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Various Artists
Soul Love Now: The Black Fire Records Story, 1975-1993
Catalogue Number
Release Date
August 14, 2020

Press Release

Strut present the first ever compilation bringing together classics and rarities from the seminal spiritual jazz and conscious soul label Black Fire, covering 1975 to 1993.

Formed by DJ and record producer Jimmy Gray in Richmond, Virginia, and following in the footsteps of other influential black-owned independent labels like Strata-East and Tribe, the foundation of Black Fire coincided with saxophonist James “Plunky” Branch returning to the city from New York to form Oneness Of Juju. The band’s ‘African Rhythms’ album in 1975 was the perfect fusion of jazz, deep African polyrhythms and empowering lyrics and bassist Muzi Branch, a trained artist, created the first of many Black Fire handillustrated sleeves for the label’s debut release.

The album set the tone for a series of landmark releases on the label including Oneness Of Juju’s ‘Space Jungle Luv’ (1976) and debuts from soulman Wayne Davis (1976) and early go-go pioneers Experience Unlimited (1977). Gray continued to use his influence and strong A&R instincts to bring in more key artists – great jazz players like Byard Lancaster and Hamiet Bluiett, Ghanaian master percussionist Okyerema Asante and collectives including Southern Energy Ensemble and music / drama troupe Theatre West. Due to personal and cashflow issues, many releases had to be canned and only later surfaced on CD during the early ‘90s

‘Soul Love Now’ brings together some of the many highlights from the label onto one essential compilation. Opening with Theatre West’s powerful soul message ‘Children of Tomorrow’s Dreams’, the tracks include a Byard Lancaster recording with Tunde Kuboye’s Drummers Of Ibadan in Nigeria and Lon Moshe’s driving jazz dance classic ‘Doin’ The Carvin’ For Thabo’. Wayne Davis brings the explosive gospel rare groove ‘Look At The People’ while Plunky’s JuJu and Oneness Of Juju feature with three tracks spanning their career, including a storming previously unreleased version of the classic ‘African Rhythms’ recorded in DC in 1975.

The release features extended sleeve notes features extended sleeve notes around the history of the label alongside interviews with featured musicians. The 2LP format includes a reprint of one of the three original Black Fire magazines published by Jimmy Gray which predated the launch of the label.

-First compilation documenting Jimmy Gray’s influential independent label covering 1975 to 1993. -Includes previously unseen photos and extensive sleeve notes by James “Plunky” Branch, bandleader of Oneness Of Juju. 2LP includes reprint of original Black Fire magazine. -Artists include Oneness Of Juju, gospel / soulman Wayne Davis, music and drama collective Theatre West and jazz luminaries Byard Lancaster and Hamiet Bluiett. -Opening compilation in Strut’s ongoing work with the Black Fire catalogue.

Pre-order Information

We endeavour to ensure pre-orders reach you on the official release date. The date indicated above is the nearest possible delivery date according to the distributor, and is therefore liable to change at any time in accordance with changes made by the distributor.

Digital Track List

  1. 1 Children of Tomorrow's Dreams Theatre West 4:08
  2. 2 Soul Love Now Oneness Of Juju 4:52
  3. 3 Drummers from Ibadan Byard Lancaster 4:09
  4. 4 Nia (Poem: Complete the Circle) JuJu 8:37
  5. 5 Doin' the Carvin' for Thabo Lon Moshe & Southern Freedom Arkestra 5:35
  6. 6 Look at the People! Wayne Davis 5:10
  7. 7 Third House Southern Energy Ensemble 6:59
  8. 8 African Rhythms (Live in Washington DC, 1975) Oneness Of Juju 7:43
  9. 9 Follow Me Okyerema Asante 5:34
  10. 10 People Experience Unlimited 6:09

Track List


  1. Theatre West – Children Of Tomorrow’S Dreams
  2. Oneness Of Juju – Soul Love Now
  3. Byard Lancaster – Drummers From Ibadan
  4. Juju – Nia (Poem: The Complete Circle)
  5. Lon Moshe – Doin The Carvin For Thabo
  6. Wayne Davis – Look At The People
  7. Southern Energy Ensemble – Third House
  8. Oneness Of Juju – African Rhythms (Live In Washington Dc, 1975)
  9. Okyerema Asante – Follow Me
  10. Experience Unlimited – People


  1. A1. Theatre West – Children Of Tomorrow’S Dreams
  2. A2. Oneness Of Juju – Soul Love Now
  3. A3. Byard Lancaster – Drummers From Ibadan
  4. B1. Lon Moshe – Doin The Carvin For Thabo
  5. B2. Juju – Nia (Poem: The Complete Circle)
  6. C1. Wayne Davis – Look At The People
  7. C2. Southern Energy Ensemble – Third House
  8. D1. Oneness Of Juju – African Rhythms (Live In Washington DC, 1975)
  9. D2. Experience Unlimited – People


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