Regular readers of the blog will probably be well aware that one of my favourite styles of music is female funky soul. That cross between the funk music with a soulful lady’s vocals is a marriage made in heaven. Today’s selection is one such track that perfectly illustrates the sound I’m talking about. The kind of groove we got going on here reminds me of the voice of someone like Loleatta Holloway mixed with the funkier soul side of someone like Etta James. For any of you who listened to my guest appearance on NTS radio last week, this was the second track that I played.
Alder Ray Mathis was born Alder Ray Black and performed in two rather obscure soul groups called “The Buttons” & “The Delicates”. She was to cut only 1 record under the name Alder Ray Mathis (this one) however she did release some tracks under the name “Alder Ray” & her birth-name (Alder Ray Black). This particular record was released in 1970 and was co-written by none other than Mr Vernon Garrett – the other writing credit goes to someone called Larry Mathis (I’m guessing this was her partner and that’s where the Mathis surname came from). There’s not much other info about her that I’m aware of (as is often the case with the more rare 45s)
Before I go, I just want to let you know that since it’s been a while since I’ve lat had a guest contributor, I’ve been badgering some friends to dig in their crates for something for me to feature. I hope that I can have something for you in the next few weeks. In the meantime, enjoy today’s groovy soul sister!
Well that was another excellent weekend in old London Town! Friday night saw us travel to the legendary Ronnie Scott’s to see The James Taylor Quartet perform a rare gig which was most enjoyable before a trip to Madame Jojos for The Good Foot. Saturday night we ventured to Peckham for the hugely popular South London Soul Train at the Bussey Building for 3 rooms of all manner of soul & funk. Sunday morning was my guest appearance on Dr Krueger’s House Call radio show – you can listen again if you missed it here: http://www.mixcloud.com/NTSRadio/house-call-7th-september-2014/
So, on to today’s selection and this one is a little bit rare though when you hear the song it’ll sound like something that you think you might’ve heard before. I say that because in my opinion it is very reminiscent of the Jackson 5. Anyone out there who is a fan of Lil B (I’d be pretty surprised if any of my readers were a fan of his if I’m honest) will recognize the track from his 2012 release entitled “Surrender To Me”
I don’t know an awful lot about the group, save for the fact that they started out in Harlem in 1969 as a vocal group featuring Leroy Burgess who became a fairly prolific writer/producer on the 70s & 80s disco scene. This particular selection was released in 1972 and was the b-side of the record – something not uncommon to us here on Gazfunk. The group continued to record right through to the mid 80s before a comeback album was released in 2011 after the band got back together for an oldies tour.
Before I start talking about today’s chosen song I have an admission to make -Northern Soul is a genre of music I’ve never been particularly keen on. I know it’s hugely popular and has had a particular renaissance in the last few years but I’ve found that I’ve had to wade through a massive amount of rubbish to find one decent tune. I know plenty of people who are huge fans but I’ve always been more excited by the rawer, and dare I say it more “black” sound of funk.
Despite that, I do still own records that would fit under the “Northern” tag and today’s selection is one such track. This song has been huge on the Northern scene for a long time and the intro is a killer which still sounds fantastic blaring out of a good sound system. It is a bit more on the funky edge of Northern Soul in comparison to something like “Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me” by The Tams or “At The Top Of The Stairs” by The Formations.
This will be one of the few times I’ll post a “Northern” tune so any fans out there crank this one up and backdrop your way around the living room!
Before I go, I just want to let you know about a guest radio show appearance I’ll be doing this weekend. I’ll be spinning some records on my good buddy Dr Kruger’s “House Call” show this Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on London’s NTS Radio. You can access the show online by clicking this link http://ntslive.co.uk/
I have quite a number of records in my collection that have been recorded to advertise specific products/brands (you may recall some time ago I featured The Ivor Raymonde Orchestra’s “It’s The Real Thing” which was used by the Coca-Cola Corporation). These range from one-sided promos for Finnish jeans, to EPs advertising obscure tobacco brands.
This particular record is one of my favourites and the product in question is no doubt very familiar with our American cousins – the slurpee. Recorded in 1970, this song was a free giveaway by the 7-Eleven stores and whilst most were probably used as coasters/frisbees, some of them made their way into the collections of funk djs.
It was to be DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist who gave the track a new lease of life when it featured on their legendary “Brainfreeze” mix/compilation in 1999 and catapulted it into the box entitled “must have” for funk collectors. There’s not much more needs to be said about this record, so crank up those speakers and dance the slurp, y’all!
O.k. so I’m bringing you something a little bit different this week in the form of this record. I’d probably suggest that this track fits in more with a jazz vibe than something soul or funk, but variety is the spice of life, right?
I first came across this song around 15 years ago when it was featured on one of the excellent “Blue Juice” compilations. I always liked the Blue Note stuff but what grabbed me about those comps was that it wasn’t just all jazz there was the library style groove of Brian Bennett, the soulful vocals of Lou Rawls and the psychedelic jazz fusion of Ananda Shankar with his unique East-Meets-West vibe. Hidden away on the collection was this little gem. I was already aware of Bill Doggett through his immensely popular “Honky Tonk” but outside of that, I didn’t really know a lot about him so I set about finding out.
Doggett’s musical career started way back in the 1930s as a pianist before moving on to become and arranger and a highly proficient hammond organ player. His biggest hit “Honky Tonk” was released in 1956 and sold a staggering 4 million copies. It became arguably the biggest selling instrumental r&b track ever. His success lead to him becoming a bandleader for some of the biggest names in jazz music including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie & Ella Fitzgerald.
The song I bring you today was released in 1967 and is a different sound to that which people had come to expect from Doggett. It has a slow groove, with some nice hammond work and a cool little bit of saxophone action. Funky jazz probably best describes the vibe and although it’s entitled “Funky Whistler” it doesn’t actually have any whistling in it! So sit back, relax, put the feet up and enjoy the cool laid back groove of Bill Doggett. Nice!
The last couple of week’s tracks have been somewhat on the slower, more groovy side of funk, so I decided that today’s selection would return to something a little bit more raw (& faster), and what a tune it is! I’ve spoken before about the fact that I have a considerable amount of hammond screamers in my collection and this record must be one of the finest examples.
From the opening few bars you just know this is going to be a scorcher and it just doesn’t let up! The organ on this one is very heavy and there is a little bit of a garage rock feel to it, so I guess it would be equally at home at a mod or funk club (modfunk perhaps??) I think I’ve only heard it played in a club once or twice in my life which I think is a damn shame as it’s dancefloor gold in my humble opinion.
As is the case with many great funk records, the funkier track all too often appears as the b-side. This is yet another example of the case in point with the A-side being a totally uninspiring cover of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away”. I always recommend flipping all 45s over and at least listening to the b-side once as I have regularly found the added bonus of the record I’ve just bought being a genuine “double-sider”.
So crank up the volume on this one and get ready to dance around your living room!
Tomorrow night I’ll be going to see one of my favourite groups (and a band that really struck a chord with me when I was very young) – Public Enemy. They’re playing a 300/400 capacity venue in Belfast and I imagine it’ll be a fantastic gig in such an intimate setting. I did see them before – almost 10 years ago, also in Belfast so it will be interesting to see how they compare from then.
I therefore decided this week’s song choice would tie-in with their show but given that they have sampled so many tracks over the years, the challenge was deciding which one to pick. Funky Drummer by James Brown was just a little too obvious but it felt only right that I select something from J.B.’s stable especially considering his influence on the band (not to mention how often they sampled his tracks!).
The song I plumped for then was Gimme Some More. I remember hearing this in the late 90s when I was just starting to collect funk records and I loved the groove that it had. It’s not the heavy, frenetic sound that you associate with other JB’s compositions but it has a constant groove that remains timeless. You can tell that this was a band at the absolute peak of their powers (which I’m sure they had to be to avoid a fine from James Brown!!!)
The record I bring you today has something very much in common with last week’s selection – it’s one that I rarely play out (in fact I’m trying to remember if it’s ever made it’s way into one of my sets). This isn’t due to it being too well-known/overplayed but more because it’s not really something that fits too well within my usual vibe. Anyone who has seen me dj before will attest to the fact that I generally like to play uptempo dance floor destroyers – I figure if you’re at a club, you should be there to dance otherwise you should sit at home and listen to the slow burners on your stereo!! That’s why this doesn’t work it’s way into my set – it’s just too mid-tempo.
However, just because it’s mid-tempo that doesn’t mean it isn’t good (or indeed funky) because this has the funk (and attitude) drippin’ from it. It’s a kinda role reversal from how people are perceived to be these days. The rise of black culture has led to many people trying to be black, however back then Grady’s song was about the opposite problem – black people trying to be too white!
Anyone who knows anything about Grady Tate will be aware that he made his name in the music business due to his skills behind a drum kit – in fact some people consider him to be one of the greatest ever stick-men in jazz circles. Certainly the artists that he has performed with reads like a who’s-who of the jazz world’s finest, from Jimmy Smith, Lou Donaldson & Miles Davis to Nat Adderley, Grant Green & Dizzy Gillespie, you name them he’s played with them. He also enjoyed a career as a solo artist of which this track was the highlight.
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!
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.