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Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band

Scorpio / 8th Wonder

    Big Crown Records is proud to present Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band’s new 45, “Scorpio” b/w “8th Wonder”. Coming after the smashing success of their debut full length “55” they drop 2 B-Boy classics back to back on this tough two sider that comes in a beautifully illustrated picture sleeve. The A side “Scorpio” is a killer cover of the Dennis Coffey breakbeat staple. BRSB turn up the tempo a touch on the original doing the tune justice with crushing drums they have become known for. This is sure to be in every breakbeat enthusiasts box. The B side features the non album cut, BRSB’s cover of The Sugarhill Gang’s 8th Wonder, a tune that lends itself to pans like it was written for them. Another dance floor winner sure to be in DJs sets the world over shortly.

    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. 


        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. The Shacks' full-length LP is due early 2017 on Big Crown Records

        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.

        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”.

          Kool & Together

          On A Red Hot Stove / Nassau Beat

          Kool & Together bring us this sought after 7 inch reissue on the label Big Crown. The A side, “Sittin’ On a Red Hot Stove” is an infectious, medium-paced funk movement that chugs along with the help of some sharp drums from Joe and a rolling bass line that never quits. Originally edited by Texas record mogul Huey Meaux, the 45 version clocks in at just under two and a half minutes and gave the band its strongest single. It’s an anecdotal tale of a woman who is lusted after but so mean-spirited, she could melt the romance away. Side B is an unreleased demo version from Kool & Together working up the monster “Funky Nassau”. Clearly something they never finished, the raw recording and lo fidelity of it is what give what they call “Nassau Beat” it’s charm.

          Fabulous Dynamics

          Get Hip To Yourself / Every Time I See A Pretty Girl

          Big Crown brings us a recording that could have easily been lost forever like so many others from its era. Taken from the only known copy of this acetate that appears to be a rehearsal recording for the group to solicit local gigs, these stripped-down versions of “Get Hip To Yourself” and “Every Time I See a Pretty Girl” are American relics. The only information about the acetate is handwritten on a piece of masking tape affixed to the A side, the name of the group, The Fabulous Dynamics, and the track listing. Of the 6 songs on the demo, we pulled the 2 most buttery, delectable, sweet & savory slices of mid 60’s group soul. Stripped down to vocal harmonies and acoustic guitar, both sides of this 7 capture the lo-fi, intimate sonic landscape of yesteryear, something that is often emulated, but never quite duplicated. Another pretty cool detail about this acetate, it was found in the personal record collection of Lamont Dozier.

          Paul Ramos / Ulsyses Crockett

          Fence Walk / Funky Resurgence

          Big Crown Records brings us this tough as nails split 7”. The A side is Paul Ramos version of the Mandrill, very funky classic “Fence Walk”. Ramos stays close to the original, but stamps his own mark on it to ensure it’s a must have for funk collectors. The second side “Funky Resurgence” is brought to you by Ulsyses Crockett who was a stalwart on the Bay Area scene of the 1960's first with his Latin Jazz Group Afro Blue Persuasion and later Ulysses Crockett Magic. Written in 1971 “Funky Resurgence” is a legendary track and most sides together are a funk match made in heaven.

          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. 

            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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