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Hand picked records important to the history of Soul Strut.

McNeal & Niles - Thrust

  • McNeal & Niles

    Thrust LP (1979)


Ranked #79 in the Soul Strut 200

Holy grail late 70s jazz funk private press from Akron, OH.

The following review by Andrew Schrock was published on Soul Strut in 2004 when it was reissued by Chocolate Industries.

“It makes Prefuse-73 sound inconsequential”, said one of my record obsessive friends after hearing McNeal & Niles’ “Thrust”. And if there’s one thing that every music nerd loves hearing, it’s an album that turns everything they thought they knew on its head! For once, it’s not hype: this album is a true anomaly. Not much is known about it, other than it was custom recorded in 1979 and released in obscenely tiny numbers with an easily overlooked generic “sunset” cover. You’re unlikely to find out anything more about the album, because the liner notes focus entirely on its almost fictional rarity and the chance encounter that led to its re-release. 

But none of that matters once you drop the needle on the first track. The opening “Ja Ja” is especially brilliant. It layers laid-back grooves on top of laid-back grooves, redefining sublime. In fact, the whole album is full of odd proto-electro beats, straight-up delivered with just the right tinge of funk. Keyboards provide a languid wash of chords that make you want to go barefoot. These carefully crafted songs also win points for being unabashedly goofy, like a more hip-hop version of Stereolab. The duo’s uncanny sense of repetition is made more palatable by their restrained musicianship. Most of the time there’s nothing more playing than solid 4/4 drums with synthesizer and guitar or bass, which keeps the tone gloriously under-produced.

Slap bass and cheesy female vocals threaten to tip the scales into disco territory, but even these dips are unexpectedly left-field: think “disco not disco” like ESG or Arthur Russell. “Thrust” probably sounded like an out of place sell-out attempt in 1979, but now sounds eerily prescient. Chocolate Industries couldn’t have done a better job finding an album that sounds like a direct forefather if they faked it entirely!

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