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Soul Brother





Here, Digger talks to Laurence Prangell at Soul Brother Records - specialists in soul music, jazz music, funk music and probably unique in the UK in terms of their breadth and scope of titles and depth of knowledge.


Digger: Can you tell us something of the history of Soul Brother? What was your inspiration and your passion which lead to the business being created? And how long have you been going? 

Laurence: The company is run by my brother and my wife and myself. My brother and I have been into this music since the early seventies really. 

Digger: So youíre a youngster then? 

Laurence: Yes. (Both laugh) Yes, I did sell records a bit in the seventies as well. Probably about í70 or í71 I started getting into Soul music. And Jazz music probably a little later on Ė í73 or í74. 

Digger: Were there any other sorts of music that appealed? 

Laurence: Well, when youíre growing up youíre obviously into whatever you hear. 

Digger: Some people have skeletons in their cupboards. My sister, for example, had lots of hippie boyfriends and she had to hide her copy of Electric Warrior, literally in a cupboard. She wouldnít dare play it when they were around. (Both laugh) These days it would be seen as hip. 

Laurence: I was pretty much into this music for the last forty years. 

Digger: Has The Internet changed the business much? 

Laurence: Yes. We set up the business in 1991 and initially it was just mail order and record fairs.  

Digger: Mail order... how big is that now? 

Laurence: We still do mail order. Itís still one of the largest chunks of our business. We do more over the phone than we do over The Internet.   

Digger: Is that because people want to talk to somebody? 

Laurence: Exactly, and we want to talk to them. Thatís the thing we offer Ė you can have it three ways. You can come and look at the physical shop and look at things and hear things and discuss things. Then we have the traditional mail order where we send out a catalogue and people have a look at that with all the latest re-issues and new issues each month. And we review around fifty albums a month. 

Digger: Wow, that must be time-consuming even if it is a labour of love? 

Laurence: It is a lot of hard work. That goes out to our customers and they use it to come into the store, order on the phone or on The Net. Then we have the website as well. Itís three things and, yes, we have a passion for this music. Which is why weíre able to discuss it with customers and recommend things. 

Digger: From how far do they come internationally? 

Laurence: We get a lot of calls from abroad and visitors from abroad to as well as from all over this country.

Digger: Is there a sourcing service for hard-to-find items? 

Laurence: We do a 'wants list' service for people, yes. 

Digger: What sort of customer feedback do you get? And I presume you have lots of regulars? 

Laurence: Yes, we have lots of regulars and we have dealt with tens of thousands of customers. Over the years. And I think most people enjoy the experience and most people come back. 

Digger: What are the best sellers? 

Laurence: The best sellers - obviously at any point youíve got the new releases for that month and then, which is what your site is geared towards, thereís still this huge interest in the classic and rare Soul and Jazz from the fifties up to now. 

Digger: Do you deal with Blues too? 

Laurence: We donít really do much Blues, no. Itís more Jazz and Soul. We cover discoÖ 

Digger: Northern Soul, Tamla? 

Laurence: Exactly. Funk, we cover all areas. We donít cover Blues much and I know it is kind of related but we are pretty specialist in what we do. You will find things in our shop that you wouldnít find in too many other places. To be honest Iíd say you wouldnít find what we do in any other places. 

Digger: What are the best things about running  the business? 

Laurence: Obviously itís great being able to do something you really enjoy and itís great being able to turn people on to things theyíve never heard before. That gives me a pretty high degree of satisfaction.   

Digger: Who are the big names from Jazz and Soul? 

Laurence: The more well known people like Marvin Gaye and Miles Davis, John Coltrane and The Temptations and Al Green and people like that but we also try and champion others. 

Digger: Did you see Al Green on TV the other day? 

Laurence: No. 

Digger: He was great. 

Laurence: Yes, he did an album just a couple of years ago which was brilliant and one of our biggest sellers of that year. But we dig fairly deep and some of the stuff we have here would never have got played even at the time it came out. We have nearly 20,000 individual titles and itís a broad range. Some on CD, some on LP, some on 12Ē and some on 7Ē singles.  

Digger: Is the MP3 effecting you at all? 

Laurence: It probably is a bit with the new material but most of our customers prefer to have a physical product. 

Digger: Same here. I hate that about iTunes because you donít get the experience of holding the album and reading the sleeve notes. 

Laurence: To actually have something thatís tangible.  

Digger: The artwork was part of the pleasure. 

Laurence: Exactly, thatís why people still like their vinyl. They still like to be able to see and feel. 

Digger: What is your plan for the future of the business?   

Laurence: Our plan is to continue the same sort of service that we have done for the last twenty years and to keep trying to spread the word of great Soul music and great Jazz Music. 

Digger: And to adapt with technology? 

Laurence: Yes, weíve had to adapt with the Internet site but, at the end of the day, the main thing is the music. Which has, thankfully, a lasting appeal  

Digger: Do you think that a lot of the contemporary stuff is going to stand up to analysis in forty yearís time?

Laurence: I think some of it Ė the quality end of things will but the more commercial stuff probably not. There are still great records being made out there, but in the mainstream you donít get to hear about them. 

Digger: Thereís probably more opportunities to make good music because you donít need a record contract or a sophisticated studio set up. 

Laurence: Yes, but you can tell whether a recordís been made with real instruments or on a computer. And the stuff that has been properly mastered will stand the test of time, whereas the more technologically made recordings wonít stand the test of time. To make great Soul or Jazz Music, you do need great instruments and somebody with a good voice as well, and production. 

Digger: The Funk Brothers on the Tamla stuff were one of my favourites. When you hear the intro to Nowhere To Hide or the backing to ĎGrapevineí itís just fantastic. There was a huge group of them who played on different tracks and they still make the hairs on your neck stand up when you hear them.

Laurence: Exactly. Some of that music is 45 years old and it still sounds great. Itís continuing to pick up a new audience. 

Digger: Thereís a cycle going on there, isnít there, with the youngsters taking up this older music? 

Laurence: Itís encouraging. 

Digger: I donít suppose we would have been buying a lot of our parentsí music like George Formby and Gracie Fields. 

Laurence: I donít think so! But then culture changed in the sixties, not just in music but in lots of things. 

Digger: We werenít smaller younger versions of our parents. 

Laurence: It was different from what had happened before and I think itís just as relevant now as it was then.

Digger: Laurence, it's been great talking with you.

Laurence: And you. Many thanks David.  

We're specialists for New Independent and major label Soul and Jazz CD's as well as a good source for rare original vinyl LP's and 12" singles.
If you're looking for the latest new and re-issue funk and soul 45's, we carry a comprehensive range as well as being stockists for a whole host of quality Nu-Spirit, Soul, Jazz and New Beat 12" singles.

We strive to provide the friendliest, most knowledgeable service around - be it in person, on the phone or via the web. Our staff are here to help you buy the music you - and us - love. To help our customers overseas we have several members of staff who speak a number of languages including French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

Phone: 020 8875 1018 (International callers use the prefix 0044 before dialing 20 then 8875 1018)
Fax: 020 8871 0180 (International callers use the prefix 0044 before dialing 20 then 8875 0180)









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