Before I crack on with this week’s update, I’d first like to take the time to say a big thanks to Greg Belson for his excellent guest selection last week. I know Greg’s been very busy with various things so we appreciate the time he put aside to contribute to the blog. I hope to have even more guest contributors over the next few months and with a bit of luck some more interviews with a number of legendary funk artists during the year, so stay tuned!
I guess some of you may be thinking I’m losing my mind with this week’s update, featuring 70s rocker Meatloaf. Well, I’ve probably mentioned before that many artists who are known for other styles every now and then come up with something that gives an insight into their inner funkiness! This is definitely one such case.
Stoney & Meatloaf cut 2 singles and one album in the early 70s after Meatloaf was signed to Motown. The Rare Earth label was set up as a subsidiary in the late 60s and the focus of the label was to move away from the classic Motown sound and instead featuring more rock orientated white artists like Rare Earth. This record showcases the strong vocals that was to become such an intrinsic part of the sound that was to lead to Meatloaf becoming a global superstar in the mid to late 70s.
It’s been a little while since I’ve been able to bring you a selection from one of our funky friends but we’re back with a bang this week as our latest guest contributor is the one and only, Mr Greg Belson.
Greg began collecting records in 1984, initially exploring the “Hip-hop” genre with artists like Public Enemy, Tuff Crew, D.O.C., Just Ice & Schooly D dominating his record collection. It was always gonna be a natural progression to investigate where the samples actually came from so by 1988, soul, funk and jazz had properly taken flight. Labels like Blue Note, CTI, Kudu & Strata East, artists like Minnie Riperton & The Rotary Connection, David Axelrod & Eddie Bo all became instant mainstays. In 1990 he started the much lauded “Urban Soul” sessions with DJ Vadim (Ninja Tune/Jazz Fudge/BBE). By 1994, Greg & Keb Darge joined forces to launch the legendary club session that has become a brand name in “Deep Funk”.
After around 15 years of dj’ing across the U.K. Greg relocated to Los Angeles in 2006 where he regularly spins at “Funky Sole” at The Echo on Sunset Boulevard. DJ appearances around the States include the “Emerald City Soul Club” in Seattle, “Soul Togetherness” in Chicago, as well as dates in New York, Detroit and all across California. 2011 saw the launch of “The Divine Chord Gospel Show” which has gained a global fanbase with dedicated listeners tuning in worldwide. Greg has continued funking floors all around the globe for the best part of 25 years and in 2014, he embarked on a 46-date European tour taking in nights all over the U.K., as well as Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Holland and Italy.
We’re delighted that Greg has taken time out of his busy schedule to dig into his collection and showcase a brilliant piece of rare black music with us. Mr Belson, it’s over to you…
“Thanks so much to Gary for giving me the opportunity to write some words about a funk 45 that’s currently residing in my playbox.
I’ve been exploring the world of gospel and it’s harder more soulful, funk oriented recordings for the last 20 and some odd years. It was a conscious decision I made after hearing DJ Snowboy play Clarence Smith’s ‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless child’ on Gospel Truth, back in 1993. The moment totally stayed with me along with the thought of starting to explore more gospel recordings that could certainly crossover into clubland territory.
And so it began.
Searching for 45’s that often never found the light of day out of their own local ministry, let alone had any kind of state wide distribution. The hallowed nationwide distributed recordings were saved for the select few like The Staple Singers or artists that made it into the Peacock, Checker and Songbird labels. In an attempt to grab a bigger audience, many artists would take a popular secular song of the day, and essentially ‘gospelize’ it. Some tracks like Florida Spiritualaires ‘I remember when’ on Ernie’s Record Parade, basically took the entire riff of The Intruders ‘Cowboys to girls’ on the Gamble label, and repackaged it for a gospel market. There are countless examples of this occurrence and the harder you dig, the more you’ll discover.
My offering here is one such recording by Shirley Finney…..her version has stayed pretty true to the original recording by Sly & the Family Stone, written by Sylvester Stewart. This take was released by a gospel label out of New York circa 1971, by a gospel oriented artist. The production is rough and ready and includes a mighty, mighty drumbreak for the dancefloor. Shirley had recorded a few singles prior to this release, which were issued at the beginning of the Jas catalogue around 1968. As a label, Jas were starting to wind down by 1971, and by the following year, they had closed up shop entirely. This release is heading towards the end of an era, but yet, it really is as tough as they come.
Ms Finney later went on to record some incredible discs for the much famed and far larger co-operation, Savoy label. Let Google be your friend and have a look around for some of her work on those two LP’s released in ‘76/’77. Whilst the production is distinctly more modern and some might say disco, the tunes are powerhouse dancefloor cuts worthy of any forward thinking club”.
One of my favourite things about digging for records is that every now and then you can turn up quality sounds somewhat unexpectedly – today’s selection is one such case. To be more specific, this is one of those occasions where the funk makes an appearance on a track that would be mainly thought of as a “blue grass” sound with it’s fiddle and banjo but was cleverly mixed with funk (hence the “black grass” title). There is very heavy breaks on this one and in fact it featured on a compilation entitled “Ultimate Breaks & Beats” released back in 1986 which comprised of a number of songs that became huge favourites among b-boys. Normally when I play this out, I speed it up a little to make it a bit more dancefloor friendly, but I’ve featured the 45 at it’s original speed today.
BadBascomb is probably a name that few of you would be familiar with, however the man behind the band is in fact WilburBascomb who became popular among funk collectors for his excellent song “Just A Groove In G”. There’s not really a lot more to say about this record but everybody’s got to get some black grass…
It’s all too rare these days that I dig into my collection and pull out a record that takes me back to the days when I was heavily involved in the mod scene, but today’s selection is one such occasion. In recent years I’ve found myself drifting further and further away from the mod scene for a variety of reasons – the reticence from some to progress beyond the obvious Small Faces/Who/Paul Weller and well-known Northern Soul & Motown tunes and the fact that in some quarters it has moved on to an almost exclusively r&b playlist. Now don’t get me wrong – I really dig my r&b, however when nights feature just the one genre of music it tends to put me off a little and becomes somewhat “samey” after a while. This has of course led me to follow a more funky route and embrace more experimental sounds and genres as well as becoming a bigger fan of psychedelia. I’ll always be a mod at heart (and still dress that way) but I’m happy to have broken free of the constraints of the scene.
So anyway, on to this week’s featured tune. This was something that I first heard on David Holmes’ Come Get It, I Got It mix album/compilation a number of years back. As soon as I heard it, it just screamed out the word “cool” in capital letters! I had always had a soft spot for funky jazz, but this was what would be more apporpriately described as mod jazz and I absolutely loved it! It kinda reminded me of a song that was used as the theme music for the “Film..” tv series in the U.K. that was hosted by Barry Norman. The track in question I later found out was by an artist called Billy Taylor and the song was called “I Wish I knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” – which became an unofficial anthem for the U.S. civil rights movement and was later covered by Nina Simone. Where “Up Above The Rock” differs is the drums which could very easily be used as a break in hip-hop – the “hey” part of the song was later sampled in The Wiseguys’ “Start The Commotion”.
Just as I write this update, news has just reached me of the passing of the legendary Mr Don Covay. We featured Mr Covay here on the blog last year and it’s with great sadness we learn of his death. May god have Mercy on the Overtime Man. R.I.P.
We’re moving towards the obscure side of funk with this week’s track, which of course means that it’s a song and artist that I know next to nothing about. It seems that this one is a bit under the radar for a lot of funk collectors as it’s not one I’ve ever heard played out anywhere, or indeed any reference made to it on social media etc. Like many funk records (and indeed tracks that I have previously featured) this is the b-side, with the a-side being a cover of James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s World”.
Released in 1971 and clocking in at around the 2 minute mark, this is one that is very catchy and perfect for a club with a great sound system. I’m sure you’ll dig it – and maybe after this it might work it’s way onto the wantslist (or indeed) playlists of some of the other funk djs!
As an aside – I’m doing a bit of work preparing for our next guest contributor and I hope to bring you something in the next couple of weeks. Say tuned – you’ll really enjoy this one!!
We’re bringing you a little taste of the old with the new here on the blog this week (in more than one respect). The song I feature for you today is a new take on an old classic featuring the legendary vocals of Sidney Barnes mixed with the cream of today’s nu-funk bands, Speedometer.
This was a record that I purchased during my trip to Vienna over the summer. I bought it from my buddy Jorg – who runs the excellent RecordShack store in the city. As you can see from the picture this was released on the RecordShack label and was something of a long-term project that finally came together last year after a number of years of planning. If you buy the 45 you’ll be able to read the story on the back of the record.
So what is different about this version? Well, I’m guessing most of you already know the original release by Nolan Porter which went on to be hugely popular on the Northern Soul & Mod scene in the U.K. It’s mod credentials were further enhanced when Paul Weller covered it for his Studio 150 album, released in 2004. I have a bit of an admission to make though – I’ve never been a huge fan of either version. Maybe it could be a case of familiarity breeding contempt but it’s never been a track that’s really grabbed me. However, this take is much more to my liking. There’s a nice piece of organ in there and some really cool flute action going on that really lifts the track to make it an overall lighter, more uplifting version.
I’d definitely recommend purchasing a copy of the 45 as I think it’s important to support smaller labels as much as possible – oh and the flip side of the record is also well worth owning! Enjoy!
I’m returning to the Crescent city this week for a track that certainly ranks up there as one of my all-time favourite funk records. Released in 1969, this one was like many N’awlins records, the work of the legendary Eddie Bo. The Soul Finders were Bo’s studio band who featured on many of his compositions and even managed to cut a couple of albums of their own which featured covers of well-known soul tracks including a fantastic version of Lou Rawls’ excellent “Dead End Street”.
Carbo’s career started out way back in the early 50s alongside his brother in a vocal group called The Spiders – success wasn’t very forthcoming although they did have a top 10 hit on the U.S. charts with a song entitled “I’m Slippin In” and a couple of r&b chart hits. Fast forward to ’61 and Carbo who had recently left The Spiders was to embark on his own solo career working on tracks written by two of New Orleans most legendary artists – Allen Toussaint and Mac Rebennack (aka Dr John). The third of the “holy trinity” that Carbo joined was of course Eddie Bo but this was to be a very short relationship and upon the breakup of their partnership, Carbo took on menial jobs to keep his family.
For any of you that dig this record and would like to own a copy I should just advise that it’s not too easy to come by these days on the Fire Ball label but it was released on the Canyon label which is slightly easier to source. Whilst not exactly expensive in the realms of record collecting, a decent copy would still set you back £100+ so worth bearing in mind. However if owning an original 45 isn’t something that bothers you, I’d highly recommend buying the New Orleans Funk compilation where you’ll find this and plenty of other excellent New Orleans tunes.
Happy New Year to you all – I trust you all enjoyed the festive period. January always seems to be the most unpopular month of the year with people returning to work from their holidays not to mention the bills coming in due to a bit of over indulgence in spending over Christmas. One of the other things about January is of course New Year’s resolutions. I’m sure some of you will be thinking of going on a little diet after having enjoyed one too many turkey dinners in December (not to mention too many chocolates!!). Others of you might be thinking of going off alcohol for a while or indeed cutting out smoking. Well that’s where today’s musical selection comes in!
Yes indeed – this track is all about the perils of smoking cigarettes. It’s a bit of a light-hearted take on the subject talking about the damage one of the band members is doing to himself and others due to his heavy smoking. Strangely, I have two different versions of this track but I can’t really tell the difference between the two! They are both called “The Cancer Stick” but the other version is by The Americans of ’71. I don’t know why this is – perhaps there was a change in the line-up of the band from one year to the next and this led to a name change – who knows?? Anyway – I hope you all enjoy and best of luck to anyone who is quitting smoking.
With Christmas over, your favourite funk & soul blog has taken the opportunity to undergo something of a makeover. It’s important to keep things fresh and I hope you’ll appreciate the changes I’ve made to the blog (within the constraints of wordpress of course!!). I’ve kept the format broadly similar to what you’re used to so that it’s still easy to find your way around & check out all the various features. I hope y’all dig it.
I hope to be able to add new features to the blog and bring you more regular interviews as well as more guest contributors during 2015. In addition to this, I plan to have more dj slots during the year so you might be able to check out the Gazfunk groove in a live environment. But that’s all for later, so let’s just concentrate on the here & now.
The track I feature for you today is one of the newest additions to the Gazfunk collection. It’s become more and more rare as time goes by that I find funk & soul tunes that I dig which I haven’t heard before and I don’t mind admitting that this record is one such case. Sometimes I’m surprised at the cost of which some records sell for (and it’s normally surprise in a negative sense!) but this was one that proved to be a nice little bargain (for once!!).
So what do you get? Well this is a wah-wah driven instrumental monster that reminds me of the music in Sharon Jones’ “Stranger To My Happiness” and to use that well-worn phrase is “perfect for the dancefloor”. So get your dancing shoes on and have a great New Year whatever you are up to – I’ll see you on the other side! Gaz
A friend of mine was recently asking for suggestions of Christmas songs that were soul related and it got me thinking about some of the tracks in my collection. Now I’m sure absolutely everyone with the slightest interest in soul music will be well aware of Clarence Carter’s “Backdoor Santa” – heck, it was even sampled by Run DMC in “Christmas In Hollis” and covered by our favourite Dutch funksters, Lefties Soul Connection.
Among others we’ve got James Brown’s “Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto” from his Christmas album and Stevie Wonder’s excellent “What Christmas Means To Me” but aside from some of the more obvious Motown Christmas tunes there’s relatively few Christmas soul records that get played on radio,tv or even at club nights.
So, with us only being a few days away from the big day I thought I’d bring you a record that you may not have heard before. It’s arguably the most Christmas soul record there is especially given its title!! I’m guessing that this song was released around ’68/’69 but I know little about the artist so I couldn’t be so sure!
That just leaves me to wish all my readers a very happy & soulful Xmas & New Year.