LAMP Records: It Glowed Like the Sun: The Story of Naptown’s Motown, 1969-1972

 

Title: LAMP Records: It Glowed Like the Sun: The Story of Naptown’s Motown, 1969-1972
Artist: Various
Label: Now-Again
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: August 2, 2019

 

For those of you who aren’t from the Midwest, “Naptown” is a nickname created by local jazz musicians back in the day to describe the sometimes sleepy city of Indianapolis. Bringing some old Naptown soul and funk to light, the new anthology LAMP Records: It Glowed Like the Sun: The Story of Naptown’s Motown offers an overview of the city’s fabled record label, little known outside of hardcore soul collectors. Now, current and former Indianapolis natives can reminisce while the rest of the world can finally hear the soulful sounds that sprung from Naptown during the years 1969-1972. The liner notes for this release, researched and written over a twenty year span by Eothen Alapatt, Jeff Kollath, Jason Yoder and Kyle Long, read like a book as these four experts uncover the history of the LAMP label and Naptown’s music scene. Continue reading

The Lightmen Plus One – Energy Control Center

 

Title: Energy Control Center
Artist: The Lightmen Plus One
Label: Now-Again
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: April 18, 2018

 

Thanks to Now-Again Records, producer Eothem Alapatt, and author Lance Scott Walker, the story and recordings of drummer Bubbha Thomas and his spiritual jazz group, The Lightmen Plus One, are receiving new interest. A native of Houston’s Fourth Ward during the era of segregation, Thomas decided to hit the road in the early ‘60s and tour with an R&B backing band. Upon his return to Houston, his interests shifted to jazz as well as community activism, education and journalism. Thomas developed a powerful voice as editor-in-chief of the grassroots newspaper Voice of HOPE, and founded Houston’s Summer Jazz Workshop which continues to this day. In 1970, his newly-christened The Lightmen Plus One ensemble released their debut album, Free As You Wanna Be, on George Nelson’s Judnell label. Energy Control Center, released in 1972 on Thomas’s short-lived label, Bubbha’s Lightnin’ Records, is considered the group’s masterpiece. Continue reading

4th Coming – Strange Things, 1970-1974

4th coming_strange things

 

Title: Strange Things, 1970-1974

Artist: 4th Coming

Label: Now-Again

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: October 23, 2015

 

Billed as the “long lost 4th Coming album,” the tracks on Strange Things were compiled from eight obscure (and some extremely rare) 7” singles the group cut between 1970-1974. Led by two progressive Black musicians from Los Angeles—Henry “Hank” Porter and Jechonias “Jack” Williams—the 4th Coming recorded at Al Firth’s Artist Recording Studio in Hollywood, picking up studio musicians (including members of the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band) as necessary to realize their arrangements. Production assistance was provided by Yusuf Rahman, who played with both Horace Silver and Charles Wright. Rahman basically took the song ideas generated by Williams, then wrote proper arrangements and assisted with overdubs.

The varied and highly creative songs produced through these efforts offer a cornucopia of Sly Stone era funk, fuzz guitars, synths, and gritty soul. Highlights include “Don’t Let Him Take Away Your Man,” the shape-shifting, cowbell heavy (and still relevant) “Waterloo at Watergate,” the funk heavy title track “Strange Things,” and the jazzy but detour filled “Cruising Central Ave.” There are other surprises along the way, such as the countrified “Oh Love” and “Take Time,” the former a bit folksy and the latter plenty gritty.

In the extensive liner notes, producer Eothen Alapatt chronicles the saga of 4th Coming, along with a detailed history of the Artist Record Studio and Firth’s Alpha label. Regrettably, all of the group’s master tapes were lost, along with all personal photos and mementos, so the booklet is only illustrated with images of the 45s.

The 4th Coming may have been a group on the fringes, and one that never quite gelled—but listening to their music nearly fifty years later, I think that’s to our benefit. Indeed, Strange Things offers the kind of strange trip that can only be found in La La Land.

 

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss