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Soul Explosives

Ain’t No Sunshine / Tryin To Get Down

    Big Crown Records is proud to present a reissue of the highly sought-after, very rare, and only release by Texas funk band, The Soul Explosives. Active in 1971 and 72, The Soul Explosives were a high school group from Kingsville, TX led by high school senior Skip Frazier. Their main goal was to play a neighborhood know as the"The Cut" in nearby Corpus Christ, where there were a number of Soul & R&B clubs. They paid for the recording and pressing of the 45 which was done by a tiny local Tejano studio/label, Bormeh. Copies of the record were given to friends and sold at shows. In '72 Skip decided to leave the group to pursue his college studies and they disbanded not long after. The A Side “Tryin To Get Down” is a lo-fi funk gem with all the makings of an underground classic. Driving drums and blown out vocals somewhere between encouraging and liberating are sure to peak funk fans ears. The B Side, a absolutely smashing cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine”, is nothing short of a must have. The Soul Explosives nearly instrumental cover might just be the toughest version on a 45. Another Big Crown sureshot.

    Paul & The Tall Trees

    Once In A While / The Little Bit Of Sunshine

      Big Crown Records is proud to present the debut single from Paul & The Tall Trees, “Once In A While” b/w “The Little Bit Of Sunshine”. Hailing from Staten Island, Paul Schalda’s music seems to embody the unexpected overlap of The Band’s Americana, Ian MacKaye's unhinged emotion, and the doo-wop melodies his father, Bill Schalda Sr. (a member of Brooklyn vocal group, The Montereys), raised him on. The first single from his forthcoming full length, produced by Tommy Brenneck, “Once In A While” is a testament to Paul’s sincere and raw emotional song writing. Running the gamut of the forever changing conviction of a man in love, Paul goes from never again to maybe pleading for mercy on his soul. Musically going from a mellow strut to a frantic crescendo carrying the lyrics along for the ups and downs of addiction. The B Side “The Little Bit Of Sunshine” is the soul tearing admission of defeat and the long road to surrender. Easily interpreted as a story about a disfunctional relationship with a unkind, inconsiderate woman, yet truly a story about Paul’s giving up on a career in music. 


      79.5

      Boy Don't Be Afraid/I Stay, You Stay

        With the announcement of their long awaited, highly anticipated debut full length release, 79.5 drops a new and revamped version of their underground classic Boy Don’t Be Afraid. Producer Leon Michels took it back in the studio and made it into a proper two stepper, slowed it down a touch, and added percussion and Wurly. The result is another sure shot side for the dance floor from one of New York City’s most adored underground acts. Like many of the girl group classics, Boy Don't Be Afraid is a song about love. But beyond that, it is a song about being—being hopeful, being romantic, being brave.

        A romantic stance and a declaration of love through melody. The B Side, I Stay, You Stay is a beautiful number about meeting in the middle and a testament to a woman’s intuition. A love song starting in hesitation, walking through admiration, and ending in certainty and gratitude. The ladies weave this tale trading leads and combining voices seamlessly over the band’s signature in the pocket drums and bass, rhodes chords, and flute flourishes. I Stay, You Stay is a perfect example of one of the defining things about 79.5 and why they are known as the “Mid Tempo Maidens”, as the lyrics reflect “they don’t have to rush, they have lots of time”. 

        The Sonics / S.C.A.M

        Find Myself Another Girl / Spooky

          Big Crown Records is proud to present another tough as nails split 7”. The A Side is a killer and well sought after reissue of The Sonics “Find Myself Another Girl”. A tune that lands in one of our favorite sub genres - happy break up songs. The Sonics rip into it with a dance floor friendly drum beat covered in uplifting horn arrangements, singing the tune of someone who is relieved to be out of a relationship gone sour. A proper dance floor burner sure to be in all the soul DJ boxes. The B Side is a never before released version of the classic and often covered “Spooky”. Taken from the original master tapes and edited down to fit a 45, this is the first time this tune is seeing the light of day. Texas outfit S.C.A.M. takes the tune on a proper journey, easing into it on this 45 edit and finding their way through horn crescendos and dropping down to drums bass and rhythm guitar. An easy favorite version of the hit tune that collectors will love to get their hands on. 

          79.5

          Predictions

            Attempting to pigeonhole 79.5 into something as narrow as a single genre would be an ill advised, if not impossible task. The New York City band sounds like someone spinning a radio dial with such passionate intensity that all the stations blend together into a single, transcendent, almost spiritual force. It’s disco to the beat of modern house; it’s a Supremes cover of a Cardi B banger; it’s Roland Kirk playing jazz through one saxophone, funk through another, and the most earwormy pop tune the 1970’s could muster through a third.

            It’s an experience—one so effecting that with only a self-released 12” single in circulation, 79.5 had been written up twice in The New Yorker on the merit of their live sets alone. Their debut album Predictions is produced by Leon Michels and was recorded at The Diamond Mine in Queens the old school way, with the whole band playing the songs in one take and captured to analog tape. They released their now classic Terrorize My Heart 45 in 2016 on Big Crown Records and it solidified all the hype surrounding them. The 7” sold through the first pressing in just a few weeks and became a staple in DJ sets around the world getting spins from the likes of Gilles Peterson, Q Tip, Kenny Dope, DJ Spinna, and Just Blaze to name a few.

            They announced their debut album via Billboard’s premiere of their newest single Boy Don’t Be Afraid which was accurately described as “Energetic and infectious...a unique, yet easy to listen to experience”. Already getting heavy spins at radio and finding it’s way into the hearts of all the listeners, the instant classic Boy Don’t Be Afraid is as bandleader Kate Mattison describes, “a sweet little song about being. Being hopeful, being romantic, being brave. A romantic stance and a declaration of love through melody, in honest girl-group fashion. 

            Lively Set / The Three Dudes

            Blues Get Off My Shoulder / I’m Begging You

              Big Crown Records is proud to present this killer reissue split 7” of two tunes that are equally as rare as they are great. An absolute must have for the funk and soul collectors that is sure to burn up the dance floor. Side A is The Lively Set’s cover of “Blue’s Get Off Of My Shoulder” which was recorded in San Antonio, Texas in 1967 and originally released on Satin Records. It is rumored that only 10 copies have ever been found of the original, and with it changing hands in the neighborhood of $5,000, it’s a pleasure to get this side into collections and ears.

              The backing band for this tune is none other than Mickey & The Fabulous Five, who later went on to be Mickey & The Soul Generation. With pleading vocals by frontman Buddy Washington and a heavy duty groove peppered with blaring horns and rhythm guitar this is a lo-fi bomb of a record. Side B, also by way of San Antonio, recorded in ’67, and released at the time on Satin Records, is The Three Dudes “I’m Begging You”. This write up on the history of the group and recording by way of musicologist Alex La Rotta: In a city celebrated for its Latin-infused ‘West Side Sound,’ San Antonio’s The Three Dudes — Reginald Whitaker, Lawrence Alexander, and Charles Larry Russell — were among the East Side’s lesser-known (but equally talented) black soul groups of the 1960s. The ‘dudes’ met in choir at Sam Houston High in the mid-sixties — a predominantly white school that also graduated the city’s most acclaimed pop stars, Doug Sahm and Augie Meyers of the Sir Douglas Quintet, a decade prior.

              Sharing a mutual passion for the classic doo-wop harmonies of The Platters and The Cadillacs, they assembled a combo: Whitaker helmed lead, Alexander sang bass, and Russell carried the harmony. “Reginald had this Jerry Butler voice, and the girls just swooned,” recalled Russell. “We’d walk down the halls and sing – you know, it had that echo chamber effect – and everyone would just get quiet. We never got in trouble for being late because all the teachers were standing at the doors and smiling, too!” Honing their talent, they eventually won first place at the Student Council talent show in the fall of 1967, singing the Whitaker-penned “Sad Little Boy” — one of two songs the group recently recorded with local producer, E.J. Henke, on Satin Records. 

              In a world where chaos seems to be in control more often than not, music can occasionally be a temporary respite; and at best, a form of salvation. This is the transcendent realm of Okonkolo: Yoruban Santeria music like you have never heard before. The group is the life’s work of New York-born percussionist and Yoruba Chango priest Abraham “Aby” Rodriguez. His group quietly released "Rezos", a gorgeous 10” EP in 2016 on Brooklyn’s Big Crown, and has now returned to give the world even more hypnotic incantations on their debut full length. Featuring nine songs, each of the group’s religious epiphanies on "Cantos" follow a similar path, with transcendently hypnotic results.

              As with all Santeria ritual musical accompaniment, drums are at the center of all offerings – namely, the Bata and Coro. In "Okonkolo", they are played by Rodriguez, Gene Golden and Xavier Rivera. Building on these rhythms, vocals play an equally important role in the proceedings, sung in Yoruba, contributed by Aby and the powerful female voices of Amma McKen and Jadele McPherson. Although not necessarily musically comparable, conceptually "Cantos" clearly reminds listeners of artists and albums that effortlessly straddle the line between the sacred and the secularly sublime: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s finest work; Ravi Shankar; Alice Coltrane’s "Journey In Satchidananda"; and many more classics released over the past half century. Along the "Cantos" journey, strains of music from around the world can be heard – Africa, South America, the Caribbean and even New York City. Beyond the drums and vocals featured at any traditional Yoruba / Santeria ceremony, with this album there are additional layers that add to the musical beauty: overlaid on top of traditional elements are jazz-associated instrumentation, including horns, bass, guitar and even lush string arrangements.


              Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band

              The Serpent's Mouth

              Following up on the massive worldwide success of their debut album "55", Bacao Rhythm & Steel band is back with another heavy duty offering. Picking up where they left off and incorporating a ton of new recording techniques they take a huge step forward with "The Serpent’s Mouth". Named after the eight-mile strait between the island of Trinidad and the coast of Venezuela, "The Serpent’s Mouth" is a journey through both originals and covers, combining classic elements that wide-eared music fans already know, and mashing them up in new and unique ways. Take “1 Thing” – on it, the group attacks the galloping, chopped Amerie smash hit, with singing pans that follow the R & B vocal.

              The sound is crisp and up-front, arguably more muscular than the 2005 original. On “Great To Be Here,” they take on the Jackson 5 B-Boy favorite (which stretches back to the Zulu Nation / Bronx block party days) – uncoincidentally, the original version featured a guitar lick that emulated a steel pan run. Here, it gets an even more pulsating groove, adding open-drums breaks throughout, to get DJs salivating. The group veers through more inventively-constructed covers as the album’s sequence continues, including Gang Starr’s “All For The Cash”; Mary J. Blige’s “I Love You”; and the recently unleashed first single, “XXplosive” and “Burn,” paying tribute to both Dr. Dre and Mobb Deep for a bi-coastal funk party. And, as band leader Bjorn Wagner states, 'My favorite cover on the album is probably "Crockett Theme", which is the theme to ‘Miami Vice.’ I always loved the melody, and the cosmic vibe of the song, and I was honestly surprised that it worked without synthesizers.”

              This time around the group’s originals are even stronger, as evidenced by cuts like the flute-fueled break-fest of “Hoola Hoop”; the slow and spacey “Touchdown”; and the album’s title track, the future-epic-adventure-movie-soundtrack cut “The Serpent’s Mouth.” Wagner explains, 'I wrote the song with Bernhard Hummer as an instrumental fantasy story – think of pirates, smugglers and a dangerously beautiful sea passage towards the island. It became an allegory for our mind travels into the world of the steel pan.' "The Serpent’s Mouth" is sure to please past fans and newly-minted ones alike. It seems like a new era for Steel Drum music is upon us, and Bacao is firmly leading the way into the hearts of music fans around the world.


              Bobby Oroza

              This Love / Should I Take You Home

              With their full length getting wrapped up now, on the label Big Crown Records, the debut single from Finland’s own Bobby Oroza. Side A, This Love is already an underground classic, and has been a huge hit with the sweet soul crowd since it’s original release last year on Timmion Records. Produced by Cold Diamond & Mink and recorded at Timmion Studios in Helsinki, Finland, this team has clearly got the magic. With its tough drums, maverick guitar work, in the cut bass, and Bobby’s calm yet pleading monotone vocals, this is one hell of a song and an absolute must have for Soul collectors. Side B is the never before heard and very well executed homage to Sunny & The Sunliners classic song, Should I Take You Home. Bobby takes the task of covering a near perfect tune and does it justice by making it their own while never losing sight of the magic that makes Sunny’s original so sublime. This is going to take the sweet soul crowd by storm and is a perfect follow up to the already beloved, This Love. Another Big Crown Sure shot.

              Sunny & The Sunliners

              Get Down / Cross My Heart

              Following the success of the extensive reissue project that we did with Sunny’s & The Sunliners, (2017’s Mr Brown Eyed Soul compilation, Smile Now, Cry Later & Missing Link full length reissues, and 2018’s reissue of Little Brown Eyed Soul LP) we bring you another must have 7 inch offering from his catalogue. Side A is Sunny’s cover of Get Down, one of the rarest and hardest tunes from his extensive discography. Only appearing on a Key Loc 45 and very rarely showing up in decent condition, if at all, it lives mostly on funk collector’s want lists. Although they have covered James Brown, Hugh Masekela, and The Meters this is commonly agreed to be the funkiest thing they’ve ever cut. Side B is their version of the Billy Stewart classic Cross My Heart, a tune even some of the most diehard Sunny fans seem to have not known existed prior to the Mr Brown Eyed Soul compilation. A sweet soul classic recently made popular again via Jay Electronica’s Just Blaze produced underground hit Exhibit C, which sampled the Stewart version. Collector’s and music lovers alike will be happy to see this song available on 7” format for the first time ever.

              The Shacks

              My Name Is... / Sand Song

              Big Crown Records drop another top single from The Shacks' fine debut album Haze. The A side “My Name Is…” is one of the first songs The Shacks wrote shortly after they met. Producer Leon Michels had the track and the title for it and sent it on to The Shacks to pen the lyrics. Max Shrager says of writing the lyrics “this song is about setting a time and place to meet up, wandering around like ghosts until we spotted each other in a crowd of strangers. It is inspired by "I Only Have Eyes For You" by The Flamingos”.

              Musically, it has the infectious attraction that all of El Michels productions do. A poppy melody balanced out by the rough and tough rhythm section made this the perfect match for Shannon’s subtle and sweet vocals. The B side, “Sand Song” is a beautiful tune about an ugly subject; global warming. The hauntingly beautiful guitar melody that the Shrager produced track begins with is met with the equally somber vocals from Shannon. Reverb drenched background vocals and organ flourishes follow suit with the arrangement showcasing The Shacks razor sharp musicianship. A stand out tune from the album and the embodiment of what made iD magazine call The Shacks “classic American sounds…simultaneously recalling Sesame Street and David Lynch’s nocturnal crooners”.

              Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band

              Burn / Xxxplosive

              Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band return with another instantly classic 45 guaranteed to be all over DJs set lists. With their sophomore full length coming in September, they treat us to another bomb of a two sider. Side A is a cover of the Dr Dre hit “XXplosive” done up in proper BRSB fashion, smashing drums and steel pans playing the lead and bass lines. They take this one into new territory by adding synth parts and dubbed out horn lines playing Nate Dogg’s infamous vocal hook melodies. Side B takes on one of NYCity’s grimiest Hip Hop club anthems, Mobb Deep’s “Burn”. We decided to do this tune and demoed it out long before the unfortunate passing of Prodigy.

              Unfortunately, he will never get to hear this cover, and that has been one of the nicest things in covering some of these more current Hip Hop tunes. Rest In Peace P. BRSB manages to do it again…..a version equally as raw and punchy as the original. Pans bang out the iconic riff from the original, theremin ushers in the changes, and the low rubble of the synth bass is sure to crush the subwoofers.

              El Michels Affair

              Unathi/Zaharila

              El Michels Affair returns with a new 45 that is simultaneously a new direction and the signature sound he is known for. This time EMA dips their toes into the world of Bollywood Funk and recruits Piya Malik of 79.5 for vocal duties. He has crafted yet another two sider of heavy duty shit. It also comes in a gorgeous picture sleeve courtesy of Chicago’s Deadly Prey gallery. From the start of side A, Unathi reels the listener in and keeps them through a journey of psychedelic arrangements, unexpected detours, and relentless rhythm.

              El Michels again showing the performance and production prowess that has spawned not only bands, but also some independent record labels. Lyrically, Unathi is a song about progress, a vociferous call to arms urging people to come together and work collectively to achieve it. Side B, Zaharila, is cinematic, dynamic, and an almost visual number as if it were the score to a film that’s never existed. Bent guitar notes and blaring horn stabs ride the peaks and valleys of this epic tale about poisonous whispers that destroy a beautiful love affair. Starting slow and calm with Piya’s ethereal melodies floating atop, the song eventually becomes poisoned, panicked, and frantic by the final note. 

              Thee Lakesiders

              Si Me Faltaras Tu / Parachute

              Thee Lakesiders are a duo out of Los Angeles comprised of Marie and Necalli who we were introduced to by our friend El Oms. He thought it would be great to get them out here to NY and into the the studio with El Michels. Turns out, he was very right. They spent two days in The Diamond Mine with The Shacks as their backing band and Leon producing and writing with them and cut three songs. Two of which are here on this nice two sider of a 45. Side A “Si Me Faltaras Tu” is worked up into something of a Latin Psych number, it’s a cover of Los Terricolas’s tune they cut in 1973 redone with some more muscle. Ben’s driving beat and Max’s guitar work set the stage for Marie to showcase the powerful side of her voice. Side B “Parachute” finds them in one of their favorite styles, a dreamy ballad that floats over guitar chanks, brush hits, and vibraphone rolls. This time Marie shows us a different side of her range, her beautiful and lush vocals ride perfectly in the pocket making for a gorgeous b side that can ride right alongside the oldies. 

              Sunny & The Sunliners

              The One Who's Hurting Is You

              Another stone classic 45 from the legendary Sunny & the Sunliners. Following up on the compilation project and full length reissues we have done, we keep on pressing up some must-haves from his amazing catalog of music. Diehard fans will love to see this one. The A Side is “The One Who’s Hurting Is You” which was never on an album and the original 45 is pretty tough to find, and pretty expensive when you do, to put it mildly… A killer tune that starts out with Rudy Palacios signature guitar riff, dropping into the haunting back ground vocals and met with Sunny’s lead riding the line between gruff and sweet. Sunny lays down the law and tells it as fact, “there’s one thing that’s for certain, I won’t be doing the hurting. The one who’s hurting is you….” The B Side, another non album cut, and one of the hardest 45s from Sunny to come across, is the original recording of “Should I Take You Home”. Originally released on Sunny’s Key-Loc label, this is the first version, later in life they remixed it to license it to another label making it brighter and more punchy. This is the lo-fi, the gritty, the original mix, one we are sure fans are going to be happy to finally get a copy of. Another killer two-sider, another Big Crown Sureshot. 

              For the first time re-issued on vinyl and for the first time ever on CD Big Crown is proud to present Little Brown Eyed Soul, a Sunny & The Sunliners classic. When it comes to living legends in the Texas and Latin Music pantheon, few have been at it longer and are more revered by their fans and peers than vocalist, songwriter and bandleader Sunny Ozuna. Born and raised in San Antonio, where he still resides, Sunny became a star right out of high school in the late ‘50s and hasn’t looked back in the six decades since. After releasing dozens of albums since the mid-1960s (in Spanish and English), Sunny still keeps a busy schedule and loves performing as much as he did as a teenager. His classic 45s regularly change hands for hundreds of dollars among collectors around the world, affirming his timeless appeal.

              As a logical next step after Big Crown’s excellent (and Sunny-approved) Mr. Brown Eyed Soul compilation from September, the label has started digging into the vaults of Sunny’s Key-Loc Records label to unearth some legit soul classics – which are hard to find even in San Antonio, and clean originals will cost you a pretty penny if you ever luck into one. The album has been remastered and includes original album art. The band is tight, the sound is honest, the vocals are dusky and deep, and the album is an undeniable soul and Texas music classic, ready to be discovered by a whole new generation of music fans. Dive in and be ready for a permasmile, thanks to that patented Sunny sound.

              The Shacks

              Haze

                Fronted by 19-year-old singer/bassist Shannon Wise and 21-year-old guitarist/producer Max Shrager, The Shacks are already well on their way to becoming one of the year’s big breakouts, and their remarkable debut album, ‘Haze,’ solidifies their status as a band with ability to deliver on the well-deserved buzz. When Max and Shannon met in high school, a bond was created that has permeated their music since the Shacks first incarnation four years ago. That chemistry lies at the heart of ‘Haze,’ a record so hypnotic and seductive that it feels more like a whispered late-night secret than a young band’s debut.

                Produced together by Shrager and Big Crown co-founder Leon Michels (who’s played with Bradley, Sharon Jones, and Fields in addition to working with The Arcs, Lana Del Rey, and countless others), the album was recorded in bits and pieces between Shrager’s basement and Michels’ Diamond Mine studio, which the Observer dubbed “the Shangri La of Soul.” ‘Haze’ opens with the title track, which is, appropriately enough, the first song Shrager and Wise ever wrote together. It’s a spare, smoky tune that shimmers and sparkles as it shifts in and out of focus, and it’s an ideal gateway into the immersive world of The Shacks.

                On the breezy “Follow Me,” they channel the infectious charm of a 60’s girl group, while the soulful “My Name Is” grooves its way through a mesmerizing take on 70’s funk. Much like a dream, the songs often merge the familiar and the unfamiliar, constructing their own psychedelic reality full of beauty and yearning, all fueled by Wise’s breathy vocals and the unmistakable electricity of a wildly creative band truly inhabiting their music. “Birds” makes brilliant use of Daptone drum hero Homer Steinwess’s impeccable feel behind the kit, while the 50’s ballad-meets-baroque pop of “Cryin’” tips its cap to Roy Orbison and John Lennon as Shrager takes over lead vocals, and the soulful shuffle of “Texas” belies a dark and violent undercurrent ripped from the headlines.

                Through it all permeates an unshakable sense that this is a group performing just for you. “Nobody” finds the Shacks re-interpreting Phil Spector’s Wagnerian approach to rock & roll, complete with sweeping strings and darkly innocent lyrics. The 13 songs featured on Haze plays out like the soundtrack to some long lost 16mm film, beckoning you into their grainy, saturated world of analog beauty. In the short time that they’ve been together, The Shacks have already made an impressive mark. 

                FORMAT INFORMATION

                2xCD Info: CD Features A Second Bonus disc with The Shacks Self-Titled EP, Selections Previously Issued Only On 7” Vinyl And Complete Instrumentals From “Haze”.

                Before the release of their debut album, we are dropping one more 45 with a newly recorded version of “Audrey Hepburn," a tune off their self titled EP from 2016 and “Fly Fishing", a B side exclusive to this single. For most of 2017, The Shacks have been honing their skills as a live band playing in and around NYC as well as opening for bands like Chicano Batman and Khurangbin. Some of their studio creations which favor the soft, dream pop side of their repitoire, have been reworked for the live show setting. Audrey Hepburn (Spending All My Time) is an example of that. When we first heard their reworked version at a gig in Brooklyn, we called them the next day and asked them to cut to tape the way they had switched it up for the live set.

                The result is this catchy single, so strong we had to press a 45 for it. The B Side, “Fly Fishing” is one of many tracks The Shacks have sitting in the vault. Constantly writing and recording, the group has amassed a huge catalog of music. Fly Fishing starts out with a raucous syncopated intro dropping into a floaty groove The Shacks are know for. It's also their drummer's grandma's favorite song. 

                Lee Fields & The Expressions

                Lover Man / Never Be Another You

                  Big Crown Records drops another killer two sider pulled from Lee Fields & The Expressions instant classic “Special Night”. With Lee touring the world from sold out show to sold out show supporting his album, the modern funk machine gives DJs and collectors another must have 45. The A side “Lover Man” is equal parts rough and smooth. The production and the band come off with a thunderous backing track that takes it’s time to get to full sail while Lee lays down some tell it like it is lyrics. Fields comes to the microphone with the confidence only a man with his track record could putting down what life is like with him if the woman he is after just let’s it be that way. The B side “Never Be Another You” finds Lee & The Expressions taking another turn on the formula their success has been built on. An unorthodox track to find on a soul album made to fit perfectly, once again pushing the aesthetics of analog soul further into the present. Lee confesses his love and appreciation for his woman walking the fine line of vulnerability and strength. 

                  Lee Fields & The Expressions

                  Special Night Instrumentals

                  The instrumental version of the instant classic "Special Night" by Lee Fields & The Expressions. There are a few terms that get thrown around loosely, two of which are legend and retro-soul. One of these fits Lee Fields hand and glove, one of these doesn’t fit at all. Very few people in music have both earned the status of legendary and continue to solidify it. 50 years in the game and only getting better, gaining more fans, and evolving his sound on each album, Lee is in fact a Living Legend. This brings us to the misuse of the term "retro-soul" when talking about Mr. Fields. You don’t have to look far to find a younger generation emulating the essence and styles of an era the’ve only experienced through music and movies. It seems unfair to tag Lee with a term that implies imitation when he is part of the generation that actually defined the genre. Plain and simple, this is not that. "Special Night" is a masterclass in soul music past and present. “I feel that every human being’s purpose is to do what their inner voice says to do,” says Lee Fields. “And my inner voice, my driving force, wants me to put out music and keeping making better records.” Special Night is also the first record in the Expressions catalogue in which every song was written jointly by Lee Fields and The Expressions.

                  “When I record, I make every song like I actually mean it. I mean every word I say. On Special Night I’m talking to my lady — literally, expressing the way I feel.” says Lee Fields. “You can tell if a song is real or not, and every moment I’m recording, those moments are real, this is a record about what people do in real life”. For one example, he cites the song “Work to Do,” which tells the story of “a guy going to counseling, drinking too much, apologizing to the old lady and trying to keep family together, doing the manly thing.” On “Make This World”, Lee makes a nod back to his early funk roots with a cautionary tale about the health of the planet. The world was designed to last indefinitely,” says Fields. “We’re the only living species on Earth who can alter that process. I’m hoping that song has a chain reaction, helps somebody put into action whatever contribution they can to change what the world is going through.” As always, sticking to the formula but pushing the boundaries “Never Be Another You” from the first note doesn’t sound like something you would hear on a Lee record, that is until he starts singing anyhow. A low tempo ballad with a head nodding drum track, sparse piano lines, and all the space Lee needs to lay down what is sure to be one of the flyest love songs of 2017.

                  The Demands

                  Say It Again / Let Me Be Myself

                  Hailing from Dallas, Texas, The Demands were originally called The Fabulous Furys in college and switched to The Demands in May of 1969 to play a string of gigs in South Carolina for the summer. They cut the tunes for this single in 1973 with legendary North Texas engineer Phil York, originally pressed on Clem Records, original copies of this Northern Soul burner change hands for upwards of 600 dollars in good condition. The Demands had a moment of on screen fame in ’73 appearing in the Blaxsploitation film “Fox Style” as the house band at an outdoor fashion show. Band leader/founder Melvin Clemmons passed his bass duties to his brother around '79 so he could run his own nightclub and The Demands kept gigging until around '89 when they disbanded.
                  Side A 'Say It Again' is an up Northern Soul number equal parts hi energy and good vibes. A sureshot for the soul parties, and a very welcome opportunity to put this obscure tune into collections . 

                  El Michels Affair

                  Return To The 37th Chamber

                  The wait is over, Return To The 37th Chamber is El Michels Affair’s highly anticipated follow up to 2009's underground cult classic Enter the 37th Chamber. Churning out classic records since then for the likes of Lee Fields, The Arcs, The Shacks, and tons more, it is clear that EMA's signature sound is stronger & sharper than ever. This time, in addition to re-interpreting the Wu compositions for a live band, EMA pays homage to the production and sonic fog that makes a RZA beat so recognizable. Producer and bandleader Leon Michels recorded the album completely analog, sometimes hitting 6 generations of tape before it was ready for mixing, giving the Return to The 37th Chamber it’s own hazy sound.

                  Adding to the unique fidelity, the record is laced with psychedelic flourishes, “John Carpenter” synths, heavy metal guitars, triumphant horns, and traditional Chinese instruments that make up for the lack of the Wu’s superlative vocals. From start to finish it’s a dark trip that walks the line between RZA’s timeless hip-hop aesthetic and the cinematic soul EMA has become known for. El Michels Affair tackles some classics like 4th Chamber and Wu Tang Aint Nuthin to Fuck Wit, as well as some deeper cuts like Ol Dirty Bastard’s Snakes, Raekwon’s Verbal Intercourse, and Shaolin Brew, Wu-Tang’s contribution to the St. Ide’s Hip Hop endorsement campaign from 1994. This time El Michels brings some of the Big Crown family along for the ride. Lee Fields handles vocal duties on Snakes and is joined by Shannon Wise of The Shacks for their version of Tearz, which pays as much homage to the Wendy Rene sample as it does to the Wu-Tang Clan. Lady Wray makes an appearance on the cover of Method Man’s hit, All I Need, lending her vocal prowess to what gave the Wu one of their biggest hits of all time. 

                  When you listen to the Shacks' self-titled debut EP, you might imagine that Shannon Wise and Max Shrager are much older than their respective 18 and 20 years. But when Shannon’s whisper-vocals breeze through the speakers, you hear the youthfulness of their sound which then in turn explains the fearlessness of their songwriting. Both vaguely familiar and completely fresh, The Shacks are one of the most interesting NYC bands to surface in a minute. Since the release of their first single, "Strange Boy," which they recorded with El Michels Affair, The Shacks have been compared to 90’s indie icons like Mazzy Star, Jesus and Mary Chain, and Broadcast. As good as those bands are, you wouldn’t find a single one of their records in Max and Shannon’s music collection. All these bands are drinking from the same well, just 20 years apart. Highlights from The Shacks EP include a cover of the Ray Davies-penned "Strange Effect," which Shannon sings as if it were written for her, giving the song an unnerving edge that’s way more interesting than Dave Berry’s tepid original. Also included on the EP is "Orchids," one of Leon Michels and Max Shrager's first co-productions, recorded at the legendary Diamond Mine studios. "Orchids" is a truly original piece of music that showcases The Shacks’ adventurousness in the studio. "Left It With the Moon" is a lo-fi lullaby written by Shannon and recorded to 4 track cassette at Max’s home studio in Princeton, NJ. And "Hands In Your Pockets" features the Frightnrs rhythm section laying down a pitch-perfect rocksteady backing track behind Shannon’s deadpan delivery a la Jane Birkin. 

                  STAFF COMMENTS

                  Barry says: Twanging indie-rock guitars and 70's influenced fuzzy harmonies interwoven with the soothing and silky vocals of Shannon Wise. A bracing and enchanting listen, full of irresistible hooks and undeniable charm.

                  Lee Fields & The Expressions

                  Special Night

                  There are a few terms that get thrown around loosely, two of which are legend and retro-soul. One of these fits Lee Fields hand and glove, one of these doesn’t fit at all. Very few people in music have both earned the status of legendary and continue to solidify it. 50 years in the game and only getting better, gaining more fans, and evolving his sound on each album, Lee is in fact a Living Legend. This brings us to the misuse of the term "retro-soul" when talking about Mr. Fields. You don’t have to look far to find a younger generation emulating the essence and styles of an era the’ve only experienced through music and movies. It seems unfair to tag Lee with a term that implies imitation when he is part of the generation that actually defined the genre. Plain and simple, this is not that.

                  "Special Night" is a masterclass in soul music past and present. “I feel that every human being’s purpose is to do what their inner voice says to do,” says Lee Fields. “And my inner voice, my driving force, wants me to put out music and keeping making better records.” Produced by Leon Michels and Thomas Brenneck, and brilliantly performed by the Expressions, Special Night was written, recorded, mixed, and mastered entirely to tape in three weeks at the legendary Diamond Mine Studios in Queens, NY. A sense of urgency, equal parts fun and inspiration, and a decent amount of beer and Jack Daniels were the driving forces during the sessions that produced Lee Fields & The Expressions latest offering. Special Night is also the first record in the Expressions catalogue in which every song was written jointly by Lee Fields and The Expressions. “When I record, I make every song like I actually mean it. I mean every word I say.

                  Paul & The Tall Trees

                  Our Love In The Light

                   Paul Schalda, the bandleader, singer and songwriter of Paul & The Tall Trees is from Staten Island. One part of a crazily talented musical family, Paul’s music seems to embody the unexpected overlap of The Band’s Americana, Ian MacKaye's unhinged emotion, Otis Redding’s raw, warm soul, and the doo-wop melodies his father, Bill Schalda Sr. (a member of Brooklyn vocal group, The Montereys) raised him on. On Paul & The Tall Trees' debut album “Our Love In The Light” you hear the sum of his experiences. This singular sound is helped by the fact that his father, William Schalda, Sr., and brother, Will Schalda Jr., play on and inspire the record.

                  The album was written entirely by Paul, and produced by another Staten Island native, Thomas Brenneck of Charles Bradley, Menahan Street Band, and Budos Band fame. The combination of the two gives the record an amazing sonic range, from the powerhouse rocker “Crack Of Down” to the ethereal western vibes of “She Comes Around”. Paul pens a tune about the forever changing conviction of a man in love on “Once In A While”, and ironically “The Little Bit Of Sunshine”, is a story about Paul giving up on a career in music. One thing you hear in Schalda’s music, no matter which song, is that the road hasn’t been easy.

                  His voice can be hauntingly harsh, yet hopeful and tender, raucous and gravelly one moment, smooth and intimate the next. Even though he is being compared to the famous groups and musicians mentioned above, he can only call it Rock and Roll and be humbled. “I’m very lucky to be able to do this,” Schalda says. “And I’m extremely happy. Especially for my father. He worked hard for his sons and this record.”

                  El Michels Affair

                  Sounding Out The City

                  Over 10 years ago, Leon Michels released his first full length record, 'Sounding Out The City'. It was Michels' first full length record under the moniker El Michels Affair. At the time, the budding retro soul scene consisted of mostly organ quartets a la The Meters and of course, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings were in the early days of their ascent to world domination. Leon Michels, who was 18 when recording 'Sounding Out The City' began, had just released 'Thunder Chicken', the first record by his high school band The Mighty Imperials. At the time of SOTC, Michels was just discovering early rocksteady, afrobeat, and 60's garage rock, which inevitably crept its way into the songwriting. He purchased a Tascam 388, an 80's 1/4" reel to reel 8 track intended for home recordings, and began recording music in a 10x10 box with no windows that also doubled as his childhood bedroom. Along with fellow Mighty Imperials Nick Movshon, Homer Steinweiss, and Sean Solomon, and Michael Leonhart, Thomas Brenneck, and some of the musicians from The Dap Kings, Michels recorded the LP over a two year period. Upon it's release, it received some rave reviews and the small deep funk community ate it up, but due to the lack luster promotion and distribution the rest of the world was slow to catch on to the instrumental gems featured on SOTC, which Michels appropriately labelled as "cinematic soul". However, in 2005 it found it's way into the hands of the people who were organizing a series of concerts for Scion that paired bands with MC's. El Michels Affair was contacted about playing one show with Raekwon The Chef of Wu Tang Clan fame. The show was such a success it led to a tour, and then to another set of concerts that featured multiple members of the Wu-Tang Clan. This eventually led to the release of El Michels Affair's second record, "Enter the 37th Chamber" which introduced them to a much larger audience and has been their most successful release to date. Michels has since gone on to produce and co-produce numerous records for powerhouse soul artists like Lee Fields. He shares songwriting credits with Adele, Jay-Z, Ghostface Killah, Aloe Blacc, and has played on records by Ray LaMontagne, Lana Del Rey, The Black Keys and Dr. John.


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