Ubiquity Records: Fifteenth Anniversary
Although the same sort of rarities compilation as Searching for Soul, Digs creates a much different effect. Individually, most tracks sound more musically adventurous and exploratory, which means that collectively the compilation moves through several different musical moods. Dorando's opening "Didn't I" is a soul ballad swaddled in acoustic guitar, strings and cooed vocals a la Curtis Mayfield or Ronnie Isley. "Tribute to Wes," a guitarist's ode to master Montgomery by Muscle Shoals studio session regular Moses Dillard, is an understated yet sparkling instrumental gem. Lonnie Hewitt, a Bay Area native who played piano on several Cal Tjader albums (including the classics Soul Sauce and Black Orchid) shimmies the dust off of Latin soul in "Ya Ya Cha Cha." "A Perfect Day" tells its tale through the rippling piano and vocals of Bobby Cole, who once led the house band at Frank Sinatra's legendary club The Watering Hole and also served as musical director for Judy Garland.
Digs is dominated by the fifteen-minute "The Prayer" by the World Experience Orchestra, the exploratory, inner-space / outer-space sound of Pharoah Sanders (on saxophone) and Yusef Lateef (on flute) sitting in with the Sun Ra Arkestra as, in the background, the band rows through the serpentine waters of an ancient Egyptian waltz.
Annual compilations of Ubiquity artists exploring and updating tracks by that influenced their music, Rewind! has become one of the label's flagship brands. This fourth volume stays the series' almost perversely wide-ranging course, thumping club and hip-hop updates of funk, Latin, rock and soul originals by Cameo, Joni Mitchell, Sly & The Family Stone, Woody Guthrie, Burt Bacharach and others.
SA-RA Creative Partners, electronic hip-hoppers based in Los Angeles, update Stone's "Just Like a Baby" into a jarring, harsh electronic sound, brittle with the psychosis and paranoia suggested by the title of the Family Stone album it comes from, There's A Riot Going On. Another band from LA, Orgone, dishes out a scalding spoonful of the great, lost island funk classic "Funky Nassau" (originally by The Beginning of the End, a mostly family band from the Bahamas).
Two artists from the UK score some of Rewind!4's highest marks. The production team Yam Who? polishes "The Star of the Story," a hit for Heatwave midst the 1978 height of disco, into twinkling love music both electronic and soulful, knitting together its gentle pulse from soft hip-hop beats and a lilting melody. Female vocalist Willis musically "goes the other way": Instead of further electrifying or beat-boxing "Word Up," she strips Cameo's macho electro-funk down to a droll acoustic country blues, sort of like Tracy Chapman, a combination of style and substance that most likely makes almost no sense when you READ it but almost perfect sense when you HEAR it.
"We're as excited about our 16th year as any other," Jervis says. "The music business may be going through some crazy stuff but we welcome the challenges and changes this may bring. We have a handful of brand new artists (Nino Moschella, Owusu and Hannibal, and Radio City) with releases that will drop next to music from some of the established Ubiquity acts like Greyboy and Breakestra, so it should be as interesting as always!"