The Souls of Unity: Reach Out and Touch
From It’s Getting Late In the Evening (Major, 197?)
Little did I realize that Noz – apart from his love for obscure rap – also scours the Maryland countryside for gospel LPs. A few months back, I discovered this album through him and in particular, heard this song and was instantly obsessed. Partially, it’s those muted horns and the deep bass lines – putting the soul in gospel soul – but it’s also teenager Angela Brown’s lead vocals, with her wavering tone and those piercing notes that, at times, recall Minnie Riperton or Linda Lewis. To be sure, I think Angela’s a little off-pitch at times but those imperfectionss help make the song all the more memorable.
I was so taken with the song, I dug around and managed to track down Ed Brown (Angela’s brother and the group’s bassist) and to make a long story short, Brown was gracious and generous enough to not only send me a copy of the LP but also share some of the history of the group and the recording.
The Souls of Unity hailed from Landover, Maryland, about ten miles northeast of Washington D.C. The group was founded by Bro. William Brown. As his son Ed puts it, “[we] practiced in our basement and eventually all the siblings took up an instrument or started singing…after a while my father took note of all the talent in the house and started the Souls of Unity.” William Sr. played rhythm guitar while his junior namesake was the group’s drummer; Ed played bass and his brother Daniel was on lead guitar. Rounding out the group was trumpeter Joe Wheeler and another vocalist, Reginald Mosley. Bro. William wrote most of the arrangements, with the kids lending input. According to the liner notes, this is the group’s second album, and they were a constant presence on “The Uplifting Hour,” a 15 minute radio show on Saturday mornings on WUST and hosted by Bro. Brown.
I also asked Ed about Angela’s singing style and he replied: “it’s not hard to hit high note when you’re a teenager…and now days she’s more like Pattie LaBelle.”
(My thanks to Ed Brown, Noz and Leo.)