Monday, 9 January 2012

Funky! The original 2001 mix: track by track

1: Orac Switch On / Orac Working / Orac Switch Off - Richard Yeoman Clark & Elizabeth Parker
This track is from "BBC Sound Effects Number 26 - Sci-Fi Sound Effects" and is by the Radiophonic Workshop. I had used this vinyl LP in my DJ sets since I had first began back at Ravensbourne Art College in the 1980's. Orac of course was the ship's computer thing on Blake's Seven. I thought he was an annoying little git with a condescending tone, but I always liked the noises he made.

2: Shirts - The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
The Bonzo's have always been and always will be a great source of entertainment. Viv Stanshall was one of the truly great British eccentrics. Check out his masterpiece "Sir Henry At Rawlinson End", either on the 1978 LP or the 1980 film.

Viv Stanshall
"Shirts" (its only Viv Stanshall's "interview" intro included here) comes from the third Bonzo's LP "Tadpoles" and was included as a reference to the fact that whenever performing I would always wear patterned shirts (Andi had had these beautiful shirts hand-made in Indonesia and on giving me one said "whenever you go to a crowded bar wearing one of these, you will always be served first", it worked too). One of the shirts also forms the artwork (I took one down to the local print shop and photocopied it).

3. The Mysterons Theme - The Barry Gray Orchestra
I love this tune. I have a copy of the 10" LP "No Strings Attached", which contains most of the best themes from Gerry Anderson's puppet TV programmes (so, no "UFO" theme, which is one my all-time favourites, but you do get Joe 90, Captain Scarlet, Aqua Marina and Stringray). I used to open every set with the Mysterons (usually there was no-one there).
4. It Ain’t No Fun To Me - Graham Central Station
This is where the funk begins. And this is serious funk. Larry Graham is simply one of the best and most inspirational bass players walking the planet. He was the original bass player for Sly & The Family Stone, and after leaving them he formed Graham Central Station. In recent times he has been playing with Prince (and you go to go some to be part of that band). His distinctive "thumpin' and pluckin' " (as he calls it)technique gave him the credit of inventing slap bass, but who cares about that when you here the funk and soul he generates. Powerful stuff indeed. This track is from the first Graham Central Station album which also includes the brilliant (and hilarious) track "Hair", which obviously appeals to me as a long-haired git. Look out for Graham Central Station gigs as the great man is still touring today with the re-formed band (he is scheduled to play the UK on April 4th 2012).
5. Sweet Sweetback’s Theme - Earth, Wind & Fire
Very early Earth, Wind & Fire. Before they became more famous with hits like "Boogie Wonderland", "September" & "Fantasy" and started dressing like Egyptian weirdos they were a fierce funk band. Actually, the funk is still there in there in the later hits, the long version of "Boogie Wonderland" is quite a work-out, and I played it many times to packed clubs. This track comes from a soundtrack album that they did in 1971. For more great early Earth, Wind & Fire, try "Moment Of Truth" and "C'mon Children" from their first LP.
6. It’s Alright Now - Eddie Harris
Another favourite, I discovered this track on the Mastercuts "Classic Funk Vol 2" album I got back in 1993. As an intro to decent funk, this album (and the Volume one) is not a bad place to start. Many, many good tracks. This track has great handclaps! I have really got into funky songs with great hand clapping, and sometimes will play several in a row, just to get people hand clapping! Apart from the claps, this is still a lovely slice of funk, with a gorgeous laid-back sexy feel, guitars intertwining with bass and Fender Rhodes. Perfect. "I heard that!".
7. Soul Power ‘74 - Maceo & The Macks
An indisputable funk classic, Soul Power '74 is an instrumental version of James Brown's "Soul Power", with horns by Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker overdubbed onto the original backing track with some other "samples" added to the mix, suggesting some of the political interests of the band (that's Martin Luther King I believe). This track not only pioneers early sampling, but has been sampled many times itself in hip-hop. I have always wondered too, what is that moaning in the background in parts of the track?
8. Dynomite - Bazuka
I don't know much about this track, other than it was the best selling track for A&M records in 1975 and stayed in the Billboard charts for two months. I found it on another compilation LP, and the first time I heard it I thought, "they're gonna love this one!". It's a daft bit of funk with hints of 1970's disco. 
9. Get Up, I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine - James Brown
OK, you all know this one. This is here partly because I wanted something on the mix that everyone would know (audiences always like something familiar after a while) and partly to kick the next track's arse. If you need a first album by James Brown then go for "Soul Classics Vol. 1". It is simply one of the great albums of all time.
10. Pick Up The Pieces - The Average White Band
James Brown hated the Average White Band. I think their name may have kicked it all off in the first place, but he also felt that they were ripping him off. Compare "Pick Up The Pieces" to "Pass The Peas" for example, or The AWB's "Cut The Cake" to "Gimme Some More".  And they were not doing it that well either. I have to sympathise with Mr.Brown. A Scottish funk band? It just doesn't quite cut it does it? I think you can hear it in the music too. Despite the fact that this was a great pop moment back in 1975, (I can remember hearing it whilst washing my Dad's car, and I had not noticed funk before, so I can at least thank them for that), and it is still a great dance track, yet if you look a little more closely, there are some weird musical moments that I suspect may not have come from a band with the funk might of the JBs. Count your way out of the guitar break and and you get lost. Where is the all important "1"? They do not have it. They must have been conducted to come back in like that.

Its no wonder James Brown was peeved. He certainly wasn't getting the distribution and airplay that the AWB were getting from being signed (with Eric Clapton's help) to Atlantic records. James Brown even formed a band called "The Above Average Black Band" and put out a track called "Pick Up The Pieces One By One", which was an overdubbed version of "Hot Pants Road", which in itself bears a striking resemblance to the AWB, but recorded four years prior to "Pick Up The Pieces".

11. I Know You Got Soul - Bobby Byrd
So following that familiar (but luke-warm) funk of the AWB, its back to the real thing with another indisputable funk masterpiece in "I Know You Got Soul". Produced by James Brown (you can hear him on backing vocals) Bobby Byrd is backed by the magnificent JBs. This is the funk. That drum beat, that guitar riff, that bassline and that voice. Those horns.. "Fred Wesley won't you blow one time", and how he does. The JBs horn arrangements are perfect every time. What a band. Bobby knows we got soul "if you didn't, the beat wouldn't move you". I say yeah.
12. Low Rider - War
Another familiar track, this time from War. I am not sure where I first heard this, probably on the radio in the 1970s, but I can also remember it in the Cheech & Chong film "Up In Smoke". It's got a great groove, mixing up elements of funk with latin styles, and that great low, low vocal. I had this on a battered 7" that I picked up in a charity shop, you can hear the crackles.
13. Got To Get Your Own - Rueben Wilson
A track I have played in many many DJ sets since I discovered it on a Charly Records compilation in the early 1990s. I since bought the Rueben Wilson and the Cost Of Living" album, which has this track on it and the hilarious "Stoned Out Of My Mind". Another fantastic groove, this time supported by Rueben Wilson's superb Hammond Organ playing. I said earlier that I loved a good hand clap, well I also am a sucker for great Hammond, and this is a prime example. After that sax solo, he soars. Also, in line with many great funk and soul tracks, we have lyrics that really hit home and make you feel like you are part of the song. You can dance to this and all those troubles that you identify with are lifted away. "Got to get your own, 'cos they sure aren't gonna give you none". Do it!
David Axelrod
14. Mucho Chupar - David Axelrod
I explored David Axelrod after his name just kept coming up in record searches and recommendations, I think it must have been about the time he started releasing his work again in 1993 after a ten year break. His work has been sampled many times by the likes of DJ Shadow and others, and it is no wonder why when you listen to his work. He was a pioneering producer and arranger (you can hear it on this track), and one of those genius types who never quite fall in with fashion, so remain on the outside of things until people finally (if you're lucky) 'get it'. Like the previous Rueben Wilson track, this has got fantastic keyboards driving it along. And what is that bass? Is it a keyboard bass? Possibly. I love the "eeee" vocals, something deliciously 1970s about them. This comes from Axelrod's 1974 album "Heavy Axe".
15. Got To Give It Up (part 1) - Marvin Gaye
"Got To Give It Up" is Marvin Gaye reluctantly relenting to disco. It was a huge hit when it came out in 1976 and is regarded as a hugely influential track, influencing, among others, Michael Jackson (check "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough"). It's another lovely track to dance to, and more than a bit bonkers. The vocal is most of the track, with the keyboard synth bass kind of meandering about behind it, and besides percussion, thats about all there is. Brilliant.
16. Give Me Some - L.A. Boppers
Another obscure track that I discovered on a Mastercuts compilation, this time "Rare Groove Vol. 2". This band didn't do to well commercially, by the accounts I have read, but this track clearly shows what accomplished musicians were in the band. Fantastic arrangements of wobbling bass and guitars mixing with horns and keys. Early 1980s funk that still sounds good to me, where most attempts from that time fail horribly. The funk survives.

17. Funky Granny - Kool & The Gang
Back to the 1970's and Kool & The Gang. Like Earth, Wind and Fire, Kool & The Gang were a great funk band before commercial success. This daft track comes from the brilliant 1972 album "Music Is The Message", which contains more great funk in "Soul Vibrations", "Love The Life You Live" and "Electric Frog". This track, although very silly (its about an old lady wearing yellow hot pants and purple boots who claims to be the "funky granny"), has a serious funk workout behind it. Its a raw recording, but it works. Lo-fi funk.

After a hefty party at the club, people would often pile back to my place to continue, and one night we played this track over and over. The next day, my neighbour knocked on the door to complain. I felt dreadful, she looked about 80 years old. I apologised profusely. "Thats all very well" she said, "but its not me you should be apologising to, its my mother". I felt even worse. She continued "come and see this". I went inside and she showed me where her Mum slept. Of course she was too old to be able to climb the stairs, so she slept on the ground floor. Where her head lay was next to the wall, exactly in the spot between my speakers on the other side of the wall. Of all the tracks I could have tortured her with, it was this one.
18. Burning Spear - S.O.U.L.
Something more laid back. I told you I was a sucker for handclaps, and for Hammond. Well, I am also a sucker for a funky flute, and this is as good as it gets. It even breaks down to just the flute and drums. And those drums are SO funky. Instrumental funk genius from a great 1971 LP with a great cover photo called "What Is It". S.O.U.L stands for "Sounds Of Unity and Love". Peace, brothers and sisters.
The J.B.'s
19. Blessed Blackness - The JBs
The best way to finish a funk set has to be with the best band of them all, the JBs. This is a mellow jam, and although not full-on funk, its a thing of great beauty to wind things down. And there's more flute! It reminds me a bit of childhood days in the summer holidays, Sesame Street, Casper comics and Zoom ice lollies. Superb drumming on this (check him out at the end, jazzing it up), and once again a brilliant arrangement. From the LP "Food For Thought", which also has "Pass The Peas" and "Gimme Some More".
20. Delta F - F.C.Judd
OK, some daft stuff to get you to leave the building now. This track is from a 7" EP entitled "Electronic Themes & Music Concrete" and is a rather lovely thing in all honesty. John Edwards gave me this record, I am not sure of the date of release, but it sounds like some early 1960s experimental work along the same lines as the Radiophonic Workshop.(F.C.Judd website) You get another blast of "Shirts" too.

21. Take Advantage - Bob Rogers & Playground
The not-so "secret" track at the end of the mix comes from a flexidisc that my great-aunt had had posted through her door by the Express Dairy man. What a track.. "let your milkman bring much more, express, to your door". The bit where it sticks at the end on the words "save yourself" is absolutely genuine. The flexidisc has a b-side too, called "Get Yourself Together", which has nothing to do with Express Dairies, and is a psychedelic workout with straight sounding Bob Rogers flipping his lid with mad wah-wah guitars.

And, finally, just in case you still don't get how funk to the JB's, check this out:

Keep the faith.. Simon x

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