Posts Tagged ‘Gil Scott-Heron’

20 Lost Funk Gems

27 April 2011

Let’s get funky. There are lots of great “lost” funk albums out there. Here are ten, a dozen, 15, 20 of my favorites:

Rasputin’s Stash | Rasputin’s Stash – Little-known but widely sampled, this Chicago-based group released its self-titled debut in 1971 before encountering a series of bad breaks that ensured they would only release two albums total. Shortly after dropping Rasputin’s Stash, four of the group’s eight members left the band, and then their record label folded. Coulda, shoulda, woulda been a hit, but it’s still totally funky.

Listen: Mr. Cool

Mutiny | Mutiny On The Mamaship – Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey was a drummer with Parliament and Funkadelic, until leaving those groups after a dustup over salary. His next group, Mutiny, plumbed the P-Funk sound, with a healthy dose of righteous anger, playful mockery, and pure funk. Their 1978 album Mutiny On The Mamaship is almost the equal of any of the P-Funk bombs…

Listen: Lump

Magnum | Fully Loaded – Nothing subtle here. This group of LA teenagers banged out nasty, sub-Funkadelic guitar grooves while calling for revolution, comparing guns to orgasms, and yearning for warm wet nipples. A must-have for those who like their funk gritty and guitar-heavy…

Listen: Evolution

Various Artists | Nigeria Disco Funk Special: The Sound Of The Underground Lagos Dancefloor 1974-1979 – North America wasn’t the only continent getting down in the 70s, as this compilation amply proves. Nigeria was awash in funky grooves during that decade, and they weren’t all coming from Fela Kuti. The Sahara All-Stars, Bongos Ikwue & The Groovies, and T-Fire are but three of the nine forgotten funkateers captured here.

Listen: Take Your Soul [The Sahara All-Stars]

Sugarman 3 | Pure Cane Sugar – Funk lives! Released in 2002, this is the newest music on this list by a couple of decades, but you wouldn’t know by listening – Pure Cane Sugar is raw funk by the pound, and sounds like dusty vintage stuff. This New York City four-piece combo (don’t let the name fool you) has the chops to fit in seamlessly with the other bands mentioned here…

Listen: Funky So-And-So

B.T. Express | Non-Stop – This Brooklyn band is perhaps best known for their 1974 smash, ‘Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied)’, but they’re hardly a household name when it comes to funk. Their 1975 sophomore album, Non-Stop, is a fine example of the state of funk at that time, blending hard funk with the occasional clutch of strings. Forgive the eminently forgettable cover of The Carpenters’ ‘Close To You’, and this one holds up well…

Listen: Peace Pipe

Betty Davis | Betty Davis – While Miles Davis was dabbling in jazz/funk fusion in the early 70s, his wife Betty was busy putting out some of the nastiest funk to be found anywhere. Featuring a star-studded band that includes drummer Gregg Errico and bassist Larry Graham of Sly & The Family Stone fame, as well as guitarist Neil Schon and keyboardist Merl Saunders, Betty Davis is high quality, super sexy funk.

Listen: If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up

Swamp Dogg | Total Destruction To Your Mind – During the 1970s, Jerry Williams Jr was the kookiest funk artist this side of George Clinton. He wrote songs that were grabbed from the headlines of the day, he wrote songs that were out of this world, and he wrote good old fashioned love songs. But everything he wrote was funky, and wonderfully off-kilter. Fittingly, his gloriously subversive albums remain stubbornly out of print…

Listen: Total Destruction To Your Mind

Osibisa | Superfly T.N.T. Soundtrack – This won’t make anyone forget Curtis Mayfield’s brilliant soundtrack to the original Superfly, but that’s a standard few albums could meet. Instead, Osibisa’s free-flowing Caribbean grooves make for an excellent companion piece to Mayfield’s masterpiece. This is blaxploitation with a hint of brotherhood…

Listen: Superfly Man

The Upstroke | Porno Groove: The Sound Of 70’s Adult Films – This 2009 album compiles some of the best music from a batch of vintage porn films. Fantasy (not to be confused with Fanstasy Records) was behind many adult titles in the 70s, including Honeydew, Insatiable, and Ride Me Like A Wave. When the company’s founder passed away in 1985, its intellectual property became tied up in the legal system. In 2008, a huge collection of soundtrack material from those films was unearthed, and the best of that stash is featured here…

Listen: Greatful Head [from Jayne’s Woodstock Adventure]

Ripple | Ripple – Both sides of this 1973 LP start off like disco-lite, including the album-opening minor hit ‘You Were Right On Time’, before building up to furious funk jams that redeem this album’s place on this list. Ripple sounds like a self-contained history of the musical transition from funk to disco…

Listen: Get Off

Eddie Palmieri | Harlem River Drive – The title track is a groovy spin through a muggy New York City. Pianist Palmieri formed his first band at age 14 in 1950, and has been going strong ever since. This 1971 album is his funkiest, and a good stand in for all the funky Fania and boogaloo albums of the 70s, by the likes of Joe Cuba, Ray Barretto and Willie Colon…

Listen: Harlem River Drive [Theme Song]

Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson | From South Africa To South Carolina – It might have a message, but it’s still pretty damn funky.

Listen: Johannesburg

Exit 9 | Straight Up – Exit 9 was a super tight, nine piece funk band that (like many artists on this list) made the occasional foray into soul. Straight Up hits like the work of a harder-edged version of Earth Wind & Fire, and while it’s understandable why this group didn’t achieve superstar status, they deserve better than total obscurity…

Listen: Jive Man

Black Nasty | Talking To The People – Like Funkadelic, Black Nasty was a Detroit-based funk group that featured rock-styled guitar and soulful organ. They’ve been billed as the heaviest band on Stax Records, but their lone album, 1973′s Talking To The People, is several measures more soulful than any of Funkadelic’s early stuff, and reflects the soul-weariness of the early 70s… [read full review]

Listen: Talking To The People

Larry Williams & Johnny Watson | Two For The Price Of One – It’s hard to say where the “urban soul” of the late 60s ends and the raw funk of the early 70s begins, but Larry Williams and Johnny Watson’s 1967 album Two For The Price Of One is probably one milepost in that transition. Williams’ gruff vocals make harmless lines like “Sock it to me!” sound like a pointed invitation, while Watson kicks out the funky jams.

Listen: Two For The Price Of One

Eugene McDaniels | Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse – Jerry Wexler called him “the black Bob Dylan” and the left rev. Eugene McDaniels played with jazz musicians, but Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse plays like a smoldering, righteous black power funk album. McDaniels was known as a hit-making songwriter for Les McCann & Eddie Harris (‘Compared To What’) and Roberta Flack (‘Feel Like Making Love’) before taking this solo turn. Its final track equated white people with a parasite in America, and earned Ahmet Ertegun a call from Nixon’s White House, which got McDaniels canned from Atlantic Records.

Listen: The Lord Is Back

Mother’s Finest | Another Mother Further – This is the only opener that blew P-Funk off its own stage. According to P-Funk bassist Cardell “Boogie” Mosson, “You had bands that wanted to kick our ass, but I’d say Mother’s Finest is about the one. We’d done a couple of concerts with them, and, you know, we wasn’t stroking on that funk, and they tightened that ass.” It’s easy to see how — this is big, stadium-ready funk with huge guitar hooks and singalong choruses.

Listen: Mickey’s Monkey

Exuma | Reincarnation – The artist born Macfarlane Gregory Anthony Mackey was born in the Bahamas, and it shows in his music. Reincarnation is more chameleon than album, shifting colors with every track. Exuma alternately sounds like a Bahamian Cat Stevens, a fired-up Taj Mahal, a raving voodoo witch doctor, and Richie Havens at Woodstock. And if you can’t get behind that combination, I’ve got a couple of George Winston albums for you…

Listen: Exuma, The Obeah Man [not from Reincarnation]

Various Artists | Car Wash Soundrack – This one sold a ton, but because of its title track, nobody thinks of it as a bumping funk album. It’s got some soul, some disco, and some Richard Pryor – a nice blend of 70s sounds, but it’s definitely funky… [read full review]

Listen: 6 O’Clock DJ (Let’s Rock)


Also funky…

Mandrill | Composite Truth
Cymande | Cymande
The Pharoahs | In The Basement
Bo Diddley | Where It All Began
Syl Johnson | Complete Mythology
Black Sugar | Black Sugar
John Lee Hooker | Free Beer And Chicken
Various Artists | The Funky 16 Corners
Budos Band | Budos Band II
Various Artists | Bay Area Funk

Weekend Playlist

15 November 2010

“I wanted to be the first woman to burn her bra, but it would have taken the fire department four days to put it out.” ~ Dolly Parton

Ray Charles | The Genius Of Ray Charles

Bo Diddley | Where It All Began

Various Artists | The Bristol Sessions

Cowboy Junkies | The Trinity Sessions

David Bromberg | Wanted Dead Or Alive

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson | From South Africa To South Carolina

Bad Company | Bad Co.

John Fahey | The Yellow Princess

Dolly Parton | Coat Of Many Colors

Robert Plant | Now And Zen

Elvis Presley | His Hand In Mine

Joe Henderson | Page One

Horace Silver | The Stylings Of Silver

Gerry Mulligan and Ben Webster | Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster

Roland Kirk | We Free Kings

Ike Quebec | It Might As Well Be Spring

Lee Morgan | The Rumproller

Jimmy Smith with Stanley Turrentine | Prayer Meetin’

Brother Jack McDuff | Down Home Style

Ben Webster | Saturday Night At The Montmartre

Weekend Playlist

31 May 2010

“When I got out of high school, I thought, I’ll take a year or two off and play the clubs, get this out of my system, and then go to med school.” ~ Gregg Allman, on the road not taken

Pearl Jam | Vs.

Kings Go Forth | The Outsiders Are Back

Various Artists | Midnight Cowboy Soundtrack

Beastie Boys | The In Sound From Way Out!

Sandy Bull | Fantasias For Guitar And Banjo

Cactus | Cactus

Sweetwater | Melon

Calexico | Carried To Dust

Various Artists | Easy Rider Soundtrack

Various Artists | Apocalypse Now Soundtrack

Gil Scott-Heron | Pieces Of A Man

Arrested Development | 3 Years, 5 Months And 2 Days In The Life Of…

Allman Brothers Band | Idlewild South

Otis Redding | Dictionary Of Soul

Various Artists | Bay Area Funk 2

Chase | Chase

Neil Young | Freedom

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers | Hard Promises

Kris Kristofferson | Me And Bobby McGee

Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim | Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim

Smashing Pumpkins | Siamese Dream

Dexter Gordon | Doin’ Allright

Mott The Hoople | All The Young Dudes

The Steve Miller Band | Brave New World

Primal Scream | Screamadelica

Weekend Playlist

29 March 2010

“If you’re listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you’re a bigger moron than they are.” ~ Vincent Furnier (aka Alice Cooper)

Fujiya & Miyagi | Lightbulbs

Alejandro Escovedo | A Man Under The Influence

Mazzy Star | So Tonight That I Might See

Jimi Hendrix | Valleys Of Neptune

Bob Marley | Natural Mystic

Fila Brazillia | Brazilification

Big Star | #1 Record

Bob Dylan | Oh Mercy

Alice Cooper | From The Inside

The Blue Nile | A Walk Across The Rooftops

Funkadelic | America Eats Its Young

The Beatles | Let It Be

Linda Ronstadt | Heart Like A Wheel

Gil Scott-Heron | Pieces Of A Man

Tim Buckley | Greetings From L.A.

Dan Auerbach | Keep It Hid

Chet Atkins & Les Paul | Chester & Lester

Various Artists | O Brother Where Art Thou? Soundtrack

Dennis Coffey | Hair & Thangs

Luis Gasca | Luis Gasca

Wynton Marsalis | Marsalis Standard Time

Beastie Boys | Licensed To Ill

The Beach Boys | The Beach Boys Love You

Weekend Playlist

15 February 2010

“I’m just trying to get the ideas out before the inspiration is gone. Everything I do is motivated by the fear of running out of time.” ~ Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr., aka Jay Reatard

Jay-Z | The Blueprint

Street Sweeper Social Club | Street Sweeper Social Club

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson | The First Minute Of A New Day

Ween | The Mollusk

Pixies | Bossanova

Suicide | Suicide

Jay Reatard | Matador Singles ’08

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers | With Eric Clapton

Lonnie Mack | Glad I’m In The Band

Talking Heads | Talking Heads: 77

Brazilian Girls | Brazilian Girls

Various Artists | Hi:Fidelity Lounge Volume Three: Cosmopolitan Grooves

Neil Young | On The Beach

Whiskeytown | Strangers Almanac

Them Crooked Vultures | Them Crooked Vultures

Various Artists | Woodstock Soundtrack

The Miles Davis Quintet | Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet

The J.J. Johnson Sextet | J.J. Inc

Hank Mobley, Al Cohn, John Coltrane, Zoot Sims | Tenor Conclave

Paul Desmond & Gerry Mulligan | Paul Desmond & Gerry Mulligan
[album cover not pictured]

Buried Treasure: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

12 February 2010

[Today: The Godfather of Rap…]

Langston Hughes was the original rapper. The late, great Harlem renaissance poet wrote simple, lyrical poems that were freighted with the concerns of the black man, observations of his Harlem brethren, and barbs at an uncaring government and suspect church. Hughes is far and away best known for his poem ‘Harlem’ (which begins with the unforgettable line “What happens to a dream deferred?”), but lost in the explosive charge of his meter is that the dream deferred wasn’t a million dollars, but a white enamel stove. Hughes saw the big picture and the little details of the black condition, and both played into his rhymes. In both subject and form, he was the spiritual grandfather of today’s hip-hoppers, and it’s possible to connect those distant dots in one giant step: Gil Scott-Heron.

As a teenager, Scott-Heron interviewed Langston Hughes, who – impressed with the young man – suggested he consider attending Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Scott-Heron did, and it was there that he met pianist Brian Jackson, who became his longtime musical collaborator. Much like his hero Hughes, Gil Scott-Heron anticipated hip-hop with biting, witty poetry that ripped the hide off a racist country and incompetent elected officials. Jazz musicians like Hubert Laws (flute) and Ron Carter (bass) provided sparse background that was often laced with bongos, giving Scott-Heron’s music a Black Panther coffee house meeting vibe.

In a 1975 interview with Rolling Stone, he described his musical philosophy: “Our vibration is based on creative solidarity: trying to influence the black community toward the same kind of dignity and self-respect that we all know is necessary to live. We’re trying to put out survival kits on wax.” The best bits of those survival kits are collected on the 1974 album The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The title track is an ironic call to rise up off the sofa and make things happen. ‘Whitey On The Moon’ wonders that black people can’t afford basic services, but whitey’s on the moon (a sentiment Prince would echo in the title track of his 1987 album Sign O’ The Times), and ‘No Knock’ challenged the validity of then-Attorney General John Mitchell’s warrant-less searches of minorities.

At every turn, Scott-Heron challenged the crippling hypocrisy of the status quo. Even though he name-checks now defunct politicians like Spiro Agnew, Frank Rizzo and John Erlichman, the righteous anger at the heart of his poetry still burns bright. And the spirit of his message is still relevant to a broken world. Witness this stanza from his ‘H2O Gate Blues’:

Just how blind will America be? (Ain’t no tellin’)
The world is on the edge of its seat
Defeat on the horizon. Very surprisin’
That we all could see the plot
And claimed that we could not.

Listen: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Listen: Whitey On The Moon

Listen: Sex Education Ghetto Style

Listen: No Knock


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