The Road from Memphis starts with a young Booker T. Jones hauling his stack of newspapers to Phineas Newborn s front yard where, while folding them for his after-school delivery route, he could listen to the jazz great practice piano. It ends with Booker and The Roots roaring through a set of both timeless and contemporary originals (and propulsive covers of Gnarls Barkley s “Crazy” and Lauren Hill s “Everything Is Everything”). Along for the ride are vocalists Matt Berninger of the National, Yim Yames of My Morning Jacket, Sharon Jones, Lou Reed, and Booker himself, telling the story of how the funk/soul sound that Booker helped invent spiraled out from Memphis, touching The Root s hometown of Philadelphia, New York (where engineer Gabe Roth has been recreating classic soul sonics for everyone from Sharon Jones to Amy Winehouse), and Detroit. Detroit as in Dennis Coffey, legendary Motown session guitarist who introduced driving rock funk rhythm to hits like “Cloud Nine” and “Ball of Confusion” by the Temptations, and brings his Detroit grit to these tracks. The Road from Memphis is classic Memphis soul, and classic Booker in the tradition of “Green Onions”, but beyond that it is the story of a sound, and how Booker, working with the inheritors of his sound, is keeping a tradition alive.
Formed in late 2002, The Boogaloo Investigators blasted out of the Glasgow funk scene with aplomb. With influences ranging from American rhythm & blues of the 50’s & 60’s and British mod soul to hammond led soul, jazz and funk, it wasn’t long before the 5 piece were gaining support from DJs such as Keb Darge, Eddie Piller, Mr Scruff and Quantic.
Simply put, this is probably one of James Brown’s all-time greatest, most consistently hot and funky records that he ever put out.
“I Got the Feelin'” released as a single in 1968 & it reached #1 on the R&B charts and #6 on the pop charts. It also appeared on a 1968 album of the same name.
The Jackson Five auditioned for Motown founder Berry Gordy in 1968 with a filmed performance of “I Got the Feelin'”, with the ten-year-old Michael Jackson closely mimicking Brown’s vocal style and dance moves…
The funk gem “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” is a song written and recorded by James Brown in 1968. It is notable both as one of Brown’s signature songs and as one of the most popular “black power” anthems of the 1960s. The song was released as a two-part single which held the number-one spot on the R&B singles chart for six weeks, and peaked at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100.Both parts of the single were later included on a 1969 album of the same name.
“Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” was the first Brown recording to feature trombonist Fred Wesley, who went on to become the bandleader of The J.B.’s.
With a much more stripped-down version of the band, if the credits are to be believed (five regular members total, not counting any vocalists), Funkadelic continued its way through life with Cosmic Slop. A slightly more scattershot album than the group’s other early efforts, with generally short tracks (only two break the five-minute barrier) and some go-nowhere ballads, Cosmic Slop still has plenty to like about it, not least because of the monstrous title track. A bitter, heartbreaking portrait of a family on the edge, made all the more haunting and sad by the sweet vocal work — imagine an even more mournful “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” — the chorus is a killer, with the devil invited to the dance while the band collectively fires up the funk. Elsewhere, the band sounds like it’s more interested in simply hitting a good groove and enjoying it, and why not? If introductory track “Nappy Dugout” relies more on duck calls and whistles than anything else to give it identity, it’s still a clap-your-hands/stomp-your-feet experience, speeding up just a little toward the end. As for the bandmembers themselves, Bernie Worrell still takes the general lead thanks to his peerless keyboard work, but the guitar team of Gary Shider and Ron Bykowski and the rhythm duo of Tyrone Lampkin and Cordell Mosson aren’t any slouches, either. George Clinton again seems to rely on the role of ringleader more than anything else, but likely that’s him behind touches like distorted vocals. Certainly it’s a trip to hear the deep, spaced-out spoken word tale on “March to the Witch’s Castle,” a harrowing picture of vets returning from Vietnam — and then realizing that Rush ripped off that approach for a song on its Caress of Steel album a year or two later!
You have to be deaf or from Mars to not instantly recognize Bobby Byrd’s deep, resonant voice from James Brown’s “Sex Machine”– he’s the guy in the call-and-response routine with James, singing “Get on up!” And thank Providence that the Godfather of Soul allowed the little people a chance to strut their stuff, ’cause this album is packed with gems. Bobby Byrd shines on the all-time classic cut “I Know You Got Soul”, the song that later revived interest in all things J.B. when Eric B. & Rakim sampled it in the mid-80’s. In fact, most of the songs on this album have been put to use in classic hip-hop records, for instance Bobby Byrd’s other track, “Hot Pants… I’m Coming, I’m Coming, I’m Coming”, perhaps the slamminest on this collection, was manipulated to great effect by Marley Marl for Big Daddy Kane’s “Raw”. My only disappointment, as far as Bobby Byrd is concerned, is that his amazing tune “Keep On Doin’ (What You’re Doin’ Baby)” is overlooked here.
But no bother, ’cause there’s much to make up for it. “Soul Power ’74” by Maceo & The Macks is a showcase for the tightest horn section in history, over an instrumental version of “Soul Power”. Not only is this particular record sampled more than hors douvres in a supermarket aisle, it contains samples itself in the form of tape overlays of civil rights rallies, a Dr. King speech, and an announcement of King’s assassination. This track and several others are also available on the JB’s Anthology, but don’t let that scare you away…
Just as Harmless’s Make Music showcases the style of music from the early `70s when laid-back hippie folk intermingled with soul and funk, Gimme Shelter (and its follow-up, Paint It Black) showcases songs from the early `70s when acid rock and psychedelia were applied to soul and funk.
There’s Merry Clayton’s scorching version of “Gimme Shelter” (she sang back-up on the Rolling Stones original); the Rotary Connection’s hazily psychedelic “I am the Black Gold of the Sun;” the Isley Brothers provide the best track on the CD with their storming combo of Neil Young’s “Ohio” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun;” and Rare Earth take psychedelic soul to its jamming max on their remake of “I Know I’m Losing You.”
Just about every track is a standout example of this exciting music hybrid, though I don’t understand why any Temptations songs from this era weren’t included. Their “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone” and “Unite This Land” are perfect examples of the type of music Gimme Shelter seeks to promote. (Listeners who want to hear these Temptations masterworks should just pick up the excellent UK compilation “Psychedelic Soul.”) Regardless, Gimme Shelter should definitely be checked out by any fan of Harmless’s other compilations.
One of the funkiest groups of the past decade — and a hell of a great little album, right down to the JBs-styled cover art! Osaka Monaurail have it going on all fronts — tight drums, economical bass, riffing guitars, and the kind of horn work that we haven’t heard since Fred Wesley stopped working with James Brown — always perfect, never hokey, and handled with a sense of space and soul that’s extremely rare for a group of younger musicians! The production is wonderful too — at a level that rivals our favorite from the 70s, and which shows that it isn’t just the Daptone and Soul Fire sound of New York that can get the feel of a “classic” funk record right. It’s hard to sum up the strength of this set in a few short sentences — but take our word for it when we tell you that this smoking little record can easily go head to head with some of the best of the People Records generation! Titles include “The Chase”, “Jam 1976”, “Changes I Wanna Make”, “Strange Buddha (Karate)”, and “Rumble N Struggle”
As James Brown worked with a stable of talented female singers, so he also allied himself with the best and brightest funky men in the business. This imported single disc collects those men and their classic songs in a nice, tight package that rounds up a lot of difficult to find (or even remember) material from his years with the TK label. While the bulk of the disc focuses on the mid- to late-’70s material of Bobby Byrd and the J.B.’s in particular, it hinges around the seminal 1980 “Rap Payback (Where Iz Moses?)” — the song that opens and closes (with the 14-minute remix version) Funky Men. Released late in the year, it is a winning combination of funk mixed with a little proto-rap and, although it failed to make much of a splash in the U.S., where rap was rising thanks to Fatback Band’s “King Tim III” and the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers Delight,” it did quite well in the U.K. charts. An additional highlight is the incredible funk groove of Byrd’s “Back From the Dead” — a solo venture recorded after he had parted company with Brown. Elsewhere, the contemporary, sharp disco of “Just Wanna Make You Dance, Pt. 1,” by the J.B.’s featuring Maxxi, and the quiet groove of the J.B.’s Internationals’ “Nature, Pts. 1 & 2” round out the mix nicely. And, of course, no compilation would be complete without a dance or two. Brown, Byrd, and the J.B.’s teamed up for a jamming 1980s rehash of “Mashed Potatoes,” which finds its way on board as well. Although it can be argued that Brown’s earlier collaborations are his best, this is still a solid collection of late-in-the-day hits that have been cruelly overlooked in recent years.