It’s the crate digger’s dream or nightmare. The modern day musical archaeologist is always in search of that elusive piece of a musical puzzle. Dusting off a slice of unknown vinyl or a mystery tape in a battered box might just open up another chapter of discovery that illuminates the art of the people. Enter 180 Proof’s Amir Abdullah who, since 2010, has been getting dusty digits sifting through the master tapes in the Strata studio in Detroit. It’s there that he discovered and was blown away the voice and vibe of TJ.
“I came across the TJ demo tapes back in 2012 when I secured the exclusive license to the whole Strata Records catalog,” explains Amir who plans an imminent release of the four tracks on 10” vinyl in conjunction with BBE Records. “My first response to hearing the demo was WOW! Frankly, the sound quality was not good but the soul and passion of the music was unbelievable. I immediately thought about a young Shuggie Otis when hearing the songs.”
As with the rediscovery of Shuggie Otis’ ‘Inspiration Information’, by the likes of Gilles Peterson back in the 90’s, there are always questions to be asked. With Shuggie Otis there was lineage plus the image of a hip young guy with a big ‘Fro and acoustic guitar. Two decades on he’d simply dropped off the radar. What happened? With TJ there’s only the tape and says Amir, “There was no info on the master just the name TJ. I don’t know when the TJ was recorded at all. The strata catalog is from 73-75 and it’s one of many recordings that were recorded but never released. I sat on the music for three years because I couldn’t afford to clean it up and re-master it properly until now.“
“As the Strata curator, I felt that this recording def fits in with what the Strata catalog is about. The soul and passion of the lyrics are heartfelt. As you can hear, most of the songs are about love. The raw form of just him, a guitar with vocal layers is so rough but it def represents the grittiness of the sound of Strata. I think the TJ represents what the Strata mottos were about: ‘The Sound of Detroit’ and ‘All Musics For All Peoples’. What makes me want to release this in its raw and rough form is that the genius of this recording cannot be denied. I hope that TJ somehow hears that the recording is out. I would love to give full credit to him and the musicians.”