soul sides - october 2000

soul sides - october 2000

Albert, Fat: Halloween (Kid Stuff 1980)

Bill Cosby serves up some treats with heavily sampled vocal bits and cool instrumental moments on this comedy record. A classic in terms of sampled material and even if you can't "see" the cartoon, the narrative actually works pretty good on record.

Albino Gorilla: Detroit 1984 (Kama Sutra 1970)

Pretty bizarre psych rock with soul influences. "Psychedelic Shack" is kind of groovy, but it begins better than it finishes and the vocals sort of ruin it in a lot of places. That's true throughout ­ the instrumental impulses are strong, but the vocal execution drags the songs down.

Almeida, Laurdindo & Ray Brown: Bachground Blues & Green (Century City 1970)

Most of the album is a mix of pleasant, laid back soul jazz with bossa nova guitar melodies strewn throughout. Really easy listening (and in a good way). Most of it's not too remarkable save "Brazilian Greens" and its "sequel" "Mo' Greens". Down tempo rhythm with a lot of ride cymbal and smooth guitar licks laid over that. Not super funky but pretty slick nonetheless.

Ashby, Dorothy: Afro-Harping (Cadet 1968)

So what's the big deal, really? Finally got this on reissue and while it has its moments (title track, "Soul Vibrations" and especially the breakbeat heavy " Come Live With Me", I wasn't dumb-struck by the dopeness, at least not enough to figure out why people would pay over $50 for this album. The arrangements are fairly indicative of a mid-60s aesthetic and even if Ashby's flipping her harp funkily, it's still pretty straight-ahead in a lot of songs. Worth the $10 for the reissue but I'm not really tripping hard off of it otherwise.

Auger, Brian: Genesis (Polydor 1974)

One of Auger's better soul jazz albums, this features Julie Driscoll and includes a nice cover of "Season of the Witch" though I'm not sure if this is THE cover that Auger performs that people go ga ga over. Nonetheless, there's some better-than-average instrumental cuts on here including "A Day In the Life", and "Finally Found You Out". Be wary though, some covers are better in name than execution like his versions of "Tramp", "Save Me" and "Bumpin' on Sunset." Still, a solid outing for Auger fans.

Ballin'Jack: S/T (Columbia 1970)

Funkin' rock with some choice breakbeats. "Found a Child" is the stand-out, partially for its raucous guitar riff as well as drum break. Some killer horns on "Never Let ŚEm Say"too.

Bishop Jr., Walter: Soul Village (Muse 1977)

Pretty fly and funky for '77. Bishop should have left off the saxophones since his fender rhodes gets pushed to the side when the horns blow. As a whole, it's decently groovy jazz with a funk touch, but on deeper listen, I wasn't really feeling the cuts, not even the better ones like "Soul Turnaround" or the title song. They just lacked a certain oomph that I needed more.

Black Heat: Keep on Runnin' (Atlantic 1975)

Decent, but not extraordinary album that has a weird mix of super funky soul ("Zimba Ku") and some hot, uptempo funk ("Last Dance") but also a lot of "off" songs that can't seem to figure out if they want to be more rock than soul and much of it lacks consistent funkiness. Worth getting for "Zimba Ku" with its breakbeat and dope flutes, but nowhere near as good as ­ say ­ Black Nasty.

Black Nasty: Talking to the People (Stax 1973)

Very well-named LP ­ this has to have some of the fiercest, funkiest, nastiest Ś70s era joints I've heard collected on one album. There's at least five outstanding tracks including "Talking to the People", "Nasty Soul", "Getting Funky Round Here" and "We're Doin' Our Thing" plus decent soul songs too if you get tired of getting funked up. But seriously, it's wicked raw funk that's gone through the studio to give it a full-bodied sound. Far as I can tell, it's the only album these guys ever put out ­ pity.

Bley, Carla: Dinner Music (Watt Works 1977)

Looks pretty milquetoast from the outside, but it has a bangin', piano-driven track with "Song Sung Long" which sounds like it should be a cover of the 007 theme. Nice sh*t there ­ funkiest thing on here. I really liked her slower, moody "Dining Alone" too which is arranged beautifully and deeply melancholy and soulful.

Bwana: S/T (Caytronics/CBS 1972)

A rock-influenced Afro-Cuban album (or is it an Afro-Cuban influenced rock album?), Bwana is pretty cool. Sorry ­ kind of a pithy thing to say, but my copy is too dirty to fully enjoy since the dusty grooves detracts. That being said, there's some decent cuts on here ­ "Ja Jurumba" is a mid-tempo, soulful, vocal cut with great rhythmic impulses. Even better is the song that follows, "Chapumbambe" which kicks off with a fierce little breakbeat and then throws down the conga for some Afro-Latin shakedown. A long groover that rewards you for your patience.

Byrd, Donald: Ethopian Knights (Blue Note 1972)

Amazing, excellent album that's only three cuts long, but two of them are 15 minutes-plus, Killer funky jazz with tons of breakbeats and slick basslines throughout. This is one of the Byrd albums I totally slept-on and I'm glad I've been awakened to it.

Chocolate Milk: Action Speaks Louder Than Words (RCA 1975)

Compared to their other output, this LP seems far and away better and not just because it has the super funky title track. The soul cuts are just better produced and arranged, not quite as P-funk cheesy as some of their later works. "Time Machine" crazy smoothed out and I felt its vibe while I similarly liked the more mid-tempo bass rhythm of "My Mind Is Hazy". The soulfulness of the songs impressed me, such as on the uplifting "People" and it didn't hurt have funky numbers like "Ain't Nothin' But a Thing" balancing out the B-side.

Cornbread, Earl and Me OST (Fantasy 1975)

I don't know if this is rightfully called a blaxploitation film/soundtrack ­ it's about basketball (which is more neo-blaxploitation than "Shaft" era) but whatever the case, Donald Byrd and the Black Byrds put together some killer instrumental/score work here. The standout is the moody "Wilford's Gone", made famous by both Gangstarr and the Roots ­ great, great song but there's other decent, funky instrumentals like "The Gym Fight", and "The One-Eye Two Step"plus "Cornbread", the best vocal track on here. Like most soundtracks, it's not chock-full of dopeness, but it certainly has its share of moments.

Counts, (The): Love Sign

A big disappointment compared to their other albums. Slower for one thing and just not all that funky despite the wealth of instrumentals to choose from. I vaguely thought "The Counts Medley" was passable, but not even that really. To me, a dull album.

Counts, (The): What's Up From That Counts (Westbound 1972)

This is one of those LPs that just has all its sh*t together. Really great instrumental funk (with some vocals) that doesn't lay it on too thick. For example, the title track is practically eight minutes but you'd never notice. I'd name cuts (like "Rhythm Changes" and "Pack of Lies") but you know, the whole LP is so good, you don't need to discern. Outstanding stuff.

Davis, Betty: They Say I'm Different (Just Sunshine 1974)

After finally getting this, I have to say I like it much better than "Nasty Gal" which is easier to find. "Nasty Gal" was raucous rock with funk tendencies ­ this is much more soulful AND funky. You get an instant taste of that on the deliciously smoky "Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him" while most of the B-side is just fantastic. The title track has this very funky guitar riff at the beginning while "70's Blues" gets even deeper in the groove and it ends on the slick and ballad-y "Special People." Davis' voice doesn't sing or soar so much as screeches but that's part of the appeal from Mrs. Miles Davis. She rocks so you don't have to.

Dibango, Manu: Soul Makossa (Atlantic 1972)

Not just a classic for its title track, this is one helluva Afro funk LP ­ I liked practically everything on here including "New Bell" and "Oboso" which are uptempo dancefloor groovers, but also the slower jams like "Hibiscus" and "Lily". Ironically, my least favorite song was probably "Soul Makossa". If you don't already have this in the collection ­ cop it.

Driscoll, Julie, Brian Auger and the Trinity: Streetnoise (Atco 1969)

I was rather disappointed by this since I like so much of Auger's other works. For one thing, Driscoll's singing on much of this is pretty damn bad and Auger's playing doesn't seem so inspired either. Worth hearing for a great version of the Doors' "Light My Fire" but that's about it.

Fatback Band, (The): Keep On Steppin' (Event 1974)

Now this is what I'm talking about ­ compared to the more disco/soul "Yum Yum", this is just fat, funky instrumental cuts with vocals taking a back seat. There's some monster, JB-influenced groovers on here including "Mr. Bass Man" (killer horn chorus on the intro), "Wicki Wacky" (killer basslines), "New York Style" and the title track. An excellent album, one of the most consistent ones I've gotten of late.

Fatback Band: Feel My Soul (Perception 1974)

Apart from the title track, I found the vocals on this a little uninspired and double goes for the instrumentation. Nowhere near as funky as their later Event records but this is supposed to be more vocally focused than their other LPs. Either way, I wasn't that impressed.

Fitzgerald, Ella: Sunshine of Your Love (MPS/Prestige 196?)

Fairly straight-ahead jazz vocal album for Ella, but has two funky covers of "Hey Jude" and the title track respectively. The latter is pretty smokin'Šfor Ella, but compare it to Spanky Wilson's version and it seems downright tame. Not a must-have but worth checking out.

Fresh: Out of Borstal (RCA 1970)

Interesting prog-rock album out of England. "Borstal" is the name of the English juvenile prisons and one gets the sense that there's a social angle to the album. Lot of interesting musical moments on here, especially on the title track which boasts a drum track and a couple of loud vamps that are almost big band in volume of sound. "See You Later" has a small breakbeat at the front end which totally sounds like a rip-off of the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk" woman. Several of the songs have breakbeats behidn them (but only the two I just mentioned are open). The album is mostly on the mellower side (which is unexpected given the title concept) and I wouldn't say the singing or songwriting is superb but it's not horrible either.

Green, Al: Gets Next To You (Hi 1971)

Green's "I'm Still In Love With You" is still my favorite album of his, but this has to run a close second and definitely stands out as one of Green's most soulfully funkalicious albums. This was the first album to really lock in the Hi sound for Green ­ snappy snares and a strong Memphis rhythm section kick the soul power into overdrive on songs like "I'm a Ram", "Driving Wheel", "Light My Fire" and "All Because." Some of the best Southern soul you'll ever enjoy. Essential.

Hayman, Richard and Walter Sear: Electronic Evolutions (Command/ABC 1973)

Not the best moog record ever recorded but likable in moments. Like almost every moog album I can think of, it's mostly covers of more famous pop tunes and those are the ones most likely to yield something remarkable. Their cover of "The Look of Love" is okay ­ the spacey sound effects add a whole new dimension which is funky/cheesy and much the same can be said of the far out version of "The Windmills of Your Mind." Cool proto-disco flavor on "La Cumparsa" and "Dansero" is enjoyably quirky (and a touch funky) with its drum breaks and weird sound effect stabs. "Hey Jude" is skippable unless you're really into cheese,

Herman, Woody: Light My Fire (Cadet 1968)

While nothing on here is quite as funky as his "Fat Mama" off of "The Raven Speaks", this is a surprisingly good Woody Herman album. The instrumentals on here have a ton of soul jazz flavor, especially on the very funky "Here I Am, Baby". It's not extraordinary and most songs have moments where it really hits but then switches up into conventional big band stuff, but I think some will like his covers of "Light My Fire", and "I Say A Little Prayer". Well worth it if it's a bargain bin find.

Higgins, Monk: MacArthur Park (Dunhill 1968)

Certainly not as dope as his later work in the Ś70s, but this isn't that bad of an album. Definitely touches of funkiness, especially in his drum arrangements. I'd go with the surprisingly good "Hey Mother" or maybe "Who Cares" or "You See What I Mean." Nothing leaps off the record, but it's not wack (certainly not as wack as most of "Dance to the Disco Sax of Monk Higgins").

Holmes, Groove: Night Glider (Groove Merchant 1974)

"Flyjack" is all that and that's about all she wrote. This isn't a horrible album but it's pretty standard funky organ jazz which means it gets boring REAL fastŠexcept for the aptly named, hella funky "Flyjack."

Ice Man's Band: Introducing the Ice Man's Band (Mercury 1972)

Decent instrumental album, driven by organ and guitar, with some cool groovers like "Come Together" and "People Make the World Go Around" while "It's Down To That" has a more mid-tempo funk appeal. Best to avoid songs with vocals like "Never Gonna Give You Up"Šbest to stick with the instrumentals like the super mellow "Mr. Dream Merchant"

Iron Butterfly: Heavy (ATCO 1968)

Excellent psych rock album with a killer, slow version of "Get Out of My Life, Woman". If this was done today, they'd call it the syrup remix.

James, Etta: S/T (Chess 1973)

James' first eponymous album (even though her career stretches back well over a decade prior) has two great soulful, funky cuts on it. "All the Way Down" is seeped in smoky, blaxploitated funk and is reminiscent of Marlena Shaw's "Woman of the Ghetto" but James' song is more personal than political in any overt sense. Also nice is "Leaver Your Hat On" which has a similar vibe and strong musical/arrangement qualities (it's a Randy Randy Newman song so maybe that explains it). The rest of the album is a mix of both blues and gospel influenced soul.

Kendricks, Eddie: PeopleŠHold On (Tamla 1972)

Some groovin' soul on here, especially "If You Let Me" and the 7.5 minute monster "Girl You Need a Change of Mind" is on some inspired, Marvin Gaye wanna-be sh*t. Otherwise, the arrangements are pretty bland, even for Motown ­ likeable but that's about as good as it gets on the rest of the album. Worth having but not a high profile piece.

King Errisson: The Magic Man (Westbound 1976)

Ultra dope, funky cover but not quite as nice on the musical tip. There's a lot of proto-disco conga funk on here rather than a more b-boy friendly album. The stand-out (and pretty much the only one) is "Listen to the Music" which has some nice breaks in it, but the remainder of the album doesn't offer a ton to really get into.

King Kong: Funky Reggae (MFP 1974)

Don't believe the hype ­ not really all that funky. The reggae versions of classic soul and rock hits like "Funky Nassau", "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" and others are just anemic in their production valueŠas if they just hired some random stage band to come in to play.

Klemmer , John: Blowin' Gold (Cadet Concept 196?)

For a lack of a better term, you could call this Klemmer classic "psych jazz"Šit certainly blends elements of both conventional jazz and psych rock with his free form explorations of sound and movement. Decent sense of rhythm on here though there are no open breaks and I'd be loath to call anything on here (save "Free Soul") funky per se. His cover of "Hey Jude" opens with a cool, spacey intro but gets conventional soon after. The two best songs start with "My Heart Sings", a slow, but moving number that's melancholy and soulful. The real gem is "Free Soul", a gorgeous, mid-tempo saxophone powered song that lives up to its name. One of THE best horn songs I've ever heard and it's backed by some good key and drum work. Gorgeous.

Lee, Bryon (and the Dragonaires: Reggay Splashdown (Dynamic Sounds 196?)

Very funky and soulful reggae album by the legendary Byron Lee (a Chinese man in Jamaica? Hell yeah) and his Dragonaires. The production is pretty straightforward (this isn't some Lee Perry, dubbed out masterpiece) but there's some kickin' soul tunes on here including "Way Back Home" (with a nice little breakdown at the intro), a very nice cover of "My Sweet Lord" and best of all, a cover of "Express Yourself" which mellows out the vibe a bit, but still retains the funkalicious edge.

Light , Enoch and the Brass Menagerie ­ '73 (Total Sound/Project 3 1973)

Sponsored by GTE Sylvania, this is probably one of the best of Enoch Light's many pop instrumental albums. Parts of it can be cheesy ­ par for the course ­ but some songs as surprisingly dope and fairly funky without all the wonky pop clutter. His version of "Season of the Witch" is pretty smoking, dropping in some sitar to funk it up. Following is a really great version of "Hot Pants"Šit doesn't quite blow the spot up but it'll work as a dancefloor smash in a quite minute ­ nice horns too. There's also a forgettable cover of "Shaft" (which seems to be quite normal) and a loopy "Explorations For Moog" cover of a Dick Hyman song that is STRICTLY for the electronic heads (i.e. sh*t ain't funky one lick).

Live and Let Die OST (United Artists 1973)

A surprisingly good Bond soundtrack for its instrumentals. Someone put me up on this, letting me in on the secret that it's the closest a Bond movie came to having a blaxploitated score and he was damn right. "Filet of Soul - Harlem" (by George Martin) is downright dirty in its funk appeal and the "Filet of Soul ­ New Orleans" has some decent rockin' blues flavor to it. Lots of other decent instrumental moments strewn throughout plus Paul McCartney's catchy title song.

MacDermot, Galt: Hair Pieces (Verve 1968)

Slick little revisit to the "Hair" soundtrack by original composer Galt MacDermot. This time, instead of bringing on a full Broadway orchestra, he rolls in with a more stripped down ensemble that features himself on electronic piano and Bernard Purdie on drums. Bringing in the Rhodes is a very nice touch since it gives all the songs a much soulful, funkier feel, especially on songs like "Where Do I Go?", "Hare Krishna" and "Aquarius". Decent drum breaks (none open) on "Hair" and "Where Do I Go?" and there's some spicy organ vamping for "Dead End". Still, the album retains a very "60s" feel if you know what I mean ­ not a bad thing per se, but this is no "First Natural Hair Band" either.

Magnum: Fully Loaded (Jamie 1974)

Apparently a very rare soul/funk/jazz LP (I still can't remember where the hell I found it), this Magnum album features some great, long songs that don't tax the patience-deficient. It has elements of things you might hear on a Roy Ayers or Harlem River Drive LP. It starts off with a wonderfully soulful cut, "Evolution" (nice enough to make it onto a Luv N' Haight comp by the same name). Down tempo, with conga rhythms and a good brass section, not to mention smooth lyrics. 5+ minutes long and worth every moment. The album, on the whole, has a psych-soul feel to it ­ weird, loopy songs at times with cosmic verses (see "Your Mind") but not nearly as out there as other albums from the same time. The Afro-Latin influence keeps the rhythm tracks firmly in place and occassionally, Magnum let's loose, like on "It's the Music That Makes Us Do It' which has this ridiculously raw drumbreak mid-way through. Side B starts off with a smooth, laid back tune called "Witch Doctor's Brew" and it starts with some great Rhodes melodies that drift lazily through. Then comes the drums and locks the groove in place. "Funky Junky" brings it back into some mid-tempo, Afro-Latin dance rhythms. The album ends with another Afro-Latin number, "Composition Seven" ­ a 9 and a half minute song that is perfect for passing a Sunday afternoon.

Mancini, Henry: The Cop Show Themes (RCA 1976)

A funny album in concept, this compilation of different cop show themes (well, it's like the name says). It's not quite as dope as you'd like, though his cover of "Kojak" has a decent open breakbeatŠbut his version of "SWAT" doesn't out-funk the original. It's more like there are nice, listenable songs on here like "Bumper's Theme" and "The Rockford Files."

Mandel, Harvey: Cristo Redentor (Phillips 1968)

Funky guitar based jazz-rockŠnot incredible (at least not as funky as "Baby Batter") but certainly listenable. While I found a lot of the instrumentals to have a cool touch o' funk, many of them weren't quite strong enough for me to wholeheartedly endorse but I did like the following: "Before Six" which benefits greatly from its brass chorus and "Wade in the Water" kicks off with a small breakbeat and a nice, loping rhythm. This album won't burn the house down, but it might smolder a bit.

McDuff,Jack: Gin and Orange (Cadet 1969)

Not one of McDuff's really excellent organ-funk albums but it has some moments here and there. Mostly though, this has one of his best versions of "Electric Surfboard" ­ slow, funky, groovy. Superb easy listening.

McGriff, Jimmy: Stump Juice (Blue Note

Great funky soul-jazz on the title cut ­ a little long in the tooth on some of the other cuts (again, the curse of organ jazz). Not the tightest of McGriff's funk-laden albums (gotta go with the Groove Merchant stuff) but solid on "Stump Juice" and "TNT."

Mendes, Sergio and Brasil '66: Stillness (Berna 1970)

An exceptional album that blends folksy rock, bossa nova and jazz songs. The main standout is a killer, killer version of Stephen Stills' anti-war classic "For What It's Worth" ­ starts with a nice breakbeat, guitar duo and doesn't let up after that. Likewise, "Righteous Lie" begins with a folksy touch and then drops in the drum backbeat (not open but still good) while "Viramundo" is an uptempo Brazilian samba. Good listening all around.

Meters, (The): Fire on the Bayou (Reprise 1975)

Certainly nowhere near as funky as their Josie output and doesn't match up to "Rejuvenation" either, but it could also be a lot worse. This reminds me a lot of the work they did with Dr. John ­ bluesy, funky but not raw and Southern fried. "Out in the Country" is a slick little number, love the vocal and instrumental interplay and don't sleep on "Can You Do Without?" either with its bassline and snappy breakbeat. Available on reissue.

Mihcal Urbaniak Constellation: In Concert (Muza 197?)

This isn't as good as Urbanika's "In the Beginning" compilation, but it does boast "Seresta" which kicks off with a cool little breakbeat and has its share of funky, quirky moments. I wasn't floored by the album but it doesn't make a bad dig if you just happen upon it (which isn't too likely since it was made in Poland).

Mitchell, Blue: Bantu Village (Blue Note 1971?)

One of two albums by Blue Mitchell arranged and produced by Monk Higgins and you can tell. "Flat Backing", which was sampled by Casual, sounds like something you could have found on Higgins' solo work, especially "Heavyweight", though Mitchell's players are stronger than who Higgins employed for self. This album has a nice blend of funk and jazz but doesn't get too far out there to leave the Blue Note vein (in other words, it's about as funky as straight-ahead jazz gets). The whole Side A is great, especially "Na Ta Ka" with its conga breakbeat and funked up guitar rhythm section. Likewise, "Heads Down" is full of crazy funkiness with both Paul Humphrey and King Errisson on percussive duty. Also likable are "HNIC", "Flat Backing" (nice intro but kind of gets monotonous) and "Blue Dashiki." Certainly, this is one of the better albums that Higgins had a hand in and well worth searching out.

Mussolini, Romano (& His Friends): Soft & Swing (Carasella 1979)

This Right Tempo reissue is for one a Brazilian-flavored jazz album by electric pianist Romano Mussolini. If the surname sounds familiar, that's because Mussolini is the son of Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who was executed at the end of WWII. Not exactly the greatest of family lineages to be sure, but Romano was apparently already a black sheep in the family before the politics intervened. In any case, there's some great stuff on here, like the easy going "Omaggio A Oscar Peterson", "Minority" and hot tempoed "Brasiliana". Very slick Rhodes keys all over the place and a very good sounding record for 1979.

Night Blooming Jazzmen: S/T (Mainstream 197?)

Far more impressive personnel than actual album, this first LP by the Night Blooming Jazzmen (who had two LPs for Mainstream) is s'okay but not extraordinary. You'd hope for better with players like Charles Kynard, Paul Humphrey, Blue Mitchell and Fred Robinson all contributing, but it's pretty conventional jazz and blues in most songs. The sole exception is "Nam M'Yoho Ren'Ge Kyo" (named after a Buddhist chant) which opens with some Blue Note-like soul jazz ­ great piano rhythm section by Leonard Feather here. I'm positive it's been sampled, but can't figure out by who. The rest isn't bad ­ I liked "Calypsoul" and the title song but "Funkyville U.S.A." is mis-named (trust me, it doesn't live up to the sound of it).

Nunez, Flip: My Own Time and Space (Catalyst 1976)

A slept-on soul jazz album by Pilipino American pianist Flip Nunez. Nunez brings aboard Michael Howell and Willie Colon as partners and lays down some smooth electronic piano melodies (though you kind of wish he didn't have to sing as well). "See You Later" is a nice slow groover but the real bomb is "Mr. Cool" ­ a very funky song where the vocals actually don't stink. It's rather unexpected and a welcome surprise.

Ohio Players: Rattlesnake (Westbound 1975)

One of those Ohio Players albums I sort of avoided for no good reason, this is actually pretty good. "Introducing the Players" is an outstanding, smoky funk cut with a deep bassline that runs throughout and funny dialogue (very Ś70s zodiac sign signifyin'). "Rooster Poot" is similarly humorous, bringing back Granny (of "Funky Worm" fame) but this song itself is all dialogue ­ more funny than funky. Also notable is "She Locked It", a fire-y mid-tempo track. Not as sought after as their "Ectasy", "Pain", "Pleasure" series, this could be a nice find in the bargain bin.

Parker, Junior: Honey-Drippin' Blues (Blue Rock 19??)

Pretty straightforward blues album by Junior Parker save in two spots. "Lover and Friend" kicks off with a dope bassline/breakbeat combo that is far too short but the song, on the whole, is pretty cool. Likewise, "Your Love's All Over Me" has its funky side and is a good listen.

Roberts, Howard: Spinning Wheel (197?)

Know this much ­ David Axelrod produces it. Which explains why Roberts has some killer instrumental cuts on here including covers of "Spinning Wheel", "Cantaloupe Island" and a really kick ass version of "Gasoline Alley." Very breakbeat friendly, funky stuff and well worth hunting down.

Rotary Connection, (The New): Hey, Love (Cadet Concept 197?)

There's some really horrible, vocals on this albumŠ"new" certainly doesn't suggest improved, but it does boast the incredible "I Am the Blackgold of the Sun" and a decently funky song called "Love Has Fallen On Me" (with small breakbeat). Otherwise, it had some terrible singing on the other cuts. Available on reissue.

Scott, Tom: Tom Scott and the LA Express (Ode 1974)

This is the one with the well-sampled "Sneakin' In the Back" but it's actually got a bunch of decent instrumental numbers. Not all are quite good enough for me to want to put it on a tape or play on a show but I thought "Bless My Soul" was funky enuff and I thought "Strutt Your Stuff" had a great melodic hook to it plus slight breakbeat to match. It's very 70s in its field, a kind of white rockish at that, but I found it likable listening.

Semper, George: Makin Waves (Hubbub 199?)

This UK reissue of Semper's 1960s album on Imperial changes the artwork (I think) but includes the same track-listing for this San Diego-based funk organist. Like much funk organ, it's hard to stomach everything on here ­ it definitely runs into some overdrawn, cheesy vamp sh*t at time, but his version of "Get Out of My Life, Woman" is pretty fly, complete with requisite breakbeat. Also, his cover of "Thank You (4 Letting' Me Be Myself" ain't bad, but doesn't get really good until towards the end. "Barking Up the Wrong Tree" is a cool ditty with spacey sounds but it's a mere 1.5 minutes long. If you like a more Ś60s sound, then this is your steez. But it's not exactly mine I'm afraid to say.

Senay, Eddy: Hot Thang (Sussex 1972)

Know, with a name like "Hot Thang", you just know that if this ain't the sh*t, it'd be a tragedy. Luckily, Senay comes through in spades. This Detroit guitarist puts together one tight album ­ almost every song smokes to some degree. He starts things off with a slow burner, "Just Feeling It" and then speeds it up a bit to "Down Home". Next follows the title track, oddly, one of the blandest songs on the album though some might like its dance friendly rhythm pattern. Senay follows this up with "Zambezi" which I believe is a cover of a Meters song (certainly sounds like one) and it's another slow burner that sizzles. Side B kicks offf with "Jubo" that features some snappy snare work but what follows it is twice as nice: "Reverand Lowdown" (great names huh?). Senay then pulls off a great, mad soulful cover of "Ain't No Sunshine" that ranks among the best I've heard and ends with an organ-laced, melancholy blues cut called "Message of Love." Like I said, almost the entire album is noteworthy. Very, very good stuff.

Senay, Eddy: Step by Step (Sussex 1972)

Apparently, this came out the same year as "Hot Thang" but I'd never seen a copy of this until I bought it. Not quite as consistently great as "Hot Thang", but strong rhythm sections and arrangements make for some quality cuts on tracks like the smooth and catchy "Cameo" or "Delgado" with its Afro-Latin influence. Parts of the album are jazzier and more relaxed but "Safari" is an exception ­ super downright funky. Another great album by Senay.

Shearing, George: The Way We Were (BASF/MPS 1974)

Most of Shearing's work was pretty MOR pop instrumental fare but even he got funky with it at least once. This album has a lot of standard pop fare but for whatever reason, Shearing takes up cool covers of both "The World is a Ghetto" (by War) and "Aquarius". The former is a standout ­ a very good cover with lots of instrumental flair. "Aquarius" isn't bad too though you still can't shake the Ś60s feel from its melody.

Skull Snaps: S/T (GSF 1973)

Straight up ­ the only reason why this album goes for such money is because it's rare, not because it's really that dope. Sure, "It's a New Day" has one of the fiercest breakbeats in history and that makes the album alone worthwhile. Plus "Trespassing" is a great slice of soul too. But the rest of the album has some surprisingly bad songs on it too (which is certainly not unusual). However, you gotta give props to Skull Snaps for 1) an ill name and 2) an even iller album cover. Trust me ­ they count for something.

Smith, Jimmy: Root Down Live! (Verve 1972)

At the risk of offending B3 Hammond lovers and Jimmy Smith's fans, I find this record to be rather overrated in terms of its funkiness. Apart from the title track, it sounds fairly typical of a lot of organ-driven jazz. It's "funky" in a fairly conventional sense and doesn't really get too down and dirty. Maybe it's because its live, but much of the album didn't feel very excitable though much of it is pleasant listening.

Smith, Lonnie: Turning Point (Blue Note 1969)

Part of Smith's quartet of outstanding funk/soul/jazz albums for Blue Note, "Turning Point's" best song is the breakbeat laden "People Sure Act Funny" though I'm sure some will like more mid-tempo cuts like "See Saw" and "Slow High". Be warned, these are fairly long songs and unlike, say Donald Byrd's "Ethopian Knights", not all of them will hold your interest from beginning to end (it's the curse of the funk organ). Still, a solid album by Smith that remains a classic in the soul jazz vein.

Soul Searchers: Salt of the Earth (Sussex 1974)

Probably the best of the Soul Searchers albums and not just because it has "Ashley's Roachclip" (one of those all-time great breakbeats and strong song overall). "Funk to the Folks" is incredibly good ­ strong rhythm, great horn section and the breakdowns are superb. Also good are "Ain't It Heavy" and "If It Ain't Funky."

Stitt, Sonny: Soul Girl (Paula 1973)

A rather disappointing Stitt album on Paula. It starts off with a great soul jazz groover, "Got To Get Over" but the rest of it is steeped in straight-ahead (and boring) ballads and blues.

Thomas, Irma: Soul Queen of New Orleans (Masion de Soul 1978)

Some disco era blandness on here but it also features a killer soul track, "Hittin' On Nothin'" which leads with a nice breakbeat and then slides into a slow burner. Believe me ­ it's about the only thing remotely funky on here.

Upchurch, Philip: Darkness, Darkness (Blue Thumb 1972)

This album is largely full of long, soulfully inspired jazz songs done by guitarist Philip Upchurch. Some of the titles look better than they really are, meaning that his cover of "Cold Sweat" is good, but not outstanding even if Harvey Mason gets to whip out some nice breaks in the middle. Nor is his cover of "Inner City Blues" that memorable. On the other hand, the cover of James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" is pretty good once you get past the first two minutes or so and the same can be said for the title track. "Sweet Chariot" was a nice surprise, hiding a sample by Ugly Duckling and offering some good listening in general. Overall, a good album for those who like the long compositional style of the songs.

Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, (The): S/T (Warner Bros. 1968)

While I think this album is correctly listed under as a "self-titled" LP, some have named it "Hot Heat and Sweet Groove" since that's what appears on the back of the LP. But the album label itself doesn't have that title so I'm assuming it was just a marketing slogan rather than the LP name. Anyways, this first album by the Watts 103rd, formerly known as the Soul Runners, is s'okay but disappointing flat considering 1) how nice their 45s were as the Soul Runners and 2) considering how ultra dope their next album, "Together" was. "Fried Okra" is pretty cool, though now that I've heard it, it's pretty much the same damn groove as their "Grits N' Corn Bread" and "Chittlin' Salad". What's up with that? Anyways, other decent instrumentals include "The 103rd St. Theme" and "Watts Happning" plus "Whole Hog, or None At All." Honestly though, I didn't think this was as essential as I thought it would be. If you have "Together" and the Soul Runner 45s, that pretty much will get you through.

Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, (The): Together (Warner Bros. 1968)

Straight up - this is THE best album by the Watts 103rd. At least a third of the songs on here smoke like an inferno, especially "65 Bars and a Taste of Soul"- a dope soul instrumental with raw, hard driving drums and guitar, filled with horn flares all over the place. In the same vein are "Phuncky Bill", "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (which kicks off with some vicious drums and yells) and the great melodic hook for "A Dance, A Kiss and a Song." That's just the A-side. Can you dig it?

Wilkins, Ernie (and his Orchestra): Hard Mother Blues (Mainstream 1970)

It looks REALLY good, with songs like "Funky Broadway", "Evil Ways", "Midnight Hour" and "Dock of the Bay." In reality, it's not bad, but not exactly blazing either. The instrumentation is kind of high strung and little too over the top in many places. The cover of "Funky Broadway", for example, demolishes the smoky flavor of the original and jacks it into overdriveŠsome nice breakdowns towards the end, but not the best cover of this song I've heard. Don't get me wrong, the instrumentals are pretty nice on one level but they seem to stop short of being great. Partially, I think it's because Bob Shad's arrangement just doesn't give the tracks enough room to really stretch but it is an orchestra. A passably good album but I wouldn't go far out of my way to keep this in the crates.

Wolfman Jack: S/T (Wooden Nickel 1971)

Yes indeed, the infamous radio personality put out his own LP in the early 70s. No less than Issac Hayes writes the liner notes, calling this a soul album (which is pretty damn generous). Let's be frank ­ Wolfman is better off being a DJ than singer but at least it makes his songs interesting. "Diggin' on Mrs. Jones" has its blaze moments with its blaxploited funk feel but the vocals (both female and Jack's just don't quite work). There's also some decent, slow breaks on "Spinning Ball" and "Let Me Belong to You" but you really don't have to listen to the rest of the song unless you like schmaltz. "Hey Wolfman" talks about some conga drums at the start, and Wolfman talks about "hey drummer man! You want some? Well come and get some." Great vocal bits and it has a bit of a break to get down to. Easily the best song on the album (mostly b/c Wolfman doesn't sing on it). By the way, this album was pressed on the thinnest vinyl I've ever come across ­ it's practically a flex-a-disc.

If you want to know where you might find records like this, check out Soul Spots

Back to Soul Sides