Friday, December 6, 2013

Various Artists Eccentric Soul The Forte Label Numero Group 2013

Various Artists Eccentric Soul The Forte Label Numero Group 2013 Cat # 047

This is my favorite release of 2013.  The archivist label, Numero Group, has collected 28 tracks from the Kansas City soul label Forte and threw them onto a two LP set.  It's complete with an amazing and well researched booklet.

Kansas City has it's rich tradition for jazz and blues.  We even have claim to some nice indie-rock.  But as far as soul music, we never developed a famous sound.  The Forte label attempted to capture some of Kansas City's talent in terms of soul music.  Most the performers featured here were around town doing Motown style revues.  But, when the artist got the chance to do their own thing in a local studio on  a regional label, there are some amazing moments.

Now-a-days, these records are nearly impossible to locate.  They likely enjoyed forms of regional success and sold decent, the label stayed active from the mid-60's into the 70's, but the 45's seem to only be available on-line for high prices.  Collectors started gravitating to rare soul side in the 80's.  People wanted regional and unheard sides, the label's output is now blanketed into the term "Northern Soul," which is a reference to all night dance raves taking place in England, but today just means rare soul.

The most popular of these Forte artists is Kansas City, KS' Marva Whitney.  The collection features two selections from Forte output.  She sustained a fairly successful career after leaving Kansas City.  After Forte, she cut some sides for the famed Federal label.  Then, she was featured as a member of the James Brown touring show and recorded for King.  Her King singles and one studio LP are revered by funk collectors as the some of the dirtiest and raw funk recorded by a female.  In the 80's she found herself recording for number of other labels never catching on in one spot.  Her tracks on this collection are representative of her work, she belts out a song like no other, it's like you're being yelled at, and while the talent around her isn't anywhere near the level she had with King, her tunes here are still stunners.

The collection does showcase what could be termed a Kansas City soul style.  However, lots of obscure, regional soul sounds just as raw as what's featured here.  It's not as clean and crisp (and well, as white) as what Motown was doing.  It's not as earthy and blues oriented as what Stax was doing.  It's not as funky as James Brown, but tries awful hard to be.  The main purpose is to get people out to the dance floor, so it's up-tempo, sock-to-me style soul.  Shouters and screamers that would make you think of Sam & Dave or Dyke and the Blazers.  During the 70's the label did allow for more experimentation, Olathe, KS' Everyday People Life reach into prog-rock realms while trying to conjure a Sly & Family Stone feel.  There's also some Willie Mitchell/Al Green style slickness attempted, some of great, some of it only decent. Overall a highly recommended release filled with obscure, but amazing Kansas City musicians.

Marva Whitney Daddy Don't Know About Sugar Bears
The Fantasticks-Cry Night and Day

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