Various Artists

The Message: Soul Funk Grooves from Mainstream Recordings

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The Mainstream label didn't exactly achieve mainstream success with its jazz output in the early 1970s, or even that strong of a label identity. It did, however, put out a good number of jazz recordings, some of them featuring moderately well-known to very well-known artists, and some of them achieving recognition by collectors decades later. Mainstream's more straight ahead-oriented output was featured on another BGP anthology, A Loud Minority; this one, in contrast, focuses on the more electric, funk-oriented jazz the label recorded during the era. It's more a compilation for general enthusiasts of the genre than for more general listeners looking for something especially scintillating, or top of the line as the style goes. But it does have a respectable array of sounds that are more varied than some collections (whether label-specific or not) in this bag, mixing instrumentals and vocals; famous and somewhat famous names with artists known only to collectors; and arrangements ranging from the jazziest to the funkiest edges of the jazz-funk spectrum. Trumpeter Blue Mitchell, organist Charles Kynard, and Sarah Vaughan (doing an unlikely cover of Marvin Gaye's hit "Inner City Blues") are the most celebrated artists. Yet the most exciting track is a dynamite instrumental, "I Need Someone," credited to Linda Perry & Soul Express, featuring some of the most exciting, furiously strummed funk guitar and swelling organ you're likely to come across on an obscure disc. Of some historical note is Afrique's version of the Manu Dibango classic "Soul Makossa," rushed out to pick up some action when the original was hard to buy in the U.S. after it had become a club hit, but before it had been licensed for the American market.