Zodiacs – Don’t Change On Me

Zodiacs - Don't Change On Me

Before I talk about this week’s selection I want to give you a little bit of info regarding a few things I’m working on. I’ll have a couple of gigs coming up over the next month or so and when the posters/flyers are finalised I’ll be sure to advertise them here. I’m also trying to piece together some dates for an upcoming tour of the U.S. in September – if you know of any nights/venues in San Francisco, San Diego or New York please drop me a line. I’ve one or two other things that I’m working on and it will be very exciting if they come off – but I can’t reveal any details until it’s all agreed, so watch this space!

Anyway, on to today’s selection and there isn’t much to say about this record other than the fact it is a monster funk tune!! This one is highly sought after by the funk djs and has had a reissue on the Tramp label recently due to the high price for an original and the fact that it rarely comes up for sale. This is probably one of my most valuable records and something that I luckily managed to buy for substantially under the normal selling price (lucky me!!)

Unusually for me (and probably most records), the “Hey Rough Nut” A-side is the instrumental track and it’s the b-side (with singing!!) that is the one I much prefer. Also rather strangely, this has become quite popular on the Northern Soul scene – I guess it’s one of those funk records that crosses over to both scenes. This may be part of the reason for the high value – thosegoddamsoulboys!!

Charles Whitehead – Between The Lines

Charles Whitehead - Between The Lines

Our selected piece of funky wax this week comes to you via two of the most highly respected names in the funk & soul world in the 60s & 70s – Mr Clarence Reid and the one and only Swamp Dogg (a.k.a. Jerry Williams Jr). Charles Whitehead is the singer on this funky soul number offering advice to brothers out there who fear their woman has been cheating on them.

Whitehead’s story begins in 1942 way down South in Franklin, Virginia. In 1968 he made the move up North to New York to chase his dream of becoming a singer. Upon meeting Swamp Dogg, they hastily put an album together in 1970 on the Canyon label entitled “Raw Spitt” a politically aware social commentary on the challenges facing young black Americans.

The record I’ve chosen for you today didn’t feature on his debut LP as it wasn’t recorded until 1972 nor was it included on 1973’s eponymously titled follow-up album “Charlie Whitehead & The Swamp Dogg Band”. However in spite of this, you’ve still got a worthwhile piece of funky soul. You can pick up this single for around £10 so for me it’s a no-brainer! Whitehead released one final album in 1977 called “Whitehead in Yellowstone” before drifting off into obscurity. Hopefully this track will at least revive a little bit of interest in his career!

Baby Huey & The Babysitters – “Mighty”, “Mighty” Children (Pt II)

Baby Huey - Mighty, Mighty

This week’s update features a man who only had a short time in the music industry but left a huge legacy during that brief time. Tragically he was to pass away at the criminally young age of 26 after a heart attack that was linked to his drug addiction.

Huey (real name James Ramey) was born in 1944 in Indiana before upping sticks and moving to Chicago at the age of nineteen. As the result of a glandular disorder, his weight ballooned to around 350 pounds which presented many health problems, but in spite of this Huey was starting to gain a reputation for himself as a stirring singer of huge promise. It was around this time that his stage name came to being – so named after a cartoon character of the same name.

The Baby Huey & The Babysitters name was born and the band put out a number of singles which received local acclaim. After a few years playing locally, Huey decided to take a different path following the popularity of psychedelic soul acts (namely Sly & The Family Stone) and went through something of an image overhaul with a huge afro and donning traditional african robes.

In 1969 a meeting with the Curtom label’s arranger, the legendary Donny Hathaway was to prove the turning point for his career. Hathaway convinced Curtis Mayfield to come along to a show to watch Baby Huey and Curtis was so impressed that he offered to sign Huey on the spot….. but not the Babysitters. Despite his reservations about the band an album entitled “The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend” was recorded in 1970, however Huey’s addiction to heroin had ensured he put on even more weight and it was this that led to his early death a few months later.

“The Living Legend” was released posthumously and featured a number of Curtis Mayfield compositions as well as a fantastic cover version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” which showcased Huey’s incredible voice at it’s majestic best. Despite the album’s failure to become a commercial success at the time, many years later hip-hop stars were to plunder the album for samples and funk aficionados starting dropping tracks from the album into their dj sets. These days an original copy is worth quite a bit of money but even if you can’t afford an original, there are reissues which are very affordable and I would implore you to invest in a copy to dig the massive talent that was Baby Huey.

The Classitors – Gettin’ T’Gether, Man

The Classitors - Gettin' T'Gether, Man

Every now and then you manage to find a copy of a track that has been on the wants list for quite a while and it fills you with a sense of satisfaction. Today’s record is one such example. What makes this purchase even more welcome is paying substantially under the going rate and realising that not only have you ticked off a long-term want, but you’ve also landed yourself a bargain in the process (I’m  sure this is something that the record buyers among you fully understand!!)

I’ve seen that this song has featured on the Northern Soul scene over the years which seems a little bit of a surprise to me as I consider it a bona fide funk record (just listen to the break about 1 minute in for confirmation!!)Maybe that may explain why it’s become “in demand” and fairly valuable over the years… I don’t happen to know much about The Classitors (or indeed Tyrone who is credited on the flip) but I do know this record was released in 1970 from a pretty small record label out of New Jersey.

I’d advised cranking this one up and preparing to engage in some serious hip-drops!

The Chili Peppers – Chicken Scratch

Chili Peppers - Chicken Scratch

Today’s selection continues on from where last week’s choice left off, with a banging funky dancefloor tune. Whilst last week’s platter was very much on the side of funky soul, today’s is one hell of an instrumental groove. Some of you may have heard this track before – it is essentially the music that was used in Betty Barney’s “Momma, Momma” but of course with no vocals, the instrumentation is a lot higher in the mix.

This has become pretty tough to track down an original of these days, however if you so desire you can pick up a copy courtesy of our friends over at BGP where you get not just one but two stonking tracks (the aforementioned “Momma, Momma” by Betty Barney on the flip). It’s also available on the BGP comp “Superfunk Vol 4″ if you want even more bang for your buck! However, if you’re just like me and prefer your o.g’s then you’ll just have to dig a little harder in order to turn one of these guy’s up!!

The Chili Peppers are probably a name that means nothing to you – in fact, I’m not aware of any other release under that name, but I do know that the band are actually another act well-known in funk circles – The Pazant Brothers. If you dig this groove and want to check out more tracks by this group I recommend starting off with “Chick A Boom” and digging from there!

Henry Ford – I Love You, And Need You

Henry Food - I Love You, And Need You

This week’s selected track is one that itsn’t too well-known and because this blog is all about bringing you under-appreciated/rare funk & soul, it inevitably transpires that there is little information about some of the artists. Some of you might think it’s a blessing that you are saved from my weekly ramblings every now and then however! Therefore this post will be pretty short & sweet…

Since I don’t have anything really to say about this record (apart from letting you know that it’s a storming funk tune!!), I’ll just take a little bit of time to let you know about another couple of mixes that I’ve uploaded to my mixcloud page. One is rare sitar funk and the other is a selection of some of my favourite Brazilian tracks from the 60s/70s. You can follow the link to the page here www.mixcloud.com/gazfunk where you’ll find plenty of other mixes including guest mixes I did for radio stations etc

Kool & The Gang – The Frog

Kool And The Gang - The Frog

We’re returning this week with a track by arguably the most well-known group I’ve ever featured here on the blog, however I guess this particular track may be one that isn’t familiar to all but the biggest funk fans among you. This song was cut as the b-side to the single “Good Times” which was the title track of their 5th studio album of the same name. Initially starting out life as a song called “Electric Frog” (of which there were 2 parts) on their previous LP entitled “Music Is The Message”, it was renamed and released as the flip to Good Times.

What we get here is Kool & The Gang at their absolute funkiest. Most of you probably remember the band for hits like “Cherish”, “Ladies Night”, “Celebration” and “Get Down On It”, however the funky seeds were sewn a good 10 years previous when the group formed back in 1968. Alongside James Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic & Sly Stone, they were considered to be one of the pioneers of the funk sound that was to become so prevalent during the late 60s/early 70s. Songs like “Funky Stuff” & “Jungle Boogie” became hugely popular on the funk & rare groove scene of the late 80s and have both featured extensively in films & music compilations.

Like many bands of their era, their line-up changed many times over the years but they can still occasionally be caught performing at different festivals around the globe. The strange Moog-y type vibe and bongos mixed with that funky flute that you know I’m a big fan of, makes this one hell of a groover! Dig!

Syl Johnson – Different Strokes

Syl Johnson - Different Strokes

So…… I’m back from my trip to Krakow and just about recovered enough to be able to bring you this week’s update. If you’ve never been I highly recommend it – plenty of things to see & do and if you are visiting from the U.K. or the U.S. you’ll notice how much cheaper everything is than back home. I don’t want to go into too much detail about it as this is a funk & soul blog – not a travel blog!!

On to today’s song selection and this is probably one of the most well-known tracks I’ll ever feature on the blog as it’s been very popular among soul & funk collectors for quite a few years now and has been sampled in a number of hip-hop tracks over the years too. The inspiration behind this choice came about as I’ve been confirmed to dj at the “Different Strokes” event in Manchester in early September – you can check out the event details here: http://www.soul-source.co.uk/soulforum/calendar/event/39870-different-strokes-2-room-special/

I’ll do a very quick bio on Syl as he’s been responsible for so many songs that he’s either written/produced for himself or other artists that to go into detail would take a lifetime!! His first single was released in ’67 and entitled “Come On Sock It To Me” which went on to become a top 20 R&B hit. His 2nd single was today’s choice and also made the R&B top 20 which yielded a string of other R&B chart hits though pop success was to elude him unfortunately.

General Crook – Do It For Me

General Crook - Do It For Me

Apologies for being a little bit later with my update this week – it was my birthday yesterday and I took some time out to relax and have some nice food and a few beers so I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to try to put a blog post together!! I’m going on a little break to Krakow this weekend to celebrate properly so that’ll mean next week’s update being a little later too as I don’t return home until late on Tuesday. I’m sure you’ll manage for a few days somehow…

So – on to today’s select cut. Now I have to admit that tracks that have a James Brown style vibe about them normally make me switch off – it’s not that I dislike J.B. (far from it), I just think too many records are very formulaic and just miss that magical ingredient that the Godfather had in spades. Today’s song is one such rare occasion where there is an undoubted J.B. flavour goin’ on (not least in vocal style) but the track is still good enough to stand up in it’s own right – maybe it’s the additional strings on the record but I’m not 100% sure, it just works.

This record was released in 1970 after Crook was dropped from the Capitol label where he had released 2 45s that flopped. The Down To Earth label was based in Chicago but seems quite obscure as I don’t think I’ve ever seen another 45 on the label apart from another couple of Crook singles. His stay with Down To Earth only lasted for 4 singles before he moved to join the Wand label where he was able to cut his own LP for the first time in 1974. If you can track down a copy of the album it’s well worthwhile and has a great photo on the cover. So go on, do it for me, make it funky now…

Divine Light Assembly – The Right Way

Divine Light Assembly - The Right Way

It’s a Bank Holiday today so to celebrate I’ve got something very special for you to get your ears around this week, an extremely rare new piece of dancefloor funk courtesy of the “Divine Light Assembly” a.k.a. my good buddy Fatshoolaces.

After slaving away on this track for what seems like years (but what was in reality probably only a few months) we finally saw a limited private press drop through the letterboxes of the lucky few a number of weeks back. Mixing an uptempo funk instrumental with spoken word gospel preachings we’ve got ourselves one heck of a groove going on here and a record that has started to gain serious recognition from some of the world’s biggest funk collectors.

However, there were only 200 copies pressed and once gone they will not be available again so don’t sleep in! I have been advised that there a very limited numbers still available to buy, so if you are interested in a copy, follow this youtube link and register your interest in the comments section of the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWHE3rAggTY As I said, this one is starting to go big so don’t miss out as it could be worth 3 figures in a matter of months and you don’t wanna end up peeved when it becomes as rare as hen’s teeth!

Following on from this release I should just tell you that I will be dj’ing this Friday night in Belfast as part of the second installment of “Revenant”  – a new monthly event showcasing the best local bands & djs. The first one was held at the start of May and was a great night with a live performance from “The Echo Raptors” and Ghost & myself providing vinyl only dj support – this week’s edition promises to be just as good with live music from “The Couth” and will be the only place in Northern Ireland that you will be able to hear the aforementioned “Divine Light Assembly” in a club, so worth attending for that alone! You can visit the official Revenant facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/revenantbelfast and I’ve attached a copy of the poster below. So enjoy the track and I hope to see some of you on Friday! Revenant Flyer 29 May


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