Saturday, 17 December 2011

Lee Moses – Time and Place (1971)

Booker T. High
Here is a true lost figure in the history of R&B. The story starts March 13, 1941 in Atlanta, GA – where Lee Moses was born.  Moses began playing the guitar while attending Booker T. Washington High School for the performing arts.  God only knows how funky that school must have been.

Moses began his professional career during the 50’s in Atlanta playing with a band called The Showstoppers. After gaining local notoriety, Moses met producer Johnny Brauntly in New York around 1965. Brauntly used him as a session guitarist (along with left-handed player named Hendrix) where he cut three singles for Musicor Records in 1967. Time and Place came shortly thereafter in 1971. Backed by his own band called the Desciples (sic) (including members of the Ohio Players) Moses managed to put out his only known full album.

After playing as second fiddle, it’s no surprise that Moses had a lot of pent-up talent. Similar to Bobby Womack’s debut album Fly Me to the Moon, Time and Place shows what happens when you let the funk out of the box. In it, Moses works through a handful of original compositions and covers with the sweat and swagger normally associated with Sam Cooke and James Brown. It’s not that Moses was out to prove himself, but instead the album shows an artist who seems to thoroughly enjoy what he’s doing. His haunting rendition of California Dreaming and truthfully soulful Hey Joe show how talented Moses was. His last known release was a version of the soul classic “The Dark End of the Street” – which can be found on this album. Moses died in Atlanta in 1997 to no fanfare, twitter updates or radio shout-outs. The album coming at you today was put out by Castle Music in 2007 as a compilation of Time and Place and a couple other 45’s Moses put out on the Musicor, Dynamo and Gates labels during the 60's and 70's. It’s a shame his work wasn’t better documented. Either way, his legacy lives on here.

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Also be sure to check out:

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Tedeschi Trucks Band - Revelator (2011)

"She wakes up in the morning / To a kettle on the stove / Peeling wallpaper / House next to a dusty road"

How's that for imagery? It's Sunday which means it's time to cozy up with your headphones and settle in to some wholesome, soul stirring groves. And what better way to do that than with the King and Queen of Southern Rock, Derek Trucks and his wife Susan Tedeschi.

Revelator is their debut album together along with their awesome 11 piece band - the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Steeped in southern gospel and gritty soul with a groove more common to rock, and funk, Revelator will take you on an aural journey to Memphis, Alabama, Texas and New Orleans (look for the hidden track Ghost Light). The album's content seamlessly shifts from blues' about broken hearts to rocking funk jams about movin' on. Something to watch for is the interplay between Trucks' signature Gibson and Tedeschi's Fender - totally different tones. Good thing it's ripped @ 320.

Happy Sunday!

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*I received a request from the IFPI on part of the DMCA to remove this post. If you want a copy of the album, email me and I can point you in the direction of where to find it.*

Friday, 9 December 2011

V/A - Classic Funk Mastercuts Vol. 1

Here's a great compilation of some masterful funk breaks and beats. Featuring artists like The Fatback Band, Curtis Mayfield, The O'Jays, Mandrill, The Blackbyrds and Kool & The Gang, this is a sampler you do not want to pass up.

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Creative Source - Creative Source (1973)

Staying on the West Coast, this next album comes from a super-group of West Coast studio veterans. Managed by former Fifth Dimension member, Ron Townson, Creative Source blends all the smoothness of the West Coast with a drive more common to Motown. Not surprisingly, the album was recorded in Detroit and mastered in LA.

The Creative Source's technical competence allowed them to dabble in various genres. The band even takes a funky stab at Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride". If you're an Earth Wind and Fire fan, this is the album to check out. Especially for the classic, "You Can't Hide Love" - later covered by D'Angelo.

The album contains their even funkier rendition of the Bill Whithers "Who Is He (And What Is He to You)" - which gained the group the most commercial success peaking at #69 on the US Hot 100 charts in 1974. Following this album, Creative Source managed to put out another three albums before loosing their record contract due to lack of sales. Sales aside, the self-titled debut of the Creative Source is a fantastic album and is a nice snapshot of the offshoots of the 5th Dimension.

Can't hide love...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

V/A - Old School Vol. 5 (1995)

Balance is key. For anything in life - which includes my blog. I feel like I've been stuck in the 70's. So I figured it was time to move on up. That's right, we're goin' from the Funk to the Old School. 14 funky fresh tracks that'll make you want to iron your Dickies, put on your Ray-Bans and go cruising in your lowrider - or in my case, a gold '99 Camry. Tracks to look out for include the sugar-coated razor blade "Murphy's Law"and the classic "West Coast Poplock"

Now you're not just knee deep,

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Bill King and Wayne McGhie - Blue Skies

Here's a great clip of Wayne McGhie performing live with Toronto's own version of Dr. John - Bill King. King is the founder and director of the Toronto Beaches Int'l Jazz Fest. His son is Torontonian Reggae/Dub DJ - Dubmatix. From watching this video, you can see where his son probably got his influences from.

Wayne McGhie & The Sounds Of Joy - Wayne McGhie & The Sounds Of Joy (1970)

There’s a reason it’s considered the “Holy Grail” of Toronto Funk. The story behind this album is as amazing as the music itself. It begins in Montego Bay, Jamaica, 1947 with the birth of Wilfred "Wayne" McGhie. McGhie first gained notoriety playing on the Island circuit with the likes of the Celestials, Dizzy Barker, and Jimmy Wisdom. In the 1960’s, after the Canadian Government relaxed immigration policies, the streets of Toronto were no longer solely dominated by the white European, Scotts and Irish. Instead there were pockets of immigrant communities springing up all over the city. The Jamaican community used the West Indian Federation Club located on Brunswick Avenue as one of their cultural embassy’s. Or as Harry Gairey wrote, “We felt it would be some place for West Indian girls to go on their day off.”
This is where Jo Jo Bennett was tasked with forming a house band and where our story begins. Bennet recruited McGhie from Jamaica and after gigging at the WIF McGhie began to rise in local prominence. McGhie’s virtuoso was quickly recognized and found him writing songs like, “Chips-Chicken-Banana Split”, performed by Jo-Jo & The Fugatives and, “Mr. Fortune”, performed by the Hitchhikers – both featured on the Jamaica to Toronto compilation.

McGhie befriended Reggae superstar and co-founder of the Skatalites, Jackie Mittoo – with whom he would later play in a band. Mittoo recorded McGhee’s album at Art Snider’s Sound Canada Recording Center in 1969. (Interestingly enough, Art’s brother, Dave, was the founder of the famous Dave Snider’s music store on Yonge St.) The credits on the album read like a best-of list featuring the likes of Alton Ellis, Ike Bennett, Everton Paul and Lloyd Delpratt. The record was a hit and they knew it. Snider saw potential in the record and made a deal with Quality Music’s subsidiary Birchmount to distribute the album. Everything was going perfectly.

But! Just as Wayne McGhie & The Sounds of Joy was hitting the shelves, there was a fire at Birchmount’s warehouse destroying all remaining copies. After the record failed to initially sell, plans to re-issue it were abandoned and it seemed like this album would be lost to the sands of time.

After the albums commercial failure, McGhie returned to Jamaica and continued to try and produce music. Moving between Toronto and Jamaica, a dissuaded McGhie eventually dropped off the map – both with friends and the broader Toronto music scene. During all this, John Carraro, an NYC record dealer, managed to find a copy of the long-lost Birchmount original and sold it to P.M. Dawn (New Jack Swing duo) for a supposed $300. Side note, copies today go up to $584 USD. As word of the fat breaks and heavy beats on the album spread thanks to DJ’s like Q-Tip, Mr. Supreme, Pete Rock, DJ Sureshot, Buck 65, and Gary G-Wiz (Public Enemy), the album began to gain prominence in the funk world. But where was Mr. Mcghee?

After a chance encounter with Jay Douglas (Torontonian reggae/soul artist), the great guys at Seattle based Light In The Attic Records were able to track him down at his sister's house in Toronto. McGhee looks to be doing well and I’m sure he’s happy that his long lost album is finally gaining the recognition it deserves as the Holy Grail of Toronto Funk.

The album features Everton Paul and J. Joseph on drums. Listen for the distinct bass drum and complementary tight snare and hi-hat in the first four bars of "Dirty Funk". I'm not sure exactly how they recorded it, but the drums have a real punch, and in turn power the rest of the band. Tracks to look out for include the R. B. Greaves cover "Take A Letter Maria" and the feel-good classic "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye". Enjoy.

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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

V/A - Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk & Reggae 1967 - 1974

With the changing seasons comes changing moods. Here’s a nice reprise from the heavy onslaught of Funk and it begins with a brief history lesson. In 1962 the Government of Canada abolished its racist immigration policy and in 1967, the Federal Government of Canada revised the Immigration Act streamlining the system and beginning to more speedily process the backlog of applicants. As a result, Canada received around 225 000 to 275 000 new immigrants annually – many of whom brought with them their rich cultural traditions. At the time, Ike (Jo-Jo) Bennett – a Kingston-cum-Toronto native - was assembling a house band for the West Indian Federation Club located on Brunswick Avenue. With the “Third Wave” of Canadian immigration in full effect, Bennett recruited the likes of Alton Ellis, Lloyd Delpratt and Jackie Mittoo along with McGhie from Jamaica to play with him. The band played at the WIF and served as the cornerstone from which West-Indian culture in Toronto would grow.

Thus begun Toronto Funk and as they say, the rest is history – which I will leave for you to uncover. This album was compiled by Canadian artist and curator Sipreano and the great folks at Light In The Attic Records in Seattle. It features 16 tracks by 12 different artists – each bringing their own unique blend of funk, soul and reggae. For an interesting article about the history of West-Indian Torontonian culture, check this out.

I believe in music
I believe in love...

Monday, 5 December 2011

Hoctor Records Presents – Jazz On The Road - 12 Special Arrangements For Jazz Dancing

Context – how important is it? I can tell you that the sexy lady on the cover is Robin Hoctor and that she was supposedly in Las Vegas when that picture was taken, but that's about all I can tell you about the album. The following is an example of how sometimes, context really is not that relevant. Not much is known about this album. It was produced by Hoctor Records – a now-defunct record company from Waldwick, NJ – who specialized in dance instruction records.

It was made some time in the 1970’s by a group of musicians who never got credited. At this point, you’ve got to wonder, could the same company that produced records like “Music for Ballet” and “Basic Pointe Class” produce a Funk album? The proof is in the pudding and I’ll let you decide. Enjoy this little experiment of eating with your eyes closed and indulge in this un-marked piece of Funk education history.

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Sunday, 4 December 2011

Neville Dickie - Boogie Woogies Fantastiques (1975)

This album physically has all the elegance of a French pressing. But, when the needle drops, whatever illusions of Parisian refinement you once had are quickly shattered and are replaced with the sounds of a rowdy 1930’s Kansas City. Well, not quite. But it’s somewhere in between the two. I’ll explain.

The album is by Neville Dickie – an Englishman – but to fully appreciate what he’s playing, it’s important to understand where the Boogie Woogie he’s playing came from.

It started in Kansas City in the early 1930’s. The town was run by mayor Tom Pendergast who allowed for after hours gambling and prostitution. A town full of vice and sin. And a town with a wickedly awesome music scene.

 Known as “Barrel House Music”, Boogie Woogie music was distinct from it’s cleaner progenitor Swing in that it featured a dirtier-driving left handed stride pianist with a right hand that would make ladies quiver. There was however, a reason for it. The Boogie stride piano was an evolutionary response to the environment in which the music developed. ‘Barrel Houses’ were normally associated with mines and served as the local watering holes. One of the most popular of which was the Sunset Cafe - which played host to some of the best Boogie players in the Mid West. In such an environment, the piano had to be loud and abrasive to cut through the raucousness of the bar. As a result, Boogie features a lot of piano solos while the rhythm section just holds it down. Solid as a rock.
The Café Society

 Boogie Woogie eventually made it’s way north to New York in the late 1930’s and found a new home at the Café Society – a centre for the local intelligentsia. From there it made it’s way across the Atlantic to Britain – which is where Neville Dickie – the artist on this album was from. Dickie was a member of the RAF and moved to London after his service. He played in bars and eventually grew to prominence on the British airwaves after being discovered by BBC Radio 2 director Doreen Davies.

Original Cover
This album was initially released in 1975 as Back to Boogie but was rebranded and re-titled as Boogie Woogies Fanstastiques to cater to the French audience. Covers often betray a lot about the intent of the distributors and this case is no exception. Why wouldn’t the French distributors just re-title it in French and keep the original picture?

On the original British issue, there is a picture of Dickie on the cover (who is White). The French audience was known to be very fond of African American Jazz musicians - who in turn enjoyed the relative lack of racism and the appreciation the French showed towards their art. From what I’ve seen, when it comes to race, album art, and record distribution, record companies tended to not feature African American musicians on the covers of records they were trying to market to White audiences. Remember, the Boogie on this album is far removed from the nitty-gritty boogie of 1930’s Kansas City and has instead been highly refined in the sterile studios of the BBC. If a record company did decide to feature the African American artist on the cover, it would show the artist playing to a predominantly white audience (Stevie Wonder My Cherie Amour, Joe Houston Rock and Roll with Joe Houston). In this instance, it may very well have been the exact opposite.

The French knew their shit and knew what was hot. They had an affinity for the African American jazz musicians because of their distinct African American style. The record-execs knew that Dickie's record was good stuff, but may have thought that the French audience would be reluctant to accept it if they saw a White guy on the cover. I think the record company did not want the audience to know that Dickie was white in order to boost sales and add legitimacy to their product. Dickie sold 100 000 copies of the album upon it’s initial release in the UK and it’s quite possible that French distributors sought to capitalize in France by re-marketing the same hit-seller with a different cover.

That being said, Dickie had played with famous French pianist Louis Mazetier before and therefore, it is likely that he would have had some exposre to the French audience.

For all I know, maybe the distributor decided to scrap the original cover because it was too dull for his French pallet. Who knows? Either way, Dickie swings hard.

Tracks to look out for:
·      “Saint-Louis Blues” – Great halftime breakdown in the middle.

Event - Steve's Vinyl

The records we listen to tend to reflect the type of people we are. You could call it a aural mirror of sorts. Let's be honest here, we're all narcissists at heart and we love our records because we can associate with them. They make us remember things about ourselves that no one else can. They're our sonic double. 

When I make the trip to the next world, I know I definitely don’t want my hard-earned vinyl’s going to a bin in the Salvation Army. So what do you do when you’ve got a deceased loved-one’s record collection to disperse? Throw a party!

This was one of the problems Cathy Busby faced when her brother Steve, died in December 1993 from an AIDS related illness. He was born in 1953 and was only 40 when he passed away. The event consisted of 200 of Steve’s vinyl’s showcased on an 8-colour paneled wall. It was set up in such a way that you would buy a ticket and be entered into a draw. When your number was called, you would choose one of Steve’s disks and after you took it down from the wall, you would draw your own rendition of the cover in its place. The event coincided with World AIDS week and all proceeds were donated to the AIDS coalition of Nova Scotia and the Khyber Centre for the Arts. Busby was hoping to raise $500 for each cause respectively.

The casual warm environment afforded me the opportunity to meet Steve’s sister and the organizer of the event - Cathy Busby. When I asked her about Steve, she described him as, “someone who really loved life”. I asked Cathy why she decided to hold the event and she called it a metaphorical spreading of the ashes. She wanted to make sure that Steve’s vinyls were going to people that would appreciate them, and she also wanted to have an event that would honour the memory of her brother. She said, “It’s nothing if people don’t come and choose a record.” From looking at the number of people who showed up, I’d say she was certainly successful. After the initial excitement and nail-biting over who was going to get what subsided, everyone began to loosen up. I won't scar you with pictures of my renditions of their covers, but I was very happy with my two finds - Bob Marley's Natty Dread and a French pressing of a Boogie Woogie record (which I'll post shortly). With great music being spun all night by DJ Al Barbour, an open bar and a tasty local selection of hors d'oeuvres, it wasn’t long before people were 'dancing the night away' to Steve’s vinyl.

Buddy Miles - A Message to the People (Update)

The album A Message to the People has proven to be a popular download. I've decided to scan and upload better quality pics. Let's face it, what music library is complete without high quality album art?

African Hand Drumming

I'm currently taking an awesome class - the 'Art and Science of African Hand Drumming'. As part of our exam we have to listen and label a bunch of songs. I've decided to share some of these (particularly the latin ones) because they're just so damn funky.

Djambabies unite

Buddy Miles - More Miles Per Gallon - (1975)

Last summer, me and a buddy were driving home from a breakfast on Queen East when I veered the car off to the right and announced that we had to check out the sidewalk sale we just passed. Reluctantly, my buddy joined me and in amongst the lame Quincey and Merle Haggard I came across this treasure. Unsure of what it was, I remember not listening to it right away, and I remember how much I regretted waiting after putting on the platter. I get the same feeling listening to it now as I type. More Miles Per Gallon, was released ~4.5 years after A Message to the People, and it shows in Miles' style. It's less psychedelic/Hendrix-esq and more straight ahead. I'm not sure if he was trying to conform with the more straight ahead dance rhythms of the late 70's (Boogie, Disco) or if he just decided to tone down the flamboyance. That being said, Miles still beats the hi-hat like it was his bitch.

The title of the album suits the content as it's a great disc for driving. Nearly every track is upbeat and features a funky bass line. Miles starts the album strong with the two power tracks "Rockin' and Rollin' On The Streets of Hollywood", and, "Do It To Me" - a thinly veiled reference to booty calling your ex. The album continues to chug along until the 7th track "Livin' In The Right Space" - a soulful ballad shmeared in reverb and fluffy love. It stays weak after that but whatever's lost at the end is made up for by Miles's solid drumming and tight band.

Strutt your stuff mama

Friday, 2 December 2011

Buddy Miles - A Message to the People (1971)

Since I'm already on some Electric Lady Studios 'ish, I figured I'd put up another funk classic cut by a friend of Jimi's. This album comes from the, "Baddest of the Bad" when it came to drummers. I'm not referring to his technical ability but instead to his ability - simply put -  to kick ass on the throne.

Buddy Miles's A Message to the People was released the same year that Hendrix died which is significant as it was with Hendrix's Band of Gypsys that Miles first started his professional career. However, I'm not sure if A Message to the People was released after Hendrix's death or before. Tracks to look out for include, "The Segment +" and his sinfully soulful version of "Midnight Rider" - which has enough reverb to make Rudy Van Gelder jealous. The album artwork was done by Abdul Mati - the same genius who did Santana's Abraxas and Miles Davis's Bitches Brew. So check it out and remember that when "lust and fire have faded away, fantasies and moonbeams have the day"

That's the way life is...

Mandrill - Mandrill Is (1972)

This may be Mandrill's sophomore album but it shows that they are no amateurs. Each track is solidly rooted in hard pounding rhythms and funky horn harmonies. The group was originally formed by three brothers: Carlos, Lou and Ric Wilson from Panama. They grew up in Brooklyn which served to influence their musical style, fusing soul with latin and rock to make a unique breed of funk. Tracks to watch out for include the hard driving "Ape Is High", and the cosmic "Universal Rhythms".

The album is rich in cosmic mysticism and features some great harmony's and beats. Both the A and B sides end with solid closers - "I Refuse to Smile" and "The Sun Must Go Down" respectively, leaving you wanting more. The album was recorded at Electric Lady Studios in NY between December '71 and March '72 and is a great showcase of the sounds coming out of NY at the time. Rumour has it that Hendrix himself was supposed to play with the group (before his premature departure).

I remember hearing this album for the first time at Kops Records in Toronto and it blew my mind. I hope it does the same for you.

Here today, gone tomorrow....

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Brothers Johnson - Look Out For #1 (1976)

This album is so funky it should be used to help the elderly rehabilitate broken hips. Haha I know, ok joking aside, this is a seriously funky album draped in the smoothest of grooves with rhythms and bass licks that dive deeper than Marianas trench. Brothers Louis “Thunder Thumbs” on bass and George “Lightnin’ Licks” on guitar were first ‘discovered’ by Quincy Jones in February of 1975.
Edward Eckstine (former president of Mercury records) recalls Quincy saying, “These are the two baddest cats I have ever heard” In the liner notes he writes, “When they walked into the studio and started to play I could not believe my ears. Louis, the younger of the two is 20. He picked up the bass and started playing in a matter of ten seconds the entire studio was silent, with all eyes on him.”
This album captures the virtuosity of the two brothers at the very beginning of their professional career. It is raw with badass bass lines, sultry guitar licks and of course it has that special ‘Q’ treatment (crunchy synths, potent hand percussion et al).

Quincy was recording Mellow Madness at the time (1975) on which the Brothers ended up writing four of the songs. Interestingly enough, prior to joining ‘Q’, the Brothers cut their teeth while touring the States as a sideman with Billy Preston.

Songs to look out for include the hard driving Get The Funk Out Ma Face and the Hendrix-esqe Land of Ladies. Not surprisingly Look out for #1 reached #1 on the US R&B charts and #9 on the US Pop charts. It is a fantastic debut album that is a must have for anyone trying to groove or just rehabilitate their hips. As the Brothers themselves say, “Thunder Thumbs and Lightnin’ Licks gonna get to your soul in ’76!”

V/A - Florida Funk 1968-1975

I figured I’d start it off with a bang and give a little more. Here’s another nice piece of Florida Funk. It's a compilation put out by Now Again Records of Florida Funk classics from 1968-1975. If the picture alone doesn’t sell you on it, I don’t know what will. It’s nice to contrast this to the Little Beaver (featured on this album as well) as it shows the diversity of the funk scene in Florida. If there’s one theme that underlies it all, it’s the nitty-gritty sweaty-swamp soul that fills the room after you push play. Do not delay, get 'er right away!

Little Beaver - Party Down (1974)

As the inaugural post for this blog, I figured it was appropriate to use one of my favourite albums from the 70’s soul era. Little Beaver – aka Willie Haley – was born in the, “jewel of the Delta”, Forrest City, Arkansas in 1945. His mother gave him the nickname Little Beaver because of his teeth and it seemed to stick with him for the rest of his career. Hale started at an early age, moving from Arkansas to Florida in the early 1960’s to pursue a music career. The move forced him to fuse his swampy funk with the refined Bauhaus elegance of Miami and he managed to get signed to the Cat label – an offshoot of the Disco giant TK Records.
Hale’s rise to fame was gradual and peaked in 1974 with his hit “Party Down” which reached #2 on the US R&B chart. Unfortunately, the soulful vocals and smooth arpegiated chords that made Hale such a hit in the 70’s  led to his commercial demise in the 80’s, during which time, his music failed to compete with the dance-floor oriented Disco that was being produced. Regardless, Party Down has carved out a spot in the soul cannon and cannot be ignored. Enjoy!