Week 43: Funky Soul Saver
Good mornin’, church!
Week 43 is here, and some really good music along with it. I know, it’s been way too long…but now I’m back – in style too! And it’s all thanks to my Youtube pal, who goes by the moniker BeyondBodyAndSoul. His wonderful Youtube channel (make sure to bookmark this page) is filled with rare slices of soul and funk – like this week’s treat. And sometime in the upcoming weeks he’ll even be doing a special 4BB Weekly guest post on one of his favorite albums. I’m sure it will be awesome!
One of Beyond’s many videos was with this “gospel” group, Paul Owen & The Capital City Star Singers. I’ve placed the word gospel in quotation marks because even though the lyrics are placed firmly at the church altar, the music is more akin to the best funk and blues bands of the 70’s. “Jesus Is On The Mainline” is one of the funkiest gospel records you are likely to come across.
This LP was released in 1973/74 by Songbird Records, a gospel label founded in 1963 as a subsidiary of Duke/Peacock Records in Houston, Tx. Significant artists on this record label included the powerful contralto Inez Andrews (formerly of The Caravans), The Gospelettes with Liz Dargan (formerly of Andrews’ group The Andrewettes), mixed vocal group The Kansas City Melodyaires (later known as Mildred Clark & The Melodyaires), The Jackson Southernaires and many others. Duke/Peacock was sold to ABC Records and became ABC/Songbird in 1974.
It’s strange how funky “Jesus Is On The Mainline” is, considering the old-time gospel sound that Paul Owen was known for prior to it’s release. It’s like he got possessed by the Holy Ghost of B.B King. Maybe he had a blues-funk demon that needed to be exorcised onto wax, because he never made another record like it for the rest of his recording career! Little is known about the musicians and/or singers on this project. Thank goodness for my pal Cies over at the gospel blog Just Moving On (where I first heard about the group) for supplying some background on this project:
Brooklyn Allstars’ member Paul Owens left the group for a period of 12 years before returning in 1977. So what did he do in those 12 years? Paul Owens was the lead singer for the Mighty Mellotones of New York during the late sixties and early seventies. The Mighty Mellotones recorded eight 45s for JAS Records. They also recorded one 45 for Honey B in the early seventies. Both JAS and Honey B were New York based labels.
After his period with Mighty Mellotones and before rejoining the Brooklyn Allstars in 1977, he made one album with The Capital City Star Singers. And what an album!!!!!
“Jesus Is On The Mainline” (SongBird LP 231) is an excellent album full of funky gospel soul and is one of my favourite SongBird albums. Information on the album cover about membership of the group, studio recorded and session musicians involved is very scarce. All we know is that besides Paul Owens, Roger Liscomb is singing lead on a few of the songs. On “I’ll Fly Away” they share the lead. So no information about the musicians involved and it’s the music that takes this album to the next level.
We will probably never know who the men (or women?) behind the Capital City Stars are. All I know is that of all SongBird/Peacock albums I’ve listened to, “Jesus Is On The Mainline” is the funkiest album of all.
The basslines that are used for these tracks transform what could have been just another batch of tired old chestnuts into a bluesy, funky affair. The title track is slow blues burner that you could easily imagine being played in a nightclub by B.B. King. “Run On” has a familiar funky groove that is similar to “Green Onions” by Booker T. and the MG’s (thanks to Cheeba for identifying the song and saving my sanity). “Going On In His Name” sounds exactly like a B.B. King tune I have heard before with Paul Owens sounding very much like the blues master himself.
The walking bassline of “Sending Up My Timber” makes you wanna walk right along with it. “You Can’t Beat God Giving” is one of my favorites. It has a slightly 60’s psychedelic, reflective feel during the verses before it bursts into a funky refrain. “What He’s Done For Me” (another fave) is some surefire funky goodness. This foot-stomper has Mavis Staples written all over it. Too bad she never did a cover. “He Saved My Soul” is a sweet midtempo groover and “I’ll Fly Away” is yet another funky head-noddin’ joint.
However, the best track is without a doubt, “Generation Gap”! Lordy, lordy, lordy. This dope track has hooked everyone I have ever played it for. Once you hear the opening bassline, all you can think is “why hasn’t anyone sampled this?!” The wonderful harmony on the chorus brings it altogether. Just listen to this, and see for yourself!
Unfortunately, this fabulous LP slipped through my grip on Ebay – and I haven’t seen it anywhere else since…it’s more or less extinct. So this really is an listening opportunity out of the ordinary – make sure to thank BeyondBodyAndSoul for this bounty you are about to receive. Amen!
(Ps. And yeah, don’t forget the deadline of the 4BB/Damn! Remix Competition – Sunday November 8th! So, you got about two weeks to finalize your winning entry! Keep up the good work – keep them entries coming!)