A forgotten and unknown soul masterpiece from 1973. Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth by 24-Carat Black was a concept album. It turned out to be the first and last album by the band.
Unfortunately, little can be found on the story behind/about 24-Carat Black.
Dale Warren was the nephew of Motown’s Berry Gordy’s second wife. He was a professionally trained violin player and was used as a composer and arranger for string instruments at Motown Records in the 1960’s. By the end of the 1960’s he started work for (competitor) Stax Records. He worked as arranger for the stars of Stax, like Billy Eckstine, Eddie Floyd, Albert King and the Staple Singers. He also worked for the, after Otis Redding’s passing, biggest star on Stax, Isaac Hayes. He worked on his albums Hot Buttered Soul, The Isaac Hayes Movement and …To Be Continued. He was also present at the famous Wattstax concert in 1972.
Due to the success of his work, Warren was granted freedom to pursue his own projects.
Around that time he met a young soul group from Cincinnati, Ohio, called The Ditalians. The band counted 9 members, among which the 16 year old female singer Princess Hearn (Warren left his third wife to be with her). With all new songs, written by Warren, the band started touring in 1972. Rather unsuccessfully: they were considered too pretentious for the black audience and too funky for the white audience. Luckily, the band entered the studio in 1973, anyway.
Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth
The music Warren wrote for 24-Carat Black was released on the fantastic Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth. The album provided a look into the hard life in the city and zooms in on the different causes and effects of poverty.
The album is filled with obscure heavy funk with wailing singing and, at times, a sinister feel. It is highly original and special. In a song like Poverty’s Paradise the despair comes across very convincingly. Impressive.
Brown-Baggin’‘s funk gives a nice balance. Brown-baggin’ refers to bringing food and drinks, in America wrapped up in a ‘brown bag’. The song reminds me of The Meters.
Mothers’ Day is another top song (Mother’s Day is coming / Foodstamps are underway). The following Foodstamps is highly funky. The closing 24-Carat Black (Theme) sounds like soulful fusion. Gorgeous.
Barring two songs, all songs last well over 6½ minutes. Stax Records had quite some trouble promoting the album. It was a huge flop.
- Synopsis One: In The Ghetto / God Save The World
- Poverty’s Paradise
- Synopsis Two: Mother’s Day
- Mother’s Day
- Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth
- 24-Carat Black (Theme)
The following musicians play on the album. About 25 musicians participated on the album, so the list is incomplete.
- Larry Austin – bass
- Tyrone Steels – percussion
- Jerome Derrickson – saxophone
- Ricky Foster – trumpet
- James Talbert – electric piano
- William Talbert – organ
- Princess Hearn – vocals
- Kathleen Dent – vocals
- Valerie Malone – vocals
After the album’s release a tour followed. Sadly, it did nothing to change the album’s fate. Yet, in 1974 new recordings commenced. These recordings would see the light of day in 2009 (!), titled Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday. Dale Warren didn’t live to see it. He died in 1994.
A number of the 24-Carat Black members founded the band Shotgun. The band was moderately successful in the US.
The utter failure of Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth was a financial disaster for Stax. In 1973, Stax was far removed from making money the way it was used to during the heyday of the label. In 1975 Stax went bankrupt. Warren was broke as well and slipped into alcohol addiction.
Early 1990’s Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth was discovered by the hip-hop scene. Samples turned up in songs by Eric B, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, Digable Planets, Naughty by Nature and others.
Do you know 24-Carat Black and the album Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth? If no, give it a try. If yes, what’s your opinion?
24-Carat Black 1974 & 24-Carat Black – live images: numerogroup.wordpress.com
24-Carat Black – Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth image: idontcareaboutsleep.blogspot.com
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