CD Review

Various Artists, Super Cool California Soul 2: Raw and Rare Soul from the West Coast 1966-1982 (Ubiquity)

In the '60s and '70s, nearly every major American city—and many minor ones—had thriving funk and soul scenes. And if they didn't have hotbeds, then these towns at least produced a handful of acts that could convincingly approximate the special sonic sauce of James Brown or the Meters. So it's unsurprising to discover that the state of California has warehouses full of obscure 45s that have been and are still being excavated for insatiable collectors and aficionados. In the past decade, Costa Mesa's Ubiquity Records has been among the foremost curators of soul and funk musicians who somehow slipped under radio's and print media's radars. Case in point is the Super Cool California Soul series. While this second volume boasts nobody with the marquee luster of such Golden State stars as Sly and the Family Stone or War, this 16-track disc radiates enough soular power to warm the coolest hipster's constricted heart.

Super Cool California Soul 2 delves deep for its riches. The dominant sound is a mellow, sensual glow and throb that falls somewhere between the Stax label's sinewy rhythmic punch and melodic finesse and Cadet Records' trippy, orchestral soul excursions. Gow Dow Experience light a sexy fire under the standard "Compared to What"—twice; Joey Jefferson Band's clavinet-and-vibes-enhanced "Revolution Rap" subverts its title with slyly seductive, loungey funkadelia; Spanky Wilson's adorable "Fancy" recalls Dusty Springfield's inspirational Memphis soul, melding gospel with estrus; LAPD (heh) find the golden mean between bliss and menace on the soul/jazz mood-elevator "Big Herm"; Darondo's silky sweet "Such a Night" is a slow romancer; and Rodney Trotter's "Space Nigga" disrupts the earthy flow with the compilation's nuttiest track, featuring Bernie Worrell-esque synth spritzes, helium-voiced alien chatter and strident piano vamping. These songs have aged remarkably well while still retaining their period charms.

 
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