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Tuesday, Jan 20 2009 | 13:56 Buy this now at GoodToGo (B2B)

3557When Poets of Rhythm founding members Jay and Max Whitefield traveled from their native Munich to New York in 1998 to record their eponymous debut album, Sharon Jones was a name only known to the cult that bought her first, rare 45s, The Dap Kings didn’t exist and The El Michels Affair were teenagers gigging as the Mighty Imperials. Rough, raw, real funk music was decidedly out of vogue. Though the Poets had dutifully released dozens of 45s and a few key LPs showcasing their modern take on the funk sound, their releases remained for a chosen few. Back then, “African influenced funk” meant “sounds like Fela.” But the first American “real funk” label, Desco, was on the verge; Desco’s owner Phillipe Lehman, a deep fan of funk music from both the American and African continents, searched for a new approach.

Thus, the idea that Jay and Max presented to him – record an album chock full of funk music influenced by the African diaspora, an album as indebted to the Meters as to Mr. Kuti and his Africa 70, an album as psychedelic as those Ghanaian and Nigerian masterpieces by unknown psych-funk heroes such as Blo, Edazawa and the Psychedelic Aliens – sat perfectly with him. Desco co-founder Gabriel Roth (later the co-founder of Daptone Records and leader of The Dap Kings) brought his bass and arranged the album’s horns alongside Jay. A teenage Leon Michels, as in El Michels himself, played sax and flute. So did Daptone co-founder Neal Sugarman and Antibalas founder Martin Perna. Jay and Max’s compositions came to life and the record was mixed, mastered – and quickly shelved. Desco soon folded and it wasn’t until 2001, when Lehman founded Soul Fire Records, that the album, alongside exclusive songs released only on a rare 7″ and an even more obscure 10,” saw release as “In The Raw”.

And that was, basically, it. Soul Fire sold a small number of vinyl LPs, and as many CDs as they could self-distribute. And the CD quickly went out of print. Like Desco, Soul-Fire soon folded. The Whitefield Brothers debut album, regarded as a masterpiece by those lucky enough to have heard it, languished as a “collectible” – eBay fodder for the cognoscenti.
The Whitefield Brothers are almost done with their long awaited follow up album to “In The Raw”. Now-Again Records has worked closely with Jan and Max to assemble a reissue of their first, crucial piece of the funk spectrum. This is wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve, hypnotic, defiantly psychedelic funk music that is as modern as it is grounded in the great musical traditions from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.


01. Rampage
02. Chokin’
03. Weiya
04. In The Raw
05. Prowlin’
06. Yakuba
07. Wiya
08. Witch-Jam
09. Eji
10. Sol Walk
11. Thunderbird
12. Buster

The reissue album Whitefield BrothersIn The Raw” (Now Again) is going to be released February 20, 2009.

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