[Today: Big bands of the 70s…]
If the music for the TV series Batman had been commissioned out to The JBs, the results might have sounded something like the Kashmere Stage Band. This group was an actual high school band from Houston that shined under the direction of a teacher named Conrad O. Johnson, who was so knocked out by an Otis Redding show in 1967 that he started drilling his pupils on original funky material. They responded by becoming an unbeatable competition band between the years 1968 and ’78. Along the way they recorded eight albums of tight but raw funk that was immediately forgotten until the late-90s, when DJs like Josh Davis (aka DJ Shadow) started cutting up their grooves. With song titles like ‘Thunder Soul’, ‘Head Wiggle’ and ‘Do You Dig It, Man?’, it was only a matter of time before music this dramatically funky was re-discovered.
The Salsoul Orchestra was the house band for the disco label Salsoul Records between 1974 and 1982. By my count, there are 41 musicians in the cropped photo on the cover of Greatest Disco Hits (not including the singers and dancers out front), and Wikipedia confirms that the group “included up to 50 members with instrumental section, arrangers and conductors.” In other words, a true orchestra. This music comes off like the soundtrack to a whirling night at Studio 54 or some other Disco Wonderland. And again, with song titles like ‘Nice & Naasty’, ‘Salsoul Rainbow’ and ‘Magic Bird Of Fire’, it seems pre-ordained that this group would end up sampled in modern music. Eric B & Rakim, Madonna, and 50 Cent have all used a little bit of the Salsoul Orchestra to realize their artistic ambitions – once again proving that disco might be dead, but the dancing never stops…
Listen: Kashmere [Kashmere Stage Band]
Listen: You’re Just The Right Size [The Salsoul Orchestra]