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.
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!
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.
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”