The Soul Of Melbourne is a compilation put out late last year by Northside Records founder Chris Gill and Bamboos frontman Lance Ferguson. Northside Records is a record store located in Gertrude Street in the inner city hub of Fitzroy that has been selling funk, soul and hip hop releases on vinyl and cd for 10 years. Last year owner Chris Gill decided to start a record label of the same name to provide an outlet for a growing number of soul bands playing around the traps in Melbourne. The first band signed to the label was Saskwatch who released their debut album late last year.
Soul music has taken a grip on this city, it's something that has been building for some years. Where it started from was a program on PBS called Soul Time hosted by DJ Vince Peach, it's a show that has been going now for nearly 30 years. It's where my introduction to soul music took place nearly 20 years ago, Vince used to be on Saturday's I think initially it was at 11am, it was a two hour show that played everything from R&B to classic northern soul and some deep southern soul. Through listening to the show I first heard The Impressions, Jackie Wilson, The Artistics, I found out about Stax Records and Fame studios etc. For a number of years Vince and another DJ and PBS regular Pierre Baroni have hosted soul nights at the Cherry Bar every Thursday night and they host a soul night on the first Saturday of every month. I've been to quite a few of these over the years and every time I go there are more crowds, people becoming more familiar with the music.
This album highlights the diversity of the scene, whilst there is a faithful nod to the past there is exciting originality in each song. Kicking things off and rightly so are the Bamboos featuring Lance Ferguson and vocalist Kylie Auldist with their barnstorming strutting funk, the band have always been a tight groove based ensemble. The Cactus Channel are a young local band who have just released their first album Haptics late last year, I was lucky to catch these guys supporting Charles Bradley last year, their single Emanuel Ciccolini is a brilliant slice of funk with an afro beat driving the song along. Saskwatch have a nice northern soul groove going, some nicely crafted melodies and a strong live following. Baby You're Loving sounds like it has Willie Mitchell at the helm and the Hodges brothers riding the rhythm, a soft laid back sound that is very Memphis of the 70's. The Bombay Royale who are garnering significant attention overseas have a style that they have cooked up in a melting pot, solid funk against African grooves and melodies that sound like they come from a Middle Eastern marketplace.
Clairy Browne and The Bangin Rackettes are a band that have married different style and have come up with something new and energetic, a mixture of rhythm and blues, doo wop and girl group harmonies with a sound that has a great roughness to it. Chet Faker was the breakthrough artists in Australia last year with his EP Thinking in Textures, it was a brilliant set, relaxed mesmeric grooves providing a nice summer soundtrack. The Soul of Melbourne is a great introduction to what is happening in this city, a city with a strong sense of itself musically.