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.