Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I was listening to Sounds of 69 by Crazy Baldhead today, which is an album of covers of songs originally released in 1969 given the Crazy Baldhead reggae treatment, and it got me thinking that 1969 was a great year for music. I started flipping through my collection and realized just how great a year it was. I decided to make a post about a few of my favorite albums which turned 40 this year that Agent Jay didn't cover songs from.
MC5- Kick Out The Jams
The MC5 were part of the (un)holy trinity of proto punk bands including The Velvet Underground and The Stooges (both of which released classic albums in 1969 but aren't being discussed in this article because Crazy Baldhead covered a song from both of them). Kick Out The Jams was the MC5's debut album and cemented them as total badasses not only because the album kicks ass but because they debuted with a heavy, loud, LIVE album. The album is THE prime example of what an MC5 show was like when they were at their loudest. This band did everything that rock bands weren't doing or were too afraid to do at the time. Their political affiliations were more than radical. Joh Sinclaire, leader of the White Panthers,a companion group to the Black Panthers which consisted of white people assisting their cause, gives a speech at the opening of this album. They were doing blues and r&b covers ("Motor City's Burning" by John Lee Hooker, and the r&b standard, "Ramblin Rose") which was not too out of the ordinary for their "hard rock" contemporaries but crediting one of their songs to Sun Ra because they borrowed the lyrics from one of his poems is not something many rock bands were doing and still isn't something I've ever heard of a rock band doing. They also opened the first track on the album with a call to arms for everyone who knew what was what and which horrified everyone who didn't: "KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHERFUCKERS!"
Johnny Otis- Snatch and the Poontangs/Cold Shot
Johnny Otis is an R&B pioneer. He also happens to be white but that never stopped him. He grew up in a black neighborhood of Berkeley and gravitated towards "race music." When he was younger it was swing. Eventually he fell in love with rhythm and blues and became completely intertwined with the genre despite being one of the very few white men involved in it. A few of his accomplishments include many #1's on the R&B charts, discovering Etta James, and producing Big Mama Thorton's "Hound Dog." By 1968 the hits had stopped coming in and he was getting a little old (47 to be exact) but that didn't stop him from putting out two amazing albums that year, Cold Shot and Snatch and the Poontangs. Musically they are both very similar albums. They are blues raveups, updating that R&B sound that Johnny had made his mark playing all those years. Lyrically, however, they are worlds apart. Cold Shot is a straight ahead blues album, whereas Snatch and the Poontangs, as the name suggests, is filthy, raw, X-rated blues. Not only is the music incredible but the songs are hilarious. It should also be mentioned that featured on both albums is Johnny's 15 year old son, Shuggie, who plays the blues so well he rivals some of Hendrix's best blues playing. Shuggie would go on to become a cult hero in his own right, releasing 3 solo albums, Here Comes Shuggie Otis, Freedom Flight, and Inspiration Information, and playing guitar on Al Kooper's Super Sessions follow up called Kooper Sessions.
*Both of these albums plus two bonus tracks from the Snatch and the Poontangs album sessions were compiled onto one CD.
Herbie Mann- Memphis Underground
In keeping with the theme of incredible albums made by white guys in a predominately black genre, here we have Herbie Mann with the soul jazz classic, Memphis Underground. On this album are jazz legends Roy Ayers playing the vibes, Larry Coryell on guitar, and Sonny Sharock also on guitar. The band is rounded out by the Memphis rhythm section. This album is Herbie Mann's tribute to soul music. 3 of the 5 songs on the album are soul covers ("New Orleans" originally recorded by Gary U.S. Bonds, "Hold On, I'm Comin" originally recorded by Sam & Dave, and "Chain of Fools" originally recorded by Aretha Franklin). Of the remaining 2 songs, "Memphis Undergound" is a Herbie Mann original and "Battle Hymn of the Republic" is a traditional song arranged by Herbie Mann. The musicianship is incredible and the grooves are tight. Once you hear Sonny Sharock's guitar solos you'll understand that this is more than just a jazz album and more than just a soul album.
Frank Zappa- Hot Rats
This was Zappa's second solo album, the first being the incredibly experimental Lumpy Gravy. It is also Zappa's first album of jazz compositions (not his first foray into jazz however, as he was composing classical and jazz before forming The Mothers). This is not your father's jazz album though. This is jazz fusion as only Zappa could do. The band features Zappa on guitar, octave bass, and percussion and Zappa regular Ian Underwood playing piano, organ, flute, all clarinets, and all saxes. Beyond that the musicians are not the same for each song but feature special guests Captain Beefheart lending his vocals to "Willie the Pimp", Jean Luc Ponty playing violin on "It Must Be A Camel", and the aforementioned Shuggie Otis playing bass on "Peaches En Regalia" This is the first installment of what has come to be known as Zappa's jazz trilogy which also includes Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo. This album is much more rock oriented the the other two, especially in Zappa's guitar playing and his solos.
Chicago- Chicago Transit Authority
When people think of the band Chicago, they think of the pop songs such as "Saturday in the Park" or "Just You N' Me." While I still enjoy those songs for what they are they couldn't be farther, stylistically, from what this band started out as. They formed in 1967 in Chicago and then moved out to Los Angeles and signed to Columbia who released their self titled debut album, which also happened to be a double LP which was just as unheard of as debuting with a live album. The band has 7 members including trumpet, trombone, and various woodwind instruments. 5 of the 7 members share vocal duties. All of the 7 members of the band were amazing musicians but one should have been a legend. Guitarist Terry Kath should be a household name mentioned in the same breath as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page. In fact, in the liner notes, sax player Walter Parazaider recalls playing a show at the Whiskey in L.A. before the album was recorded and having Jimi Hendrix come up to him and say, "Your horns are one set of lungs, and you know your guitar player is better than me." Kath's genius is all over this album in his incredible solos on "Introduction," "Listen," "Poem 58," "South California Purples," "I'm a Man," and "Liberation." But where he really shines is his epic "Free Form Guitar." The song clocks in at just under 7 minutes of what some would call noise and feedback but I call it guitar virtuosity. In those seven minutes Kath gets sounds to come out of his guitar you've never heard before and yet as a whole, it works surprisingly well as one piece of music. This album is full of heavy songs with a heavy R&B influence. My favorite thing about this album, however, is playing it for people who have never heard it. When they hear I want to play them a Chicago album they're usually surprised and don't want to say no but don't believe me when I say it's going to blow their mind. As soon as the horns kick in on the first track, "Introduction," and Terry Kath starts singing in his bluesy growl it always blows their minds.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Here it is, the final chapter in my Brooklyn funk saga. So far I've gone through Desco, the label that started it all, Soul Fire, the label that kept it all going and Daptone, the label that brought it all to the spotlight. Now it's time to go through the last label. This one, like Daptone, is still going strong.
Truth & Soul was born out of the ashes of Soul Fire. It is run by Jeff Silverman and Leon Michels. Jeff Silverman was Desco's DJ; he spun records at all the NYC Desco shows. Later on he became involved in Soul Fire with Phil Lehman. He also played drums and bass on the JD & the Evil's Dynamite Band album. Leon Michels first came into the scene as a member of The Mighty Imperials recording for Desco then with El Michels Affair for Soul Fire.
When Soul Fire went under, Silverman and Michels teamed up and started Truth & Soul in 2004. For more info about Jeff Silverman, you can read an interview he did in 2006 here and for more information on Truth & Soul you can check out their website here.
TSCD-001 El Michels Affair- Sounding Out The City (2005)
This is El Michels Affair's debut album. The album consists of their patented brand of hard hitting yet polished instrumental soul. The horns are really in the forefront of this entire album. The rhythm section keeps it solid and interesting throughout each of the songs but all of the melody is in the horns and they're arranged beautifully. This album blew my mind the first time I heard it. I had never heard anything that sounded like this before.
TSCD-002 Various-Fallin' Off The Reel vol. 1 (2006)
This is Truth & Soul's first singles collection. The first single released on the label was an afrobeat split 7". It featured Soul Fire's Bama & the Family and Asiko. The Asiko track is all drums and percussion. Next up are 3 songs by Bronx River Parkway playing the latin-funk they do so well. Following them are 2 laid back soul tunes by Timothy McNealy, originally released in 1972, reissued here by Truth & Soul. Next up are two beautiful ballads by the one and only Lee Fields followed by 2 El Michels Affair tracks which were on the Sounding Out The City album. After El Michels Affair comes two instrumentals by The Expressions who back Lee Fields in all of his Truth & Soul endeavors. Closing out the album are two Wu Tang Clan covers by El Michels Affair, two more reissues, this time from the Funky Music Machine, and a song by Evil D, a band I would imagine has some relation to JD & The Evil's Dynamite Band, but I don't know for sure.
TSCD-003 Tyrone Ashley & The Funky Music Machine- Let Me Be Your Man (2007)
This is a reissue of the work of Sammy Campbell, a Plainfield, NJ native. He grew up singing doo wop in a group called the Del-Larks whose biggest competition was a local group called The Parliaments led by George Clinton. Eventually Sammy started making soul music under the moniker Tyrone Ashley and sometimes Tyrone Ashley and the Funky Music Machine. This album compiles previously released and unreleased instrumental and vocal songs from the Funky Music Machine. Bernie Worrell said that he, "had a voice like velvet," and I have to agree. Certain members of George Clinton's funk mob even make appearances on this album, including Eddie Hazel and Billy "Bass" Nelson.
TSCD-004 Various-Fallin Off The Reel vol. 2 (2008)
Here is volume 2 of Truth & Soul's Fallin Off The Reel series. This time we've got 4 singles by T&S bands, 3 reissue singles, and 2 bonus tracks. Of the new singles, there are 4 shortened single versions of songs from Bronx River Parkway's debut album, San Sebastian 152, 2 songs by Lee Fields, and 4 from El Michels affair, one of which is a hip hop song featuring Raekwon. As far as the reissues go, we are given 2 more by the Funky Music Machine which can be found on their album, two more great Timothy McNealy songs, and 2 by a female soul group called Black Velvet. The two bonus tracks are an interlude by Truth and Soul mainstay and former Inspecter 7 bassist Quincy Bright and a previously unreleased song by Soul Fire's The Fabulous Three.
TSCD-006 Bronx River Parkway and The Candela Allstars- San Sebastian 152 (2008)
This is Bronx River Parkway's debut album. They've been around for quite some time and released singles on Soul Fire records. The band features scene regulars Thomas Brenneck, Leon Michels, Nick Movshon, and Quincy Bright and is fleshed out by the Candela Allstars. The album consists of 10 songs done in that unique Bronx River Parkway style, mixing hard edged funk grooves with Latin music. The music varies from being more on the funky side of things, to being more on the Latin side. The percussion is spot on, and the horns never miss a beat.
FB5127 El Michels Affair- Enter the 37th Chamber (2009)
Though this album isn't technically a Truth & Soul release I'm including it anyway. This was released by the Fat Beats label in conjunction with Truth & Soul and is an entire album's worth of El Michels Affair's Wu Tang covers. They are (almost) all instrumental interpretations of songs from the Wu Tang catalog, though ODB's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" features a chorus of children singing the refrain "Shimmy shimmy ya shimmy yeah shimmy yay/gimme the mic so I can take it away". For a Wu Tang fan this album is A LOT of fun. But even if you're not a Wu Tang fan or just don't know their music too well the album stands alone as a beautifully produced El Michels Affair album.
TSCD-007 Lee Fields and the Expressions- My World (2009)
My World is Lee Fields' third full length album with the Brooklyn funk crew. His first, Let's Get A Groove On, released on Desco Records, played to his James Brown-ish tendencies. His second, Problems, released on Soul Fire Records, really fit in with the entire Soul Fire catalog. It went back and forth between great soul tunes and gritty funk like only the Soul Fire guys could do. This time the album has that undeniable Truth & Soul sound. It's a beautiful soul album that really let's Fields' vocal prowess take the lead. The band backing him, The Expressions, reads like a Truth & Soul/Daptone's greatest list: Leon Michels, Nick Movshon, Quincy Bright, Homer Steinweiss, Tommy Brenneck, Jeff Silverman, and Michael Leonhart. Other notable members of the band include The Del-Larks, a Plainfield, NJ doo wop group and rivals of George Clinton's The Parliaments. The Del-Larks included Sammy Campbell, sometimes known as Tyrone Ashley who Truth & Soul released a compilation of back in 2007. The other notable member of the band is conga player Johnny Griggs, who played with James Brown way back when. The combination of the best musicians from the scene and some of the strongest material of Lee Fields' career makes this an album you cannot pass up. Some of the tunes worth mentioning are "Money I$ King" and "These Moments" which some of you may remember as instrumentals by The Expressions from the compilation Falling Off The Reel Vol. 1, another beautiful version of "Honey Dove" from Problems, and the haunting title track.
TSCD-008 El Michels Affair- A Tribute to Isaac Hayes (2009)
El Michels Affair have supplied us with yet another masterfully done album of cover songs, this time from the repertoire of the late, great Isaac Hayes. Technically it's an EP, however it's a 27 minute EP, which only comes in 6 minutes behind Sounding Out The City anyway. "Shaft" is a very bare bones instrumental while "Walk On By" is definitely the sexiest song they have ever recorded. "Hung Up On My Baby" is the most indicative of the El Michels Affair sound we have all come to expect. All in all, this is a fantastic tribute to Isaac Hayes and like Enter the 37th Chamber a great album for all El Michels Affair fans.
TSCD-009 Michael Leonhart and Avramina 7- Seahorse and The Storyteller (2010)
From the opening of the first track, "Seahorse and The Storyteller", with its dark and ominous yet funky guitar/bass line you know you're in for something completely new and original the likes of which have never graced the catalog of Truth & Soul Records before. The song begins to build with the addition of drums and some spacey background sounds. Then come the vocals, always at least 2 voices singing every word found on the record, one low and one singing harmony in a much higher register and you realize that nothing has ever sounded like this before. Throughout the song different textures are added that set the scene for the entire album to come: horns, strings, noises, sounds that might be voices, and instruments that cannot be identified just by listening. As the album progresses styles change, different instrumentation comes and goes, but the two things that stay constant are the breakbeat style drums and the amazingly original vocals. Throughout the song cycle the music shifts from experimental pop/funk with heavy afrobeat tendencies(The tile track and "Scopolamine") to beautiful and haunting ballads ("The Story of Echo Lake"), to exotic, vaguely soul/funk tunes("Gold Fever", "Jaipur", "Madhouse Mumbai") to songs that leave me completely unable to categorize them. This is a concept album and instead of trying to capture it in a sentence or two I'll give you what is written on the back of the package itself: "Seahorse & The Storyteller is the story of two mythical creatures who meet, fall in love and begin piecing together the mysteries of each other's past. They set off on an adventure that will lead them to the ends of the world. Along the way, they encounter a cast of colorful characters who will forever change them". All of these different musical styles I have mentioned already are used perfectly to convey the story of the Seahorse and The Storyteller. There are songs that will make you want to leap out of your seat and start dancing, there are songs that are creepy and dark to convey certain parts of the story and exotic sounding songs that paint a picture of the exotic creatures the two main characters meet along their journey. Every song pulls you into the next and you won't be able to pause it in the middle even if you wanted to. It all leads up to the last song on the album, "Here Comes The Dragonfish", an uplifting and beautifully written, produced and performed pop song. I honestly think it is the best song on the album simply because the entire album leads up to it so perfectly. When it comes, you feel relieved because even though you weren't aware of it yet, you had been waiting almost 40 minutes to hear that specific song.
TSCD- 010 Various- Fallin Off The Reel Vol. 3 (2011)
Yet another installment in the fantastic Fallin Off The Reel series. Volume 3 brings us the latest and greatest of the limited edition 45's Truth & Soul have been putting out since Volume 2 hit the shelves. It opens up with two smooth, disco-y funk tunes. The second track being the most disco but also my favorite as it's an 8 minute trombone/flute duet. Then we get some new Quincy Bright, including "Stay The Night" which is an actual song with a structure and vocals as opposed to his usual short instrumental sound collages. The following two songs are two more Timothy McNealy reissues. These two being heavier and funkier than anything on volumes one or two. I really hope they will eventually put an entire disc's worth of Timothy McNealy tracks together for a proper full length. I'm going to skip around a bit now. The next new band to be featured are The Olympians. They offer up their own brand of smooth, cinematic soul. It's El Michels Affair-esque but different enough to be really exciting.
TSCD-011 Lee Fields- Problems (2002)
This is a Soul Fire reissue. For a review see my article on Soul Fire Records.
TSCD-014 Various- African Music Today (2010)
This album is a compilation of rare and unreleased modern afrobeat music, though you will think you're listening to a collection centered around 1970's Nigerian bands. There is no information about any of these bands to be found within the packaging of the CD, however I do know that the Bama & The Family and Jojo Quo and his Challengers tracks were pulled from the Sou Fire vaults. Besides those songs the album is comprised of amazing, obscure afrobeat which just get better and better as the album progresses.
TSCD-017 The Fabulous Three- The Best Of The Fabulous Three (2010)
Those of you paying close attention to the Brooklyn Funk articles will recognize the Fabulous Three from the Soul Fire article and earlier in his article about Truth & Soul. The Fabulous Three were a Soul Fire band in every sense of the word. They shared members with just about every band on the label, they were all friends, and they made soul music that was as heavy as it was beautiful. It is only fitting that they finally receive a full length reissue on Truth & Soul since most of their members are still active in the label's output to this day. The album opens up with "Answer Me Softly Pt. 1" and "Answer Me Softly Pt. 2" which both appeared on Soul Fire's Up From The Vaults Vol. 1 after being released as a 45rpm single. Of the following 11 songs, all but one, "Odyssey Revised" which was included as a bonus track on Falling Off The Reel Vol. 2, are seeing daylight for the first time. The drum beat mixed with the handclaps and clave pattern on "Nightbird" is mesmerizing. The organ melodies on "Whitesands Pt. 1," "Whitesands Pt. 2," and "No Name Bar" will be stuck in your head forever. All in all we are finally given the chance to fully appreciate the distinct sound of The Fabulous Three. These songs sound like nothing that came before them and nothing that has come since (although I noticed today that the JD and the Evil's Dynamite Band album does come pretty close). The minimalism in the instrumentation is what sets them apart from everything else. Most of the songs only feature drums, bass, organ and sometimes flute and some horns. Only five of the tracks actually have guitar. Most of the tracks are mixed in a way that the drums are way up front and it gives them a fullness I have yet to hear on anything else. It also gives the song a completely different personality because the mixing is telling you the drums are the focal point of this recording which is something you don't often hear.
As a little bonus, here's a small list of some Brooklyn funk guest appearances.
New York Ska Jazz Ensemble- Skaleidoscope (2005)
NYSJE are veterans of the ska scene. Their first album came out on Moon Ska Records way back in 1995. The band is centered around sax/flute/vocalist and former member of the Toasters, "Rocksteady" Freddy Reiter. This album features the beautiful vocals of Sharon Jones on the songs, "Makin' Whoopee," "Isn't It Funny," and "Making Love."
The Scorchers- Stuntin' (2005)
The Scorchers are a traditional ska band from Brooklyn featuring two ex members of the Slackers. Their debut album features the saxophone and organ of El Michels. The album is about half instrumental, half vocal. El Michels also helped record the album as well, giving it a bit of that Truth & Soul analog feel.
Amy Winehouse- Back to Black (2006)
This woman needs no introduction. You either love her or hate her, depending on how much celebrity gossip you pay attention to. I personally don't care what kind of person is, I think she has an amazing voice, and the songs are extremely catchy. It also doesn't hurt that the music on this album, and the subsequent tour, was provided by Daptone's own The Dap Kings.
That's it for my Brooklyn funk chronicles. I'm going to do my best to keep these updated as Daptone and Truth & Soul release more and as I get the ones I don't already own. A lot of these bands are still playing shows, and you should really go out and see them if you ever get the chance. I've only gotten the chance to see Budos Band, but my friends have seen Sharon Jones, Lee Fields, Sugarman 3, and Menahan Street Band and I've never heard a bad review. Read more about the Brooklyn funk scene with my articles on Daptone, Soul Fire, and Desco.
Now it's time to talk about the most famous of all the Brooklyn funk record labels, Daptone Records. The label was formed out of Desco's ashes in 2000 by Gabriel Roth and Neal Sugarman. Without further ado, here is the Daptone catalog (it's much longer than any of the other labels because it has lasted so long).
Dap 001 Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings- Dap Dippin With... (2002)
Daptone's first full length release by Brooklyn's own funky diva, Sharon Jones. However, she's no rookie; she had a single or two out on Descoback in the 1990's. This is her first full length, and its the nastiest, grittiest, and funkiest of her career to date. Every track is fantastic and they will all have you up on your feet dancing your ass off.
Dap 002 Sugarman Three and Co.- Pure Cane Sugar (2002)
This is the Sugarman Three's third album. This time the band is fleshed out with a bunch of guests including trumpet, congas, clavinet, and baritone sax. Along with those guests there are three guest vocalists on the album, Charles Bradley, Naomi Davis, and Lee Fields. On top of that, as if that wasn't enough, there's one more guest, the drum LEGEND Bernard "Pretty" Purdie. All of these special guests really make it an exciting album, however it is the one I go back and listen to least. That's not to say it's a bad album at all. I honestly don't think the Sugarman Three are capable of putting out a bad album, it's just not as good as Sugar's Boogaloo or Soul Donkey. That being said, the vocal cuts are great and though the instrumentals are in a different style than their previous two albums they've still got it.
Dap 003 The Mighty Imperials- Thunder Chicken (2004)
This album was recorded way back in 1999(ish) and was supposed to be put out by Desco but was never officially released until Daptone was kind enough to let us have it in 2004. There was a bootleg released in 2000 which caused some controversy, enough so for the Daptone issue to have a note on the back cover that says "*Any other issue of this album with different cover art is an unauthorized BOOTLEG for which the artists have recieved NO ROYALTIES*." I've seen that bootleg, whoever made them tried to pass them off as a Desco release with the label logo and everything. Anyway, this band consists of Leon Michels (of El Michels Affair), Homer Steinweis (later to become drummer for the Dap Kings), Nick Movshon (also of El Michels Affair, and Antibalas), and Sean Solomon (also of El Michels Affair). The music on this album is Meters style funk straight down to the album cover (just compare this artwork to Struttin by the Meters) and they do it flawlessly. I remember when this was released and being blown away by how well they pulled off that New Orleans organ/guitar funk style. There are also four vocal cuts on the album sung by Joseph Henry. They are in more of a James Brown style and are very good but the real gold on this CD is found in the instrumentals.
Dap 004 Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings- Naturally (2005)
Sharon Jones and her band return for their second full length, this time with a much more polished product. I have a hard time picking favorites but this may be my favorite Sharon Jones album. It's not too slick or over produced, it's just right. It's also got a beautifully sung ballad duet with Lee Fields called "Stranded In Your Love" and though the lyrics get a bit corny at times the song is too great for that to matter. From the slower paced songs like "Stranded..." and "All Over Again" to the dancefloor funk of "Your Thing is a Drag" and "Natural Born Lover", this is another great album from Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.
Dap 005 Budos Band- Budos Band (2005)
This is the debut album by The Budos Band. They are an 11 piece "afro soul" band hailing from Staten Island. What that means is that they mix afrobeat rhythms and instrumentation with that Daptone soul sound we've all come to know and love by now. On the album, as if 11 members isn't enough, they are joined by 5 very talented guests: Neal and Daisy Sugarman (of the Sugarman Three), Bosco Mann (a.k.a. Gabriel Roth of the Dap Kings), Duke Amayo (of Antibalas), and the great percussionist, Johnny Griggs (of the J.B.'s). This album is the perfect mix of afrobeat and soul and the musicianship is out of this world. Every groove is spot on with just the right amount of percussion and the horn section is always spot on. Also, on a side note, if you ever get the chance to see this band live, do it. They're fantastic.
Dap 006 Sugarman Three- Sugar's Boogaloo (1998)
This is the Daptone reissue of this album which originally came out on Desco. For a review see my article devoted to Desco records.
Dap 007 Poets of Rhythm- Practice What You Preach (1993)
This is another reissue, however not of an old Desco title. The Poets of Rhythm were a prior incarnation of the two men behind The Whitefield Brothers (who's album In The Raw came out on Soul Fire Records). In fact, this was their debut album, originally released all the way back in 1993, as the Daptone website says, "years before Desco, Daptone, DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, or any of the rest of us ever got covered in the filth of raw funk." This album just wreaks of the 1970's. The title track feels like an outtake from an old J.B.'s LP. After listening to this album you won't believe that it came out as late as 1993 and that the band is from Germany. You'll think this came out in 1974 and was recorded by a band from Georgia.
Dap 008 The Sugarman Three- Soul Donkey (2000)
This is another Desco reissue. For a review see my article on Desco Records
Dap 009 The Daktaris- Soul Explosion (1998)
This is another Desco reissue. For a review see my article on Desco Records
Dap 010 Bob & Gene- If This World Were Mine... (2007)
This is another reissue. It collects songs recorded by Bobby Nunn and Eugene Coplin between 1967 and 1972 for for Mo Do label, run by William Nunn, Bobby's father. Bob and Gene were two boys from Buffalo, New York who had a passion for music. They devoted themselves to writing these beautiful love songs. According to the liner notes a full length album was in the works but Mo Do records ran out of money before a full album by Bob and Gene could be made. Daptone remedied this by releasing this collection. This album is full of fantastic sweet soul from the duo filled with great horn work and beautiful harmonies.
Dap 011 The Budos Band- Budos Band II (2007)
Budos Band return to offer another amazing piece of Staten Island Soul. This time it's a little less afrobeat and a little more soul, however that African influence is still very obvious and very noticeable throughout the entire album. There is not much to say about this album other than it's a great album. More great grooves brought to you by this world class rhythm section and more great horn work from one of the best horn sections in music today.
Dap 012 Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings- 100 Days, 100 Nights (2007)
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings return with their third album. This time around the production is even cleaner and more slick. Some songs, such as "When the Other Foot Drops, Uncle" and "100 Days, 100 Nights" have a strong gospel feel. The songwriting and instrumentation is much bigger this time around. There is orchestration, gospel backup vocals, more horns, piano, and organ. While some would criticize this album as saying that Sharon Jones has gone soft, I'd say she's just taking a step in a different direction. Would I like to hear another album of gritty funk in the style of Dap Dippin? Of course, but that doesn't make this a bad album. It's a great soul album, with very rich instrumentation.
Dap 014 Various- Como Now: The Voices of Panola County Mississippi (2008)
In 2006, Daptone started advertising in Panola County Mississippi for people to come to a certain church on a certain day and Daptone would record their songs for them. The result was this album full of a capella gospel music, originals and standards. I don't own this one yet because I'm not that big of a fan of gospel music and the fact that it's a capella also makes me hesitant. When/If i buy it I'll update this with a review.
Dap 015 Menahan Street Band- Make the Road by Walking (2008)
The Menahan Street Band, as far as members go, are an amalgamation of the Budos Band, El Michels Affair/Mighty Imperials and the Dap Kings. The music on their debut album, however, stands alone. It's a very clean and polished soul sound, reminiscent of El Michels Affair but the songwriting is slightly different. Every song on this album is as beautiful as it is catchy. They even dabble in reggae with the song "Montego Sunset."
Dap 016 Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens- What Have You Done My Brother (2009)
This album is brand new, no more than a month old. I have not had the chance to pick it up yet. However, Naomi Shelton also went by Naomi Davis back when she released a classic single on Desco Records "41st Street Breakdown b/w Catapult" and when she guested on Pure Cane Sugar by The Sugarman Three. The Daptone website says this is just as much of a soul album as it is a gospel album. I'll be sure to review it when I'm able to buy it.
Dap 12002 Budos Band- Budos Band EP (2009)
-Review coming soon-
Dap 017 Pax Nicholas and the Nettey Family- Na Teef Know De Road of Teef
Nicholas Nettey joined Fela Kuti's Africa 70 as a conga player and backup vocalist in 1971 and recorded with Fela through 1978 (For those not in the know, Fela is the King of Afrobeat and 1971-1978 is his greatest and most influential period). This album, one of 2 which he recorded on the side during his time with Fela, was recorded in 1973 at Ginger Baker's studio in Lagos, Nigeria. It is a lost afrobeat classic and the story of how it was found seems to good to be true. The man behind the Voodoo Funk blog found it in the back room of a record store in Philadelphia among a stack of African LP's. He found Nicholas Nettey who had been living in Berlin for quite some time and approached Daptone Records about reissuing it. There were no master tapes so luckily for us the record he found in Philly was in beautiful condition and this CD Reissue was remastered directly from that LP. The album was 4 songs, each masterpieces in their own right. They are slower, more low-key, and more groove oriented than Fela's material at the time. The stars of the album are the organ, the horns, and the percussion. The organ is comes to the front no matter what its part in the song is. The horns are simplistic and catchy, the percussion makes the beat infectious, and the vocals really add to the groove. We are all indebted to Daptone for bringing this lost classic to our attention.
Dap 018 Various- Daptone Gold (2010)
This is a compilation covering the first ten years of Daptone Records. It has material from the albums released by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Budos Band, Menahan Street Band, and Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens. It also has singles by Binky Griptite & The Mellomatics, Lee Fields, Antibalas, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and Charles Bradley. This set is worth it for any Daptone fans for the songs which were only previously available on 45's and for the 2 exclusive songs: "A Love Like Me" by Binky Griptite and The Sugarman Three, "Giving Up" by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings.
Dap 019 Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings- I Learned the Hard Way (2010)
This, the fourth album by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, is another beautiful soul album we have all come to expect from the band. It isn't as smooth and polished as 2007's 100 Days, 100 Nights and the gospel tinge found on that album is nowhere to be found. What we have is just a very danceable sweet soul album, though some songs are sweeter than others. There aren't any surprises on this album but there doesn't need to be. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings know how to play soul.
Dap 020 Budos Band- III (2010)
This is their best, most haunting album yet. The grooves are scary and the production is very dark but it will still immediately make you get up and dance. The playing and songwriting is top notch and the Budos horns are just as amazing as they always are.
Dap 021 Charles Bradley- No Time For Dreaming (2011)
Daptone's newest release, Charles Bradley's No Time For Dreaming is being released this Tuesday. The man has been singing for many years but has only made a few appearances with the Brooklyn funk crew so far. His first, to my knowledge, was "Take It As It Comes" with the Sugarman Three on Pure Cane Sugar. He has also released 3 singles on Daptone, one of which being a Christmas 45, the three others being songs from his upcoming album. Menahan Street Band are backing him for his full length debut. Review coming soon.
Daptone has also released two singles collections, however they are download only through Itunes and emusic. Since I don't ever buy music through itunes and I really hate having to buy music through Itunes, I haven't gotten either of them. It actually kind of bothers me that a record label so addicted to vinyl would release something that is only available as a download instead of putting a nice package together. However, because it IS Daptone and I know I'll love the music once I finally get my hands on it, I'm sure I will cave and get them eventually.
For more information on Daptone Records check out their website here.
Coming Soon: Truth & Soul
Now that we got Desco out there it's time to talk about my favorite label of the bunch and some of my favorite music to come out of the entire scene: Soul Fire Records. The label was formed by Phil Lehman in 1999 or 2000. Now that Lehman parted ways with Gabriel Roth he had complete control, which meant a label dedicated to the raw, gritty funk he loved. Here's what Soul Fire did in their few years as a label:
SFCD001 Calypso King and the Soul Investigators- Soul Strike (2001)
The first full length to come from Soul Fire is one of the best so far. It is 40 minutes of raw, instrumental, organ driven funk. The guitar melodies are worthy of the Meters and every drum beat is just begging to be sampled. The band is actually from Helsinki, Finland. Who knew something this funky could come from Finland...
SFCD002 JD & The Evil's Dynamite Band- Explodes Across the Nation (2001)
Once again, this CD is another batch of instrumentals, every one of which dirtier and more soulful than you could ever imagine. These guys know just how to hit a groove and keep it going for as long as they want. In my opinion, this is the pinnacle of everything that would be released in this entire scene. If you had to pick one CD out of this whole Brooklyn scene, this is the one I'd recommend.
SFCD301 Various- Grazing in the Trash vol. 1 (2001)
This is Soul Fire's first singles collection and its filled to the brim with heavy hitting funk. All of the tracks are instrumentals except for the two Lee Fields songs. They are also all exclusive to this CD except for one Lee Fields song which is also on Problems. The CD features songs by Calypso King and the Soul Investigators, Speedometer, JD and the Evil's Dynamite Band, Lee Fields and the Explorers, Third Point, The Soul Command, and 2 tracks of Soul Fire Educational drum beats.
SFCD302 Various- Grazing in the Trash vol. 2 (2002)
This is the second volume of singles compiled onto CD. This is the only Soul Fire CD I don't own so I can't give a review of the music on here. But I can tell you a little bit about some of the bands. The first two tracks are by Bama and the Family and if these two songs are anything like they're first single on Truth & Soul then this is some heavy afro-soul. Next up is the Soul Diggers, whom I unfortunately know nothing about. Next up are two songs each from the Sugarman Three and Lee Fields. None of their tracks appear on other albums. Next comes a Soul Fire funk reissue by The Detroit Sex Machines on the Soul Track label. They were a heavy funk band with a good horn section who knew how to hit a hard groove. The set closes out with two by Joseph Henry and the Soul Command (one's a vocal, one's an instrumental) and two by the Whitefield Brothers, one of which ended up on the Soul Fire issue of In The Raw, and the other was included on the Stones Throw reissue.
SFCD303 Various- Up From the Vaults vol. 1 (2002)
This is the third and final CD compiling the Soul Fire singles catalog. It opens up with what I believe is Bronx River Parkway's first single. Two heavy pieces of latin funk, a style which they would only keep perfecting as time went on. Next up are two organ-driven instrumentals by WQLJ and two instrumental soul ballads by the Fabulous Three. Then we get two more amazing tracks by the Whitefield Brothers in the same style as the two tracks on Grazing in the Trash vol. 2 and their album In The Raw. The next single here is by Mauri Bailey. The first features her vocals, which aren't amazing but the band behind her more than makes up for it. The second song is a laid back soul instrumental. Then comes the straight up party funk of the Herb Johnson Settlement, two great afrobeat songs by Massak, another Detroit Sex Machines reissue, and the beautiful soul of El Michels Affair.
SFCD004 Lee Fields- Problems (2002)
Mr. Fields is back after a 4 year absence with another full length which easily tops his Desco outing. This album has everything and it's all covered in that patented Soul Fire grit. If its psyched out funk you want then you're gonna wanna check out "Bad Trip." If its a raw soul ballad you want done in a way only Lee Fields and the Soul Fire musicians could do then you'll wanna give "Honey Dove" a listen. This album has everything from slower love songs to the soul rave ups you've come to expect from Lee Fields mixed with the raw funk you've now come to expect from the Soul Fire funk mob. This album was recently reissued by Truth & Soul Records.
SFCD005 The Whitefield Brothers- In The Raw (2002)
I always lump the Whitefield Brothers (sometimes known as the Poets of Rhythm, and most recently, Karl Hector and the Malcouns) in with the Brooklyn funk scene simply because this album was released on Soul Fire and because Daptone reissued an old album by the Poets of Rhythm, however, they are not from Brooklyn at all. They are two guys based out of Munich. This album was recorded by Gabriel Roth and might have been meant for release on Desco. The band features Jan and Max Wesseinfeldt, a.k.a Jay and Muggy Whitefield, and also the cream of the crop of Brooklyn's musicians including, Gabriel Roth, Neal Sugarman (of the Sugarman Three), and Leon Michels (of El Michels Affair and The Mighty Imperials). This album always felt, to me, like an African soul album. It's heavy on the percussion which gives it a very African feel but its still got that Brooklyn soul aesthetic. This album was just recently reissued on Stones Throw Records with a bonus track.
Comin Soon: Daptone Records