Reviews

Various Artists

Though Florida made more of a contribution to the popular funk and disco sound of the Seventies than the state's most famous export, KC & the Sunshine Band, that group's commercial success tends to overshadow the musical achievements of others. Miami Sound rectifies that wrong by illuminating a point of local pride: our role in making quality funk jams.

Husband and wife Gwen and George McCrae are the most well-known artists on this collection, and their two separate contributions are enduring highlights. Gwen, who peaked nationally with the 1975 Billboard top ten hit "Rockin' Chair," is featured here with "90% of Me is You," which still commands discerning house and disco nightclubs with its warbling backing track and a heart-wrenching message rendered by a voice gorgeously straining with emotion. Meanwhile George, who topped the charts a year before his wife with "Rock Your Baby," is represented with "I Get Lifted." Its smoky dance-floor momentum is anchored by a tense, push-and-pull bass line that was once used by RZA to form the blunted basis behind Method Man's "Bring the Pain."

But the McCraes don't stand out like sore thumbs here. They are in good company with musicians who had great chops but weren't able to break out of the region to achieve national fame or lasting financial success. Helene Smith and Frank Williams & the Rocketeers, respectively, provide alternate gender takes on two separate versions of "Got To Be a Man," and both are so good it's hard to declare either as the superior version. Della Humphrey's pleading "Don't Let Good Girls Go Bad" has enough evident turmoil to elicit sympathy for her sexy conflict. Perhaps most fun of all is "Cadillac Annie," a Little Richard-style ditty performed by Clarence Reid, also known as the lovably foul-mouthed comedian Blowfly.

Like many of the compilations released on the Soul Jazz label, a British imprint that often aims to tell similarly overlooked stories in music history, Miami Sound has a plethora of memorable moments. Even though the songs generate a slight bittersweet feeling of what might have been for some of these artists, it nonetheless feels like the soundtrack to a party worth attending.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tamara Palmer