So, I think I’ve said this before but there is a thing going on in popular independent music that is quite wonderful but which not many are acknowledging from what I can tell in a mainstream trends sense, at least. No doubt, credit for this movement must be given to the good folks at Brooklyn’s indie label Daptone Records, the birthplace for the late great Sharon Jones (RIP) and Charles Bradley (RIP), as well as Menahan Street Band, The Budos band and many others on their roster. That label helped wake up a new generation to the joys of fresh classic soul sounds made without the assistance of sequencers and samplers (at least the Daptone recordings that I’ve heard have been very organic and decidedly vintage sounding).
If you’ve been following my listening reports you may have read my semi-breathless raves about the great work coming out of the equally Colemine Records label from the midwest. If not, click here, here and here to catch up!
On the most recent Record Store Day, one of the more sought after releases was simply called Penrose Showcase: Vol. 1. Quoting the hype sticker on the cover it is “14 sides showcasing the soulful West Coast sound of Daptone Records’ exciting new imprint, Penrose Records.”
This album underscores the community that seems to be brewing out there in the fields of music making, which in some circles is called “Souldies.” This Penrose sampler features a track by Thee Sinseers, a group which is also on some of the Colemine Samplers! So clearly there is some healthy cross pollination going on.
All of these bands on Penrose Showcase: Vol. 1 have one foot in vintage late 1960s / early ‘70s soul sounds and the other in the future. While there are plenty of touchstones to classic sounds ala The Stylistics, The Delfonics and Smokey Robinson, the songwriting and performances are of such a high caliber they stand on their own without feeling like a pure homage.
Penrose opens up firing on all cylinders with “Can I Call You Rose?” by Thee Sacred Souls (who also kick off side two with the slow and moody “Will I See You Again?”). Some other favorites which have been charming their earworms into my consciousness are Los Yesterday’s “Give Me One More Chance” and “Nobody’s Clown.” Vicky Tafoya’s lovely lowrider jam “Forever” feels like what might have happened had Brenda & The Tabulations been arranged by Dion & The Belmonts and performed by The Teen Queens (“Eddie My Love“)
This new Record Store Day limited edition Penrose Showcase: Vol. 1 come pressed in crystal clear vinyl that is pleasantly quiet and well pressed, so no problems there. All the tracks are recorded with an organic flavor, so perhaps the only significant effect you’ll notice is a bit of reverb and the vibe of the rooms where the bands were recorded.
This special edition also came with a free Penrose turntable mat which is a neat treat for collectors. But really, this one is all about getting right down to the music. The back cover is mostly blank space and the track listing! Yes, the producers of this fine album simply want you to get down and listen… and probably dance too! And what great grooves there are here.
Penrose Showcase: Vol. 1 isn’t available on Amazon on vinyl but there are many resellers on Discogs you can find there. Or better still, call up to your favorite local store to see if they can score a copy for you. Its worth it.
Be sure to check out some of the official videos from these groups on this album following, starting with Los Yesterday’s fantastic “Nobody’s Clown”…