Music

Various Artists: Eccentric Soul: The Tragar & Note Labels

Numero Group's latest release is a massive (almost to a fault) collection of Atlanta-based soul jams.


Various Artists

Eccentric Soul: The Tragar & Note Labels

Label: Numero Group
US Release Date: 2008-06-24
UK Release Date: 2008-06-23
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The easiest way to describe Eccentric Soul: The Tragar & Note Labels, the latest release from the grave-digging Numero Group label is, quite plainly, that Numero Group did it again -- which is to say they've assembled yet another collection of hidden soul singles that most wouldn't have heard otherwise. The Tragar and Note labels -- the latter of which, a descendant of Tragar -- are Atlanta-based labels from the late '60s and early '70s. Without going too in depth into the racial politics and other issues surrounding the lack of Atlanta soul releases, these labels, in their short life spans, produced a mass of tracks that rival the quality and sound of their more prominent, mainstream contemporaries.

This isn't to say though, that the artists on Eccentric Soul: The Tragar & Note Labels were unfairly neglected from widespread radio play, because frankly, much of the work on this retrospective lacks the soaring melodies and knockout, raw power of Motown and Stax artists, respectively. Eula Cooper, one of the label's headlining artists, can sing but clearly doesn't have the pipes that someone like Aretha Franklin does. Cooper tends to casually stroll through songs ("Shake Daddy Shake," "I Can't Help If I Love You"), singing well but rarely with the sheer power of more notable artists.

Not to imply that Cooper's songs suffer due to this classification, but rather -- as one of the most frequently featured artists on this two-disc collection -- her songs hint at a greater trend throughout the two labels: there seem to be no defining qualities that make any of the tracks on Eccentric Soul: The Tragar & Note Labels immediately recognizable as Tragar or Note releases. Though you could probably call it regionalism -- growing up in Motown typically makes me look for specific things in my soul music -- there isn't the same energy or liveliness from many of these cuts.

Tee Fletcher's "Would You Do It For Me" sounds drier than you'd expect something of its tempo and sentiment would. But in contrast, the L. Daniels instrumental explosion "Nitecap" is a Rhodes-piano-orgy, with more soul than half the music you've ever heard. But their mutual inclusion on the same label, and same post-label release, makes it difficult to really get a handle on the label itself.

The biggest issue that can be brought against Eccentric Soul: The Tragar & Note Labels, however, is the sheer magnitude of the collection. Boasting 50 songs -- many of which clock in somewhere around a brief two minutes -- it's difficult to really sink your teeth into this collection. Sandy Gaye's "Watch the Dog That Brings the Bone" gets lost halfway through the two discs -- though its inclusion as the first song of the second disc was decidedly well done. Similarly J.J. Jones' "I Can't Stand It" and Langston & French's "Let's Get Funky" are hidden near the very end of the two discs.

So while Eccentric Soul: The Tragar & Note Labels is another collection of undiscovered soul, it is more or less unremarkable. It will quickly be placed in the catalog of similar records to be shelved and occasionally pulled out for a listen or two, because though there are some good tracks on these discs, Numero Group has done better in the past.

6

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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