A few months ago I wrote about how soul music in Melbourne had finally come of age. Unbeknownst to me at the time of writing, preparation was in place which resulted in the creation of The Soul of Melbourne, a compilation that brings together some of the best tracks that the Melbourne soul scene has to offer.
On the surface you know you’re in safe hands being complied by the two people who can claim Melbourne soul is part of their expertise; the Godfather of Melbourne Soul, Chris Gill (Northside Records), and the man responsible some of the best tracks to have come out of this city, Lance Ferguson (The Bamboos).
The obvious inclusions are all there such as funk and soul heavy weights The Bamboos and Saskwatch, bad ass groove playing young’ns The Cactus Channel, the slick and sexy Electric Empire, and recent U.S Billboard Chart entrant Clairy Browne and The Bangin Rackettes.
Further to this, the diversity of Melbourne Soul is on offer featuring the afrobeat goodness of Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, the hypnotic bollywood sounds of The Bombay Royale, and the downtempo soul grooves of Chet Faker.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Melbourne soul compilation if it didn’t showcase the depth of the scene with two of my favourite bands The Putbacks and Deep Street Soul, and two bands that were previously unknown to me, The Mighty Show Stoppers and Gypsy Brown. For me, the discovery of these last two bands makes the record well worth the purchase.
This compilation marks a flag in the road for what I hope will be an ever strengthening Melbourne soul scene. In particular it shows how far Melbourne rhythm sections have come with the amount of quality instrumental tracks that don’t just make the cut, but hold their own when compared to vocal tracks. It does however highlight the lack of male vocal talent that exists to the extent that Sly Johnson featuring The Bamboos was included. Whilst it is a high quality track and an A1 performance from The Bamboos, I can’t help but wonder if the inclusion was necessary to help balance this shortcoming.
Overall, regardless of what type of soul music you like, and regardless of where you live, you will not be disappointed with this record. It demonstrates the quality, depth and diversity that Melbourne soul has to offer. And whilst New York is without a doubt the soul capital of the world, it shows why Melbourne has placed itself on the map.
** I’m still listening to a digital version. The wax, I’m told should drop late December and I’m hoping includes liner notes about all the bands.