Funky16Corners Radio v.43 – The Unquiet Storm
Ken Boothe – Down By the River (Trojan)
Dramatics – In the Rain (Volt)
Grant Green – Never Can Say Goodbye (Blue Note)
Fuzzy Kane Trio – Monday Monday (Bay Sound)
Lou Rawls – Season of the Witch (Capitol)
Ramsey Lewis – Les Fleur (Cadet)
Roy Budd – Get Carter (Pye)
Ernie Fields – Watch Your Step (Kent)
Rhetta Hughes – Light My Fire (Tetragrammaton)
JB & the V Kings – Lazy Soul (Zap Zing)
Lou Bond – To the Establishment (We Produce)
Tony Joe White – Wichita Lineman (Monument)
Timmy Thomas – Why Can’t We Live Together (Glades)
Brian Auger Trinity – Bumping On Sunset (ATCO)
I hope all is well on your end. I’m not sure what the weekend was like, since I’m writing this on Friday; stealing a little time at the keyboard before my eyelids slam shut. I know I’m always carping about being tired, but I’ve really done it this time. Too much wakey worky and not enough sleepy snoozy make Larry a dull boy.
That said, and in furtherance of a more peaceful world, I bring you Funky16Corners Radio v.43, the Unquiet Storm.
The roots of this mix reach back a few weeks to the night before the last Asbury Park 45 Sessions. While I was putting together a set, there was a brief moment where a small stack of downtempo grooves was tempting me to work a little mellow magic on the decks at Asbury Lanes. The power of the funk eventually won me over, but I put those 45s aside, knowing that I would expand upon them in the coming weeks.
That expansion is the mix I bring you today. I was struck (stricken?) by inspirado, overtaken by the spirit of the mellow groove, and as each disc released its love through the stylus and into the computer I browsed the crates and shelves of my record room for complementary sounds. Once you give this mix a listen, I think you’ll agree that it was worth the effort.
Just make sure you turn the lights down, grab yourself a snifter of something mellow (or a bowl of the kind stuff) and relax, with the Unquiet Storm…
Things open up with a very cool cover of Neil Young’s ‘Down by the River’ by reggae giant Ken Boothe. Boothe has been featured here before (with a cover of Syl Johnson’s ‘Is It Because I’m Black’), and his return visit is just as groovy. There’s also a great version of this tune by Buddy Miles.
Though you’ll find bits of thunder and rain throughout the mix, the sounds at the beginning of the Dramatics ‘In the Rain’ come with the record. Hailing from their amazing debut LP (which also includes the brilliant ‘Get Up and Get Down’, ‘In the Rain’ is a fantastic slice of sweet, melancholic soul. Make-out music of the first order. There was a great cover of ‘In the Rain’ by vibist Billy Wooten and his group the Wooden Glass, later sliced and diced by Cut Chemist and Madlib as ‘6 Variations of In the Rain’.
‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ has always been one of my favorite songs, and the version by Grant Green (pulled from a Blue Note 45, though it appeared on his 1971 ‘Visions’ LP) does not disappoint. I really dig the almost ambient touch of the vibes (provided by none other than Billy Wooten) as they keep ringing in the background.
The Fuzzy Kane Trio’s 1969 version of the Mamas and Papas ‘Monday Monday’ is probably my favorite find from my Baltimore digging trip last Fall. Though I’d heard their name, I had no idea what to expect when I put the needle to wax. I was more than pleasantly surprised to discover not a bit of weak pop-inflected soul jazz, but a very solid set of electric piano grooves. Kane and company recorded an LP and a few 45s for Baltimore’s Bay Sound label, as well as an LP backing Ernie Andrews for Phil L.A. of Soul.
Lou Rawls cover of Donovan’s ‘Season of the Witch’ was featured here at Funky16Corners a few years ago, right after he passed away. I (as almost any other crate digger or fan of quality grooves is) am a big fan of Rawls’ late 60s collaborations with David Axelrod, and ‘Season of the Witch’ is a prime example thereof. Dig the tough drums (un-open alas) during the breakdown.
The mighty grooves of Ramsey Lewis have appeared here before, and they will surely again (in fact I have something already digi-ma-tized for just such an occasion). This version of ‘Les Fleur’ (I’m not positive but I think this is the same backing track as the version by Rotary Connection, who did the original) is very groovy. The LP version of ‘Les Fleur’ has been sampled numerous times.
If you haven’t seen the original (Michael Caine) version of ‘Get Carter’ (as opposed to the Stallone abomination), you need to on account of it’s a work of dark genius. If you have, then you are already hip to the brilliant soundtrack by Roy Budd, the centerpiece of which is the theme of the same title. Budd’s electric piano, backed by tabla and throbbing bass creates a fantastic groove, one that I never tire of hearing. This is pulled from a recent reissue 45, as the OG is – as they say – rare as the teeth of the hen, and as a result, quite expensive.
I know little of reedman Ernie Fields, other than he was a second generation jazzer (His dad, Ernie Fields Sr led a big band) and the undeniably cool flute feature ‘Watch Your Step’ (from 1970) is backed by an equally weird bagpipe feature (Funky Pipes). No matter, ‘Watch Your Step’ is a stone groove, with the heavy flute, deep grooves and eerie backing vocals. It’s a record that ought to be much better known.
Next up is a record with a similar feel, Rhetta Hughes’ cover of the Doors ‘Light My Fire’. Opening up with a mellow vibes/bass mixture, the drums arrive suddenly, along with Rhetta’s soulful voice. Hughes went on to a successful career on Broadway, and was nominated for a Tony Award in 1983.
‘Lazy Soul’ by JB & the V Kings is another Baltimore find, and though I assumed that it was a local record, I have been informed (thanx Jonny) that it is in fact a Detroit record. The Zap-Zing (gotta love that name) label remains a mystery. What I do know is that it’s a fine, moody bit of soul jazz.
‘To the Establishment’ is one of the longer tracks from Lou Bond’s self-titled 1974 LP for the Stax subsidiary We Produce. The song may be the only time Cherry Chap-Stik ever got namechecked on a soul record.
There’s little I can say about Tony Joe White that I haven’t already, other than I thought his soulful cover of Jimmy Webb’s ‘Wichita Lineman’ fit nicely into the flow of this mix.
Timmy Thomas’ ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’ is by far the biggest hit among the tunes in this mix (#1 R&B, Top 5 Pop in 1973), and it’s not hard to see why. The strategic juxtaposition of Thomas’s vocals and organ with the rhythm machine is hypnotic.
This edition of Funky16Corners Radio concludes with an old favorite, Brian Auger and the Trinity’s cover of Wes Montgomery’s ‘Bumpin’ On Sunset’. I know this may be seen as blasphemous by some, but I’d go as far as to say that Auger and company’s version may better that of the guitar giant from Naptown. The string arrangement is DEEP, and Auger’s Hammond is top notch.
That said, I hope you dig the vibe, and return later in the week for more good stuff.