Miami rhapsody 

North Cali label Ubiquity Records has long been a next-level pacesetter in groove and rhythm genres. But Luv N' Haight — Ubiquity's reissue branch — is showing maximum hot- buttered style with its latest release.

After seeing Betty Padgett perform at the Fort Lauderdale Elks Lodge in 1974, soul luminary Milton Wright approached the 21-year-old songbird and, within a month, they were writing and arranging together. Recorded in one night at Miami's Criteria Studios, Padgett's debut LP was released in 1975.

At the album's core is a rich soul sound born before R&B lost its compass. But specificity of context is what gives this record even greater distinction and depth. Reflecting the eclecticism of the mid-'70s Miami soul scene, it mingles tropical breezes and reggae patterns with lush disco throbs and deep funk grooves. The result is the kind of distilled action that cultured new-school practitioners reach for. It's a quality that makes the collection sound timeless, even modern.

"It Would Be a Shame" is pure, smooth bedroom soul. "Tonight Is the Night" lends a soft reggae gait to the kind of sweet soul that Sam Cooke perfected, while the vital bob of "Never, Never, Never" comes straight out of Kingston. "Gypsy of Love" strokes a sweeping, island-kissed R&B velvet that foreshadowed Sade by nearly a decade. But none are as classic as the two-part single, "Sugar Daddy," which earned regional fame in a Pepsi commercial. Moved by a tight, minimal disco-funk groove and punctuated by body-moving horn blasts, the shining melody coaxes out the playful sensuality of Padgett's lissome voice.

This album is a vibrant snapshot of the often forgotten soul and funk scene of South Florida in the '70s. After being unearthed by Shane Hunt (DJ Sureshot) from a dusty back room in an L.A. record store, it's finally getting a national release nearly a quarter-century later, thereby securing the crate-digging Sureshot's spot in heaven.


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