vocal, one's an instrumental) and two by the Whitefield Brothers, one of which ended up on the Soul Fire issue of In The Raw, and the other was included on the Stones Throw reissue.

SFCD303 Various- Up From the Vaults vol. 1 (2002)

This is the third and final CD compiling the Soul Fire singles catalog. It opens up with what I believe is Bronx River Parkway's first single. Two heavy pieces of latin funk, a style which they would only keep perfecting as time went on. Next up are two organ-driven instrumentals by WQLJ and two instrumental soul ballads by the Fabulous Three. Then we get two more amazing tracks by the Whitefield Brothers in the same style as the two tracks on Grazing in the Trash vol. 2 and their album In The Raw. The next single here is by Mauri Bailey. The first features her vocals, which aren't amazing but the band behind her more than makes up for it. The second song is a laid back soul instrumental. Then comes the straight up party funk of the Herb Johnson Settlement, two great afrobeat songs by Massak, another Detroit Sex Machines reissue, and the beautiful soul of El Michels Affair.

SFCD004 Lee Fields- Problems (2002)

Mr. Fields is back after a 4 year absence with another full length which easily tops his Desco outing. This album has everything and it's all covered in that patented Soul Fire grit. If its psyched out funk you want then you're gonna wanna check out "Bad Trip." If its a raw soul ballad you want done in a way only Lee Fields and the Soul Fire musicians could do then you'll wanna give "Honey Dove" a listen. This album has everything from slower love songs to the soul rave ups you've come to expect from Lee Fields mixed with the raw funk you've now come to expect from the Soul Fire funk mob. This album was recently reissued by Truth & Soul Records.

SFCD005 The Whitefield Brothers- In The Raw (2002)

I always lump the Whitefield Brothers (sometimes known as the Poets of Rhythm, and most recently, Karl Hector and the Malcouns) in with the Brooklyn funk scene simply because this album was released on Soul Fire and because Daptone reissued an old album by the Poets of Rhythm, however, they are not from Brooklyn at all. They are two guys based out of Munich. This album was recorded by Gabriel Roth and might have been meant for release on Desco. The band features Jan and Max Wesseinfeldt, a.k.a Jay and Muggy Whitefield, and also the cream of the crop of Brooklyn's musicians including, Gabriel Roth, Neal Sugarman (of the Sugarman Three), and Leon Michels (of El Michels Affair and The Mighty Imperials). This album always felt, to me, like an African soul album. It's heavy on the percussion which gives it a very African feel but its still got that Brooklyn soul aesthetic. This album was just recently reissued on Stones Throw Records with a bonus track.

Comin Soon: Daptone Records

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