California-based record label Stones Throw has blessed fans of vintage funk, soul and hiphop with many a choice salvage effort over the years. First I was aware of was their Funky 16 Corners collection, which still sounds effortlessly danceable and groove imbued, and seeing there‘s at least one blog in Cyberspace which shares its name with this disc, I’m clearly not alone in my altogether high opinion.
ST mainmen Egon, Peanut Butter Wolf and cohorts do have an unassailable gift for pulling some serious gems from the landfill of regional music history, be it national or worldwide; check out ST's recent Eastern European funk collections (yes, you read right).
It's been a cratedigger's delight to witness the exemplary work in the salvage field that ST and labels like the Numero Group and Light In The Attic have been doing. Now another company, Now Again, seems to be stepping up, given the evidence of their recently released California Funk anthol.
It compiles twenty-one cuts from small independent North and South Cali-based labels, primarily from the early 70’s. Local combos drawing from the wellsprings of JB, Sly, Marvin, barrio jams, recorded mostly on the cheap, with 7-inchers hawked out of car trunks or on card tables in the back of clubs these groups frequented on the weekends. Quite the haul of superfine funky wax, Golden State variety, to be sure.
Favorite cuts change from day to day, as they do: one day it might be King Saloman’s pinpoint satire 'Politician Rag', another day John Heartsman's smooth Lou Rawls knockoff. Or maybe this almost New Wave-anticipating instrumental workout, 'Smokin’ Tidbits' by the Edwards Generation. But right now I’m especially taken with Rhon Silva’s horndog inner city S.F. travelogue 'Get it Right'.
Raggedy, conga-driven hucklebuck/Funky Broadway propulsion powers our man’s nocturnal creep. Silva starts off in the Haight-Ashbury, making sure to load up on ‘some sike-a-delic guitar…doin’ it hippie style, y’all’ (and it‘s true, albeit more of a BB King meets Jorma six string thing). Proceeding down hilly Hayes Street and Van Ness Avenue into the Tenderloin, in his Eldorado Biarritz, leaning on the armrest, Silva’s cruising and looking for his baby. There is no doubt, with that car, with that musical backdrop, that he'll find who he's looking for.
Further research reveals that this guy definitely knew his way around this city’s less genteel zones in his time. Rhon Silva is in fact the recording pseudonym (one of a few, in fact) taken by a gent better known as Fillmore Slim, right around then one of the City’s most notorious pimps. He even showed up in a 1999 documentary called American Pimp.
Long out of that business after time in prison, Slim still plays music, as a regular performer in local blues joints like the formerly John Lee Hooker-approved Boom Boom Room.
Regardless of that outcome, ‘Get It Right’ is a 7” slice of Bay Area life that I’d bet both Max Julien and Ron O’Neal would have approved of.