Various Artists

The Best of Perception & Today Records

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This compilation's title and subtitle are slightly misleading. First, these discs don't necessarily provide the best of Perception and subsidiary Today, two New York labels active during the first half of the '70s. The set, as astutely as its selections were made, is closer to one perspective than a definitive overview; one could make a very different version that would be just as impressive and enjoyable. Second, while Perception and Today were certainly underground compared to the more visible majors, they had considerable clout, with releases featuring the well-known likes of Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, Johnny Hartman, Bobby Rydell (no, really), and Astrud Gilberto, as well as future Verve artist Lucky Peterson -- a prodigy who appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show. The labels' commercial successes were moderate. Perception was the home for the first charting singles by the Fatback Band; "Njia (Nija) Walk (Street Walk)," the one included here, reached number 56 on Billboard's Hot Soul chart. Black Ivory, driven by a young songwriter, arranger, and producer named Patrick Adams (who was also behind much of Today's operations and output, all prior to becoming a top-tier disco auteur), placed five singles on the same chart. The included sweet ballad "You and I" was the biggest of the lot but failed to crack the Top 30. Despite the lack of smashes, Perception and Today released a large quantity of material that does not require a digger's mentality to appreciate. In addition to the contributions of established and charting artists, there's a lot to love from the likes of the Eight Minutes (a family group in the Sylvers/Jacksons mold), Johnny Pate (an ace arranger/producer who issued a beloved blaxploitation score), J.J. Barnes (a Northern soul favorite), Julius Brockington (an overlooked keyboardist), and Wanda Robinson (a powerful spoken word artist).

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