Not so Sweet Soul Music

By Jo Phillips

Change was afoot in the late 1970s; from Punk in the UK, the Vietnam war had ended, New York City Blackout lasts for 25 hours, Elvis Presley Died at the age of 42, and the first commercial flight for Concord happened. Not so different from now, an old guard was going and a new style of thinking was coming in, but it took a fair amount of friction, and civil disorder to bring about change.

Music transitioned between punk, rock, disco and soul as well as it being the very beginnings of rap too. A lot was going on. Strikes, anger, and conflict was everywhere showing their face not just on the streets from protests but in creativity with artist often saying what most people couldn’t.  For example in both art and music protesting was capitalised upon to register social unrest. But not all conflict was visual to all. Marginalised communities often found creative ways to share their pain frustration and anger.

A great example of this was the record Let’s Clean Up the Ghetto, a Philadelphia International Records comp featuring elites of “The Sound of Philadelphia,” a style of soul music from the city that had long been a big movement in the R&B charts. Kenneth Gamble (owner of Philadelphia International Records) bought together some of his biggest artists of the time together including, The Three Degrees, Billy Paul, the O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Lou Rawls, and others  to raise concerns about Philly’s growing ghettos. Gamble is quoted on the back as saying

“Anything physical has to first start as a thought…there’s a message in the music.”

The album included a Bobby Martin arrangement of “Ooh Child”, performed by Dee Dee Sharp Gamble, nowhere as sunny as previously recorded versions. The Intruders’ resounding “Save the Children,” paired perfectly with Archie Bell and the Drells’ “Old People,” showed the generational effects of diminished opportunity. Also hear Billy Paul’s version of “New Day, New World Comin’” that has an underlying sense of hope into the record.

The ten-song album burst with rpootest but its proabaly the title track that is the trust gem. Written by Gamble & Huff and Carey Gilbert, “Let’s Clean Up the Ghetto” is a powerhouse of protest wrapped up as quite the funky tune. dance away and only then do you relaise the cry out. Rawls deep thorated speach thtq opens the song calls for cleanliness and safety in the city calling all to join in the fight, followed by every artist echoing the sentiment.

An eight minutes of funky bassy music that belives its deep seated serious lyrical content that voiced concerns of a voiceless minority, as all the profits from the record went towards local community development as promised.

Kenneth Gamble was a man of his word and went on to redevelop much of South Philadelphia for decades, and Let’s Clean Up the Ghetto marked the start of his community-minded efforts.

And still the protests go on and interestingly so do funky tunes that on first dancing along we dont neecessairly notice the deepth of feeling and power in the words.

Two of Finland’s most accomplished names, Tuomo & Markus have a new albumcoming with the first new single called We’re Not Buying It

Featuring some funky guitar from legendary Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Plant/Krauss, Black Keys), whilst their previous efforts focused on their folk-inspired core, their latest gem sees them break away from their traditional conventions in pursuit of something woozier and more groove-laden.

Speaking about the inspiration behind ‘We’re Not Buying It’, they said, 

“’We’re Not Buying It’ pays musical tribute to the soulful protest songs of the late 60s and early 70s. We love the way artists like Curtis Mayfield, Allen Toussaint and Staple Singers would write hit singles with heavy social subject matter. The lyrics for We’re Not Buying It were originally inspired by the ’occupy’ movement, but can be applied to any situation, where a majority of the people feels they’ve been left behind, ignored or lied to by those in power. Like in the case of black lives matter movement, abortion rights activism or action on climate change.

Change can be a painful hting in order to make for a kinder anf faier world but if it vna be a funky ride then why not?

The new album out 14th October. ‘We’re Not Buying It’

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