Nubian Lady sits somewhere in the pantheon of soul-jazz recordings alongside Nathan Davis’s If and The Overton Berry Ensemble’s live album. I have a very soft spot for acoustic soul-jazz – which it a slight breed apart from the more electronic-laden fusion jazz sound – and Meriwether is doing some killer work on the piano here. But hey, for a 20 minute beast of a track, you’ll need some added incentive and that would be drummer Billy Jackson who gets a mother of a solo that’s well worth waiting for.1
If you’re really lazy, jump ahead to 10:45 and enjoy. ↩
45 King/Take 6: Spread Love
From white label 12″ (198?). Also on The Bezo Meko EP
We had a good run with Beat Week, no? Alas, all good things come to an end so here it is – the final installment. It just seemed wrong to have something called “beat week” and not offer some hip-hop in the mix and if there was ever a beat worthy of praise, it’s Mark the 45 King and one of his most infamous bootlegs: “Spread Love.” The King takes the acapella harmonies of Take 6 and then slaps one of the sickest drum loops in history behind it.
I don’t know if Mark was the first to figure out that the intro, one bar drum break from Ike and TIna Turner’s “Cussin’, Cryin’ and Carryin’ On” would make a killer beat but as far as I’m concerned, he might as well own the patent. If you’ve ever heard the original, they’re great drums in terms of sound and engineering but it wouldn’t necessarily occur to you to loop it up. Luckily Mark saw the potential and pieced together one helluva piece of fatback glory. “Love is all we need”? 45 King is all we need.
A bizarre avant garde drum composition named after, well, a vegetable. And not one of my favorite vegetables at that. It appears on Mills College’s label which often embraced experimental and avant garde work. From what I can figure out, the drummer recorded this smashing break and then looped it and then, he replayed them side by side but slightly out of speed-synch with each other so that gradually, as the song unfolds, the beats fall out of phase and begin to clash and create interesting sets of polyrhythms. Mind you – the original song goes on for over five minutes and believe me, it wears thin fast so I just included two minutes off it.
Just to show you that nothing this strange (or good) goes unnoticed – I know about the album because a prominent Bay Area producer (not hard to guess who) looped the drums for one of his compositions. Crazy.
ED: I posted this a few weeks back and was about to take the link down but I realized it was perfectly apt for Beat Week so I’m bringing it back as a bonus post. Hope you enjoy. And seriously: Buy this album. It kicks major ass.
Step 2: Listen to drummer Matthew “Phatback” Watson.
Step 3: Get mind blown.
The first time I heard Indianapolis’ Ebony Rhythm Band on my man Egon’s game-changing Funky 16 Corners, then later on the 12″ release of “Soul Heart Transplant.” At the time, I guess I didn’t listen close enough but when I was enjoying their newly released anthology, the drumming jumped off the track, smacked me in the face, and then settled back in the pocket.
I’m not saying Watson was going to put Bernard Purdie or Idris Muhammed out of work back in the day, but you can tell on these songs (especially “Light My Fire”), this young drummer couldn’t wait to get his sticks on. Watson had formal marching band training in drum playing and you can hear it in his funk adapations: his breaks are doused in quick fills and rattling rolls. Even when he’s not soloing…he’s soloing. Egon told me that Watson’s drumming was the cause of exasperation for some of the other players since his frenetic polyrhythms made it harder for them to keep in the groove.
Czerwone Gitary: Bylas Mej Pamieci Wierszem
From Rytm Ziemi (Muza, 1974)
In our last Beat Week post, we visited the Danes – this time, it’s the Polish. I’ve always found it amazing that despite being behind the Iron Curtain for the better part of the 1960s and ’70s, the output of Polish jazz and rock, especially on the labels Muza and Polskie, was downright stunning.
Muza, in particular, was a wealth of innovative music (hint: potential future theme week) and there is no shortage of interesting music to be found on their imprint. I dipped into their rock records to pull out Rytm Ziemi by Czerwone Gitary, a relatively prolific singer/songwriter who has at least six albums on Muza (probably more). This is less psych (though there is fantastic psych on Muza) and more just hard rock: all guitar tears, heavy drums, and in this case, some violin thrown in (don’t laugh – Michal Urbaniak was Polish after all). This cut though stands out for the middle drum solo section which is one long (more than 32 bars!) drum break. I can’t say that I’m into Gitary’s voice but hey, for beats like this, I can deal.
European jazz and soul have been a fascination of mine – when the Groove Merchant’s Cool Chris first suggested to me that this might be the next big collector’s craze, my initial reaction was, “European funk? C’mon – you’re kidding right” but in those young, naive days of mine (ok, this was in 2000), I just didn’t realize how massively deep the European scene goes. After all, it is, ya know, a continent. One with quite excellent taste in American music at that, better than our own at times.
Case in point – they’ve managed to put out at least two volumes of just Danish dancefloor jazz/funk/soul. I’m sure that’s the tip of the proverbial iceberg and you could churn out countless more anthologies that look at Swedish, or Finnish, or Dutch, etc. goodies too (let’s not even get into France, England, Italy and Germany – we’ll be here all year). In any case, for Beat Week, I selected this insanely good percussion track from the Danish team of Bjarne Rosvold (the drummer) and Perry Knudsen called “Magonde,” taken from the Copenhagen Dancefloor Classics II compilation from a few years back. This is the kind of breakbeat track that DJs usually only dream about – it just keeps going and going and going, but switches up patterns rather than sound like a loop on permanent repeat. Reminds me a little of the Klauss Weiss’ “Niagara” track for those who know (maybe a future post) but packed into 3 minutes rather than 30.
By the way, if anyone knows what the original LP this cut is from, I’d love to know. I tried doing some research but turned up nada. Thanks…
Day Four of Beat Week: We take a trip up north to highlight some obscure Toronto funk (is that redundant?), recently resurfacing on Seattle’s Light in the Attic imprint. “Dirty Funk” sounds like an A-list Meters cut but from southern Canada rather than the American south.
The rumored backstory on this song and the album it’s from is that most copies of the LP were destroyed in a warehouse fire, turning a rare LP into something closer to myth. This is what’s great about funk lore: for every King or Josie, there were dozens (hundreds?) of small labels churning out some wicked material. Much of it went forgotten but that only means they’re waiting to be rediscovered.
Jake Wade and the Soul Searchers: Searching For Soul
From 7″ (Mutt, 196/7?)
Day Three of Beat Week: A trip to Motown’s Mutt Records imprint and “Searching for Soul” by Jake Wade and the Soul Searchers.
When someone talks about “heavy drums” and you’re unsure what they mean, just listen to this 7″. The kick and snare on this slow and powerful funk bomb couldn’t be any heavier if the drummer was using lead sticks. Why these dudes searching for soul – they found it!
Manzel: Midnight Theme (Dopebrother 7″ remix)
From 7″ and Midnight Theme (Dope Brother, 2004)
Day Two of Beat Week brings us one of the more famed breakbeats out there: Manzel’s “Midnight Theme.”
Calling someone’s drums “crisp” is a total cliche but seriously, listen to this and tell me what other word fits as well? The Kenny Dope remix of this obscure disco single extends the intro drum break and engineers it to such perfection you’d swear the drummer was sitting behind you. And yeah, the drums are crisp! Take your style guides and shove ’em.
Anyways, the drums are great but the whole song is killer. People who say “disco sucks” are just being ignorant, especially when you can point to Manzel’s music and say, “see? Stop being a dumb ass hater.” Don’t sleep on the rest of this album either.
Eugene Blacknell and the New Breed: Gettin’ Down
From 7″ (Seaside, 196?)
It’s Beat Week here at Soul Sides, where every day for the next seven, we’ll be posting up a song that’s all about smacking you in the head with a percussive blast that rips through your frame and leaves you panting for just one more (snare) hit. In honor of the fact that Soul Sides is probably about to get a ton of traffic courtesy Rolling Stone, I figured I might as well do something special for the occassion.
I have to start local, with a slice of down home Oakland funk, courtesy Eugene Blacknell and the New Breed. His “Gettin’ Down” used to be one of those singles that funk fiends would shell out a few Franklins to procure but in more recent times, enough copies have turned up so that the 7″ is now “only” around $75-100 (that’s a lot cheaper than what it used to go for, believe me). It’s easy to believe the hype – to call the intro drum solo “explosive” is an understatement – I’d love to know who the drummer on this joint is (let me get back to ya’ll about that). The remainder of the song rocks out just a lil’ too much for my taste but that’s what the rewind button is for.