Counter Action: ‘Odyssey’ Hard-To-Find Soul Funk Nugget On Short-Lived Motown Offshoot Mo-West


Each week our resident ‘man of mystery’ (alright he works in a record shop) chooses to shine his vinyl shaped spotlight on a dimly lit corner of that wonderful world of ‘7”s, 12”s, LPs etc. that we call, err, records. The records chosen needn’t cost an arm and a leg, be especially rare, or even be so obscure that you out there in ‘normal land’ are like never-ever-ever going to find one – in fact, they don’t have to be good at all (although that does help). No, our record shop employee has a far more noble aim – namely to celebrate the seldom-celebrated, to tell the story of a record with a story to tell – no genre shall go unturned, after all, a tune, is a tune, is a tune.

This week’s diamond in the vinyl-shaped rough is this slice of soul/funk with a dash of Californian sunshine-pop-sike from the short-lived Odyssey. 

Odyssey / Mo West

As the ‘70s began Tamla Motown, flushed with cash from its ’60s successes, was about to relocate from its Detroit home to California, before this wholesale relocation took place the label got one foot in the door via the launch of a West Coast label named….yup you guessed it Mo-West. 
The label was quickly forgotten once the parent company set up shop in sunnier climbs, although not before they’d scored a handful of hits (Franki Valli’s ‘The Night’ being one of them), a lot of flops and the occasional record that sunk without trace at the time, before its eventual rediscovery – hello Odyssey!


Not to be confused with the late ‘70s pop/disco-ers, who scored big with ‘Native New Yorker’ and ‘Going Back To My Roots’. This Odyssey were an altogether stranger affair; counting an ex-original-member of Chicago Donnie Dacus amongst their line-up and with a musical style that might best be described as a strange amalgam of soul/funk mixed with a dash of sunshine-pop and even a light sprinkling of country – YIKES! But wait come back, check ‘Broken Road’, all super-loose afro/jazz vibes with a liberal dose of West Coast Hippie thrown in for good measure.

If the album has appeared on your radar chances are it’s down to two songs, firstly, the mysteriously titled ‘Battened Ships’ (not that mysterious actually, it’s a long thin strip of wood that helps keep the sail in place), ‘Battened Ships’ is a feet-shuffling, Latin-infused, floor-filler that’s been at the top of the more discerning DJ’s wants lists ever since the album was first deleted – rumours have it that the record was changing hands for as much as $100 in the mid-‘70s!

If ‘Battened Ships’ floats your musical boat then check out ‘Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love’, big things must have been expected of this as it was chosen as the albums lead single, it’s a bit of a no-brainer, being a super-sophisticated slice of laid-back soul with a stunning vocal from future Steely Dan and Ambrosia vocalist Royce Jones – still a sought after cut (big in Japan apparently), with a stock copy sold on the Bay recently for $125 – needless to say, the band never recorded again and the album soon hit the bargain bins and deletion cut outs section.

As a footnote top US reissue label Light In The Attic recently cribbed the ‘Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love’ title for their Mowest compilation LP/CD… for the band, just the one LP and one promo ’45, Royce Jones went on to tour with Steely Dan and Ambrosia, but other than that the trail goes cold.


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