Welcome to another installment of Up on the Sun's 2011 Review. Over the next week, editor Jason P. Woodbury and the staff will countdown their favorite songs, shows, national and local releases of 2011.
Earlier this year, someone called me "an old soul." A little earlier, someone joked that my tastes were that of a That '70s Show reject. I make no apologies. The history of pop music is littered with also-rans, sideshows, and shoulda-been-huge acts.
Of course. the reissue and compilation industry is loaded with plenty of sub-par releases, the kind of things that were undiscovered for a reason. Not the case with these 10 releases, each containing slabs of vital funk, rock, blues, gospel, pop, or soul, depending on the record.
10. Charles "Packy" Axton, Late Late Party (Light in the Attic)
Light in the Attic always nabs a couple notes for reissuing stellar gems from the past. This collection of pre-Stax recordings from the assorted outfits of Charles "Packy" Axton is greasy Memphis soul at its finest. When no less an authority than Jim Dickinson states, "He was one of the coolest people I ever met," would you expect any less?
9. DJentrification, Funky Oddway (not released)
It's a shame that DJentrification didn't release this mix-via-the interwebs, because it's a damn phenomenal primer on Phoenix music past.
Performed as a live, all-vinyl DJ set on Friday, August 12 at the Lost Leaf, DJentrification melded heavy funk, Chicano soul, new wave, and punk, all from Phoenix.
8. Bobby Charles, Bobby Charles (Rhino Handmade)
Rhino Handmade is always doing excellent stuff, but the label's Bobby Charles reissue, packaged in a beautiful wood case, makes a compelling argument for physically released music. Backed by members of the The Band, Dr. John, and more, Charles should be more recognized. This fantastic reissue serves to educate the willing.
7. Bobb Trimble, The Crippled Dog Band (Yoga Records)
This '83 effort finds outsider artist teamed with the teenaged Crippled Dog Band in Worcester, Massachusetts. Trimble wasn't a fan of the record; he dumped the entire 500-count LP pressing in an office park bin. Luckily the folks at Yoga Records know the score, issuing the album earlier this year as it was originally intended.
6. Beach Boys, Smile (Capitol Records)
Well, it took nearly 45 years, but Smile, in all her glory, was worth the wait. The deluxe, 3D packaging is incredible, and the exhaustive collection of sounds and full songs proves that Brian Wilson was on to truly on to something (even if he wasn't sure what).
5. Our Lives are Shaped by What We Love: Motown's MoWest Story (1971-73) (Light in the Attic)
Marilyn McLeod, of The Nu-Page, sister of Alice Coltrane, and grandmother of Flying Lotus, says it best: "I was listening to it, when Light in the Attic Records was trying to get [the album] together. I was shocked, 'cause that was the Seventies. It was running together, all the different types of music that were happening at that time." Her words speak for the whole compilation, a cross-genre melange of soul sounds, from a time when Motown packed up and headed out West.
4. This May Be My Last Time Singing: Raw African-American Gospel on 45 RPM, 1957-1982 (Tompkins Square)
No one is doing it like Mike McGonigal, who digs deep for This May Be My Last Time Singing, a sprawling, 3-disc set that rivals his excellent Fire in My Bones compilation. You don't even have to believe, but sometimes when listening, it's hard not to.
3. Darondo, Listen to My Song: The Music City Sessions (Omnivore Recordings/Ace Records)
These 1970 recordings by Bay Area soulster William "Darondo" Pulliam have surfaced in varying forms over the years, but Omnivore Recordings and Ace Records pulled out all the stops to make sure this would-be soul classic was issued the way Darondo himself originally intended.
2. Vernon Wray, Wasted (Sebastian Speaks)
Featured in our dearly-departed Obscuro column, Vernon Wray's killer 1972 record was recorded at a shack in Tucson, and features Link "Rumble" Wray on guitar. This year the record was reissued in limited quantities, but thankfully found its way onto the hard-drive of many a loving fan.
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1. Eccentric Soul: Mighty Mike Lenaburg (Numero Group)
Five years after its original release on Numero Group, the Eccentric Soul series entry featuring Mighty Mike Lenaburg saw release this year as it was meant to, a double-LP featuring "'60s/early '70s Tejano psych, flute funk, soul, R&B, and doo-wop." The folks at Numero put it best: "Lenaburg channeled that wrong side of the desert sound to a dozen 45s for the Mighty, Darlene, Homogenized Sound, Ramco, and Out of Sight imprints." How's that for doing Arizona right?