1973 formed Irakere is no doubt one of the best known groups that ever came from Cuba and they’re one of the most influental bands too. They created their own style with mixing together almost everything rhythmic they heard; jazz, funk, rock and traditional Cuban rhythms. They were busy with album recordings and even more busy with travelling around the world. They also used to record albums wherever they were performing and that was the case in Finland too. Irakere visited Finland in 1976 to play at the Turku Jazz festival and at the same time they visited the Finnvox Studio in Helsinki to cut an album that was then released on Finnish Love Records‘ Cuban music oriented sublabel Cuba. Otto Donner produced the album by the way. The time they visited Finland they weren’t yet known in the United States and they were playing with their original tight line up with Oscar and Chucho Valdés, Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D’Rivera, Jorge Alfonso and Enrique Plá among others.
Album starts with one of the best version I have heard of their standard “Chekere son”, a great funky son track with tight start and a nice break. Then comes two mellow tracks “38½” and “En nosotros”. They’re followed by another funky uptempo one, the magnificent studio version of “Juana 1600″. Side b opens with similar sounding uptempo Cuban funk track “Moja el pan”. It’s followed by Chucho Valdes‘ piano track “Este camino largo”. Then comes “Xiomara” that starts with a heavy beat and continue as a groovy midtempo vocal number. Last track is the horn driven Cuban funk track “Illa” with some serious fuzz guitar, heavy percussion work and a sort of a break.
Times have passed with this blog and a quite big amount of posts have been released during the few years. To celebrate the record post number 100 I’ll bring up the very first bboy related album I have ever bought. Or at least this was the first one strictly intended only for playing for bboys back in the late 1990s.
As a soundtrack score to a document about plants, Journey through the secret life of plants is exactly what you think it would be. Mostly ambient sounds mixed with occasional melodies and strange vocals, almost if it was a new age recording. It was originally made only for the documentary film, but later Motown decided to release the score as a new Stevie Wonder album. It was supposed to be kind of a sequel album to much praised Songs in the key of life. I guess fans back then were as confused as I am still about this album, it’s so different from the previous material what we used to hear from Wonder. Journey through the secret life of plants was by the way the first album where digital sampling synthesizer, Computer Music Melodian, was used.
Wonder created the film score through a complex process of collaboration. The film’s producer, Michael Braun, described each visual image in detail, while the sound engineer, Gary Olzabal, specified the length of a passage. This information was processed to a four-track tape (with the film’s sound on one of the tracks), leaving Wonder space to add his own musical accompaniment. The result is an underscore that, at times, closely mimics the visual images on the screen.
Among the subtle ambience of the underscore tracks can however be found a true gem. The first track on side d, “A seed’s a star / tree medley”, is one of the best of these so called less known Stevie tracks. It easily moves people on dancefloors everywhere with it’s hypnotic uptempo groove. I think I’ll never get bored to this song. From the background chanting at the end you can hear repeatedly the name of another interesting track on this album, “Kesse ye lolo de ye”. It’s a track with raw drumming with several different percussions, kora melodies and chanting. Not typical Stevie at all. And that’s not all. Downtempo dramatic “Power flower” is also quite a good track and the hypnotic eight minute uptempo disco track “Race babbling” is the last one the mention. The rest of the album is that documentary score type of strange music with titles like “Earth’s creation”, “The first garden”, “Venus’ flytrap and the bug”, “Black orchid”, “Ecclesiastes” and so on. This album is quite common and really undervalued musically in general. Every home should have a copy of it…
Missouri born Dillard Crume knew already in his childhood that he wanted to be a gospel singer. That happened right after the family had moved to Chicago, Illinois when a gospel group was formed out of the Crume brothers. The Crumes did have a pretty huge family, there was eigt boys and two girls so forming a group wasn’t that hard. Six of the brothers formed the group and it was called - surprisingly - The Crume Brothers. That time young Dillard was only nine years old but still strongly into singing, as he was taught by his older brother A.C. Crume. The Crume Brothers did gain success and they became quite famous in their home town of Chicago. Ten years after the forming of The Crume Brothers Dillard was approached by the famous vocal group Five Blind Boys of Jackson, Mississippi to become their guitarist and backing singer. This was an offer not to be declined, so nineteen year old Dillard joined them and toured with them extensively throughout the United States. After the Five Blind Boys Crume became a member of the Highway QCs of Chicago, Illinois. That didn’t last long and he left the gospel scene for awhile playing r’n'b, rock n’ roll, blues, soul and whatever was popular, even calypso. Then in the late 1960s Dillard Crume formed his own band called The Soul Rockers. They did one album and toured all over the United States. After ten years of earthly life he returned to the gospel field as the lead singer of the world famous Soul Stirrers in 1976. Soul Stirrers was by the way the same group that brought up Sam Cooke years earlier. Dillard Crume has been an active singer to this very day and is still touring the world with his latest group Dillard Crume and the New Soul Stirrers.
This album by Dillard Crume and the Soul rockers is one of those popular cover albums released all over the world in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. It was released by the budget label Alshire. As said, the album is about soul, blues and funk covers from that era. There’s good versions of songs like Booker T & the MG’s‘ “Doin’ our thing”, Tony Joe White’s “Polk salad Annie” and The Isley Brothers‘ “That’s the way love is”. There’s three tracks that should be highlighted. The breakbeat driven funky soul number “Mini dress”. The Dyke & The Blazers hit “Let a woman be a woman let a man be a man”, also a good breakbeat driven dancefloor track with a nice break. And last but not least the best track on the album, James Brown hit “Mother popcorn”, here as a nice breakbeat version suitable for cyphers everywhere. Dillard Crume follows the original pretty strictly as he calls his horn player in the end “Maceo, c’mon, blow your horn”… On the other hand I have read rumors of Maceo Parker himself playing on this record so you never know. This album is really scarce except in Scandinavia. For some reason great share of the pressing was shipped to Finland and Sweden, although nowadays it pops out rarely even here.
Daniel Salinas, a pianist, composer, arranger and conductor from Sao Paolo, Brazil, apparently released only two albums in the early 1970s. His debut was an album of Brazilian sambas called Paz amor e samba released in 1972. After that album he was heading more and more into the world of jazzfunk sounds and the second album of Salinas called Atlantis was released in 1974. It was totally different than the first album. Funky horns, strings, flutes and Rhodes sounds remind time to time of some great blaxploitation soundtracks.
There’s still plenty of variety on Atlantis. There’s mellow downtempo tracks like the opening title “Like a rainy night”. It’s acoustic guitar and percussion driven mellow start is actually quite nice before turning into an even nicer uptempo breakbeat groover in the middle and then again returning to it’s mellowness towards the end. The next one, “No broken heart”, is exactly what it sounds like, a melancholic and moody downtempo track. Then comes “Baiao”, an uptempo jazzy groover with a quite heavy strings. In my opinion it could’ve been a great track but the strings are occasionally way too disturbing for my taste. Next up is the best track on this album, a nice uptempo breakbeat driven version of Richard Strauss Jr.’s masterpiece “Also sprach Zarathustra” here renamed as “Straussmania”. With it’s guitar melodies (familiar from 2001 Space oddity), nice bassline and bboy friendly drums it belongs to my all time favorite takes of this much covered song. Remember the Deodato version? This one works even better for me. After that comes yet another cover, a slow and moody but at the same time very groovy seven minute version of Simon & Garfunkel’s hit “Bridge over troubled water”. “A song for a helping hand” is again a melancolic downtempo track similar to “No broken heart”. Last one, the title track “Atlantis” (a cover of a Donovan song) is again a downtempo song with a certain sadness in the beginning, but in the middle it changes into a nice groovy tun with quite a heavy drums.
Born in Columbus, Georgia, Charles Williams – not to be confused with the saxophonist Charles Williams who recorded for Mainstream records – started his musical career very early. He was only six when he had his first performance in a local church. Soon after a short period abroad, his family had moved to San Bernardino, California. Few years later, he started studying classical music at Music Teachers’ Association. By the late 1960s he had switched to rock and soul, and his first public performance from that period was in a religious concert in 1969 in front of 11000 people. And he got standing ovations. After a short period when he had a jazz trio called Sensations, he formed his own soul rock group called Manna. On that group was playing one Billy Carson, who followed Charles to Finland and later played drums and percussion with for example Jukka Tolonen and Timo Kojo. Billy Carson did by the way the first rap recording in Finland with Kojo in 1982 (it was released in 1983 on Kojo’s Time won’t wait album). They also recorded an album with Manna but it never got released - although the raw mix versions got some airplay in California. By the mid 1970s he had already recorded most of the tracks intended for his forthcoming album when he met a Finnish girl in Cali and followed her up north to Finland.
“When I got here I soon realised that there wasn’t that much soul music in Finland. One day I heard Kirka singing his cover of “Living for the city” and it sounded nice to me. I contacted his label (EMI) and I told I had done such music myself. They took my music for listening and they liked it. So next I went to the Marcus Music studio in Stockholm to do the final mixing for the album. Why Stockholm? Because I knew Marcus Music was the place in Scandinavia.”
The band backing Charles Williams on this album (except on “Reason to make you smile”, that was backed by Finnish musicians) was called Psalm 150. They were all white gospel-rock band - although they called themselves funky gospel band. They recorded two albums in mid 1970s but the second one remains unpublished to this very day. Their only album that came out was called Make up your mind and it was released in 1974 by Manna music. It’s also released in Sweden by Pilot if somebody got interested. I guess by the time Love is a very special thing was released, Finland wasn’t ready for soul music as sophisticated as this was. The album sold poorly and the distribution was very minimal, thence the album is extremely rare and in some circles very in demand.
Musically Love is a very special thing is very soulful and calm toned with strings and Williams’ falsetto. It starts with the blaxploitation anthem sounding instrumental “Theme from long road” with strong percussion work by Greg Eckler, wistful strings and very catchy horns stabs. Williams had said that this tune came to his mind while driving his car on a highway. There was nothing good on the radio so he started to hum something he wanted to hear. For me it’s clearly the best track on the album. Next is a guitar heavy ballad called “Helen”. It’s followed by the reason why the record is in demand, the crossover soul track “Standing in the way” where Williams does himself his own backing chorus. “Standing in the way” was also released as 45, but it’s ever rarer than the LP. It was also reissued on 45 by Lifesaver records ten years ago. Last track on side a is another ballad, “Reason to make you smile”, the only track that was composed and recorded in Finland. B-side starts with another funky midtempo soul track “Change it”, which was also on the a side of the “Standing in the way” 45. According to Williams it wasn’t intended to be for dancefloors, it was a reflection of a person shouting ‘I wanna change it’. Next comes again another ballad, the title track “Love is a very special thing” followed by the instrumental of “Standing in the way” called simply “Standing”. Finally the last track, epic ten minute “Your life” ends the album. It’s a main theme from the film Too late to wait - although I’m not sure if such film was ever made. Overall Love is a very special thing is quite a nice album as a listening experience, though I personally don’t consider it worth the 200-300 euros people keep asking for it.
I have to say I don’t know anything about these guys expect they come from South Africa and they’re funky. It appears that there’s absolutely no info about them on the internet - or at least I can’t find any. That’s a shame because their sound is pretty tight and the record is a true curiosity. For some weird reason they, or their label Gallo, have censored three tracks from the album by scratching the record on their tracks. I fixed one of those when digitizing the album, but the other two I left alone. Maybe because they weren’t that good at all.
The album starts very strongly. First track “Soul satisfire” is very funky midtempo jam with loads of wah-wah, organ and synth melodies and even sort of a break. Next one, the instrumental “Follow me” starts as a funky midtempo jam before having a very hectic middle part and then getting back to mellow funkiness. There’s again very funky wah-wah’s, wailing organs and tight drumming on this one. Then comes another instrumental, time to time a little cheesy, but still mostly very good “Groovy love” with some wild organ work and funky guitars. Last track on side a is the best one on the album, “Treat me right”. It starts with a drum-guitar break and continues as a midtempo funky jam with nice guitar riffs, organ and funky drumming. They could’ve left some of the dominating electric guitar out though, it kinda disturbs me. First one on side b is “You’re gonna lose it”. It’s followed by “We feel great”, again a quite nice funky track. After that comes another standout track, the funky wah-wah and organ driven uptempo groover “Organ grinder”. It’s followed by “Chain reaction”. The last on side b is the mellow but groovy “Soul unlimited”
The Button Down Brass’ Firedog! is somewhat the UK equivalent to the Cop show themes. The sound is quite similar and there’s four songs that appear in both albums. The Button Down Brass was one of the top notch British easy listening / lounge bands. In their 21 active years they released dozens of albums, participated in production library records and other projects. Too bad most of their recordings are very uninteresting lounge cheese. Luckily there are some exceptions to that. The Button Brown Brass was led by one of the foremost musicians in UK, Ray Davies - not to be confused with The Kinks frontman with the same name. Within his over 50 year career, Davies has worked with pretty much everyone worth to mention; The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Liza Minelli, Burt Bacharach, Quincy Jones, Henry Mancini and so on. So when The Button Down Brass were recording all the covers they did, Davies was the man to do the arrangements and he also conducted them. Ravies was of course doing some original compositions too.
The 1976 released album Firedog! is one of the best The Button Down Brass ever recorded, along with the other album from the same period, Funk in hell, it’s also the most funky. Although the slight easy listening cheesiness is creeping in time to time. Albums starts with the “Theme from Police story”, the theme from the NBC crime drama Police story, originally composed by Jerry Goldsmith. With some weird moog sounds and funky horns it’s a nice uptempo detective funk track. Next up is Morton Stevens composition “Hawaii 5-0”, It’s quite similar to original first, but then there’s a funky middle part with a percussion break that makes it interesting. While “Hawaii 5-0” is better than the Henry Mancini version, the next one also on both albums, “Theme from Police woman” is not that banging than the one in Cop show themes. But despite the slight lazyness, the melancholic trumpet and the lack of the opening break, it’s still somehow a little funkier than the Mancini take. Next one is the an original composition of Ray Davies called “Firedog!” and it’s among the best tracks of the album. Funky wah-wah, percussions, horns and a tight break in the middle makes it almost a perfect detective funk track. It’s followed by a little light, but still funky “Theme from the Rockford files”, originally by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter. Last track on side a is “Mc Cloud theme”, an uptempo take of the David Shire original from the NBC police drama McCloud with western styled guitars and nice horn stabs. B-side opens with a nice version of Billy Goldenberg’s “Kojak”. It’s followed by the theme by Harry South from the British television police drama The Sweeney, also ok version. Next comes another standout track, “Quiller”, originally written by Richard Denton and Martin Cook taken from the British drama series Quiller. It starts with a nice break and is overall a very good version. The last three tracks are the ones I like the least. First the Glen Larson written theme from the US detective series Switch, then another Ray Davies composition “Theme from Kiss of blood” and finally the “Columbo theme” originally by Billy Goldenberg. Despite the few weak tracks, Firedog! is one of the best kept secrets of the British detective funk cover albums.
1994 passed Henry Mancini is one of those composers who don’t need much of an introduction. There’s not that many people who hasn’t heard about him or at least something he has done. The Pink Panther is maybe the best know of his works. Mancini started his career in 1946 at the age of 22 when he joined the newly re-formed Glenn Miller orchestra. There he played piano and did arrangements. In 1952 he moved to work for the Universal Pictures music departments. He stayed there only six years but during that time he contributed music for over 100 movies, for example The Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, Tarantula and so on. In 1958 Mancini started to work as an independent composer and arranger composing music for films and television as well as did several other recordings too. While most of his over 90 albums are included in the easy listening, big band or light classical categories, he did of course some funkier albums too.
In 1976 was released Cop show themes and it’s not hard to figure by the name what is included in this album. It’s full of Mancini versions of well known detective series, of course there’s few of his own compositions included too. First up is a composition of Mancini himself, “The mystery movie theme” from the The NBC Mystery Movie series. Next is the Mancini’s version of the chase styled theme “The streets of San Francisco” from the police drama of the same name, originally composed by Patrick Williams. It’s followed by “Bumper’s theme” from the crime series The Blue Knight, also composed by Mancini. Then comes a medley of “Kojak” composed by Billy Goldenberg and “Theme from S.W.A.T.” by Barry De Vorzon. Latter being especially nice version. B-side opens with “Baretta’s theme” from the detective series Baretta, originally written by Dave Grusin. Then “The Rockford files” by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter. Last two tracks are originally composed by Morton Stevens; first legendary theme from “Hawaii five-0” and then the reason why people usually search for this record, “Police woman”. The opening break from “Police woman” was included in Cut Chemist’s “Lesson six” (from Jurassic 5’s EP). It’s of course very nice bboy break as well.
In the Japanese version of Cop show themes are included three bonus tracks that I want to mention too. Lalo Schifrin’s “Mission impossible theme” originally from The Big Latin Band Of Henry Mancini (1968), Mancini’s own compostion “Peter Gunn” from 1959 and Quincy Jones’ “The Ironside theme” originally from Mancini’s Big Screen Little Screen (1972)
Compared to what he has done during his long career, Ankara based Turkish composer, arranger, conductor, producer and guitarist Mustafa Özkent is still relatively unknown to the big world. He started his career as early as in 1960 in a pop group called The Teenagers. At some point in the early 1970s he formed his own orchestra, simply named Mustafa Özkent ve Orkestrası (Mustafa Özkent and Orchestra). In 1973 the first album Gençlik Ile Elele (in English Hand in hand with youth) was released and the second album Elif was released in 1975. They also released two 45s (in 1972 and 1974). During that time in 1975 – 1976 Özkent was studying in the Academie D’e music D’ixelles in Brussels. For a short period in 1976 his close friend and a fellow Turkish musician Baris Manço was also spending time in Brussels. In 1976 he was also working in a big band for the Montreal Olympic Games as an arranger and guitarist. During his career Özkent has been an in-demand session guitarist, arranger and conductor and has worked closely with numerous Turkish musicians and band including his close friends Baris Manço, Okay Temiz and Mogollar. And he has still been active throughout the 2000s.
For his new orchestra, he called in organist Umit Aksu (later of Aksu Orkestrası fame), second guitarist Cahit Oben as well as two drummers and a percussionist (not mentioned anywhere). Özkent himself played the lead guitar naturally. In 1972 the freshly founded independent label Evren had heard about Özkent and decided to give him a shot to do an fully instrumental album wit mixture of jazz, psychedelic rock, funk, traditional Anatolian sounds and new stereo effects. The album was recorded with a live take but some effects were added later.
In those days, outside the core of Western musical culture, an instrumental album with somehow psychedelic improvisations was never called “psychedelic”, more labelled as A Go-Go, often dance rhythm related item. Acid jazzrock was more often one influence for such music.
Gençlik Ile Elele is clearly the funkiest of all anatolian rock albums that ever came to my ears. With it’s heavy drumming, hard grooving organs, funky Anatolian melodies and of course the large amount of breaks it belongs to my all time favorites. The album starts with a heavy midtempo funker “Üsküdar’a Giderken. It’s followed by the massive “Burçak Tarlaları” that starts with a huge break and continues as a heavy Anatolian funk track with some traditional melodies and psychedelic electric guitar work. There’s even an another heavy break in the end. Next one is called “Dolana Dolana”. It’s an uptempo heavy funker with some electric guitar and organ melodies and a huge break in the beginning. Then comes “Karadır Kara”, another midtempo track that starts with a percussive break and the same break pops up few times during the track. Next one is again a midtempo psychedelic funk track called “Emmioğlu”, starting with a break and having the heavy electric guitars there too. The first track on side b is “Çarşamba”, again a heavy midtempo funker. Next up is one of my favorites, “Zeytinyağlı”, an uptempo breakbeat funker with electric guitar melodies and short breaks every now and then. Then comes another midtempo one called “Silifke” with sound very similar to the rest of the album. Fourth track on side b is “Lorke”, another uptempo track with a slightly different and more straight forward beat than the others. Last one is the very hectic, almost batucada sounding “Ayaş”. And for the last words, the album cover.. what’s happening in there?
1946 born saxophone player Eero Koivistoinen is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in Finnish jazz scene. He has done a long career as a musician, composer, arranger, conductor and producer. His career started in the mid 1960s in an orchestra playing experimental avant-garde jazz. The first solo album of Eero Koivistoinen was a concept album of poems by well known Finnish poets sung by well known Finnish singers Eero Raittinen, Vesa-Matti Loiri and Seija Simola. That album was called Valtakunta (The Kingdom in English) and it was released in 1968. In the beginning of 1070s Koivistoinen moved to the United States to study in the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston for three years. After almost 50 years and dozens of albums he’s still an active character playing with the next generation of Finnish jazz cats today.
In 1973 was released the album Wahoo! with a one-off group called Eero Koivistoinen Music Society. Involved in this sort of a supergroup was many of the very same musicians that were playing in most of the Finnish jazz records that time. And what a line-up that was; Eero Koivistoinen on saxophones (tenor, soprano, sopranino and electric soprano), Juhani Aalto on trombone, Kaj Backlund on trumpet, Juhani Aaltonen and Unto Haapa-aho on reeds, Esa Helasvuo, Esko Linnavalli and Olli Ahvenlahti on Fender Rhodes, Ilpo Saastamoinen and Ilkka Willman on electric guitar, Heikki Virtanen and Ilkka Willman on bass and Edward Vesala, Esko Rosnell, Reiska Laine and Sabu Martinez on drums and percussion. The album sounds exactly what you expect with a line-up like that. Syncopated funky jazz fusion with really tight rhythms by the set of two drummers, two bassists and two guitarists.
The album starts with the strong midtempo saxophone driven jazz groover “Hot c”. Almost eight minutes of action is what you get here. It’s followed by “7 up”, more jazzy but at least equally heavy track. Next up is “6 down”. With it’s eight minutes of some serious wah-wah, funky Rhodes and drums it’s among the best tracks on the album. B-side starts with the epic almost 11 minutes long “Suite 19”. It starts with an experimental sounding four minute intro before turning into an uptempo wah-wah driven, percussive, almost blaxploitation sounding track. Next track, “Bells” is the only mellow track on the album. Last but not least is the downtempo funky fusion title track “Wahoo!”. Overall this album is really great but not that magnificent it’s often praised. And in my opinion it’s not worth the 300-400 euros people ask for it. Luckily for all the non purists it was reissued in 2001. The reissue – both cd and vinyl – come with the cover coloring it should’ve been. Originally the print messed up the cover and it’s colors were a little different what they were intended to be.