Friday, December 28, 2007


Originally issued as an Atlantic compilation back in 1968, Soul Christmas is just what is says: a collection of songs featuring R&B legends such as Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, Clarence Carter, William Bell, King Curtis, and Booker T. & the MG's. But if you're looking for a compilation of mostly traditional Christmas tunes, this is not the record to buy. Apart from nods to time-honored classics like "White Christmas" (gloriously reinterpreted by Redding), Booker T.'s perky "Jingle Bells," and the R&B favorite "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" (featuring sax man King Curtis at his bluesy best, along with a guitar solo by Duane Allman), the songs are all tailor-made originals that fit the style of the respective artists. Thus, Carter's "Back Door Santa" is a hilariously salacious cut--a supremely funky tune that Run DMC sampled for their own Yuletide concoction, "Christmas in Hollis."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Crazed music librarian Nino Nardini was considered a mad scientist of modern music. The French genius had one of the most gifted and imaginative minds not only as a composer, but an innovator as well, and he has never failed to astound or impress with the sheer brilliance and variety of his musical concoctions.

A slow funky masterpiece, 1972's "Tropicola" is a bubbling groover with a snakey exotic jungle groove. This music pushed the boundaries in the '60s and '70s when it was first created; it's still doing it now, and probably will continue to do so for years to come.

Monday, December 17, 2007


The Ethiopian revolution of 1974 had one of two consequences for the country's musicians: play, against their will, in military bands, or flee for their lives. It was right around this time that Girma Beyene joined forces with the Wailas to produce one of the heaviest, most incendiary, guns-a-blazin' tracks of afro-funk ever.

Born in Addis Ababa, Girma Beyene started his career as a musician in high school and and had a long and fruitful career playing with other legendary Ethiopian bands like the Ghion Band, the Girmas Band, and the All Star Band. During the revolutions of '74, Beyene joined the Walias Band. It’s members included Hailu Mergia (organ), Moges Habte (sax), Yohannes Tekola (trumpet), Mahmoud Aman (guitar), Temare Harege (drums) and Girma Chibsa (percussion). It was with the Wailas that he composed "Musical Silt," a tune that has adorned the Ethiopian instrumental music scene for years and even remade by various U.S. bands including The Either Orchestra, The Daktaris, and Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra.

Menacing and monolithic, "Musical Silt" snarls and serpentines itself right out of the speakers, and it's certainly one of my favorites. (Please excuse the 6 or 7 second lead-in time at the beginning of the track.)

Friday, December 14, 2007


Breezy jazz-funk, a little bit of disco, and porn soundtracks inform Tim "Love" Lee's debut, all produced with a variety of late-'70s and early-'80s B-movie soundtrack staples like cheap synthesizers, sarod, bongos, vocoder and vibes.

"Wack Wack" has a unique and edgy sound, with some jaw-droppingly delicious breaks, Afro-cuban percussion, festive horn samples--it's well-programmed and just enough of a presence to lift "Confessions of a Selector" above many stale trip-hop and breakbeat records.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Soon after it's release in the early Desco days, the Daktaris' "Soul Explosion" became a sought after funk classic and has since become a staple in every serious funk and afro-funk collection.

According to rumor, The Daktaris are actually several alumni from Fela Kuti's band, and as expected, "Soul Explosion" contains massive chunks of throbbing Afrobeat, the style perfected by the late Nigerian performer. Part Nigerian and part American funk à la James Brown, these 10 mostly instrumental tracks are hardcore, juju-headed time bombs from the dance floor of the motherland, with a baritone sax-fronted horn section riding earthshaking rhythms, thundering bass lines, and occasional wah-wah guitar.

As Peter Franklin of Abidjan Musique says, "The Daktaris is a well-disciplined army of two hundred African Bull Elephants marching relentlessly up your business to the beat from Funky Drummer."

PS-Thanks to the Calisoulbrother for hipping me to this one many moons ago.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Cleveland Eaton is considered by many to be one of the best jazz bassists ever. Eaton was born in Alabama where he started his musical career. Later he moved to Chicago where he became part of the Ramsey Lewis Trio, recording on almost all of Lewis’ big hits. He also did some studio work for Chess records and appeared on such projects as the Soulful Strings’ recordings.

"Keep It Funky" is an appropriate beginning to "Half and Half," which is by far one of the funkiest jazz-funk albums from the early seventies. Greasy guitars, harmonicas, and a steamy, halftime groove swirl together and the end result is--what else?--a dusty nugget.

Monday, December 3, 2007


After he sang the praises of a certain black private dick named Shaft (but before he started slinging hash in the little town of South Park), mega-baritone crooner Isaac Hayes got a chance to personally bust some heads in the little known but ultra-cool blaxploitation classic "Truck Turner."

The soundtrack features stellar work from Isaac Hayes, who scored a batch of badass tunes that still stand with some of the best funky soundtrack work of the 70s. The rhythm's especially hard on the best cuts -- really crackling with a lot of intensity, and a stark, hard funky sound that's made the record a favorite of beatheads for years. Ike kicks it hard on cuts like "Pursuit Of The Pimpmobile", "House Full Of Girls", "Drinking", "Give It To Me", and "Now We're One". But the real dusty nugget on this record is the massive "Breakthrough," which alone is worth the price of the high cost of the LP.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Tommy McCook (3 March 1927 – 5 May 1998) was a Jamaican saxophonist. A founding member of The Skatalites, he also directed The Supersonics for Duke Reid, and backed many sessions for Bunny Lee or with The Revolutionaries at Channel One Studios in the 1970s.

"Harvest in the East" was recorded and released by Clive Chin, one of Jamaican music's greatest unsung heroes. While working at the family business, Randy's Record Store and the crucial studio upstairs, Randy's Studio 17, Chin oversaw seminal recordings by the '70s top reggae performers and producers: the Wailers, Alton Ellis, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Lee Perry and Black Uhuru. From 1969, when it opened, Randy's Studio 17 became a focal point of Jamaican music, with the studio booked non-stop. Working with innovative engineer Errol Thompson, a teenaged Clive Chin laid down thick bass and drum rhythms which became both the signature sound and the roots of reggae and dub.

Often hailed as one of the 20 greatest Reggae seven inches, Tommy McCook's "Harvest in the East" is a true masterpiece.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Like its predecessor, "Spirit in the Dark," 1972's "Young, Gifted and Black" found Aretha moving with soul music's elite into a progressive phase that opened up the emotional content of her work even further. It mixed both sides of Aretha -- the earlier hard-hitting soulsister, and the developing vocalist with a rich talent for more sophisticated material. The album features the anthemic title cut in Aretha's famous version -- plus the sample favorite "Rock Steady."

The track was recorded in Miami’s Criteria Studios in the fall of 1970. Franklin, who wrote the song and provided a scratch vocal and piano part, was present at the morning session along with Bernard Purdie on drums, Cornell Dupree on guitar, Richard Tee on organ, and Chuck Rainey on bass. (Franklin’s final vocal, the backup vocals, and the horn parts would all be added later.) Producer Arif Mardin eventually wrote out charts, but none were really needed for the simple two-chord, two-section ditty about, ahem, jumping into your car and “taking a ride.”

After a few quick run-throughs, engineer Gene Paul (who was responsible for Rainey’s massive bass presence in the mix), said, “Let’s put one down so we can hear what it sounds like.” Rainey, Purdie, Dupree, and Tee had cut many a side together, and in a testament to their creative powers, the foursome issued a slamming first take. The diligent production team of Mardin, Jerry Wexler, and Tom Dowd had the musicians rework and re-record the song for the next three or four hours before it was finally realized that the first pass was perfection.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Syl Johnson sang and played with blues artists Magic Sam, Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells and Howlin' Wolf in the 1950s, before recording with Jimmy Reed for Vee-Jay in 1959. He made his solo debut that same year with Federal, a subsidiary of King Records of Cincinnati, backed by Freddie King on guitar.

He then began recording for Twinight Records of Chicago in the mid 1960s. Beginning with his first hit, Come On Sock It to Me in 1967, Johnson dominated the label as both a hitmaker and producer. With a hard-hitting, funk and blues drenched, west side style, Johnson became a leading figure in the Chicago soul scene at the end of the 60s.

The track below, "Different Strokes," might be Syl's best known jam--it starts with a massive break and continues to scorch everything in its path. A true funk classic, "Different Strokes" has been sampled by hundreds of hip-hop artists (Boogie Down Productions, Wu-Tang Clan, N.W.A., and Public Enemy, just to name a few) and continues to light up dancefloors the world over.

Boogie Down Productions' "Criminal Minded":

Monday, November 26, 2007


The Backyard Heavies may well have been the house band at Reflection Sound studio in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they cut a series of singles in the early ‘70s. Certainly they included Roger Branch, the leader of the Reflection Sound band and formerly sound engineer at Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn’s Sea-Saint studio. A classy, pocket-hugging instrumental, Chitlin’ Strut appeared initially on the New Orleans Hotline label and was later picked up by Scepter Records, but it didn’t sell well and remains hellish tricky to locate.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


"Boot-Leg" finds Booker T. & The MG's core group (Booker, Duck Dunn, Al Jackson, and Steve Cropper) joining forces with the Mar-Keys horn section. The Mar-Keys were a session band for the Stax label from Memphis, Tennessee in the 1960s. As the first house band for the label, their backing music formed the foundation for the early 1960s Stax sound. Featuring Charles "Packy" Axton on tenor sax and Don Nix on saxophone, this track is often overlooked in the Booker T. anthology, and it's a shame--because it's a ton of fun. What else can you say?

Monday, November 19, 2007


William E. Cobham Jr. is simply one of the best jazz drummers there has ever been. Period. Armed with formidable technical skill, he came to prominence in the early days of fusion as the rhythmic force behind Miles Davis' fusion experiments. (Oddly enough, he also played drums on my ex-stepfather's solo album.) His other notable early 70s posting was in the engine room of fusion supergroup the Mahavishnu Orchestra. "Crosswinds" comes from the next stage of his career, as the powerful and superfast jazz-rock of Mahavishnu gave way to a more human jazz-funk sound. The transformation was taking place through 1973's 'Spectrum' (being particularly evident in sampler's favourite, "Stratus") but the change of guitarist to John Abercrombie ushered in a less frenetic sound.

The Brecker brothers are on particularly good form, especially Michael with his keening soprano. And don't forget George Duke, anchoring the whole thing with a funky riff on a heavily funked-up rhodes. Where the album really stands out, though, is on the slower cuts like "Crosswind." Sampled ad infinitum by hip-hop acts (check Gang Starr's "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow") and paid homage by modern funk acts like the Breakestra, "Crosswind" is a jazz-funk classic.

Gang Starr's "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow":

Friday, November 16, 2007


A funky 45 that never fails to please, courtesy of the Fabulous Shalimars. With a nasty drum break about :20 in, and a fun, lowdown sound, this track has become a dancefloor classic. Unfortunately, a google search about the Shalimars proved rather fruitless--no one seems to know where these guys came from, or what year this dusty nugget was released. But one thing's for's a jam! (A copy of the 45 recently sold for $70 on Ebay.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


A truly rare gem of big-band funk from Poland's Big Band Katowice. Released in 1977, the "Music for My Friends" LP is one of the best Eastern European Jazz funk records (courtesy of the MUZA label) you'll ever find.

"Sorcery" is a wonderful introduction to the kinds of rare grooves DJ's and crate-diggers have been digging from Poland for years -- that mad mix of jazz, funk, fusion, and electric elements that somehow managed to flourish wonderfully during the 70s years of Soviet control -- a real musical marvel, considering the setting -- and because of tight border control, very few of these LP's made it out to the Western world. "Music for My Friends" has stood the test of time and then some, with wicked breaks, dense brass sections, and an unrelenting groove.

Friday, November 9, 2007


Since 1998, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra has been spreading their singular blend of Afrobeat around the world. Their live performances are legendary -- lasting up to 3 hours, they play a heady blend of booty-shaking grooves coupled with inflammatory political messages. Songs routinely stretch out past the 15 minute mark. While they may be the torchbearers of the sound pioneered by Fela Kuti, they're no tribute band -- they pull in elements of rock, dub, and Latin music to make a sound all their own.

This EP, available only through their website and at shows, may be the perfect introduction to this complex band. At only 30 minutes long, it manages to concisely show off all of their strengths -- the excellent playing, the awe-inspiring grooves, and the leftist politics -- all in about the span of time it generally takes them to finish up one song.

The instrumental "Dub Je Je" features an unaccompanied trombone before a hypnotic groove kicks in, complete with the signature guitar rhythm and gigantic horn section. With a hypnotic, echo-drenched sound groove and narcotic dub atmosphere, this track is one of Antibalas' shining moments. Admittedly, Afrobeat can be an acquired taste--those with a fondness for conciseness should stay clear. But anyone looking for truly intelligent dance music -- music to dance to until you're ready to storm the barricades -- is advised to start here. And what a bass line!

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Produced by Dave Marais, this dusty nugget comes courtesy of the mysterious funk outfit, The World Wonders. Not much is known about the band or the track, other than it was released on Alarm Records, based in Shreveport, LA. This track was featured by legendary crate digger Kenny Dope on his joint effort with Keb Darge, "Funk Spectrum Volume 2", which you can find on amazon.

The track is a monster, featuring some wicked horn lines, and a stuttering, greasy groove that rolls and tumbles in all the right places--truly the funkiest washing machine you'll ever hear!

Monday, November 5, 2007


Essential killer French soul-funk from Ben & The Platano Group. Recorded in 1970 and issued by Barclay in 1971, Paris Soul is an album that wears the test of time well. The dynamtic orchestral arrangements by Evaristo Nata blend some Afro-Cuban flavors (such as the Santana tribute "Salute to Santa," on which they bite a chunk from "Oye Como Va" and bend it into a near salsa jam), some Brazilian samba, Memphis soul, and post-bop jazz soloing to achieve a smoky, sexy, funky groove.

The band members, apart from their arranger, are anonymous, but it hardly matters; whether it's the Brazilian-tinged "Culzean," with its flowering guitars and reeds turning through one another in a simple airy melody embossed by some serious polyrhythms; or the easy, shuffling track "Black Waders," (MP3 below) with its entwining organ and horn lines that sound like they could have come from some underground club version of the Alfie soundtrack, the result is the same: this is one of the finest recordings of pure groove music made on either side of the Atlantic during the early '70s.

Friday, November 2, 2007


The name of this group makes this release seem like a calypso record, which it isn't. The sound is more like a lost Meters album from 1969, which it isn't quite either. The credits imply that the band is from Finland, which is a matter of dispute. (Some insist that the band is actually an exercise in New Orleans-style instrumental workouts from the Soul Fire crew, New York's resident retro-funk chameleons--the same people behind J.D. & the Evil's Dynamite Band, the Soul Providers, etc.) Finnish or not, it's a delicious and unbelievably convincing pastiche of vintage Meters, right down to the guitar and organ tone. Half the fun is figuring out which early funk classics yielded its borrowed riffs ("Struggling My Way," for instance, is a cousin to Sly and the Family Stone's "Sing a Simple Song"). The other half of the fun is kicking back and surrendering to the groove. And DJs looking for a fresh beat can take their pick of the crisp, inventive breaks here, featuring heavy breakbeat drums pounding away, jangly guitar chopping like mad, and hot Hammond organ licking away at the bubbling pot.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy--you can find it on Amazon. Here's "Struggling My Way":

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Alvin Cash was the undisputed boss of the small-time dance craze in the 1960s, recording as Alvin Cash & the Registers (get it?) or with the band The Crawlers. If there was a dance craze going, he was either right on it or up there creating it, singing about Muhammad Ali’s moves, doing the Twine or funkin’ like there’s no tomorrow on a series of labels, like Mar-V-Lus or the label that released this funky racket in 1968, Toddlin’ Town. First discovered by the Northern fraternity, then used as a breakbeat, "Keep On Dancing" remains a floor filler killer when it comes to party time. You might recognize it from DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist's "Product Placement" sets, or perhaps from Queen Latifah's "Dance for Me" or Masta Ace's "Letter to the Better."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


BB King's 1970 LP "Indianola Mississippi Seeds" found the bluesmaster picking up some of the crossover soul and rock touches used by contemporaries over at Chess/Cadet, and expanding his sound with a range of guests that include Leon Russell, Joe Walsh, and Carole King. Despite the presence of these bigger names, the set's very much in BB's own spirit -- mostly focused on his vocals and guitar work, and still mostly including original compositions.

Undoubtedly a high mark of King's career, "Chains & Things" finds B.B. agonized and, well, pretty damn blue--the mixture of the bareboned 70's groove with melancholic, remorseful strings augments BB's material to brand new heights.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Just when you thought yet another cover of The Meters' "Cissy Strut" would render you comatose, along come Bill "Ravi" Harris & the Prophets.

On "Funky Sitar Man," Ravi Harris & the Prophets play James Brown/Meters-inspired funk with a difference: The main voice on these instrumentals is sitar. It might be viewed as a gimmick -- if it didn't work so well. Harris is never going to make it as a performer of Indian classical music; he hasn't got the chops for that, but his playing on this album is as good as it needs to be (let's face it, Indian classical and instrumental funk require decidedly different skills). Solid bass, syncopated drums, chicken-scratch guitar, and economical organ fills form the backdrop, and the sitar rides at the front. This has got to be the greatest album of sitar funk ever (not that there's much competition), and truly one of my favorite, and greatest, finds. These are the kind of obscure gems that make crate digging so rewarding.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Marie "Queenie" Lyons was a funky soul diva whose powerhouse vocals and raw emotive energy drew stylistic comparisons to many other outstanding female artists of her era, including Lyn Collins, Betty Davis, Marva Whitney, Vicki Anderson, and Ann Sexton. She only released one full-length album (Soul Fever, 1970) that wallowed in obscurity for a number of years alongside her ultra-rare 45s. In more recent years, her material has been reissued, sampled, and comped, allowing a wider audience to become familiar with her work.

"See And Don't See" is the first track on Soul Fever--a heart-wrenching ode to the art of denial as a means of self-preservation. Throw in a funky bassline, a dash of bold, dramatic brass, some seriously soulful belting, a "good God almighty" or two, and you have the makings of a certifiable classic.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Deep funk from down under -- and the stunning full length debut by Australia's finest, The Bamboos. For a while, the group really only had a few 45s ("Voodoo Doll" being one of them) to their name-- but those records alone got The Bamboos plenty of attention, ultimately earning them a deal with Kenny Dope and Keb Darge's label, Kay Dee. Eventually, after word about the band continued to spread, UK based Tru Thoughts signed the act for an album and Ubiquity picked-up the record for North America.

The groove is tight small combo funk at its best -- done in the stripped-down, all-classic mode of artists on Daptone or Soul Fire -- and certainly in the best style of supportive labelmates Quantic Soul Orchestra. The combo's a sextet, with Hammond, guitar, tenor, and trumpet all taking heavy lines through the mostly-instrumental session -- hitting a sound that's a slightly jazzier take on styles The Meters or James Brown Band might have cut at the end of the 60s. "Voodoo Doll" is a wicked nugget of deep funk, proving that there are still worthy artists today bringing a fresh, disciplined, and original take on the genre. And that opening drum break is just killer.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Outside of soul fans, or New Orleans aficionados, mentioning the name Betty Harris is likely only to draw blank stares. Yet in a seven year recording career that yielded 8 sides for Jubilee Records, 18 for Sansu and 2 for SSS, Betty Harris left a legacy of soul vocals that rival any of her contemporaries for complexity, imagination and pure soul.

She was born 1941 (or 1943 depending on the reference) in Florida to a Minister father and a missionary mother. As a teenager she went to work for R&B star Big Maybelle as a maid. Big Maybelle encouraged Harris’ talent, and in 1960 she recorded her first single, "Taking Care of Business" b/w "Yesterday's Kisses," for Douglas Records. Via her association with Big Maybelle, Harris met the mighty Solomon Burke, who recommended her to his producer Bert Berns. With Berns and Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller at the controls, she re-recorded Burke’s hit ‘Cry To Me’ for Jubilee Records in 1963. This went on to be her biggest hit, hitting #10 R&B and #29 pop. This was rereleased in 1970 and charted again.

Harris met up with the legendary Allen Toussaint while on tour in 1965. Their partnership began with the very first single on the legendary Sansu label. It would last four short years but resulted in some of the finest records to come out of New Orleans (or anywhere else for that matter) in the 60's. The Toussaint / Harris partnership mirrored that of Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick in many ways. Both Toussaint and Bacharach were prolific composers who specialized in following their songs from the first compositional idea all the way to the pressing plant. Unlike Bacharach, much of Toussaint's best work would elude the Top 40. Despite the fact that their five year association yielded only a single hit, the 20 sides they did between August of 1965 and March of 1969 were of a consistently high quality, acting as a showcase for Toussaint's prodigious compositional talents and Harris’s brilliant singing.

In a grand tradition, Harris and Toussaint saved the best for last. Betty Harris' last 45 (in March of 1969) was written and recorded by Toussaint, but leased to SSS International (home to another great New Orleans classic, Danny White's 'Natural Soul Brother'). 'There's A Break In The Road' is as powerful and imaginative funk record as you're ever likely to hear. Here the Meters' sound is clearly evident. The record opens with a throbbing George Porter bass line, followed by the howl of feedback (?!?!), the crack of Ziggy Modeliste's snare and a burst of horns, breaking down into a wild, off-kilter beat. Harris jumps into the mix at full-tilt and powers her way through the verses. Each chorus is marked by Modeliste's wild drumming, powerful and funky enough to rival even the mighty James Black. All throughout the song, Leo Nocentelli's guitar is feeding back. Everyone, especially Harris is operating at 150%, pulling out all the stops as if they realized that this was to be her last record and they needed to make it a landmark. The end result is a masterpiece, and a must have for any serious fan of funky New Orleans.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The track "Soul Makossa" was a hit for Manu Dibango in early 1973. After it was issued, a lot of folks sought to cover it -- most badly. But, in this case, that single track spawned a band of studio musicians hell bent on creating not only a club and jukebox 45 hit of the Dibango original, but an entire set of groove-driven instrumentals that could be issued as 45s for the juke market. Afrique, which was comprised of organist Charles Kynard, guitarist David T. Walker, bassist Chuck Rainey, Joe Kelso and Paul Jeffery on saxophones, drummer Ray Pounds, and a host of percussionists including Chino Valdes and baritone honker Steve Kravitz. There were 13 members in all for this one-off. So the deal is simple: this LP, the only Afrique title, is a hell of a slab of lost funk. Sure, there's a groovin' greasy version of the title track, but the real magic lies in the wah-wah excess, saxist angst, and drunken, careening rhythms.

"House of the Rising Funk" opens with a wicked drum break and never relents. It has been sampled by Coldcut ("Beats and Pieces"), Geto Boys ("Damn It Feels Good to Be A Gangster"), Schooly D ("Black"), and Too Short ("I Want to Be Free"), among others. A true cratedigger's classic.


As a (Southern) California resident, I'd feel remiss if I didn't share this picture with all of you. The wildfires are, needless to say, a horrible mess, and almost a million people have been displaced from their homes. Driving on the 118 freeway the other night was literally like driving through an ashtray--a thick, gray cloud of ash, smoke, and charred earth. I saw this picture on "The Google" (as Dave Letterman would call it), and I think it perfectly captures the duality of nature: a gorgeous, orange-glow sunset obstructed by noxious, destructive flames.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Lee Fields initially made his name among die-hard funk fans with a series of hard-hitting singles recorded for various small labels during the '70s. Everything about Fields -- his look, his vocals, the grooves on his records -- was so indebted to James Brown that he earned the nickname "Little J.B." Fields never hit it big, but his rough-and-tumble singles went on to become popular collectors' items. After a lengthy hiatus, Fields returned in the '90s as a soul-blues belter playing to female-heavy audiences on the Southern circuit. Thanks to sample-obsessed hip-hoppers and British rare-groove aficionados, interest in obscure vintage funk reached a peak in the late '90s, and Fields was fortunate enough to have remained active when new recordings in the style became a viable proposition. Energized by his return to raw, heavy, James Brown-style funk, Fields emerged as the leading light of the deep funk movement with a series of recordings that often equaled, and sometimes outdid, his early work.

Judging by his performance on his Desco Records debut full-length, "Let's Get a Groove On," Fields' move to the pioneering old-school funk-revival label freed him to do the kind of gritty, authentic funk album he'd been itching to record for quite some time. With the help of the Desco house band, the Soul Providers (who would eventually morph into the powerhouses THE DAP KINGS), this LP features a richly organic set of guitar-and-organ-dominated funk backings. "Let A Man Do What He Wanna Do" represents Fields and his cohorts at their rawest: rubbery bass lines, punchy horns, and a mad groove that doesn't relent.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Along with James Brown's "Funky Drummer" and Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks," the Honey Drippers classic "Impeach the President" is one of the most important tunes in sampling history.

Soul singer Roy Charles Hammond was a hugely talented singer and writer, whose ability far exceeded the moderate attention he received since his start in 1958. He changed his name to Roy C. Hammond to avoid confusion with singer Ray Charles and embarked on a career as the lead singer of The Genies, scoring a top ten hit with the track "Who’s Knocking." He then moved on to the group Mark 4, writing and producing their hit "Honey I still love you". In 1969 he started his own label - Alaga, based in Jamaica, Queens. Alaga Records would eventually release "Impeach" in 1973.

"Impeach the President" was Roy’s response to the Watergate scandal and one of several politically-charged songs he recorded with his young backing group, The Honeydrippers. The infectiously funky track featured choppy guitar licks, driving horns, funky vocals and a sampler’s dream in the form of a two-bar opening drum break. One of the first uses was by Audio Two for "Top Billin’". They based the entire track around the drum break, giving it a very raw, stripped-down feel. More recently producer Salaam Remi used the break as the backing for Nas’s 2003 hit “I Can.”

The popularity of “Impeach the President” among producers, beatmakers and vinyl collectors has led to a dramatic rise in the price of the 45 since its pressing. It has been known to change hands for as much as $300. Just like the Winstons’ "Amen brother", hip hop songs featuring “Impeach the President” must be in the millions, sale-wise. In the early ‘90s, record label Tough City shrewdly bought the rights to the song. Let’s hope Roy C. got a good price. (Courtesy Format Magazine.)

Nas' "I Can"

Friday, October 19, 2007


1970 saw the release of one of the toughest, greasiest, one-two punches in funk 45 lore, Cyril Neville's debut solo single, "Gossip" b/w "Tell Me What's On Your Mind." The songs included backing music by his brother Art's new outfit, the Meters. The Meters, looking to expand their lineup, eventually asked Cyril to join full-time, playing vocals and congas. He also contributed to such Meters albums as 1972's Cabbage Alley and 1975's Fire on the Bayou.

Released on the Josie label, this 45 remains a staple for any funk collector. It's easy to hear why. The Meters as a backing group leave their fingerprints all over the tune, snapping, cracking, and popping in all the right places.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


"The Hen" is one of the funkiest Hammond organ 45's ever. Despite the fact that "The Hen" was released on Louisiana’s Paula label, and the artist in question has a name that sounds like it shows up several dozen times in the New Orleans phone book, this gem is a bit of Kansas City soul. Chachere, a respected jazz-funk organist, originally recorded "The Hen" for the local MJC label, and it was then re-released by the Forte label, in Kansas City, MO. Forte was owned by Marva Whitney’s husband Ellis Taylor (her Excello 45 ‘Daddy Don’t Know About Sugar Bear’ was originally issued on Forte). "The Hen" was then licensed to, and released by, Paula records.

Chachere passed away in August 2007, but this classic nugget will live on in funk infamy. RIP, Louis!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Classy, elegant Northern Soul, courtesy of the Joytones.

The Joytones history dates all the way back to 1956, when they recorded their first sides for George Goldner's Rama Records. Their tale is a complicated, but not uncommon one, of lineup changes and poor marketing by the label. They never received much airplay or sold many records during their career, but this track is now considered a "Northern Soul" classic--a loose term used in the UK for a type of mid-tempo and uptempo heavy-beat soul music that was popularized in northern England in the mid 1960's.

Kudos to the ace British label Kent (and Ady Croasdell) for rescuing this gem from obscurity on "Norhtern Soul's Classiest Rarites."

Monday, October 15, 2007


A rare funky single from the Welshman himself, "Lookin Out My Window" is one of the heaviest tunes that Tom Jones ever cut, with a wild, psychedlic, massive break (about 1:10 in) that first started getting sampled 20 years ago (Big Daddy Kane's "It's a Big Daddy Thing") and became a collector favorite after DJ Andy Smith (Portishead's DJ) included this nugget on his legendary mixtape, "The Document." You can practically see the VU meters getting pegged on this one.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Long before a solo recording career beckoned, Ann Peebles supported the legendary Soul Stirrers on tour. The experience was no doubt inspirational, being that the group featured an up-and-comer singer named Sam Cooke. Later, she became labelmates with soul legend Al Green at Hi Records where she recorded a series of great singles and 7 inches. Amongst that work was 'I Can't Stand The Rain', a record which John Lennon purportedly described as 'the greatest single ever' (and which Missy Elliott later sampled in "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)").

"Handwriting On The Wall" comes from 1978--a bit late in the classic Hi years--but Ann was still going strong, in a smooth southern style that recalls the best 70s work by singers like Millie Jackson or Shirley Brown. Below is an MP3 of "You've Got The Papers (I've Got The Man)," a lowdown tune that truly defines what "Cold Heat" is all about. The words are icy, but the groove scorches. See for yourself.

Monday, October 8, 2007


A truly rare record from the South American outfit Xingu ("El Combo Xingu"), which was originally released as a Peruvian library record in the early 70s. Not much else is known about this gem, but the music features great latin-jazz influenced funk, with wild organ, frantic guitar, and screaming horns.

Below is their steamy, powerful take of James Brown's classic "Hot Pants":

Saturday, October 6, 2007


The Pazant Brothers were one ofthe greatest combos on the early 70's New York scene. The group was the brainchild of Eddie and Al Pazant, who had been gigging around in between Eddie’s stints in the horn section of the Lionel Hampton Band. Eventually they caught the ear of producer/writer Ed Bland who drafted them in to the studio at GWP Productions and Records Group where he was an in-house producer.

The Pazant Brothers backed many of Ed’s productions, but they also started to put out 45's and LP's under their own name, and over the next couple of years they made four singles (including the MP3 below, under the name of the Chilli Peppers) and a couple of tracks on various artists samplers, as well as some legendary sides for the RCA and Vigor labels. With horn-heavy funky grooves, the Pazants earned their reputation as one of the hottest things going at the time -- snapping on the beat with a tightness learned from their old boss Pucho, but also a willingness to explore brassier grooves in a style that seems to be influenced from the New Orleans and Texas scenes of the late 60s. Producer/arranger Edward Bland had a good hand in much of this work -- giving the tracks a gritty, nitty, Perception/Today kind of groove.

At the end of those two years, GWP was winding down and the band and Bland went their separate ways. Below is a nasty New Orleans-inspired swamp-funk groove called "Chicken Scratch", uniquely punctuated by some dramatic strings. A very funky affair.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


The ONLY recording ever made by the Soul Lifters. Scouted by Lelan Rogers, the same cat that recorded Maceo & all the King's Men, this is sadly your only opportunity to hear this group. Nearly all funk collectors will agree that one of the illest (and rarest) 45's EVER. Despite a fantastic sound and a production credit to famed soul DJ Shelley Pope, it’s likely the 45 didn’t sell well – hence the rarity of the original. In January of 2007, a copy was sold for $787.

Largely forgotten after years of neglect, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist incorporated this break into their famous "Brainfreeze" sets, and left thousands of curious ears wondering who could create such a devastatingly funky jam. Ladies and gents, the Soul Lifters.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Lyman Woodard was born March 3rd, 1942 in Owosso, Michigan and started his formal musical training at age four on the piano. In 1962, he attended the Oscar Peterson School of Contemporary Music in Toronto, Canada. After hearing a performance of the great Jimmy Smith in 1963, he was convinced that this was his future and he made the switch from piano to the Hammond B3 organ. Lyman formed the first Lyman Woodard Trio in 1965 along with fellow musicians Melvin Davis on drums & vocals and Dennis Coffey on guitar.

In 1973, Lyman became the musical director for Martha and the Vandellas. By 1974, he was anxious to have his own band again and reformed the Lyman Woodard Trio with fellow musicians Leonard King on drums and Ron English on guitar.

Later that year he expanded his band by adding alto saxophonist Norma Jean Bell and percussionist Lorenzo Brown, and changed the name to the Lyman Woodard Organization. For the next 11 years, the "Organization" played the clubs and venues of the midwest, changing members occasionally and opening shows for artists such as Billy Paul, MFSB, Bob James, the Jazz Crusaders, Gil Scott Heron, Herbie Hancock, Tito Puente & his Latin Jazz Ensemble and James "Blood" Ulmer. The Lyman Woodard Organization disbanded in the late 1980s.

"Saturday Night Special" is a great set of hypnotic organ funk from Lyman Woodard. Woodard's electric piano, organ and occasional mellotron and Norma Bell's alto saxophone lend a cosmic funk aspect throughout, very much like Death Wish-era Herbie Hancock. Ron English accents the thing perfectly with his languid guitar and bass groove, while Leonard King and Lorenzo Brown's drumming and percussion can keep the groove adrift, or tear it up in a funky maelstrom depending on the mission of the cut. It's totally essential Strata jazz funk -- and below is an mp3 of the track "Creative Musicians." (Gotta love the simplicity of the name, right?)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


A great soundtrack from the incomparable Galt MacDermot, a wonderful Canadian-born pianist and composer most famous for scoring the rock musical "Hair."

This album features the sample for Busta Rhymes "Woo-Hah!" in the track "Space". Lots of other cool spare funky tracks, and a great record all the way through. Tight grooves, spare electric keyboards with a flat "Wu Tang" sound, and lots of choppy funky sounds. A must for sample heads and fans of off-kilter funky grooves alike. The songs are catchy, the playing is earnest, and all of it is eminently listenable. (The famous sample occurs about :45 in.)

Busta Rhymes' "Woo Hah! I Got You All In Check":

Sunday, September 30, 2007


"Message From A Soul Sister"
Written by James Brown
Produced by James Brown
Recorded September 9, 1970, King Studios, Cincinnati,OH.
Vicki Anderson (vocals)
Clayton "Chicken" Gunnels and Darryl "Hassan" Jamison (trumpets)
Robert McCollough (tenor sax)
Bobby Byrd (piano)
Phelps "Catfish" Collins (guitar)
William "Bootsy" Collins (bass)
Clyde Stubblefield (drums)

This track represents some of the funkiest female soul ever recorded. Vicki was one of the first female singers to work with James Brown--replacing the sweeter style of vocalist Anna King in the James Brown Revue of the late 60s, and setting the stage for better-known hard soul singers Marva Whitney and Lyn Collins in years to come. Vicki recorded some excellent singles with James and the band backing her up, all of which have been ruthlessly sampled by countless hip hop acts over the past 10-15 years.

Vicki's got a socking-hard sound that worked equally well with the early funk sound of the James Brown Band of the late 60s, as it did during her later recordings with the JBs and Bobby Byrd. "Message from A Soul Sister" is the essence of funky female soul--a hard-stepping and massively grooving nugget all the way through. This track has been sampled by artists like Big Daddy Kane ("Calling Mr. Welfare), GangStarr ("No More Mr Nice Guy"), and LL Cool J ("God Bless.")

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Tony Alvon and the Belairs, a Philadelphia funk group, have three records, the rarest of which is "Sexy Coffee Pot."Other records on Atlantic include "Philly Horse" (with "Don't Be a Drag (Giddy Up)" on the flip side) and "Stone Soul Candidate" with "Catch a Fox" on the B side. The late producer Paul C McKasty sampled the drum break to construct the music for Eric B and Rakim's "Run for Cover". The record was also sampled by Cypress Hill, Scarface and DJ Shadow, among others. "Sexy Coffee Pot" was written by J.C. Hill and J. Stiles, is a Virtue-Stiles production, and was recorded at Virtue Studios in Pennsylvania. (The Eric B and Rakim break is about 1:33 in.)

Erik B & Rakim's "Run for Cover":

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


The first release in a series of 7" reissues from this German (exotic upper Bavarian) label TRAMP RECORDS. The blenders are originally from Greensboro, North Carolina, and that's where they recorded this devestating double-sider. Both parts are killer funk tracks, probably the best examples of what deep funk is all about. Uptempo with wicked breaks split into two parts on the 7". Limited pressing, but you may find a copy here and there if you dig deep.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Back with that library flavor today with an album from the legendary Janko Nilovic. Born at the beginning of the forties in Montenegro, Janko moved to Paris in the sixties and never looked back, putting his multi instrument talents to use on a variety of projects and often working for up to ten hours a day, seven days a week. Prolific even by library musician standards, Janko produced over 30 albums in the seventies; this is just a brief example of this man's vast output, but hopefully it'll give you an idea of the range of music he produced.

"Soul Impressions" is one of the funkiest sets by Nilovic. This record definitely earns the "soul" in the title -- as Janko blends his usual mad mix of studio sounds with some heavier 70s elements -- including a fair bit of fuzzy guitar, funky beats, and some nice horn fills. About half the tracks on the album benefit from this sort of approach -- kind of across between blacksploitation soundtrack scoring and the tighter instrumental moods of work by The Duke of Burlington. The other half is more in Janko's usual bag -- nicely groovy jazz numbers, some with a slinky 70s edge. Below is an mp3 of the track "Crazy Enterprise."

Monday, September 24, 2007


Heavy heavy funk from the Louisiana scene of the late 60s and 1970s -- and a great collection that really gets past the dominance of the New Orleans sound. The set moves way past the Crescent City to uncover a wealth of great bits recorded in smaller studios located in Shreveport, Lake Charles, and a variety of tiny scenes in the southwest side of Louisiana -- and the result is a great batch of tunes with a really gritty, down-n-dirty sound.

There's a wealth of great funky styles in the set -- including James Brown-inspired jammers, southern soul burners, and some other great modes that show that Louisiana's got a heck of a lot more to offer than just New Orleans funk. The State has its own original take on black music influenced by New Orleans and tinged with the flavour of the area’s creole culture, which for a large part is separate and self-sufficient from the mainstream of American life; this makes many of these not only highly desirable, but impossible to find. The super-rare 'One Day’ by Tabby Thomas, that sells for nearly a $1000 on the infrequent occasion when it comes up for sale, is one of funk’s holy grails, and the low-down and dirty 'I Got A Groove’ by JJ Caillier also rarely surfaces.

But perhaps the rarest and nastiest track on this comp is "Soul Brothers Testify", performed with fierce intensity by Chester Randle's Soul Senders, and sampled by DJ Shadow on the track "Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain" (from his landmark album, "Entroducing.")

Friday, September 21, 2007


HIP HUG-HER is one of Booker T. and MG's strongest, most consistent studio efforts. Here, the band's sound gels completely, the grooves become more insistent, the sound more varied, yet the whole is smoother and more seamless. The addition of Donald "Duck" Dunn's loose, inventive bass lines (Dunn first appeared on AND NOW!, this record's predecessor) opens up the compositions to maximum groovability, as on "Booker's Notation", and the moody "Pigmy". As always, Steve Cropper's slicing guitar, Al Jackson's spare, punchy drumming and Booker T.'s juicy, soaring organ chops do exactly what they should.

"Hip-Hug-Her" is arguably the highlight of this record, a snarling, bareboned jazz-funk groove sampled by Das EFX on "Looseys", Ice Cube's "Givin' up the Nappy Dug Out," Heavy D's "Don't Curse," and ODB's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya," to name only a few. A masterstroke of less-is-more minimalism.

Ice Cube's "Givin Up the Nappy Dugout":

Thursday, September 20, 2007


It’s almost impossible to get an original copy of Arthur Monday’s ‘What Goes Around’. Only a handful of copies are known to exist, and the lucky few who possess one do not want to sell. It’s a very rare record. This huge difference between supply and demand means the price is high – an original copy of Arthur Monday was recently sold at auction and for $4293 – easily the highest price EVER PAID FOR A FUNK 45.

This 45 was first issued back in 1969, and, as far as the music goes, there are few recordings that have captured the very essence of the deep funk sound as this. Sure it has all the usual ingredients of sweaty drums, rumbling bass, sharp horns and impassioned vocals, but what this record has that so many others lack is a certain spirit, mystery and vitality that few 45s possess. There was attitude in the studio the day that record was cut. The track is a raw hybrid of tightly clapping and snapping trap work, punchy horn blasts that are reminscent of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's frayed, funky blasts of the period with a wicked style, propulsive bass and scratchy guitar washes.

Despite huge efforts to this day, Arthur Monday has never been found. What was it that inspired him to create such an astounding beast of a record? Well now here is your chance to hear what all the fuss is about. As The World’s Most Expensive Funk 45, surely it deserves a listen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


"Heavy, deep, raw soul from Charles Bradley, a funk legend backed by the unbelievably-retro sounding Menahan Street Band. "This World (Is Going Up In Flames)" might be the best track yet from Bradley. (Which is saying a lot, because his prior 45 with the Bullets, "This Love Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us," was explosive.) With backing by the Gospel Queens, the groove is dark and hazy, given a deeper feel thanks to some piano in the mix, with a rubbery bass line. As Charles bares down with his first wrenching moan, it is clear that this is not going to be a record made of empty gestures." (Courtesy

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


This next nugget comes from Ike Turner & The Kings of Rhythm. First released in 1969, "A Black Man's Soul" (the album this track was pulled from) captured Ike Turner & His Kings of Rhythm at their funkiest. Armed with songs written by Turner, his St. Louis colleague Oliver Sain and more, Ike & His Kings combined R&B with funk, rock and gospel and created an album that showed off the wide spectrum of black music. At the 1969 Grammy Awards, "Thinking Black" was nominated in the category of Best R&B Instrumental while Tina made the list of nominees for Best Female R&B Singer. (Can you imagine a track like "Thinking Black" getting nominated for a Grammy in today's day and age? They don't make them like they used to, folks.)

I can't recommend Ike's and Tina's late 60's/early 70's work enough to all of you, especially you beat-junkies. "A Black Man's Soul" features some of the finest and most sought-after examples of Ike Turner's funk artistry, including the DJ breakbeat jewels "Funky Mule" and "Getting Nasty," which Jurassic 5 sampled on their track "Concrete Schoolyard."

Monday, September 17, 2007


The first track is a brand new song by Staten Island's finest afro-soul group, the Budos Band. Featuring members of contemporary warhorses like Antibalas, Sugarman 3, and the Dap Kings, the Budos concoct a intoxicating brew of resonant and ethereal Herculean rhythms, staccato horn blasts, and effortless, funky precision. Recorded at the now-legendary Daptone studios in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Stunning.


Ladies, Gentlemen, Friends, Romans, Countrymen:

It's time to get funky.

About two years ago, I was offered the opportunity to program a channel of Live365 radio. At the time, Live365 was trying to diversify their programming, especially in the areas of funk/soul/jazz. My boss, knowing I was a huge fan of old, rare funky records, recommended me to one of the higher-ups. I was given carte blanche, so to speak--a blank canvas, hundreds of megs of upload space, and a potential worldwide audience for anyone craving real, organic, raw, criminally underappreciated, how-has-this-not-been-sampled-yet, grooves and breaks. (Or, more precisely, I-Never-Knew-That's-Where-It-Got-Sampled-From.) The idea was: what would a radio station that I wanted to hear sound like??

I spent weeks ripping some of my favorite gems from 45's and 12-inch records I had accumulated since moving back to LA in 2000. I ended up with a playlist just over 10 hours long, launched it, and let the internet do the rest. With absolutely no promotion (aside from some word-of-mouth amongst my friends), the station became one of the top-rated funk websites in the Live365 universe. Tracking my geo stats, I found that I suddenly had regular listeners in countries like Japan, Germany, Britain, Brazil, and Estonia. (Estonia? Really?) Many of the listeners were kind enough to send emails thanking me for opening their ears (and eyes) to these forgotten little gems--or, as i liked to call them--Dusty Nuggets. It was really gratifying.

These are the songs that time, and an-often cruel, indifferent industry, has largely forgotten. Many of these tracks have never even been available on CD. So keep checking in for some of my all-time favorite funky gems, from classic Meters stuff to more contemporary releases, straight from the crates. Enjoy, tap your toes, and let the groove move you.