If you’ve been keeping your ear to Craig Charles’ Funk & Soul Show in the last year and bit, you’ll probably have heard any one of a string of dope 45s from Original Gravity Record‘s artists. Maybe soul man Floyd James and his band the GTs rings a bell? Perhaps you caught a vinyl 7″ from funky instrumentalist Melvin Craig, mod-fuzz act The Supersonics or the garage bluesy Labrats? Are those names and sounds from old nuggets re-discovered though – or examples of the ‘new stuff made to sound old’ game? The clues are there – ‘Melvin Craig’ recalls Melvin Sparks while ‘Floyd James’ pastiches Floyd Smith or Eddie Floyd. Plus you’ve never heard of any of them. You weren’t born yesterday were you? One ‘lost’ track maybe but there’s no way a label could put out a continuous string of them so, while this stuff might sound pretty damn authentic, it’s got to be new hasn’t it? You know the drill by now – Daptone pretty much pioneered it and others followed shortly after – find those people still doing it like people did it back in the day and gather them to you. You were nearly caught out by that recent rocksteady 45 though – weren’t you? You know – The Regulators/ Brentford Rd Soul Rebels one with Dennis Alacapone on the B-side. Surely that was a lost gem that has been re-discovered – after all – that really is Dennis Alcapone singing, right? Well, it is Dennis Alcapone singing but that too is actually a new cut. And not only that. Because the thing is, the Original Gravity roster isn’t a diverse assemblage of multiple retro acts at all. It’s actually pretty much all the work of one man – Neil Anderson – who has played an absolute blinder in creating an entire imaginary roster for his own label. I’ll let that sink in for a minute. Ok – jaws back up now? Yep, Anderson has played drums, bass, guitars, and percussion on all of the label’s releases, frequently played the keys and harmonica and also provided some of the vocals and backing vocals with session singers and musicians filling in on the few bits he couldn’t do or make sound authentic himself.
Turns out Anderson’s project has been gestating for some time. Childhood interest in both playing the drums and listening to 60s mod sounds, reggae and rocksteady led to playing in a couple of bands in his 20s and watching the engineer in the control room to pick up tips when he wasn’t playing. A developing interest in Latin percussion led to stints in a couple of funk bands and six months learning from a veteran conguero in Sydney, which led to more bands and gigs and, when that fell apart, successfully teaching the drums – this from a man whose only other formal percussive training was some basics in the Boys’ Brigade. Since he could be employed successfully to teach drums for someone else, Anderson then figured he might as well start his own music tuition business – which he duly did and found himself playing bass and guitar in lessons more than drums. And since this was going so well, it seemed rude not to buy a rehearsal and recording studio when the chance came up. You can see where all this is heading right? Multi-instrumentalist, years of gigging experience, love of a number of disparate retro genres, increasing number of ideas for original tunes in said genres, owner of recording studio? Turns out the final push was creating music for the GoPro videos he and his MTB mates were making to avoid copyright issues. This original music for an activity (cycling downhill like a nutter) in which gravity features heavily also threw up a name. And so it was that at the end of January 2018, the first Original Gravity 45 dropped – Switchback with a cover of Green Onions on the flip. This featured two tracks by Anderson on drums, bass, guitars and harmonica with session vocals and horns under the name of ‘Floyd James & The GTs’ – the first of multiple nom-de-plumes for our man and his burgeoning ‘roster’. Two years, six 45s, and a cd compilation album down the line and things are only going up. The ‘Curtis Baker & The Bravehearts’ EP is out next week, and a ‘Woodfield Rd Allstars’ EP of rocksteady is planned to follow along with an EP of ’67 style Latin and boogaloo cuts. Plans are also afoot to develop the live experience which means solving the problems caused by the fact that many Original Gravity releases feature a horn section and the occasional guest vocalist. Personally, I fancy Anderson’s chances. Original Gravity Records then, it’s ‘OG’ alright.
(Original Gravity Records Store HERE)