||Perception Productions, a New York based label that ran from the late 60s through until 1974, was a strangely eclectic affair. Its roster stretched from a radical Afro-American poet through to the pop band King Harvest whose hit 'Dancing In The Moonlight' became a massive hit for the UK band Toploader a couple of decades later. The inbetween points covered jazz, funk, vocal harmony soul and proto-disco. In fact distilled down into this compilation the label provides us a view of Manhattan?s black music scene of the period, from the established greats to the fresh young things who would make their mark in the coming years.
When they started up the label their initial signings suggested that the black high arts were their true love. The first year saw Shirley Horn, James Moody and the most famous of them all Dizzy Gillespie signed in quick succession. Gillespie is one of African-American music's most important figures, who in the 1940s alongside Charlie Parker figureheaded the revolutionary changes in jazz that were labeled Bebop. By the early 70s jazz was going through a tough period and it may have occurred to Phillips and Frazier that if their labels were going to survive they needed to diversify, however their jazz leanings continued throughout the label's time. Organist Julius Brockington was a young talent and a typical leader of an organ combo, the most popular format for the jazz clubs in the Black neighbourhoods of the day. His records are in not especially sophisticated, in some ways the music is organ funk or RnB, rather than jazz, as can be seen on this frantic cover version of Aretha Franklin's 'Rocksteady'.
When they stepped into the soul and funk arena Perception / Today really found their feet through two people in particular Bill Curtis from the Fatback Band and a young producer called Patrick Adams. The Harlem born Adams was just into his twenties when he began working for the label and he proved incredibly versatile. With Jon Bartel he produced funk rock which was clearly being aimed the same audience that was propelling Motown's group Rare Earth to the top of the charts.
His greatest moments at the label came with Black Ivory which was the group that also first introduced the musical world to the genius of Leroy Burgess. Both Burgess and Adams are today lauded as some of the most important figures in the history of dance music, Adams with his songwriting and productions on his own P&P label and for scores of others. Burgess as a performer - often with Adams - and also as a songwriter and producer.
The Fatback Band's history is very much that of how street funk developed in New York. Bill Curtis had been in New York since the early 50s, and had been an on the road drummer who had played behind all the big stars of the time either on tours that travelled around the country or as part of the legendary Apollo Theatre's house band. By the late 60s he was working out of Queens, providing bands for all sorts of events from club gigs to weddings, from covering chart hits to playing calypso. He also had his own label for which he provided the main band, known after the label - and Bill's drumming style - as The Fatback Band. Tiring of never being paid as an independent label he decided to hand that task over to someone else and signed to Perception in 1971.
When Perception closed its doors in 1974 it had been producing records for nearly 5 years. It's left behind a legacy of great soul, funk and jazz which is contained within the compilation.