Thursday, 31 March 2011

Shuggie Otis - Here Comes Shuggie Otis (1970)

Son of the famous bluesman Johnny Otis, Shuggie recorded this, his first album, with assistance from dad, when he was just 16. Not all the tracks are memorable in their own right, but there are enough nuggets in the collection to make it a worthwhile purchase. Influences are all over the place, from Hendrix to B.B. King to the Crusaders, and the talent that gave the Rolling Stones reason to invite him to join when Mick Taylor left is well evident. Shuggie's best work would appear in 1974 with his 3rd album, "Inspiration Information," the album which, when re-released in 2001 on David Byrne's Luaka Bop label, brought this talented but neglected artist the acclaim he so richly deserved.

Album info. at Discogs:

Available as part of 2-for-1 CD on Amazon:

S.O.U.L. - Can You Feel It? (1972)

S.O.U.L.'s second album, "Can You Feel It?" took their music to a new level. Maturity and refinement were more evident, lyrics were more thoughtful and probing, and original songs replaced covers, but the raw energy and love of musical performance remained. There isn't a weak track in this collection, and the album remained in the charts for 5 months. Although the band would record other records, this and the first album were the highlights of S.O.U.L.'s opus. The band is now sadly neglected in the States, but they maintain strong album sales overseas, particularly in Europe.

Discogs link for album info. here:

2-for-1 CD available on Amazon:

S.O.U.L. - What Is It (1971)

S.O.U.L. (Sounds of Unity and Love) formed in Cleveland in 1970. They entered a local battle-of-the-bands contest, and won first prize - $1,000 and a recording contract. Cash and contract in hand, the band headed to New York to cut their first single, "Down In The Ghetto, Parts I & II." The single did well enough that they were invited to record a second single, and then a full album. The result? "What Is It," which made it into the top 40 of the Billboard Soul Album chart, and stayed there for fully 2 months. The album is a mix of originals and covers, with vocals and without, and a spontaneous energy throughout. If you want to know what "Soul" is, give the album and self-titled song a spin... it won't take long for you to figure it out!

Album info. here:

2-for-1 CD available on Amazon:

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes - Wake Up Everybody (1975)

As a group, Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes existed in several forms with an ever shifting membership from 1954 to 1996, when Harold Melvin died. Their greatest success occurred in the period 1972-1976, during which they recorded for Philadelphia International. This period also coincided with Teddy Pendergrass' membership, and ended when he left in a dispute over money and the desire to have his name included as part of the group name. This album contains a mix of both socially conscious and carefree party anthems, with the title track being a fine example of the former, and the smash, "Don't Leave Me This Way," perhaps the finest disco song of all time. The album is available on CD but not with the original cover, hence this post.

Album info. from Discogs:

CD available on Amazon:
( Wake Up Everybody
( Wake Up Everybody

Joe Beck - Beck (1975)

In 1975, after 2 years working as a session musician on several CTI albums by the likes of Joe Farrell and Idris Muhammad, Creed Taylor invited Beck to record his first solo album, and at the same time offered him his artistic redemption. Prior to hooking up with CTI, Beck had been in semi-retirement for 3 years, working as a dairy farmer after losing confidence in himself recording with Miles Davis in 1967 on the "Circle In The Round" sessions (that album wasn't released until 1979). Artwork for the original "Beck" release of the album was done by Abdul Mati Klarwein, who also created the covers for Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" and "Live Evil" albums. The album was re-released in 1979 with a new title - "Beck & Sanborn" - and cover, with changes designed to capitalize on David Sanborn's growing fame.

Album Info:

Both album versions available on Amazon:
( Beck
( Beck & Sanborn
( Beck
( Beck & Sanborn

Esther Phillips - For All We Know (1976)

Another Esther Phillips post... "For All We Know " might just as easily have been called "What A Diff'rence A Day Makes, Volume 2." Both albums feature Joe Beck, playing guitar and taking care of string arrangements, along with most of the backing musicians from the earlier project. "What A Diff'rence..." was a massive hit (the album was Esther's best seller, and the single was hugely popular in the clubs), and "For All We Know" was conceived and recorded in a hurry to capitalize on Esther's resulting popularity. The album was well received by club and radio DJ's, but unfortunately didn't spawn any hit singles. Nonetheless, it's a fine effort, and worth adding to any collection. It's available as a Japanese import only.

Album info:

Japanese Import CD available on Amazon:
( For All We Know
( For All We Know

Monday, 28 March 2011

Philadelphia Classics (1977)

The Philly Sound was characterized by a blend of funk influences and lush string and horn instrumentations. Some might argue that the sound was overproduced, but it proved extremely popular and set the stage for the highly polished sounds of the developing Disco scene. Some of the most famous Philly groups are represented on this blinder of a record, including MFSB, the O'Jays, and Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, and there's not a weak song in the bunch. This and the preceding Motown Disco post would make a killer DJ set... two turntables, two records, and one fantastic dance party!

Track info:

CD available on Amazon:

A Motown Special Disco Album (1977)

Motown hit the doldrums in the mid 70's after moving their headquarters from Detroit to Los Angeles. It could be argued that Disco saved Motown, starting in 1976 when at one point they had 6 releases in the top 10. The move to 12" DJ Promo singles started in 1974 when Tom Moulton started producing ten and eleven minute grooves that proved very popular in club land. This collection contains 12" versions of some massive hits, which would have been reason enough to buy the album, but the cover (art by Helene Majera) undoubtedly also enhanced sales.

Info. from Discogs:

Wood, Brass & Steel - Wood, Brass & Steel (1976)

Hailing from New Jersey, Wood, Brass & Steel put out just this one album, then disappeared. Bassist Doug Wimbish and guitarist Skip McDonald resurfaced several years later on the Sugarhill house band. There's a nice mix of tempos in this collection surrounding the album's two big hits: a cracking cover version of "Always There," a Ronnie Laws tune that was also later done by Incognito, and the underground club classic "Funkanova."

Info. at Discogs:

The Soul Children - Genesis (1972) and Friction (1974)

After Sam & Dave left Stax, there was a hole to fill at the label. Isaac Hayes and David Porter put this group together to fill it. The group were together for 10 years, from 1968 to 1978, during which time they scored 15 R&B hits. "Genesis" and "Friction" are the 3rd and 4th of 7 albums. These are available on a 2-for-1 CD, but I for one am not a big fan of the "two-fer" covers, hence the post of these originals.

Info. at Discogs:

2-for-1 CD available on Amazon:
( Genesis & Friction
( Genesis & Friction

Sunday, 27 March 2011

William DeVaughn - Be Thankful For What You Got (1974)

William DeVaughn was a draftsman with the government when he cut this album. The title track, recorded with members of MFSB, sold nearly 2 million copies and went to #1 on the US R&B charts. Two other singles, "Blood Is Thicker Than Water" and "Give The Little Man A Great Big Hand" also sold relatively well. Much of the rest of the album has a strong religious bent (DeVaughn was also a Jehovah's Witness). This album is available on CD, but with a rather ugly cover. This is the original.

Info. at Discogs:

Album available (with different cover) on Amazon:

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Esther Phillips - From A Whisper To A Scream (1971)

Esther Phillips (who went by "Little Esther" early in her career) recorded seven albums for Kudu/CTI. This was the first, and it's outstanding! The album was nominated for a Grammy, but Esther lost out to Aretha Franklin. Aretha presented the award to Esther telling her she should have won instead. The standout track, "Home Is Where The Hatred Is," gave an account of drug use and addiction. Penned by Gil Scott-Heron, the song was especially personal to Esther as she herself had battled with drug addiction years earlier. This one is a "must-buy," if you can find a copy.

Album info:

Japan Import available on Amazon:

Blue Mitchell - Graffiti Blues (1973)

Most famous for his time with the Horace Silver Quintet in the late 50's and early 60's, and then with his own quintet through the late 60's, Blue Mitchell recorded 5 albums for Mainstream Records in the early 70's. These albums were not received as well by critics as his "traditional" hard bop albums (a common theme when jazz musicians "sold out" and played in a more funk-influenced style). This is perhaps the funkiest of the Mainstream albums, with killer groove following killer groove following killer groove, and almost 4 decades after it was recorded, the album still feels fresh and relevant.

Track info. as usual at Discogs:

Maceo And All The King's Men - Funky Music Machine (1972)

See the previous post for group history. This was the group's 2nd album together. Another masterpiece of the funk genre.

Album info. at Discogs:

Album available on Amazon:
( Funky Music Machine

Maceo And All The King's Men - Doing Their Own Thing (1970)

Maceo Parker, leader of this troup, started out playing with James Brown in 1964. In 1970, Maceo and a bunch of his Brown bandmates took off for two years when they got tired of JB's shenanigans, and this was their first album project. During their time together the group produced two albums and toured extensively. In 1974, Maceo returned to working with Brown, and also spent time in the late 70's working with Parliament and Bootsy Collins. "Doing Their Own Thing" is a funk bomb, as is "Funky Music Machine," the group's 2nd album of 1972.

Track info. from Discogs, as usual:

Album available on Amazon:

Eddie Kendricks - Goin' Up In Smoke (1976)

Eddie Kendricks was one of the founding members of The Temptations. He was responsible for vocal arrangements, and he also managed wardrobe. In performance, he mostly sang harmony, but he lead or shared lead on several of the group's hits. He left the band in 1971 as he was increasingly uncomfortable with the "psychedelic" direction the band was taking. Of the 9 solo albums he put out in the 70's, this is perhaps the best, though some might argue that 1972's "People... Get Ready" or 1975's "He's A Friend" should have that honour.

Track info. available at Discogs:

Friday, 25 March 2011

F.B.I. - F.B.I. (1976)

Another funky gem. this time from 9-piece, UK-based F.B.I. (Funky Bands Inc.) This, their only album, was popular on radio in the UK, but sadly the potential of the group did not result in any further output.

Album info. can be found on Discogs:

Album available on Amazon:
( F.B.I.
( F.B.I.

The Spirit Of Atlanta - The Burning Of Atlanta (1973)

Arguably one of the funkiest albums out there, this is an underground classic. Originally the album was supposed to be the soundtrack to a movie about the burning of Atlanta in 1864, and subsequent rebuilding efforts. Not sure if the movie was ever completed, but thank goodness the album was! I just can't understand why this band and album aren't better known. Not a weak track in the collection, and a real head bobber and foot tapper!

Track and recording information available at Discogs:

Marvin Gaye - Love Man (1979)

An album closely associated with the "In Our Lifetime" project. Marvin's original idea was to put out an album of love songs for the disco set (called "Love Man"), but he had second thoughts and shifted attention to love lost and a coming Armageddon. Songs already recorded got new titles and lyrics, and were released as "In Our Lifetime." "Love Man" was never officially released, and "In Our Lifetime" ended up forcing the break-up between Marvin and Motown (Motown remixed and renamed the album - removing the question mark - without Marvin's permission). The original "Love Man" tracks were released with the 2-disk, extended edition of "In Our Lifetime?"

More info available here:

24-Carat Black - Ghetto: Misfortune's Wealth (1973)

Superb concept album from Stax, focusing on the hardships of inner city ghetto life. The album was re-released on CD in 1994, but is almost impossible to find. The group only released one album in their time, though there was an album of unreleased material called "Gone: The Promises of Yesterday" released in 2009.

More info available on Discogs:

CD Available on Amazon: