Review : Various Artists - The Best of Perception & Today Records
PopmattersListen—it’s usually par to use a record label’s “Best Of” compilation as an opportunity to talk about genres begetting genres, weigh the careers that benefitted most from their time on said record label, and maybe bind it all together with an “Oh, those were different times” speech on how our own “fragmented” era compares unfavorably. Surely all of that could be done with these 30 cuts, collected from a short-lived New York label from the early ‘70s: the cover describes the contents as funk/soul/breaks/jazz/Latin/rock, and the fact that Perception existed only from the tail end of the ‘60s through 1974—the year of Watergate and the start of the Vietnam War’s fade-out—adds historical implications that books could and have been written about. There’s certainly a running theme of sadness or yearning (as there tends to be with anything that ends too soon) that’s accentuated by the music’s muffled sound and sparer-than-you-might-think sense of arrangements; it’s the sound of frustration at ideas having blurred away with no specific aim (if indeed they ever had one) and the sound of positivity that comes with trying to find a new footing with the leftovers of those ideas.
As I started spending more time with these songs, blueprints of hip-hop and otherwise, and considering Perception’s capital-I “Importance”, the label’s own slogan began to seem more and more relevant: “If it’s on Perception, it’s Today”. Even leaving aside that that could be taken literally, a countercultural motto of sorts, the music itself seemed to gain a newness with each listen, and I realized that the important thing wasn’t just that the stuff was made in the early ‘70s—which is crucial, of course—but that the compiled stuff arrived when it did: now. Not to get all determinist on y’all, but the fact that such stimulating (and assimilating) music was released in the spring of 2012—and awaits your summer eagerly—can only be a sign of the times. This is the best compilation of any kind of music I’ve heard in a long time, always in motion but never wearying; always contrastive but strangely cohesive. And also, y’know, really really fun....full text
AllmusicThis compilation's title and subtitle are slightly misleading. First, these discs don't necessarily provide the best of Perception and subsidiary Today, two New York labels active during the first half of the '70s. The set, as astutely as its selections were made, is closer to one perspective than a definitive overview; one could make a very different version that would be just as impressive and enjoyable. Second, while Perception and Today were certainly underground compared to the more visible majors, they had considerable clout, with releases featuring the well-known likes of Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, Johnny Hartman, Bobby Rydell (no, really), and Astrud Gilberto, as well as future Verve artist Lucky Peterson -- a prodigy who appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show. ...full text
ThemusicAmerican DJ Spinna is untouchable when it comes to selection of fine funk and soul. His club sets are a wild mix of hedonism and education. Spinna is as likely to drop the rarest of rare grooves right into the biggest of party anthems, making the anthem sound like an obscure soul gem and the rare groove like a familiar clubbing soundtrack. So letting Spinna loose on the back catalogue of late '60s/early '70s Perception Productions and Today Records, makes perfect sense.
Perception and Today covered a lot of territory, from political Afrofunk (Adam Wade & John Pate's Brother) and yacht disco (Wanda Robinson's Instant Replay) through to fusion funk (Madhouse's Get Some Of This) and wonky jazz (Tyrone Washington's Submission). The artists range from the obscure (The Eight Minutes, Debby Taylor) to the well-known in certain circles acts (JJ Barnes, The Fatback Band) and the purely iconic (Astrud Gilberto, Dizzy Gillespie). That sounds like a typical night out for Spinna.
And somehow a big soul ballad like You And I by Black Ivory sits comfortably amongst the noodling jazz of Bartel and proto-acid jazz of James Moody. Nor does Wanda Robinson's feminist poetry jar with the crooning of Bobby Rydell and mod-soul of Julius Brockington....full text
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