The Darling Dears and Funky Heavy - "I Don't Think I'll Ever Love Another" (Flower City, 1972)
A few years ago I received a mix of obscure teen soul ballads from my friend David Griffiths, a New York record dealer and obsessive who has curated some fine reissues on labels like Daptone and Kay-Dee. The selections in the mix were excellent and almost all were new to me.
Two tracks particularly grabbed me. Both featured an unusual pairing of airy female harmonies set against a wall of sludgy funk and heavy drums. One track was a snapshot of new love in bloom, the other a despairing slice of heartbreak. Both had a rawness and a purity unlike anything I'd heard before. They were totally transporting.
When I hit up David for details about those tracks, he explained they were taken from two sides of a phenomenal (and phenomenally rare) 7" single on the Flower City label by the Darling Dears & Funky Heavy (I had to ask twice to be sure I heard him right; the name just seemed too awesome to exist in real life). He told me how he had begun searching for the single after stumbling across a mention of it in Jeffrey Beckman's reference book, Soul Harmony Singles 1960-1990 .
David's a native of Rochester a/k/a Flower City, so the label name piqued his curiosity and led him to uncover the story of how a teenage female quartet from Rochester, the Darling Dears, came to record with Funky Heavy, a local instrumental combo who roamed the area in a bus they called the Funky Skunk. Funky Heavy had often backed the Darling Dears during their rehearsals and live performances, so it was natural that they should go into a local studio together.
A thousand copies of their collaboration were pressed, but despite some local airplay the release was soon lost to posterity. The Darling Dears dropped out of the business, while Funky Heavy stuck it out, later morphing into High Voltage and then the Voltage Brothers. Under the latter name the group cut three well-distributed LPs and continue to perform to this day .
Over the years, the Darling Dears and Funky Heavy single became a holy grail for both sweet soul and funk collectors. For a time, only a handful of copies were known and the release reached stratospheric prices on eBay.
In 2008, David managed to track down the members of Funky Heavy, securing the masters and licensing the single for reissue. It is now the first release on his new label, Orivious, and it's been beautifully pressed and packaged. Orivious's distributor, Now-Again, is hosting a free download of "And I Love You" and selling copies of the 7" reissue .
As I was preparing this post, I learned of a competing reissue of the single on the Cultures of Soul label . From what I can tell, both labels made a good faith effort to license the release, Orivious from Funky Heavy, Cultures of Soul from the record's producer, Alvin Lofton. I don't know who has the right of it, but I'm glad that someone is making these amazing songs more widely available.
As a bonus, here's the original version of "I Don't Think I'll Ever Love Another", which was recorded by a male group, Rock Candy:
Rock Candy - "I Don't Think I'll Ever Love Another" (Dontee, 1971)
Rock Candy was a Baltimore group that also recorded as the Contemplations. This is a solid outing and quite similar to the Darling Dears' later version, but somehow it's nowhere near as transcendent.