Saturday, 28 May 2011

Syl Johnson - Is It Because I'm Black (1970)

"Is It Because I'm Black" is yet another candidate for the "Best Album I Never Heard" prize. At the time of release, Syl Johnson had been living and recording in the Chicago area for several years. Like many black artists of the time, his writing often took on social issues such as poverty and equality, and with this album, these themes became a unifying focus, to the extent that "Is It Because I'm Black" is considered by some to be the first black, political concept album, and a precursor to such classics as Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and Sly & The Family Stone's "There's A Riot Going On." The title track is a drawn out, bluesy, gritty groover, with Syl pleading the case for his race. The song reached #11 on the R&B charts, and was also a minor hit on the Pop charts. "Concrete Jungle," another highlight that broke the R&B top 30, draws parallels between the black experience and that of Native Americans, with the difference being location of their reservations. The album closes strongly with "Right On," a rambling, energetic funk masterpiece. Definitely worth a listen, if you can find it.

Album info. on Discogs:

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Monday, 23 May 2011

Brass Construction - Brass Construction (1975)

Brass Construction, originally known as Dynamic Soul, came together in Brooklyn in 1968. They were signed by United Artists in 1975, with their self-titled debut released later that year. Although the funk ensemble recorded at an album-a-year pace over the next decade, "Brass Construction" almost certainly counts as their most successful collection. Brass Construction's dance-funk sound was centred on the horn section, though most songs also featured vocals. The standout track here is the first single, "Movin'," a catchy, energetic, up-tempo dance number that would be the group's only chart topper (reaching #1 on the US R&B chart in 1976). The follow-up, "Changin'," also did well, reaching #24, while "Love" and "Dance" were also strong efforts. The group would only crack the top 10 again once, with the single "Ha Cha Cha" from their second album reaching #8 on the R&B chart in 1977.

Discogs page for album info:

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( Brass Construction
( Brass Construction
( Brass Construction

Tom Scott & The L.A. Express - Tom Cat (1975)

"Tom Cat" was the second album for the brief-lived Tom Scott & The L.A. Express. Larry Carlton and Joe Sample left after the recording of the group's debut and the sessions backing up Joni Mitchell on her "Court And Spark" album. Robben Ford took over from Carlton on Guitars, and Larry Nash replaced Sample as pianist. "Tom Cat" proved popular and sold well. Highlight tracks included "Rock Island Rocket," "Tom Cat," "Keep On Doin' It" and "Refried." Scott left the band to perform solo after this album, after which the remaining L.A. Express recorded two more albums before calling it quits.

Info. from Discogs:

CD available from Amazon Marketplace:
( Tom Cat
( Tom Cat
( Tom Cat

Tom Scott & The L.A. Express - Tom Scott & The L.A. Express (1974)

Saxophonist Tom Scott is probably best known for his TV series compositions, including the theme songs for "Starsky & Hutch" and "The Streets of San Francisco." As a teen, Tom led a jazz ensemble called the Neoteric Trio. He was also a "first-call" (high demand) session musician. Over the course of his career, on top of his own solo and lead work, he played back-up to the likes of the Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Pink Floyd and Quincy Jones, among others. In 1973, the L.A. Express formed as Tom's backing band. The original lineup featured Max Bennett, John Guerin, Larry Carlton and Joe Sample. This group was short-lived, recording the album "Tom Scott & The L.A. Express" and playing back-up on a number of tracks on Joni Mitchell's "Court And Spark" album. By the time the group's second album "Tom Cat" was recorded, Carlton and Sample had left. The songs on "Tom Scott & The L.A. Express" are all jazz funk instrumentals, with a heavy sax emphasis. Highlights include "L.A. Express," "Strut Your Stuff" and "Sneakin' In The Back" (from which the opening bass riff was sampled by Massive Attack for the song "Blue Lines").

Album info. available on Discogs:

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