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BBR Round-Up: “It’s Happening” With Bebu Silvetti, Foxy, Vernon Burch

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Silvetti - Spring RainThe masterminds at Big Break Records certainly like to keep fans of great soul music on their toes!  In addition to the delicious soul-jazz hybrid Reality from Monk Montgomery, the label has recently unveiled another quartet of adventurous soul, dance and R&B reissues.

Two of BBR’s latest hail from deep in the Salsoul Records vaults.  1977’s Spring Rain, credited to The Sensuous Sound of Silvetti, was the brainchild of Argentine pianist, composer, arranger and conductor Bebu Silvetti (1944-2003).  Silvetti was active in the Latin music scene through the early years of the 21st century, even picking up a Latin Grammy in 2003, the year of his untimely death at the age of 59. The multi-hyphenate artist wrote the entirety of his second Salsoul album Spring Rain, collaborating on just one track with Sylvia Riera Ibáñez.  Production was handled by another Latin music legend, Rafael Trabucchelli.  Though created by Silvetti and licensed by the Cayre Brothers for release on Salsoul like Silvetti’s 1976 label debut World Without Words, Spring Rain was remixed for American listeners by Tom Moulton at Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound Studios. 

Though the music is stylistically dissimilar, it’s not hard to connect the dots from Spring Rain to Salsoul’s lush, made-in-Philly records.  With Silvetti’s own piano out front (as it is on the entire album), the sophisticated title track went Top 40 Pop/Top 5 Disco upon its U.S. release.  It envelops the listener with cooing, wordless female vocals, elegant and sweeping strings, funky guitar licks and a ready-for-dancing beat.  Light and cool as the breeze that might accompaniment the title’s seasonal rainstorm, Spring Rain flirts with the Latin-percussion “Salsoul sound” (“Primitive Man”), sweet samba (“A Smile at Dawn”), keyboard-driven pop-jazz fusion (“Two Cups of Coffee”), emotional yet smoky balladry (“Fortune Teller”), and bright disco (“Voyage of No Return,” “Contigo”), all in refreshing, melodic and frequently cinematic arrangements.

This effervescent collection has been remastered by reissue producer Wayne A. Dickson and annotated by Matt Bauer.  One bonus track has been added, the single edit of “Spring Rain.”  (Its B-side, “Travel Check” from Silvetti’s previous Salsoul album, is absent.  Perhaps a reissue of World Without Words will arrive next?)

From another diverse corner of the diverse Salsoul label, BBR has also delivered Sons of the Gods from the quintet Ripple.  The 1978 release was the multi-racial funk band’s sole release for Salsoul and only its second album following 1973’s eponymous debut on GRC Records.  Simon Kenneth Carter (vocals/bass), Walter Carter (lead vocals/percussion), Brian Sherrer (vocals/drums/timbales), Victor Burks (vocals/keyboards) and Barry Lee (lead guitar) teamed with producer Floyd Smith for Ripple’s to the studio; this line-up appears to be modified from the ’73 line-up, with vibraphonist/keyboardist Curtis Reynolds, saxophonist William Hull and lead singer Keith Samuels all absent from the credits on Sons of the Gods.  (Simon Kenneth Carter, Walter Carter and Brian Sherrer played on the debut album produced by “Big” Dee Irwin.)

Like Spring Rain, Sons of the Gods isn’t your typical Salsoul platter; it actually begins with a slow and soulful cover of The Masqueraders’ “Call Me the Traveling Man.”  It’s not the only pure ballad here, either.  Burks’ slow-burning “Facts of Life” – complete with spoken interlude – is equally impassioned.  Throughout, Ripple demonstrates their versatility in a variety of idioms on both vocal and instrumental tracks.  The funk and disco flourishes of the raucous “Today” brought the party, while “Victorious” is a jazzy jam with bold horns, prominent electric keyboard and percussion traveling from one stereo channel to the other.  An upbeat seventies-style update of Wade Flemons’ 1958 oldie “Here I Stand” might have been a surprise, but it was mere prelude for the song that followed it on the album’s second side. 

“The Beat Goes On and On,” penned by Smith and the group, is the album’s most overt nod to disco, and it has all of the irresistible qualities of the genre’s best.  A non-stop, rhythmic and brassy call to the dancefloor with a soaring string arrangement, “The Beat” didn’t crack the pop charts, but respectably placed at No. 91 R&B/No. 13 Disco.  Its release on 45 preceded the album by a couple of months; Sons of the Gods took its title and sci-fi cover imagery from its 9+-minute cover of Charles Earland’s funky song of the same name.  Earthier business was also at hand, though.  Burks penned Sons’ closing track, the very topical and ironically up-tempo “Do What You Wanna Do,” reflecting frankly on inner-city life: “She’s got three kids but she claims only two…” or “There goes my brother, he’s standing in the breadline/Smokin’ weed is his favorite pastime…”

The eclectic, electric Sons of the Gods is also annotated by Bauer and remastered by Dickson.  Bauer accurately asserts in his liner notes that Ripple’s history “seems shrouded in mystery,” and his assertion in the notes that Keith Samuels and Curtis Reynolds are heard on the album is oddly contradicted by its credits.  But the music speaks for itself.  One bonus track, the single version of “The Beat Goes On and On,” has been added.  After the jump: a look at reissues from Vernon Burch and Foxy, plus full track listings and order links for all four titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 20, 2013 at 10:37