CALVIN ARNOLD: Funky Way (Kent)

The first soul release of 2024 from Ace/Kent features some in-demand funk from Southern soul man Calvin Arnold. Not that well-known in the mainstream, Southern soul collector, though, might know a little something about the Atlanta-based singer/songwriter/guitarist who worked extensively with Mighty Hannibal before  going into production and studio work.

His place in soul history, however, is secured by the fact that he was amongst the first artists to work for Mickey Stevenson’s Venture set up. Motown fans will know that Stevenson quit the Gordy empire in 1969 to set up his own People label but he was also brought in by MGM Records to front up their Venture subsidiary – an imprint designed  to grab a slice of the burgeoning soul market. Arnold’s single, ‘Funky Way’ became Venture’s first release and, as  you can guess from the title, the sound was a far cry from the smooth, polished sounds of Motown and despite having the word “funky” in the title (in 1967 that word was considered impolite to say the least) the record (with an equally tough ‘Snatchin’ Back’ on the B side) became a hit.

Arnold released a clutch of less successful singles for Venture and they’re all included in this Kent “round up” album of his Venture output. Sound wise, it’s Southern rough-hewn funk most of the way. The Northern fraternity will love the racy ‘Mini Skirt’ while anoraks will discover a couple of Willie Hutchinson songs/productions. They are the gritty ‘Scobbie Doo’ and the insistent ‘Mama-In –Law’ with a story line that been used many, many times in soul.

The collection also delivers five previously unreleased numbers including the up-tempo mover ‘Your Love Is Too Much’ and the southern funk grooves of ‘Trying To Fly My Kite (In Rainy Weather)’ and ‘Fool Me Baby’.

The album (released at the end of January) will be available in both CD and vinyl formats. The LP and CD have the same tracks but the CD is chronologically ordered by release, whereas the LP is programmed for “optimum listening pleasure for that format.” Completing the package there’s a 5,000-word biography of Arnold from musicologist Brian Poust and a host of archive photos. Pre-orders are now being taken.

(BB) 3/5