Tagged: funk

The Best Of The Isley Brothers

The Guardian have started an interesting new feature where they will be highlighting the ten best songs of  key artists or genres and launched it with a look at the Isley Brothers.

I always forget just how far back the Isley Brothers go, but it’s kind of incredible that the first song on the list is from 1959 and the last from 2001. What’s even more incredible is just how long they managed to keep up the quality; Shout & Testify, recorded in ’59 & ’64 respectively, are up there with the best of James Brown’s early output, whilst the likes of That Lady & Harvest For The World, from their 70s purple patch, are simply up there with the best records of that decade.

The Spotify playlist above is one that The Guardian put together but I thought it would be interesting to also pull together a video mix via Dragontape, the app that the Brownswood crew used to highlight Gilles Peterson’s favourite tracks of 2013. Which all goes to show, of course, that it doesn’t matter what type of tech you use to listen to it, it’s the music that really matters at the end of the day, whether it’s 5 months or 55 years old.

Picture: United Pentecostal Church on flickr

The picture at the top has nothing to do with The Isley Brothers. I was trying to find a picture for the word harvest (see what I did there) and this came up. How could I not use it?

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Daft Punk’s Get Lucky Gets Funky

Daft Punk’s return has generated acres of coverage, reviews ranging from rave to merely fawning, and even saw several thousand people flock to a rural town in Australia for the launch party for the new album, where the French duo failed to show.

But possibly the best thing to have come out of the release of their incredibly retro new direction is this video, which sees the song Get Lucky put to a video compilation of people dancing on the classic American show Soul Train. The moves, outfits and general attitude are all so amazing it just makes me smile.

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When you watch these kids dancing back in the 70s you can totally see how funk begat disco, begat hip-hop. After all, who were the band sampled by  early hip-hop legends Sugarhill Gang on the classic Rapper’s Delight? Disco kings Chic, whose guitarist Nile Rogers supplies the ravishing guitar licks on Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, which brings us nicely back to where we started.

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Stevie Wonder – Superstition (Obol Remix)

I’ll keep this one short.

So, Gilles Peterson, second show on BBC 6Music. Sixth track of the afternoon, a restrained, slow-building house remix of Stevie Wonder’s funk classic Superstition. The remix is by Obol, who I don’t know much about other than the fact that he likes remixing things, and he’s from Switzerland.

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I don’t often say this about cover versions, let alone remixes, but I actually think that Obol improves Superstition; yes, that’s right – I just said that this is better than Stevie Wonder’s original. I always felt that, whilst it’s a great track to get people dancing, the disco was a bit forced on Superstition. With all that stripped away and nothing left to distract us from the lyrics of the song, it’s actually much more powerful. Mat Weddle managed a similar trick with his cover of Outkast’s Hey Ya.

Anyway, enjoy. Here’s hoping Gilles pulls some more smashes out of the bag next week.

Voodoo doll by [F]oxymoron on flickr

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#shfl11: Brass Construction – Happy People

Well, #shfl11 finally seems to be doing what I’d hoped it would: introducing me to music I have never encountered before, despite it being on my iPod. Today, Happy People by Brass Construction, which is certainly the worst band name we’ve had so far, and possibly one of the worst names ever. According to Wikipedia they were originally called Dynamite Soul, and I can’t help thinking that they probably spent quite a lot of time wishing they’d never changed it.

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Or then again, maybe not, because Happy People is taken from Brass Construction III, which was, unsurprisingly, their third album, which was released before they went on to release Brass Construction IV, V & VI. They really weren’t great at the whole naming lark, were they? Even their Best Of is more imaginatively named. Still, at least their music is better than their way with words. Happy People is a meaty, if hardly revolutionary slice of 70s disco-funk, bringing to mind Earth, Wind & Fire, The Gap Band and Kool & The Gang, amongst others.

Brass Construction, however, never quite reached the heights that these other bands did (maybe something to do with the name?), only broaching the main US Top 100 on 3 occasions, and the UK Top 30 twice. In both instances their highest position was reached with their first single, the dance-floor classsic Movin’: you may not have heard of Brass Construction (I hadn’t), but you’ll almost have certainly have heard the track (I had).

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Considering that Movin’ was their first single, that Happy People, off of their 3rd album, is a clone of it, and that their last UK chart entry, in 1988, was with a remix of Movin’, it’s hard not to think that they never reached the heights because they didn’t have the same quantity of quality. That said, considering who’s sampled them, and how good Movin’ is (and Happy People ain’t bad either), you’d have to say that they’re still responsible for a lot more good music than many other, more famous acts, and I’m just glad that #shfl11 brought them into my life.

#shfl11 is a self-set challenge to write a post every day in 2011 about whatever song pops up 1st on shuffle on my iPod

Construction site by Jakob Montrasio on flickr

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#shfl11: James Brown – Soul Power Pt. 1

Well, after the obscurity of yesterday’s #shfl11 entry comes a song that I know very well, and love even more. James Brown was, arguably, one of the two or three most influential musicians of the last 50 years, if not the entire 20th Century. He essentially created a new genre, funk, and did for black music what Elvis did for, well, black music actually.

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Soul Power Pt. 1 is probably one of the purest expressions of his late 60s/early 70s phase, when he’d moved away from the more classic R&B sound of his early years, and was starting to become the true Godfather of Soul. Like much of his best work it’s a pretty simple thing, sampled to death by a million and one artists, with lyrics that are unlikely to win any awards. But if there’s one thing you should never do it’s underestimate James Brown, and he it’s worth mentioning that by the time he released Soul Power Pt. 1 he’d already penned I’m Black & I’m Proud.

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Because whether he was giving voice to the nascent black power movement, or laying down moves that every singer cum dancer would be ripping off for the next 40 years, James Brown had true soul & his songs always had power.

#shfl11 is a self-set challenge to write a post every day in 2011 about whatever song pops up 1st on shuffle on my iPod.

Soul power by Lunchbox Photography on flickr

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Odyssey – Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love

Well, it really is turning into a rather wonderful summer here in Blighty, isn’t it?And so, to celebrate that fact, I thought I’d post a slice of summer gold and was going to do just that with D’Angelo’s cover of Roy Ayers’ Everybody Loves The Sunshine.

Until I remembered I’d already written about it.

Not to be put off, I thought that I’d share with you another slice of sunny magic from the same album that I discovered D’Angelo’s effort on, Mr Scruff’s Big Chill Classics. And so, ladies and gentlemen, I present the sublime Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love by 70s funk-maestros Odyssey (who were also responsible for the ultimate cover of Lamont Dozier’s classic Going Back To My Roots).

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There’s really not a lot to say about this as you really just ought to listen to it. But, in the interests of pretending that I can string coherent sentences together, I’ll just say this.

Listening to Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love will immediately make you feel like you’re sat on a balcony on a balmy Mediterranean island, that there’s a cool G&T on the table in front of you, that your skin still has that wonderful glow from a day loafing around under a blazing sun, that a night of pleasantly laid-back hedonism awaits you, and that tomorrow will almost certainly involve swimming pools, rosé wine, fresh seafood and mid-afternoon siestas.

Which can’t be bad.

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Angelique Kidjo – Move On Up (Curtis Mayfield Cover)

Whilst it’s probably a manifestation of the reason that England are always shit in international tournaments, I have to say that I found most of the Germany-Spain semi-final rather dull. Yes Spain passed the ball amazingly well, but they seemed to spend most of the first half doing so in order to stop the Germans playing the attacking football that has lit-up this World Cup to date. I know that’s the idea, but as a neutral it rather sucks.

Add to that the depressing sight of Shearer, Lawrenson, Linkeker and Hansen having a licence fee funded holiday without providing any sort of insight in return, and it was really a rather soul destroying night. Until the credits rolled that is.

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Because there then followed a marvellous semi-acoustic cover version of Curtis Mayfield’s 70s funk anthem Move On Up, with the whole thing given an African twist. As always, the name of the track wasn’t announced in the credits (they can do it in movies, why the hell can’t they do it with TV shows?) and so I despaired of finding out the name of the track, untill Twitter (in the shape of @JohnnyLaird) stepped in to save the day:

@ciaranj It’s Angelique Kidjo http://youtu.be/wtEkbYhtW3Q$

And, blow me, if he wasn’t right. Unfortunately the version on YouTube appears to be the official version, from her recent album Oyo, and therefore include the over-the-top wailings of honourary African Bono*, as well as the rather less annoying John Legend, as opposed to the far more haunting version played at the end of Match of the Day.

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Even so, it’s still a belter of a cover. And whilst it’s hard to top perfection (and the original Curtis Mayfield version of Move On Up is about as close to musical perfection as you’re ever likely to find), Angelique Kidjo’s cover isn’t half bad.

UPDATE: Full props to Ahmed who left a link to the (much more satisfying) acoustic version that ended Match of the Day, which you can now see above in all its (2 minute) glory.

*What’s the difference between Bono & God? God doesn’t fly ’round the world in a private jet thinking he’s Bono.

Angelique on Facebook. Her official site.

Football in TV by dr. motte on flickr

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I Wish Tuomo Would Visit London

A while back I was doing quite a bit of writing for music site Fly and whilst a lot of the stuff I got was pretty average, there was album that really stuck with me. My Thing, the debut album by Finnish soul singer Tuomo, was an absolutely lovely record: not original or ground-breaking but stunningly put together and simply wonderful in just about every possible way. It’s been one of my favourite albums of the last few years and I’ve been looking forward to a follow up.

Well now it’s arrived, in the shape of Reaches Out For You and whilst it’s not (on the basis of about 5 listens) quite up to the standard of its predecessor, I still think it will be featuring highly in my end of year lists (and hopefully, if there’s any justice in the world, in those of the major music magazines too). What is frustrating about Tuomo is that I can’t see him perform any of the tracks from Reaches Out For You (such as the amazing Head Above The Water which you can see below), or My Thing, live.

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Because it seems that whilst Tuomo tours  his homeland incessantly (and was only kept off the number one spot in Finland by Bruce Springsteen) there seem to be no plans for him to come here to the UK where, I’m sure, his music would go down a storm with the soul-loving tribes on London. So after you’ve finished enjoying a live version of the title track from My Thing, why not leave a comment below saying how much you’d like to see this ginger Finnish soul sensation here in Blighty.

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London bus image by doug88888 on flickr

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Lamont Dozier – Going Back To My Roots (Covered By Odyssey)

Roots photo from flickr

It’s Thursday and that means that it’s Popbitch time (hooray!) And amongst the usual scurrilous gossip and terrible jokes (It seems Suggs is marching against racism and homophobia. I mean, it’s just Madness gone politically correct.) there is this soul-gem: the original version of Going Back To My Roots (made famous by disco-funk act Odyssey in the early 80s) by Lamont Dozier.

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Lamont Dozier was, of course, one part of the legendary song-writing team Holland-Dozier-Holland who were responsible for much of the best work to come out of Motown. And in this, the year of the 50th anniversary of Motown’s birth, it only seems right to celebrate the incredible men & women who made it what it was. And in the ten minutes of Going Back To My Roots there is truly much to be celebrated: an addictive rhythm, soaring strings, ridiculous breaks, a manic bit where it all goes very African and just about anything else any soul/funk/disco fan could ask for.

If anyone has any other lesser known, but amazing, works from people who helped build Motown let me know and I’ll post them here throughout 2009. In the meantime, why not check out the (equally) brilliant versions by Richie Havens &, of course, Odyssey:

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Roots image by noahg on flickr

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Eddie Kendricks – Girl You Need A Change Of Mind

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I’ve just been updating my iPod with all the stuff I downloaded at Chris’ suggestion, as well as with the amazing GoldieLocks cover of Provider and stumbled across this amazing slice of early 70s disco by Eddie Kendricks. I have no idea where I got Girl You Need A Change Of Mind from as my iTunes library has no mention of any album and I have no recollection of dowloading it back in November 2005 (when it was added to my collection).

According to Wikipedia Eddie Kendricks was one of the co-founders of The Temptations but left in 1971. I’m sure that he wasn’t too happy about this but considering that he then recorded Girl You Need A Change Of Mind the following year I can only say how glad I am that he did. Also according to last.fm the track was a favourite at iconic New York proto-club The Loft: I can see why as I certainly intend to see if I can track this down on vinyl with the aim of playing it out next time someone is foolish enough to let me play any records.

Kendricks has an unmistakeable falsetto voice and in this track it’s accompanied by an utterly infectious piano line, some insufferably funky bongo, driving horns and the sort of beat it’s impossible to hear without dropping into a disco strut. It’s the sort of music that proves that disco was always about so much more than Travolta and The Bee Gees: I realise that a lot of people disagree with me, but I literally don’t understand how anyone could not like a track like this unless they lack a pulse. But that’s just me.

So then, Eddie Kendricks’ Girl You Need A Change Of Mind – like my very own Anthony Gormley in my musical Antiques Roadshow.

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