Soul Messages From Dimona – various artists
Fresh from the Numero Group (the cats who brought you the Eccentric Soul series), we have a new compilation of rare funk music, complete with a story that must be told. So here goes.
The history of this music begins around 1965, on the South Side of Chicago. There, a community of African-American Jews held a party one night, with live music to be provided by bassist Charles Hezekiah Blackwell. Blackwell filled out his band for the night with guitarist Thomas Yehudah Whitfield and (drummer?) John Shevat Boyd. And The Soul Messengers were born.
It was also during this time that many in the community decided to move to Liberia, in Western Africa, and the Soul Messengers followed. Unable to find work in Guryea, where they first set up, the band moved on to Monrovia, the capital city. Upon arrival, they performed Cold Sweat on borrowed equipment, and soon found themselves gigging every night, and sending money back to their families in Guryea.
Fast forward to 1972: after a brief return to the U.S., the Soul Messengers reunite in Dimona, Israel and record a few records in Tel Aviv between 1975 and 1978. These sessions also included appearances from groups in the Soul Messengers circle, like the all-female Spirit of Israel, and the Tonistics, a kid group. And you can hear tracks from each of these groups on Soul Messages From Dimona.
Some tracks on here are better than others but, from a historical standpoint, this is all pretty interesting stuff. The music on this disc is what happens when African-American soul musicians from 1960s Chicago, who also happen to be Jewish, migrate to Western Africa, back to the U.S., and then on to Israel. Fascinating, no?
Holding On, from the Tonistics, stinks of Sly and the Family Stone, in all of its wah wah-ed and shared-vocal glory. Hey There is a slow jam by the Sons of the Kingdom that draws from the War sound, and includes soprano sax, acoustic guitar and sparkling Rhodes piano on its frontline. Daniel, by the Spirit of Israel, expresses itself as an intriguing mixture of reggae and gospel (this tune is one of the highlights of the disc). Prince of Zeal, from the Soul Messengers, is your standard fusion instrumental, with guitar and sax playing unison lines. A Place To Be, by The Spirit of Israel, is 3 minutes and 39 seconds of excellent, vintage Motown. These musicians, from Israel by way of Chicago and Africa, touch on many of the key points in 20th century music in just one disc. Wild stuff.