On the Detroit music scene of the late '60s and early '70s, Motown Records was the biggest and classiest act in town, and plenty of soul and R&B acts dreamed of joining their roster. But as music got wilder and more adventurous as one decade ended and the other began, not everyone fit the Motown template, and after the label left the Motor City to set up shop in Los Angeles, there was a void left to fill. When Armen Boladian founded Westbound Records in 1968, he unwittingly created a musical halfway house that kept Detroit soul and R&B in circulation while also providing a home for some of the bolder and more eccentric voices that were brewing as funk incubated and psychedelia made itself known in black music. Westbound didn't prove as hardy as Motown, but during their salad days they released plenty of records that fell between good and honestly amazing, and Everything Is Gonna Be Alright: Celebrating 50 Years of Westbound Soul & Funk is a thoroughly enjoyable sampler of soul, R&B, funk, and disco sides from their archives. The mere fact that Westbound had the vision to sign Funkadelic in their earliest and most outré incarnation says a lot about Boladian's willingness to take chances, and though "I'll Bet You" (1969) and "Standing on the Verge of Getting It On" (1974) play like the hits they were (well, at least in Detroit), they're also the sound of George Clinton leaving one musical approach behind while carving out a unique path of his own. If the early Ohio Players material cut for Westbound isn't as revolutionary, the gleeful, funky weirdness of 1973's "Funky Worm" was still something pretty much unthinkable a few years earlier. Westbound was equally capable of finding first-rate soul talent, such as Denise LaSalle (1971's "Trapped by a Thing Called Love"), Emanuel Lasky (1969's "A Letter from Vietnam"), and Unique Blend (1972's "Yes I'm in Love"), and they were ready when disco came on the scene as the '70s wore on (1977's "Devil's Gun" from CJ & Co. and 1978's "Calling Planet Earth" by Dennis Coffey). The Fantastic Four's 1975 track "Alvin Stone (The Birth and Death of a Gangster)" is some sort of lost classic, a four-minute blaxploitation movie of the mind complete with drugs, women, ill-gotten gains, and a shoot-out with the cops. There isn't a dud in the 24 tunes presented here, and the best stuff stands with the finest soul and funk of this era. There are plenty of winners in the Westbound catalog, and hopefully this will be the first of several collections of their best stuff, but Everything Is Gonna Be Alright: Celebrating 50 Years of Westbound Soul & Funk is as good an introduction as you could ask for to the label's golden era, and it's a killer sampler documenting a crucial era in African-American music.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming