Review : Various Artists - Eccentric Soul: Smart's Palace
PitchforkImagine a word-association game matching cities to their defining characteristics. I say Boston, you might say chowder or Red Sox or baked beans. For New Orleans, you might say gumbo or Mardi Gras or Katrina. Wichita... a lot of things might come to mind (my #1 is lineman), but soul music is probably not among the first hundred or so. Well, the Smart family begs to differ. Back in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, various Smart brothers (there were eight of them) ruled various aspects of a soul empire that included a band, club, restaurant, record store, and record label. They sent raiding parties to major cities on the West Coast, East Coast, and Third Coast, and cut enough great records to fill a pretty killer compilation.
The Smart Brothers Band was one of a few R&B show bands to rise in Wichita in the late 50s, and by all accounts they delivered in concert, as recounted in Numero's typically extensive liner notes. John and Leroy Smart were the band's animated front line, jumping from table to table in the club while soloing, popping handstands, and dragging audience members onstage in unusual ways-- by grabbing their belt buckles with their teeth and tugging, for instance. Their bass-playing brother Dick was the businessman of the bunch, launching all the ventures listed above apart from the band itself, and he in many ways was the engine under the hood of Wichita's soul scene. The discography of the various Smart Brothers lineups, which themselves went by a few different names, is limited, and here is augmented by recordings made by other artists for Dick Smart's Solo label, many of which feature a similar group of musicians....full text
PopmattersIt’s hard to classify precisely what exactly Numero Group’s never-ending Eccentric Soul series does, but perhaps the best descriptor for it is simply that it does for soul music what the Criterion Collection does for classic films: preserving lost classics and making them readily available for a whole new generation of avid fans.
On Smart’s Palace—the 11th entry in Numero’s Eccentric series—we follow the strange and tortured journey of the Wichita-based Smart brothers, a talented family of brothers that relished the classic Motown peak-era soul sound without making too many commercial concessions, the band’s live sets led by John and Leroy Smart doing their best to one-up each other in terms of sheer showmanship (doing backflips and handstands and the like—best evidenced on the cover of this particular release), their crazy antics becoming just as vital to raising the Smart Brothers’ profile as the music itself....full text
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