SAN GABRIEL VALLEY SOUL


Sly, Slick and Wicked: You Got to Funkafize
Confessin’ a Feeling
The World Is a Ghetto
From Get Down Live (Bad Boys, 197?)

This is my first official post-move post (finally!). Me and the fam just relocated from the Westside of L.A. to the San Gabriel Valley. I grew up out here in the 1980s but I haven’t lived her in nearly 20 years. Coming back has been weirdly comfortable (or is that comfortably weird?) now that I’m an adult with my own family.

It only seems proper then that the very first album that I’ve found since moving out here was actually recorded in the SGV, almost 7 miles due south of where I am, at 800 Garfield, in Montebello.

It’s easy to be confused when you talk about the Sly, Slick and Wicked. This local L.A. outfit is often confused with the Young Generation who had a decent sized hit in the same ’60s/’70s era as SSW called “Sly, Slick and Wicked” and then there’s the Ohio group also called the Sly, Slick and Wicked who recorded with James Brown (and ended up, I believe, in a bit of a copyright tussle with the L.A. group over their shared name). The original SSW (as they describe themselves) got their start out of the fertile East L.A. rock scene of the ’60s (think Thee Midniters, El Chicano, etc.)

They’re best known for their single “Confessin’ a Feeling” b/w a personal favorite – a cover of the Persuaders’ “Love’s Gonna Pack Up.”

The single was a local release (on the Bad Boys imprint) and evidently sold well enough that it’s not a pricey single to come by (though it’s not overly common either). However, as I learned from Cool Chris a few years back, the group’s live album, Get Down is a far more obscure release but no less well-regarded. I’ve been looking for a copy of this since then but wasn’t ready to pull the trigger to buy it at market-rate.

As it turns out, a local seller for mostly A/V equipment got in a stock of records that they were selling in lots and while I missed their eBay auction, I saw that the LP was included in one of the lots and no one had bid on it. On a whim, I tried calling their warehouse and to make a long story short, I drove out 10 miles to Glendale and after a few anxious minutes just assuming that someone had beat me to it, left with a stack of 10 LPs, most of them dollar bin material, but including one very well-kept copy of Get Down Live, all for $20.

These days, it’s not often that I have great come-ups since I don’t do enough digging in physical stores so I felt extremely fortunate to have come by this local LP having just moved back to the locale. It all seemed quite serendipitous.

But enough of “O-Dub’s dusty fingers tales”… Get Down Live has everything you’d want out of a great live album – it’s not only about the music, it’s also about the small nuances that come through on a live recording, such as when someone accidentally bumps into a mic during one of the quieter parts of a song or listening to the band and audience interaction. The actual fidelity of the recording is quite impressive; it does have “big room” acoustics but it’s not remotely lo-fi.

I decided to open “big” by starting with “You Got to Funkafize,” a classically ’70s funk jam which comes halfway through the A-side. That slides into the live version of “Confessin’ A Feeling”, offered here to provide some contrast with the original. I’ve been so enamored with “Love’s Gonna Pack Up” that I never gave this song it’s proper due but now that I’m listening to it in both versions, I can appreciate why it’s such a lowrider classic for folks in So Cal. Lastly, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to include the group’s cover of another Southern Californian classic – “The World is a Ghetto” by Long Beach’s WAR. I like how stripped down SSW’s take is on the song, distilling it down to a strong vocal performance ever-so-lightly dressed in the familiar melodic strains of the original. SSW manage to make the song sound even more melancholy than War’s version.

So there it is, the first post for 2010, coming to you live from the brand-spanking new Soul Sides Central. Here’s a belated shout out to the new year and hopefully more good music (and posts!) to come.

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