A triumphant soul filled journey filled with essence and meaning.
Family Groove have reissued some wicked records over the years. Their never dwindling desire to source out and release some of history’s finest funk, soul and disco oddities and forgotten gems remains their goal. And how that is reflected in their incredible discography. All of their releases seem like they should have shone so brightly during their various decades of original releases, but they remained under the radar until these guys came along and injected a hearty level of passion for music into the records. This just makes every release seem more elevated as a result, with love and craft poured into the music itself, then selected as part of the Family groove family (haha). Particular highlights include Family Attraction’s previously ultra rare iconic after hours disco belter ‘Disco Boogie’, and Goodie/Mary Holmes’ ‘Dancin’ Free’ soul masterpiece, but generally everything is golden and well worth checking out.
Next up in their quest is the previously unreleased Modern soul classic ‘Four M Company’, by the band itself. A collection of warm goodies, this one just leaps from the vinyl and right into the heart, putting a wide wide smile on the listener. A combo of artists like the Temptations, The New Birth and Friends of Distinction, and many many more, the emphasis on the beautiful harmonies, delicate guitar and groovin drumming pattens. To be recorded during Discos heyday of 1979, this is an album very much reflective of what came before, and just before all that would come after. An album that was maybe out of touch with the contemporary scene, with many older soul and doo wop groups transitioning into bloated disco heavyweights. This band stayed true to their roots, and whilst bringing in more dancy elements and high bass lines on the B side, it remains very much in the soul spectrum. A perfect late night album, after hours, when the dance has subsided a bit, and everyone gazes at each other lovingly. This album is a moment. Lets dip into it.
The opener, ‘You’re Not Functioning’, brings us into their world. A Herbie style swirling synth line hints at things to come, before a slowed down beat comes in, with the bass kicking in on such a delightful groove. Harmonies aflowing, the horns come into play, and the feel just elevates so smoothly and transitions so brilliantly. The first verse comes in, adding to the complexity and density of the sound, with the vocals and horns interplaying with each other to see who will lead the line. All elements work from the bottom up, with the drums and bass just doing their thing, solid as a rock, bringing it all together. It remains the most in depth tune of the whole record, but boy is it filled with treasures and audio delights. The next one is ‘Searching for the Truth’, and wow is this a stunner. The tempo comes way down, with the instruments almost whispering so lightly, with the vocals here the main attraction. The brilliance of the lead, and the equally excellent backing harmonies, make for a performance full of meaning and longing. If the opener was all about showing us how to move again, this one was teaching us how to feel again. Healing us with its warm touch, the guitar and keys are just so soft, and perfectly placed between the low drums and the soaring vocals. This song is something else, seriously. Beautiful aint even the word for it. I think we all wanna search for the truth after this one, even if we think we know it all. Up next we have ‘All My Love’, that starts off once again with the vocals driving everything forward. The drums and singing acting in complete unison and control. The female lead counteracted with the backing vocals, telling us a story of contexts and believing in each other. All the elements join in with the singing, reflecting their performance, bringing and informing each other, creating a compelling insight into the soul.
The B side starts off with ‘Live to be someone’. The long intro includes the band members introducing themselves over cymbals and subtle yet bold keys. Then it all comes in. The meaning of groove on full display here. Not since listening to the stylings of Chic have a group created such a simple yet elegant groove, with guitar, bass and drums. The keys retreat back as the vocals come in, inspired and full of encouragement, this is the one. Urgh, it’s hard to describe this, it’s simply perfection. The vocals bring it full circle, and again lead the transitions over the groove to end all grooves. It just keeps going, and going, and going. Thank god this was released for us to all enjoy. It’s the chorus bit, where the lead singer leads the charge, before the line ‘live to learn, live to love, live to be someone’ might be some of the most empowering and wonderfully delivered lines in modern soul. Up next comes the super charged ‘Awaking (Rhythm Track)’. The bass line and organs take charge on the only instrumental track on the record, and boy is it a groover. The bass slaps hard as hell, with the guitar working to compliment it brilliantly. The synths come in and around it all, signifying change and an upper in the emotive side of things. And then it all just pumps it up right at the end, with the high synth elevated above everything to soar and soar ever higher, that could go on forever. To finish off, we have ‘Sugar Free’. A groove that could be eaten up and enjoyed for ever, it ain’t gunna stop. The delayed bass is fucking wicked in this, with long drawn out notes contrasting excellently with the fast key lines and the guitar. A real shoulder mover.
Digesting something like that is a joy. An album showing all that was good with the pre disco era, taking a bit from the actual disco era, and displaying it through a spectrum of supremely talented and visionary musicians. This album gets you all over the place, from the slowed down lows to the majestic grooves, its an album for soul and funk lovers everywhere. One of the all time greats. Just give it a go!
The album is sold out at most places, but can be listened to on Youtube. Check out the Family Groove Website for more excellent records: