Rhythm Heritage – Theme from S.W.A.T.

Rhythm Heritage - Theme from SWAT

Today’s selection is a track that I literally haven’t heard in years and probably haven’t played out myself for even longer. When I was first getting into funk many, many moons ago this was one of the “go-to” tracks at the time. O.k., so it’s not quite as well know as something like “Shaft” or “Sex Machine” but it was still widely known in funk circles. However in more recent years it seems to have disappeared from playlists (maybe that was due to it being overplayed at the time and it could be worthy of a bit of a revival!)

I’m sure some of you are wondering just what “S.W.A.T.”actually was. Well it was a tv show that ran for 2 series in 1975/76 and was produced by that well-known and prolific writer/producer, Aaron Spelling. Based on an actual LAPD SWAT team it was a pretty violent show which caused controversy with the SWAT team who were depicted in the programme.

What seemed to be the main thing that people liked about the show was the very funky theme tune. You can just imagine that the writers commissioned a band to make a cool, groovy mid 70s instrumental track. Well, they certainly succeeded as the song reached No1 on the Billboard Hot 100!! Think of the Starsky & Hutch theme and you are close to the type of sound displayed on this one.

By the way, just a quick note to let you know we now have a dedicated Facebook page – you can check it out here https://www.facebook.com/gazfunkmusic Please drop by and give us a “like” Cheers! 

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Bobby Womack – California Dreamin’

Bobby Womack - California Dreamin'

Wow! That was another great trip around Europe going to a number of places that I’ve never been to before. Probably the highlight of the whole trip for me was the Daptone Super Soul Revue at the beautiful Vienna State Opera. I know they are near the end of their tour but if they are visiting your town, you have to go see them. Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones, Antibalas, Saun & Starr and The Sugarman 3 all on the same bill!! It was like a modern-day Motown/Stax tour!!

I was also able to indulge in two of my other favourite pastimes when I was away – record diggin’ & clubbing. Both of which I have to thanks Jorg Recordshack for, from his cool record store (Recordshack) where I unfortunately didn’t have enough time to truly hunt for records (though I did pick up a few things – as much as my hand luggage would allow!!!) to his Summer of Soul party, I was treated to some great sounds. If you’re ever in Vienna by sure to drop by and say hello to Jorg.

Unfortunately another gig that I was meant to go to was cancelled at the last-minute – Madness! (literally!) It was to be their first gig in the city in something like 30 years but was postponed an hour or so before the concert was due to start leaving a lot of people very disappointed. My mood had already been on a bit of a downer when I had earlier heard the sad news of the passing of one of the absolute legends of soul music – Bobby Womack. So the gig cancellation was most unwelcome!!

There have been many things written about Bobby Womack over the years and plenty of documentaries made about the man so rather than try to compete with any of them, I think it’s best to just let his music do the talking. This track is one of my favourite Womack songs (well it’s not exactly his song, but you get my drift) as it just has an air of effortless cool about it and is for me, the perfect summer vibe. R.I.P. Bobby, you’ll never be forgotten. 

 

 

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The Golden Toadstools – Silly Savage

The Golden Toadstools - Silly Savage

The track I bring you today is one that I first heard back in the late 90s. I’m not 100% sure where I heard it first – it was either via the rather excellent radio show called “Here Comes The Night” on Ireland’s Today Fm (living in the North I used to be able to pick it up on my little radio) or during one of my regular trips to London and Keb Darge’s Legendary Deep Funk night at Madame Jo-jo’s. Either way, it was a song that left a lasting impression on me.

It was around this time that my record collecting really started to become a passion and “Silly Savage” made it’s way to the top of my wishlist (which was growing larger by the day!!) Fortunately I was able to acquire a copy relatively quickly & quite cheaply and it started to become a regular feature in my sets at the various mod nights that I used to dj at back then.

As is the case with records you dj with, they soon start to fade out of your sets due to the purchase of newer records and the fact that the audience starts to become too familiar with them (not to mention other djs getting hold of a copy and playing it on a regular basis!) It’s therefore become something that has drifted out of my playbox and I probably haven’t played it “out” in about 5 years. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good track – in fact I would probably describe it as a classic and the aforementioned Mr Darge featured it on one of his “Deep Funk” compilations from a few years ago so you know it’s gonna be one hell of a funky workout.

I’m heading off on another little trip this weekend for a couple of weeks to Austria, Hungary & Slovenia (another one, I hear you say!!) so it’ll probably be unlikely that I’ll be able to bring you any updates while I’m away. I do hope to bring you another guest contributor a few weeks after my return, so stay tuned for that! 

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Jorge Ben – Se Manda

Jorge Ben - Si Manda

With the football World Cup having just started on Thursday, I thought I should bring you something from my collection that celebrates the vast musical heritage of the country where the tournament is taking place – Brazil.

One of the things that disappointed me most about the opening ceremony was the fact that the organisers saw fit to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars having Jennifer Lopez shake her ass for a few minutes and some guy called “Pitbull” mumble along (whoever the hell he is) rather than showcasing any one of the vast range of talented artists from Brazil. Well today’s selection is an appreciation of one of the very finest to come from Brazil, Mr Jorge Ben.

Jorge Ben (or Jorge Duilio Lima Menezies as he was christened) was born in Rio in 1945. He first became interested in music at the age of 13 and by age 15 had joined a local choir. His big break came in 1963 when he was playing at a local club and a record executive from Phillips spotted him and signed him immediately. One week later his debut single was released – “Mas Que Nada” Most people probably aren’t aware that it was Jorge Ben who wrote the song as Sergio Mendes’ version became the most well-known version before the truly awful Black Eyed Peas take on it.

Ben continued to record right through to the new millennium and during that time release almost an album every year as well as writing and recording tracks for other artists. Ben is still performing to this day at festivals around the world so if he turns up at a music festival near you, I highly recommend going to see one of the genuine legends of Brazilian music. 

 

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Jackie Wilson – Hum De Dum De Do

Jackie Wilson - Hum De Dum De Do

This week I bring you one of the heavyweights of soul music and one of the artists largely credited with taking the traditional sound of r&b and creating what became known as “soul” music, the one and only “Mr Excitement” – Mr Jackie Wilson.

Now, as much as I’m all about the lesser-known soul & funk artists it’s hard to ignore the contributions made by those pioneers of the black music scene and they surely deserve a tribute as much as anyone else. To that end, it would be easy for me to have featured any one of Mr Wilson’s huge hits from his vast back catalogue (including “Reet Petite”, “I Get The Sweetest Feeling”, “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher”) but those tracks have all been featured extensively on other blogs and radio shows over the years. This selection is one of the lesser-known singles that gets relatively little spins and is still easily purchased for peanuts.

Throughout his career Wilson recorded songs in a vast array of styles including r&b, pop, doo-wop,rock & roll and crooner style easy listening. But by the time of the mid/late 60s he was in full-on soul mode and today’s track is arguably the funkiest of all the records he cut around this time. I could probably detail Wilson’s personal life (both good and bad) but I guess the story of his life would probably be better served as a motion picture rather than condensed into a blog post. Suffice to say, for all his faults Jackie Wilson ranks for me as arguably the most exciting performer in black music (alongside James Brown) with one of the most distinctive voices in music.

So crank up the volume on this one and understand why he was so deserving of the title “Mr Entertainer” 

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The Jackson Sisters – I Believe In Miracles

The Jackson Sisters - I Believe In Miracles

The tune I bring you today can probably be best described as a bona fide classic. This record became huge on the Acid Jazz/Rare Groove scene in the late 80s/early 90s and since then has been reissued many, many times. My first introduction to it came around that time as well – however it wasn’t as a result of hearing it in clubs, I was introduced to it by way of it being sampled on a hip-hop track that was a particular favourite of mine back then.

Mc Duke was the artist in question - a British rapper from the East End who became one of the pioneers of the British Hip-Hop sound. Duke (as he became later known) was probably best remembered for “I’m Riffin’” which was a minor hit in the U.K. charts. It was however his 1988 single “Miracles” that really grabbed me and had me searching to find out just what the groovy music sampled was called. Now remember, this was in the days before the internet so it wasn’t that easy to find a reference point to tell you who had sampled what (not like today when you can just visit sites like “whosampled.com”)

Fast forward a number of years to when my record collecting habit was in full swing and The Jackson Sisters’ original made it’s way to the top of my wish list. After quite a long time chasing a copy, I finally managed to pick one up for quite a reasonable price (original copies these days aren’t easy to come by and regularly reach £100+). The song itself just has such a great groove about it and would be just at home in a funk club as it would at a more “disco” night. Now I must admit – I’m not at all a fan of disco, however this is probably the one tune that has a disco feel to it that I actually like – that shows you how good it is!!

I’ve already talked about this record being the original sample on Mc Duke’s “Miracles” which may have led you to believe that The Jackson Sisters was the original release, well some of you may be aware that even this was a cover of a track by a guy called Mark Capanni. So rare is the original that Jazzman Records reissued it on 7″ a few years back. 

 

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The Five Stairsteps – Ain’t Gonna Rest (Till I Get You)

Five Stairsteps - Ain't Gonna Rest

Greetings all – I hope my friends & readers Stateside had an enjoyable Memorial Day yesterday and those based here in the U.K. had a great Bank Holiday. Any extra day off from work is to be welcomed even if it means getting stuck into some D.I.Y. or housekeeping!!

I spent part of yesterday tidying away some of my records and that was how I came across today’s little beauty. It’s easy to forget you have certain tracks in your collection and I’m sure some of you collectors out there have (like me) even ended up with duplicates of the same record. I’m fairly certain however that this is the only copy I own of said record.

I imagine anyone who has even a passing interest in soul/funk music will have heard The Five Stairstep’s huge hit single “Ooh Child”. There have been many cover versions to date and it has been featured in many tv shows and even made an appearance in one of the biggest selling video games of all time (I don’t need to tell you which one!!) and a few years ago was ranked No 392 in Rolling Stone magazines “Top 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time”

Whilst “Ooh Child” is probably the only track many people will be aware of (and they have in the past been rather unfortunately labelled under the “One Hit Wonder” title), the band actually released close to 20 singles during their career of which this one was a minor R&B hit in 1967.

The group’s name came from the fact that their mother thought the children all looked like steps when lined up beside each other according to their age. Their musical career began with an introduction to Fred Cash of The Impressions, which led the group to start working with the legendary Curtis Mayfield who immediately signed them to his Windy City label before moving on to Buddah Records after Windy City folded. The band were nicknamed “The First Family Of Soul” a title which was later to be bestowed upon the Jackson Five.

Clarence Burke Jr sadly passed away almost a year ago to the day with the cause of death unknown, however the group’s legacy still lives on to this day. 

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Gladys Knight & The Pips – I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Gladys Knight & The Pips - I Heard It Through The Grapevne   So I’m back from my trip to London and I had a great time as usual. The main reason I was there of course was to see the mighty Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings at The Roundhouse. It was my first time seeing the group and they certainly didn’t disappoint! Sharon’s performance was fantastic and what made it even more impressive was the amount of energy she was able to give to the show despite her very recent illness.

The next day I somewhat unexpectedly became aware of a Motown exhibition in the nearby Proud Camden in Camden Stables. This was a pictorial showcase of Motown through the ages and their numerous visits to Britain beginning way back in 1965 right through to the early 80s. Many of the photos are previously unseen and are available to buy, however their price exceeds my budget so I was more of an interested spectator than buyer.

These two events have therefore provided the inspiration for this week’s selection. As everyone knows, Gladys Knight was one of the biggest stars on the Motown label and during her show, Sharon Jones paid homage to her with a rousing cover of her take on “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. Now I’m pretty sure everyone on Earth has heard Marvin’s version but what surprised me was how few people knew of Gladys Knight’s. What makes it even more surprising is the fact that Glady’s version was actually released a year or so before Marvin’s classic (and a year or so after Smokey Robinson’s rejected version) and is therefore the “original” release of the song, something that many are unaware of. It’s hard to compare it to Marvin as his is one of the great soul records, but Gladys certainly puts her own stamp on it and produces something a little more uptempo & “funky”. Enjoy!! 

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The Mighty Imperials – Thunder Chicken

The Mighty Imperials - Thunder Chicken

The last/next few days will see me going to concerts of 2 of my favourite acts – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings & De La Soul. De La Soul played their first ever Belfast show last night celebrating 25 years since the release of their critically acclaimed debut LP “3 Feet High & Rising”. Unfortunately Mase (or DJ Maseo as he’s now known) couldn’t make it but Posdnuos & Trugoy still managed to “move the crowd” (Eric B & Rakim reference for you there!!). Suffice to say it was great to finally be able to see such a legendary group and in my hometown as well!!

I’ll be travelling over to London on Friday to see the fantastic Sharon Jones at The Roundhouse. Again, I haven’t managed to catch the group live as yet (they’ve never played Northern Ireland) so it’ll be exciting to see them in concert for the first time, especially with the release of their fantastic new album “Give The People What They Want” which hit the shelves at the start of the year.

So the Sharon Jones gig has influenced my music choice for this week but since we’ve already featured the excellent Ms Jones before, I’ve decided to go with another act from the Daptone stable – The Mighty Imperials. The unique thing about the band was that they were mostly around 16 years old when they cut their debut LP (Thunder Chicken). Upon listening to the album (and this track in particular) you would think it was the work of seasoned pros but alas it was 4 teenagers. There’s no doubt there’s a heavy Meters influence in here – but then there’s nothing wrong with copying the best!! Enjoy! 

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Johnny Pacheco – Acuyuye

Johnny Pacheco - Acuyuye

It’s been a while since I last featured something from one of our favourite labels here on Gazfunk – the mighty Fania. This week’s selection is a track from one of the heavyweights of the label, Mr Johnny Pacheco.

Pacheco’s story was to start way back in his early years growing up in the Dominican Republic where his father’s career as a bandleader in the “Santa Cecilia Orchestra” had a profound influence on the young Pacheco. Upon moving to New York City at the age of 11, his interest in music grew further still where he learned to play saxophone, flute, clarinet, accordion & violin. His time at the Juilliard School of Music afforded him the opportunity to study percussion.

With all this experience then, it was little wonder when he joined forces with the legendary Eddie Palmieri’s latin orchestra before organizing his own orchestra – “Pacheco y Su Charanga” in 1960. The group were to last around 3 years, however during this time they became the first latin band to headline at the iconic Apollo Theatre.

Upon the breakup of his orchestra, Pacheco was to come together with Jerry Masucci to form Fania Records. It was to be at Fania where he was to enjoy huge success as the label went on to set the standard in latin music and became the face of the latin sound around the world. He wasn’t finished there though – 1968 saw the formation of the “Fania All-Stars” which featured at one time or another Larry Harlow, Bobby Valentin, Willie Colon, Mongo Santamaria, Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente & Joe Bataan. What a line-up that would’ve been to see live in their heyday!! 

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