“Listen – Buttermilk Pt1 MP3″
My all too brief sojourn with my recently expanded family has sadly come to an end, and I have returned to my perch on the earning tree. I can’t say as I’m happy about this. As much as I like my job, I like hanging out with my wife and kids a lot ( a whole lot) more, and if I were to have my druthers, it’s with them that I’d be.
Birds got to fly, fish got to swim and people with mortgages and electric bills got to work for a living, so here I am.
I took advantage of a miraculously synchronized napping schedule this weekend to stockpile some gems for the upcoming weeks of blogging. I think that once you get an earful of what’s to come, you will realize that sleep deprivation and additional fatherly responsibilities have done little to dull my edge (as it is…).
In the next few weeks you can also expect a couple of new installments of Funky16Corners Radio.
Today’s selection is a bit of what the desert-booted scooterists in the room might consider “mod” soul, if only because of it’s vintage and it’s vibe. Though there’s a healthy dose of organ, I wouldn’t say that it rises to the level of “organ groove” (in line with recently issued Federal Organ Groove guidelines, the presence of “mouth organ” on the track cannot be counted, just like adding sawdust to meat loaf might make it heavier, but certainly no more nutritious). That said, these considerations mean little to the non-Anoraks in the crowd, but being the kind of cat that I am, I have to take you down that road or it just wouldn’t feel right. Anyway…the nugget I present today comes courtesy of the early works of one Sly, aka Sylvester Stewart, aka Sly Stone (of the famous Family). I can’t imagine that there’s anyone perusing the Funky16Corners Blog who isn’t already familiar with works of the mighty Mr. Stone, especially ‘Dance to the Music’ and beyond, but I do believe that his earlier work may have escaped your attention.
Sly was born in Texas, and his family (his actual family, not the band, yet) moved to the Bay Area in the 1950’s. There he recorded gospel with the Stewart Four, pop with the Stewart Brothers, the Viscaynes, Joey Piazza & The Continentals, and under the names Danny Stewart, Sly Stewart and just Sly.
He started working with San Francisco’s Autumn Records in 1964, where in addition to recording his own records, he worked as a kind of house producer for Autumn acts like Bobby Freeman and the Beau Brummels. He also worked with Billy Preston on his Capitol LP ‘The Wildest Organ In Town’. Stone recorded all kinds of rock, pop, R&B and soul (a mixture that would be evidenced in his recordings with the Family Stone), for the Autumn and Loadstone labels before Sly and the Family Stone were signed to Epic in 1966.
One of the sides he recorded as Sly for Autumn in 1965, is today’s selection, ‘Buttermilk Pt1’. Now, I have to preface this by saying that I don’t know much about buttermilk the food, except for that my Grandpa used to drink it, and whenever anyone brings that subject up all anyone can do is wince, so I’m guessing it’s not too appetizing. There’s also a famous roadside hot dog stand in Buttzville, NJ (that’s a real town, I swear) called Hot Dog Johnny’s that offers chilled buttermilk as a beverage. In the times I’ve been there I’ve never seen anyone brave enough to order it. Buttermilk is also an important ingredient in country biscuits, which are the starchy cornerstone of the soul food menu, so I’m going to go ahead and assume that when Sly starts off the record by saying that he’s going to have a glass of buttermilk, he intends on pouring it into a mixing bowl with some flour.
Either way, it’s a groovy little number, with a nice pulsing bass line, organ work by Sly, the occasional vocal interjection re:buttermilk, and a free-form harmonica solo. It’s got enough soul for anyone in the room, enough of a beat for the dancers, and enough buttermilk for anyone who’s been in the desert for weeks with abosolutely nothing to drink. Part the second is basically more of the same. Sly of course went on to bigger and better things, creating a bunch of amazing music (though this would be – as far as I can tell – his only tribute to the dairy industry ), and laying down, along with James Brown, George Clinton and others the foundations of funk. ‘Buttermilk Pt 1’ along with a bunch of other early sides is available in reissue on the CD “Precious Stone: In the Studio with Sly Stone 1963 – 1965”.