soul sides - january 2001

soul sides - January 2001


Ammons , Gene: Free Again (Prestige 197?)

Not one of Prestige's more exciting records in my opinion. Bobby Bryant does a passable job of arranging the album's songs but the big band approach overpowers many of the songs and Ammons' solo tenor work isn't remarkable either. The album begins with the mid-tempo "Crazy Mary" which has a hot horn section at the front end. And the rhythm patterns, assisted by Bob Norris' congos are ok but no breakdowns. "Jaggin'" is mildly funky with some Shaft-like guitar licks - the song actually would work somewhat well in a blaxploitation flick, but it doesn't really rev up.


Auger , Brian & The Trinity: Befour (RCA 1970)

It's my contention that Auger sounds a lot better when he's strictly going instrumental and dumps the vocals. This album doesn't make me change my mind a whole lot. His version of Sly Stone's "I Wanna Take You Higher" is spicy but Auger's vocals just kind of ruin it (he's no Sly). Luckily, he's quiet on the bulk of the rest of the album. There's some pleasant-sounding instrumentals like "Pavane" and "Maiden Voyage" but nothing remarkable. His cover of "Listen Here" is kind of righteous though. Auger enlists four different drummers, each to play a specifically role in the rhythm so you have an independent guy on snare, another on bass, one on cymbal and someone else to do fills. Not crazy funky drumming or anything, but there's a small, competitive breakdown in the middle where all four get a chance to solo. Slight breakbeat on one of them.


Ayers , Roy: He's Coming (Polydor 1972)

Mmmmm...Roy Ayers' earlier Polydor material was sho' nuff taunt and funky. While his later work had an open, breathing soul quality to it, this album in particular felt much tighter in its grooves, especially on cuts like "He's a Superstar" and "Ain't Got Time". These are balanced by the lilting fabric of more vibed-out, mellow cuts like "I Don't Know How To Love Him" and "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother." Superbly great album all around and then, of course, there's "We Live In Brooklyn, Baby", one of the all-time great anthems of the Planet. An excellent Ayers album that balances its funk, soul and jazz sides deftly.


Birkin, Jane and Serge Gainsbourg: Je T'aime (Mercury 197?)

Serge Gainsbourg might have been one whacked-out Francophile MF but at least he knew how to engineer some sultry, funky soul. This has his major classic "Je T'Aime" which gets covered quite a bit by pop instrumentalists as well as the overlooked "Jane B", dedicated to Birkin. Personally, there weren't too many entire songs that spoke to me on this album but I liked a lot of the general groove that Gainsbourg was going after such as on "L'Anamour" and "Les Sucetes." Now if I can only find a copy of "Melody Nelson."


Black Grass: S/T (Shelter 1973)

Side A is mostly undistinguished gospel-inspired soul. There's a pleasant bluesy cut "Early Morning Man" which has some smooth keyboard melodies thanks to Rev. Patrick Henderson who produces the LP but that's about it. Side B kicks it into higher gear though, starting with the funky clavinet bounce on "Going Down to the River" and then extending with the piano intro from "Burnin' Love" (sampled, I believe, by Blackalicious for "Deception"). "Give, Give, Give" isn't bad either - simple musical backing, but the vocal interplay between Nawasa Crowder and Henderson sounds great.


Blackbyrds: S/T (Fantasy 1974)

How did I manage to miss having this album for so long? The first Blackbyrds LP has several classic groovers like "Do It Fluid", "Runaway" and "Funky Junkie," The sound is definitely more of a mid-70s funky - not as taunt or raw as early work but far from cheesy or overwrought P-Funk. As good as these cats got.


Brown, Mel: Mel Brown's Fifth (Impulse 1970)

What's interesting about this album is that it's actually mixed to smoothly segue one song to another, especially between ""Time For a Change" and the smokin' "Good Stuff" (monster organ funk tune). Not what you'd expect and it works fairly well (even if it makes it hard to figure out where one song ends and where the next starts). "Good Stuff" just bangs, hard - worth the price of admission alone though "Home Made" has a lil break in it too.


Cosby, Bill: Presents the Badfoot Brown and Bunion Marching Band (Sussex 1972)

Compared to its sublime predecessor, this second installment by Bill Cosby's Badfoot Brown band just isn't quite up to snuff. The cartoon cover might have been the tip off (at least compared to the clay sculptures on the original), but mostly, the music wasn't nearly as interesting. Of the five songs on the album, only two stood out to me: "The Blues" (which was too long to be really usable) and the fairly funky "The Mouth of the Fish", featuring Stu Gardner. The latter is great stuff - lot of pep in its step - but I wish the rest of the LP could have ran the same way.


Dells vs. The Dramatics (Cadet 1974)

Cute concept album - put two great soul teams against each other and see who sparks the better songs. Not surprisingly, there's tracks for days of sweet soul, most of it good listening fare but few of the arrangements are that out of sight. Among the better cuts is "Door to Your Heart" by The Dramatics which sounds like a Hi Records production (it isn't)...smoky and soulful. The real jam is the funky "Tune Up" by the Dramatics which has a small drumbreak and interspersed sound effects kicking off the song. Definitely not an essential album but if you can get it on the cheap, why not? Cool cover art too.


Des Joncs , Guy: Top Instrumental Music (Emilhenco #3005 19??)

I gotta stop buying library records. Not because they're wack but I'm not a producer and these suckers are mad expensive. Then again, when you get a good one (one that has more than one killer tune), you can at least take comfort in the fact that you have some solid groovers if you ever got into production. This French library album has some dope ass flute-driven (believe it or not) songs on it, including "Stop in Hambourg" and the super soulful "Arabiana" which is one of the best, downtempo library cuts I've ever heard (at least until the cock rock guitar chords ruin it). Gorgeously arranged though otherwise. Guy Des Joncs gets side A and the flip goes to Guido Giovagnoli who starts things off well with the midtempo "Ok Joan" which has some battling polyrhythms and piano play. The next couple of rather bland but "Tanganika" (which is described as "afro") is rich rhythmically and there's that damn flute darting in and out again. Not the heaviest library record I've heard but all thins considered, pretty damn good.


Doe , Ernie K.: S/T (Janus 1960s/70s?)

Doe's not an extraordinary soul singer but he's got Allen Toussaint backing him up as producer/arranger and you know that can't hurt. The album starts off with a likable midtempo dancer called "Here Come the Girls". The vocal arrangement needs some serious work but I can't fault Toussaint's groovy feel. It's a little hard to place when this album came out since there's definitely some early '60s Stax-influenced sound to it (especially on "Who Ever's Thrilling You (Is Killing Me") even though the album looks more like an early '70s LP. One of the funkier offerings is "Lawdy Mama" with its Meters-esque guitar lines and piano accompaniment.


Eastside Connection: Frisco Disco 12" (Gordo 1978)

Apart from having the little break n' sample that Slick Rick used on "Mona Lisa", you can't front on vinyl colored this loud. Pretty proto-house disco.


Edwards Generation: In San Francisco "The Street Thang" (Tight 1976)

An apt label - tight - girds this noticeably taunt and funky album of both instrumental and vocal funk cuts. "Smokin' Tidbits" kicks it off lovely with a tightly wound funk joint of stabbing organ blasts, lickin' guitar lines and hard drums. It's better when you don't have to hear the Edwards Generation sings but I could forgive their post-Hendrix drawl on "That's How Much I Love Her" - a downtempo blues cut with fierce drums or the lo-fi title cut which sounds like it's straight out of the South rather than good 'ol S.F. Rounding it all out is another funk cut, "Are You Ready". Worth checking for.


Electric Concept Orchestra: Electric Love (Limelight 1960s?)

More super cheesy moog pop instrumentals. But at least they cover some classics that always seem to sound good, like "Look of Love", "Je T'aime...Moi Non Plus", "Wichita Lineman"


Enoch Light Presents: Patterns in Sound Vol. 6, The Now Scene (The Total Sound: 1969)

While I need to ease off of picking up instrumental pop albums, this is probably one of the better ones though, a compilation of different Project 3 artists. Nothing's mind-blowing on here, but there's some good instrumental cuts like The Free Design's "Summertime" (until they start singing), parts of Tony Mottola and the Guitar Underground's "Love Child" and "Guitar Underground", a fairly straightforward cover of "Soulful Strut" by Enoch Light, plus Light's "You Showed Me" (cooky sounding!).


Four Tops: Meeting of the Minds (ABC 1974)

Decent 70s soul album by the Four Tops. Most of it is of medium quality including the laid back "Midnight Flower" and funk-esque "No Sad Songs" (which isn't all that exciting). The hot cut is the title track with its deep, dark piano and piano chords and it's also the strongest song lyrically too. I'm thinking someone's sampled it but I can't remember who. If not, it deserves to me - real powerful feel and the vocal croons at the beginning appeal too..


Frazier , Ceaser: Ceaser Frazier 75: (Westbound 1975)

Great, great instrumental funk album. I had one 45 from Frazier (from his other Westbound LP) and was mildly impressed, but this LP blows up even harder. Contains the massively dope "Funk It Down", source of both Gangstarr's "Speak Ya Clout" (Guru's verse) as well as the jazz portion of "Ex Girl to the Next". The fact that both are on the same song isn't expected - "Funk It Down" begins with simple, repetitive guitar riff but the bridges flare up into full jazz productions. When that song it slyly dips into a cover of "Living For the City" which has a relaxed Rhodes-inspired feel to it. "Walking on the Side" is one of the richer songs instrumentally-speaking, sounding like something that would have easily fit onto a good Prestige album from the early '70s. Other funky stuff include the Kool and Gang-soundalike "Mighty Mouse"and sweet sax-filled "Sweet Children." Dope album.


Garnder , Kossie: Pipes of Blue (Dot 196?)

Strip this down to the basics and it's just a glorified pop instrumental album but instead of using some cheezy synth, Kossie whips out his organ and blasts away. The stuff here is funky but not in a raw kind of way. The drums are fairly conventional and Gardner rarely catches fire on anything. You'd expect better with covers of "Spooky", "Fire", "Magic Carpet Ride", "Who's Making Love" and "Soul Man." but for the most part, the covers are too close to the original to offer anything really new to get into. Again, it's not that they're bad covers, just not that distinguished.


Gimmicks, The: Muy Por Arriba De Todo (Swedisc/Discos RVV: 1971)

Here's what I know - the Gimmicks were a Swedish pop group in the 1970s but this album was actually recorded in The Breezes Hotel down in Acapulco, Mexica, which explain why all the liner notes are in Spanish. The title loosely translates into "better than the rest". The big gem on this album is a cover of "California Soul" (same one that Marlena Shaw made famous for heads) that's so damn sultry and soulful at the intro (and they just kill you with this horn chorus) you want to praise Sweden for turning out ABBA and these Gimmicks. There's also some likable - but not incredible - Latin covers, including a cover of Jorge Ben's "Mas que Nada" as well as "Coco-Loco Samba.". But it's all about the (california) soul...


Hammer , Jan (Group): Melodies (Nemperor 1977)

I went looking for this mostly for the De La sample (on "Peaceful Sundown") but was pleasant surprised to find as well a cool, laid-back electronic track, "Don't You Know" (which the Herbaliser used apparently). Until the vocals arrive, it's not a half-bad instrumental track - kind of funky for sure. The rest of the LP sounds a lot like the AWB, just nowhere near as soulful or funky.


Hathaway , Donny: Live (ATCO 1972)

Excellent live album by one of the great soul singers of the '70s (before he tragically ended his own life and career). Hathaway's voice may not have had the sexy, sweet seductive sway of Al Green or Marvin Gaye but his rich, full voice worked equally well as a holler or in the whispered croon. The more I listen by him, the higher he moves up my pantheon of soulsters. This is a superb album - Hathaway's own work on the electric piano showers the LP in warm drops of music and he's got strong back up by Fred White on drums and Earl DeRouen on conga. You can't go wrong with either of the first two songs: a cover of Gaye's "What's Goin' On" and then a long, 12 minute rendition of Hathaway's own classic, "The Ghetto." His "Little Ghetto Boy" is also fantastic - really fine vocal arrangements, especially as he slides low with his voice. And then there's the jangling piano work on "Jealous Guy" - slow tempo yet it swings lovely. The last song, "Voices Inside" is the closest thing you'll find to a genuine dance floor groover on this LP - it's more ballad driven - but between the push of the basslines and Hathaway's dancing keyboard prances, the song moves well. Mostly instrumental too.


Hayman, Richard: Genuine Electric Latin Love Machine (Command 196?)

Definitely one of the better moog/electronic albums out there. Hayman's no J.J. Perrey, but he comes with some fine, funky cuts on here, starting off with a cover of "Windmills Of Your Mind" that doesn't quite touch Dorothy Ashby's version but performs admirably otherwise. It takes a while to get past the long intro but when it does, the song smashes down some heated drumbreaks and vigorous guitars. That's followed by the funk buzz of "La Comparsa" and yet another cover of "Look of Love" (it's not bad but not one of the better ones). I really, really dug on the pop flavored "Dansero" which is definitely kind of cheese-ball but in a way that many would likely enjoy.


Henderson , Joe: The Elements (Milestone 1974)

Surprisingly low down and funky jazz album by Joe Henderson with support from Alice Coltrane, Charlie Haden and Kenneth Nash among others. It's split into four songs - the elements you know - and each works out its theme a little differently. Some are a little more free jazzy in appeal, but the whole album makes for great listening. The funk bomb is on "Earth" though, anchored down to the proverbial ground through Haden's powerful basslines, Coltrane's sitar-sounding strings and augmented by Nash's conga slaps.


Highlighters: Poppin' Popcorn/Funky 16 Corners (Stonesthrow)

Now *this* is what a funk reissue should be about. Two fat, fat sides, taken from two different smash 45s (incredibly expensive and rare ones at that), complete with a captioned picture of the band, a map of Indianapolis where they recorded *and* liner notes by Spider Harrison. I've never seen this level of detail and dedication to the OGs like this before...none of that Keb Darge-ish self-wanking about "oh yeah, I found this in a dumpster and then traded it for 3 Himilayan yak funk 45s only to get it back in another dumpster". It's about roots, it's about knowledge and of course, it's about some damn good jazz. Egon, Peanut and Stonesthrow deserve top props for doin' it right.


Hyman , Dick: Moog - The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman (Command 1960s)

More, more, more cheesy moog music. I vaguely enjoyed the loopy, mega-electronic "The Moog and Me" but seriously...that was about it. Don't' get me wrong - if you're into that electronic sound, you'll dig this but it's an acquired flavor for everyone else.


Jackson, Chubb (Band): Groovin' with Chubby and Dadd (Jazz Forum/Illusion: 197?)

An unusual jazz album by a group I've never heard of before. It blends some above average Latin numbers with classics like "Caravan". The highlight though is a smoking version of Weldon Irvine's "Mr. Clean" that starts off with a rattling breakbeat. The problem is that this sounds like it was recorded in a garage - really lo-fi quality but then again, it sort of makes it appealing.


Jefferson, Joey (Band): S/T (Mutt & Jeff 1975)

Pleasant enough, small label soul/funk jazz. Didn't really kill me but "Revolution Rap" was likable as was "Hot Lips". Mostly, the compositions never really cook that hard but I guess people like the fact that this was on a smaller indie label. Plus the personnel includes Cal Green on guitar, Leon Haywood on organ and Ron Brown on bass. Worth checking but don't explosive anything too explosive.


Johnson , Syl: Back For a Taste of Your Love (Hi 1972,1973)

Hi might have given Chicago's Syl Johnson more visibility than his former Twinight label, but that may be the only thing it improved on. Johnson just had a way funkier sound on Twinight - both in his ballads like "Is It Because I'm Back" as well as dance hits like "Different Strokes." Willie Mitchell was perfect with Al Green but in trying to develop Johnson too close in the same direction, I think Mitchell misread Johnson's better talents as a vocalist. This album is ok - I like his cover of "Anyway the Wind Blows" and that seering soulful Hi sound is firmly fixed in the strings of "Wind, Blow Her Back My Way" and "The Love You Left Behind" has a decent bounce. Then of course, there's "I Hate I Walked Away" which Rza recently looped for "We Made It" on Ghostface Killah's album.


Little Egypt: How To Belly Dance For Your Husband (Roulette 196?)

As silly as the title and cover is, Sonny Lester does produce this exotica-tinged set of instrumentals. Nothing mind-blowing, but some decent compositions on "Fertile Desert" and "Queens Night Out."


Los Brasilos: Brasilian Beat '67 (Design 1967)

I probably would have passed this up at the store if I had been just a tad curious about the song "Brasilian Beat". When I flipped it on, I remembered that this song was, in fact, offered on a Jazzman reissue 45. A very pleasant bossa nova tinged song with cute vocals going "tweet tweet". Nothing to shake your groove thing, but good enough listening. Their version of "Nightingale" is strong too, with a firm Afro-Latin kick to it. Their version of "What A Difference a Day Makes" is good too - snappy backbeat to it - and the same goes for "No Te Esconbe" Nothing stoopid fresh but perfectly pleasurable listening for those into a pop-ified Brazilian music album.


Love, Preston: Preston Love's Omaga Bar-B-Q (United-Superior 196?)

You may not be able to judge an album by its cover but add that to song titles like "Chicken Gumbo", "Chili Mac", "Cool Ade", "Hot Cakes and Sorghum" and "Pot Likker" and you know that this is going to be some sh*t. Sure, Love is playing himself on the cover, wearing some candy-ass chef's hat and apron, sax in hand, but like the fake fire that burns on the cover, this heats it up nice and funky. Shuggie Otis guest stars on guitar and while every track doesn't smoke, there's lots of rockin', funky soul on here. Standouts include the whirling "Chicken Gumbo", "Chili Mac" and its prominent bassline, and the burnin' hot "Cool Ade." The B-side has two smokers too - the title track and the frenetic "Pot Likker." Hot and tasty stuff.


Lytle , Johnny: Close Enough For Jazz (Solid State 196*)

The bulk of this is likable but not extraordinary vibe-based jazz, much of its straight-ahead like Lytle's covers of "Tenderly" and "Embraceable You." His more uptempo works, like "Just a Little Bit of Holiness" and "Gwink" just don't swing (let alone funk) that hard with the exception of the organ-vamp-heavy "Baby, You Make Me Feel So Good". The gem is the super sublime "Agapee" which totally milks the warmth of of Lytle's xylophone and some soft touches on the Rhodes. This kicks into uptempo "Polemos" which has some smashing breakbeats in the background (too quick for you to really get down with but they make a strong anchor).


Lytle , Johnny: People & Love (Milestone 1972)

Compared to the other Lytle album covered here ("Close Enough To Jazz") this is definitely much closer to a soul jazz sound though I can well imagine people looking questionably at the cheesy cover of "Where Is the Love" that begins the album. However, by the nine minute "Libra" things become clearer as Lytle's xylophone playing fits well into the Ayers-like composition. "Family" is superbly relaxed - mega-chill music (not to mention the source of Organized Konfusion's "The Equinox" sample), whereas "Tahwid" starts with a strong, driving rhythm (reminiscent of some better CTI arrangements). The last cut on the album is a surprisingly free jazz approach to "People Make the World Go 'Round", one of those songs I thought was pretty hard to do poorly but I really wasn't feeling the loose approach of this cover which lacks the bassline anchor that makes the song usually so familiar. Still, one of Lytle's better soul jazz offerings.


Makeba , Miriam: Keep Me In Mind (Warner Bros. 1970)

This is the second Makeba I have and while I'm not huge on her voice (I've always favored brighter vocalists...must be an Ella thing), what I've heard from her in terms of music has been great. This album (arranged by George Butcher) has some great, soulful songs with thick instrumentation and strong percussion, particularly on songs like "Lumumbia", "For What It's Worth"(I've been hearing a lot of killer versions of Stills' classic lately), and "Ibande". "Measure the Valleys" is slow but soulful as is her cover of the Beatles' "In My Life" (which I dug on quite a bit). "I Shall Sing" has a great African pop feel to it - not necessarily funky but if you can't swing to this, you're dead to the world. Superior album.


Manfred Mann: Chapter Three (Polydor 1969)

I could do without Mike Hugg's stoned vocals but there's some ok funky rock on here, namely the sultry intro bars on "Snakeskin Garter" and thunderous guitar and rock intro from "One Way Glass".


Maxwell , Bobby: A Crowning Performance (Command 1973)

I have a couple of albums in this series of experimental pop music and most of it is pretty damn cheesy electronic work...Maxwell's not being a big exception. Very pop driven arrangements with heavy horn choruses, some moog (or similar synth) thrown in and then there's Maxwell's harp which has all the substance of a cotton thread. There's not much here that's terribly interesting for those not into the "Now Sound". "Never on Sunday" is noteworthy for its Beatnuts sample ("You're a Clown") but that calliope whistle can only run so far before it peters out.


Mitchell, Blue: The Last Tango=Blues (Mainstream 1973)

Without a doubt, one of the better Mainstream albums I've heard. Mitchell assembles a top-notch staff for this one, including Paul Humphrey on drums alongside King Errisson and Chino Valdes. Not surprisingly, there's some good drum work on here - nothing that open, but it forms a strong presence everywhere, especially on the upbeat "Soul Turn Around", "Last Tango In Paris" (a heavier cover than others - pretty good) and the snappy, JBs-influenced "P.T. Blues." The best cuts though end Side A. First there's a cover of Cymande's "The Message" which sounds like the original on 45 speed. More uptempo but still a killer, killer tune. Equally pleasurable is "Steal the Feel" which starts with some nicely reverbed guitar riffs and then slides into a more conventional jazz tune.


Mystic Moods: Erogenous (Sound Disc: 1975)

One of the few Mystic Moods albums that can genuinely be said to hit with some funk. Mostly, it's on two songs that also appeared on 45 together: "Honey Trippin'" and the superior, uptempo "Midnight Snack" that has snappy rhythms and heated horn stabs (the strings don't work unfortunately). "Honey Trippin'" is okay, though it's a little hokier in sound. Some might like the smoky "Your Place or Mine" but it sounds like bad seduction rock from the '70s to me. The R-rated record jacket is kind of funny too.


Nelson , Sandy: Cheetah Beat (Imperial 1960s?)

Nelson plays the drums hard on all of this but he just never does it very funky. 'Tis a shame because there's so many good opportunities with covers like "Mustang Sally" and "You Got Me Hummin'" but alas, he's no Clyde Stubblefield or Idris Muhammad. The main reason I'd pick this album up is for "Freak Beat" which has this slick, funky Middle Eastern exotica appeal to it but that vibe only lasts for the first couple of bars and then drops out.


Ohio Players: Superpak (Trip 19??)

A double album compilation of some early Ohio Players material (before they started putting that bald woman on the cover). In contrast to their longer funk tunes, the cuts on here are smarter, a little tighter and more soul-driven. Worth mentioning includes the very funky "A Little Soul Party" which feels like some kickin' Stax sh*t. "The Man I Am" is a strong, driving instrumental and "Find Someone To Love" is straight, corn bread n' chittlin's Southern fried funk style. Don't dump a lot of money on this but if you don't have the early Ohio Players material, this is a decent find under $10.


Olympic Runners: Put the Music Where Your Mouth Is (London 1974)

This all-instrumental album has some killer grooves on it, especially "Mac B. Coolie" and "Do It Over". The compositions are fairly simple - drums, bass and occasionally guitars and some keyboards. All in all, the arrangements are fairly sparse and kept funky. Not every track works, some of it is a little proto-disco on the better tracks, you'll find yourself bobbing in appreciation.


Peter Thomas Orchestra: Chariots of the Gods? (Polydor 1970/74)

Don't know much about this soundtrack (or the movie it comes from) except that the movie is supposed to be an exploration of how aliens populated the Earth. Word to mother. The soundtrack (which I've seen, inexplicably listed as a blaxploition album) has some ill sonic moments (less musically so), especially on the dissonant "Rocket Science" which just hits you in the ears with some blaring whines and tense brass. Most of the music is fairly unusual but not way out there in terms of its avant garde-ness. It's much more of a producer's album than the casual listener but there's definite potential lurking. Somewhere. In here.


Previn, Andre: Rollerball OST (United Artists 1971)

How bizarre is a soundtrack that combines Bach and Tchaikovsky...and proto-disco funk scores? Of course, this is a soundtrack for a sci fi movie in which rollerball becomes the battleground for social struggle. If you like dark, forboding classical music - hey, what better than to rock Bach's dreary "Toccato in D Minor." But Previn's own compositions "Executive Party" and "Executive Party Dance" have some funky touches, subtle breakbeats, some heavy synth action. Just don't grab for those skate keys just yet.


R.P.M. OST (Bell 1203)

Don't know what year this movie came out, but for a movie named after revolutions per minute, it's not all that musically exciting. Mostly a lot of 70s rock schlock with some vaguely fusion instrumentals. But peep "The Riot" which hits you with a barrage of conga rhythms, reminiscent of something the Incredible Bongo Band might do.


Rawls, Lou: Merry Christmas Ho! Ho! Ho! (Capitol 196?)

Another Axelrod/Rawls/Barnum collabo. All Christmas tunes (duh) but there's some good production on "Christmas Will Really Be Christmas" - mournful, soulful, with a swell of horns. Worth a listen.


Ripple: S/T (GRC 1973)

Funk-inspired rock (or maybe that's the other way around) out of Michigan. Ripple rips some classics here, including the soulful "I Don't Know What It Is, But It Sure Is Funky" that many will recognize for it's "oh la, oh la, eh" vocal interplay at the intro. "Get Off" kicks the tempo into a higher gear with a heated instrumental that's a little post-JBs in its sound. And then there's my personal favorite, the apt-named "Funky Song" ("ain't nothin' goin' on..."). "Ripplin'" closes the album on some riveting conga action and organ swirls before the horns launch in on this grooving, uptempo cut.


Rusk, Johnny: In Person At the Seattle Airport Hilton (King Vac 196?)

How ghetto is an album recorded at an airport hotel lounge? Still, Rusk steps up in his Elvis get-up (either that or he really just doesn't know how to dress himself), complete with pictures on the background of him with female fans lining up to get his autograph. In fact, the copy of the LP I have actually has Rusk's signature on it to "Anita, It was fun workin with you." Anyways, he does all covers of classic soul and rock n' roll songs, the better ones include Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle", Bill Wither's "Kissing My Love" as well as Wither's "Use Me". I just think the whole thing is entertaining for its comical effect more than anything about it musically but the songs aren't *that* bad.


Russell, Gene: Talk To My Lady (Black Jazz: 1973)

What do you know, my first Black Jazz album. Smooth soul jazz by pianist Gene Russell featuring the bombastic "Get Down" with its monster basslines - a killer, killer cut. The bulk of the album is ballad-driven (perhaps explaining the romance-inspired title) with the exception of "My Favorite Things" which has some frenetic percussion and a noticeably looser playing style than other versions you might have heard. Worth it just for "Get Down" and the rest is easy listening.


Shaw, Marlena: Out of Different Bags (Cadet 1968)

The album released before Shaw's highly sought-after "The Spice of Life" (also on Cadet), "Out of Different Bags" may not boast anything as dope as "California Soul" or "Woman of the Ghetto", but both her and Richard Evans lay down some likable cuts that hint at what would come next. "Nothing but Tears" is a pleasant, midtempo track that kicks off with a touch of vibes and a growling bass. But "It Sure Is Groovy" just punches through the roof on its horn chorus and sharp drums - something that arranger Richard Evans seemed to like in several of his late '60s albums for Cadet (including Dorothy Ashby's harp albums). "I Stayed Too Long At the Fair" opens with a whimsical carnival melody, onto to slip into a cheesy, '60s styled vocal chorus going "ding dong" but the song has definite sample possibilities. Ending the album is "Somewhere In the Night" which has a strong, driving beat, vibe stabs and one of the better rhythmic sensibilities on the album. Just on a vocal tip, I dug Shaw's slinky "Ahmad's Blues".


Shocking Blue: S/T (Colossus 1970)

Vaguely psych-ish rock album from the Dutch rock band that brought you're the original version of "Venus" (made more famous Bananarama). There's some decent tracks on here, especially the drum and sitar heavy "The Butterfly and I" and there's other breaks on songs like "Poor Boy" and "Acka Ragh". The feel is much more 60s love rock though, especially with Mariksa Veres' harsh vocals.


Sly and the Family Stone: Fresh (Epic 1973)

How did I manage to sleep on this Sly Stone album for such a long time? Really superb compositions and arrangements. I'm totally digging on "In Time" with its quirky guitar melody and Stone's strong vocals. An impressive range of styles on here, from the blues of "Que Sera Sera" to the stretchy soul-funk of "Babies Makin' Babies". Don't sleep on this like I did.


Smith , Lonnie Liston: Dreams of Tomorrow (Doctor Jazz 197?)

Barely worth mentioning (because so much of its is cheesy) except for the mournful "A Garden of Peace" the best song on here because it's the simplest. Gorgeous melody.


Smith , William D.: A Good Feelin' (Warner Bros. 1976)

Another really great soul album produced by Allen Toussaint (with Meters' guitarist Leo Nocentelli playing on here too). Toussaint puts in some grooves down on most of his own compositions, especially "I Feel So Good With You" which is a definite feel-good song (no pun intended). The guitars almost sound like they were used for Mos Def's "Mathematics" (they weren't but it's close). Then the next cut, "Harmony Junction" gets a 'lil funky up in the spot with some blues-influenced guitar and basslines riffs bumping off each other. More funkiness awaits on "We All Wanna Boogie" (nowhere near as disco-fied as it could be).and Toussaint keeps the tempo bumpin' with "I Apologize" and ends the album on another mid-tempo note with "Take Your Pick (Do Your Trick)". As for Smith, he's better at songs where he isn't forced to croon. He's a better blues and dance cut singer than a true soulster - Smokey he's not.


Sparks, Melvin: Melvin Sparks '75 (Westbound 1975)

Not having any other Sparks albums, I can't say this for sure, but this cannot be the best he's capable of. There's a cool conga break on "Get Ya Some" but that's about all that's worth mentioning. The rest is fairly blasť, over-produced soul jazz.


Sylvers: II (Pride/MGM 1973)

I always thought this was sought-after because it was rumored to have some Ghostface Killah sample (which I'm not sure it does) but f--- that - it's one of the more amazing soul albums I've picked up lately. While Jerry Butler and Keg Johnson did a good job on the first Sylvers LP, Johnson and Jerry Peters find a whole new level on this LP. The arrangements on here are great - soothing, soulful but with a strong, underlying commitment to rhythm. This is obvious from the very start with "We Can Make It If We Try" where the two producers blend chicken scratch guitars, a flutter of horns and an anchoring breakbeat. Plus, the Sylvers sound fantastic on the cut - a great tune that makes them sound much more than just a Jackson 5 rip-off. "Through the Love In My Heart" continues with a slick bassline and string combo at the intro. "Handle It" is an uptempo dance groover (with more of those "Shaft"-like guitar squeals). "Stay Away From Me" is dramatic with its sweeping strings and crashing brass section (plus drums) and that shifts down into "I Don't Need to Prove Myself", a mid-tempo funk drop. The presumable Ghostface sample comes on "Let It Be Me", with its simple breakbeat and muted guitar riff but I'm not sure what Ghostface song it is (if any). Smooth ballad though. Then there's the breakbeat (short but sweet) that kicks off the quirky "Love Me, Love Me Not". The melody sounds a bit "off" - maybe a touch "exotic"? - and the bells are a welcome touch. And THEN there's the smoky "I Remember" with its dark basslines and crunchy snares plus dope vocal arrangement. Have I sung enough praises? Just cop this.


Sylvers: S/T (Pride 1972)

While not as flat-out bad ass as their next album (see above), you can't front on the first Sylvers LP either. "Fool's Paradise" (one of the group's biggest, early hits) is smokin' funk - super slinky with its basslines. The overall arrangements are a touch tame but the vocal arrangements sound great. Personally, I'm loving the intro to "How Love Hurts", a wonderfully soulful feeling which gets lost in the song itself. Also worth noting - the dark funkiness of "I Know Myself."


Taj Mahal: The Natch'l Blues (Columbia, 197?)

Worth mentioning if only because it features the intro from Gangstarr's "The Planet" (the moaning blues loop). Otherwise, a very straightforward blues album.


Tempo For Tots: Activities for Two, Three and Four Year Olds (Melody House: 197?)

A fairly inane children's record featuring Sharron Lucky and her husband Harrell except for two surprisingly funky songs. The breakbeat bonanza is on "The Body Clap" (which is probably going to appear on a Stonesthrow comp) but Sharron Lucky's singing really requires some patience. More palatable is the soulful "I'll Walk on the Line" which is pretty bad too vocally but the music is pleasantly bouncy and it hits a mild but likable breakdown at the end.


Tillery , Linda: S/T (Olivia 1977)

Tillery, who was also a member of Berkeley's Loading Zone jazz group, put out her self-titled album on Olivia, a LA-based, feminist imprint. Not surprisingly, the majority of the players on this are women, if not entirely (can't figure out if drummer Chris Hansen is male or female), not an insignificant symbolic move by any means. Musically, the album's has a lot of fairly milquetoast soul but a couple of funk tracks slip in, particularly on "Freedom Time" which kicks in out of nowhere with some slick guitar riffs and then goes into some Roy Ayers-like vocal choruses. "Heaven Is In Your Mind" is more laid back but has some bassline grooves and strong guitar play later joined by piano (it's most instrumental). "Don't Pray For Me" is a bluesy song with a strong rhythm section behind it.


Tjader, Cal: Primo (Fantasy 1973)

Despite the hokey cover, I really liked the Latin flavor of this LP. "Bang Bang" has a smooth intro which gives way to a strong percussive fill and then fun vocals by Victor Velasquez ("bang bang!") plus Charlie Palmieri's keyboard sparkles across too. Couple of decent mambos on here like "Vibe Mambo", "Mambo Show" and "Azucar Mambo." What caught my attention was the brass chorus that opens "La Murga" - I'm positive someone sampled this (Evidence maybe?) I just can't place who but it sounds fat, especially as it shifts into the Afro-Latin rhythm. Good stuff all around.


Undisputed Truth: Smokin' (Whitfield/Warner Bros. 1979)

Mostly late '70s funk but with a mid-70s feel. The vocals are pretty poor but the music is better. The monster cut is "Space Machine" which starts off with a long, dissonant whine and then slides into some snappy basslines and later, a big breakbeat backing. Hot, hot, hot sh*t. Wish the rest of the album was like that but it's worth it for that one song.


Williams, Mary Lou: Zoning (Mary 1974)

Such a great album. This is one of Mary Lou Williams (the first lady of jazz piano) records on her own indie, Mary imprint, and she keeps the whole affair very stripped down and simple. It's just her with Bob Crenshaw on bass and Mickey Roker on drums with Tony Waters on congas occasionally subbing in, along with Zita Carno on piano. Few on here even approaches mid-tempo - the whole thing is very slow and chill and there's tons of great, jazzy grooves, especially on the bassline-heavy "Rosa Mae" as well as a surprisingly good cover of Dizzy Gillespie's "Olinga." The whole piano/bass/drum trio approach works beautifully, especially Crenshaw and Milton Shuggs bass work. In almost every song, they form a key anchor to the rhythm. Some of the songs, like "Holy Ghost" are just really superb listening, others might catch a producer's ear, especially the bluesy "Medi". Not bad for a woman who was close to 64 when she recorded this album.


Yarbrough, Camille: The Iron Pot Cooker (Vanguard 1975)

This album - and artist - is now indelibly famous for she gave voice, literally, to Fatboy Slim's mega-hit "Praise You." Yarbrough's singing is limited in range - she's neither a soul screamer like Aretha or a sweet singer like Minnie Riperton but her bluesy edge is simple and engaging, like an understudy to Nina Simone. The album is unconventional, nothing here resembles a cookie-cut soul piece with the sole exception of "Take Yo Praise" (a fantastic dance groover). At times, Yarbrough's talking much more than singing (she's no Nikki Giovanni though) and some might scratch their head at the 14 minute medly "Dream-Panic-Sonny Boy The Rip-Off Man-Little Sally the Super Sex Star." An interesting album at the very least though and one that's sure to smoke on the dance floor.


Young Life Singers: The City of Carson Brand New Day (Seascape: 197?)

No doubt, probably a pretty rare album dedicated to the city of C-Arson but nothing you'd find making its way to a funk comp. Lots of bad covers, but two vaguely (very vaguely) funky: "Fire" and "Shake Your Groove Thing". But don't expect it to set your SP1200 on fire or get your groove thing shaking too badly.



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