Seattle Funk, Modern Soul, and Boogie, Vol. II, 1972–1987
(digital, CD, and two-platter vinyl box set out now) Fifth in the Wheedle’s Groove series (which comprises the first compilation, Seattle’s Finest in Funk & Soul 1965–75; an original album; a limited-edition box set of 45s; and an award-winning documentary), this installment examines the Pacific Northwest funk and soul scene through an even wider lens, cutting a 15-year swath through the disco-flecked boogie pop of the ’70s to the synthed-up R & B of the late ’80s. Unlike the 10 years of music presented in Vol. 1—groove-laden, “Superfly”-like cuts—Vol. II chronicles the genre’s evolution through its incorporation of a new range of sounds and textures, like synthesizers and drum machines. At one end of the spectrum, there’s the conga-dappled, Otis Redding-lite “Let’s Backtrack” (Cold, Bold, & Together, 1972); by 1987, Seattle soul sounds more like Septimus’ “Here I Go Again,” with its greasy-rock guitar solo and programmed drum-machine beats (though still flecked with congas). Then there’s a special ode to the “Kingdome” (1982), with a tongue-in-cheek “Superbowl Shuffle” vibe, by former Mariners third baseman Lenny Randle and a crew of his “Ballplayers”—an apt entry point to discuss the volume’s larger appeal as a historical document, a funky time capsule of bygone Seattle. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, Seattle was decades away from being the dining destination and live-music capital it is today; in a recent essay, Knute Berger pegged the Emerald City back then as “a cold, gray way station on the road to hell.” Yet as each track is expounded on in the liner notes (by the featured acts themselves), listeners get a strong sense of the scene that was—one that, with each new addition to the Wheedle’s Groove catalog, appears to have inextinguishable soul.