Picture of The Soul Seven
Dallas often gets overlooked for it history of musical significance. Sure, there’s Stevie Ray Vaughn, Pantera and Erykah Badu. But if you peel back a layer or 2, Dallas has produced some outstanding artists with some significant records. Some were local hits. Some have become highly collectible. We thought we’d take a few moments to highlight some of what Dallas has produced over the last 50 years. There are some releases that didn’t make the list because there were no available sound clips to post, notably 2 albums by Les Watson & The Panthers and a soul 45 by Gene Tilley. These are listed in no particular order and by is by no means a complete list.
MC K-Cold and DJ Rock D – Yellow Hammer (1988)
The year must have been 1989. I was at a Boogie Down Productions concert with my good friend Derrick Wright at Club Countach, a rolling skating rink turned club/live venue. I distinctly remember hearing Yellow Hammer from 1 of the DJs before the BDP show and how into the song the crowd was. It was a local hit, pressed locally at A&R. At the time, you could get it at Sound Warehouse for $3.99. 25+ years later, it’s more of a local rarity as copies rarely turn up. But it’s an important release in Dallas’ hip hop history. They did a follow-up release in 1992 called The Bad Seed and it didn’t make as much of an impact but it is still equally as good and equally as rare. K-Cold has gone on to produce some extremely rare late 90s rap CD’s by Mr Hard.
Kenny & The Kasuals – Journey to Tyme (Mark, 1966)
Kenny and the Kasuals hit the Dallas club scene in the mid 1960s and released a few singles on the Mark label in 1965-66, the most popular of them being Journey To Tyme. It was a bit of a local hit and was eventually licensed nationally to the United Artists label. The best garage 45s are punctuated by snotty vocals and fuzz guitars and this 1 fits the bill and has become somewhat of a classic in the genre. Both pressings are a tough pull these days.
Cleo McNett – Let The Music Guide You/Life/All of Me (McNett Records, 1984?-1986)
Lo-fi 80s soul and boogie is what these EPs are about. All 3 were made in a short span of a couple years and then McNett seemingly disappeared. It took me a few years to figure out that I had a mutual acquaintance that actually engineered these sessions but even then he didn’t know how to reach him so finding him was an impossibility. Snap is my favorite cut on the 3, an instrumental which grooves for several minutes with a lengthy keyboard (keytar?) solo. The vocal cuts are outstanding as well and all 3 EPs are collectible.
Timothy McNealy – Sagitarrius Black/Funky Movement No. 2
One of the most legendary funk 45s from Dallas is this 2-sider from Timothy McNealy. Both cuts are funk at its finest and its rawest. Sagittarius Black is the instrumental cut, a slow burner highlighted by a thick bassline, heavy drums and nice keys. Funky Movement No. 2 is a racous vocal cut with horns, congas and again heavy drums- because a truly great funk 45 has to have heavy drums. This 45 as well as some of McNealy’s Shawn catalog have been reissued on Truth & Soul so you won’t have to shell out a couple months rent.
Various Artists – A New Hi (Tempo 2, 1971)
This album presents a little bit of a problem for me. Its historical significance is that it is the first time Stevie Ray Vaughn appears on record at 15 years old on Cast Of Thousand’s I Heard a Voice Last Night. However, that’s far from the best song on this album. To my ears, the best cuts on this album are the psych-tinged offerings of unknowns Stone Sypher and Image. Copies of this album also came with a poster of the bands, though when this album does show up it rarely still has the poster in it. What were people doing with it?
MC E-Rock – One The Hard Way EP (Serious Records, 1991)
Definitely 1 of my favorite Dallas rap releases, from what’s considered the golden era of hip hop in the early 90s. It’s that sweet spot time period when producers were figuring out how to string together sample-based hip hop records before it became a legal issue. So many great records were made during this time and One The Hard Way is Dallas’ signature release for this type of hip hop. Lyrical Graffiti is the best cut on the EP, an uptempo loop-based jam with James Brown-ish yells and grunts. I used to see this record at Sound Warehouse for $3.99, how I miss those days!
Marvin Peterson & The Soulmasters – In Concert (Century Records, 1969)
Well I’m going to cheat a little bit here and move up I-35 a few miles to Denton Texas. Marvin Peterson’s first record was self-released through Century Records in 1969 and is 1 of the area’s rarest releases with a rumored press run of only 50 copies. Recorded at The Burning Bush in November of 1968, it’s an outstanding mixture of soul and jazz and is a stop-and-listen-to-entire-thing type of album. All killer, no filler. An original copy of this album would likely cost more than the gold Yugo I drove in high school.
Love Company – Love Tempo (SRO, 1980)
This 45 is a relatively new discovery. I first got word of it when DJ Hi-C at rehashmedia.com found a copy at a local shop a few years ago. The band A-sided a ballad but the real business is the B-side Love Tempo, a fast-paced disco vocal that has become a hot commodity on the British northern soul and disco circuits. Dallas isn’t know for a many great disco records but this one stands out.
The Last Days – Self Titled (Self Released, 1972)
Quite rare downer folk psych from Irving, self-released as a vanity press in 1972. Acoustic guitars and above average vocal harmonies have made this a collectible LP in some circles though on His Love Is Real the song progresses into an electric guitar burner. Only a handful of copies have surfaced over the years.
Willie Griffin and Company – I Love You (Grip Records, 1984)
Rarely does a record with such an out of tune guitar ooze with so much soul. It’s hard to believe that was recorded in 1984 as it’s deeply rooted in a more 70s soul vibe. It’s been favorably compared by our good friend Rerog to the Bay Area’s Darondo (Youtube Darondo’s Didn’t I and you’ll likely notice it was used in Breaking Bad). It’s a record that defies description but is at the same time a classic around here.
Hammer Witch – Return To Salem (DTA Records, 1987)
Metal is admittedly not a genre I know much about but I do know this record. Released around the same time as Pantera’s self-released albums, Return To Salem cuts a little deeper and although only 6 cuts long it ranks as 1 of Dallas’ most sought after heavy metal albums.
Dark Like a Restaurant – Sight (VVV, 1981)
VVV has a couple of highly sought after punk 45s in Bobby Soxx and The Ejectors but the Dark Like a Restaurant 45 is my favorite record on the label with it’s minimal synth undercurrent. Released in 1981, Sight was produced during an experimental period where synthesizers and drum machines were mixed with live instruments and where punk, new wave and dance music all intersected with sometimes great results. VVV also became a record store that sadly closed in the early 90s but was once home to one Mark Griffin (aka MC 900 Foot Jesus), who can also be found on an early VVV release by The Telefones.
The Soul Seven – The Cissy’s Thing/Mr. Chicken (Soultex, 1969)
Soultex might be the best label name ever with the best logo ever to come out of Dallas. Produced by Dallas mainstay Roger Boykin, Cissy’s Thing has been sampled by the likes of DJ Premier for Christina’s Aguilera’s Ain’t No Other Man. Mr. Chicken holds down the A-side with it’s JBs-esque funk instrumental with obligatory horns, drums and guitar riffs.
Left And Right Shoe MC’s Featuring DJ Rated X – Don’t Stop (Talking Horse Records, 1987)
Left And Right Shoe MC’s had a trio of releases in the late 80s that ventured more into Miami electro bass territory than southern rap and not surprisingly their first release of the 3 was released on a Miami label. The 2 later releases on their own Talking Horse Records was engineered and produced by Patrick Keel of The Pool and he steers the sessions into more of a dance party vibe not unlike some of the Luke Skyywalker records from the same era. Don’t Stop is the best cut from the 2 Talking Horses EPs, which were pressed locally at A&R Records.
Tim and Bill – Someone (Cottonball, late 60s)
Someone is an interesting record. It crosses a few genres and fits into the garage and soul categories with even a little bit of country. You gotta love the simplicity of the label artwork and fonts. Many will notice the drums at the beginning as the basis for DJ Shadow’s Organ Donor and he will usually load those drums onto an MPC and play them live during his shows. It was produced by Ron Price, who had his hands in a few different garage releases like The Mystics Didn’t We Have a Good Time and The Facts of Life LP on Sevens International.
The Gentlemen – It’s a Cry’n Shame (Vandan, 1967)
The most desirable of all Dallas garage 45s, Cry’n Shame has all the elements that make a great garage 45: fuzz guitar, sneering vocals and a lot of attitude. I’ve never seen a copy of this record and regularly commands 4 figures. There’s a great article and interview with surviving members of the band on the Garage Hangover website.
Round Robin And Brimstone – Self Titled (Platinum City, 1980)
Soaring modern soul and disco throughout this album with Plenty Good Lovin’ being the standout song. The recording sounds like it was done in a big spacious room, which gives the songs an ethereal and somewhat spiritual quality to them, perhaps producer Arris Wheaton’s intent as he produced several gospel albums as well. Some sealed copies turned up several years ago but this album is still a hard one to find. The label also produced a couple of nice 45s.
Bobby Patterson – I’m In Love With You (Jetstar Records, 1970)
What can you say about Bobby Patterson that hasn’t already been said? He’s a fixture of the Dallas soul scene that continues to perform to this day. There are a dozen songs that could have been included here but for my money I’ll take this one. I’m In Love With You is a feel-good love song that has become a staple on the UK northern soul circuit. There are promos of this that came on yellow vinyl but the full release black vinyl copies are equally difficult to find. Though not his biggest hit it’s really one of his best.
Window – Self Titled (New Life Records, 1974)
Window is a soft psych folk album with a Christian focus, released in 1974 on the New Life label. The cover art makes the release more intriguing. Not much is know about the record but it does have a few good songs on it and is relatively rare.
Rainbow Promise – Self Titled (Wine Press Records, 1972)
Yet another Christian album yet this one is polar opposite from Window; this was released by the Wine Press label in Missouri but they were a Dallas band. Rarely do Christian LPs get this heavy. Recorded with what sounds like a minimal microphone setup, their self titled album has a couple songs of scorching fuzz guitar as they spread their gospel in the heaviest of ways.
The Relatives – Don’t Let Me Fall (Hosanna Records, 1971)
Not even a decade ago The Relatives were an obscure gospel group that played in the late 60s and early 70s in Dallas and Shreveport. Even in the 45 collector’s world little was known about them. When a couple 45s were found by a local collector in the mid 2000s, he set out to try and find the band in hopes of discovering unreleased material. After a compilation was released with a few rare 45s plus some unknown recordings on Austin-based Heavy Light Records in 2009, The Relatives had a resurgence and have become one of Dallas’ great successes. Sadly founding member Gean West passed away last year though surviving members continue on in his name.