By now it would be perverse to deny that soul music is one of the greatest contributions of American art to the world. But soul music was never one thing: It was a phase in the continuum of music constantly and consistently created by black Americans, starting around the time Sam Cooke and Ray Charles began messing around with the gospel tradition (just as some white country artists were messing around with the jumping blues of Louis Jordan and co.) and dovetailing into James Brown's revolutionary invention of funk.
So imagine the chutzpah of naming your small Arkansas label True Soul, as the remarkable Lee Anthony did in 1968.
Sure, you had your Atlantic (started by urbane Turkish jazzbos), your Motown (masterminded by mogul Berry Gordy), your Stax and Volt (founded by two open-minded white siblings). But none of them would proudly use as a logo a folk drawing of a sharecropper's shotgun shack, as art college–trained Anthony did.
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Anthony grew up in that very shack in the days of violent segregation, went on to teach high school, run a record store and a recording studio and, crucially, release a string of marvelous soul and funk singles. That shack label now is sought after obsessively by collectors of the genre worldwide and big-name sample artists such as DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist.
Back in 1999, a 20-year-old budding soul archaeologist tracked down Anthony and the True Soul vault. The young fan befriended the wary producer and spent more than a decade trying to convince him to share all the wonderful music he had recorded. The enterprising young man even took the soul survivor to Nashville's Ultimate Break & Beats show, where Anthony finally witnessed a thousand kids weaned on hip-hop going mental over "Psychedelic Hot Pants," by his protégé York Wilburn.
Fast-forward to 2011: That youngster, Eothen Alapatt, has grown up to become Egon, one of the forces behind L.A.'s mighty Stones Throw label. He finally convinced Anthony to let him reissue (on Stones Throw's boutique Now Again label) the gems of the True Soul catalog in two volumes jam-packed with floor-filling tunes, plus a DVD of a live revue produced by Anthony for local TV in 1973. Both volumes of True Soul's Deep Sounds From the Left of Stax include a handsome booklet with the saga of Alapatt's moving rediscovery of this treasure trove of rare and, yes, true soul music.
An afternoon party with music from True Soul and food and wine from Palate Food & Wine will be held Sun., June 26, 3-8 p.m., at 933 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale.