One of the most entertaining soul and funk mix discs I've come across in ages is DJ Honky's A Reading From The Book Of Funk, which the deep-digging New York selector put together in a sweet limited-edition package of 500 numbered copies and sent out to friends. What sets it a cut above the many commercial comps out there is not just that many of the tracks are extremely rare - like the Hifidelics' Quiptown, on Quip - but also that Honky doesn't stick to the conventional James Brown- and Meters-inspired jams or throw on a boring joint just because it opens with a cool break. Nope, he brings back the personal touch of the cassette-tape-trading days with song choices governed by the unique taste of one discerning fan, so you get jubilant gospel shouting of the Capitol City Stars' Shadrack moving into uptempo burners like the Kickin' Mustangs' Kickin', goofy groovers like Kenny Smith's Skunkie, wah-wah bumpers such as the Innersouls' Just Take Your Time, with welcome detours into the sister funk of Honey & the Bees' Love Addict and Marsha Hunt's walloping Beast Day. It's all good. Hold on tight - Honky's northern soul mix is on the way. www.hearingmusic.com.
While outsiders, misfits and big-dreaming no-'counts are regularly featured in this column, Washington, DC's Mingering Mike occupies a special place well beyond the fringes. Beginning sometime in the late 60s, our man started living out his soul singer fantasy by creating more than 100 meticulously painted fake album covers (some gatefold) complete with full track listings and cardboard facsimiles of vinyl records, each bearing its own label and grooves drawn on with a marker, liner notes, fan club info - even shrink wrap! No one outside of his family and a few friends knew about any of this until some 30 years later, when record collector Dori Hadar stumbled onto a pile of Mingering Mike's strange and wonderful bedroom creations at a DC flea market, then used his detective skills to track him down. The whole fascinating story is told in Hadar's marvellous book, Mingering Mike: The Amazing Career Of An Imaginary Soul Superstar (Princeton Architectural Press), which traces the arc of this remarkable faux career with a selection of his evocative cover and label designs along with running commentary from the Mingering one. Folk art at its finest. www.mingeringmike.com.
Tennessee R&B treasures
German distributor/label SPV might be best known for Euro-metal, but with the growing interest in classic Southern soul and R&B music, it's decided to jump into the reissue market with four separate digipak discs on its Blue label, which cover the output of thriving Tennessee operations Poncello/Spa, Ref-o-Ree, Bullet/Sur-Speed and Champion. The brief sleeve notes by compiler Fred James (of Bluesland Productions) are informative but dull, there are very few images, and the tracks are sequenced with little or no attention to flow, as if they were dropped onto the disc in the order they appear on the master tapes. Still, each of the four discs in the series has a couple of surprises. Check Gene Allison's impressive note-bending on the proto-soul You're My Baby from the Champion set, the party-starting Papa Nickel and Catch A Donkey from the funky Tempo Rhythms on the Poncello/Spar collection, the Spice of Life's psyched-up Check Yourself Baby tacked on near the end of the Ref-o-Ree disc, and the smokin' alternate takes of Shy Guy Douglas's harp heaters Shy and Midnight Soul that fire up the Bullet/Sur-Speed selection, all of which together would've made for one really dope disc. www.blueslandproductions.com.