20 Years ago the Groove Merchant record store opened its doors on Haight Street in San Francisco. The rare funk, soul and jazz emporium became a mecca for collectors, DJs, music fans and producers. It was also the birthplace for the Luv N'Haight and Ubiquity Record labels.
To celebrate this anniversary, Groove Merchant Record store owner Chris Veltri is collaborating with Luv N’Haight and has compiled a tasty selection of 14 musical treats that range from soulful disco to dusty funky folk, and beyond.
This blog is dedicated to the release and features audio for each track along with info we dug up along the way. Overtime we'll add more Groove Merchant and Luv N'Haight related goodies, interviews, tracks etc.
The title track from their little-known debut was released by McCrary (also known as The McCrarys) in 1973. Howard McCrary, the song-writer, was joined by two sisters (Linda and Charity) and two brothers (Sam and Alfred) in the group. They started off as a gospel outfit, and then recorded the Emerge album. Howard took a break from the band to pursue solo goals, only to return later in the decade. Later releases including the Loving is Living album which featured liner notes by Stevie Wonder, and appearances from David Foster, Chuck Rainey and George Bohannon. Howard McCrary would go on to co-write the song “In Time” with Maurice White for Earth Wind and Fire, and the band would tour with The O’Jays, Gladys Knight, and The Jacksons amongst others. Howard currently lives in Hong Kong, but this compilation has re-united him with Fred Werner, owner of the California-based Cats Eye label who originally released the album.
NYC-based dancer Ron Forella is pictured on the front cover of the On the Move album from which “Crystals” is taken. Sadly Forella passed-away in 1989. Flip the original album over and you’ll discover (if you read the finer print), that Forella may have been the man behind the moves, but he was not the man behind the music. That honor belongs to sculptor, teacher, and musician Thom Janusz. “Crystals” is loaded with drum breaks and doused with dreamy Rhodes and wah wah guitar in a dramatic and cinematic style that you could be forgiven for mistaking as long lost early Love Unlimited Orchestra.
Still Loving You, by Twilight, was originally released in 1981. Housed in a low-fi generic album cover, this very polished, professionally produced record sounds like it was made by a super talented band. Strains of Earth Wind and Fire, George Duke and Roy Ayers, flow through a collection of tunes that effortlessly blend soul, disco, funk, Latin and Brazilian vibes. But looks, as evident with the LP cover, can be deceptive. Twilight was not a band. In fact, with the exception of a guest horn section and one guest vocal, Twilight was, and still is, Lawrence Ross; one man with a clear vision of what his music should sound like, and how he would make it on his own. He recorded “Straight From The Heart,” along with the rest of the album in a week long process all by himself. He would lay down one part per day – drums, bass lines, keys, etc for each track, squeezing them into a recording session each morning after his night shift.
The Numonics band has roots as far back as 1970. Mickey Moore, a member of the 2nd version of the Oakland-based outift, released the Rollin’ album on his Hodisk label in 1982. The life story of Moore, which took a serious nosedive not long after the album was released, provides an amazing, and occasionally extremely violent, backdrop to a great soul tune. On December 10, 1984, the Oakland Vice Officers and the FBI raided his home in the Oakland Hills, where they found money, heroin, and cocaine. He was arrested and faced fifty years in the Federal Penitentiary. Moore says “the day after my arrest, I made Jesus the Lord of my life, and months later I pleaded guilty and was sentenced to twenty years in the Federal Penitentiary, (which I called my Wilderness), learning the ways of The Lord Jesus Christ.” He is now out of jail and runs the Key to The Heart International Church in Oakland.
The surf-documentary, Going Surfin’, was produced by renowned surf photographer Bud Brown and released in 1973. Sounding like a funky acoustic guitar-driven track by Ellen McIlaine or Susan Christie, “Sunlit Horizon” is the stand-out cut on the original soundtrack. New York City-born and Southern California-raised, Fulladosa is still performing and recording from her home base in Victoria, B.C., Canada. Over the years she has performed and collaborated with everyone from Boz Scaggs to Bryan Adams.
The super obscure Winding River compilation album, released on Burnt Chimney Records in 1971, features this laid back soulful folk tune. At the age of 19, Abernethy penned “Ron and Eddie Blues” and “Cavalry” for the compilation. He doesn’t remember what the inspiration was for the latter, but Ron and Eddies was a 1950s style diner in his hometown of Forest City, NC, where all the locals would hang out. The animated neon-chef sign greeted locals to diner faire of burgers and fries, and Abernethy was friends with Eddie, although never knew who Ron was. Before making a successful career out of making music for commercials and video games Abernethy recorded and released a solo album called “Solo Rod Abernethy” in 1975 and a year later joined Arrogance, a popular NC band, who he played with for 5 years.
Surely this is Lonnie Liston Smith under a pseudonym? Nope. That awesome synth and Rhodes-laden nastiness is the work of Russ and (sister) Dale Kirkland, aka September. “Stump,” titled after a member of the group (who had a deformed finger from birth), is from their 1981 private press debut album “I’ve Been Thinking.” “We were a song short of the standard 10 cuts,” Dale Kirkland says about the origins of the track. “I had written some instrumental music inspired by a group called Koinonia. We only pressed 1000 albums, so if you have one, it is rare. We were eager to get on with the next one.”
The 1978 recording of this Bobby Miller track has been overshadowed by the more polished version by Eddie Kendricks. This crunchy, DJ-friendly, disco nugget was one of 37 singles released by the Hollywood-based Claridge label. The label also released music by Bo Kirkland aka Mike James Kirkland, and the Five Easy Pieces. It was eventually bought up by MPL, the publishing business founded by Sir Paul McCartney in the early 1970s. Writer Bobby Miller was on-staff at Cadet producing The Dells, and he also wrote for David Ruffin.