Following on the heels of Soul Fire's two Grazing in the Trash singles comps, Up From the Vaults, Vol. 1 continues the task of collecting the down-and-dirty funk revival label's limited-edition 45 rpm records for CD release. It's the best various-artists collection the label has yet offered, boasting a wider, more colorful range of carefully re-created vintage funk sounds. Where the shadow of the J.B.'s and Meters once loomed large over most of Soul Fire's output, their 45s have exhibited considerable growth, as this collection demonstrates. Of course, there's still some great classic-style funk courtesy of returning '70s veterans the Herb Johnson Settlement and the Detroit Sex Machines, but the fun comes from the changes of pace. There are Latin boogaloo-style grooves from Bronx River Parkway, bubbling Hammond-organ funk from WQLJ, revivalist Afro-beat by Massak, a perky rap (in the pre-hip-hop sense of the term) from female soul singer Mauri Bailey, and some groovy trumpet and sax soloing courtesy of the El Michels Affair. Add to that the label's increasing penchant for borderline stoner grooves, both laid-back (the Fabulous Three) and stompingly heavy (the Whitefield Brothers' excellent "Chokin'"), and you've got a document that bodes extremely well for the future of Soul Fire and of the deep funk revival in general.
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey