“The Now Sound.” So it says along the disc’s edge of Angel City Records’ debut sampler The New Dimension of Soul & Reggae. There is, of course, a double entendre—a bit of a wink and nod—in that statement. There were plenty of compilation albums in the late 1960s and early ’70s declaring that theirs was The Now Sound. And it’s clear that the eight tracks on New Dimension draw their inspiration from the classic soul, rock steady and early reggae of that era. But it’s also apparent from the rise of artists and labels like The Engine Room (the band who backed Jimmy Cliff on his recent Grammy® winning Rebirth album under the direction of Rancid’s Tim Armstrong), The Lions, The Delirians, and Moon Dust Records, among others, that this is the Sound of Young Los Angeles.
Though founders Mark Morales’ and Wally Caro’s current focus is the classic R&B they spin at their Angel City Soul Club, this disc is dominated by the heavy heavy monster sound of early reggae. At the core of the sampler is Thee Hurricanes, the L.A. quintet whose collective CV includes work with The Aggrolites, Hepcat and the aforementioned Engine Room; their shuffling instrumentals sound like cuts from an alternate universe Tighten Up or other Trojan Records compilation, a sensibility amplified by their backing Jamaican statesman Roy Ellis, founder of the late ’60s reggae group The Pyramids and their alter ego Symarip, who contributes “Can You Feel It.” The band also backs young South El Monte singer Jackie Mendez whose warm voice has a subtle seductiveness that flashes glimpses of an early Gwen Stefani.
Lest they be cited for false advertising, New Dimension does carry two soul cuts from singer Xiantoni Lynch. Daughter of soul singer Gwen Owens, member of the ’70s trio Hot, Ms Lynch delivers a scorching cover of her mom’s pre-Hot solo single “Just Say You’re Wanted and Needed” from 1967. In similar fashion, she opens the collection with “What’s It Gonna Be”; though her vocal performance isn’t as solid as it is on “Wanted and Needed,” the song’s infectious backing track, replete with a drum beat straight from Motown’s Snake Pit, a bassline that’d make Brunswick Records producer Carl Davis glow with pride, and soaring horns, more than compensates.
A limited pressing of 500 copies, The New Dimension of Soul & Reggae is available at Angel City Soul Club events, including this evening’s at The British Dominion and Social Club, 12882 Valley View St. – Suite 11, Garden Grove, CA 92845, (714) 898-6733 (9pm / $5 cover).