Various ‘Down and Wired Vol 1’ LP/CD/DIG (Perfect Toy) 3/5

down-wired-vol1Now that most contemporary music is just a click away and algorithms, playlist and shuffle functions ‘help’ us configure and determine our musical tastes, the role of the compiler seems almost redundant. Almost, that is except for the collecting together and digitization of obscure sounds from the pre-digital age. Munich-based DJ Marcus Hacker runs Perfect Toy along similar lines to labels like Strut, Tramp Records and Soundway, in that their focus is in releasing obscure, old music or artists inspired by it. Both Tramp and Perfect Toy work in similar genres and eras – long out of print and ‘rare as hen’s teeth’ jazz, funk or soul 7-inch singles from the ‘60s through to the ‘80s, a period in the States when it was relatively cheap and easy to release the shorter form of music either privately or via local independent record labels. Of course there isn’t a direct correlation between rarity and quality and this can lead to patchy results within these compilations.
Perfect Toy’s latest series “Down and Wired” promises a “dose of psychedelic funk & blue eyed soul” from the ‘60s and ‘70s. A quick glance at the list of artists reveals no familiar names, but lots of old school charm; bad puns or the type of band names that would have quickly been ditched had they made any headway in the industry. Many of the musicians grew up and performed away from the glare of the bright lights – instead of New York, Detroit or San Francisco read the rather less evocative Camden, New Jersey, Jackson, Michigan or Massillon, Ohio. For most recording a single or two, maybe even an album, was the next step, following a degree of success performing locally. This is how organist John Hurd, the leader of The Revised Brotherhood came to release their single “Tragedy”, whilst still a senior at high school. They only pressed 100 copies and sold them to friends and family.
Hurd wanted his group to sound like Blood, Sweat and Tears. Other influences show through in the choice of songs or their execution. There are covers of The Zombies “She’s Not There” and BB King’s “Nobody Loves Me But My Mama”; Gary Gillespie, the lead singer of By-Chantz Operation, does a passable Elvis impression; echoes of Jimi Hendrix in Skuzzy Frogg’s “Nation”; and even a touch of Sun Ra about Robert Stark and The Geniuses’ “Space Traveling, Pt 1”.
I’m not entirely sure that the albums tagline quite encapsulates the variety or type of music on offer as the lack of any reference to the blues omits a sound that features heavily, from the soulful sounding “Nobody Loves Me..”, the lyrical “Going West” and the one modern track, the horn-led “Mosquito Eater”.
For me one word sums up this collection – energy. I can’t say that this energy is always expended in the right direction or with the greatest degree of craft, but there is something honest and raw about many of the songs that won me over after a few listens.

Andy Hazell