THE MASTERPLAN + SYMPHONIC FOUR: HOW SWEET IT IS


The Masterplan: Only You
From 7″ (Fos-Glo, 197?)

Symphonic Four: Who Do You Think You’re Fooling (Parts 1 & 2)
From 7″ (Zudan, 197?)

I’m dipping back in the 45 box for a couple sweet soul pieces. It’s funny but, not that long ago, I didn’t “get” why collectors went so ga-ga over sweet soul or northern soul but then again, not that long ago, I thought fusion jazz was good. Times change (thankfully).

A good sweet soul song may not have the kind of visceral, kinetic energy of a funk tune but its emotional impact – when done right – strikes far deeper and lasts longer. Maybe that’s the product of age – the older I get, the more I like songs that I can just throw on, vibe out to and let that be enough.

Alas, I don’t have a ton of info on either of these singles. The Masterplan, I know, are from the Bay Area (Fos-Glo was a local Bay label) and they cut at least one or two other singles but beyond that, I know nada. Likewise, the Symphonic Four are presumably out of St. Louis (since Zudan was a St. Louis label) but I know little else about them.

Of the two, “Only You” has that “sweetness” beautifully – a slow, light arrangement of strings, bells and piano anchor the music while the various Masterplan singers float over, whether individually or in unison with one another. Nice, so nice.

The Symphonic Four, in contrast, is more dramatic, especially how it opens on the swirl of organs and the heavy drums that eventually drop in. Of course, unlike “Only You,” “Who Do You Think You’re Fooling” isn’t about falling in love but rather, love’s betrayal and the song’s dark tones accent the shift in mood. The killer part is that little guitar line that pops in around the chorus…it’s so simple but it gives the song this melodic hook that’s hard to forget.

(By the way, I first heard the Symphonic Four off of Soul Boulders. Real heads know the deal).

Update: I heard from the infamous Funkyou! (eBay collectors know who I mean) who dropped this info on the Symphonic Four:you might find it interesting that i recently met the lead singer of the group. he is living in east st. louis. he later went on to join the detroit emeralds after the symphonic 4. the group members (of sym. 4) and the label are from st. louis, but the record was actually recorded in detroit. the backing band on the track is made up of some of the members of parliament/funkadelic. if you listen you can sort of hear the similarities to the early parliaments singles.Thanks Jason!

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