Tuesday, June 30, 2009


The youngest of three brothers hailing from Orangeburg, SC, Charles Mintz would sing together with his siblings for friends and family until a cousin hooked him up with a band called The Majestics. Charles began to sing covers at record-hops, high schools, and college shows. His English teacher got on his case about his developing talent, she said, "If you use all that energy to sing someone else's songs, why don't you write and sing something of your own?" And that's how it all started. Charles wrote a song in school called "There's No Need Crying," and the young ladies would go crazy when he would perform. Charles moved to Philly in the late 60's and in the early 70's he met up with manager and producer Gene Lawson.

Mr. Lawson is best known as Otis Redding's Publicist, and also for recording Teddy Pendergrass, before joining Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes. In fact, Pendergrass sang background vocals on Charles' first recording session. Gene Lawson eventually introduced Charles to Otis Redding who took an interest in Charles's voice, and his writing ability. Otis Redding recorded one of Charles' songs called "Free Me" and wanted to bring him into the Stax record family, but fate would not let it happen. Otis Redding was killed in a plane crash Dec. 10, 1967.

Then Gene Lawson decided he wanted to start his own record label called UpLook Records, and he signed Charlez Mintz as his first artist. The first song was called "Since I Found You" and was written by Mintz. "Give A Man A Break", the second single, was written by Eugene Jones of the Volcanoes. (Courtesy In Dangerous Rhythm)

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Saturday, June 27, 2009


Arlester "Dyke" Christian was born in Buffalo, NY, in 1943, and by the mid-'60s was singing and playing bass with the O'Jays backing band, the Blazers. After a tour in 1965, the band was left stranded in the unlikely--and not altogether funk-friendliest city--of Phoenix, Arizona after the O'Jays could not afford to bring them back to Buffalo.

Relocating in Phoenix, the newly minted Dyke & The Blazers began to come together as a group, with Dyke taking role as the lead singer. The group were discovered by local producers Art Barrett and Austin Coleman of Artco records. The label put out a tune that Dyke had written to go with a dance he had also created called "Funky Broadway". The record had a rapid play in South west and was licensed by DJ Art "Oldies But Goodies" Laboe for his Original Sounds label in Los Angeles in 1966. Many of the musicians on the Blazers sessions would later play in the Watts 103rd Street Band (guitarist Al McKay would later be in Earth, Wind & Fire). According to Original Sound producer Art Laboe, most of the singles came from 15-to-20-minute jams that were edited down to a length that could fit on the 45 RPM format.

After Dyke signed with Original Records, he churned out hit after hit on the label. "Funky Broadway" was so popular that even Wilson Pickett released a cover version of the song and took it straight to the R&B and Pop charts in the summer of 1967. By 1969, Dyke & the Blazers had Top Ten R&B singles with "We Got More Soul" and "Let a Woman Be a Woman -- Let a Man Be a Man," and smaller sellers with "Uhh, " "You Are My Sunshine," and "Runaway People." Dyke Christian, sadly, was fatally shot on the street in Phoenix on March 13, 1971 over a reputed drug debt. Understandably, the band never recovered.

When Dyke & The Blazers sang "We Got More Soul," they MEANT it--you can hear it in their fiery performances. (Biographical information courtesy of Wikipedia and Allmusic)

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Nico Gomez was a Belgian orchestra leader with Dutch roots (born in Amsterdam, came to Belgium in 1947). He had his mark in Belgium where he lead a series of different bands (and recorded under his own name). Active during the 50's, 60's and 70's with latin flavoured big band jazz. Father of Belgian rocker Raymond Van Het Groenewoud.

His best known outfit were the Chakachas who scored a cult hit in the '70s with "Jungle Fever" (on Polydor no less) but he also headed up the El Chicles. There are few Belgium composers from that era with a more consistent track record for straight up funky and Latin-flavored tracks.

Recorded in the early 70s in Belgium, Ritual is a tasty batch of Latin funk grooves, with a deep Afro-soul sound thrown into the mix, and some slight Chicano rock touches, like fuzzy guitar and heavy organ. The conga sound is right up front, and the tracks roll along with a nice heavy funk beat that cuts across from a lounge/library groove to a killing super deep percussion battering vibe.

Here's the classic dancefloor jam "Lupita."

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Another 45 tangentially related to late Kashmere Stage Band director Conrad Johnson, Acres of Grass was a group featuring members from Houston legends TSU Toronadoes. Former Toronadoes drummer Dwight Burns claims the group was pulled together by guitarist Michael Spencer, not in the group, who studied under the tutelage of late Johnson. This gritty guitar-led instrumental (except a few shouts about doing the football, baby) is one hell of a 45.

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Monday, June 22, 2009


Here's a classic deep funk 45 from 1976 courtesy of Bubba Thomas & The Lightmen (moonlighting as an outfit called "Fried Chicken").

The Lightmen originally hailed from Houston, Texas and were led by their drummer Bubba Thomas, teacher of Ronnie Laws, and formerly a student of Conrad Johns who later directed the Kashmere Stage Band.

The track was recorded in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at Deep South Recording Studios. Interestingly, "Funky D.J." is basically a note-for-note rewrite of Earnest Jackson’s “Funky Black Man” from 1974 (again on the Stone label, also produced by Ron Shaab).

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Recorded in September 1969, Jimmy McGriff's LP Electric Funk is, as the title would suggest, one of the funkiest records of his career.

It featured McGriff on organ, Horace Ott on electric piano (also writing the arrangements), and an anonymous band in support. The focus is all on Jimmy; the horns just play background section arrangements that would sound right at home on a Booker T & the MG's record with the Memphis Horns. The album is filled with stuttering drum breaks, lite fuzz guitars, elastic bass, smoldering organ and punchy, slightly incongruous horn charts.

Below, a classic 45 from that record, "Chris Cross."

Friday, June 19, 2009


One of the key innovators in Latin jazz, percussionist Frank "Machito" Grillo fused deep percussive grooves with high-intensity horn sections and work by some of the greatest soloists of his era. His bands of the 1940s were probably the first to achieve a fusion of powerful Afro Cuban rhythms and jazz improvisation.

Machito and His Afro-Cubans, to give the band its full name, was the first black-identified Latin band in New York. They inspired Dizzy Gillespie to create his Afro-Cuban bop fusion, but they're barely mentioned in most histories of big-band jazz -- which tells me jazz history needs rewriting, because they were one of the greatest big bands in the history of American music. This album was originally recorded for United Artists and is also known as Mucho Mucho Machito. Sample any four bars of rhythm section; when the horns drop out, there's space for a whole universe.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Barbara Acklin (February 28, 1944 - November 27, 1998) was a soul singer of the 1960s and 1970s. Her biggest hit was "Love Makes a Woman" in 1968 which reached the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Born Barbara Jean Acklin, she was an only child of Herman and Hazel Acklin. She began singing in church and then as a teenager in nightclubs while attending Dunbar Vocational High school in Chicago. Upon graduation, she was hired as a secretary for a local record label by her cousin, saxophonist and producer Monk Higgins. Her first release was under the name Barbara Allen on his Special Agent label. Later, Higgins used Acklin as a background singer on his Chess Records sessions with artists like Etta James and Fontella Bass.

In 1966, Acklin began working as a receptionist for record producer Carl Davis at Brunswick Records in Chicago. She persistently asked Davis to record her. Davis finally agreed but encouraged her to keep writing songs. Cornering Brunswick star Jackie Wilson, Acklin had him listen to a tune that she co-wrote with David Scott (formerly of The Exciters Band and later to join the Chi-Lites for a time). Wilson liked it and passed it on to Davis. Released in September 1966, "Whispers (Gettin' Louder)" went to number 5 R&B and number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song helped to re-launch Wilson's career and, returning the favor, he helped Acklin to secure a recording contract with Brunswick.

Her 1971 LP I Did It features the classic track "I Can't Do My Thing," which perfectly captures both the funky Chisoul sound and the magic of Acklin's voice.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Soul music does not come much more primal or raw than Robert Jay's "Alcohol, Part 1," an up-tempo guitar blues so tortured in spirit that Jay merits comparison to the legendary tragic blues singer-guitarist from Chicago, Hound Dog Taylor. "This is a true song. I'm an alcoholic," confessed Jay in 2005. "I could play a variety of styles but I loved the blues. Detroit blues was an upbeat style, not like the Motown sound, for me it's just the way I felt it."

A rare 45 if ever there was one, here's "Alcohol Part I" from 1973.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


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Monday, June 8, 2009


Labi Siffre is an English poet, songwriter, musician and singer, whose 1975 LP Remember My Song is well-known amongst crate-digging hip-hop fans trying to get their hands on the track "I Got The..." (which Emimem/Dr. Dre eventually sampled for "My Name Is".)

While trying to become a full time musician, Labi worked in a warehouse, a filing clerk at Reuters in Fleet Street and as a cab driver and delivery man. In the early 60s, in a Jimmy Smith style trio, with Bob Stuckey on Hammond Organ and Woody Martin on drums, Labi, on guitar, played for nine months at Annie's Room, a jazz club fronted by the singer Annie Ross. He then toured as opening act and backing singer for Jackie Edwards, the Jamaican songwriter, soul and reggae star. Labi went on to form another three-piece group called Safari, playing London's Soho clubs. Then, though he didn't play folk songs, his first solo gigs came in Amsterdam at the folk club, Het Kloppertje, and at the then haven of psychedelic hippiedom, The Paradiso.

In 1969, while Labi was working in Amsterdam, friends sent a tape of his songs to the DJ, Dave Cash and music publishers Management Agency & Music Ltd. (MAM). Siffre soon signed a publishing and management contract with MAM. However, since the MAM Records label was not yet in operation Siffre's recordings were licensed to other labels. His first contract was with Festival Records. His recording debut in 1970 was released in the U.K. on the Pye International division of Pye Records. He had a "turntable hit" in 1970 with the single "Pretty Little Girl (Make My Day)/Too Late" which despite being heavily played on Radio Luxembourg never made it to the charts.

By 1975, he had charted some UK singles and had some ace musicians come to his aid: session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan took duties on lead guitar as well as co-producing, Brian Bennett of the Shadows on drums, and Chas & Dave who would become well known in their own right. Considering these players, it's surprising the album wasn't more heavily promoted.

Either way, "I Got The" remains a classic for a reason: great arrangement, awesome players, heavy breaks, and fantastic production. The break comes in around 2:10.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Jimmy "Bo" Horne, a singer from West Palm Beach, Florida, enjoyed some success in the 1970s, recording dance-oriented songs and novelty tracks for such labels as Alston and Sunshine Records. "Dance Across the Floor" was his lone R&B Top 10 hit in 1978, and ultimately became sampled by controversial Gangsta rap group Da Lench Mob for their 1993 song "Freedom Got an AK", as well as by DJ Cash Money & Marvelous in their 1988 song "The Mighty Hard Rocker."

Horne's 1978 song "Let me (Let Me Be Your Lover)" was sampled by the Stereo MCs in their 1992 song "Connected." It has since become a club staple, and holds up thirty years later as a quintessential underground disco-sleaze funk gem.

Monday, June 1, 2009


"Testify, Parts I and II" is a single released by the Isley Brothers in 1964. It is one of two singles to feature a young Jimi Hendrix on guitar, the other being "Move Over and Let Me Dance". Both singles failed to chart. It was their first of three singles from the T-Neck label.

Regardless, "Testify" marked a historic pairing of talent, and yielded a ferocious R&B workout, which is what the Isleys did best--energetic and danceable soul music to the core.