Various Artists

Eccentric Soul: The Forte Label

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One part tireless scavenging for hard-to-find records and one part extensive research and documentation, Numero Group's Eccentric Soul series turns over every stone to offer in-depth looks at microscopically tiny independent soul labels, usually active for only a short time in the '70s or '80s. Their spotlight on long-running Kansas City label Forte finds a replication of the imprint's entire catalog, which consisted mostly of 45s of various productions written by label head Ellis Taylor in conjunction with singers Lee Harris and Marva W. Taylor. The 21 tracks included (28 released on the vinyl version of the compilation) are raw, greasy soul intertwined with some slinky instrumental funk and a fair amount of truly bizarre approaches to popular music. For collectors of funk 45s, highlights will be many, starting with the super-elastic groove of would-be dance craze "The Hen" by Louis Chachere and leading into organ-heavy Fauxtown soul rippers like "You Confuse Me Baby" by the Rayons and "Baby Your Love Is Amazing" by the Four Darlings. As the label burned on from the late '60s into the early '70s, it shifted focus from Motown-referencing soul-pop to more Afro-cosmic funk such as the psychedelic near-prog groove of "Super Black" by Everyday People, which offers a more spaced-out take on the blaxploitation soundtracks that were popping up around its 1972 release. As with many volumes of this series, the most remarkable moments are also the most outlandish. Tracks like Marva Whitney's "Daddy Don't Know About Sugar Bear" and Lee Harris' "Lookin' Good" offer some of the more head-scratching moments of the comp, the latter including an incoherently mumbling backing vocalist and random squelches of electronic tones, not unlike a censor's "bleep," disrupting the full-band workout for reasons unknown. The label left behind a relatively small catalog, with sides here dating between 1967 and 1980 and changing in sound with the times. With some classic unheard gems, some solid tunes, and some genuine weirdness, the Forte Label volume falls in line with the high bar set by the rest of the Eccentric Soul series.

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