Have you heard the new hit track by a new super group called Silk Sonic, pairing Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak, “Leave The Door Open?” It’s a great tune that brings the sound of vintage mid-1970s soul grooves to a new generation — think The Stylistics and The Delfonics and perhaps The Dells and even a bit of Gladys Knight for some quick touch stone references.
This isn’t quite a “new” trend in that there have been a lot of great groups performing in recent times, mining these classic sounds anew in the 21st Century — from the late great Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley (both, RIP) on to the many fine talents I was recently turned onto via the Colemine Records label such as Thee Sinseers, Ben Pirani, The Resonaires, Kendra Morris and many others.
If you missed my review of Colemine’s fantastic Brighter Days Ahead compilation which I reviewed in February, please click here to read it.
In this light, two recent independent extended play (aka “EP”) CD releases with vintage roots are particularly timely. While they are individually brief listening nuggets, together you could create two sides of a fine LP.
SWEET SOUL SONG
My eyes perked up when I saw the press release come through about a new EP by the fellow who wrote the first big hits for Chicago’s influential mid-60s rock band, The Buckinghams. “Kind Of A Drag” was written by James Holvay who also co-wrote the band’s follow on major label Top 10 smashes “Don’t You Care,”“Hey Baby” and “Susan.”
Those songs kickstarted that band’s legacy and led to successful careers for other horn-infused rock bands, both with a sound fine tuned by producer James William Guercio, including Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears. Holvay began his career with a bit of Beatlemania wave-riding joy (which I happen to own!) called “Beatle Time” by The Livers (seriously folks, click here to hear it!).
Happily, Mr. Holvay’s new CD EP — called Sweet Soul Song— is exactly what it presents itself as and the results are terrific. With a rich raspy voice that falls somewhere between Dan Penn and Curtis Mayfield, the songs here mine classic 60s soul styles (“Working On It”) and some 70s vibe from native Chicago (via The Chi-Lites) on “Still The Fool” — the latter is my favorite on the album, replete with orchestral strings. Holvay even pulls of the incredibly difficult task of creating a good song that reminisces about a bygone era without being cringe-inducing (“Sweet Soul Song”). “Love Has Found A Way” swings like a lost Jackson Five groove that might have been a hit had they recorded it in 1971 or 72.
This EP has a nice vintage sound to it so it could easily be spun in a DJ set with other classic tracks. If you want to sample some of the tracks you can find them up on Tidal (click here).
SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE CONTINENTAL CLUB
I received this EP from a musician friend who has some terrific roots in 60s and 70s soul. Back in the day, Michael “Grey Boy” Edell had a band in Florida in the ‘60s called The Miami Soul Review which often opened for Frank Williams and The Rocketeers, a popular group to which this EP pays tribute. Across five in-the-pocket grooves, his new ensemble — Grey And The Hit Me Band — recreate the vibe of his days playing with the creme of Miami’s best at the Continental Club.
Edell has quite a background having served in backup bands for no less than Etta James, The Staple Singers, Sam & Dave, James Carr, Tyrone Davis and many others. His original band has opened for no less than James Brown (with whom he became friends along the way), Ike & Tina Turner, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons and even the Amazing Kreskin! His 1971 sides as the Human Race are sweet latin-tinged soul grooves commanding some coin on Discogs these days and even getting reissued by The Numero Group several years back (many copies ending up in the UK not surprisingly, prime sampling material used by DJ Shadow and others).
Given this great history, its no surprise that Saturday Night At The Continental Club serves up a tasty five song menu of swinging modern retro soul grooves.
The songwriting is solid, the performances Ike-and-Tina-Turner-tight and the vocals exemplary. Grey himself has a great range that sounds like what might have happened had Smokey Robinson let loose like Godfather of Soul (“Do Right Man,” “I Feel My Love Coming Down” and the fun EP closer “Soul Stuff”). Opening track “Good Thing” kicks off the James Brown-meets-Joe Tex essence with a vocal by Jerome Harris.
If you want to compare how Grey And The Hit Me Band nailed the feel for this fine tribute, check out some of the originals up on YouTube (click on the titles here for “Good Thing” and “Soul Stuff”). You can also find their new EP streaming on Tidal (click here) and Qobuz (click here).
There are indeed some grand new classic soul sounds happening these days, for sure!
Be sure to check some of these tracks posted below…