Edward B. Geida III and the triumphant return of Philly soul

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Talking to the An Albatross singer about his love of soul amidst a pile of records

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Laura E. Marcus | March 31, 2011

An Albatross Eddie B. Geida III DJs Soul Nights

Edward B. Geida with his collection. All photos by Alex M. Smith

Most of America’s cities can, and will, boast about a singular phenomenon that shook the foundation and future of music. In Nashville, classic country grew into rockabilly and eventually modern rock ’n’ roll. There was the rise of Motown in 1960s Detroit, the San Francisco sound of the 60s and 70s, and the frenetic distortion of 1970s New York City punk. But some cities have held their musical history like a secret, which only the perennially curious and passionate can uncover. Philadelphia is one of those cities.

Even with Philly soul’s popularity in the 1970s, nowadays you’re more likely to hear it sampled in hip-hop tracks, rather than spun in its original form. The Delfonics’ “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide From Love)” peaked at number 14 on the U.S. R&B chart in 1968, but most of us are far more familiar with the heavily sampled and nominally abbreviated Fugees track released in 1996. There’s no doubt that Philadelphia soul is a difficult genre to dig into; the rarity of original records, and the influx of more mainstream forms of soul has made hunting down classics a real challenge. One would think that because of this, dedicated collectors and DJs would be on a mission to spread the gospel. Edward ‘Eddie’ Bernard Geida III is one of these men.

What started out as separate soul, funk, R&B, and mod parties in the early 2000s at Philadelphia’s Silk City Club, was revived as Turnaround vs. Immediate in November 2008 by Eddie and his gang of merrymakers. Gregg Foreman (Delta 72, Cat Power) was at the helm of Turnaround, while Eddie and his brother directed Immediate. The brothers eventually brought Russell Alexander (of Making Time) on board, and Turnaround vs. Immediate now hosts four DJs for their monthly parties. But vinyl isn’t the event’s only star. In the past Turnaround vs. Immediate has played host to live Soul acts like the late Herb Johnson & The Impacts, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, and The Mighty Hannibal.

Pumping obscure soul into the hearts of a diverse crowd may seem like a daunting task, but Eddie’s love for music knows no limits. An avid collector of vinyl, and in particular rare Soul 45s, Eddie has been at it for a long time: “I suppose I started collecting records when I was four years old, and I distinctly remember loving Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane” when I heard it on the radio in the summer of '82.” About nine years later, Eddie began buying records on his own, and attending hardcore and punk shows; it was then that he dubbed himself a “vinyl guy.”

His musical interests span many genres, and even his work with experimental psychedelic band An Albatross plays a role in his DJing at Turnaround vs. Immediate. “The inspiration behind DJing Soul music and performing with An Albatross comes from the same musical passion and requires the same sort of energy,” he said. “I feel that in order to effectively DJ a rare soul or funk track, you need an intimate and thorough knowledge of the song – its physical structure, its history, its unspoken “vibe.” It requires a delivery from the DJ which exudes total confidence and a profound respect and love for the track.”

Edward B. Geida III of An Albatross

Eddie’s attitude towards music, and the execution of a good mix, is surely something that even an amateur mix-tape maker is intimately aware of. But genre sticklers may ask, how does hardcore and punk go hand-in-hand with Soul music? From Eddie’s perspective, it all makes sense: “I see a real synonymy between seemingly distant musical genres, one being the commonalities between avant-garde/lose-your-shit punk hardcore/underground music, and way off the beaten path soul and funk. The aesthetics, the presentation and the execution all come from the same musical gene pool.”

Eddie is on a constant hunt for 45s to spin during Turnaround vs. Immediate, and he’s always on the lookout for tracks that get “the right reaction on the dance floor.” He looks for certain qualities in records when snapping up purchases – soul cover versions of rock songs that will be relatively familiar to club goers, records produced between 1966 and 1972 with a “wicked, gritty Hammond B3 organ sound accompanied by an ultra-tight rhythm section,” tracks that mimic James Brown’s production between 1966 and 1972, and tracks that have lots of background noise or “in the studio party ambiance” which showcase the musicians’ affection for the song.

But what is it about vinyl that’s so special when technology tries to convince us it’s a dead medium? Is it the sound quality (or lack thereof), or is it the fact that so many of these records were never transferred to modern media and in many ways have remained hidden from potential new audiences? For Eddie, the beauty of vinyl is in its physical form as well as in its effects on the listener. “When you really break it down, vinyl is a tactile representation of a physical recording of an abstract concept (a song),” he opines. “What is particularly special about soul and funk music on 45rpm format is that it’s the medium in which the artists intended their music to be heard. The composition and recording of the music – from microphone placement in the studio, to backing vocals and overdubs, were all focused on creating a 2 to 3 minute piece of tape that would then be stamped onto pieces of plastic and subsequently broadcast in clubs, bars, radio studios, and bedrooms around the world.”

It’s not just the hunt for vinyl, or its later presentation, it’s the whole experience that matters. “I am a stickler for aesthetics,” Eddie says with a laugh, “I feel that hunting down a record sought for an intended audience, playing it through a proper sound system on turntables, and in the 45 format pays a very, very proper homage to the musicians who created the music 40 years ago. I envision the duty of the soul DJ to be one part archivist. He or she uncovers lost sounds, and creates a platform for those sounds to be appreciated for a new generation. It's a way in which we can retain and perpetuate the legacy of the artist.”

It is with that goal in mind, that once a month at Turnaround vs. Immediate, a beautiful piece of recorded history comes alive.

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