Guest Mix for Kieran Lockyear, “Straight from the Play Box”

14 Jan

A couple months ago, I approached the multifaceted UK soul collector and promoter Kieran Lockyear about the possibility of releasing a vinyl mix on his widely popular “Straight from the Play Box” series on Mixcloud. He was receptive to the idea and I assembled my recording gear with the goal of producing something that would please his core audience while also attracting listeners with less specialized interests in soul. My collection doesn’t stand up well against Northern collectors who’ve curated 45rpm singles that have matured from dance stormers in the Midlands to worldwide legacy pieces. If I identified with that tradition, it would be anathema for me to include original tracks from cherished Northern artists like Willie Tee and Honey & The Bees that appear only on full length albums.* Honoring that tradition, I’d also be broke.

I can’t compete against the monetary premium that people apply to their memories. The records in my collection are just as much a reflection of my financial restrictions as they are an indicator of my taste, time, and commitment to the music. Letting the big records go, I can bring focus to neglected artists like Maurice Rodgers who fit squarely within a Northern taxonomy and soundtrack releases like Michel Magne’s “Brigade Anti-Gangs” that don’t fit anywhere. (Can anyone tell me what exactly he’s yelling about?)

I like a big, cinematic sound even when I can’t detect a clear narrative. Intensity matters more than lyrical texture. Dee Edwards showcases strong songwriting on “Why Can’t There Be Love” but Bob Meyer’s “I Only Get That Feeling” propels me beyond words. I’m too wrapped up in the singer’s strangled expectations to worry about his slant rhymes.

I’ll admit that I take this impulse about as far as most people would indulge with the debauched flute solo on “That’s a Bet” by Arnold Albury & The Casuals, but I’ve never heard anything seedier than the group vocals, neither harmonious nor entirely synchronous, urged by organ and pumping guitar. Have you heard the flip side of this 45 record? The Casuals know how to sing nicely about “the joys of love and becoming a woman.” Albury himself was a studio musician mostly remembered for his piano and organ work with Miami-based artists like Betty Wright, who always balanced real talk with respectability. But here he gives us a song about suppressing the latent aggression of sexual desire. And his guitarist holds the final note of every bleary riff like a menacing stare. By the time we reach the flute solo, all pretense has vanished, and Albury ends the song with indecipherable ribaldry among the guys.

Franceola’s “Mighty Good Man” dispels the creepy vibe and delivers a vision of (reciprocated) love with interlocking pieces that turn like a funked up music box. The Now Generation follows with a late night Jamaican soul cover of The Stylistics’ “People Make the World Go Round.” And the mix concludes with the sweet and deep “Do You Understand” by Philadelphia legends, Honey & The Bees.

I think it’s important to credit fellow soul enthusiasts–especially Brian Sears and Peter Beaver–for turning my ear to songs I wouldn’t have otherwise discovered in the wild. Beaver included The Now Generation on a mix from sometime around 2010, and Sears introduced me to Maurice Rodgers only a few months before I recorded this mix. “Do You Understand” first came to my attention on a Soul Boulders mix by the late Matthew Africa and DJ B.Cause, two pioneers in deep digging whose style has influenced a generation. I would also like to thank Kieran Lockyear for extending his welcome and hosting this live set. I put a lot of love into this mix and I hope my readers enjoy it.

Track list:
1. Michel Magne – Brigade Anti-Gangs
2. Willie Tee – No Answer Came
3. Darrow Fletcher – Now is the Time for Love (pt. 1)
4. Maurice Rodgers – Coming in out of the Rain
5. Dee Edwards – Why Can’t There be Love?
6. Bob Meyer – I Only Get That Feeling
7. Arnold Albury & The Casuals – That’s a Bet
8. Franceola – Mighty Good Man
9. The Now Generation – People Make the World Go Round
10. Honey & The Bees – Do You Understand

*I recorded all songs from original 45rpm singles except “No Answer Came” and “Do You Understand.”

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