There is a common view in American pop music history that nothing much artistically happened between 1959 when Buddy Holly died and Elvis went Hollywood and the 1963 arrival of The Beatles on U.S. soil. During those years the charts seemed to be dominated with the teen idol mediocrity of Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell. A closer look at what was happening in Memphis and Detroit reveals something different. It was a time of hyper-creativity and inspiration in American rhythm & blues which was quickly becoming known as soul music. Stax Records in Memphis would release seminal, passionately fresh music by Booker T & the M.G.'s, Wilson Picket, Otis Redding and The Mar-keys. Not far behind, Barry Gordy was giving Stax a run for their money with some healthy competition in Detroit where Motown Records was formed. The music that began from these roots would become as big a phenomena as the British Invasion. It was visible in the U.S. when The Supremes and The Temptations arrived. As early as 1962, teenager Booker T and his M.G.s and hit the charts with "Green Onion." But, even the most obscure new release was being absorbed in Northern England in the late 60s. It grew out of the British mod scene of that period. Specific sounds, dance-styles, fashion and disco clubs starting sprouting up that would become known as Northern Soul. The artists, fans and disc jockeys who helped define Northern Soul specifically looked for the fast-paced, especially funky and less popular music coming out from Detroit and Memphis at the time.
Fast forward to 2012 with the release of Soul Clap on Jump Up Records by The Inciters who have mastered thestyle and brought a new life and vision to American soul music. They are not newcomers. The band first formed in 1995 gaining a faithful following in Europe. Their popularity became so legendary in Europe, after their break-up in 2005, they reunited four years later by the popular demand of their overseas fans.
If you aare new to Northern Soul and The Inciters, this new release, Soul Clap, is an excellent introduction. Beginning with the title song that defines both the enthusiastic, fast-paced music complete with an outstanding horn section, a strong female vocal, a Booker-T organ sound and a rythm section, in Micky Lee(rythm guitar), Michael Luke(bass) and Trevor Hope(drums) that just won't quit. The title song references many of the heroes of Northern Soul including James Brown and Wilson Pickett.
The tricky part of recreating music inspired by Northern Soul is keeping it new, fresh and alive. Half of the songs on Soul Clap are originals (the other half are covers of obscure gems from the Northern Soul era) with a choreographed stage show to match. the beauty of covering obscure soul songs from the past mixed with originals is that it is difficult to tell which is which. The originals are that good. The songs weave the horn section through each arrangement giving each song the layered and organic approach that defies most of today's soul music both by inspiration and passion. Although the original songs could have been written in the late 50's and early 60's in Memphis or Detroit, they don't ring nostalgic or derivative. It's not the listener who is being transported to another place and time, but the best music of a near-forgotten era being brought to our modern time; We are much in need of real music like this.
With lead vocals being traded off by Betsy Jane Kniffin and Emily Pegoda, their approach is less Diana Ross and The Supremes and more Tina Turner and The Ikettes. Each with their own distinctive voice, the common denominator is the dynamic approach that has each vocalist singing with passionate abandon. On "100," the fast-paced Booker T inspired instrumental, skillful lead guitarist, Don Roland and talented tenor sax player, Kevin Zinn, showcase a soulful jam along with Dan Boer-Jimmy Cliff's organ player-who is well-acquainted with Booker T. and the Stax era. The jam between the three instrumentalisst gives the song its central creative fire.
The one remaining original member, trumpet player, Rick Kendrick, deserves credit for being the architect of the big soul production sound on Soul Clap. The album is exciting, engaging and is not the kind of recording you want to sit still for. It would be a crime not to dance to this album. There is a sense that something of the in-concert excitement has been captured on Soul Clap. This is no easy task. If this album represents their live show it is advisable to wear your dancing shoes for the night and prepare for a soul clap workout.
The Inciters are currently touring behind Soul Clap with appearances at Characters Sports Bar and Music Venue in Pomona, California on September 7, Mission Tobacco Lounge in Riverside on September 8th and
Coasters Bar & Grill in Santa Cruz, California on Sept 15th.