The deep-funk preservationists at Truth & Soul Records return with the second volume of its Fallin’ off the Reel series. Collecting the label’s signature limited-edition seven-inches for the non-shellac-accessible, Volume 2 perfunctorily updates us by compiling releases since 2006, when Volume 1 was released. However, more notable is this edition’s combination of vintage and retro-sounding tracks, which contrasts with the debut volume’s contemporary heavy output. Such a mixture better contextualizes the label’s efforts and draws clear connections between Truth & Soul and the history of homegrown music.
Of special note to Volume 2 is the inclusion of the label’s recent (re-)discoveries: Sammy Campbell, better known as Tyrone Ashley, and Timothy "Dr. Mack" McNealy. A musician and producer based in Plainfield, New Jersey, who came up alongside George Clinton and the Parliaments (pre-P-Funk days), Campbell performed and recorded with some of the tri-state’s brightest talents, including future funkateers like Billy "Bass" Nelson, Eddie Hazel, and Bernie Worrell.
In the ’70s, Campbell used his Ashley alter ego as an outlet for several funk sides, but these recordings remained largely unnoticed until they were reissued late last year on the Let Me Be Your Man LP. Two tracks from this compilation, "Just a Little While Longer" and "I Can’t Help Myself," pop up here, alongside other Campbell productions including the understandably mellow grooves of Black Velvet. Similarly charming are McNealy’s intimate covers of Marvin Gaye’s "What’s Going On" and Al Green’s "I’m So Glad You’re Mine," both originally released on his own Shawn Records. Though all of these recordings overtly reference popular aesthetics and tastes, they also bump and grind in their own rusty ways and demonstrate the artistic (though obviously noncommercial) viability of independent, basement-style recordings.
Alongside these dusty grooves, the recent efforts of Bronx River Parkway and Lee Fields & The Expressions come full circle. Both groups feature musicians who are contemporaries of Campbell and McNealy, yet have found a second wind late in life writing and performing music that directly references a shared past. Taken together, their mature afro-latin cocktail music and Willie Hutch-worthy soul now sound less like revivalist homage than guys just doing what they know best. Such pure joy erases any commercial pretense about the label’s efforts and demonstrates the Truth & Soul’s commitment to maintaining the legacy of independent music.