Regular readers of Gazfunk will be aware that I’m due to travel to South East Asia and Australia on Saturday for almost 6 weeks. I’m obviously looking forward to my trip, however it may not be feasible for me to continue to bring you my weekly song updates whilst I’m away but I will try to provide some updates during that time. As I have a number of dj slots lined up, I hope to be able to bring you some pictures of the gigs and fingers crossed, I may even be able to capture some videos which I will upload to my youtube channel and share with you here on the blog.
So onto today’s selection and this song has been influenced by one of the cities that I’ll be dj’ing in during my travels, Melbourne. I’ve already spoken before about how Melbourne has become one of the hottest cities on the planet for nu-funk bands (some of you may remember my interview with The Cactus Channel) and todays band are one of the most important on the Melbourne Scene.
Deep Street Soul’s story started out back in 2006 as a hammond-led instrumental four piece. It was shortly after this time that I heard “Loose Caboose” (their 2nd single) on the Jaycees label and immediately purchased a copy. Whilst the record seemed to be a bit low in the mix, I really enjoyed The Meters style funk and drum sound that sounded like contemporaries Lefties Soul Connection.
The first 2 singles were picked up on by Freestyle Records (one of our favourite modern labels) who immediately signed the band. It was at this stage that they were to release the song I feature for you today, a rousing take on the legendary MC5′s “Kick Out The Jams”. The track featured New York’s Tia Hunter on vocals and was to find immense popularity among the world’s top funk djs. In fact, so good is this version that Wayne Kramer of MC5 declared it the greatest version of the song ever recorded. High praise indeed!!
I hope you dig the track and I’ll catch up with y’all real soon, in the meantime – keep it funky!
This week’s selection is a rather strange affair. When I first heard the song some years ago I had no idea who the guys were behind the track, or indeed what they looked like. Further investigation told me that they were a bunch of Hispanic guys out of East L.A. (you could’ve probably guessed that by how they say “Hector” in the track). It was a song that I didn’t really know how to categorize – to my ears it was funky, but was it a funk record? No. It had elements of latin and pieces of jazz in the mix too and what come out of the mix was a fairly unique sound.
East L.A. had given rise to a number of other bands around that time who were to blend latin, 60s beat and jazz, namely The Blendells (who became known for their cover of Stevie Wonder’s “La, la, la, la, la” and The Premiers who were most noted for their track “Farmer John”). The other notable release from The Village Callers was a cover of Willie Bobo’s “Evil Ways” which has had many covers over the years, however it was rumoured that Santana’s version was recorded as a direct result of their manager having heard The Village Caller’s take on the track.
The song was recorded on the Rampart label – a label that I was already acquainted with due to The East Bay Soul Brass’ “The Panther” which was released on the same label (a record that we’ve already featured on the blog). But who was this “Hector” that is referred to in the song? Well it transpires that it was none other than their manager, the legendary Hector Rivera. Upon realising this suddenly everything started to make sense.
The band cut a highly regarded live LP in 1968 which was to feature a great version of Ray Charles’ classic “I Don’t Need No Doctor” but they disbanded soon after with only the Live LP and 3 singles to their name, but what a collection to leave behind! The band have regularly been sampled in Hip-Hop and their single releases have become so sought after that there were some reissues in recent years, mostly notably on the Vampisoul label.
This week’s track is by an artist that I never knew anything about when I first heard it, but as I listened through the song I recognized the vocals from somewhere but I couldn’t remember where – then it struck me where I’d heard that vocal style before. It was indeed Hermon Bethea – a man that we’ve featured before here on the blog (Maskman & The Agents “One Eye Open”). Of course something more than a cursory glance at the sleeve would’ve told me that it was Billy Clark & The Maskman (the very same Maskman)
The one thing about the cover that would surprise however, is in my opinion it doesn’t really give a fair indication of the funkiness contained within. Looking at the sleeve would lead you to think you were in for an r&b/early soul groove, however what comes from the wax is very different – an instrumental groove that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on a New Orleans Funk compilation. The other strange thing about this record is that to my knowledge it’s only available as a French release – thus making it even more of a collector’s item.
As it turns out Billy Clark used to play the saxophone (and was indeed the bandleader) for The Maskman himself, so it seems that this was a case of role reversal. Clark was by no means a prolific recording artist – in fact I believe that he only released 4 other singles, but this one is surely worth a place in any funk fan’s collection.
A few weeks ago I published details of my upcoming S.E. Asia & Australia tour and I hope to be able to confirm another couple of dates in two more cities, so keep an eye open for that. In the meantime I’ve got a cool poster designed for one of the gigs in Melbourne. You can check it out below (don’t forget, the song clip will below this text!)
With the latest installment of the fantastic Soul Jazz compilation aptly entitled “New Orleans Funk Vol 3″ just hitting the shops, I thought I’d dig into my collection to feature an artist who was heavily involved in the developing music scene in the Crescent City.
Robert Parker was born in 1930 and started out as a saxophonist initially playing with another legend of the N’Awlins scene, Mr Professor Longhair. It wasn’t just Longhair who Parker was to ply his trade with as he joined other well-known musicians from The Big Easy including Fats Domino & Huey “Piano” Smith (it was customary for New Orleans musicians to play on each other’s tracks back in the 60s & 70s)
By the late 50s, Parker was to embark on his own recording career whilst achieving local success with the instrumental track “All Night Long”. However it was as a vocal artist that Parker’s future lay and this culminated in his huge hit in ’66 – Barefootin’. The track I bring you today was released a year later and has a bit of a slower groove than the dancefloor friendly feel of Barefootin’. This cut also featured on the very first New Orleans Funk LP released back in 2000.
Unfortunately Parker was never able to repeat the success of Barefootin’ and his career was to end (recording wise at least) in the 70s. He did however continue to tour where he maintained a loyal following (like so many other soul artists) among the Northern Soul devotees in the U.K.
As Thursday will be 31st October (and therefore Hallowe’en) I thought I’d bring you a track with something of a horror theme. It’s quite difficult to find funk & soul tracks based on such a theme as many are instrumentals, tales of ghetto life or just plain old love songs. I’m sure you’ll dig this selection though.
Today’s track is another one in a long list of artists that I know pretty much nothing about. I can provide some info on the label – Speciality Records, as it may be familiar to those of you who have a penchant for r&b. In fact Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” was released on the label as well as tracks by John Lee Hooker and Sam Cooke. I’m led to believe that this record was one of the last releases on the label (which is hardly surprising when you hear the style of the song)
I don’t want to give too much away about what the song is actually about as like the best films/books it’s best checking out for yourself rather than having someone like me spoiling the plot!!
Before I go, I think it would probably be a good time to provide you with the details of my confirmed gigs during my S.E. Asia & Australia tour in December. Check it out below:
Fri 6 Dec – The Beat Club, Saigon, Vietnam
Sat 7 Dec – The Laundry Bar, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Thurs 19 Dec – The Vinyl Cafe, Phuket, Thailand
Sat 28 Dec – The B-East, Melbourne, Australia
I’m hopeful I might have 1 or 2 other gigs agreed before I go and I will of course update you with any other dates. I’ll hopefully have a tour poster and I’ll add the full details to the DJ Appearances section of the blog.
One of the things about being a big crate digger is that sometimes you come across artists who are full of funk, when you wouldn’t expect it. Today’s selection is a perfect example of that. The surname Shankar is of course well-known in the Indian sitar world and Ananda is the nephew of the most famous of them all, Ravi, who sadly passed away last year.
You would think with an uncle like Ravi as an inspiration that Ananda would have gained all his musical talent through learning from Ravi himself. However it was Lalmani Misra another highly regarded sitar player who was to be the main influence for Ananda’s musical education. A spell in L.A. (where he played alongside Jimmi Hendrix) was to further shape his musical direction and led to the unique East-Meets-West vibe that Shankar was to pioneer.
Today’s selection is of course a cover of the Rolling Stones mega hit and is backed with a cover of yet another immensely popular track from the West, The Doors’ “Light My Fire”. Released in 1970, this was to be Shankar’s only single release until 1977 when an E.P. was released as a tribute to Elvis shortly after his death entitled “India Remembers Elvis” where Shankar reworks The King’s “His Latest Flame” in trademark funky style.
Shankar’s work remained largely unknown outside of India until the late 80s/early 90s when it was picked up by a number of djs/collectors on the Rare Groove/Acid Jazz scene. Because his albums were only released in India, stories were told of how collectors would travel to India with the specific intention of purchasing as many copies of his albums as they could get their hands on in order to sell on for a tidy profit back in good old Blighty!
Shankar’s first 2 LPs (the eponymously titled debut in 1970 & “Ananada Shankar & His Music” released 5 years later) were truly groundbreaking in their sound. Listening to the two records takes you on a psychedelic trip with pounding drums, tabla, mardangam, sitar and spacey Moog. The finest examples of these sounds coming together are to be found on the fantastic “Streets Of Calcutta” and “Dancing Drums” which both feature on the second album.
I urge you to buy the first two records even if you aren’t lucky enough to turn up original copies and have to make do with the reissues as in my opinion they should be filed under “Must Have” and you really can’t get a higher accolade than that.
Most funk records tend to consist of an uptempo groove or feature meaningful lyrics about the ghetto etc (often with the aforementioned uptempo groove). One of the key components of funk is its immense danceability, in fact most genres of music have this as a key aspect. Likewise touching lyrics of love, hurt, despair & anger are all well catered for in the music world. Sometimes though, when listening to music I want to hear something that makes me smile. It’s not too often that music features lyrics that make you laugh, but today’s selection is definitely one that makes me chuckle when I hear it.
This week’s track is delivered to you by the mighty Joe Tex. A former stablemate of James Brown’s at the King label in the mid 50s (with whom he was to endure a long-running feud), Tex was largely credited with bringing Southern Soul to the musical foreground. His recordings at the legendary Muscle Shoals studio, Fame paved the way for many soul artists to work with producer Rick Hall and enjoy commercial success where it had previously eluded them (most notably Aretha Franklin). Incidentally, I recently watched the new film about Muscle Shoals and I highly recommend it.
As you can imagine, today’s tune is a humourous look at America’s infatuation with the chicken. Even the “plucking” of the guitar strings during the track is done to ape the sound of a chicken clucking. The song features Tex’s vocals in his usual “spoken” style (some called it proto-rap, but I’ll leave that up to you to decide). I hope y’all enjoy the track with a smile on your face…
Regular readers of the blog will probably be aware of my fondness for Brooklyn’s Daptone Records label. We’ve already featured the fantastic Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and so this week I’m bringing you another member of the Daptone family, Mr Charles Bradley.
On Friday past I was lucky enough to catch the man himself live in concert at The Empire Music Hall – a former church-turned-venue on Belfast’s hip Botanic Avenue. The band (The Extraordinaires) kicked off the show with a great version of Buddy Miles/Ike Turner’s “Funky Mule”. This was swiftly followed by a cool funk instrumental take on the classic Lovin Spoonful’s “Summer In The City” to get the crowd really pumped. Charles took to the stage shortly after and the rapturous applause he received was almost deafening!
He progressed through the set list with his incredible passion and energy and the band very much on top of their game. Tracks like “The World Is Going Up In Flames”, “Crying In The Chapel” & “You Put The Flame On It” proved to be especially popular among the audience but it was the song that I feature for you today that was my personal highlight. “Confusion” has more of a psychedelic feel to it than the other tracks – I’m guessing that the title and indeed the feel of the record owes quite a bit to The Temptations’ “Ball Of Confusion”. In a live context, the song really excelled.
I was lucky enough to spend some time with the band backstage after the gig and they were very surprised and humbled by how warmly received they were by the Belfast crowd. We spoke about all manner of things Daptone and I was delighted when they confirmed that Sharon Jones is on the mend and they hope that the new album will be finished in the coming months. That’s great news on both fronts!
If any of you aren’t aware of who Charles Bradley is (or indeed his story) I highly recommend checking out the documentary “Soul Of America” which is an incredible insight into the man. The film isn’t without its tragedy but it really is a fantastic, heart-warming story of a man whose passion, not only for music but life in general, burns so brightly and shows that no matter how old you are, it’s never too late to realise your dreams.
This week’s update is probably best filed under “Something Different” Don’t worry – it’s still packed with the funky goodness that you’ve come to expect from us. I’ve touched before on the fact that I’m also quite partial to a bit of garage, psych, freakbeat and 60s pop and the song I bring you today is one where the aforementioned genres are merged with a funk sound to create a funky, psychy instrumental stormer.
The story for Los Pekenikes begins way back in 1959 Madrid. The band was formed by 2 brothers – Alfonso & Lucas Sainz and basically started out as a student band. Fast forward to 1965 and the group were to open for none other than The Beatles during one of their shows in Madrid. The vast majority of their recording career was as an instrumental group and they became quite popular amongst the Euro beat-freaks/collectors by the turn of the millennium.
Apart from the info I have provided above, there’s not a lot more information out there about the band – though I’m sure some of my friends from Europe who are big vinyl collectors could fill in the blanks..
Just a little bit of news regarding our 3rd birthday which is approaching at the end of the year. I’ve already mentioned that I have some gigs coming up in very exciting places, well I can exclusively reveal that I will be dj’ing in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand & Australia during a 6 week period in December. This will be a sort of Gazfunk 3rd birthday tour which I’m very much looking forward to. I will of course update you all of the exact dates & venues once everything is confirmed.
Sometimes when I’m thinking about what song to bring you I have a look through my record collection and listen to a few tracks and pick whichever one grabs me on that particular day. Today’s selection though came as a no-brainer due in no small part to the fact that today would have seen the 83rd birthday of one of the most important figures in the history of popular music – the one and only, Mr Ray Charles.
Much has been written about the great man over the years, and there was the small matter of a biopic of his life in which Jamie Foxx gave an outstanding Oscar-winning performance (incidentally the film was show last night in the U.K.) which went some way to telling the story of Brother Ray’s eventful life. For me to try to adequately tell the story of his influence of not just soul music, but pop music in general would be pretty futile. If you haven’t seen the film yet, I highly recommend doing so as it makes for compelling viewing.
So, with such a huge body of quality work available, it was no easy task to pick one track in particular to feature for you. The reason for this selection is because I remember first hearing it some time ago now (during the time that I was throwing myself head-first into all things mod) and it really stood out for me. It had an undeniable vibe of “cool” and seemed to sum up exactly what I thought “mod” music should be. Sometime later when I started dj’ing (really because I wanted to share some of my record collection rather than because of any financial incentives), this track always seemed to find it’s way into my record case and indeed my sets at the various mod clubs that I would play in. It’s one of those tracks that still remains immensely popular on the mod scene, even today.
So I’d like you all to join me in raising a toast today to the musical genius of Mr Ray Charles. Cheers!