This was an album that came out this spring, but I foolishly pushed it to the side, hoping I would review the album eventually. Sadly, that eventually kept on moving forward and here I am, two seasons later without a review. I realized crap, I wanted to listen to this in April or whenever I received it, best get to it now. Here I am.
Personal Space, Electronic Soul 1974-1984 is a great compilation from the good people of Numero Group that documents the electronic explosion that happened in a lot of independent soul and funk of the mid-70′s to the mid-80′s. While people like Sly & The Family Stone, Graham Central Station, and Parliament played with the innovations of electronic music, people seemed to focus on their influence for pop and rock artists. Soul and funk had been placed in a stationary spot where it was about human action, interaction, and “real” musicianship and yet anyone who paid attention to the music knew it was happening in other genres. Electronic sounds did not begin with Prince nor did it start to go to new directions with hip-hop, it had already been in place and this album goes back to a time when sounding like the future was simply about understanding the technology and making cool sounds with it.
All of these artists are unknown outside of city limits, and while it may have sounded futuristic then, it sounds classic and modern today because perhaps these little known artists were distributing the seeds of what was to come. People like Key & Cleary, Starship Commander Woo Woo, USAries, Ptis G. Johnson, and Jeff Phelps were simply talking about the human condition, relevant back then as it is today, and hearing them sung and explored in this musical context shows how much the song truly remains the same. You’ll still hear hints of the blues and gospel, but as SUn Ra said, space is the place and perhaps the reason so many artists made electronic soul like this was that perhaps there was an unspoken move to look and explore better, in life and in music. These songs can easily be compared to the best works of Curtis Mayfield, Syl Johnson, and others who used social commentary as a means to share stories and encourage unity with the struggles of life, and in some cases these songs should have been influential hits for its time. Good and great music is for all times, so explore it not and show respect to the unheard futurists of soul and funk… today.