soul sides - november 2000

soul sides - november 2000

9th Creation: Bubble Gum (Rite Track 1975)

I've had "Falling in Love" for about a year now and came upon this f---ed up copy (it's barely in "good" condition but for $3, I ain't trippin'). Really like the cover on this betterthe cartoon cover is funny and the flipside's photo of the group standing on the street corner has that 70s funk feel to it. All in all, my opinion hasn't changed much the album is pretty boring save for the funkalicious "Bubble Gum" with its elastic basslines and the searing, atmospheric feel of "Rule of Mind".

Aloni, Aminadav: Once OST (Cinema Records: 1974)

A bizarre electronic music-based soundtrack for an equally strange movie. "Once", according to its description, has three actors but no dialogue at all, and is an allegorical story about good and evil, creation and destruction. None of the soundtrack songs follow any conventional melodic or rhythmic pattern, though it's more organized than a series of blips and wails. Still, it's nothing you could rock a club with. Interestingly enough, DJ Shadow heard this album and turned parts of "The Crab, The Turtle, The Pelican and the Horse" into sample fodder for his production on the song "Latyrx."

Bartz, Gary Ntu Troop: I've Known Rivers and Other Bodies (Prestige 1973)

Recorded live at the famed Montreux Jazz Festival in 1973, this is pretty vintage Bartz/Ntu Troop flavor: deep musical arrangements made up of a sprinkling of keys (Hubert Eaves), Bartz'own sax and slumbering basslines (Stafford James). Since this is recorded live, the songs tend to be long, with lots of improvisations thrown in. Among the funky moments is a short drum break at the beginning of "Don't'Fight That Feelin"and "Uhuru Sassa's" chorus breakdown that complements Bartz'distinctive vocals. The funkiest cut comes towards the end on "Dr. Follow's Dance" which kicks off with some heated drum licks by Howard King plus great bass work by James.

Baxter, Les: African Blue (GNP Crescendo 196?)

Much better than average exotica album that Les Baxter puts together with an African touch. It's no Nino Nardini "Jungle Obsession", but there's actually some fairly fly instrumentals on here, including the soulfully mellow "Yellow Sun" that add in some nice vocal nuances and stuttering drum play. "Tree of Life" has almost campy noir effect to it (at least before the flutes blow in to change up the mood). The bomb cut is "Johannesburg Blues" which sounds a little like KMD's "Peachfuzz" (it's not the sample origin but it sounds like it could) with its cool xylophone taps and the strongest rhythm arrangement you'll find on the album. Ending the album is "Kalahari", which has some decent funky moments, but it doesn't hold up throughout. Still, this is far better than anything I've ever heard from Martin Denny.

Black Heat: No Time To Burn (Atlantic 1974)

A much funkier album than "Keep on Runnin'", this ones goes for more soul instincts than drop into the proto-disco of Black Heat's later material. "No Time to Burn", which leads the album, smokes it up early though the rest of the A-side was so-so. The B-side has the better cuts, starting with "Super Cool" and its ironically heated horns and hard beats. "M&Ms" brings on orgasmic moans, wah-wah guitars and plenty of horn-y play on this (mostly) instrumental monster. "Rapid Fire" is a sweet but short instrumental groover that only lasts a minute and a half but delivers plenty in that small package, especially in its crispy snares. It ends on "Times Have Changed", another pure funky-jazz instrumental.

Bohannon: Stop & Go (Dakar 1972)

After what seems like a three year quest (maybe four but who's counting?) I've finally, finally found a copy of this %*)@! album. The last copy I saw in person was in a little hole-in-the-wall store near Soho in NYC and at $25, I thought it was too much. Dumb of me. Well, after years of searching, I managed to snag one for the not-so-bargain price of $30, but that's still less than what I'd pay on eBay. Frankly, I don't know why this has been the only Bohannon album that anyone's bothered to sample (three times no less) but whatever musical magic needed to happen on this, did. The A-side is largely a collection of decent instrumental funk cuts nothing that really rocks the house though though I did like "Run It On Down Mr. D.J.". The B-side is where all the best sh*t lies, mostly thanks to the presence of the Haywood Singers on most of the four songs. It starts off with the jazzy "Save Their Souls" and its hymn-like vocals and Ray Parker's guitar blips. "Singing a Song For My Mother" is the real sh*t though, a gorgeous, rich soul tune that should be familiar to most by now thanks to Ed O.G.'s "I Got To Have It". Then there's the short "It's Time For Peace" which has no rhythm and is all floating flutes, a dance of bells and a melange of background melodies drifting along. The album ends with "Happiness", a down-tempo funk joint that rocks a nice cowbell plus organ vamps from Mose Dvais.

Booker T. & The MGs: And Now! (Stax 1966)

While I've always liked Booker T. and the MGs, I've never really thought of them in the same kind of instrumental category as say, the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band, or even the Mar-Keys (despite the Stax connection the latter shared with Booker). Don't get me wrong, the MGs have some classic instrumentals under their belt like "Green Onions" and "Slim Jenkin Place", but their particularly brand of funk was usually kind of tame by my tastes. Let me revamp that opinion now after listening to their "And Now!" LP. The missing element is now here: chunky drums, especially on the very slick "No Matter What They Say" which works as a great dancefloor cut with its tight drum rhythms and guitar reverbs. Anyone know who sampled it? Other winners include souled-out covers for, "Working In a Coal Mine"., "Think" and I dug the MGs'own "My Sweet Potato", a downtempo slider.

Brown, Mel: The Wizard (Impulse 1968)

A smokin', funky blues record from Mel Brown, the best I've heard from him (out of the three albums I have). Very uptempo, driving rhythms on this one, including blasts of breakbeats on "African Sweets" and "Swamp Fever". His cover of "Ode to Billie Joe" isn't quite as funkalicious as Lou Donaldson's, but it has a very distinct personality all its own. The whole B-side rips hard, including on "Stop", "Chunk A Funk", "Miss Ann" and "W-2 Withholding." If you like your blues funky, you'll like Mel Brown as the Wizard.

Bryant, Rusty: Fire Eater (Prestige 1971)

Maybe it's because this LP has one of the most non-descript covers I've ever seen but I found it for $3 in NM condition (I don't usually floss but I was so amazed myself I had to take a moment to marvel at the fact that sometimes, record digging doesn't have to be expensive just to be effective). The personnel is kept small and simple Bryant on sax, Bill Mason smashes down the organ keys for Side A while Leon Spencer Jr. has duties on the B. Wilbert Longwire holds down the jazz guitar and Idris Muhammad rocks the funky drum licks. In fact, this album more properly seems to belong to Muhammad and the two organists since they contribute the best moments on the album. Muhammad absolutely crushes two open drum solos one on the title track (monstrous), the other at the end of "Mister S." Bryant's playing takes a firm backseat to most of the organ vamps and melodies that fly throughout the songs. Pretty bad ass album whether you pay $3 or $30.

Bryant, Rusty: Until It's Time For You To Go (Prestige 1974)

While this appears three years later than Bryant's "Fire Eater", it still has many of the same funky qualities that made his earlier work so potent. The grooves here are a touch more relaxed (certainly no blistering breakbeat to wig out to) but certainly not bland. "The Hump Bump" kicks it off nicely with a bouncy rhythm track (credit Pretty Purdie on drums and Bad Bascomb on bass for some of that). The B-side has two cool ones, "Draggin'the Line" and especially the bluesy "Ga Gang Gang Goong", which slicks along with some verve. For a Prestige album, this was definitely one of their higher notes (which says a lot since much of their output was so strong). Trivia note: this album was recorded in dedication to Gene Ammons who had recently passed at the time the LP was cut.

Burton, Gary: Good Vibes (Atlantic 1970)

This is the only Gary Burton album I've heard and genuinely liked. Don't know why it sounds so strikingly different from his other works many of which are either straight-ahead or else fusion-cheesy, but "Good Vibes" seems well named as many of the songs on here are so much funkier than the rest of his own catalog.

"Las Vegas Tango" is the joint to peep first: I don't know if it's Steve Swallow or Chuck Rainey on bass but either way, its ill and dissonant, carving out this swatch of sonic space with its sharp, deep curve. Then Burton's mournful vibes drop in and adds a whole new layer of sound. This is followed by the swinging "Boston Maraton" which has a great soul-jazz feel to it and sharp drum tempo laid down by the one and only Bernard "Pretty" Purdie. Speaking of which, Purdie lays down a very short but nice open break on "Leroy the Magician", another cool, laid-back soul-jazz number.

Butler, Jerry: Melinda OST (Pride 1972)

Jerry Butler's production adds the right touch on this blaxploitation soundtrack. Smartly blending soul with a touch of funk, Butler's two best songs begin right off with the opener, "Speak the Truth to the People", which rolls at the intro with a fat bassline (Black Sheep sample) and then switches into a great, swelling soul song. On the instrumental tip, he laces "Part III" with some sweet breakbeat action just two songs later. The remainder of the LP doesn't quite approach the swank flavor of these early two (soundtracks are almost always a mixed bunch), but it's a lot more solid than many other similar-era OSTs I can think of (like "Truck Turner" or "Slaughter's Big Rip-Off").

Catalyst: A Tear and a Smile (Muse 1976)

I first saw and heard this album in Montreal a year ago but was wary of the high sticker price but the name stayed with me. Apparently, they were a proto-fusion group at the turn of the 60s/70s in South New Jerseybefore it was really fashionable to do fusion work as a jazz group. Purportedly, they never played with the same style twice, working with hard-to-define avant garde influences interlaced with soul, funk and even classical nuances. "A Tear and a Smile" might be their most "accessible" album, but it still takes far more leaps into free jazz territory than soul-jazz albums of the era. The slickest cut to bump is "Demon Pt. 2", a sloopy soul-funk song with big, wah wah basslines and moogy melodies. "Fifty Second Street Boogie Down" continues the mooged-out experience with a more uptempo cut that plunges ahead frenetically. "Suite For Albeniz" is exotically flavored with some strong funk dimensions to it. Interesting though not always consistent work.

Connors, Norman: Slew Foot (Buddah 1974)

I don't know too much about Connors'stuff most of his instrumental work has seemed kind of cheesy to me, or at least not funky enough to really merit much attention. This "Slew Foot" LP, which I had not seen or heard before, was a decent surprise. For one thing, the personnel is decent, including Gary Bartz, Jean Carn, Lonnie Liston Smith and Ron Carter. The production is mixed nothing's rough, raw funky, but the B-side, starting with the swinging, uptempo title track had some nice moments. Connors'own drum work helps anchor much of the tempo though he's not busting out open breaks. "Dreams" follows and Ron Carter's bass play is quite prominent, not to mention some nice piano flourishes by Elmer Gibson on the Fender Rhodes. Spacey and atmospheric. Then there's "Chuka", a straight-up funk hit for the dancefloor that cooks on the hard driving bass and percussive play of Dom Um Romao and Skip Drinkwater. "Jump Street" also features some flanging drum breaks and "Back on the Street" is a decent, though not extradordinary uptempo track.

Dibango, Manu: African Voodoo

One of at least two so-called "library" records that Dibangu helped put together, "African Voodoo" has some killer, killer instrumentals on it. Despite the title, it's not as exotic as you might think, nor necessarily even firmly based on Afro-beat compositions. Dibangu shows impressive range with a selection of different sounds and styles including "Groovy Flute", "Soul Saxes Meeting" and "Jungle Riders". I mean, how can you go wrong with titles like those and ones like: "Iron Wood", "Zoom 2000" and "Aphrodite Shake"? Dope-a-delic.

Drennon, Eddie and the B.B.S. Unlimited; Collage (Friends & Co. 1975)

More proof that not all disco sucked, this Latin-flavored record from the Era That Can Not Be Named is unqualifiably dope. The rhythm texture on here is great there's definitely disco influences: the fairly mechanical beats, overly dramatic strings, and simple bassline patterns, but it's far more organically funky than most disco was. "A Theme In Search" could very well have ended up on a blaxploitation soundtrack with its oiled basslines and deft keyplay. "Let's Do It Again" is a great, midtempo dance groover with a memorable string melody and even the cheesy horn line sounds kind of cool. "Do It Nice and Easy" is just straight funky stuff, with a bassline reminiscent of "I Shot the Sheriff." But the bomb is "Do What You Gotta Do", a sublime mix of soaring vocals and some beatific guitar lines that strum throughout. Gorgeous song, enough to make you forget that Drennon's big hit off this LP was actually "Let's Do the Latin Hustle."

Dyke and the Blazers: Funky Broadway (Original Sound 1967)

Legendary funkateers on the LA-based Original Sound imprint, Dyke and the Blazers are most easily accessed through their 45s since their LPs were so few and far between. This LP has most of their big 45 hits, including "Funky Broadway Pt. 1 & 2", "Uhh Pt. 1 & 2" as well as "So Sharp" and "Don't Bug Me." The butter cut though is the LP-only "Broadway Combination", which snaps off with a vicious drumbreak. In general, it's very 60s era soul/funk similar to what James Brown was kicking off in the same time era.

Ebony Godfather: Moog Fluting (GRC 1974)

Intriguing title, but lackluster album. It's not wack, but the compositions and arrangements are pretty milquetoast despite the presence of Joe Thomas (aka the Ebony Godfather).

F.A.T.: Funky and Tough (Bold 1977)

Don't know much about this except that it's a reissue for a very tough album to find. You can't go wrong with the artist name or the album title though the music isn't as remarkable as the names suggest. "How Can I Explain", the first song, is also probably the best, a slick, relaxed soul cut that could do without Eric "Fat" Gallon's lousy vocals, but the key play is just great on here. The warm Rhodes sound is what pretty much makes parts of this album strong, like the more mid-tempo banger "Life is a Beautiful Thing" though the disco-funky "Magician Man" is kind of fly simply because it's disco-funky.

Franklin, Carolyn: I'd Rather Be Lonely (RCA 1973)

The youngest sister of Aretha, lauded in the liner notes as "breathier" than her far more famous sister, Carolyn Franklin doesn't come anywhere close to Aretha's powerful vocals but at least she had good taste in producers. Wade Marcus arranges this LP and while much of it is pretty standard soul (and not very exciting arrangements at that), there's a couple of more sultry soul with a funk gilding, such as on "Don't See Him Much No More" (great basslines), a souled up version of James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" and another decent, midtempo cut, "Sweet Naomi." Not outstanding, but worth checking out if you ever pass it.

Green, Grant: Carryin'On (Blue Note 1970)

Green's consistency on Blue Note, especially around the decade turn of the 60s to 70s was ridiculously good. It's hard to think of a more consistently funky jazz guitarist who was out there at the time. Sure, George Benson had some nice stuff, as did Wes Montgomery, but Green's total package (like bringing on Idris Muhammad for this session) was stronger by far. "Carryin'On" is no exception, with two bad ass bangers ("Ease Back", a cover of the Meters'classic) plus a James Brown cover, "I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing" (whose bassline sounds a lot like Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk Popcorn", another James Brown production). "Upshot", one of Green's own songs, isn't quite as nice as the other two, but it's a solid groover nonetheless.

Green, Grant: Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note 1972)

"We are gathered here tonight to create love through the medium of music" intones Hank Stewart at the beginning of the album and sets the tone for a love-ly album in Grant Green's considerable soul-jazz catalog. The songs on here are LONG real long (it is live after all) and build over time rather than always smacking you in the head from the get. It's a great album just to slap on and let groove in the background, especially on monster jams like the fifteen minute cover of Donald Byrd's "Fancy Free" and a very groovy song, "Flood In Franklin Park" and another uptempo cover, this one for "Wake In the Water."

Hancock, Herbie: Blow-Up OST (MGM 1966)

A slick, jazz soundtrack for Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blow-Up" (which is a movie about photography, not pyrotechnics). Hancock's now-famous "Bring Down the Birds" (sampled by Dee-Lite for "Groove Is In the Heart") is the best thing on here for the funkier side though the "The Kiss" has some slick, Blue Note-styled soul-jazz flavor to it too and I really dug the melancholy sound of "Curiosity". The short "Thomas Studies Photos" has some African rhythm influences and that segues into another great, mellow ballad, "The Bed".

Hewitt, Lonnie: Keepin' It Together (Wee 1977)

This rare album by one of Cal Tjader's longtime pianist Lonnie Hewitt appears on the local, Bay Area indie label, Wee (owned by Hewitt). Despite being produced dead in the middle of the disco era, the album could easily be confused with something from five years earlier. The material on here is uneven though a mix of Philly-esque symphonic soul arrangements and a lot of great, loopy commentary from Hewitt who talks on half the songs (or so it seems). As you might guess, Funky Thang" is the funkiest joint on here, but even then, it'd hardly make a splash next to a ton of other songs I could name. Really, the best reason to keep this is for Hewitt's commentary instant mixtape material. Oh yeah ill cover too.

Jazz Class With Luigi (Hoctor HLPS-4130MO)

For anyone who's seen the "Luigi" line of jazz dance instruction albums on Hoctor, it can get a little confusing to figure out what's what. For one thing, it's unclear if "Luigi" refers to teacher Eugene "Luigi" Louis or dancer Luigino Facciuto since both are mentioned in the liner notes. What I do know is that Stan Rubin's orchestra plays on this album whereas Geroge Fiscoff plays on some of the other "Luigi" series. THIS album is the one with the funky breakbeats, on "Bounce", "Out-In, Out-Down", Contract Back & In Second" and especially, "Kicks & Luigi Strut". The instrumental feel ranges from straight funk-jazzy (such as on the last song) to more straight-ahead jazz (but with swing). There's no year listed so the best way to find this is by color pink cover and the album number: 4130, which should help distinguish it from similar titles.

Kay-Gees: Keep On Bumpin'& Masterplan (Gang 1974)

Kind of dull Kool and the Gang-esque jazz funk (just without the same tight rhythms but all the cheesy vocals). "Who's the Man?" isn't bad especially with the "who's the man with the master plan" vocals ringing throughout but it's still not that interesting musically. "Anthology" is vaguely provocative with its flange and dub effects, but it's more of an aural experience that something strong musically.

King Errison: The King Arrives (Canyon 19??)

I'm not sure which of Errisson's (I've seen his name spelled with one and two "s's" on different albums) LPs are supposed to be THE joints. I do know that this album seems to pre-date later albums for Westbound and Kosnos, but while it's likable, it doesn't seem to be crazy, stoopid ill or anything, especially considering Errisson's reputation as a percussionist. "Zola" kicks off the album with some high-tempo Latin fire but I was more partial to "Pula Yetla" which was a smooth, five-minute long slow groover. The B-side has two similar cuts the mid-tempo "Alone" and the fiery "Dance After the Feast" but neither really spoke to me as much as "Udaka", another cut that's more relaxed than other's on the album with its slick guitar licks and a muted conga backbeat.

King Hannibal: Truth (Aware 1973)

How can you possibly front on an artist who declares on his record: "Here's the King. He's Black. He's Proud. He's Arrogant. The Combination is Powerful." You tell em! I first learned about King Hannibal through his 45, "The Truth Shall Make You Free" (where he urges that an appeal to Christ can save you from drug abuse). This merges Southern soul and gospel fire with really strong arrangement (by Hannibal himself). The funk appeal is undeniable as Hannibal scowls on record while his band cranks underneath. Cuts like "The Truth" and "Wake Up" hit hard from the get though there's also some fairly boring blues and soul cuts too. The gem is the last song, the seven minute "Hymn No. 5". It begins innocuously enough with Hannibal repeating, "I want to see you" in a blues-powered fashion but after a couple of bars, the chattering drums kick in and the song takes a whole different vibe as it cranks up the verve. Hot, hot stuff.

Kirk, Rahsaan Roland: Bright Moments (Atlantic 1973)

I admit I know precious little about Kirk except that 1) he was blind and 2) was considered either insane or a genius by most jazz aficionados. The only album I owned previous was his amazing (and fairly easy-to-find "Blacknuss") and I heard parts of this one in a Detroit record store before my friend snapped it up. Much of this is pretty straight-ahead jazz ( well, as straight-ahead as Kirk got), including some smooth ballads like "Prelude to a Kiss" and a gorgeous original composition called "Second Line Jump"There's "Fly Town Nose Blues" (which I presume means that Kirk was playing his horns on his nose, something he was known to do on many an occasion). As well, there's great vocal moments on here (since the album was recorded live) where Kirk is just talking to the audience

Little Richard: The Rill Thing (Warner Bros. 1970)

Little Richard burns, baby, burns on this surprising and outstanding LP by one of rock n'roll's greatest personalities (not to mention most flamboyant). "The Rill Thing" is simply on some other sh*t kicks off with a dope breakbeat and then slides into a 10 minute instrumental of funky Southern blues sensibilities. "Freedom Blues" is nice too, with Richard hootin'and hollerin'over a hard-driving blues-rock track, an aesthetic that typifies the rest of the album.

Makeba, Myriam: Country Girl (Sonodisc 1978)

Really cool soul album from South Africa's Makeba, with production and playing by Hugh Masekela. I'm guessing this was done while she was still in exile from the former apartheid state as it appears on a French label, Sonodisc. I originally learned about this from Amir (when his "mixtape" appeared in an issue of The Fader) and he lauded the album's soulfulness and I'm not one to disagree. It's not crash bang bombasitc or anything, but the compositions show some groovin'touches, such as on the title cut, as well as "Tailor Man." There's some Latin flavor too a cover of Jorge Ben's "Xica Da Silva". On the flipside, "The Lion Cries" is the nice, alternate take on the classic, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" but the following song, the funky, downtempo "Goodbye Poverty" is the jam dope bassline, noticeable breakbeat rhythms and strong political message too.

McDuff, Brother Jack: Getting Our Thing Together (Cadet 1968)

I can't say I'm a big fan of McDuff like most organists, a lot of his works (especially in the 60s) were too straight-ahead and dull for me to really get into. But McDuff always managed to pull off that ONE cut that made you despair for the album. Last time around, it was his version of "Electric Surfboard" on "Gin and Orange." This time, it's the incredibly soulful sax licks that kick off "Hold It For a Minute" (best heard on Diamond D's "Feel the Vibe"). The whole song is great and the horn chorus returns at the right times to lift your spirits. There's some other cool instrumentals on here too a tad more conventional, but still with heated organ vampage "You Sho'Walk Funky", "Black Is", "Jelly Jam", etc.

McGriff, Jimmy: Groove Grease (Groove Merchant 1974)

The original source of McGriff's absolute funk bomb "The Bird" (ill, ill, ill), "Groove Grease" is, in producer Sunny Lester's words, "Jimmy McGriff in his funky bag." Of course, many a jazz organist claimed similar boasts and few of them delivered the whole way, but this album comes through and then some. Sure, McGriff will still dip into some cheesy sh*t on the B-3, like "There Will Never Be Another You", but at least that's followed by the funked out "Canadian Sunset". I also liked "Mr. Lucky", which is more laid-back but has some top notch basswork (either by Richard Davis or Cadet's Richard Evans) that keeps the groove locked in place. "Moonglow", a more mid-tempo funk cut isn't bad either but takes a back seat to the ill drum breaks and basslines of "Red Sails In the Sunset." The album ends on a strong note with "Secret Love" which has another tight rhythm track and sharp drum work by Marion Booker.

Mitchell, Blue: Collision in Black (Blue Note 196?)

Though I consider myself to be a big Monk Higgins fan (not to mention completionist), I didn't know he produced any sides for Blue Mitchell until I bought a copy of "Bantu Village." Since, then I've searched back in the catalog and found this other one by Mitchell which Higgins had a hand in. In comparison to "Bantu", or any of Higgins'own late 60s works, this is more straight-ahead than straight-funky, but it still retains some of Higgins'trademark touches, especially around the emphasis on bassline grooves and tempo. The best of the bunch is probably Higgins'own composition, "Diggin in the Dirt" which kicks off with some serious bassline action courtesy Bob West. Then there's uptempo, swing cuts like "Kick It" and "Who Dun It" as well as "Jo Ju Ja" which is a touch more "exotic" in arrangement, but not quite at the level that songs on "Bantu Village were at." A cool little album but not an essential in the Higgins'catalog.

Ovation Vector 4 Quadraphonic Sound (Ovation 1974)

DJ Om hepped me to this a cool LP that has enticing vocal snippets to cut up and slip into mixtape fodder on the A-side (this is a test record for stereo equipment) and the flipside has some wickedly ill electronic music pieces, including the provocatively entitled "Mobius Flip" by Herb Pilhofer and the Sound 70 Strings; a cover of "Shaft" by Steven Samler (s'okay) and Doug Carn's "Adam's Apple" in all its synth-ed out glory. Nice to find a test record with so much utility.

> Pate, Johnny: Shaft in Africa OST (MGM 1973)
Parks, Gordon: Shaft's Big Score OST (MGM 1972)

Like many blaxploitation soundtracks, this wasn't necessarily crazy dope the whole way through but the percussive blasts on the title track are well worth the price of admission. One of the sickest cuts I've ever heard on any blaxploitation-era soundtrack, it's just one big long drum break textured by conga rhythms. There's other decent instrumental moments on the soundtrack too, but nothing quite like the title track. This isn't quite the masterpiece of the original ,Issac Hayes score, but for funk heads, you can't go wrong.

As for "Shaft's Big Score", let's just put it this way it wasn't just the movie series that got worse over time.

Previn, Andre: Rollerball OST (United Artists 1971)

How bizarre is a soundtrack that combines Bach and Tchaikovskyand 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 nice funky touches, subtle breakbeats, some heavy synth action. Just don't grab for those skate keys just yet.

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.

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 decent cuts that hint at what would come next. "Nothing but Tears" is a cool, 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".

Smith, Lonnie: Think! (Blue Note 1968) Move Your Hand (Blue Note 1970)

The first of four classic soul-jazz albums that Smith cut for Blue Note, "Think!" finds organist Smith backed by Lee Morgan, Melvin Sparks and David Newman. The title track is a great cover of the Aretha Franklin's song while "The Call of the Wild" starts slow and then up-jumps into some more heated play, especially with the frenetic drum work by Martion Booker Jr. The album even includes some Afro-Latin flavor on "Slouchin'".

"Move Your Hand" was the third in the series, following "Turning Point" and preceding "Drives". Personnel is quite different though with Sylvester Goshay replacing Newman, Rudy Jones and Ronnie Cuber taking over horn duties for Lee Morgan and Larry McGee flicking guitar strings instead of Melvin Sparks. Despite the changes, almost every cut smokes, especially "In the Cut" and "Move Your Hand" stands out even more for the vocals (which are uncredited, unless Smith sounds like a woman, which I don't think is the case) which give it a cool acid-jazz feel. Smith's cover of "Sunshine Superman" is enjoyable as is the whimsical "Charlie Brown"

Sons, (The): The Sons (Capitol 197?)

The shortened moniker for the former Sons of Champlin, The Sons put together what would otherwise be a fairly dull mid-70s rock album with undistinguished folk and jazz influences except for two standout cuts. One is the surprising "Boomb Boom Chomp" which starts off as an uptempo soulful rock groover and then midway through, drops into a four minute long instrumental portion that includes the jazzy break that the Beatnuts sampled. It changes the vibe up entirely and is a welcome change of pace. Then there's the bangin'breakbeat (open) on "You Can Fly" which adds in some guitars and hornplay for an almost JBs-esque sounding track (though the Sons ain't no James Brown vocally speaking).

Tate, Howard: S/T (Atlantic 1972)

Dope little soul album by an artist I don't have much familiarity with but what I've heard, I've liked. The production on this album (handled by Jerry Ragovoy) is great smoky soul, blues and funk influences blend with the sharp drum snaps of Bernard Purdie and Rick Marotta (plus Ralph MacDonald on congas) and these all feel like complete songs rather than just short, funky instrumental interludes. The album's first two songs, "She's a Burglar" and "8 Days on the Road" have great rhythm arrangements and Tate's a decent vocalist (though he's no Al Green). For those more in blues ballads, check out "Girl of North Country" which is deeply soulful. On the B-side, "Jemima Surrender" is another beaut of a soul cut, with solid horn arrangements throughout.

U.S. 69: Yesterdays Folk (Quality 1969)

Not quite sure how to classify this one as it blends psych/sitar rock with funk and jazz influences and mixes them together impressively. I was only expecting to like a song or two off of this, but discovered that many of the songs (written and arranged by Bill Durso) were kind of fly. The title song has a guitar line that sounds a lot like Grand Funk Railroad's "Closer to Home" and it's open in two places. "I'm a Nobody" is a bluesy funk-rock cut with sharp drum snaps and a tight rhythm section. And then there's the difficult-to-describe "African Sunshine" which is sort on its own tip. "Miss Goodbody" kicks off with a cymbal-enchanced drumbreak. that DJ Shadow flipped on his "Red Bus" 7". Worth checking out.

Walker, T-Bone: Funky Town (Bluesway 197?)

Produced by Bob Thiele (who did a lot of the albums on Flying Dutchman), this isn't quite as good as advertised ("Funky Town" is pretty slow and bluesy) but there's at least two cool tracks to flip out to: "Party Girl" and the song that follows, "Why My Baby". Both start off with a nice bassline and then the horns and drums blast in for some Southern fried funk flavor. Apart from these two songs though, the rest of the album is pretty standard blues material.

Wesley, Fred and the Horny Horns: A Blow For Me, A Toot For You (Atlantic 1977)

The JBs meet the P-Funk on this George Clinton produced masterpiece. The JBs style of arrangements were probably a big precursor for Clinton's own journeys into the funk and the two sound great together. As you'd expect, there's a lot of tight rhythm arrangements, especially on the title track and "When In Doubt, Vamp" but "Four Play" is the hit. Dope little drum break and then those familiar basslines (well, familiar to those who liked Gang Starr's "Step In the Arena"). The song seems to go on forever (a good thing), eight minutes long, all with the same basic rhythm pattern locked underneath. Also well worth a listen is the livelier funk appeal of "Between Two Sheets" (great guitars and basslines float throughout).

Z Archiwum Polskiego Beatu: Reedycje Vol. 23 (Muza 1968)

Polish soulful rock? This 1988 reissue of an original 1968 album by an artist whose name I don't EVEN want to try to pronounce is all in Polish so I don't understand a goddamn word. But, it does speak the language of funky soul and while the singing isn't that great, the music is worth noting, since it seems to have taken directly from the Stax/Volt catalog. Some real cool, funky stuff, but Beatu's vocals kind of kill it not b/c he's not speaking English but b/c he's kinda wack as a singer. Still, a damn interesting album from across the Atlantic.

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