Q’s Compilations – Volume # 76 – February – March 2011
Please note that the zip file has a password: Q76
Hello! The last 6 months or so have turned into a bit of a soul and funk obsession for me and after some interest, I decided to make a funk compilation, I'm very pleased with the results. There are some obvious omissions (there's no James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, Funkadelic, Parliament, etc) though the biggest loss to the mix was The Isley Brothers' "Get Into Something", which did feature that on Q#74 anyway. I've found the recent forage into funk very rewarding, the level of musicianship and intensity is among the best, if not the best in music and there's nothing quite like a funk rhythm section that click. I have to thank in particular Andy and Mark who have also helped unearth some real gems. Personally I think this may well be the best mix I’ve ever made. And now, if you would, get down with your bad selves...
1) The O'Jays - When the World's at Peace: It’s always important to start a compilation off with a bang and I had no hesitation in going for my favourite O’Jays track. The group formed in 1958 in Canton, Ohio, though it wasn’t until 1963 that they were known as The O’Jays. This tune opens my favourite O’Jays record, Backstabbers, which was released in 1972 and features two hit singles in the title track and Love Train. I love the snaking riff in this. “When the worlds at peace will it still be in one piece, I pray for the day when the bombs and the bullets cease, Come let's make a change or leave the world in dust, Lets be the world of love for the ones that follow us, (Do it to me now)”
2) The Meters - Cissy Strut: It’s an obvious choice but I wanted a “hit” early on in the compilation for those who rarely dip into funk music. The Meters are arguably the most talented band of all time, both with their original material and as a backing band on countless recordings as Allen Toussaint’s house band. From New Orleans, The Meters are the definitive funk band and with bassist George Porter Jr and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste, arguably feature the best rhythm section of all time.
3) Carleen & the Groovers - Right On: Details on the band are sketchy, they were from South Carolina and recorded two singles, this track and Can We Rap? (which is how I discovered the band after hearing it on another forum).
4) The 9th Creation - Learn-N-To Live: I used this track on Q#74 and while I don’t like to repeat myself I had to use it again as it’s one of my favourite funk tunes, I will repeat my notes from that compilation also: This forgotten 70s funk band formed in California and to my knowledge, only released one album, Bubblegum. Aside from the infectious rhythm section, the keyboard solo, which would not be out of place in either a 70s horror or porn movie, is oddly inspired. “We’re learning to live, to forgive the things of the past, yeah.”
5) Betty Davis - If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up: Betty married Miles Davis in 1968, though their marriage did not last long, Betty released her self-title debut album in 1973 (which this track opens) and is a raunchy funk album with an aggressive hard-rock edge. It’s a bit baffling to these ears that Neal Schon (of Journey) is the guitarist on this album, don’t stop believing, indeed. All 4 of Davis’ albums (her 4th album remained unreleased since 1979) were reissued in 2009.
6) Black Heat - You Should've Listened: This sadly short-lived funk band recorded 3 albums between 1972 and 1975, the first two records in particular, 1972’s self-titled debut, which features Ray Charles’ saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman, and 1974’s No Time to Burn (where this track appears) are highly recommended whereas third album Keep On Runnin’ is good but a bit sterile by comparison.
7) Exit 9 - Jive Man: This 9-piece funk band from New York cut their one and only album, Straight Up in 1975, what’s even more intriguing about this record is that all the members of the band were under 21. I had a hard time picking a favourite from the album as there are a number of strong songs but Jive Man showcases the best of their talents.
8) Chocolate Milk - Action Speaks Louder Than Words: Formed in 1974 in Memphis, Tenessee, the band relocated to New Orleans and became Allen Toussaint’s studio band after The Meters. Action Speaks Louder Than Words was their debut album, released in 1975 and had a short run of albums though split with Toussaint in 1980 and broke up in 1983. “People say,
It's gonna be a better day, (Yeah, yeah, yeah), But the world is the same, In every way”
It's gonna be a better day, (Yeah, yeah, yeah), But the world is the same, In every way”
9) Edwin Starr - Easin' In: Starr is best known for his hit War (which in turn is better known than the original by The Temptations), Easin’ In was a single release in 1974 from the soundtrack Starr made for Hell Up In Harlem and is a slow, sleazy number. The soundtrack is up there with the likes of Superfly. This tune and the Chocolate Milk track were both last-minute replacements (the tune that made was Ghetto Life by Purple Image, a great funk-rock track in its own right but seemed out of context with the rest of the mix, that and I didn’t really have any slower funk numbers on the whole compilation and wanted to address that). Starr passed away in 2003 (aged 61) due to a heart attack. “He's easin' in the city,
He's dangerous sly and shifty, If he should happen to write your name down, Don't you try to fly outta town!“
10) Ann Peebles - Somebody's On Your Case: Peebles was signed to Hi Records in 1968 and cut possibly my favourite soul record of all time, Straight From the Heart in 1972, on which this track appears. This is one of the funkier songs on what is in an effortlessly astonishing record.
11) Kool & the Gang - N.T. (Parts 1 & 2): No doubt best known for Jungle Boogie’s inclusion on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack among modern audiences, Kool & the Gang have sold over 70 million albums worldwide although their efforts from 1969-1976 are by far their best. This track straddles both funk and jazz, giving each band member a chance to show their chops.
12) African Music Machine - Black Water Gold (Pearl): Another band where information is fairly hard to come by, African Music Machine were from New Orleans and cut several singles which became very rare collectables, a compilation of their output was issued in 2001 (also called Black Water Gold).
13) Betty Harris - Break In the Road: Backed by The Meters on this particular recording, this track is a recent discovery and one of my most played tracks of late. Harris switched from Jubilee records to Allen Toussaint’s Sansu label, producing 10 singles, including Break In the Road. “there’s a few things you don’t understand about life and the things you do”
14) Eugene McDaniels - The Lord is Back: Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse was released in 1971 on Atlantic Records and is a fascinating blend of soul, funk, jazz and folk. The album also features a high-class of musicians, including jazz-fusion drummer Alphonse Mouzon and Miroslav Vitouš. The same album features Jagger the Dagger, which was sampled by A Tribe Called Quest on their song Bonita Applebum. “The lord is mad, his disposition’s mean, he’s travelling the road to mass destruction”
15) Curtis Mayfield - Freddie's Dead: Mayfield’s achievements should be clear to everyone and require little introduction, as both a solo artist and leader of The Impressions. Freddie’s Dead sold over one million copies as a single release (the title track Superfly also sold the same number of singles), Curtis was sadly paralysed after lighting equipment fell on him during a concert in 1990 and passed away in 1999. “We're all built up with progress, But sometimes I must confess, We can deal with rockets and dreams, But reality, what does it mean, Ain't nothing said, 'Cause Freddie’s dead”
16) Demon Fuzz - Message to Mankind: To my knowledge this band only managed to cut one album, Afreaka! in 1970 which was re-released recently and also includes the EP I Put a Spell On You (on which this track appears). It’s very difficult to describe the record without sounding terribly pretentious, it’s a invigorating mix of influences (an interview snippet inside the album sleeve says they were highly influenced from a trip to Morocco and the tribal beats they heard). Of all the albums featured on this sampler I would recommend Afreaka! above all though do not expect an all-out funk-fest. “Listen my friends, don’t you understand? It’s not your colour that makes you a man.”
17) The Pharaohs - Freedom Road: Awakening is the only studio LP The Pharaohs managed to cut and is for the large part a flawed whirlwind of jazz-influenced funk, but when it does hit the spot in a more concise manner the results are top notch as best shown with this track. Many of the ELEVEN members of the band went on to become Earth, Wind and Fire.
18) The Counts - Thinking Single: What’s Up Front That Counts is a fine funk album though overall I found it doesn’t have the staying power of other favourites and over the course of the record I found my mind wandering a little bit. However, when the band put on a groove like Thinking Single or Rhythm Changes they are as good as anyone.
19) Mandrill - Fencewalk: Formed in Brooklyn in 1968 by Panama-born Wilson brothers Ric, Lou and Carlos, Mandrill suffer somewhat for lacking a bit of cohesion when it comes to artistic vision, but the plus side to that is some tremendously ambitious work even if it doesn’t always work. This track appears on the band’s 3rd album, Composite Truth and was the band’s most commercially successful effort. For the rock fans, this includes an absolutely incendiary guitar solo.
20) The Meters - People Say: I wanted to end how I (almost) began, Cissy Strut is a great piece and I was hoping to pique interest early on, but I also wanted to add another Meters track as a result. This is taken from my favourite album, Rejuvenation, their second major-album on Reprise which also contains my favourite Meters track, It Ain’t No Use. People Say opens the album but I thought it made a fine way to end the compilation. “The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poor. People say, people say, have I got a right to live?”
And there you have it! For the funk-fans I hope this compilation meets your expectations and for anyone who previously had little interest in the genre (this compilation is for you!) I hope that you at least have a new-found appreciation and at best will go out and investigate further, there are countless other bands and recordings out there, happy digging!
Peace and love
Until next time - Q