Unfortunately this week’s update is yet again brought about as the result of the passing of another great artist just last night, Mr Billy Paul. Billy (or Paul Williams as he was christened) died at the age of 81 after a battle against pancreatic cancer.
The Philadelphia born singer started out in the early days of his career singing alongside such legends as Nina Simone, Miles Davis & Dinah Washington who were all idols of his. Alongside Gamble & Huff, Paul was credited with being one of the driving forces behind what became known as the “Philly Sound” in the late 60s. Commercial success was to arrive with the colossal worldwide smash hit “Me & Mrs Jones” which netted him a Grammy in the process.
The song I feature for you today was the follow up single to Me & Mrs Jones and proved to be something of a flop by comparison. Paul himself was dead set against releasing the single at the time as he wanted to capitalise on the success of Me & Mrs Jones and felt Am I Black Enough For You? was too controversial a subject matter to follow as his next single. Peaking at just 79 in the US chart, Paul was to be proved right, however the single was to find favour among a very different group of people.
I first came across this track about 15-20 years ago when if featured on a box set that I bought entitled “Diggin’ Deeper, The Roots Of Acid Jazz”. What struck me was how different it sounded to a lot of the other songs on the compilation and it had a vibe about it that made it sound as though Stevie Wonder & Curtis Mayfield got together in the studio and this was the outcome.
With the opening bars of the clavinet particularly reminiscent of some of Stevie’s best work mixed with the bongos and socially-charged lyrics evoking Curtis’ inner-city storytelling, Am I Black Enough.. encapsulated the type of feeling and sound that was dominant in early 70s black America. Still to this day the song sounds so fresh and still does the business in a club and so I’ve featured the full 5 minute version in tribute. R.I.P. Paul and thanks for the music.
Only a couple of weeks ago my update featured a record in tribute to a musician who passed away around that time – A Tribe Called Quests’ Phife Dawg. As seems to be an almost weekly occurence in 2016, I recently heard of the passing of another favourite here at Gazfunk HQ – Jack Hammer.
We have featured Jack Hammer before on the blog some years back with the fantastic Swim which is the flipside of today’s choice. He also produced another one of my favourite records – the very rare “Down In The Subway” which was released as a Sweden only single and is very expensive these days. Sadly, I never turned one up in the days before it came to be out of my reach and I guess I’ll probably never be the owner of that record. Anyway, thanks for the great music – R.I.P.
Before I leave you this week I’d just like to mention my new club night called “Superfly Soul Party” which will kick-off in T13 on Sat 21 May. Check out the cool flyer above – hope to see you there for what promises to be a great night!
Last week I mentioned that I hoped to have my next guest selector ready and I’m delighted to announce that the latest guest to plunder their collections for us is none other than my funk brother (and fellow LFC supporter) Jamison Harvey aka DJ Prestige.
Jamison has earned a reputation as one of the East Coast’s most respected and prolific crate diggers. To this end he details his travels into the world of funk on his excellent blog Fleamarket Funk As well as his blog, he regularly djs around New York/New Jersey and currently holds down a residency at the Leadbelly in New York where he spins all manner of funky 45s. As if that wasn’t enough, he recently gave a lecture to a school in Jersey about dj’ing and record collecting! So with no further ado, I’ll pass you over to the man himself…
My whole philosophy about buying records is that you don’t find records, they find you. So basically, I don’t pay a lot of money for them. The most I’ve ever paid for a forty five is $38, which was a lot for a copy of Mystic Moods “Cosmic Sea”. I actually fond a stone mint white label for a quarter a bunch of years later. But I digress. The record we’re talking about today was one that I had searched for in the field for a long time. It could easily be found on ebay, or discogs, or private sales if I had searched. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to find it in the field. So fast forward to some early Saturday morning at a place in Central NJ we called “The Spot”. I had been digging up gems for years there and writing about the records and the characters who sold them to me. At this point, the cat was out of the bag and ebay sellers, other diggers, record dealers, and general pains in the asses were flooding the fleamarket. It was circus like. No matter how early I got there, there would be people pushing and shoving in front of crates. I kid you not. This particular Saturday morning, my friend and fellow vinyl lover Eilon Paz of Dust & Grooves had come along with me to document this circus. We ended up walking around and finding some decent records. At one point, I see a dealer who I buy from sometimes. In short, he is a bell end. If he didn’t like an offer you made, he would just not sell to you. However, he always had interesting finds, so I was digging through his boxes of sleeved and unsleeved 45s. I picked up a few dollar gems, and then I saw a familiar label. Pink and blue swirls, i always got butterflies and a pit in my stomach when I saw the label. Usually it would be “Do The Thing”, or The Webs “The Thing Called Love”, both good records in their own right. But it wasn’t “Hey Joyce”. The soul banger with the bigger than life drum break. I never saw it out in the field, ever. Well, that day I did. Right there in its unsleeved glory. I scooped it up and put it under some other stuff. Sarcastically I ask; “Hey how much for the unsleeved records?” Dude shoots back “$1”. I paid and couldn’t even get to the end of the row of tables before I call my friend with excitement. Best part, Eilon got a good shot of me in all my excitement. This record never leaves my bag. Ever. Now to just find another for a buck to rock doubles. You never know when a record will find you!
I hope this Tuesday finds you well and in good spirits. Today has been one of the first days of the year that the sun has been out here in Belfast in what has been a bit of a Spring-like day (even though it’s technically British Summer Time) so with that tenuous link, I bring you this week’s selection entitled “Soul At Sunrise”
Ronnie, Norman & Earl were 3 guys who came together to record this rather obscure instrumental groove on the (equally obscure) Volare label out of Philadelphia. I believe this 1970 release to be the only record they cut under this name but Ronnie Baker, Norman Harris and Earl Young did find some fame when they joined forces together as part of MSFB – the instrumental group best known for supplying the theme music to iconic tv show “Soul Train” (titled “TSOP”). That’s about all I know about the guys which is to be expected given the rarity of this particular release. I’m sure you will all dig it anyhow!
Just before I go, I hope to have another Guest Contributor to bring you pretty soon and I will also have exciting news of a new club night that I’ll be hosting in the coming months. Stay tuned!
2016 has been an awful year so far for the passing of legends and last week was no exception with news of the untimely death at the age of 45 of A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg. A Tribe Called Quest are considered one of the most influential hip-hop acts ever with The Low End Theory and People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm widely recognised as two of the best albums ever made in the genre. As a young kid growing up in Belfast, the first “real” music I ever got into was “Golden Age” Hip-Hop and alongside De La Soul, Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, ATCQ were to provide the soundtrack to my youth.
So today we pay tribute to Phife Dawg with a track that provided the basis for one of ATCQ’s biggest hits – I Left My Wallet In El Segundo. We’ve featured The Chambers Brothers before here on Gazfunk, way back at the start of our exploration into the funky in 2010. Not much more needs to be said about them or indeed Phife Dawg other then the world has lost a true innovator and huge influence on modern day music. We salute you Dawg, thanks for the memories and rhymes!
It’s not too often that I get the chance to feature a track on the iconic Blue Note label, due in no small part to the fact that the label specialises in jazz and as I’m sure you are all aware, a big percentage of the songs released on Blue Note last too long to make it viable for a 45 release.
Today’s selection is one such occasion when they put out a song that was able to fit on a 45 and one that is less jazzy and more funky than what is normally associated with the label. This song featured on my latest Soul Party! radio show which, if you missed it, can be viewed again by clicking this link http://livestream.com/belfastunderground/tv/videos/116533727 – I hope you enjoy it!
Shortly after I brought you last week’s update news was beginning to filter through of the passing of arguably the greatest music producer ever, Sir George Martin. As well as his incredible work with The Beatles, Sir George also produced records for the likes of Shirley Bassey, Jeff Beck, Gerry & The Pacemakers and The Action.
To celebrate his work and pay tribute to his genius I thought I’d bring you something of a classic in the shape of Stevie Wonder’s version of We Can Work It Out. Over the years, this track has regularly featured in the best cover versions of all time and it’s hard to disagree. I bought this many years ago when I was just starting out in the world of vinyl collecting and although I don’t play it very often any more I’m still very fond of it due to the fact it brings together my favourite band (The Beatles) and probably my favourite solo artist of all time, Stevie Wonder. What more could you ask for???
Before I talk about this week’s update I just want to chat a little about last Friday’s Soul Party! radio show. I was delighted to be joined by the super talented Mr Adam Gibbons aka LACK OF AFRO who swung by for a chat and played a couple of exclusive songs from his forthcoming new album “Hello Baby”. Adam also treated us to some of his personal favourite funk/soul/mod jazz tracks ahead of his gig in Belfast that night which sounded great.
If you missed the live show, please check it out again at http://livestream.com/belfastunderground/tv/videos/114689376 where you’ll be the first people anywhere in the world to hear the upcoming Lack Of Afro single “I’ve Got The Rhythm” due for digital release on April 1st, with the limited 7″ due on April 15th. The new album should be released sometime around the end of April/start of May, but I’ll let you know when I have the date confirmed.
All of which brings me nicely on to today’s selection. This record was the opening track on Friday’s Soul Party! show and is as good a slice of funky sister soul as you’re likely to hear. Released on the fantastic Checker label in ’69, it has that feel of Aretha/Etta James at their funkiest and is an absolute steal at around £10 for a decent quality copy, so do yourself a favour and grab a copy if you can!!
I first came across today’s group about 15/20 years ago right around the time that I was starting to develop a big taste for funk. I think it was “Chick A Boom”that turned me on to them courtesy of it’s appearance on a compilation that I bought. I was struck by just how damn funky that track was and so I always kept my eye out for any other tracks by the group.
Another record that I later came across (and bought) was “Chicken Scratch” which was the flip of Betty Barney’s “Momma, Momma” (essentially the instrumental arrangement to Barney’s song) by a group called the Chili Peppers who it transpires was another name used by the Pazant Brothers.
And so it comes to this selection, yet another funky instrumental workout by the group and the third 45 by the group that I purchased. If, like me you really dig this record and would like to hear more by The Pazant Brothers than I suggest you check out the compilation put together by Ace Records called “The Brothers Funk” for even more groovy cuts.
Before I leave you this week, I just want to give you a little reminder that this Friday’s Soul Party! radio show will have a very special guest in the shape of Lack Of Afro playing exclusive tracks from his new album live in the studio. Check it out on www.belfastundergroundradio.tv from 6pm U.K. time.
A busier update this week than last week’s effort more due to a few announcements about events I have coming up, rather than a lot of info about the track I have selected! Anyway, last week’s Soul Party radio show is now available to listen again from http://livestream.com/belfastunderground/tv/videos/113097317 and if you visit the Soul Party! official Facebook page you’ll be able to find the full tracklisting. To add to that, I’m glad to say that the next show will feature a very special guest appearance by the super-talented dj/musician/producer Lack of Afro who will be having a chat and playing some exclusive tracks from his new album. Make sure to tune into that one on Friday 3 March between 6pm – 8pm UK time.
I’m also pleased to announce that I will be starting a new club alongside a friend of mine in T13, which is a cool new art space based in the historical Titanic Quarter in Belfast under the shadow of the iconic Samson & Goliath cranes. The launch date will be Saturday 19 March. For more info about the night please visit https://www.facebook.com/superfly.soul.party/?ref=hl and give us a “like” while you’re there!
Finally, on to today’s selection and this is a lovely little piece of funky soul from Georgie Woods. Georgie Woods was a well-known radio dj in Philadelphia who championed the careers of many black artists including Sam Cooke and Jerry Butler and was also one of the first radio djs to play The Beatles.
As well as being known for his broadcasting, Woods was a huge supporter of the Civil Rights movement even at one point organising buses to take people to see Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream..” speech in Washington. Due to his popularity at the time he was able to cut this record which I suppose was something of a novelty track but nonetheless it still carried such a groove and became a minor hit in Philadelphia. Enjoy!