Eccentric Soul: The Forte Label - V/A

(Numero Group, 2013)

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"When Marva Whitney died last December at the age of 68, her obituaries were overshadowed by another name: James Brown. Her association with Brown only lasted for three years-- she walked out alongside most of the Famous Flames in 1970, prompting Brown to form the J.B.’s-- but her output as a member of the Godfather’s revue during that brief time proved both fertile and enduring. It took The J.B.’s’ “Female Preacher” Lyn Collins to replace Whitney in 1970 and that speaks volumes about the size of the hole Whitney left in Brown’s roster.

The Forte Label-- the latest archival anthology in Numero Group’s consistently superb Eccentric Soul series-- brings up the question, “What did Whitney do next?” The short answer: She kept on rocking. After her relationship with Brown crumbled, her marriage to singer Harry Whitney ended in divorce. Back in Kansas City, she remarried, and her new husband Ellis Taylor would help her usher in the next phase of her career at his label Forte Records.

The compilation amply demonstrates, Ellis’ eye for talent was as keenly ambitious as it was devotedly KC-centric. That led to standout cuts from Lee Harris-- whose “I Am Gonna Get Your Thing” siphons Johnnie Taylor’s percolating sexiness-- to the Hot Wax-esque funk-pop of “You Confuse Me Baby” by the girl group the Rayons. Beyond that, Ellis lined up the doo-wop-inflected “I’m Gonna Get You” by the Tear Drops, which could be mistaken for an early-60s R&B classic if not for the tight, shuffling, near-funk snare. Louis Chachere’s “The Hen Part 1” is pure, greasy, orgasmic organ-pounding, and Tony Ashley’s “All Along I’ve Loved You” clocks in with the collection’s only ballad-- although it’s a tender, sensuous slow-burner of the Jerry Butler variety. Even the label’s day-late-dollar-short stab at disco-- 1980’s sinuously sultry “Reaching For Our Star” by Sharon Revoal-- shines, thanks to minimal production and an endearingly twinkly jazz-fusion vamp." - Jason Heller for Pitchfork