Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Primitive Sound System - Mixed Tape Sessions at Maxwell's Tuesday May 2nd 9PM-2AM

Hello Y'all,
Somewhere around 1990 or maybe a little earlier or later I met Phillip Lehman while he was trying to convince Robert Cohen (the owner of Finyl Vinyl in NYC) to carry his compilation, "PURE!" Phillip's knowledge of Soul and Funk was beyond impressive and he had the collection to back it up. After a while his compilations plus the Break Downs, Vinyl Dogs and The Sound of Funk series on Goldmine became checklists for me. I had been collecting Funk / Soul and Jazz since the mid-80's but who knew that all these small batches had been brewed up in every corner of the states. A few years later he began to record his own bands and tried to pass them off as original artists; claiming them as unreleased sessions recorded in the late 60's early 70's. He told me he never thought anyone would take the music seriously if they saw him first and then listened to his music. Well, fake names aside and despite their belief that they actually sounded as good as the JB's, these guys weren't half bad. There was something really appealing about them playing out live and they began playing regularly at the Lounge at CBGB's. I had already been going to Giant Step events and to see current Acid Jazz and Soul Jazz shows (including seeing Neil Sugarman at Windows on The World before he and Phillip met). Weirdly the raw and unpolished sound the Desco crew (Phillip's newly formed label) were getting was far more appealing than anything I heard prior in the unchartered terrain of new funky sounds. Acid Jazz was becoming exclusively a slick affair so someone needed to crawl back into the cave.

I started buying singles by bands not part of the Desco / Soul Fire stable. To this day releases come out fast and furious and it's getting harder to keep up. Impressively, the quality is going up with each new release. Bands like The Calypso King and The Soul Investigators seem truly unstoppable and are by far and away the most creative of the genre. Their latest release is nothing short of brilliant. Creatively, look no further than the amazing Didier's Sound Spectrum LP on Lifesaver. Didier is the multi instrumentalist and house producer of the amazing Timmion Records (based in Finland) for whom The Soul Investigators record. The Didier LP is an experimental outing that seems to be able to hold a groove as well but never seems forced. Similar releases have come out of Chicago from Directions in Music, Tortoise, Isotope 217, Euphone, 5ive Style, etc... Recently I picked up the Little Barrie LP, "We are The Little Barrie." and talk about perfection. Tony Joe White, Faces, Rolling Stones, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (and the obvious influences that come with that comparison), even early G. Love and The Special Sauce, and a heaping bucket of pure Funk all simmered slowly to create their own incredible sound. After almost 5 years The Bamboos form Australia have FINALLY released an LP. Their debut 7" "Eel Oil" has been in constant rotation since its release in 2001. Luckily for those who do not have the 7" it is included on the LP; UNFORTUNATELY for me I feel I am owed two more songs... I'm waiting. The point to all this is that I realized something very important to this record collecting thang. My passion for Punk came from many sources but one that now seems most important is the fact that the music was current. Produced by people like myself. Buying the records and going to the shows meant we were sharing the experience. So, being able to find new Funk and Soul records had the same excitement to me as those early Punk obsessed days. Picking through the multitude of releases and bands to find the ones that really touch my soul keeps it all interesting. So this week I am bringing some of my favorites and unlike a rare $100 record most of these are still currently available.

- pat.
Primitive Sound System Mixed Tape Sessions from 9PM - 2AM
1039 Washington Street
Hoboken New Jersey
(201) 653-1703

A very partial list is below:
The Other Side - (Don't Look Back) Behind The Shack
When Phillip gave me the final mix / promo cassette of this the band was listed as The Funky Pack. Wow, that is a horrible name. Luckily the music on the tape and subsequently the released LP was so great it could have been called anything. In retrospect, it is apparent where many of the later New Funk release faltered; they assumed as long as you have the beat (or break beat) right the rest of the song doesn't matter. The Other Side LP is complete with compositions with resolve and also include some fine soloing. The playing on the record is never hurried, players lay back and create a groove with feel as much as they do with musicianship. The LP flies by leaving the listener wanting more.

Joseph Henry - "Who's The King (You Know That's Me) (Desco Records cat. 45-1009)
Naomi Davis & The Knights of Forty First Street - "Forty First Street Breakdown" (Desco Records cat. 45-1014)

Sugarman Three - "Funky So-And-So" (Daptone Records cat. DAP-1003)
Charles Bradley and The Sugarman Three - "Take It As It Come Part I & II" (Daptone Records cat. DAP-1005)
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - "Genuine" (Daptone Records cat. DAP-1016)
Sharon Jones - "I Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Is In" (Daptone Records cat. DAP-1022)

Not wanting to seem to anxious Mr. Sugarman waited until Daptone's 3rd release to strut his stuff; Daptone was of course his new venture with former Desco partner Gabe Roth and a second attempt at getting everything James Brown down. The Sugarman Three are hugely talented and would sound amazing playing nursery rhymes. Here they go for a bit more Southern feel in the guitar and organ while the drums pump as if the life of the band depended on it. A slightly New Orleans groove is especially noticeable on the breaks. As would be suspected Mr. Sugarman grabs a grooved solo before the drums get one more break on the fade.

Calypso King and the Soul Investigators - "C'mon Boot-It" (Jive cat. ????)
This was the second outing for the Soul IG's and I knew these guys were destined for greatness. Like the Other Side, The Soul Investigators seemed less worried with trying to imitate the James Brown sound as much as it was just one of many, many influences. Since this release the Soul Investigators have put out one great song after another. "C'mon Boot-It" opens with a nice deep plucking guitar which along with the drums keep very constant throughout the song. The organ takes a very note filled, rolling solo that double times everyone else but some how never disrupts the pace.

Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators – “Keep Reachin’ Up” (Timmion cat. LP-002)
The new Soul Investigators LP features Soul singer Nicole Willis and it is nothing short of brilliant. The whole thing has a raw quality and one that can easily be said is true to the late 60’s early 70’s sound most of the New Funk / Soul outfits go for yet Ms. Willis’ vocal experience with labels like Mo’ Wax help keep things very current sounding. “If This Ain’t love (Don’t Know What Is)” reached number 4 on the charts in their home of Finland. I have had the CD for over a year and welcome its return to constant rotation with the release of the vinyl version. The ever developing and constantly changing Soul Investigators expand their signature stripped down raw Funk sound to include strings, horns, flute and some occasional studio tricks and effects. The recent single from the LP is, “My Four Leaf Clover” b/w “Holdin’On”. The “B” side of this Soul-Popped gem is now my current New Funk favorite. “Holdin’ On” gets started with an open guitar riff but suddenly picks up the pace as the drums skitter across the dance floor. Syncopated horns punctuate the organ and Ms. Willis’ sharp vocals equally before the organ grabs a little solo action. The cut is simply unstoppable and one that will get a lot of platter time.

I should begin this by saying I am not the biggest fan of The Poets of Rhythm. The following two records have a connection to that band which leads me to believe that the parts are better than the whole.

The Whitefield Brothers - "In The Raw" (Soul Fire Records cat. SF-018)
"In The Raw" starts as if the band is being wound up before being able to play. The song is bloody red raw with a nice small group sound made up of guitar, drums, organ and congas. The organ solo is one of the few "old" sounding organ parts on any of the New Funk records. How they got this amazing sound is beyond me but I am very grateful they did. This ranks in the top 5 of my favorite New Funk records and probably ranks pretty high against the forefathers as well. Slow, tight, dirty and mean. (The LP by the same name is just as great. )

The New Process - "Freedom" b/w "Bus People Theme" (Tramp Records cat. TRI 1001)
Originally recorded in 1993 but not released until 2003 this slamming little slice of funkiness best anything I have ever heard from The Poets Of Rhythm. Maybe it's the raw tin can sounding drums or the over modulated bass but whatever it is, it's raw and I like it. Both sides are hard and genuine.

The Soul Destroyers - "Blow Your Top Part II" (Stark Reality cat. Stark-008)
The Soul Destroyers - "Armadillo" (Stark Reality cat. Stark-011)
Part 2 of "Blow Your Top" is decidedly slower than part 1. The band seems more together and has an all round better feel. The instruments are able to breath and interact with each other. There is a real nice difference with the way the recording of the voice was handled compared to the band; the voice is raw and gritty and I wouldn't say the band recording is slick but is definitely cleaner.

Breakestra - "The Gettin' To It" (Ubiquity Records cat. UR7184)
The Breakestra have a very tough sound with the emphasis on the "break" half of their name as the Arkestra half seem s to be a tribute to Sun Ra's band more than an influence and you know what, that's not a bad thing. Most of their cuts are fully fleshed out compositions which move along at quite a clip punctuated with sharp horns, organ and very tasty guitar. The band has improved steadily over the years but that is not to say that their debut "Getcho Soul Togetha" isn't still one of my favorite cuts. "The Gettin' To It" rolls in with a smile on its face and a bounce to its walk. The horns seem to be leading the show here. Deep throaty sax is teased by the trumpet for most of the cut before the trumpet steps out and gives us a real taste. Of course we are treated to a short but sweet break before the theme is stated one last time and we are out.

Speedometer - "At The Speakeasy" (Freestyle Records cat. FSR7004)
Speedometer - "Lazy Susan" (Raw Wax cat. RW45-001)
Speedometer have quite a lot of releases under their belt on many different labels and any one of those releases could have been listed here including an amazing 10" on Kennel Klub. "At The Speakeasy" is a very deceiving name to me. I expected something a bit Jazzy and even mellow Loungey. Oh, how I was wrong. "At The Speakeasy" slams open with an interplay between the band and the guitar which is eventually used as the theme throughout the song. After the brief opening the doors are thrown open to reveal quite a party going on. Drums push along the horns in a tight groove complimenting the steady bass and powerful organ as the percussion holds everything together. They come back to the theme very soon in the happening as almost to remind you where it all began. No complaints here because not only are we treated to a great sax solo but a quick interplay between drums and congas gives the whole thing an extended feel before a partial stating of the theme.

Big Boss Man - "Sea Groove" (Blow Up cat. BU017)
"Sea Groove" opens with a beat and feel very reminiscent of "Apache" but certainly comes into its own as things get moving. A guitar solo precedes the bridge and then guitar and the really sweet sounding organ grab a hold of the action and get down to business. There are hand claps through out which threaten to get in the way but never really do.

The New Master Sounds - "Better Of Dead" (Cooker Records NMS7002)
That electric sitar thing is one cool sounding instrument. Here the New Master Sounds make great use of it over a very funky backing. The coolest thing about this track is that they don't seem concerned to make the track sound even the slight bit Eastern. They are using the electric sitar no different than they would have used a second guitar. Nicely it is the lead throughout most of the track and makes quite a nice racket. Only during the fiery organ solo does it take the back seat but does pop in at the very end just enough to remember the bizarre ride we just took.

Ravi Harris And The Prophets - "Path Of The Blazing Sarong" (Gemini Records cat. 13005)
When Phillip Lehman first brought these into Finyl Vinyl he really tried to convince us that these were old. There was something about the sound that just didn't sound old to me and then I noticed that the United Pressing number was not that far off from the one recently issued to my bands 7". Phillip was bummed but he did bring some by one day that I helped him dirty up the covers of (by stepping on them and rubbing them on the disgusting carpet of Finyl Vinyl) because there were a lot of people who believed him and really did think they were old. The sound here is very simple but very tastefully done. Take equal parts James Brown, equal parts Ananda Shankar and equal parts Sound Library music and you get one hell of a Lounge Funk record. Years later when I worked for Grooovy Sounds Unlimited this got a whole lotta spins at the weekly "Air India" party we threw.

The Jimi Entley Sound - "Charlie's Theme" (Espionage Disk cat. ESP00I)
Some where there is a spy movie waiting for this song as its theme. The drums are recorded really well and the guitar, organ and horns seem to hang just below the surface. Because of its incredible measured slow groove it can feel at times that you are getting a contact high or the sensation that you are walking through a vat of Jell-O. There is some sort of Portishead connection here that seems very possible in the treatment of the horns and drums. Regardless this is one great slow funky 45.

Damn, I am slowing down and falling to sleep so I have to end here. I also packed a bag of LPs.

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