The Flames – Soulfire!! South Africa’s soul super groupAugust 26, 2010
like most good posts on these pages this story starts with finding a 45 in a dusty garage somewhere in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. That was the beginning. Later on, I unearthed a battered album called ‘Soulfire!!’ that was still playable. But what a sound! And what a history!!
ladies & gentlemen, here are The Flames!!
Soul ballads, danceable tunes with the odd sitar thrown in the mix, pyschedelic pop with strong vocals by singers Steve Fataar, Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin; elements that made me search for the perfect copy of their album ‘Soulfire!!’. Finally, in a warehouse somewhere in Durban (thanks Chris) I found a SEALED MINT copy of this rare gem. Now, that’s what you’ve got friends for!!!
But my search went on…
All members of The Flames were born and raised in Durban, a huge melting pot, the third biggest city of South Africa in the Natal province. The city, along the Indian Ocean, has the biggest Indian population outside Bombay and together with the Zulu native peoples and white merchants they build beautiful Durban; a harbor, a hub of frantic action and endless urban development. In the 50′s Durban’s coastline was famous for it’s scenic beauty and soon became a coastal resort, attracting many holiday makers and retired permanent residents.
‘Soulfire!!’ is without a doubt a masterpiece of South African soul music. From 1964 until 1967 the line-up consisted of Steve Fataar on guitar, Brother Fataar on bass, Ricky Fataar on drums and vocalist Edries Fredericks on guitar. This was the lineup that produced the first two albums, and more singles. Edries left the Flames after having sung lead on both these albums. He was briefly replaced by Baby Duval in 1967. The same year the group was joined by Blondie Chaplin. He can be heard as lead singer on the single ‘For Your Precious Love’ released in 1968. Together with Ricky Fataar he became a full member of the American super group The Beach Boys from 1971 to 1973, during which time the albums ‘So Tough’, ‘Holland’ and ‘In Concert’ were made and released. Ricky Fataar also did session drumming for other records by individual Beach Boys members.
When The Flames arrived in the United States in 1970 at the invitation of Al Jardine and Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys, they changed their name to The Flame, since there was competition from reggae group The Flames and James Brown’s own The Famous Flames. They started writing new material; powerful rockers, ballads, mood pieces and symphonic masterpieces that got a release on Brother, a local Nashville, Tennessee record label. The album was produced by Carl Wilson and it must be their rarest release ever, since it was distributed only locally in the beginning. Later on it was released in Uruguay, the Netherlands, the UK and Canada.
‘Burning Soul’ and ‘Soulfire!!’ however, remain The Flames best known commercial albums. These have been re-issued many times over the years, mainly in South Africa, although ‘Burning Soul’ was released in Australia as well as in the UK. Their music still stands the test of time.
Soulfire!! (mono edition)
label & number: Rave RMG 1234
date: April 1968
this article contains excerpts and pics courtesy of The Flames official website by Bas Möllenkramer.