Written by 10:09 am Audiophile Music, Audiophile, Audiophile News, Vinyl

Listening Report: Colemine Records’ Soul Slabs Vol.2 Showcases Rare Singles From The Now Times

Mark Smotroff gets a fresh dose of neo soul…

The other day I was playing my new copy of Colemine RecordsSoul Slabs Vol. 2 collection when a visiting friend asked if I was listening to The Stylistics.  When I told him it was not an old record from the 1970s but a newer release by current talents, his jaw dropped more than a bit! 

And such is the joy of much new music from Colemine Records, a label out of Ohio which I’ve written about before here on Audiophile Review. An outgrowth of their physical record shop — Plaidroom Records — these folks have been curating a fantastic array of new era Soul artists from around the country. These are real bands playing real instruments and singing (mostly) songs they wrote.  It is quite a community this label has tapped into, no doubt a spiritual outgrowth of the late Sharon Jones’ great modern soul label Daptone Records. 

On the covers of the individual albums in the Soul Slabs Vol. 2 boxed set are photos of the bands and artists in their studios, on stages and in the shops, showcasing a love for this vintage analog era of music.

Colemine Records has issued many individual 45 RPM singles for these artists — the Soul Slabs series cover art features the labels of these records which pay tribute to the look and feel of vintage 45s from the 1960s and early 1970s. Many of those releases are limited editions which have become collectible in their own right.

I have to admit, I am still collecting singles by the old acts and even that process has become overwhelming — I have way too many singles!  So, being able to at least keep pace with this fresh music scene via a finely curated compilation like Soul Slabs Vol. 2 is a welcome joy.  This album was issued in 2019 on red vinyl for Record Store Day and it was one of those elusive releases absolutely no one I knew was able to get their hands on. Indeed today, that initial edition sells for upwards of $100 on Discogs these days (there are only four copies up there). 

So I was pleased when I learned that Colemine Records had reissued Soul Slabs Vol. 2 in 2021 on standard black vinyl.  Still, given it was a three-LP set, I waited a while until a copy showed up in my local stores to avoid the no-doubt pricey shipping costs for a three-LP boxed set. Well, that day arrived a week or so ago when I scored a copy at Amoeba Music. Three lovely, standard weight, well pressed and fine sounding LPs for 50 dollars all housed in individual LP covers, each protected in audiophile grade plastic sleeves within a sturdy boxed slip case.  

In total you get 27 songs by 27 different artists, which amounts to less than 2 bucks a tune. This is totally fair, especially since so many of the songs are fantastic and if you were to buy all the individual singles, you’d end up spending between $7-9 each disc! So note for note, song for song, pound for pound and dollar for dollar, Soul Slabs Vol. 2 is the most cost efficient way to go.

My favorite tracks thus far include Kelly Finnegan’s debut single for the label — “I Don’t Wanna Wait” — which features a groovy distorted electric guitar signature hook softed by lovely glockenspiel bell tones and piano over a sultry Marvin Gaye meets Issac Hayes sort of groove. “It Is What It Is” by A.J. & The Jiggawatts is rich funky-slinky groove this side of War (think “Cisco Kid,” “Slippin’ Into Darkness,” etc.). Speaking of War, the song “War Room” by Black Market Brass is a baddass churner with a near Ethio-jazz 6/8 time vibe that rocks like mad with deep percussion (congas! drums!) guitar riff and a deep horn section which sounds like it has saxes, trumpet and maybe even a tuba or trombone in the mix…. and maybe even a Farfisa Organ! 

Perhaps my all time favorite track thus far is The Monophonics’ absolutely killer soul take on Sonny & Cher’s classic pop hit “Bang Bang,” here bringing out the song’s deep darkness wrapped in a slow-and-hard near-funk rock groove. I need to check out some of this band’s albums, for sure — they are from my home-base of San Francisco and I’ve been hearing good buzz about them.

And there-in lies the purpose of a collection like Soul Slabs Vol. 2: new music discovery!

I’ve posted YouTube video links to several of these songs below so do check them out!

The standard weight vinyl pressings are excellent, well centered, dark and quiet. The sound quality varies a bit at times  which is to be expected (remember: 27 songs by 27 artists likely also means there were effectively 27 different recording engineers working on this album!), So kudos to the producers from Colemine Records for a lovely job mastering the whole Soul Slabs Vol. 2 album into a tasty listening experience. 

Previously, I reviewed Soul Slabs Vol. 3 a while back, a two-LP set on red vinyl issued for Record Store Day in 2021 (click here for that review). I also reviewed their fantastic Brighter Days Ahead collection (click here for that one). 

These are some great collections which I can’t recommend highly enough. If you like the sounds of vintage soul but with a modern twist, check these recordings out. 

Now I just need to track down a copy of Soul Slabs Vol. 1 and I’ll be all caught up with these great compilations from the good folks at Colemine Records. Well, at least until Soul Slabs Vol. 4 is released! 

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