Monday, January 4, 2021

The Chicago Boogie Volume 2: This Love Will Last

(Star Creature, 2021) The great record collector Bob Abrahamian used to have the best rare soul radio show, and whenever we would listen my historic wife would point out how you could always tell what was just a little bit off and inferior about these indie also-rans as opposed to the actual dusty hits Herb Kent spun on Sundays. 60s and 70s R&B is one of the rare eras in pop cultural history when the most talented artistts and tastemakers with actual taste seemed to be calling the shots. There was definitely a path, sometimes a quick one, from the bottom to the top for talented musicians and producers, and while many geniuses did not make it as high as they should have, and many independent records showcased thrilling skills, it did not take a sophisticated ear to tell the big winners from the not-so-muchs. One of the best things about the hip hop era was that line becoming erased. Not only did young bedroom producers have their ear to important trends, they also could make something as polished as anyone in a zillion dollar studio. I recall reading about how Manny Fresh and his cohort were prolific in part because they would get standard production money from their major label partner and have to use so little of it to create an album length product (I also recall an underground musician railing against the "unplugged" movement as an attempt to get old school studio pros back in the game). But bridging traditional R&B and hip hop there was the synth-heavy era that collectors call "Boogie," which saw the Whispers and D. Train and Alexander O'Neal (who I once saw live in a tiny club with his band playing racks of over 40 keyboards, like a metal band with fake Marshall stacks) could record electronic instruments direct line, no thousand dollar mics needed. There was still a line drawn between private press/indie releases and major label stuff, but it was getting thinner. The only actual thing disappointing about volume 2 of this series curated and somewhat remixed by the Boogie Munsters behind this label is that they did not call it Attack of The Chicago Boogie Volume 2 (obviously I get my paycheck from Roctober, so I wish they told us more about the artists and original releases, but the beautiful artwork and grooving music let's me forgive that).  Special Touch deliver a slinky party groover that is fully functional. Duke Turner is the highlight of the EP, alternating between a Bootsy funk man voice and a falsetto as he does his best to wife a lucky (?) lady.  On Stage is a nice dose of futuristic funkery with the bass poppin' like Orville Redenbacher is slapping the strings. Kareem Rashad brings it home with the most delightfully dated track, a perfect boogie-era dance track called "Dance" about dancing, with my favorite vocal on the collection. There are a couple of moments here and there on this collection where these vocalists might hit a note that would not have made it onto Motown, but for the most parts Chicago innovation and talent elevate these pieces of private press to treasured tune status. 

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