- Over a handful of releases, the Melodies International label has plumbed into the rarest funk and soul imaginable. To date, they've lovingly rescued privately pressed singles from the late '60s and '70s that barely made it beyond city limits, be it 45s from Detroit's Aged In Harmony to Chicago band of brothers Tomorrow's People, whose Open Soul album changes hands for over $1000.
The label's latest release ventures into uncharted waters, reissuing a major-label 12-inch from the 1980s, Womack & Womack's "MPB (Missin' Persons Bureau)." The third single from their 1988 R&B classic Conscience, it featured soul royalty (Cecil is the brother of Bobby Womack, his wife Linda the daughter of Sam Cooke) put in the hands of house godfather Frankie Knuckles. A few years prior, the couple's "Baby I'm Scared of You" was a staple of the Paradise Garage, but having Knuckles remix the song reintroduced them to a new generation of dance music fans, a trend that would continue for the rest of their career, with Womack & Womack getting reworked by Sasha, Joe Claussell and Soul Clap.
But in a catalog that includes over 600 credited remixes, Knuckles' two drastically different reworks of "MPB" remain singular in his oeuvre. There's a very good reason that the original vinyl demands over $100. Remixed with co-producer David Morales, the "Paradise Ballroom Mix" is an outright classic, deftly reimagining the heartache of the original into a nine-minute masterpiece that dilates the original without appearing to fuss with its soulful sentiment. But upon closer examination, Knuckles actually rebuilt the song from the bottom up with percolating conga and a spry synth bass, adding dramatic piano chords that carefully scale upwards to Linda Womack's wordless hums and Cecil's admission of neglect, turning the chorus of "I lost my love" into an anthem.
The "Folk Version" is just as magical. Swathed in copious reverb and delay, the couple's paired voices and strummed acoustic guitar become gossamer threads adrift in deep space, so that "MPB" sounds closest to Arthur Russell's ephemeral and spectral classic World Of Echo. When Knuckles passed away in 2014, the critic Barry Walters assessed the man's touch as lighter than most, deeming his work "Debussy or Satie for the dance floor." With these remixes now available again, the genius of both Knuckles and Womack & Womack can be easily found.
A Womack & Womack - MPB (Missin' Persons Bureau) (Paradise Ballroom Mix)
B Womack & Womack - MPB (Missin' Persons Bureau) (Folk Version)