Tony Alvon & The Belairs - Stone Soul Candidate
Greetings all. Those of you that have followed the funk revival in the last five to ten years, have most definitely gotten your groove on to the breakbeat rich sounds of Tony Alvon & The Belairs impossibly rare and expensive (but suitably reissued) ‘Sexy Coffee Pot’. There weren’t too many funk sides created in the Philly area that could compare to the laid back, super funky, pimp-rolling sounds of Mr. Alvon and company laying it down. The groove is spot on, and the drum break in the middle of the record is deadly, the kind of thing that grabs right onto your brain and tells your feet to move. As long as I’ve been digging (in and around Philly_ I have yet to come across a copy - though I’ve heard tales of folks coming across boxes of this one back in the day and they make me want to cry…. Anyway… In my travels, I have discovered the bands other two Atlantic 45s, both of which are fairly tasty (and funky), though neither as shit hot (nor as rare or in demand) as ‘Sexy Coffee Pot’. There are certainly plenty of examples of groups/labels where one 45 is impossibly rare and/or excellent, and the rest of the catalog gets ignored as a result – i.e. diggers lining up around the block to beg for copies of the Third Guitar’s ‘Baby Don’t Cry’ on Rojac, while passing over the affordable and also quite tasty ‘Don’t Lose Your Groove’ by Lavell Hardy (which I actually prefer). I won’t argue with the fact that ‘Sexy Coffee Pot’ is maybe one of the top 2 or 3 funk 45s ever to come out of Philly, but I’m also here to tell you that you ignore their other two 45s at your peril. The two 45s that Tony Alvon & The Belairs recorded for Atlantic prior to ‘Sexy Coffee Pot’ are both worth tracking down. The first ‘Philly Horse’ b/w ‘Don’t Be No Drag’ is an obvious entry into the Philly ‘Horse’ sweepstakes (see Funky16Corners web zine article), with ‘Don’t Be No Drag’ using the same instrumental track as ‘Philly Horse’. Today’s selection, ‘Stone Soul Candidate’, is a funky raver. A “campaign” song, with the singer looking to lead the ‘Stone Soul Party’ moves at a fast clip, with pounding drums – sorry , no breaks - , a blaring horn section (that gives the tune a “southern” feel) and a wild vocal that reminds me a little of Maskman and the Agents. There’s a great section where the singer references Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man”, and goes on to rap about how he’s going to “kiss all the girls and shake everybody’s hands”. For some reason, at the very end of the record he ends things shouting about “matzoh balls and spaghetti”. Note also that Alvon's name is misspelled on the label as 'Avon'. The flip side, “Catch a Fox” is once again a recycling of the instrumental track of the a-side. Strangely enough, both ‘Philly Horse’ (written by Tony Alvon, Willis Wooten and “Lee”) and ‘Stone Soul Candidate’ (written by Sharon Smith) have different author credits, with both intrumental flip sides credited to Hill/Stiles (I’m assuming that ‘Stiles’ is in fact key man from the Harthon label, Johnny Stiles, who coproduced both records with Frank Virtue). All three 45’s originated in 1969/70. While ‘Sexy Coffee Pot’ will set you back $200.00 - $400.00, you can probably find copies of both ‘Philly Horse’ and ‘Stone Soul Candidate’ for less that $40.00 each. Sometime in the last few years there was a vinyl reissue of ‘Sexy Coffee Pot’ in the UK, but you’re not likely to find any copies of that laying around either. The track can be found on the comp linked below, along with a bunch of other cool stuff. NOTE: I have also heard rumors of another 45 by an earlier incarnation of the band (as the Bel-Aires) on a Detroit label, but I have not been able to confirm that.