Week 19: Energized

By: soulbrotha

May 06 2009

Tags: ,

Category: 1976


Hello brothers and sisters.

It’s a wonderful thing to be back with the family. I hope y’all are making it through this rough economy without too many bumps and bruises. And what the heck is up with that flu pandemic? Yeesh! Well, never fear cuz I got the cure: Southern Energy Ensemble.

The story begins at Black Fire Records, the label that also graced us with the soulful “Experience Unlimited” album, which was previously posted on 4BB2.0. This time around, it all starts with an awesome band called Oneness of Juju. Founded in the early 70’s by saxophonist James “Plunky” Brance, Oneness of Juju’s sound melded many different genres such as spiritual jazz, soul, funk, afrofunk and even a little disco. Their albums have become a holy grail for crate diggers. Check with GEMM and you will see that prices for the original vinyl pressings of this supergroup climb into the triple digits. Of course a band this genre-crossing had to give birth to other projects. They had several incarnations and side projects from the 70’s thru the 90’s. One of the concoctions that was ladled up from their “bitch’s brew” of sound was a jazz-funk band called Southern Energy Ensemble, that released just one self-titled album in 1976.

Try as I might, I could not find much biographical information regarding S.E.E. except for a mini-bio written by a Mr. Moo (not our Mr. Moo of WdF blog fame, but another Mr. Moo completely) for a podcast posted at the great site Paris DJ’s which reads…


This amazing band produced (only) one album thanks to the Black Fire crew. The record company was started in 1975 by Plunky and Jimmy Gray, a Washington DJ and a promo rep for CTI, Strata East, Tribe & Black Jazz among others.

The Juju tribe that drifted from Frisco to NY to then Richmond, Virginia (uh!?), was engaged in a spiritual, political, communal, and independent way of life that inspired them to create this label. The move down south was apparently because Plunky’s little brother Muzi Branch lived there… A beautiful bass player, he was also responsible for most of the LP’s artwork at the time, including this cover. The new rhythm section he provided with Ronnie Toler (drums) personified the geographical and musical shift Plunky’s gang was going through, from instrumental spiritual & radical avant-jazz to afrocentric tripped out funk & jazz soaring with electric guitar and some of the strongest vocals you ever heard, from Juju to Oneness Of Juju.

Now, Southern Energy Ensemble, a local Virginian band I believe, shared two members with the Juju family: Nat Lee on keys and Judy Spears who sings lead on the non-instrumentals tracks…; they also had connections to Trussel who were Evelyn Champagne King’s first touring band and that’s all the information you’re gonna get!


This album is quite awesome. It never ceases to amaze me how many bands fall throught the friggin’ cracks. Many, if not most of them deseved their fate. But Southern Energy Ensemble did not. Side One opens with “Open Your Mind” which gets things started with a Roy Ayers-ish jazz workout with great work on piano by Nathaniel “Nat” Lee, killer sax licks by Al Clarke and vocal harmonies by Judith Spears and Veronica Jones. “F-U-N-K-Y Til The Day I Die” sounds like a lost 70’s “backyard barbecue” jam. I can practically smell the burgers on the grill. “Third House” starts with Tony Joyner giving African conga flava before giving way to a funky jazz instrumental, sometimes reminiscent of Steely Dan.

Side Two begins with “See Funk”, a track that belongs on a Blaxploitation soundtrack. Whenever I listen to this song, I put on my red beret and practice my Fred “Rerun” Berry moves (see below)!  “Looking Ahead” is one of breezy song that you expect Roy Ayers to jump in any second with his vibraphone. Energy (preview clip), somewhat reminiscent of Herbie Hancock’s Palm Grease off the 1974 “Thrust” album, would be the theme song to my own Blaxploitation movie, “Soulbrotha T.N.T.,” complete with platform shoes with goldfish in the heels. The album closes with another breezy number with the lengthy title “The Part Of Me Southern Energy.” There isn’t one bad track on the entire album. Give a listen and S.E.E. for yourself! :¬)

Good luck finding the original vinyl! Still, stay away from the Japanese 1993 vinyl re-issue available here (the sound quality just ain’t up to par) – if you have the cash you’re much better off with the 2003 CD re-issue right here!

So screw the economy and the pandemics. Get Energized!

For those of you who need to brush up on your “Rerun” moves, check out The Master right here! “Go Rerun! Go Rerun!”

(Ps. Talking about family, big thanks to (the other) Mr. Moo for helping out with some of the research. And if you haven’t already – head on over to Nikos place and congratulate him on Funk My Soul’s first anniversary! We’re definitely looking forward to celebrate more of those with him and his crew in years to come. Happy anniversary, bro! :¬)

47 comments on “Week 19: Energized”

  1. Welcome back, Soulbrotha! Now, share your opinions on this album – please leave a comment on SB’s first post in more than 6 months. 😉

    http://lix.in/-4f82a3 (UploadJockey)
    or http://lix.in/-510944 (ShareBee)

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  2. I am intrigued! Can’t wait to hear this album. Great post SB…..don’t pull a hammy trying to break it down like ReRun!

  3. SoulBrotha droppin heat once again!!! I can’t wait to listen this is right on time for my flight tomorrow….going onto the ipod asap. Thanks SB and thanks for posting Laf.

  4. Much Thanks Soul Brotha and Laf!! This looks amazing! Gonna listen to this one immediately. Peace

  5. Top work, SB 🙂 P-Vine needs to be SHOT for charging such ridiculous sums for these reissues!

    God bless the Late Fred Berry…

  6. Another eagerly awaited post! Again, many thanks!

  7. Thanks a million for this crate!

  8. Didn`t know Oneness of JuJu had an offshoot.Completely new to me! REALLY looking forward toit.Thanks Soulbrotha and Laf for sharing!

  9. The Experience Unlimited post was Da Bomb so this one has my interest. Thanks SoulBrotha and Laf, not just for this’n but for the many you have brung us!
    As always…..Wholeness ya’ll!

  10. Peace brothas!! Itching like crazy waiting for this to download . as always thanks!

  11. Thanks. Much appreciated.

  12. well Soulbrotha, it’s been a long time e? welcome back brother.

    I really got energized!!!! Excellent choice. Dynamite!
    Thank you very much for your wishes about FunkmySoul.
    This journey is precious cause i met people like you, Laf and the rest of the family.
    God bless.

    • So glad you liked the album, Nikos! You have been a true pal to all of us. Keep doing yo funky thang, bruddah! 🙂

  13. Sounds good!

  14. This is gonna be dope! Thanks

  15. thanks for the great blog…
    for some reason when I download the file the zip compression keeps failing…Any tips on how to correct this (I have a mac)???? PLEASE HELP!

    • Yep…got your back on that one…you need StuffitExpander! Google it, the expander is free…the Mac’s built in “unzipper” can’t handle password protected zip files! :¬)

  16. nice one. can’t wait to listen,you always share great stuff.Thank you very much

  17. this looks like a gem, thanks yall!!!

  18. Huge fan of Oneness..so this is a blessing. I remember when the whole raft of ’em were reissued in the early 90’s and I mistakenly passed. Thanks for bringing it back.

    A few words and tunes from Oneness:http://mog.com/Cody_B/blog/117751

  19. Looking forward to checking this out! Thanks…..

  20. Thanks a lot for this one (As always)

  21. Thank you !

  22. Thanks for this, as always the reviving of these tunes is much appreciated

  23. Sweetness! Every post is a winner! Thanks yet again!

  24. Thanks so much. Can’t wait to check it out.

  25. Never know which way you coming SB. Always enlightening and full of surprises. Enjoyed this one.

    • Thank you, El. I’m definitely trying my best. I appreciate that you took the time to come back and say what you thought about the lp.

  26. Hi 4BB, i’m new here, and already love your palace!
    Well, i’m astonished by this gem!
    Being a huge fan of Oneness, let me tell you how excited I’m by discovering a true alternative experience.
    Thanks a lot,

  27. lafayette –

    thanks so much for the help! I cant wait to listen!

  28. thank you so much for this unknown side from oneness of juju!!i didn’t know that plunky had so many “branches” 😉

  29. Oneness, Plunky and Trussell – wow, you gotta love that heady cocktail that was brewing with these guys – and I gotta love how you manage to keep that fertile atmosphere alive on these pages – wonderful post Soulbrotha

  30. Thanks for this treasure

  31. downloading now. looks mad dope!

  32. Nice LP .. not the sort of thing id usually pick up….love the wordless intro to “the best part of me”. gonna keep an look out for this in those dollar bins.

  33. this hits the spot….thanks!!

  34. nice album

  35. Fantastic Blog !Fantastic Post ! Fantastic Music ! Very Very Lisergic JazzFunk !
    Please MORE!!!!!!!!
    Many Thanks! Guido/Lisergicfunk

  36. Thanks again guys!

  37. …loss for words, totally funked up by the Experience. Thanx guys *dancing round the room w. tears in my eyes*

  38. Glad you enjoyed it, Funkback! 😀

  39. In VA we puttin’ RIBS on the Grill

  40. Dear Plunky and Mr. Gray:

    Happy holidays, I would like to know who has the masters to the Experence Unlimted 1977 album and if you could contact me as soon as possible. It’s me-Donna

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