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In Memoriam – July 2012

August 2nd, 2012 7 comments

Two Funk Brother died in July: first Maurice D Davis, who played trumpet on songs like Papa Was A Rolling Stone, and a couple of days later, on July 16, Bob Babbitt, who played the bass on Motown hits such as Tears Of A Clown, War, Just My Imagination; on soul classics like Midnight Train To Georgia and Band Of Gold. Also listen to his bass solo on Dennis Coffey’s 1972 hit Scorpio.

July 16 was a bad day for music. We lost Jon Lord, the great innovative organist of Deep Purple and Whitesnake. We also lost Kitty Wells, whose breakthrough as a country singer paved the way for female stars in that genre, such as Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline. Wells was already in her 30s and a mother of three when she became a star; the first female ever to top the country charts. Wells introduced feminist themes into country long before that was regarded as ordinary and articulated a female self-confidence that would become characteristic of many women who succeeded her.

Fritz Pauer, 68, Austrian jazz pianist, on July 1

Margot Werner, 74, Austrian-born chanson singer, suicide on July 1

Andy Griffiths, 86, actor and gospel singer, on July 3

Ben Kynard, 92, jazz saxophonist, on July 5
Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra – I’m Mindin’ My Business (And Baby, My Business Is You) (1946, on saxophone)

José Roberto Bertrami, 66, Brazilian pianist and keyboardist with jazz-funk Azymuth, on July 8
Azymuth – Fly Over The Horizon (1979)

Lionel Batiste, 81, jazz musician with the Tremè Brass Band, on July 8
Tremè Brass Band – The Old Rugged Cross (1993)

Zach Booher, 22, member of acoustic rock duo While We’re Up, in a car crash on July 8

Dennis Flemion, 57, member of indie-comic band The Frogs, member of Smashing Pumpkins live line-up 1996/97, drowned on July 9
The Frogs – Which One Of You Gave My Daughter The Dope (1996)

Edwin Duff, 84, Australian singer, on July 10

Maria Hawkins Cole, 89, jazz singer, widow of Nat King Cole, on July 10

Lol Coxhill, 79, English jazz saxophonist, on July 10

Perry Baggs, 50, drummer and singer with cowpunk group Jason & The Scorchers, on July 12

Maurice D Davis, 71, saxophonist and member of Motown backing-collective The Funk Brothers, on July 13
The Temptations – Papa Was A Rolling Stone (1972)
One Way – Cutie Pie (1982)

Bucky Adams, 75, Canadian jazz trumpeter, on July 13

Celeste Holm, 95, actress who occasionally sang (High Society, Oklahoma), on July 15
Frank Sinatra & Celeste Holm – Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (1956)

Kitty Wells, 92, country legend, on July 16
Kitty Wells – I Don’t Claim To Be An Angel (1956)
Kitty Wells – Crying Time (1966)

Jon Lord, 71, composer and keyboardist of Deep Purple and Whitesnake, on July 16
Deep Purple – Child In Time (1972)
Whitesnake – Here I Go Again (1987)
Jon Lord with Frida Lyngstad – The Sun Will Shine Again (2004)

Bob Babbitt, 74, bass guitarist of backing bands The Funk Brothers (Motown) and MFSB (PIR), on July 16
Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed, Delivered (1970)
Freda Payne – Band Of Gold (1970)
Dennis Coffey & the Detroit Guitar Band – Scorpio (1971)

Ms. Melodie (Ramona Scott), 48, rapper, on July 18

Ossie Hibbert, 62, reggae keyboardist and producer, on July 19

Larry Hoppen, 61, singer and guitarist of soft-rock band Orleans, on July 24
Orleans – Dance With Me (1975, on lead vocals)

Sherman Hemsley, 74, jazz singer and keyboardist, actor (George Jefferson, Amen), on July 24

Big Walter Smith, 82, blues musician, on July 24

Don Bagley, 84, jazz bassist and composer, on July 26
June Christy & Stan Kenton – Easy Street (1951, on bass)

Tony Martin, 98, actor and singer, on July 27
Tony Martin & Fran Warren – I Said My Pajamas (And Put On My Pray’rs) (1949)

Darryl Cotton, 62, Australian singer with Zoot; Cotton Keays & Morris; and television host, on July 27

Geoffrey Hughes, 68, English actor, voice of Paul McCartney in Yellow Submarine, on July 27
The Beatles – Yellow Submarine In Pepperland (1968)

Bill Doss, 43, rock singer and guitarist with The Olivia Tremor Control, The Apples in Stereo; announced on July 31
The Olivia Tremor Control – Not Feeling Human (1999)

Lucio Quarantotto, 55, Italian songwriter and composer (Con te partirò), suicide on July 31

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Any Major Funk Vol. 6

August 18th, 2011 3 comments

It has been two and a half years since I last posted a Any Major Funk mix. Most of the tracks contained in this, the sixth volume, have been languishing in the shortlist folder since then. So here are 16 more songs from the great era of dance music, stretching from 1977 to 1983.

While I’m at it, I have updated the expired links for the first five volumes.

Michael Henderson has played with the greats. Having moved to Detroit as a child, he was only 13-14 years old when he played the bass with various Motown acts as well as The Fantastic Four, The Detroit Emeralds and Billy Preston. Later he toured with Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Miles Davis. Later he debuted as a vocalist for Norman Connors, the great drummer and producer.

It may be by subliminal decision that I sequenced a track by Norman Connors’ after Henderson’s 1983 effort. Connors has produced, played or arranged for some great acts in soul and jazz, including Billy Paul, Jack McDuff, Charles Earland and Herbie Hancock. As a juvenile he once stood in at a gig for John Coltrane’s usual drummer. He discovered Phyllis Hyman, who in 1981 recorded a duet with Henderson. The vocals on the featured track by Connors, the title track from his 1980 album, are by Adaritha, who still performs, now as Ada Dyer, and who recorded the original of Anita Baker’s You Bring Me Joy.

Rainbow Brown (singers Fonda Rae, Luci Martin, Yvonne Lewis) only ever released one LP, a self-titled effort on New York’s Vanguard label produced by Patrick Adams, a prolific songwriter for a number of soul and hip hop acts, ranging from The Main Ingredient to Keith Sweat and the Notorious B.I.G.. Adams wrote Musique’s enthusiastically banned In the Bush, a song that had little relationship with horticulture, but was a top 20 hit in gardening paradise Britain.

The bush-loving nation gave us Hi-Tension, a 12-member ensemble that is regarded as a pioneer of Brit-Funk. They were led by David Joseph, who went on to record several UK hits, including You Can’t Hide Your Love (1982) and Let’s Live It Up (1983).

Also representing Britain are Delegation, who came from Birmingham and had a UK Top 30 hit in 1977 with the excellent Where Is The Love (We Used To Know). I tend to associate them with Sunfire, for no better reason than sometimes sequencing their 1977 hit with Young And Free And Single. Sunfire were a New York outfit whose best-known member was Bruce Fisher, whose At The End Of A Love Affair should be well known to fans of Northern Soul, and who wrote the title track of Quincy Jones’ 1973 album Body Heat.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R. Homebaked covers are included.

TRACKLISTING
1. War – Galaxy
2. Brothers Johnson – Ain’t We Funkin’ Now
3. Jimmy ‘Bo’ Horne – Get Happy
4. Sunfire – Young, Free And Single
5. George Benson – Turn Your Love Around
6. B.B.R.A. – Do What Make You Feel Good
7. Michael Henderson – You Wouldn’t Have To Work At All
8. Norman Connors – Take It To The Limit
9. Rainbow Brown – I’m The One
10. Shalamar – Full Of Fire
11. George Duke – Brazilian Love Affair
12. Delegation – Put A Little Love On Me
13. Hi-Tension – Hi-Tension
14. One Way – Music
15. The Players Association – Turn The Music Up
16. Parliament – Flashlight

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Get funky: Remembering Disco

March 22nd, 2007 2 comments

In the 1981 Bill Murray comedy Stripes, a character ( played by Judge Reinhold) wears a t-shirt bearing a legend which summed up a particular spirit of the time: “DISCO SUCKS”.

Of course, our t-shirted friend was spectacularly wrong. He might have had a point, however, had his t-shirt proclaimed: “Certain aspects of Disco Suck, particularly its appropriation, dilution and exploitation by The Man who has no interest whatsoever in maintaining its artistic and, let it be said, joyful integrity.” But those who represented the “Disco Sucks” mindset were already struggling with the two syllables contained in the name of the genre they claimed to despise, never mind applying their mind to what they were really protesting against.

Of course, nobody was obliged to like Disco. I don’t hold the artistic talents of Ms Paris Hilton in high regard, but would find it unnecessary to communicate my protest at her lack of talent through sartorial media. The “Disco Sucks” movement (which went as far as record burnings) was not about the music.

There is little doubt that some resented Disco because the sub-culture was alien to supposed “American values”. For one thing, disco was the first musical genre that allowed homosexuals to express themselves explicitly in a mainstream arena. For another, it was dominated by lots of black people, in an age before every suburban boy was from da ’hood, yo!

Of course, Disco was not a homogenous genre. Even at its roots, it was disparate. Gay Disco, mainly Euro-based and heavy on synthethisers, was quite a different kettle of lamé flares from the harder bass-driven funk sounds of Black Disco, or the harmony & backbeat Disco for which the Sound of Philly provided the blueprint. Somehow the two cultures collided and fed of each other, to the point that Earth Wind & Fire dressed as outrageously as Sylvester.

Disco was black and and it was gay. It was quite fabulous and it was popular. So Commercial America had to lighten it, straighten it, exploit it. And thus the Kings of Disco were inaugurated: three white lads from Australia who just a few years previously were the Kings of Melancholy Ballads. Make no mistake, the Bee Gees produced some good Disco, but they were no more the “Kings of Disco” as Benny bloody Goodman ever really was the “King of Jazz” (The Man tried the same trick a decade later when he sought to crown Vanilla Ice the “King of Rap”. That time, The Man failed, and Hip Hop prospered commercially anyhow).

Who knows whether Disco would have crossed over — been dragged over — into the mainstream in such an exploitative manner as it was, had it not been for the success of the Saturday Night Fever, and the uncontrollable popularity of its (only half-decent) soundtrack. Suddenly Disco was everywhere. The muppets of Sesame Street did a Disco album, with Grover in iconic Travolta pose, of course; Ethel Merman — the natural badass queen of sweaty funk — got in on the act; and ridiculous manufactured pop acts such as Boney M came to be regarded not only as being part of the Disco movement, but as representative of it (a mistaken notion perpetuated even today by Afro-wigged revivalists. Let it be known that Boney M were not Disco!).

If Grover, Ethel and the dubbed Bobby Farrell were Disco, then one might confidently pronounce that Disco indeed Sucked. But they weren’t, and it didn’t. Just as Ethel Merman got the funk, the disco-funk scene in particular was reaching its artistic peak. While much of Disco’s varied genres were effectively killed by the Studio 54 hype, “Disco Duck” and John Travolta’s choreography by 1981, the funk sub-genre lived on and evolved. Alas not Chic, those innovators who were too closely identified with the Studio 54-type scene — ironically so, if one reads the history behind “Le Freak” (Nile Rodgers has much to say on the subject).

And all this to introduce a few early-80s disco-funk classics that survived the Death of Disco — and a bonus track of a superb mid-’80s South African dance classic, Brenda & the Big Dudes’ “Weekend Special”.

Positive Force – We Got The Funk
Skyy – Here’s To You
Jimmy ‘Bo’ Horne – Spank
One Way – Push
Billy Ocean – Stay The Night
Brenda Fassie – Weekend Special