Various Artists: Loving on the Flipside: Sweet Funk and Heavy Soul Ballads 1969-1977
Loving on the Flipside adds to the steadily increasing number of soul and funk compilations which work to give overlooked, unheard, or hardly-released material a second life.
Loving on the Flipside: Sweet Funk and Heavy Soul Ballads 1969 – 1977 adds to the steadily increasing number of soul and funk compilations which work to give overlooked, unheard, or hardly-released material a second life. Driven by passionate record collectors for whom intense research is just part of the fun, labels like the Numero Group, Light in the Attic, and Strut attempt to establish an alternative universe where little-known singles or albums that never got more than minor regional promotion are available for all to hear. For every band that sold a million-plus units, there were any number who disappeared into history, sometimes, the difference between these two types of acts wasn't that great -- which is a roundabout way of saying that these soul and funk compilations are proliferating because they are often excellent.
The people behind Loving on the Flipside come from Truth And Soul and Now-Again Records. Truth and Soul, founded in 2004, is a record label and production team from Brooklyn. Like the slightly better known Daptone label, also Brooklyn-based, Truth and Soul gets down with everything funky, working with artists like Lee Fields, Aloe Blacc, and El Michels Affair. Now-Again is L.A.-based, owned and operated by Stones Throw and "specializes in global funk and psychedelic grooves, both new and old". As described by Now-Again founder Eothen Alapatt, Loving on the Flipside focuses on music that rides "the dichotomy of... skull snapping rhythm section and... angelic harmonies." Often this sweet funk came on the B-side of funk 45s, hence the title. Along with the music on Loving on the Flipside, you get an 80-page booklet that includes photos, credits, stories and a history of almost every artist whose music graces the album. Presumably, a lot of these men and women weren't easy to find – according to the text, at least one of them disappeared and wasn't heard from again after initial contact – but the compilers managed to track the majority of them down, just to supplement the record with a more complete narrative.
Some of these songs really smoke. One such tune, "You Really Love", by Black Velvet, was already released by Truth And Soul as a 45 (then titled "Is It Me You Really Love"). If the label felt the need, they could tack this song onto every album they put out, and I wouldn't mind. While most of the instruments on "You Really Love" keep things at a melancholy simmer, the horns and the female members of Black Velvet take turns hammering your emotions, somehow managing to be heart-wrenching and make you feel remarkably good at the same time. While being blown away by the track (again), you can read through the section of the accompanying booklet devoted to Black Velvet. They were produced by Sammy Campbell (also known as Tyrone Ashley, whose album, Let Me Be Your Man, was reissued by Truth and Soul). You can pick up interesting trivia; for a while, Campbell competed with George Clinton – later of Parliament/Funkadelic fame -- for dominance of the local music scene in in Plainfield, New Jersey. You also learn that the lead singer of Black Velvet was tragically shot breaking up a fight not long after the group recorded "You Really Love".
Even if Alapatt and his comrades at Truth and Soul were lazier and didn't bother to provide the manual, this music could stand alone. "I'll Give You a Ring (When I Come, If I Come)" provides a clear template for the sound that Lee Fields has adopted on his last two albums -- which saw Fields sanding down his sound, polishing up the James Brown-like edges into something more lush, shiny, and smooth. "I'll Give You a Ring" is sung by Ed "Apple" Nelson, who apparently worked with Etta James, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, and Dyke & The Blazers. It starts with a heavy, descending horns; when those drop away, Nelson's vocals fit easily into the hole they leave behind, gliding on top of the bass line. Nelson sings, "I'll give you a ring baby, when I come, if I come, huh," managing to wrap together sexual innuendo, playing hard to get, overwork, and being kept away from his baby all into one potent line.
For more poignant female tragedy, check out Eunice Collins, whose song "At the Hotel" unites a tale of inconsiderate men with an unimpeachable groove. Collins sings, "Why can't you be a 60-minute man... I don't want to be left here all frustrated." Listeners will find themselves in a more fortunate situation than poor Ms. Collins – Loving on the Flipside lasts longer than 60 minutes, and it will only frustrate you to the extent that you wish you'd encountered all these songs years ago.