With the recent binging and purging of the mighty mighty Motown vaults, the music community is ever so slightly retuning their ears to the lost soul sounds of the Motor City (even if Jack White is leading the exodus of well groomed rockers to Nashville). This...in my ears...can only be a good thing. From the earliest of R&B tunes from the 50s all the way up to the hysterical antics of Sammy Davis Jr
on the overly glossed "here you go Coleman Young now shut the fuck up and quit trying to bring me back to a town I never liked", Berry Gordy commissioned "Hello, Detroit
" (Intended to be the New York equivalent of "New York, New York"), there's plenty to be re-discovered. So instead of crying over yet another miserable year where Detroit sports teams fail to live up to their potential, I'll showcase two compilations that have had me dancing around the apartment as of late.
Most recently, the Numero Group
has taken the initative to uncover and survey the mildly obscure Big Mack label. This isn't the overly primmed and proper, good time Sound of Young America soul that was being mass manufactured no less than ten miles away. This is raw and sweaty as you can get without having George Clinton standing on your table at the 20 Grand, buck naked and pouring libations all over himself. I'll frame it another way: if Ghostly was Motown, aesthetically balanced and scrutinized but delivering one top record after another....then Big Mack was FXHE or Ugly Edits in presentation.
With detailed liner notes, amazing sound quality...Numero once again does a hell of a job documenting a particular scene or music movement. Anyone who is a fan of the obscure should be paying attention to their every release. It's like going to class.
The second compilation comes from the mighty Ubiquity, who might as well just fucking open up a Detroit office at this rate (recent releases from John Arnold, PPP, Ayro, Nomo top the list. Rumor has it my dad has his debut EP slated for next month).
Anyways (more on my Dad's release later), Searching For Soul
also peels away the layers of gloss to deliver some of the rarest tracks available that were ever produced south of 8 mile.
Ubiquity made a wise call in asking Scott Craig to curate the collection because frankly, nobody I've ever met in my twenty nine years living in this area knows Detroit music like Scott. Think you've got a digging spot? He's been there, took what you didn't know about already, and probably has doubles of it by now, with thirty people in Manchester and Tokyo willing to pay top dollar for his so-so, slightly scratched copy. The results are nothing less than fantastic, especially when reading along to yet another detailed set of liner notes.
But the problem with both of these compilations is that they're too short. With over 100 known labels in existence over three decades, there's just so much more out there dying to be heard again. And not just by backpack sporting, Vice reading beatheads looking for new samples or unkept, haggard record collectors who thrive on the obscure...but by the actual people of Detroit; music fans, musicians and students who live here needing a constant reminder that those burnt buildings and vacant lots were once home to some of the sweetest soul music ever created