A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
BASN PRESENTS POST MILLENNIUM FONK, PART II – 1950s – PRESENT
BASN’S POST MILLENIUM FONK, PART II (1950s – present)
By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief
PHILADELPHIA (BASN) Our countdown of funk essentials continues; in our attempt to help you survive the madness of the early part of this millennium…
13. FUNKADELIC – FUNKADELIC: “I tried to escape this music; I thought it was for the old…country folk.”
With these words, George Clinton proves that confession…is good for the soul. First recorded in 1968, the debut offering by this iconic group wasn’t released until 1970. It is an homage to The Blues – gut bucket, stank, Filthy MacNasty grooves dripping with fonk! Their nine minute introduction, “Mommy, what’s a Funkadelic?” is a late night, kick-back and sip or blaze anthem; and the band’s embracing of the blues was a further extension of the self-love Black people had learned to grow in fertile mental soil in the 1970s. So powerful was that love you knew - sadly – the industry was going to find a way to attempt to destroy it…
12. EARTH, WIND AND FIRE – HEAD TO THE SKY: In the neighborhood, when you are called by your nickname, it is a sign of acceptance – and inclusion. So when you are referred to as “The Elements” – and everyone knows who you are, it’s done like dinner! Done in 1973, the group after some early transitional efforts (which were amazing by themselves) are now settling into the lineup which would propel them to worldwide success. EWF always had a method to their grand plan – right down to the Zodiac signs of the band members! The gospel – fueled title track as well as Maurice White snatching the lead on “The World’s A Masquerade (where Philip Bailey teases us at the end with his falsetto coloring) takes you to ‘chu’ch’ - the understatedly funky “Evil” (which leader White slangs out to eeeeeeeeeeeee – VAL!) to the jazzy ballad “Clover,” The Elements are ready for the world – and they never look back.
11. MANDRILL – COMPOSITE TRUTH: From Brooklyn, New York, this band of brothers produced some of the most eclectic grooves ever! Mixing funk, soul, salsa, reggae and anything else they wanted, their music reflected the rhythm of the streets better than any other of that era. Their magnificent seven members, led by Carlos, Louis and Richard Wilson, put together this masterpiece in the latter part of 1972. “Git It All” was a standard that every band in the NYC area would attempt, and Mandrill’s horn section rivaled any of that era. The album takes you around the world in forty minutes, dropping you off in The Motherland on the outstanding instrumental “Moroccan Nights.”
10. RAY CHARLES – THE GENIUS OF RAY CHARLES: Released in 1959, Brother Ray lays down what would be his trademark over much of his career – taking a bunch of standards and reworking them as only he can with the gospel chords and soulful voice; anytime you can make Irving Berlin sound like something you’d hear on the chitlin’ circuit (Alexander’s Ragtime Band) you a bad rascal! Ray Charles may well have set the table artistically for another one on the list with his use of a full orchestra for many of the tracks – especially “Come Rain or Shine” and the film-noir inspired “Tell Me You’ll Wait For Me.”
9. SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE – STAND: This 1969 release was significant for two reasons: Keyboardist Rose Stone and trumpeter Cynthia Robinson had integral roles in the band’s success without having to sing lead, very rare for soul at that time. Lyrically, some of Sylvester Stewart’s best work as “Everyday People” was a perfect fit for radio station airplay – and “I Want to Take You Higher” was a magical blending of the group’s talent. Given the band rocks gospel and rolls the funk, the signature moment comes from baritone/bass player Larry Graham, who sets the standard forever when he pops the strings on “Thank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin.”
8. MARVIN GAYE – LET’S GET IT ON: IF Marvin had never done ”What’s Going On,” this album would get the justice it deserves as a soul classic. In many ways it was as much as a concept album as the aforementioned, as Marvin takes you in and out of the bedroom, covering the good, bad and ugly of love in just over a half hour. Done over a two year period, it was finally released in 1972. Gaye ‘begs’ through the entire album – and the listener can feel his joy and pain through the eight tracks, from his strut in ‘Let’s Get It On’ to the resignation and melancholy at the end with ‘Just To Keep You Satisfied.’
7. LAURYN HILL: THE MISEDUCATION OF LAURYN HILL: Apart from the multi-talented Fugees (w/Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel) Hill makes her own statement. Released in 1998, the seventy minute epic is lyrically strong and musically tight. Hill covers all the bases, something the Grammy folks apparently agreed on as well. Hill avoids the ‘shallow water’ and gets deep from beginning to end; the title for her project was inspired in part by Carter G. Woodson’s “The Mis-Education of the Negro.” While the finished product was acclaimed as a hip-hop classic, Hill enhanced the neo-soul genre with tracks like the catchy “Doo Wop (That Thing), and the gritty and powerful ballad “Ex-Factor.” One of the decade’s most important albums – and a winner for Album of the Year in 1998.
6. SADE – DIAMOND LIFE: A willowy siren from the United Kingdom via Nigeria, Helen Folasade Adu showed impeccable timing when the band’s debut effort was dropped in 1984 as club music drowned out the airwaves – by slowing down the groove. Carrying two distinct advantages – lots of great original material (and a nice cover of Timmy Thomas’ ‘Why Can’t We Live Together?’), her buttercream voice and steamy vocals on songs like “Sally” and “Frankie’s First Affair” set the tone for a pattern as Sade makes you feel like she’s singing – to you and you alone. Cool and funky, Sade is a master musician, who was the first of her era to have all her music remixed to suit dance floors as well as jazz clubs. She is the true ‘ginger ale’ of music – because, as she would prove in other works – her style blends with everything!
Next Time – the top five…and some funk to grow on!
Always outnumbered…never outgunned.
Copyright (c) 2016 Michael – Louis Ingram all rights reserved.