A closer look at one of our favorite titles from last year, Gloria Barnes’ Uptown is a super rare gem of killer 70s funk and soul. As the original pressing goes for over 3k on Discogs, it was mighty gracious of Ohio’s Colemine Records to dig this one out of obscurity (but hurry up, they’ve only got 5 copies left). Barnes hailed from Harlem, and for this record – her only known recorded document – she’s backed by The Ohio Players, along with Lee Moses, as she cuts deep into some of the most soulful vocals we’ve laid ears on.
So, dig this: “Old Before My Time,” the 7.5 minute slow burner that opens the album, finds Barnes supported by a group dubbed The Hustlers. Laying down some elegantly raw electric guitar and organ, around a perpetually simmering downbeat, Barnes sings the blues raw as all hell, lost in an echo chamber of her own despair and unrequited love. As the track swirls on, she is joined by a mournful saxophone, yet one can imagine the singer crooning to an empty ballroom — music emanating from the ether, with an all but dimmed spotlight illuminating the vanquished soulstress. Lord have mercy, indeed. words / c depasquale