Monday, June 20, 2011

Genre Bid: Lounge Funk (Blaxploitation Meets The Umbrella Drink)

In my never ending quest to name a genre, I'll now try my hand at getting some support for Lounge Funk.  To be a Lounge Funk tune, I posit that the proposed track should be funky enough to dance to and/or swanky enough to drink an umbrella drink to, while listening. Lemme know if you think this is a coinable genre or if you have other suggestions. My initial Lounge Funk mixtape focused on swingin' psych and mellower, mostly instrumental funk and you'll see my notations and the mix below. Further down you'll see my proposed Kings of The Genre, Gregory James Edition, who fit nicely into this equation- David Axelrod : Whitesploitation :: Gregory James Edition :Lounge Funk, or this one, Cymande: Afro-Rock :: Gregory James Edition :Lounge Funk. Shaken or Stirred, I'd like to know if you think this dozen is genre worthy.

1. James Reese & The Progressions - Jody's Freeze
Nearing the definition of Lounge Funk: Brassy,classy, and sassy. From the brilliant, but not excessively loungey, Funky 16 Corners comp.

2. Bill Lawrence - Pussy Baby
Adding a touch of psych to your cocktail, with a salacious tune from the In-Kraut scene.

3. Henryk Debich - See You At The Disco Tonight
Flute fueled fuzz funk w/strings from Poland. 

4. Richard Rome - Ghost A Go Go 
A harp is mangled most funkily.

5. Peter King - Mr. Lonely Wolf 
His name might be more reminiscent of an accountant from Sheboygan, or a certain xenophobic congressman from Long Island, but flutes, percussions, and horns drive this mellow funker from the usually raucous Nigerian band leader.

6.The Brothers Johnson - Thunder Thumbs and Lightnin Licks
 With Quincy Jones at the boards smooth and funky is no contradiction.

7. Mystic Moods - Cosmic Sea
 The EL-Lay Studio elite keep it EZ, but with a beat.

8. Phil Upchurch - Cold Sweat
The incredible Chicago session guitarist, associated with the Chess label and others, tears up the JB classic.

9. Gregory James Edition - Changing Things
The leading lights of my genre bid...
10. Herbie Hancock  - Fat Mama
A groover from his 70's years at the WB. From the Fat Albert Rotunda LP. 

11. Monk Montgomery -A Place In The Sun
A Motown instrumental from '69 released on Hugh Masekela's Chisa label (they had a deal with Mr.Gordy). Monk played bass for the Crusaders and he is featured to fine effect throughout w/some 'lectric piano and strings.

12. Bobbie Gentry-Sittin' Pretty
Trust me, it works. I was surprised as you might be, but this falls into a Lee Hazelwood stoner-country bag, w/ flutes, strings, and Bobbie's pipes gettin' it done.

If you've made it this far and feel like Lounge Funk is for you, take a gander at this disc...

Thanks to the music loving folks over at Four Brothers Weekly Blog (though it seems to be on hiatus these days) , I got schooled in a back to the future way this week. I had never heard of The Gregory James Edition and their 1973 instrumental album, Prophets of Soul, they hipped me, and it is a knockout.

This Chicago band (Gregory Bibb on keys, James Norris on guitar, Anthony McAllister on drums) cut the album for Dakar Records (a division of Brunswick) and it pretty much went no where at the time. Shuggie Otis' Inspiration/Information is the only record of its era that I can even begin to compare it to, but take a listen and you might find it easier to see how their tunes would fit on a Stereolab, or even a Drum and Bass, record.

Go Get Prophets Of Soul

Prophets of Soul is a genuinely tweaked, original take on soul music, whose tunes (great use of farfisa organ and electric piano) could fit into a number of todays genre's and micro genres (lounge,funk,dn'b,soul,psych). Or perhaps it was the original Lounge Funk record.

The cover is suitable for framing too,no?

Follow that link above and make sure to say hi to Mogger Lafayette when you visit 4 Brothers. My kinda people over junkies (with deep crates) who love to share and chew the fat about tunes.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's All Lies - James Brown At The Garden

Take a look at the orignal cover of this 1967 King Records Live LP by James Brown..

Now Check this 2009 Reissue of the same LP.....

The new cover is the truthful one..Sure, James Brown made his debut at Madison Square Garden in 1966, but the LP issued as Live at the Garden was not recorded at midtown Manhattan's legendary arena, but instead, at the more modest (but very swanky), Latin Casino, in Cherry Hill,New Jersey. Sadly, the original LP (which is included in Hip-O Select's 2 cd and very deluxe package), doesn't even hint at how good the James Brown Experience was; shifting the order of tunes, eliminating the opening band set (which JB played organ for), editing out most of the stage patter, and adding fake crowd noise/arena ambiance. Maybe that's why it became such a minor part of the JB canon. Although  the original LP running order from the January 67 Latin Casino run is presented on disc 1, you'll want to move right on to disc 2.

The new expanded edition of Live At The Garden, dispenses with the lies and half-truths (that were pretty common in the day), and on the second CD, gives you a typical (though a little truncated) James Brown supper club set. The nod to crossover, not included in the original LP, Come Rain Or Come Shine, is more of a wink, 'cause for the most part, JB and the band (led by Pee wee Ellis) rip it up. (Not that there's anything wrong with supper club crossover bids-see Sam Cooke at the Harlem Square Club). On top of the tinkling glasses, there's also a ton of audience interaction and clowning that you never saw in arena or larger venues, and that's what makes this new offering unique in the JB oeuvre.

At the time of the record's original release JB was embroiled in his ongoing feud with King Records head Syd Nathan. Though they respected each other and made each other a lot of money, they agreed on almost nothing. Nathan hated live records and that's why this one was so tinkered thought Nathan, the LP would be stepping on 45 and album sales for the newest hit, Bring It Up, and JB's latest full length, Raw Soul (March '67), which was released a mere 2 months before Live At The Garden hit shelves. James won the argument, but this time Syd Nathan was right. For aesthetic and marketing reasons the record didn't do too much.

This wasn't of much consequence to JB..he felt that if he recorded it, it was a waste not to put it out. I guess JB and Prince went to the same school of marketing. Chuckles aside though, the gussied up version of Live At the Garden is a nice addition to any JB collection, capturing the band on the cusp of their funk breakthrough. As an added track, a rehearsal piece recorded on an empty stage in Cherry Hill, Let Yourself Go, hinted at the full blown funk of Cold Sweat that would be released in June.

Go Get Live At The Garden pt.1
and Pt.2 

JB circa '67

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Freakiest Funk For Friday-The Wicked Witch

Sure there is plenty of funk that is challenged in the sanitary and sanity department (not that that's a bad thing), but this one here goes the extra mile in dirt and derangement.

Go Get Wicked Witch

My Brief review from about a year ago..
There are times when the various pronouncements, actions, and output of the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince, have caused me to believe he was off his rocker, 3 sequins short of a pants suit,if you will. Whatever you may think of that statement, Prince contemporary and underground DC funkster, Richard Simms, is much more easily classed as certifiable.

Coming off like a cross between Gary Wilson, Jandek, Sun Ra, P-Funk, and yeah,Prince ,Mr. Simms (recording as Wicked Witch) dropped a handful of self produced records through the late 70's and 80's. These psych (and psycho) funk tracks have been reissued by Japan's (EM) label. How they found these records,I don't know. I do know that if I ever saw that album cover, I'd buy it too. Still though, I keep my ear to the ground fairly well about this stuff and I'd never heard boo about Wicked Witch. Could it possibly be a hoax? Naaah, no one could dream this shit up. The Wicked Witch is real, Happy Friday.

Fancy Dancer (remix)

Friday, May 13, 2011

8 Track Mix - That's Nonsense

Nonsense that makes sense:

Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta - Ernie K-Doe
Bop Ting a Ling - LaVerne Baker
Ookey Ook - The Penguins
Boot-Ta-La-Za - Slim & Slam
Ad-De-Dey - Cab Calloway & His Orchestra
Klactoveedsedsteene - Original Charlie Parker Quintet
Boo-Dah - Duke Ellington
Tee-Nah-Nah - Smiley Lewis
Bam-Sa-Bo - Winston Heywood & The Hombres
Ack-A-Fool - The Sister & Brothers
Bama Lama Bama Loo (Take 10) - Little Richard
Bip Bop Bip - Pretty Boy
Bomazee - Little Roy
Boop Bop Bing Bash - George Braith
Tee Nine Chee Bit - Earth Wind & Fire
ooh ah ee - vern blair debate
Bim Sala Bim - Hudson County
Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop) - Parliament
Barabajagal - Donovan With The Jeff Beck Group, Lesley And Madeleine
Blota Blota - Mike James Kirkland
Great Googa Mooga- Lee Dorsey
Ooh Poo Pah Doo, Parts 1 & 2 - Jessie Hill

Friday, May 6, 2011

8 Track Mix-The Butcher Shop

Southern Fried Chicken - Bill Thomas
Shake Your Rump - Beastie Boys
Butcher Pete Pt.1 - Roy Brown
Bump Meat - Sir Mack Rice
Latex Solar Beef - Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention
...Pork Chop - Tad
Dave The Butcher - Tom Waits
I Heard The Voice Of A Porkchop - Bogus Ben Covington
Preacher Porkchop - KMD
The Cross Eyed Butcher and The Cackling Hen - Uncle Dave Macon
My Butcher Man - Memphis Minnie
Butcher Pete Pt. 2 - Roy Brown
Fat Meat Is Greasy - Jackie Brenston
Eli's Porkchop - Little Sonny
Beef Rap - MF Doom
Meat Grinder - Madvillain
Mango Meat - Mandrill
Pork Soda - The Headhunters
Gimmie A Pigfoot (and a Bottle of Beer) - Sylvester & The Hot Band

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Baaad Jazz - Melvin Sparks R.I.P.

Back at the beginning of March, Melvin Sparks jumped to the front of the line, in the crowded queue of thoughts in my head. One of my fave blogs, Record Fiend, did a post about his first record, Sparks! (1970). For the next week or so I listened to the 4 records I have for Melvin, a 2003 live jam, and some of the numerous sessions he played on during the height of the jazz-funk, soul-jazz era. A go to guitarist for organ players, in 1970 alone he cut records with Charles Earland, Leon Spencer,Sonny Phillips,and Charles Kynard. Not to mention his work with other leaders like, Idris Muhammad, Rusty Bryant, and Lou Donaldson. That list was only one year, and , of course, doesn't include his debut as a leader.

Thank You (Sly Stone cover)

Personnel for Sparks! (1970)
Drums - Idris Muhammad  
Organ - Leon Spencer, Jr.
Saxophone [Tenor] - Houston Person , John Manning
Trumpet - Virgil Jones

Just after I was coming down off the Sparks groove cloud, some bad news came across the wire. I read in the New York Times that Mr. Sparks had died March 15th, at his home in Mount Vernon, NY. He was only 64 years old.  Mr. Sparks was not a long lost musician of a bygone era, he was very active throughout a career that spanned over 4 decades.
Melvin Sparks first came to my attention in the early 90's as a re-discovered hero for the Acid Jazz scene. Always soulful and funky on record, his catalog doesn't see him straying too far from his R&B roots.

Before he got in on the ground floor of the soul jazz scene he backed Hank Ballard, Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson, and Little Richard, as a teenager. Coupled with the aforementioned jazz cats, this makes Mr. Sparks bonafides prety much untouchable, in any bag.

Two of his first three records, Sparks! and Akilah (named after one of his daughters) were reissued as a pair in the early 90's. One of the first glimpses young crate diggers (like myself) got of the classic soul jazz records that were a part of  groove movement in the 70's, but rare in the 90's.  Jazz critics pretty much dismiss this era, but it was a goldmine to me...and evidently to more than a few of the bands that got the hard to shake Acid Jazz tag (more on that later).

Go get Sparks! and Akilah

All Wrapped Up

Personnel for Akilah (1972)
Drums-Idris Muhammad
Flute-Dave Hubbard,Hubert Laws
Organ,Piano-Leon Spenser
Percussion-Buddy Caldwell
Alto- George Coleman, Sonny Fortune
Tenor-Dave Hubbard,Frank Wess
Trumpet-Ernie Royal, Virgil Jones

After his first 3 albums for the venerable Prestige label, Mr. Sparks moved on to upstart Detroit (Ohio Players, Funkadelic, The Counts) label, Westbound, and their jazz-centric Eastbound imprint. I don't know the circumstances of the departure from Prestige, but the fact is, soul-jazz was waning in popularity, and funk was on the rise. His Westbound sides are more produced (horns/strings) and also include vocals. Soul Jazz might have been on the wane, but Melvin's brand of gritty,single note funk never goes out of style.
Texas Twister

Personnel for Texas Twister (1973)
Baritone Saxophone – Edward Xiques
Congas – Buddy Caldwell
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Electric Bass – Wilbur Bascomb
Electric Piano – Sonny Phillips
Guitar – Ron Miller
Guitar, Arranged By, Conductor – Melvin Sparks
Organ – Ceasar Frazier
Tenor Saxophone – Ron Bridgewater
Trumpet – Cecil Bridgewater , Jon Faddis

By 1975, the music that passed as popular jazz, was rapidly infusing funk and disco sounds in order to gain spots on radio outlets that were drifting closer and closer to what would become to be known as smooth jazz.  That's probably the reason that 75 is my least favorite of the early Melvin Sparks records. That said, the LP is not devoid of highlights (or funk). It is a bit too polished for me though.

Go Get Texas Twister and 75

Get Ya Some

The late 70's and early 80's were tough times for jazz as a popular music. As record companies became more corporate, more driven by marketing, and beholden to new trends like MTV and the CD, new jazz suffered. Melvin Sparks kept working though, recording as a leader and sideman for indie labels like Milestone and Muse. Jazz, except those great artists enshrined in the (major label) canon, went almost completely underground.
Over in England, the late 80's and early 90's saw the jazz that had gone underground (and almost forgotten) inspiring a new underground: a DJ based, hip hop related, record collector driven movement; that would be tagged as acid jazz.

DJ's led parties that were dancing to jazz, particularly the Hammond B-3-centric jazz from the soul and funk era. Bands also started to get in on the act, and one of the first was the James Taylor Quartet. Led by B3 cat James Taylor and releasing a string of Spy/Mod instrumental records starting in 1987, the JTQ went back to their roots in 1992 under the guise of the New Jersey Kings. This faux-lost classic of Hammond grooves, contained a cover of Melvin Sparks' All Wrapped Up, and was one of the earliest entries in the Soul Jazz revival.
 Go get Party To The Bus Stop

All Wrapped Up (JTQ Version)

Get Organized

The hip hop, crate digger part of acid jazz was more pronounced (and came a little later) in the US. Right out front was DJ Greyboy, who mixed DJ styles with live instruments on his 1994 debut for Ubiquity, Freestylin'. Greyboy (a.k.a Andreas Stevens) would later form the Greyboy All Stars with some like minded young jazz players and tour under the banner of the Greyboy All Stars, who made quite a name for themselves on the jam band club circuit, introducing new sax lion Karl Denson, along with calling on Melvin Sparks to open for the All Stars on tour.

Go get Freestylin'

In a lot of ways Freestylin' was the re-introduction of soul jazz (under the guise of Acid Jazz) to American audiences. Groups like The Solsonics (LA), Groove Collective (NYC), and Liquid Soul (Chicago) would follow closely behind. It's no surprise then, that Greyboy's first record would feature a Melvin Sparks cover amongst it's grooves (Texas Twister).
Texas Twister

Lite Bake

So, a lot of things came together (DJ culture, crate digging, acid jazz, hip hop) and opened the door for Melvin Sparks to return. He was more than ready...gigging and recording with old friends (like Houston Person and Jimmy McGriff) and new jacks (Soulive, Karl Denson, Galactic) alike, as folks started to come around to an old idea that seemed new...jazz was a music you could dance to. Mr. Sparks mentored young musicians while continuing to hit festivals and clubs up through the time that high blood pressure and diabetes caught up with him. He will be missed by generations of players and listeners..R.I.P., Mr. Sparks, a true Godfather of the Good Groove.

Check out these 3 long jams from 2003 at the North Beach Jazz Festival

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Baaad Jazz - Gary Bartz

I hang around a lot of new music folks on the net, many of whom just can't take the plunge into jazz....especially anything after 1965 or so. Why is that?

If there were ipods back in the 60's and 70's, a majority of pro basketball players would've been listening to jazz. Why has that changed to hip hop?

Up until the 70's, you could find a large network of jazz clubs in cities large and small...Indianapolis, Newark, Baltimore, Houston, St. Louis, and more, all had bustling scenes that just aren't there today. Why is that?

Some might say Rock and Roll is to blame, others might fault the academy for creating a certain narrative about the music that was not inclusive (ie. "America's Classical Music"), others might point to the splintering of post bop into a myriad of styles that we're incomprehensible to the average fan, still others would point to record labels and excessive commercialization. Then there's the huge decreases in funding for music programs in public schools creating fewer musicians.The list of woes and explanations is long and there's no doubt that the factors above all contributed to a lower profile for jazz as a popular music.

I'm sure you're asking what all this has to do with alto (mainly) saxman, Gary Bartz?

Well, Mr. Bartz was right in the thick of this era of change, arriving in New York from Baltimore to attend Julliard in 1958. He followed the path of many young,talented jazz musicians, jamming with young lions and apprenticing with old masters.

"It was a very good time for the music in New York, at the end of what had been the be-bop era," says Bartz. "Charlie Parker had passed away three years previously but Miles' group was in its heyday, Monk was down at the Five Spot, and Ornette Coleman was just coming to town. Things were fresh."-Gary Bartz

Bartz was part of Mingus' Workshop, Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the Max Roach/ Abbey Lincoln Group, as well as appearing on McCoy Tyner records (a relationship that continues to this day). In a short few years he had connected to the legacy of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, two of his most important influences.

His first records as a leader, Another Earth and Home were acoustic efforts, leaning in a Coltrane-esque, spiritual/space direction. Around this time he was also gigging in Miles Davis' electric outfreakages, appearing on Live-Evil and touring the world with the trumpeter.

Right after the Miles' tour, Bartz began putting all his influences together and stamping his own mark with his own ensemble, NTU Troop. (NTU is Bantu for "unity in all things, time and space, living and dead, seen and unseen".

Harlem Bush Music (Taifa/Uhuru) Lineup (70-71)
Bass - Juni Booth
Bass- Ron Carter
Drums - Harold White
Percussion - Nat Bettis
Saxophone [Soprano, Alto],Vocals,Piano - Gary Bartz
Vocals - Andy Bey
Go get Harlem Bush Music

These first two NTU Troop records are political (in spots), steeped in afro-centric themes, calling for revolution, exhorting movement.  They are definitely of their time, but also harken back to Congo Square (music and dance are part of the same cultural package).  Somewhat dismissed or misunderstood in the critical canon (perhaps because of the vocals), these records remain vital in my canon.

Mr.Bartz continued working on other folks records during the making of the first two NTU Troop offerings and reconvened his ensemble in California (Harlem Bush Music was recorded in New York) with only Andy Bey remaining from the initial sessions, for an October '72 date that yielded tracks for Juju Street Songs and Follow, The Medicine Man.

Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Sopranino, Voice, Electric Piano, Percussion - Gary Bartz
Bass, Electric Bass, Voice, Percussion - Stafford James
Drums, Voice, Percussion - Howard King
Vocals, Electric Piano, Percussion - Andy Bey
Additional musicians (New York) were added to finish Follow...
Guitar - Hector Centeno and Electric Piano - Hubert Eaves

The new cats were needed because Andy Bey left the band (Bey would release Experience and Judgment within a year). Mr. Bartz would go on to release one more NTU Troop Record, Singerella:A Ghetto Fairytale, that hinted at the smoother rhythms that would emerge in his later work with Larry and Fonce Mizell. The Mizell records were probably the most popular of Bartz career, but for my money (and I'll always lay down for Larry and Fonce), The NTU Troop records are grittier and funkier, full of experimentation and joy. Talkin' loud and sayin' something .

Go get Ju Ju Street Songs (includes follow and juju)

From the 80's til now Gary Bartz has continued to release quality records, mostly mining a more traditional (post bop) jazz vein, he's continued to tour, and he's also a jazz educator-currently the Visiting Professor of Jazz Saxophone at Oberlin.  You can't really go wrong in any part of Gary Bartz's 30 albums as a leader, but from the funk side this fertile period in the 70's should not be missed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Decoding The Hip Hop Genome- Ultimate Breaks And Beats

You'll see me quote the website The- quite a bit. The site has tons of information about who sampled what, in what song, the name of the sampled artist, the album the sampled artist's sampled track comes from,etc,etc. All very searchable and cross-referenced and just generally a boon to my existence. I got into sampling because I got into hip hop and DJ's from the first time I saw the Sugar Hill Gang on TV (plus before this time my mom dated a radio DJ, and I was fascinated by all those records).

If you didn't live in New York, Hip Hop was incredibly mysterious in the early days..the records that were out (that you could find), were made with live instruments by house bands, playing music of club hits for folks to rap over. This really only hinted at how real hip hop was made: 2 turntables and a microphone..

With a little persistence I began to find evidence of "real hip hop"..mixtapes of radio shows, films of break dancing, and the legendary Busy Bee and friends X-Mas party tape showed how the DJ's got the crowd moving by extending the instrumental breaks of songs. By having two copies of a record, playing the break on one turntable, then cuing the break on the second table, then starting the break again on the second turntable, when the snippet ended on the first..over and over til the dancers were tired and eventually until a revolution was born.

The records the DJ's spun for their break beats were highly guarded secrets until Lenny Roberts, a cat from the Bronx with an incredible knowledge of 60's and 70's music single-handedly decoded the genome of Hip Hop with his 25 LP series, Ultimate Breaks and Beats (re-issued on a 3 disc-2 CD mp3,1 dvd aiff)..Just about any hip hop record made after 1985 uses a break from records included in this series. Some of the records have been edited from their original form to extend the breaks. Some of the records are awful as a whole, but contain breaks that have launched thousands of Hip Hop tunes. Like it or not, these are the most influential bootleg records ever ,as well as being one of the first DJ tools.
Not only did Lenny chronicle the DJ side of the hip hop movement, he also added tunes to the series that had never been sampled before, that would became standards in the DJ/producer world. On a personal note, these records started me on a crate digging fetish that will prolly end only with my passing. A very eclectic mix..w/many never on legit CD songs. 174 tunes. The DNA of hip hop. See the complete track list at wiki.

Here are a few cuts from the series that you'll probably recognize, followed by a partial list of some of the hip hop artists who used the cuts as samples...

Hector-Village Callers
Beastie Boys - "The Blue Nun"
Cypress Hill - "The Funky Cypress Hill Shit"
Cypress Hill - "The Phuncky Feel One"
De la Soul - "The Mack Daddy on the Left"
Ice Cube - "Jackin' for Beats"
King Bee - "Havin a Good Time"
Redman - "Redman Meets Reggie Noble"
Wreckx-N-Effect - "New Jack Swing"

Heaven & Hell- 20th Century Steel Band
3rd Bass - "Soul in the Hole"
Anonymous ft Eminem - "Green & Gold"
Black Eyed Peas - "Say Goodbye"
Blade - "Mind of an Ordinary Citizen"
Blahzay ft. Uncle Murda - "Make A Livin"
Chubb Rock - "Keep it Street"
Doug E Fresh - "Back in the Days"
Dream Warriors - "Voyage Through the Multiverse"
Jennifer Lopez - "Jenny from the Block"
Jungle Brothers - "Jungle Brother (True Blue)"
Kenny Dope - "Makin' a Living"
Masta Ace - "Go Where I Send Thee"
Positive K - "Ain't No Crime"
Salt-N-Pepa - "Heaven and Hell"
Soul II Soul - "Dance"
Spoonie Gee - "Hit Man"
Stop the Violence Movement - "Self-Destruction"
Whoridas - "Triple Beam Threat"
Xzibit - "LA Times"

Mountain - Long Red
A Tribe Called Quest - "Glamour and Glitz"
A Tribe Called Quest - "Jazz (We've Got)"
Artifacts - "The Ultimate"
Capitol Tax - "Can You Dig It"
Cash Money & Marvelous - "Ugly People Be Quiet"
Compton's Most Wanted - "Growin' up in the 'Hood"
Depeche Mode - "Walking in My Shoes"
Double XX Posse - "School of Hard Knocks"
EPMD - "It's My Thing"
EPMD - "Strictly Business"
Eric B and Rakim - "Eric B is President"
Eric B and Rakim - "Put Your Hands Together"
Esham - "666"
Ghostface Killah - "Child's Play"
Ice Cube - "The Birth"
Inspectah Deck - "Trouble Man"
Kanye West - "The Glory"
Kurious - "Walk Like a Duck"
LMNO - "Grin and Bear It"
MadKap - "Beddie-Bye"
MC Shan - "So Fresh"
Nas - "It Ain't Hard to Tell"
NWA - "Real Niggaz Don't Die"
Peanut Butter Wolf - "A Tale of Five Cities"
Pete Rock & CL Smooth - "Ghettos of the Mind"
Pete Rock & CL Smooth - "Good Life"
Pete Rock & CL Smooth - "Return of the Mecca"
Pete Rock & CL Smooth - "Searchin'"
Pete Rock & CL Smooth - "Soul Brother #1"
Pete Rock & CL Smooth - "What's Next on the Menu?"
PMD - "I'll Wait"
Public Enemy - "Louder than a Bomb"
Rakim - "New York (Ya Out There)"
Sixtoo - "Duration Project"
Special Ed - "Walk the Walk"
Tragedy - "Shalom a Leck"
Young Black Teenagers - "Roll with the Flavor"

The Champ-The Mohawks
Aaliyah ft Slick Rick - "Got to Give it Up"
Alan Braxe - "Vertigo"
Bahamadia - "3 tha Hard Way Remix"
Big Daddy Kane - "Smooth Operator"
Chubb Rock - "Keep it Street"
Coldcut - "More Beats and Pieces"
De la Soul - "Keepin' the Faith"
Dilated Peoples - "Strength"
DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince - "Groove"
DJ Shadow - "Entropy"
DOC - "Lend Me an Ear"
Double XX Posse - "On a Mission"
El Meswy - "Nadie"
EPMD - "The Big Payback"
Eric B and Rakim - "Eric B is President"
Erick Sermon - "Stay Real"
Everlast - "Syndicate"
Fu-Schnickens - "La Schmoove"
Guy - "Groove Me"
Hammer - "Pump it Up"
Ini Kamoze - "Here Comes the Hot Stepper"
J-Live - "Vampire Hunter"
J-Live ft Lone Catalysts - "Dynamite"
Keith Murray - "Get Lifted"
King T - "At Your Own Risk"
KRS-One - "Step into a World (Rapture's Delight)"
Live Human - "Quick Eleven"
Looptroop - "Four Elements"
Lord Finesse - "Return of the Funky Man"
Low Profile - "Aladdin's on a Rampage"
Maestro Fresh Wes - "Let Your Backbone Slide"
Main Source - "Large Professor"
MC Don & EZ Ed - "Party Rocker"
Michael Jackson - "2 Bad (Refugee Camp Mix)"
Mistress & DJ Madame E - "Hypergroove"
Nice & Smooth - "No Bones"
Original Concept - "Can U Feel It?"
Prince Paul - "Prince Paul vs. the World"
Redman - "Da Funk"
Steady B - "Believe Me Das Bad"
Stetsasonic - "Miami Bass"
Stop the Violence Movement - "Self-Destruction"
T La Rock - "It's Yours"
TKA - "Maria"
Trey Lewd - "Hoodlums Hoo Ride"
Tymez Up - "Klap Tu Dis"

Cavern - Liquid Liquid
De la Soul - "Ego Trippin' (Pt 2)"
Grandmaster Melle Mel & the Furious Five - "White Lines"
Jungle Brothers - "Beyond this World"
LL Cool J - "Something Like a Phenomenon"
Notorious BIG - "Nasty Boy"
Ursula 1000 - "Gambit"

Bring It Here - Wild Sugar
Beastie Boys - "Brass Monkey"

Planetary Citizen- Mahavishnu Orchestra (with John McLaughlin)
Jaz - "A Nation Divided"
Massive Attack - "Unfinished Symphony"
Schoolly D - "Black Education"
Slick Rick - "Kit (What's the Scoop)"
Stetsasonic - "So Let the Fun Begin"

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pleasure and Pain From The Ohio Players

In the spirit of Funk and exploitive album covers  I offer up, Pain and Pleasure from the Ohio Players. While the bands' history is fairly well kown, many folks don't realize their origins go way back to the late 50's á la George Clinton and the P-Funk mob.

They started as the Ohio Untouchables in Dayton,OH  and featured guitar hero (of mine) Robert Ward., later evolving into the Ohio Players, cutting records for Capitol, and then singing to Westbound Records in 1972, where they were labelmates with Funkadelic. Like Funkadelic records on Westbound, The Players offerings were full of experimentation, jazz,funk,soul, and most importantly...Freedom.

By the time they reached their zenith in '76, the Players were, as or more popular than P-Funk for a minute, but the weirdness was gone. Even the album covers, which were exploitive and dangerous (at least the man gets a whipping on the Pain cover), became just plain exploitive, and Hooters©-esque; in line with the disco age that brought the players fame, but also killed them by association.
 Feel Pain

Pride and Vanity

 Players in The Ohio Players:
Cornelius Johnson
Walter "Junie" Morrison
Leroy Bonner
Marshall Jones
Robert "Rumba" Jones
Billy Beck
Wes Boatman
Mervin Pierce
Ralph "Pee Wee" Middlebrooks
Jimmy Sampson
Vincent Thomas
James "Diamond" Williams
Clarence Willis
Greg Webster
Bruce Napier
Andrew Noland
Clarence "Satch" Satchell
Bobby Lee Fears
Dutch Robinson
Get Pleasure

Friday, March 11, 2011

(Pre) Funky Friday- Doo Wop Skeletons In Clinton's Closet-The Parliaments

Name two artists who came into music via their love of doo wop, exploded into the popular consciousness in the 70's, operated with a deep contempt of the music business, put together ultra talented bands, presented (still present) legendary live shows, used humor to make much larger points, and always seemed to be just a little bit ahead of their time.

My answer is George Clinton and Frank Zappa. Sure, some of their methods were different, but their career arcs have many similarities, including loyal worldwide fan bases and massive revisionist critical acclaim. The world just needed time to catch up with what they were doing.

 The key similarity, though, is their doo wop roots. Most folks in the 70's would've pegged Funkadelic or the Mothers of Invention as "acid rock", probably because that was the surface look, feel, and sound of their bands and the music they played. But group vocals styles were always a part of their music, from Zappa's tribute/satire to Doo Wop, Crusin' With Rueben and The Jets or P-Funk's constant reinvention of their early doo wop material in songs like , The Goose, I Wanna Testify,or All Your Goodies Are Gone, which became funkier as later versions emerged.

George Clinton and Frank Zappa used "the forms and clichés of their era and perverted them" (The Real Frank Zappa Book). Did one influence the other? If anything, it was probably Zappa that influenced Clinton..although George's genius was the sheer amount of synthesis that went into P-Funk music; nothing short of a primer of rock and roll era music from doo wop to hip hop. In the end both Frank and George used whatever freedom their outsider status conveyed on them to make some timely and timeless records, that repay repeated listens with new revelations. Long lost brothers? Maybe not.

The transitional records made by the Parliaments from their doo wop days to their Funkadelic days have been readily available, and most folks with some knowledge of the history assume the Parliament's 1968 top 20 R&B (Motown inspired, but clearly headed in a new direction) hit , I Wanna Testify, was the beginning of the P-Funk story. Truth is, George and his crew had been paying dues for more than 10 years. So, before the madness of Parliament's Osmium (1970) and Funkadelic's self titled debut (1970), there were these stabs at doo wop stardom, put together by some friends who met at a Plainfield,NJ barbershop.

1958 7" Poor Willie /Party Boys -APT 45-25036
A Side:

B Side:

1959 7" Lonely Island/(You Made Me Wanna) Cry -Flipp FL-45-100/101
A Side:

B Side:

I pulled these off the (I think) bootleg CD I Wanna Testify (go get testify), which includes all the prehistoric P-Funk in one place on CD for the first time.

Finally, here's I Wanna Testify, the first paydirt for George Clinton, and probably the only reason the mothership ever had a chance to leave this planet. Testify's success enabled George and his crew, to tour, to get sued for using the name Parliaments (precipitating the need to invent the name Funkadelic), and most importantly, to relocate to Detroit and psychedelicize into a unit capable of funkatizing entire galaxies.

Cheers to George, for 50 years of survival and subversion..and cheers to Frank for his incredible output of sonic genius and unrelenting truth telling.

(I Wanna) Testify/I Can Feel The Ice Melting- Revilot-207
A side:

B Side:

P.S.-The first song at my second wedding was I Can Feel The Ice Melting.
P.P.S.- To Explain my title pun check out the title cut from this '86 George Clinton solo record
R&B Skeletons In The Closet

Go Get R & B Skeletons In The Closet

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mardi Gras Funk - The Wild Magnolias

New Orleans Music is a year round obsession here at Funk or Die, so the fact that Fat Tuesday has passed, and the necklaces and vomit have been cleaned up, doesn't mean a thing to me. The bon temps continue to roullez.

Mostly because, New Orleans is the well that America draws its music legacy from, and the depth of NOLA's contribution to American music is more than just lives and breathes. The city has music coursing through it today, and if you are from there or have visited, you know this. A few weeks of focus on the music of New Orleans once a year is simply not enough.  Mardi Gras, of course, is an important part of NOLA culture. Mardi Gras is all about parades, many parades. One of the long time participants in these colorful affairs are the Mardi Gras "indian" tribes.

The first Wild Magnolias record ▲...Go get It
Smoke My Peacepipe (Smoke It Right)

(I watched HBO's Treme with great interest, especially the story thread on keeping the "Indian" Tradition alive)

I'm not gonna go into the cultural and historical significance of the tribes, but if you would like to, I suggest picking up the Wild Magnolia's package that was reissued a few years back. It is about the funkiest history lesson you'll ever get. In person, at the parades, you'll see these incredibly costumed social clubs marching, banging on numerous percussion intruments, and chanting generations old Mardi Gras tunes.

In the 70's a French producer who absolutely fell in love with these songs decided he wanted to get the music out to the world. He felt that in order to gain acceptance, he'd have to pair the chants with modern musical stylings. To my (and I'm guessing many funk/NOLA fans) great joy, the fusion here is with funk. Not just any old funk either..Willie Tee (Leader of the Meters-esque instrumental outfit, The Gaturs) Funk. The 2 albums Phillipe Rault and Willie Tee (Wilson Turbinton)cut with The Wild Magnolias and Chief Bo Bollis were re-issued in absolutely deluxe fashion by my new best friends at Sunnyside Records. Not only are these ultra funky albums sounding better than ever, the second CD also features a downloadable 62 page book! If you are into New Orleans and/Or Mardi Gras in any way the book alone is worth the price of admission. Essential Stuff.
New Suit

The second Magnolias record...Go Get It
I stuffed that booklet pdf in this file.

Finally ,for now,  and just for completeness sake (although there are many other Wild Magnolias records you can get of more recent vintage), here's a Funky Delicassies re-issue of some Gaturs singles under the title Wasted..

Go get Wasted

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fun(k) Facts: So...Is It Arlester or Dyke?

Happily the answer is both. When he was born in Buffalo,NY in '43, it seems like Arlester Christian's parents had him pegged as a future British bon vivant and chat show presenter,not a funk originator. Luckily the toddler had other ideas. By the early 60's he was in Buffalo's baddest band, The Blazers, and his childhood nickname (received for the way he pronounced dice when he was a pup)Dyke, was firmly ensconced. The Blazers were tapped to be the back up band for the O'Jays and Dyke hit the road. Unfortunetly, by the time the tour reached Phoenix the O'Jays were out of dough and The Blazers had to leave the bus. Resorceful as ever, Dyke and the boys stayed in the desert and made history. They cut one of Dyke's tunes for a local label, a little thing called Funky Broadway, that was the first ever record with funk on the label. JB might have found the funk sound, but Dyke named it. Dyke was cut down by street fight gun fire in '71, but his hard funk will live on.
(For an alternate take on the origin of funk see Smokey Johnson..)

Fat Tuesday: Drummer / Birther - Smokey Johnson

"A lot of those New Orleans drummers would come through, and I got a lot of stuff from those guys"- John "Jabo' Starks (Drummer-James Brown)

Some might say James Brown invented funk..some (including Earl Palmer himself) would say Earl Palmer was the man who brought the funk first, melding the New Orleans second line into pop tunes for Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino. Still others look to cat who replaced Earl in Bartholomew's ensemble, Smokey Johnson, as the man who birthed funk. Fact is funk has always been with us, but Smokey might've found it first..(Earl King-Trick Bag '62).

Until recently, I thought it was the Meters Ziggy Modeliste who defined NOLA funk (and therefore funk in general), but a site called Home Of The Groove clued me into the fact that Ziggy (and Idris Muhammed, another funky drummer) were mentored by none other than Smokey Johnson. It's no surprise either, that many of Smokey's laid baid NOLA funk sides were produced by Wardell Quezerque (another highly underrated innovator in the soul funk field.)

Smokey was mostly a session cat, but below you'll find a few of his singles as a leader, including It Ain't My Fault from '64, a tune that might be the first funk tune on record and one that has become a Mardi Gras standard..Also see Funkie Moon for an example of where Ziggy Modeliste might have learned a few of his signature licks..
In the web link above there's a story about how Smokey and a bunch of NOLA cats went up to Motown to audition..they cut a bunch of demos, but it was Smokey who impressed the most and stayed on for two months of production line work in the snakepit. Earl King said," part of the reason why they got in the door was Motown's fascination with Smokey Johnson, who could do more on a trap set by himself than any two of the label's session drummers." I dunno if that's just legend, but if it isn't it makes a lot of sense. From the beginning of recorded music in the US innovation has always spread from NOLA north...

Smokey suffered a stroke in '93 so he no longer plays..he lost his home in Katrina and currently lives in Musicians' Village, a Habitat for Humanity project in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
Tuff City has reisuued Smokey's solo work originally recorded for the NOLA label in the 60's on a comp called It Ain't My Fault. Definitely worth a look.
It Ain't My Fault
Funkie Moon

Monday, March 7, 2011

New Genre Bid-Afro Rock: Cymande

Luckily for digital and dusty vinyl crate diggers, the actual rock based (or rock-like) music that is/was made in Africa has become a bit of a cause célèbre on the re-issue circuit. Psych, groove, funk, and many other styles are appearing now on a regular basis. Blogs direct from Africa like Oro or  Brooklyn's always awesome, Awesome Tapes From Africa are just a few of the spots that continue to explore the staggering amount of music that was and is made in Africa. I mean we're talking about 20 or 30 different countries, all with a fully functioning record biz, major and indie. In case you haven't noticed, music has a little bit more cultural importance to folks in Africa. Oh sure, there are impressarios looking to make a buck, but that can't compare to 50,000 years of musical traditions....At any (rant) rate,the reissue explosion keeps groove hunters busy.
The 2002 comp just above is a definite winner for beat junkies,as it was one of the first all-African artist Afro- Rock comps aimed at English speakers. Those listeners may have had their appetite whetted for motherland funk by the 1999 offering below...which has a few African artists, but also includes the bands that make up the foundation of what I call Afro-Rock. Bands like the Lafayette Afro Rock Band and Oneness of Juju were a part of a brief outfreakage in the music biz, where large, mostly black (but not from Africa) ensembles were making music that was more Afro-centric than straight up African. The deep roots of the music might have been African, but this music was all about fusion.
Wil-Dog Abers of Ozomatli: "I first heard Cymande in 1992. Cut Chemist made me a mix tape...When I first heard Dove, I went nuts. I never heard anything like it before. Cymande mixed so many styles and sounds. They laid the path for bands like Ozomatli.."
Cymande-Cymande (1972)




Of all the bands that came out of the Afro Rock (basically the 70's) era, Cymande is far and away my favorite. Formed by West Indian immigrants in late 60's England, these expats incorporated funk, soul,  latin, rock,rasta philosophy, and loads of Nyabinghi percussion on the 3 records they made for Chess subsidiary Janus Records from 72-74.
Cymande-Second Time Around (1973)

Willie's Headache


They got enough traction in the US (Bra and The Message were charting singles) that they toured here with Mandrill (makes sense) and Al Green (not as sure about that pairing), as well as, making an appearance on Soul Train. (youtube did not come through for me)

After their 70's chart run these records lived on in clubs..especially Bra which is an often compiled club classic. All that percussion sounds mighty good on a big room sound system.Check the bonus beats for the classic Danny Krivit edit of Bra)

The hip hop generation has borrowed heavily from these records, with De la Soul, The Fugees, and many more finding great use for the luminous grooves contained herein.
Cymande-Promised Heights (1974)
Brothers On The Slide

Mighty Heavy Load


If you see the first record in a Salvation Army bin, don't hesitate, it is a classic from cover to cover..but any of their first 3 albums (a 1981 piece,Arrival, meant to cash in on their club cache is to be avoided) offer top shelf funk. Steve Scipio's basslines are worth just about any price..then there's some Santana-esque guitar, and then there's all those drums...mmmm good.

Go get Cymande-The Message (Their first 3 Lp's)- Part One    Part Two

 Cymande=Dove Of Peace

* Ray King - Vocals/Percussion
* Steve Scipio - Bass
* Derek Gibbs - Soprano/Alto
* Pablo Gonsales - Congas
* Joey Dee - Vocals/Percussion
* Peter Serreo - Tenor
* Sam Kelly - Drums
* Mike Rose - Alto/Flute/Bongos
* Patrick Patterson - Guitar
* Jimmy Lindsey - Vocals/ Percussion (Promised Heights LP)
 Bonus Beats
Danny Krivit Edit of Bra

The Fugee's sampling Dove for The Score
For completeness only, I'll include 1981's Arrival...beware..
Don't say I didn't warn you...Go get Arrival