Light: On the South Side
Chicago 1975-1977 (multi-media)
5 out of 5 stars
This is truly one of the most stunning projects I’ve seen this decade — a flawless and decadent collection of music and photographs which effortlessly transports listeners/readers back to mid-late ’70s Chicago in both sight and sound.
A 132-page hardcover book of photographs by Michael Abramson taken on the South Side of Chicago between 1975 and 1977, Light chronicles the elaborate, audacious and sometimes sleezy lifestyle of the jazz and funk clubs’ patrons. Abramson was unenthused with the artists on the stages of the joints he was hitting. He found the real action to be in the crowd and the photos turn Abramson’s bright flash in their direction.
But what makes this project so overwhelmingly special are the two old school vinyl LPs that come with it, titled Pepper’s Jukebox. Housed in a gorgeous slipcase with the 12X12 book, Pepper’s Jukebox is a 17 track compilation packaged in a sharp gatefold jacket with two inner sleeves crammed to the gills with label scans and stories.
The vinyl does, in an audio format, what the photos do in a visual format —?offer a snapshot of that time and those places with a revealing transparency that has never been done before. While it’s all funk, the funkiness of the funk in this collection is hard to grasp and even harder to explain. With tracks by Arlean Brown, Bobby Rush, Ricky Allen and Lady Margo, to name a few, your woofers will get a bass workout for sure, and the fact that the music is presented on vinyl only adds to the authenticity and charm of the package.
Taking photos and music in together, along with the essay by Nick Hornby, is equivalent to taking a college level course on Chicago between 1975 and 1977, and the volumes of dialog expressed in Abramson’s black and white prints could fill a set of encyclopedias.
This is a must-have for any funk fan, pretty much for any Chicago native, and an absolute trample-people-at-the-store kind of gift for anyone who, in the last twenty years, has longed for the liner notes and artwork of the vinyl era to return. I?can imagine audiophiles by the hundreds lying belly down on their living room floors, not far from their turntables, carefully examining each photo and each track simultaneously in analog bliss. I’d kill to see more releases like this, focusing on different eras and genres. It’s phenomenal!
— Brian F. Johnson