Stone Coal White - Rated X

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2011-07-14

As hard as it might be for a seasoned crate-digger to admit, some cobwebbed corners of music heritage are less worth poking into than others. This collection of ultra-rare 7in singles, released on DJ Shadow's Cali-Tex label, by early 70s Ohio psychedelic funk outfit Stone Coal White is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the echo chamber, bare-bones funk of 'Move Your Hand' is excellent, like Can covering Edwin Starr's 'War'. On the other, the world really doesn't need another ponderous cover of Bill Withers' blues-lite sob-fest, 'Ain't No Sunshine', which is what also we get here. Stone Coal White's version is pretty by-the-book except for an outbreak of James Brown style grunting towards the end.

Elsewhere, we get the sort of impassioned cries for peace, love and understanding that early 70s soul specialised in ('People') mixed with Hendrix-like jams ('Warm Up', 'Stone Coal White'). What Rated X has on its side is its rawness, which gives even its pedestrian moments a gritty, 'document of the times' feel. It's easy to sit back and let your mind construct scenes to some great lost blaxploitation film as the band jam and strut their way through the likes of the Curtis Mayfield influenced 'Hell Below'. Working against this release is the fact that Stone Coal White never emerge as having their own sound - every track sounds like a very good impersonation of someone who went onto greater success. That said, they do it well, for the most part.

So, for those of you who make a point of seeking such rare fare out, does Rated X cut it? Yes, just about. There are enough spine-tingling moments among the formless jamming to make this collection an enjoyable listen. Needless to say, for completists of rare funk/soul/blues-rock music, this is a must-have anyway. There's no sense of a piece of the great musical jigsaw puzzle falling into place, such as you might get from discovering, say, Arthur Russell of Les Rallizes Denudes, but Stone Coal White deserve their moment in the sun too.

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