James Brown: The Chicken
From 7″ (King, 1969). Also on Popcorn.
Sugar Pie DeSanto: A Little Taste of Soul
From 7″ (Gedinson’s 100 Wax, 1962).
John Ellison: You’ve Got to Have Rhythm
From 7″ (Phil L.A. of Soul, 1970). Also on Funky, Funky Way of Making Love.
Lou Courtney: Hey Joyce
From 7″ (Pop-Side, 1967)
Toussaint McCall: Shimmy
From 7″ (Ronn, 196?). Also on Nothing Takes the Place of You.
Little Eva Harris: Get Ready – Uptight
From 7″ (Spring, 1968). Also on The Spring Story.
Bonus: Mighty Mo: The Next Message (Version)
From 7″ (Peace Find, 2007)
Today’s pick six follows on the Latin Party Starters post I made a few weeks back; this time, I offer up a selection of funk tracks. I, by no means, have that impressive of a funk 45 collection but I tend to collect for efficacy rather than rarity.
That’s why James Brown is such a blessing – much of his better material is easily attainable since he was so popular and prolific. “The Chicken” is a great example of his late ’60s funk styles, more minimalist than his ’70s output which tended to be more dense and involved. Something like “The Chicken” is such a clean, simple funk instrumental and no doubt, an inspiration to the dozens of bands who began to churn out similar funk tunes to this and other stuff off the excellent Popcorn LP.
The Sugar Pie DeSanto cut comes from a few years earlier – it’s a great example of “proto-funk,” one of the many sides from the early 1960s which clearly foresaw the kind of rhythmic energy that the end of the decade would be awash in. Though this song appears on the James Brown’s Original Funky Divas anthology, the Brown connection here is somewhat tenuous – he didn’t produce the single but his former drummer Nat Kendrick did lead her backing band here. Also, the version here is the original 1962 release (which to me was far superior). The version on the comp was actually an alternate take from 1964 which was much faster but loses something in the trade-off. (Thanks to Cool Chris and the Groove Merchant for this one).
I first heard the John Ellison cut at Miles Tackett’s long-running “Funky Sole” party and the first thing it reminded me was Don Gardner’s “My Baby Likes to Boogaloo” because of that hard, gritty guitar line that comes in after the intro. That is so my sound. Ellison was one of the Philly soul/funk artists to come out on the Phil L.A. of Soul label but this one, alas, isn’t as easy to catch as, say, the People’s Choice. I’d love to get any recommendations for other stuff with “that sound”.
Lou Courtney’s “Hey Joyce” is one of those frustrating 45-only cuts from an artist who has quite a few LPs under his belt but didn’t manage to put this song onto any of them. Between Pete Rock and Brainfreeze, this single has had a following for years and you can hear why; it’s got everything – an opening breakbeat, killer horns, an absolute gem of a rhythm section and two sets of background singers. Are you kidding me? They don’t get much better than this.
The Toussaint McCall might be one of the greatest funk instrumentals (outside of James Brown and Meters) that’s so easy to come by, you should be asking yourself why you don’t already have this (if you don’t already have this). I mean – this thing has what? Two parts: organ and drums but it sounds like a monster.
The Little Eva Harris is probably something I first heard at Funky Sole as well – you know me and covers – the moment I heard this, I knew I had to have it. Seriously – she is killing the “Get Ready” cover and you medley-mix that with Stevie’s “Uptight”? Holy s—, that’s hot. Her backing band tears this whole track up. Great, great, great stuff.
For a bonus, I added this sort-of new 45 from Finland that Jared Boxx hepped me to last time I was in NYC. The A-side is a cover of Grandmaster Melle Mel’s “The Message” but I’m actually partial to the “version” mix on the flipside. Even though the melody from “The Message” isn’t as obvious here, the sparser approach appeals to me more but both sides bring down the hammer. Copies of this may be hard to grab still but do your best; you’ll be happy you did.