Confronted with the grim reality of a global pandemic about to hit the midwest, Terry Cole, founder of the famed Ohio-based Colemine Records, closed up his storefront on March 16, 2020. While his roster of label artists including SF’s Monophonics, Ghost Funk Orchestra, Neil Francis, and numerous others were safe, the future of the label was barely even fuzzy.
No tours. Live performances. Record shops closed. Pressing plants shut down. An entire eco-system around music on pause, Cole got back to his hustling nature.
“We knew we wanted to continue to release new music, but proceeding with our heavy 2020 release schedule as planned seemed ill-advised,” he said. “So the idea was to release individual tracks from many of our artists on a weekly basis and as a musical family, we could all help shine a light on each individual artist weekly.”
So the idea to digitally release singles over the course of weeks made the Brighter Days Ahead compilation take form. That haze became a concrete way to stay in touch with Colemine fans and highlight that umbrella of sound. Personally, I’ve been a fan of Colemine for a couple of years now, but hearing these 22 songs, taking in that genre journey—gospel, Northern Soul, rocksteady, ska joints, funk, R&B, and Low Rider styled cuts—it’s a strong testament to how the Colemine label have created their own thing, curated their own niche.
From the instrumental slap and tickle funk cover of Marvin Gaye’s of “Inner City Blues” by Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, with the right inflection of Jimmy Smith Hammond B-3 groove, Cole references: “This shit is pocket as fuck.”
With the easy skanking rhythms of The Soul Chance & Wesley Bright “Who Could It Be?” Colemine along with its Karma Chief imprint takes the form of your favorite terrestrial FM radio station on a Friday night. Twisting the frequencies, dialing up the vibe, commanding all the post-midnight attention.
There is an acoustic reading of “It’s Only Us” from SF’s Monophonics. Kelly Finnegan, whose vocals ride a wafer-thin line between vanquish and salvation, with an accompanying gospel piano, gives us a front seat to the show.
Yet again it’s that ever-impressive young Ben Pirani, backed up here with The Means of Production, who comes through with the butter-soft Northern soul arrangement on “More Than a Memory.” Filled with heightened strings, melodic vocal backing, and chest-out hooks it provides all stops of deja vu mastery.
With his dog-tired Franky Valli personae pleading “I can’t hold you to me” through some ghost-like vocoder trickery over a “Purdie Shuffle” drum break, you wonder how this song never appeared on a mainframe Pirani release. Terry, this IS the party right here. Then you realize, Terry made the entire compilation an embarrassment of riches.