Archive for October, 2006

The Fame Gang – Spooky

October 31, 2006

Example

The Fame Gang (not the Kids From Fame)

Example

Listen – Spooky MP3″

Happy Halloween!
Today’s post – as it’s a “bonus”, and I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do – will be a quick one.
I’ll start by saying that Halloween is still one of my favorite holidays. As a kid I was a big fan of monster movies, and as an adult I can still be counted on to enjoy a good piece of vampire fiction (though I’d rather watch the old Universal ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ than any of what passes for “horror” movies these days).
I’d also like to say that unlike many of my crate digging brethren, the one part of the ‘collector disease’ that I am not personally afflicted with is the need to stockpile holiday themed records. That is to say, I do not keep a separate crate just for Christmas and/or Halloween grooves. I don’t mean to infer that I do not possess a couple of scary heaters here and there, but rather that my acquisition of them and their status as Halloween artifacts is entirely coincidental. I have grabbed the odd Christmas-themed soul or funk 45 here and there, but have never really applied myself to the task. Take it from me, as compulsive a mix-maker as you’re likely to encounter at your local record fair/nerd-o-rama; I’m not sure I could cobble together a halfway decent Halloween or Christmas mix – and that’s saying a lot.
Anyway, after I decided once again that despite my slacking off in the Halloween record department I could not let the holiday pass by without commemoration of some sort, I zipped through my mental rolodex in search of an appropriate tune. When that failed (my “mental rolodex” being as cluttered and chaotic as my actual record room) I grabbed a couple of my “generic” crates of quality soul and funk (i.e. those not dedicated to a specific artist, genre or region) and pulled out today’s selection, ‘Spooky’ by the Fame Gang.
The Fame Gang, was the session band from the mighty Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It was at Fame, under the direction of Fame-meister Rick Hall, that countless brilliant records were created in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, including many soul and funk classics. The Fame Gang was an integrated group capable of playing almost any style of music. Their own records went in a decidedly soulful direction.
Today’s selection is their cover of fellow southerners the Classics IV’s* 1968 hit ‘Spooky’. The Fame Gang lay down a groovy instrumental version, with a cool flute solo and just a dash of holiday-appropriate sound effects.
I hope you dig it.

* You might have heard one of the Classics IV’s other big hits ‘Stormy’, as its melody is currently being “borrowed’ by John Legend for his hit ‘Save Room’

Bill Cosby – Funky North Philadelphia

October 30, 2006

Example

Dr. William H. Cosby

Example

Listen – Funky North Philadephia MP3″

Greetings
Here we are again, at the beginning of another work week. For those of us on the East coast, we’ve also exited the realm of Daylight Savings Time, gaining an hour of sleep over the weekend.
When I was a younger man, and inclined to spend my Saturday nights in pursuit of wine, women and song (as opposed to a comfortable spot on the couch, which is the bag I’m in now), gaining an extra hour of sleep on a Saturday night – and not just ANY Saturday night, but the one right around Halloween, always a bacchanal – was a rare treat. I’m not going to hand you the old rubber peach and infer that I was actually sleeping. My friends and I were more likely to add an extra hour of beer consumption (or other, perhaps less savory revelry) to the schedule.
Now, I’m in my early-to-mid 40’s, and have a lovely wife and two children under the age of three. The concept of the clock going all akimbo, throwing an extra hour into the mix is akin to tossing a wooden shoe into the machinery of life. I mean, three month old babies are finicky enough sleepers, but when you add his two and a half year old brother, and two dreadfully sleep deprived parents into the mix, nobody, I say NOBODY son, is sleeping like they ought to. I can’t sit here in good conscience and tell you that I didn’t see it coming, but I don’t have to like it either.
Anyway, in other news, this week sees us approaching the second anniversary of the Funky16Corners Blog. Next Monday (the anniversary date falls on this coming Sunday) I’ll be posting the next installment of Funky16Corners Radio, a mix of some of the best tunes that have been posted on the blog in the last year or so. This week I have some heaters lined up, as well as a bonus Halloween post tomorrow.
Today’s selection comes to you courtesy of the not necessarily well-known, but surprisingly excellent non-comedic discography of Mr. Bill Cosby.
Now, I’m as puzzled as the next cat when it comes to Mr. Cosby’s metamorphosis into one of the great curmudgeons of our time. It may be that like every other “old” person (he’s coming up fast on 70) he looks at the world around him and is astounded by how different it is from the one he grew up in.
Either way, I’m old enough to remember Cosby before he was America’s cuddly, be-sweatered proxy Dad, and was still first and foremost a great comedian (the BJP period, aka Before Jello Pudding). What he also was – and I didn’t know this until much later – was one of the great musical dabblers of his time. Starting in the mid-60’s, Cosby – who was already a successful stand-up and a pioneering TV star – began yet another phase in his career, this time as a singer.
The world of “entertainment” is filled with people who are pretty good (sometimes excellent) at one particular discipline, yet insist on attempting to prove themselves adept at something that they are not as qualified to be doing. Back in the day, the late lamented Spy Magazine had a feature in which these people were labeled ‘Refuseniks”. You know who they are: Successful actors (or writers, or musicians or whatever) who insist that they can also sing, write a novel, drive a race car etc. Most of the time, the output in the “secondary” field pales in comparison to that which made them famous, and they either skulk away in shame, humbled by the lack of public acclaim for their artistic dalliance, or (sadly) continue to crank out sub par product for their more slavish fans (and others that simply do not know any better).
I’m happy to say that Cosby, though he be no James Brown (nor James Taylor), was in fact a pretty serviceable singer, always aware of his limitations (i.e. smart enough to avoid any embarrassing ballad performances). As a result, between the mid-60s and the mid-70’s he – with the assistance of a wide variety of excellent musicians – made a series of LPs and 45s that were generally pretty good, and sometimes even excellent.
It helps that for his first couple of albums, he was ably assisted by Fred Smith and the various and sundry members of the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band.
His first Warner Brothers LP, ‘Bill Cosby Sings: Silver Throat’ (on which he appears clad in a sombrero and false moustache) is more of a R&B/light soul affair, which managed to produce a chart hit in ‘Little Old Man’, a humorous reworking of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Uptight’.
His second LP, ‘Hooray for the Salvation Army Band’ is a much funkier affair (see Cosby’s new Groucho Marx meets Sly Stone look on the cover). In addition to the title track (an uncredited lift of ‘Purple Haze’, the Cos does a number of covers, including yet another entry in the ‘Get Out of My Life Woman’ sweepstakes, as well as today’s selection, ‘Funky North Philadelphia’.
As he lifted ‘Purple Haze’ for ‘Hooray…’, so does the Cos lift Dyke & the Blazers ‘Funky Broadway’ for ‘Funky North Philadelphia’. A ode to his old stomping grounds (later retitled ‘Funky North Philly’ on 45 releases*), the track is a stomping workout, in which he goes on about his funky pad on Diamond Street, from which the scent of greens, fried chicken and fried fish could be smelled.
Interestingly enough, on the LP (see label above), the tune is credited to Fred Smith’s Mirwood label pal Jackie Lee (he of ‘The Duck’ and ‘African Boo-Ga-Loo’). When the tune found its way onto 45, the writing credit was changed to ‘Bill Cosby’. Why either of these guys was getting credit for a song written by one Arlester Christian (known to you and I as Dyke, he of the Blazers), is beyond me. Sure the lyrics were rewritten, but you’d have to have rolled off the soul/funk version of the turnip truck not to realize that the song you are listening to is in fact ‘Funky Broadway’.
Either way, the tune is cool, and if you get the chance you might want to pick up some of that good, good Cosby vinyl (I’ll be posting some of the funkier Cosby-related sides in the future), most of which isn’t too pricey (especially the Warner Brothers 45s which are plentiful).

* See below…

Example

Manu Dibango – New Bell

October 27, 2006

Example

Manu Dibango

Example

Listen – New Bell MP3″

Greetings
We gather here today, in the figurative bottom of the ninth inning, three men on base, two outs, the crowd on its feet, and it’s all hanging in the balance.
What “it” is, at least from my particular viewpoint is the concept of the weekend, i.e. the reward we all hope to get after being beaten like a rented mule for five days. No one who works for a living can be faulted for placing a great deal of hope in the restorative powers – physical and spiritual –  of the weekend. It doesn’t matter whether you plan to lie on the couch in your jammies eating milk and cookies, fire up the leaf blower, or head out into the cold, dark night in search of the warmth of alcohol and /or human companionship.

When Friday night comes, all bets are off.
In my own case, I arrive here today after one of the slowest weeks in recent memory, filled to the brim with paperwork, general hassles and the grand parade of ignorami (that being the plural of ignoramus) that beset me almost daily. This is not to say that I do not enjoy the company of many of the folks I work with. In fact, I would have to say that in all my years at this particular job, I have never worked with a mellower bunch. However, when I say that, I refer only to those people that work in the same department with me. The people I have to deal with, all day long from the moment I walk into the building until I make my escape at 4:30, the people that hang around my neck like the ancient mariner’s albatross, the people that more often than not do nothing but lower my appraisal of humanity….they work in other departments.
I only tell you this to put a fine point on exactly how important the weekend is to me, personally.
It’s freedom, brothers and sisters.
It is in that spirit that I bring you a track so hot, so full of life, so…so funky, that I give you my personal guarantee that if you download it, give it the old zip-a-dee-doo-dah and shuffle it off into your MP3 delivery system, that its medicinal value will be revealed immediately, allowing you to launch yourselves into your own little slice of freedom today, or for that matter any time you want a taste of why you bother working for a living.
When I drop the needle on Manu Dibango’s ‘New Bell’, it makes me want to get my big & tall dashiki out of cold storage and do the hokey pokey until the break of day.
For those that don’t know – and I would sincerely hope that it’s not too many of you – Manu Dibango, “The Lion of Cameroon” is the cat that hit the international stage like an A-bomb in 1972 with ‘Soul Makossa’*. If you haven’t heard that particular song, I’d recommend highly that you hit the garage sales and flea markets tomorrow with a shiny quarter clutched in your hand, because that is all you will need to get a copy of that particular 45.
It is with that potent serving of Afro-funk, that the Manu Dibango story begins and ends. However, Dibango has had a long and versatile career, working in jazz (where he got his beginnings), funk and world beat, still playing today well into his 70’s.
The world of Afro-funk/Afro-beat is one that I have only scratched the surface of. As far as original vinyl sources, other than artists that have been widely issued outside of Africa (like Dibango or Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who we will be visiting with sometime next week), you pretty much have to be satisfied with reissues and compilations. Suffice to say (and listening to this track will illustrate it nicely) African artists, especially the two I just mentioned, who both spent a lot of time outside of Africa in their musically formative years, were listening to a lot of American funk and soul – especially James Brown – mixing those sounds with indigenous beats and modern African pop music. Considering how much US blues, funk and soul owe to African roots; you end up with one big musical Moebius strip, folding back in on itself from every angle.
Listening to ‘New Bell’, or other Dibango heaters like ‘Weya’, it’s not hard to understand why Dibango was so popular. While he created a densely layered funk, with multi-level instrumental interplay not unlike any contemporary James Brown production – he also worked in a touch of jazz (listen to Dibango’s soprano sax, and the electric piano solos) and just enough of an African vibe to spice up the mix. The end result was hypnotic and supremely danceable.
If you can get your hands on the original ‘Soul Makossa’ LP, as well as it’s follow up ‘Makossa Man’ (both released domestically on Atlantic) do so post haste. While ‘Soul Makossa’, ‘New Bell’ and ‘Weya’ all saw release as 45 edits (the first two domestically, and ‘Weya’ in Europe), it is really worth tracking down the albums for the extended mixes of all of these tunes, which are amazing. If you’re ever lucky enough to find the 45 of Dibango’s ‘Salt Popcorn’ – also known as ‘Dikalo’ – you’ll hear things get even funkier.
Fortunately there are a couple of excellent ‘Best of’ comps of Manu Dibango’s best work, though you’ll have to pick up a couple of them to get all of the best tracks.
Have a (really) good weekend.

* The last time I wrote about Manu Dibango, I received a couple of e-mail communiques from folks who let me know that despite the repeated appearance of the word ‘Makossa’ in his songs (they even mention it in the beginning of ‘New Bell’), that his music bears little resemblance to actual Makossa music. One of the commenters on this old post lays it out better than I can.

Earl Van Dyke & the Soul Brothers – Too Many Fish in the Sea (Live)

October 25, 2006

Example

Earl van Dyke & the Soul Brothers

Example

Listen – Too Many Fish in the Sea MP3″

Greetings
Here’s hoping that everyone’s week is going well, and that you are all digging the grooves already here, as well as anticipating the grooves yet to come.
On that point, I have to say that I got a little bit ahead of myself in regard to stockpiling material for yon blogspot. As a result, it took me a few minutes this morning to make a decision about which tune to post. I carefully perused the CDs before me, weighed the raw funk in one hand, the organ grooves in the other and a couple of wild cards in a mysterious, previously unseen third hand, wet my finger, placed it into the breeze and the magic eight ball said, ‘All signs point to organ grooves’.
Who am I to tempt fate?
Of course this was followed by yet another period of indecision, in which I had to decide which particular organ groove to lay on you. I won’t bore you with the details of that particular quandary, other than to say that I reached into the ether for a vibe, and the record I pulled out was Earl Van Dyke & the Soul Brothers live version of ‘Too Many Fish In the Sea’.
If the name Earl Van Dyke doesn’t ring any bells, you need to start hanging around a new belfry. Though you may not know his name, you’ve certainly heard his work. Starting in 1963, Van Dyke – playing piano and organ – led the Motown house band, better known as the Funk Brothers. During the 60’s the Funk Brothers labored anonymously on countless sessions, piling up scores of chart hits (almost 50 R&B #1 hits) for all of Motown’s biggest artists. They helped to sell literally hundreds of millions of records while working for a relative pittance, eventually going on strike to improve their compensation in 1965.
While they spent most of their time and talent making other people sound good, between 1966 and 1969 they did manage to make several 45s (and one LP) for the label under their own name (sort of)*. Though they were known in-house as the Funk Brothers, Berry Gordy found the connotations of the word “funk” unpleasant, so for their records, the band was re-christened ‘Earl Van Dyke and the Soul Brothers’.
Van Dyke had a very distinctive and lively organ style, which is featured prominently on their recordings, which are among the grittiest sides recorded for Motown (they were actually issued on the subsidiary label Soul). I count cuts like ‘Soul Stomp’ and ‘The Flick Pts 1&2’ among my favorite 60’s organ sides. One of their 45s, ‘6 by 6’ (actually credited to Earl Van Dyke & the Motown Brass) became something of a hit in the UK, receiving many spins with the Northern Soul crowd.
Their LP (which I have yet to score a copy of) was composed entirely of versions of the Motown hits that the group played on.
I encountered today’s selection (which as far as I can tell is the only live recording issued by the group) by accident. I was out doing the garage sale thing, and found a copy of an LP called ‘The Motortown Revue in Paris’. I had never seen it before, and although I suspected that like many “live” soul LPs, it was probably not actually a live recording, the record hound in me couldn’t not buy it, so I put it in my stack and took it home. When I finally got around to playing the record, I was surprised to discover that it was in fact a live recording of a Paris concert. I was especially happy because the LP opened with Earl Van Dyke and the Soul Brothers laying down a smoking version of the Marvelettes ‘Too Many Fish In the Sea’**.
Opening with an introduction in French (“Earl van Dyke et son Sextet!”) , Earl and the band kick into high gear immediately. The recording is actually pretty good, with the guitar, drums and Jack Ashford’s tambourine all coming through clearly while Van Dyke wails on the organ. The only problem is that the whole thing wraps up in a little over two minutes.
As far as I know, the only way to grab this particular track in reissue is a limited edition boxed set of all of the Motortown Revue Live LPs (there were three of them). You’d probably be better of searching the interweb. The various EVD 45s are all excellent and not too hard to come by in the 10-20 dollar range.

* Because they labored in penury at Motown, Van Dyke and various members of the Funk Brothers can also be heard working “on the side” on sessions for a variety of Detroit labels, including Golden World and Solid Hit

** Hammond fans should also be on the lookout for a 45 version of ‘Too Many Fish in the Sea’ by Brother Jack McDuff on Prestige (another personal fave).

Freddie McCoy – Gimme Some

October 23, 2006

Example

Freddie McCoy

Example

Listen – Gimme Some MP3″

What’s up, y’all?
As the great Declan Patrick McManus once said, ‘Welcome to the working week.’
If you weren’t paying attention – or have for some reason abandoned the entire calendar system and removed yourself from society (in which case you’re probably not on the internet, thus not reading this) – Monday is here, and your friends here at the Funky16Corners blog have returned to weather these rough seas with you.
I come to you today, fresh off of an excellent weekend, in which much quality time was spent with the family, during which many cubic feet of crisp autumnal air passed through my lungs, leaves were observed in their many colors and a single, delicious chili dog was ingested.
As a result, I’m in a mellow mood this morning. Though I’m positive – this being Monday after all – that something is lurking just around the corner waiting to spoil my day, I’m going to go ahead and run with the vibe, and post a tune guaranteed to put you on the right path.
I’m not saying that it’s going to make you throw on your caftan, spark up some incense and work up one of those goofy “all is right with the world” grins (though depending on your constitution, that may very well happen), but I will promise you that the track I bring you today will add a soupcon of “chill” to your daily palate.
I must begin by saying that I loves me some vibes, as in vibraphone. I know that my affection for the groovy sounds of the vibes is not universally held, but the bottom line is, if you’re not digging the mellifluous, soul massaging groove produced by a world class vibraphonist, then you are the poorer for it, and it’s better that you don’t know what you’re missing (because if you did know, you would likely be plunged into an abyss of musical despair, or some such…).
It helps that I am a major consumer of jazz, from its earliest incarnations right up to the present day (though you’d be hard pressed to find many albums in my vaults recorded after the mid-70’s). One of the nicer corners of my collection is – no surprise here – where jazz and soul intersect in the sounds of (get ready…here it comes…you didn’t see this coming did you?) soul jazz.
The term soul jazz is one of the more flexible constructs ever placed around a musical genre/subgenre. The basic idea is that this was music created by jazz musicians catering to an R&B market in an attempt to gain a commercial footing (and the ensuing remuneration) that was generally unavailable to those that were producing the more adventurous sounds of jazz. This is not to say that soul jazz artists were incapable of producing a sound more easily definable as “jazz”, from hard bop to free styles, because many of them did. Some, like organist Larry Young started out recording very conventional organ trio sessions for Prestige (for all intents and purposes the home of soul jazz in the 60’s), eventually working his way up to one of the great inside/outside masterpieces of the 60’s, ‘Unity’. Another major player in the Blue Note stable, vibes player Bobby Hutcherson (one of my personal favorites) had a discography where he spent much of the 60’s recording freer sounds under his own name and as a sideman on many classic sessions, before moving into a more groove-oriented direction in the 70’s.
As I said before, the Prestige label was a major producer of soul jazz, releasing hundreds of groovy 45s for the jukebox trade that were not coincidentally coveted by the Mod crowd in the UK who in turn made them into dancefloor staples. By the end of the 60’s, as soul got funkier, so did soul jazz.
One of the artists that was part of the soul jazz revolution (recording the larger part of his discography for Prestige) was vibraphonist Freddie McCoy. McCoy was a classic case of a musician who though he recorded a number of LPs under his own name, also worked frequently as a sideman on other artists dates. He began his career working with organist Johnny Hammond Smith, before recording his first date as a leader in 1963. Between 1963 and 1970 he would record six more albums for the label, before moving to Cobblestone Records.
Cobblestone was a subsidiary of Buddha records that existed between 1968 and 1972. In its earliest phase, it was mainly a singles label (releasing funky sides like ‘The Elephant’ by the Philly Four and ‘Stanky Get Funky’ by Billy Davis). By 1971 the focus had moved almost exclusively to jazz LPs, with artists like McCoy, Neal Creque, Joe Thomas, and Pat Martino.
McCoy’s sole release for Cobblestone (and as far as I can tell, the last album he ever recorded, period) was ‘Gimme Some’. In addition to one of the cooler album covers of the era* (see below), the LP featured a number of quality sidemen, including McCoy’s Cobblestone label-mate Chuck Rainey, keyboardist Paul Griffin and guitarist Eric Gale.
The overall feel of the LP is soul jazz in soft-focus, affected (as was much contemporary soul and funk) by psychedelia, and a mellower groove. The LP includes covers of ‘Light My Fire’, ‘Oh Happy Day’ and ‘Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In’, all of which are given a very relaxed (but not “easy”) treatment. The finest cut on the album is today’s selection, the title track ‘Gimme Some’.
McCoy opens the track with by striking a chord on the vibes that seems to expand from the speakers in waves, before the band emerges working a slow, but funky groove. The electric piano is used in the background as a droning counterpoint to the vibes, much in the way a tamboura plays against a sitar in Indian music. The musicians are soon joined by a chorus of sorts, repeating the title of the song in the background.
Now I don’t want to suggest that anyone involved in this session was high, but if ever a record sounded like the musical incarnation of a marijuana haze, this my friends is it. ‘Gimme Some’ is an exquisite example of a track with the perfect “headphones” vibe, which  – since you (and I and everyone else) will be feeding this into the MP3 delivery system of your choice –  you will get to experience firsthand.

Note: ‘Gimme Some’ was sampled by Pete Rock & CL Smooth on the track “For Pete’s Sake”

*I can’t fit album covers on my scanner, but I found this on the interweb…

Example

Rudy Ray Moore & the Fillmore Street Soul Rebellion – Put Your Weight On It

October 20, 2006

Example

Mr. Rudy Ray Moore

Example

Listen – Put Your Weight On It MP3″

Happy Friday.
The end of the week is finally here (this is the first full week I’ve worked in the last month, so I have no right to complain). As we speak, New Jersey is in the midst of the deeply schizophrenic season that the meteorologists refer to as fall, and the rest of us call ‘What the fuck?’. This is the time of year when temperatures vary from the 40’s to the 70’s and we are alternately covered in pouring rain – like today – or frost.
I can remember when I was a kid, you were as likely to freeze your ass off on Halloween as you were to end up soaking your costume in sweat. It’s just strange.
Anyway…I was planning on posting an Earl King track, until I realized (after I’d recorded the 45 and scanned the label) that I had already posted the tune, about 18 months ago.
Ain’t that a bitch?
You’ll have to forgive my confusion, but this blog (in its Blogger and WordPress incarnations) is approaching its second anniversary, and I’ve probably posted over 200 records in that time. I can’t remember them all, and the likelihood that I may have gone back to the well for a favorite record (again) is increasing with every passing day.
This is not to say that I’m not going to bring the heat (and I will), but rather that the span of the Funky16Corners blog, and the combined size and level of disorganization of my record collection are occasionally too much to process (at least this early in the day).
That said, get ye to the Pepto Bismol, because today’s selection is good and greasy, and depending on the primitive nature of your diet, may prove unsettling if ingested before noon.
To those that know who Rudy Ray Moore is (and you really should) you generally think of his performances as Dolemite in a series of low budget, Blaxpo-karate-comedy fests in the 1970’s, or his extra filthy snap-filled party records. If you dig a little deeper you’ll soon discover that Mr. Moore also recorded a grip of R&B, soul and funk records from the mid-50’s through the 70’s. Now, I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass and suggest that Rudy was giving Sam Cooke a run for his money, but I will say that he was capable of producing some extremely tasty and raucous grooves, and today’s record is one of those.
‘Put Your Weight On It’ is billed to Rudy Ray Moore and the Fillmore Street Soul Rebellion, and it was released on at least two different labels, first on Generation, and then on Cherry Red. There may also be another release, as a different mix of this tune – with less Rudy and more FSSR – appeared on Mr. Finewine’s legendary ‘Vital Organs’ comp. I have never seen a 45 for that particular mix (which is billed as ‘Put Your Weight On It Pt1’ by the Fillmore Street Soul Rebellions), and I have no idea if the version on ‘Vital Organs’ came from a 45 or from an unreleased tape.
Either way, both versions are cool. The Hammond fiend in me prefers the organ-centric version, but the soul fan in me digs hearing Rudy Ray dropping science over the groove. I had always assumed that this record was of a late 60’s vintage, but a pretty comprehensive Rudy Ray Moore discography lists both versions of the 45 as having been released in 1964, and listening to it again, I suppose that isn’t entirely out of the question.
One weird thing about this 45, is that it sounds like whoever “mastered” it (and I use the term very loosely), did so from a rather abrupt edit of the tape (check out that crazy intro). It sounds as if the engineer was asleep at the wheel and started the tape after the band was already playing.
Speaking of the band, the drums, congas and bass create a nice dirty groove, and the organ (sounds like any number of electric combo organs) solos throughout the entire song, with brief interludes from the guitarist. I also dig the tune’s dark, nighttime vibe.
Very groovy indeed.

NOTE: Moore made at least one more 45 with the Fillmore Street Soul Rebellion, the funky ‘Turning Point’, a guitar heavy early 70’s release on the Kent label

Example

Aaron Neville – You Can Give But You Can’t Take b/w Where Is My Baby

October 18, 2006

Example

Mr. Aaron Neville

Example

Listen – You Can Give But You Can’t Take MP3″

Listen - Where Is My Baby  MP3″

Greetings.
This has been a busy week. Three days, three posts and one of them a mix. I’m feeling prolific (ish).
I hope everyone’s digging the ‘Butter Your Popcorn’ mix. It’s getting downloaded like crazy-go-nuts, which is a good thing. We get a lot of international traffic, and it makes me happy to know that somewhere out there, in Schizo-slovenia or some such, some funk deprived soul is getting his or her groove on to the sounds of the James Brown band. The thought that someone at this moment may be assaulting the interweb – trying to find out what a “Maceo” is – is kind of cool.
Today’s selection is one of those lucky finds, a gift from the unknowable forces of the cosmos. Now don’t get any ideas about this being a particularly rare side (I don’t think it is). Nor was it costly, arriving in my greedy little hands for less than 20 US dollars.
However – and this is a very important however – this is a record of extremely high quality, and a New Orleans side that was previously unknown to moi, so I bring it to you in the spirit of spreading the good word, as it were.
No too long ago, I was perusing the sales list of a pal of mine, who can usually be relied upon to offer up some very interesting records for sale. Not the kind of stuff that the big money vultures are prowling the skies of Vinyl-topia looking for, but the kind of overlooked – though excellent – sides that any real music fan loves to acquire, i.e. the kind of records that ought to be worth a lot of dough, but are consigned to cheapness due either to their own abundance, or the fact that they have yet to be discovered by the collectorati.
Aaron Neville, is known to most as the velvet lunged deliverer of one of the great love ballads of the 60’s, that being ‘Tell it Like it Is’. If you don’t know that, you have surely seen him as a ubiquitous ambassador for the sounds of New Orleans and via his late period hit records with the likes of Linda Ronstadt. If a sweeter voice has ever erupted from a more incongruously gruff exterior, I have yet to hear it.
Despite the fact that ‘Tell it Like it Is’ was a big hit, Neville really didn’t get to record a whole lot during the latter part of the 60’s. His three Parlo 45s include a couple of hidden gems, including ‘Why Worry’ (the flip side of ‘Tell it…”) and the smooth soul of ‘A Hard Nut To Crack’. His one 45 for Safari (from 1968) , ‘Ape Man’ leans a bit into novelty territory, but it’s still worth a listen.
Neville would record three 45s for the Bell label in 1969, and the two tunes you hear today appeared as the A and B sides of the first one. As I said before, I picked this one up without having heard it before, and when I finally dropped the needle on the record I couldn’t have been more pleased.
The top side, ‘You Can Give But You Can’t Take’ opens with a minor drum break and segues into a relaxed, funky vibe. The sound of the backing band – once again – suggests the presence of the Meters (especially likely since Aaron’s brother Art was the organist for that band), and there’s some very nice swampy guitar and soulful organ throughout the cut. I especially like the last part of the chorus, where things slow down and Aaron sings: “I’m glad you found out like I knew you would, that a sip of your own medicine it don’t taste so good”. It’s an especially nice example of Southern soul at its best.
The real prize here – at least to my ears – is the ballad on the flip, ‘Where Is My Baby’. Opening with a piano flourish, the verse has a sweet sound, delivered over a slow, waltz-like tempo (not unlike ‘Tell it Like it Is’). While the sound/feel of the verse may fall under the category of standard – though well constructed – soul ballad boilerplate, the chorus is a revelation. Displaying yet another fine example of the kind of high quality songwriting that Allen Toussaint could apparently produce in his sleep, the chords go off in an unusual, churchy direction, with the piano, strings, female backing singers and Neville himself joining together to moving effect. ‘Where Is My Baby’ is one of those records you just want to listen to over and over again, soaking up the vibe. Overall it’s one of Aaron Neville’s finest records, and yet another fine example of Toussaint-iana that I can put aside in case I ever lose my mind and forget what a musical giant the man is.

Oo Wee Baby I Love You b/w Happy Birthday Jenny

October 17, 2006

Example

Example

Listen – Oo Wee Baby I Love You MP3″

Hey hey hey.
This is an extra special Tuesday bonus track, intended to mark my lovely wife’s birthday.

You’ll have to forgive me for junking up the place with sentiment, but I love her very much and I thought that in addition to her regular birthday loot, the least I could do was to assemble some kind of comemoration of the event here on yon blogspot.

Jenny’s a great wife, fantastic mother and the best friend I’ve ever had.

I figured that the Fred Hughes 45 (which appeared a little while back as part of the Funky16Corners Radio Chitown Hustlers mix), said it best.

Oo Wee Baby, I Love You.

PS I couldn’t find my scan of the 45, so I had to borrow one off the interweb….

Funky16Corners Radio v.14 – Butter Your Popcorn

October 16, 2006

Example

Track Listing
1. James Brown – The Popcorn (King)
2. Bill Doggett – Honky Tonk Popcorn (King)
3. Hank Ballard – Butter Your Popcorn (King)
4. James Brown – Mother Popcorn Pt1 (King)
5. James Brown – Mother Popcorn Pt1 (King)
6. James Brown – Lowdown Popcorn (King)
7. Vicki Anderson – Answer to Mother Popcorn (King)
8. Charles Spurling – Popcorn Charlie (King)
9. James Brown – Let a Man Come In and Do the Popcorn Pt2 (King)
10. South Street Soul Guitars – Poppin Popcorn (Silver Fox)
11. Lou Courtney – Hot Butter n’All Pt1 (Hurdy Gurdy)
12. Mr. C & Funck Junction – Hot Butter n’All Pt2 (Hurdy Gurdy)
13. Eldridge Holmes – Pop Popcorn Children (Atco)
14. Johnny Jones & The King Casuals – Soul Poppin’ (Brunswick)
15. Juggy – Buttered Popcorn (Sue)

To hear this mix, head on over to the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast Archive

A good day to you all.
This morning I bring you yet another installment of that time honored institution known as Funky16Corners Radio, this time, Volume the Fourteenth, entitled ‘Butter Your Popcorn’. If you haven’t already picked up on the visual clues in the graphic above, or taken a cursory look at the track listing, the theme of today’s mix is Popcorn tunes, i.e. the James Brown and related “popcorn” cycle (which ran roughly from June to December of 1969) and a couple of related/directly influenced (or ripped off if you are in an unkind frame of mid) tracks from the same time period.
Any soul/funk collector worth his/her salt is constantly coming across records that were either starting or capitalizing on a dance craze. It was in the 1960’s that this mini art form reached its apex, with countless variations on the Twine, the Monkey, the Twist (of course) and probably 100 other dances/records.
The cool things about the Popcorn craze are these:

a. The standard bearer of the “movement” was none other than the biggest soul star of the day, James Brown.
b. Brown was not only personally prolific, but had a large and talented stable of stars via whom he proliferated his popcorn product
c. Browns huge popularity and success brought with many musical opportunists, looking to get their own handful of popcorn
d. Thanks to Brown’s success (and that fact that so many of these records were on King) it’s fairly easy to lay out a timeline

Sadly, I cannot present to you the entire James Brown ‘Popcorn Cycle’ (Hey! James Brown and Wagner together again for the first time!). There are a few tracks I have been unable to put my hands on, namely Steve Soul’s ‘Popcorn With a Feeling’ on Federal (a King-associated label), Browns LP tracks ‘Mashed Potato Popcorn’ and ‘Popcorn With a Feeling’, and the 45 side ‘Let a Man Come In and Do the Popcorn Pt1’, which strangely enough was released on the flipside of a different 45 than Part 2 of the same song. If the time comes when my JB crate contains all of those tunes, I will certainly re-do the mix for the anoraks/completists/anal retentives in the crowd.
Anyhoo….
The Brown-related tracks are – with one exception – presented in chronological order.
The mix starts out with that very exception, James Brown’s ‘The Popcorn’. ‘The Popcorn’ was actually issued after Bill Doggett’s ‘Honky Tonk Popcorn’, but since Doggett’s entry did not chart, we can safely assume that it was the Godfather himself that got things rolling. Released in June of 1969, and peaking at #11 on the R&B charts, ‘The Popcorn’ is a hard charging number with a very funky bass line and some great guitar work. It’s also got some cool chanting by the JB’s.
The next track is that perennial crate digger fave, Bill Doggett’s ‘Honky Tonk Popcorn’. Now if you stop by here on a regular basis, you may be acquainted with my affinity for Hammond sides, especially of the funky variety. While I love this record, and the label says that it’s by Hammond master emeritus Bill Doggett, the music you are hearing is clearly the work of James Brown and the JBs. Sure. Doggett’s there pumping chords in the background, but he never gets the chance to stretch out on the keys (you hear way more guitar than organ on this side), and when the song stops, the sound that you hear is James Brown screaming.
The fact that the next few tracks (and ‘Honk Tonk Popcorn’) were released in the same month as ‘The Popcorn’ suggests that Brown was prescient and knew in advance that he had a hit on his hands, or more likely that the Brown organization worked exceedingly fast in getting product on the market. Hank Ballard was already a hitmaker before he was absorbed into Brown’s stable, where he made some exceptional funky 45s for King in the late 60’s. The very groovy ‘Butter Your Popcorn’ is one of those. Opening with a somewhat incongruous spoken intro, Hank and the band work it on out, suggesting that you butter your popcorn “in an alley” or “behind a tree”. Hmmm. Either way, this is one of my fave Brown-related sides.
‘Mother Popcorn Pts 1&2’ was the biggest of Brown’s popcorn hits, reaching the #1 spot in late June of 1969. It’s probably the best know 45 in this mix, and for good reason. JB and the band lay down an absolutely deadly groove, with a couple of the finest breakdowns in their long and amazing catalogue. The popcorn-like guitar motif shows up in slightly reconfigured form in some of the tribute sides by other artists, and Brown’s vocal is spot on. If Brown ever laid down a single worthy of the number one position, this is certainly it.
Brown must have been coasting on the success of ‘Mother Popcorn’ (or maybe touring) because there’s a gap of more than two months before the appearance of the next popcorn record, his own organ workout ‘Lowdown Popcorn’ which was a Top 20 R&B hit in September of 1969. ‘Lowdown Popcorn’ is an extremely laid back tune, with a lazy groove, JB soloing on the Hammond over a repeated horn motif.
The next tune was also released in September, but despite its undeniable power failed to chart. Vicki Andersonwho’s praises I sang last week – throws down the double whammy (combining a dance craze tune with an “answer” record) with ‘Answer to Mother Popcorn’. Anderson’s record is marked not only by its inherent kin-ass-ness, but because it’s the only side in the mix by a female artist. While funky, the instrumental backing on ‘Answer to Mother Popcorn’ isn’t particularly distinctive, but that doesn’t matter much when a singer as powerful as Vicki Anderson is laying it down. While I don’t know for sure, the law of averages suggests that somewhere out there, some other female singer/group made a ‘popcorn’ record, but if so, I haven’t heard it.
I have to admit that I know little about Charles Spurling. He wrote and recorded a number of sides for King records, but aside from that, I can’t tell you much. ‘Popcorn Charlie’ has a relaxed funk about it, and some nice twangy guitar in the background.
The last James Brown “popcorn” side in this mix is ‘Let a Man Come In and Do the Popcorn Pt2’ which reached #6 in December of 1969 (Pt1 previously having made it made it to #2). The tune has a tight groove and a lengthy trombone solo from Mr. Fred Wesley.
It’s hard to say why James Brown stopped going back to the popcorn machine after 1969. Was it too much of a good thing? Was he unwilling to have the title ‘Senor Popcorn’ added to he already long list of nicknames? Was he out of ideas? The world may never know.
What I do know, is that this is the part of the mix where we take a look at some of the people that were hopping onto the popcorn bandwagon. This is in no way a comprehensive list, reflecting only those records present in my personal crates.
First off is ‘Poppin Popcorn’ by the South Street Soul Guitars on the Silver Fox label. Hailing from either October or November of 1969 (judging by other records on the label), the tune is quite funky, but strangely the opening organ riff (which I guess is supposed to suggest the sound of popping popcorn) is in fact a lift from a Maxwell House coffee jingle. I don’t know anything about the band, but to my ears there’s a certain twang here that suggests the possibility of a white, Nashville based session group.
Despite my deep and abiding love for the work of the master James Brown, the next record (and its instrumental flip side) may be my favorite of all popcorn records. I speak of the mighty ‘Hot Butter n’All’ by Lou Courtney. I’ve gone on at length in this space about the greatness of Lou Courtney, and the many amazing records he made in the late 60’s (including the break-heavy ‘Hey Joyce’). ‘Hot Butter n’All’ is one of the funkiest, heaviest records ever made, with a genius performance from Courtney and a performance by the band that sounds like the insane asylum marching band bus plunging down the side of a mountain. I know that I’ve said this many times, about many records, but if you slap this record on the decks, and it doesn’t make people want to get up and shake their asses, there’s something wrong with the very fabric of the universe, and the world may in fact be nearing its end. The flip side (credited to Mr. C and Funck Junction), while lacking Lou’s stellar vocal manages to reveal an even deeper level of madness, especially in the wildly free/out of tune sax-o-ma-phone skronk at the very beginning. The instrumental track was later recycled – also on the Hurdy Gurdy label – with a new vocal by Donald Height, and a new title ‘Life Is Free’.
Eldridge Holmes is another brilliant and underappreciated soul singer that has appeared in this blog many times. His most collectable funk 45, ‘Pop Popcorn Children’ was recorded in 1969 during a Meters session in Atlanta. The instrumental breakdowns contain some extremely deranged horn charts, and the drumming (by Zig Modeliste?) is also off the hook.
Johnny Jones and the King Casuals were a Nashville based group that recorded some excellent funky 45s for the Brunswick and Peachtree labels, including an infamous cover of King Casual’s alumnus Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’. ‘Soul Poppin’ has a wild guitar/horn intro that takes a tip from the theme from the Magnificent Seven.
The last track in the mix is ‘Buttered Popcorn’ by Juggy on the Sue label. Juggy was in fact Sue label co-founder Juggy Murray. ‘Buttered Popcorn’ has some hard drums and cool guitar, with a blaring horn section keeping up the momentum. If you get a chance, pick up his other funky 45 ‘Oily’.

Vicki Anderson – If You Don’t Give Me What I Want (I Gotta Get It Some Other Place)

October 12, 2006

Example

Miss Vicki Anderson

Example

Listen – If You Don’t Give Me What I Want (I Gotta Get It Some Other Place) MP3″

Whatup?
This week (as week the last) concludes with an early, Thursday post as I’ve taken another Friday off to attend to family bid-ness, so you get to soak up the funk a day early.
Keep your dial set to the Funky16Corners blog, because Monday will see the arrival of another installment of Funky16Corners Radio, and it’s a good one this time. I won’t tell you exactly what’s coming, other than it will include another funky side by today’s artist, as well as a whole lot of other grooves, so you should come to work on Monday ready to boogie, as well as suck up some more of your bosses bandwidth (he wasn’t using it anyway).
That said, as the lack of enthusiasm for Monday’s post – in which I dropped what I consider to be a heater by Miss Tammi Terrell – may or may not indicate that some or all of you didn’t think that it was as funky as I did. This of course brings us into the semantic wonderland in which anoraks like myself sit around and debate the definitions of “funk”, creating all manner of hyphenates with the quasi’s and the proto’s and all that mess. I mean, some records, the ones that knock you on your ass from the proverbial git go, are undisputably “funk”, whether by actual sound, provenance (i.e. an item picked from the catalogue of an artist that is generally thought of as “funk”) or a combination of the two. There are also date considerations in which each collector/enthusiast/funky academic refers back to their own personally constructed timeline, placing a given record either before, after or right on top of the dividing line between soul and funk.
As I said, this dividing line tends to move depending on who’s drawing it and what their personal taste/knowledge dictates as “funk”. This is where the hyphenates come in. Is a record funk or proto-funk (in which elements of out and out funk start to poke through on a record otherwise considered of the pre-funk, soul music tradition), or just funk-y?
My personal placement of the funk line (or strata if you will, borrowing an image from the geology heads) starts appearing right around James Brown’s ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ in 1965 and comes into full bloom with the release of ‘Cold Sweat’ in 1967 (exploding into full view with JB’s cry to ‘Give the drummer some”, and the ensuing break).
While there are certainly other records in that time period (and arguably even before that) that might fit the definition, you’d be hard pressed to show me one that isn’t in some way influenced by James Brown’s funky revolution.
In the end, while most sane people couldn’t give a shit, there are those – myself included – that would debate this subject until we collapsed from exhaustion.
Today’s selection, a ripe, delicious number out of the James Brown and related basket is one of those “grey area” records. I would certainly classify it as funk, but I would also admit that it could be considered a transitional side. Date-wise it’s right in there with ‘Cold Sweat’ (falling one catalogue number prior to that landmark side), and provenance-wise it bears not only the mark of James Brown, but also one of the most powerful weapons in his touring/recording arsenal, the voice of Myra Barnes, aka Momie-O, aka Vicki Anderson.
That record – If You Don’t Give Me What I Want (I Gotta Get It Some Other Place) – is, at least in my opinion one of the finest sides in the James Brown – associated discography. Anderson was, like fellow James Brown Show star Marva Whitney, possessed of a mighty instrument, trained in gospel but fully given over to the devils music. Taking a voice that powerful, and laying it on top of one of the tightest, grooving-est bands in the land was nothing if not a deadly combination.
The opening of the record sounds like someone trying to start a giant motor. Anderson’s cries of “BABY!” over the guitar/bass/conga combo soon explode into the full force of the band, which rolls along like a funky tank. The lyrics, a wronged lovers manifesto, are particularly ironic in the context of Brown’s treatment (especially financially) of the female artists in his stable, namely the charge that they were rarely compensated for their recording work, with Brown accused of  often taking credit for songs that the women either wrote or helped to write (shame on you, Godfather…).
My fave parts of the record, aside from Anderson’s monumental vocal, are the multiple guitar interplay, and the strange, out of phase male backing vocals in the chorus. This is not to overlook the hammering drums, which sound as if Clyde and Jabo snuck and pushed them up in the mix after James had retired for the evening.
No matter how you slice it, this is a powerful performance by all involved and spun on the turntable at your next ripple and potato chip party ought to make getting the dancers moving all easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, if you knowwhatImean….
So, follow these instructions:
1. Right-click on link
2. Download track
3. Play track
4. Dance
5. Wait until Monday for further instructions.

See you then.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 114 other followers