Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Welcome to Smart's Palace of Soul

The latest record in Numero Group's Eccentric Soul Series, Smart's Palace,is another slice of American soul music that's been unearthed and saved from the dark recesses of obscurity. How or where these guys continue to find such buried classics is beyond me, but as long as the quality of their archaeological digs are this good, who cares. This tiny label gives each record the release the amount of tender loving care these gems deserve and the results shine through every time you put on another edition of this series.

Smart's Palaceis a nineteen track disc that features Theron & Darrell, Baby Neal, Chocolate Snow, L.T. & the Soulful Dynamics, Fred Williams & the Jewels Band, and The Hard Road, on labels like Solo, Kanwic, Vantage, and Lee-Mac. The record is fully annotated with a ransom of pictures, posters, and ephemera fit for a king. It's an awesome testimonial to the little known Witchita, Kansas soul scene and very rarely misses its mark. Of the nineteen tracks that are featured on this essential collection maybe two of them are substandard with the others being hidden soul classics waiting to be re-discovered.

Much of Smart's Palace might not be as polished as the multitude of records that were issued on Motown or Stax but the purity and sincerity of the songs that make up this record is undeniable. This is soul music at it's most raw and honest and with or without the glossy sheen of big name producers and songwriters, the songs still manage to shine brightly 40 years after their release. From the slowed down sounds of LT & The Soulful Dynamics', "Crazy About You Baby," to the untamed soul groove of, "Barefoot Philly," by the Smart Brothers these songs only begin to hint at just how incredibly talented the Midwest really was when it came to making soul music.

Smart's Palaceis the very definition of eccentric soul. With so many rarities and unheard artifacts, this is an album Northern Soul crate diggers will have a heart attack over. It's so good that I haven't been able to put the thing down in four days. Uptempo, downtempo, floor fillers, ballads, and instrumentals they're all here and in their purest state. Smart's Palace is an untapped masterpiece and I love The Numero Group for constantly unearthing long lost treasures such as these. If you've ever considered yourself a fan of soul music than do yourself a favor and buy this record because quite simply this is one of the best compilations of 2009.

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