Soul music is a genre that only came into my collection within the last five years. My interest was spurred on by some of the amazing collectors and labels I’ve discovered online. I’ve learned so much about soul music from these avenues and am continually finding out about great new labels and artists to follow. There are two specialty soul labels in particular that are consistently putting out great releases and need to be on your radar – Big AC Records and The Preservation Project. Their recent releases, predominantly 45s, are absolutely brilliant.
Abi Farrell on Big AC Records
Big AC Records is a newer label founded in East London by husband and wife duo Nick Corbin and Sophie Heath. Big AC is focused on discovering new talent in the soul and funk scene and delivering high quality, limited edition vinyl releases. Corbin is a musician and songwriter himself, and deeply involved in the production of each release. Heath is a DJ and radio host who brings an immense knowledge of soul music, as well as her artistic abilities, to help craft the label’s releases. I was lucky enough to discover and connect with them through Instagram to learn about the incredible music they’re releasing.
Big AC’s latest 45 comes from British singer/songwriter Abi Farrell, a true understated powerhouse vocalist. The A-side “Empowered” is a head turner — the kind of track that will make you pause when you hear it and want to find out all about it. The beautiful timbre of Farrell’s voice shines bright above the disco-infused groove that is impossible not to move to. Lyrically, “Empowered” is an impressive anthem for women today. With a first verse declaring “I knew who I was before you came on the scene / I can make ambition grow from a tiny seed,” it’s all about valuing independence and remembering one’s and worth. Farrell leads off the chorus singing, “If I don’t feel empowered now I never will.” It’s a poignant reminder to practice self-love and make time for ourselves.
“I Will See You Through” is a delightful companion with a retro soul feel. On the flip side, it speaks to a form of friendly empowerment — a friend who will always be true and be there to bring a smile to your face. It’s the perfect complement to “Empowered,” and both tracks have a timeless feeling about them while being perfectly crafted for our current times. This vinyl release is limited to 500 and available on Big AC’s website, where you can also preorder their upcoming release from Carmy Love that is giving me major Sharon Jones vibes.
Third Creation on The Preservation Project
The Preservation Project is an indie label from Austin, Texas, specializing in obscure funk and soul music from the 1960s – 1980s. The group does the work of discovering and recovering lost tracks and pressing them to vinyl in small batches. Most of TPP’s recordings come from a single acetate or tape without much information known about the artists. The unknown surrounding the music is definitely alluring; it’s pretty cool to know that the record you’re holding is truly one-of-a-kind and has been saved from the depths of a basement. The Preservation Project has really created a community feeling; these wonderful recordings are released into the world, and people are invited to enjoy and contribute any knowledge they may have about them.
The latest release I grabbed from TPP is MS-002, the second in their Master Series of records which are sourced from rougher recordings from busted acetates. Given this type of origin and a stated disclaimer on the release, you should expect a scratchier sound, but it by no means detracts from the music. The two sides of MS-002 are both covers from a group known as Third Creation. Though there was a Chicago group by the same name that released the well-known song “Puppet on A Chain,” it is believed these tracks come from a different group.
The A-side is a cover of “Leave It All Behind Me” by vocal trio The Fuzz. Third Creation’s version has been described as “looser”, but I’d argue that the harmonies are pretty tight. There’s a resoluteness to it that’s not present in the original; the group definitely put its own stamp on this track. This is a double sider in my biased opinion as a big-time Neil Young fan — the B-side is the beginnings of a “Down by The River” cover. When I first heard the preview spin of the song on TPP’s Instagram page, I was stopped in my tracks. “Is that a groovy, psychedelic version of “Down by The River?” I thought to myself. Indeed it was. It’s an unfinished take that leaves the listener wondering where the group could have gone with it while still being an incredibly satisfying listen.
Like most of The Preservation Project’s releases, this 45 sold out very quickly. Their next release sold out just a few hours after pre-orders were opened. Take my advice — if you are interested in discovering hidden soul gems, sign up for The Preservation Project’s newsletter and be timely when new releases are announced. They are giving a new life to fantastic music that deserves to be heard, and I cannot praise them enough for all that they do.