The Dells: I’ll Never Fall in Love Again
The Dells: Trains and Boats and Planes
From The Dells Sing Dionne Warwicke’s Greatest Hits (Cadet, 1972)

David Axelrod: One
David Axelrod: Go For It
From Seriously Deep (Polydor 1975)

1975 was a funky year for music, and not in a good way. It was after the last true r&b records were released, before disco, and in the midst of jazz being lost in fusion. Digging through records from that year, I wonder what happened to the soul. But in this darkness there are some lights, the occasional find that shows there were grooves to be played that could bring someone deep. David Axelrod’s Seriously Deep was released on Polydor that year, the only of his albums to come out on that label. It kicks off with open drums in “Miles Away” that let you know there will be some true funk goings on here. Recorded with a full array of Los Angeles studio musicians, it veers away from his early work for Reprise and Capitol, being less orchestral in nature and more straight jazz-funk. There are the tangents that stray a little too far into fusion (I wish that Joe Sample had been asked to lay off the spacy “Odyessy Keyboard” a bit more), but there is a lovely, warm feeling throughout with horns, congas, and guitars keeping a solid groove that would’ve made for standout blaxploitation-style funk just a couple of years earlier. “One” is lovely and makes me want to go for a drive in L.A. with “Go For It” could’ve been playing in a particularly sweet dream I had the other night.

1972 on the other hand seemed to be a year where soul and funk filled the air in a way that artist after artist could grab at it and come up with something good, deep, soulful, and meaningful. That was the year that the vocal quintet The Dells, with the help of Charles Stepney, recorded and released The Dells Sing Dionne Warwicke’s Greatest Hits for Chess Records. Featuring a thick roster of great Chicago soul men, including Phil Upchurch and Derf Reklaw, the Dells dived head-first into records — all written by Burt Bacharach — that had already been hits in softer and sweeter versions by the to-be host of Solid Gold. However, Stepney and the Dells are able to keep them sweet while also making them gritty. Unfortunately, since we are looking back at this record from today, we have to deal with the fact that a bunch of these Bacharach tunes have gotten stuck in our heads through popular versions by the likes of BJ Thomas and The Carpenters. It’s hard to hear even this team try their hands at “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and “Close to You.” But the burners are here, too. The opener “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” and “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself “are so worth the price of admission, that the failures can be overlooked and the other sweet tunes feel like icing on the cake. “I’ll Never…” opens the album with a bass/piano/singing moment that will stop you from being able to do whatever you may be doing and drop you right into some deeper part of your being. “I Just Don’t…” starts off with a bassline that lets you know something explosive is about to pop and picks up from there, going full-tilt congo wah-wah funk. Stepney throws in strings and all sorts of sweet sounds throughout creating an album that would be suitable for both a late Saturday evening/mid-morning Sunday groove.

Benge is the urban music director at WRUV-FM in Burlington, Vt. where he’s spun every funky thing under the sun on his show, Sex Fly, since 1991. He also happens to be an Archetypal Dream Worker for North of Eden. Somehow the two are connected.