To infinity, and beyond!
Funky16Corners Radio v.47 – Cosmic Sea
Mystic Moods – Cosmic Sea (WB)
Miles Davis – Spanish Key (45 Edit) (Columbia)
Jackson 5 – I’ll Bet You (Motown)
Miles Davis – Miles Runs the Voodoo Down (45 Edit) (Columbia)
Jose Feliciano – Light My Fire (RCA)
Herbie Mann – If I Were a Carpenter (Atlantic)
BB King – Ghetto Woman (ABC)
Herbie Hancock – Tell Me a Bedtime Story (WB)
Ramsey Lewis – Slipping Into Darkness (CBS)
Brother Jack McDuff – Flat Backin’ (Blue Note)
Freddie McCoy – Salem Soul Song (Prestige)
Johnny Hammond – Rock Steady (Kudu)
Dorothy Ashby – Soul Vibrations (Cadet)
I hope the new week finds you all well.
I’m posting this a little bit early today becausemy allergy related headaches are still kicking my ass (head, whatever) and I expended much of my available energy digging at the local record fair, stockpiling a bunch of funk and soul for here and garage and psyche for Iron Leg. I’ll be digi-ma-tizing it all soon, so there’ll be a lot to look forward to.
Today I bring you a new edition of the Funky16Corners Radio podcast, number 47 to be exact; ‘Cosmic Sea’.
Like some of the previous mixes I’ve laid on you, this was less a pre-planned “theme” effort than the product of inspirado crossed with several fairly random piles of records (45s and LPs). This is not to say that once things got going I didn’t hit the crates looking for a specific side to throw into the pot, but that what came out at the end was somewhat different than what I started with.
This has a lot to do with a couple of recent acquisitions. The landscape of my record room is a cluttered maelstrom of vinyl that no one – not even myself – understands completely. On the desk adjacent to my turntable and computer – wherein all the digi-ma-tization takes place – there are several rotating stacks of wax; a mixture of things that I’ve put aside for future use (either individually or as part of a mix), newly dug records and – of course – lots of stuff I haven’t gotten around to putting away yet.
When I hit the Asbury Lanes record swap a few weeks ago I picked up copies of a couple of things that I’d been looking for on vinyl (the Jackson Five, Ramsey Lewis and Johnny Hammond LPs especially). These got me in the mood to get a mix together, thus the internal formulation began. Then, a few days later the mailman brought me my shiny, minty copy of ‘The Cosmic Sea’ by the Mystic Moods and things really got rolling.
I decided then that I was going to go for something that started with a bang but quickly relocated to downtempo territory, with an emphasis on the groove. A few hours later and I had all of the raw material for this particular mix burned to disc, and set it next to the ‘podcast lab’ (i.e. the laptop in the living room) for use the following night.
When I began assembling the mix a few of the tracks I had recorded ended up on the scrap heap (at least temporarily) and I grabbed a couple of things from the hard drive.
When the mix was finished I was definitely pleased (as I hope you will be as well) and have been listening to the mix repeatedly for the last week and a half (I like to stagger the mixes on my two blogs, which is why it hasn’t been posted sooner).
Things get rolling – after a sound bite by the late great Carl Sagan – with the aforementioned Mystic Moods 45. I have to admit that I was largely ignorant of this record until recently. I had certainly heard of it, but it wasn’t until my man DJ Prestige let it rip during his last Asbury Park 45 Sessions set that I knew I had to have it. Fortunately for me a copy came up for bid on E-Bay shortly after that and I bagged it. The Mystic Moods made a bunch of easy/mood LPs during the 60’s and 70’s. Knowing that, the sounds on ‘Cosmic Sea’ are a solid kick in the head, sounding as if DJ Shadow hopped in the Waybac Machine and whipped a little funky turntable action on the squares. This is a stone killer, with the funky breaks, the clavinet and the soulful wailing in the background (not to mention a synth sound that would be resurrected by no less than Rush a decade later).
Things get a little darker with the first of two Miles Davis 45 edits from the Bitches Brew LP. I found this record years ago and have wanted to use it on the blog for a while. The first tune, ‘Spanish Key’ is the more offbeat of the two, and a testament to the editing abilities of Teo Macero. You have to admire the chutzpah of a man who could wade into the mountain of tape that became ‘Bitches Brew’ and squeeze two 45 sides – less than three minutes apiece – out of it.
Emerging from the Miles trumpet comes an unusual side by the Jackson Five. One of the many versions of the Funkadelic classic ‘I’ll Bet You’ (some – like Theresa Lindsey and Billy Butler – recorded before Funkadelic), the Jacksons version may not be quite as freaky as Mr. Clinton and his pals, but it’s WAY freaky for little Michael and his brothers, with the fuzz guitar, the moaning and the crazy screams.
We segue back into the other side of the Miles 45, ‘Miles Runs the Voodoo Down’ which is a touch more peaceful, showing (distant) traces of his earlier electric work on ‘In a Silent Way’.
Getting mellower yet, Miles gives way to one of my favorite records of the 1960’s, Jose Feliciano’s cover of the Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’. Feliciano’s vocal is nothing if not soulful and the arrangement, with his acoustic guitar balanced/blended with the string section is a little bit of magic.
Bare-chested flute wrangler Herbie Mann was a seriously prolific artist during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Say what you will about jazzers going pop, but I have a grip of Herbie’s LPs and they all have something very groovy to recommend them. His subdued 1968 take on Tim Hardin’s standard ‘If I Were a Carpenter’ opens with a great, throbbing bass line by Miroslav Vitous and runs on with lots of flute and the ringing vibes of Roy Ayers.
Despite the fact that B.B. King’s 1971 ‘Ghetto Woman’ was recorded in the UK with an all-star group of rock performers, the Dave Clark who co-wrote the tune is not THAT Dave Clark. Nonetheless, ‘Ghetto Woman’ is a wonderfully dark and moody record with King’s classy guitar soloing under a periodically heavy (dig that echoed string bass) string section.
‘Tell me a Bedtime Story’ is another track from Herbie Hancock’s 1968 ‘Fat Albert Rotunda’ LP. Whereas the track I used in the last mix was on the funky side, ‘Tell Me..’ sees Herbie working his Rhodes magic in a mellow groove alongside a great horn section.
Yet another Asbury Lanes find, Ramsey Lewis’ version of War’s ‘Slipping Into Darkness’ is a fantastic, downtempo electric piano feature with bass by Cleveland Eaton and drums by Morris Jennings Jr. Ramsey really stretches it out here for a smoky, late night feel. It’s a funky funk, but a slow funky funk, if you know what I mean and I think you do.
How does one follow a long, groovy track by one of the keyboard masters of the jazz age? How about an even longer track by another master? ‘Flat Backin’ (clocking in at over 10 minutes) is another track from Brother Jack McDuff’s amazing 1969 ‘Moon Rappin’ LP, one of the most innovatively played and arranged organ dates in the history of the Blue Note label (or any label for that matter). Though much of the album has a free-form (but never “out”) feel, you just have to sit back and marvel as Brother Jack and his band (including drummer Joe Dukes) slip in and out of the funk. Sit back, relax and wait for a very tasty break in this one.
Freddie McCoy made some wonderful albums for the Prestige label in the 60’s. They’re hard to come by, so I grab them wherever I can. ‘Salem Soul Song’ appears on the ‘Soul Yogi’ LP, alongside his stellar cover of the Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’.
Johnny Hammond Smith’s 1971 cover of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Rock Steady’ is, like the Ramsey Lewis track earlier on a great example of slow funky grooves, with an excellent break by none other than Bernard Purdie. There’s a lot to recommend on this LP, maybe the finest on the Kudu label.
As I mentioned before, I pulled a track off of the hard drive, and Dorothy Ashby’s ‘Soul Vibrations’ is it. I previously included it as part of a guest mix I did for the Souled On blog, but when I was thinking of what tune to finish up this podcast with it came to mind immediately. Ashby’s Richard Evans-produced Cadet records are all wonderful, but ‘Soul Vibrations’ is positively sublime, mixing wild elements like theremin with solid beats and – of course – her harp. It’s all worth hanging in for the last ten seconds of the record which are absolute perfection.
That said, I hope you dig the mix.
I’ll be back later in the week.