"Once upon our time there is a group of young men who came together and formulated a dream. They dared to dream that they could create an approach to the arts that would encompass their experience in America, the soul of their mother land…Africa, and the spirit of the oneness of the Universe. This marked the Awakening."
So read the liner notes to The Pharaohs' sole studio album.
The eleven-member spiritual afro-jazz orchestra formed when several sessions musicians from Chess Records met players from both The Jazzmen (a Crane Junior College student band since graduated) and the Artistic Heritage Ensemble. Although this soulful collective was a staple of Chicago's South Side Affro Arts Theatre, it recorded scantly and disbanded prematurely when Maurice White, then the drummer for the Ramsey Lewis Trio, poached several members to form a new band, equally preoccupied with all things Egypt: Earth, Wind and Fire.
Original presses of The Awakening - the only LP on independent label Scarab Records - are scare and expensive. However, Ubiquity Records' rare-groove sub-label, Luv n' Haight, has thoughtfully reissued it, as well as a supplemental album, In the Basement, composed of previously unavailable cuts from The Awakening session, coupled with obscure b-sides and other rarities.