Lost and Found
L - R: Gary Brown, Eugene Sinegal, Cyril Neville, Sam Henry, Richard Amos (?), Joe Gunn
Sam & The Soul Machine, from Po'k Bones & Rice, Funky Delicacies, 2002
Laying down a greasy groove that might be mistaken for the Meters with a sax player, Sam & The Soul Machine take a fine funky turn on “Slow Motion”. The mistake would be understandable, as I am pretty sure Zig Modeliste is playing drums on this track, which is from an unreleased instrumental funk album the group recorded in New Orleans in 1969. The Soul Machine’s regular drummer had been drafted, so leader Sam Henry recruited Modeliste for some of the sessions, during the same period when Zig and the Meters were recording their early sides for Allen Toussaint.
Henry, a well-respected keyboardist, started the Soul Machine around 1968. Getting a steady gig at the Desert Sands club, they quickly became a popular draw. When the band went into the studio to record “Slow Motion” and 11 other tracks, the players were Sam Henry (B-3), Richard Amos (bass), Eugene Sinegal (guitar), Gary Brown (sax), and either Joe Gunn or Zig Modeliste (drums). Henry kept the Soul Machine going in various forms, including several years in Nashville, until the later 1970’s. And, at various times, both Aaron Neville and Cyril Neville sang with the group live.
The history of New Orleans funk could have been different, if that album had been released and well-distributed; but, unfortunately, according to the CD notes, the original master tape was seized by the IRS when they shut down Cosimo Matassa’s recording studio for tax violations shortly after the sessions. While Sam Henry had a safety copy in his possession, a label deal was never sealed; and the album gathered dust until Aaron Fuchs and the reissue crew at Tuff City/Funky Delicacies unearthed it and put it on the CD Po’k Bones & Rice, which contains six other rare Soul Machine recordings (but none with the Nevilles).
While the Meters were beginning their domination of the New Orleans funk landscape at the start of the 1970’s, other performers such as the Gaturs, Eddie Bo, and Sam & The Soul Machine, to name a few , were doing their own thing live and in the studio, but getting much less attention. Fortunately, Funky Delicacies has been re-releasing some of those grooves, allowing us to get a feel for what these other funkateers were up to.