One of the joys of having a music blog is the opportunity to attract attention to “long lost” or forgotten music that deserves to be heard. We’re going to start a new segment in our Retro section where we divert your attention to never fully materialist classics, or rather; forgotten artist who deserves some long-overdue attention.
The internet certainly changed the scenery for the music industry. The major record companies are no longer at the top of their game. Back in the days, if you didn’t have a record deal, there were no other ways for your music to get a proper distribution beyond the amount of records your wallet aloud you to print. This is thankfully not the case anymore. Today, everybody gets more or less the same opportunity; even if you’re overlooked by labels today, you can still get your music heard via Soundcloud, Bandcamp, YouTube or this type of media that you’re currently reading. If it’s liked by enough people, there’s a good chance a label will pick you up sooner or later. But unfortunately for artist like “Sugar man” Rodriguez (if you hadn’t gotten around to it yet, we urge you to see the excellent documentary Searching for Sugar man) or Shuggie Otis, the same opportunities wasn’t around after being dropped or completly ignored by the record labels. And it certainly wasn’t for James Mason, a progressive acid jazz/funk artist, who only released one album back in 1977, never getting around for a second; we’re guessing being dropped by the label due to low sales figures, but we cannot know for sure.
There nearly isn’t any information to be found of what precisely happened to Mason, or why his excellent record Rhythm of Life never reached a larger crowd (and believe us; we tried…). But it’s certainly telling that one of his greatest tracks “I Want Your Love” didn’t get released until 1996 by the small label Mighty Fine Records. How they managed to get their hands on it, we don’t know.
Thankfully, Rhythm of Life got a reissue last year by SHOUT! Productions, with “I Want Your Love” included for the first time (the original version without “I Want Your Love” got a couple of reissues in the mid 90’s by Sure Shot and Soul Brother records). There is certainly much more to the album than “I Want Your Love”. If you ever heard a Mason track, it would most likely be “Sweet Power Your Embrace” – a track featured on a couple of compilations (like DJ-Kicks). It’s probably one the greatest pieces of psychedelic disco-funk ever heard (or not heard).
In its own genre, Rhythm Of Life is without a doubt a masterpiece. The record is packed with vintage synthesizers, frantic bass slaps and funky guitar play (all played by the man himself), while Clarice Taylor’s warm soulful vocals fits the rich textures perfectly.
The album is packed with hidden gems, so if you enjoy the tracks below or like the music of Roy Ayers (from whom Mason initially played guitar for), make sure to get hold of a copy.