We went to a very small film festival the other night in Tribeca – an evening of independent short films, a real variety of style and subject matter. But this story stood out and I couldn’t miss passing it on.
‘Edge of Daybreak’ was a prison band, inmates (mostly) of the Powhatan Correctional Facility near Richmond, Virginia in 1979. They convinced the owner of a local recording studio to record their music. Only hitch was, the prison took one look at the studio (particularly, its multiple escape routes) and nixed any possibility of letting the boys loose there. They agreed to one five-hour recording session in the prison rec room, with armed guards standing a foot or two away from the band as they were playing. By this time, one of the band members had been transferred to another facility and had to be trucked back in on short notice for the session. Half the band members didn’t know there was to be a session until they were called down to play.
So, eight original tracks, no real time to rehearse, no time for second takes, no overdubs, the last song (‘Our Love’) performed after they’d been told to wind up the session. And the results are remarkable. The band is tight, several lead singers, tight harmonies, well-performed Seventies soul music. If you polished up a few rough edges and told me this was a forgotten Isley Brothers record or other recently-rediscovered Motown classic, I couldn’t argue with you. Considering the conditions under which it was made, it’s astounding.
Here’s the short documentary by Alix Lambert that was played the other night. All rights to her and the band, none to me. The music is available on Amazon and, I’m sure, iTunes and other vendors. Please buy the music, don’t just stream it (stream it first if you want, to see if you’re interested, but understand that musicians make virtually nothing from streaming). Lambert said she’s working on a full-length documentary on the album and the band, all of whom are apparently alive, out of prison and doing well.
Pass it on; this is one of those feel-good stories like Searching for Sugarman.