A gorgeously presented and impeccably curated collection of smouldering Lockdown oddities from the boutique soul and funk imprint, Colemine, Brighter Days Ahead provides a rallying cry for the genius of this niche independent label.
Musicians and labels have had to dig deep in adjusting to the financial and cultural challenges of the Covid pandemic. The Ohio-based cult independent soul label, Colemine, has responded to the disappearance of gigs, the enforced closure of its store and the subsequent hit taken to income streams by issuing a weekly digital singles releases campaign showcasing the breadth of quality on its roster. Housed in yellow and blue vinyl, Brighter Days Ahead is a sumptuous twenty-two-song double LP set consisting of this music released by the label in 2020; one featuring artists on the Colemine roster and the other showcasing artists on their sister label, Karma Chief.
Brighter Days Ahead unfurls like a gilded and hyper-evolved mix-tape effortlessly joining the dots between obscure yacht-rock, psych-funk, West Coast singer-songwriter, roots reggae, lowrider soul and quivering psychedelics; Colemine resists any notion of a house sound and focuses on firing up the sensibilities of jazz, funk and hip-hop breaks in a way that’s never wilfully eccentric or tainted by parody .
Kicking off with the immaculate, Budos Band-style simmering and snaky instrumental funk of Sommer, Ironsides packs a swaggering punch. The dulcet tones of Thee Sinseers and The Resonaires lean towards stately 1970’s chamber-soul of the Delfonics and Chi-Lites vintage, while Ikebe Shakedown’s take on Ennio Morricone’s 1967 track, Adonai, replaces the original’s use of human voice as an instrument of melody and rhythm with the frenzied sweat of punchy horn blasts. The Winston Brothers’ low-slung Winston Theme exudes the gritty desert funk of prime Meters and The Harlem Gospel Travellers traverse gospel and disco-soul on the rousing Nothing But His Love.
Kendra Morris and Neal Francis radiate soulful AOR chops on the lavish This Life and the gleaming Changes respectively, whilst trippy New Yorkers Ghost Funk Orchestra dial up cinematic, David Axelrod-styled psychedelia and hot-buttered cop show soul on Fuzzy Logic and Young Gun Silver Fox’s Baby Girl is endowed with the fine-tooled soft-rock of late 70’s Hall and Oates.
Taken as a whole, Brighter Days Ahead serves as an enticing overview and a testament to a label’s impressive strike rate. It’s a beautifully concocted package that reeks of an inclusive ethos, where the smouldering, Jimmy Smith-like jazz of Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio can sit snugly alongside the strident reggae skank of Jr. Thomas and the Volcanoes and Reverend Baron’s M Ward-inflected helping of Laurel Canyon vibes. Compilations can be patchy but this delicious release cooks up deep pleasures time after time.