By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
By Derek Askey
A hefty chunk of Phoenix's musical glory days is contained on these two discs, collections of soul and funk singles from the '60s and early '70s that remind the listener that the 'Nix once aspired to be a real music town, like Detroit. Actually, listen to either one of these discs and you'll be surprised at how authentic our soul scene was back in the day, whether you're middle-aged and reminiscing or a young hip-hop DJ looking for a fresh new cut.
Each compilation is assembled around a critical hub of the soul scene back then: producers and label owners Mike Lenaburg and Hadley Murrell. Lenaburg recorded and released records by Phoenix's finest soul outfits even if he had to assemble them himself as well as managing groups, owning two record stores, and DJing on the radio. Murrell was one of the first black radio personalities in town, bringing R&B to the airwaves in the mid-'60s, and went on to produce soul outfits like Eddie & Ernie, Roy & the Dew Drops, and the Soulsetters.
Murrell's disc feels funkier, while Lenaburg's is smoother and silkier soul. Lenaburg had the laid-back grooves of Michael Liggins, whose "Standing on the Corner," "Loaded to the Gills," "Black and Beautiful," and "Loaded Back" are included (Liggins' original 45s are among the most valuable of old Phoenix collectibles; hold on to 'em if you've got one). Murrell's Soul Side of the Street takes its name from a track by Roy & the Dew Drops, a young Chicano band he was booking in the late '60s, along with the Soulsetters, whose weirdly endearing novelty track "Cecil, the Unwanted French Fry" closes the album.
Both Lenaburg and Murrell were visionaries, though their accomplishments are largely forgotten. These two compilations serve to give a little more respect where it's due.