Mr. Billy Preston
“Listen -Billy Preston – Outta Space – MP3″
How’s things in your corner of the blog-o-mos-phere?
Things here are pretty groovy, though by the time you read this I’ll be on a table somewhere getting yet another kidney related procedure (outpatient and only – heh “only” – uncomfortable) and wondering if the groundhog that moved in under our deck has been apprehended yet. Not the way I’d choose to spend a Friday, but in the grand scheme of things not all that tragic and I ought to be back in the saddle (as it were) on Saturday.
Not too long ago me and some of my on-line compadres were having a chat about the basic quality of a particular funk 45 that also happened to have been a HUGE chart hit. The convo followed the usual collector/digger blueprint in that a good portion of the people were sick to death of it, a few – like myself – rode hard for it and some on the fringe got their pants wet soapboxing about how anything so popular couldn’t possibly be good.
It was during that exchange that a number of other records that were – if not as popular – significantly more popular than the kind of rarified wax that usually pads the boxes of your average funk 45 DJ, were discussed, and lined up against the first record (which was the AWB’s ‘Pick Up the Pieces’). One of the records listed was today’s selection, ‘Outta Space’ by the mighty Billy Preston.
In addition to being the proud owner of what might have been the wildest afro in the history of “the natural”, Mr. Preston – who sadly shook off this mortal coil back in ought-six – was a keyboard wizard and vocalist extradordinaire. Starting with his earliest Hammond material (especially the Northern fave ‘Billy’s Bag’ on Vee-Jay), his work with the Beatles, on through his funky hits of the early 70s, and his mellower (and very successful) stuff like his 1980 duet with Syreeta Wright ‘With You I’m Born Again’, Preston laid down a very solid body of work.
Of course, this being Funky16Corners, his Hammond stuff has gotten the most shine hereabouts.
However…and I’ve given this a lot of though in the last couple of years, I would be remiss if I didn’t step up to the pulpit to preach a little bit about ‘Outta Space’.
First and foremost, no matter how popular this record was in its day, there is no denying (by any sane person) that ‘Outta Space’ is as solid a piece of keyboard funk ever produced by Billy Preston (or anyone else). The clavinet is one of the signature sounds of the funk movement (YOWWWWWW!!!), and ‘Outta Space’ is built on 100% certified clavinet DNA.
The song has a very solid dancefloor beat, with that little rhythmic kick at the end of each bar that suggests some kind of funky twist on a conga line.
There’s a video on Youtube with Preston working ‘Outta Space’ with his band, Billy on the Hammond and someone else on the clavinet and they are tearing it the fuck UP!
I mean honestly….
There’s probably a major treatise to be written on the artistic value of funk 45s balanced against their obscurity. There’s a basic issue of, one man’s obscure is another man’s obvious, but once you get beyond a certain level, where you’re dealing with things that almost no one has heard, that the rarity fetishists, the label coverers and the Secret Squirrelistas would have you believe that the relic they dug out of some long forgotten basement is the ne plus ultra of all things funky. However my friends; as someone with experience, and a discerning ear, I can assure you that many of these records, despite their lofty provenance, suck out loud. Of course so do a lot of popular records, but the scale swings both ways.
Many is the time that I’ve finally gotten to check out a copy of a storied funk (or soul) 45, dropped the needle and found myself decidedly underwhelmed. I have also gone into detail in this very space, time and time again of the power coming out of the kind of records at which most seasoned collectors would roll their eyes and guffaw dismissively. I don’t have the time to waste on that kind of shite and I will go ahead and assume you don’t either.
A true follower of the funk, one with an honest feel for music – as opposed to an obsession with the encyclopaedia of ephemeral back alleys – will put on a record like ‘Outta Space’, and start to move, taken away by the power of a real, solid record.
That’s what this is.
I can promise you this my friends: the next time I find myself behind the decks, whipping the funk 45 love on the masses, I will be dropping ‘Outta Space’*, and so help me Jeebus if it doesn’t fill the assembled multitudes with the spirit of all things good and funky, I will resign my commission in the army of the funk.
This is my promise to you.
NOTE: Don’t forget to fall by Viva Internet Radio Tonight at 9PMEST for the latest edition of the Funky16Corners Radio Show. You can always check out the show (and many pastshows) in the archive.
*Yes, I have it on 45, but happened to pull out the LP first, thus the picture above…