Kansas City born multi-instrumentalist (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet and flute) Nathan Davis did this album in honor of dr. Martin Luther King and his achievements. Although the music is mostly free improvisation and traditional jazz, it contains also small elements of soul, funk, gospel and blues with some spoken word added between the tracks. This album may not be as funky as his If album from the same year, but it still has two really magnificent tracks. Uptempo jazzfunk track “Funk-a-dilly Molly” starts with a guitar-drum break and continues as a nice percussion driven dancefloor filler throughout the whole song. “Mean business” is similar groover, with more horns, more funkiness and a little less pace. There’s two different cover versions both released on Nathan Davis‘ own Tomorrow international label and this green cover being the second pressing.
Freddie Roulette was born in Illinois, but later in the early 1970s moved to San Francisco. He got interested in steel guitar, an old Hawaiian musical tradition, when he saw a girl playing it in the elementary school. He soon mastered the instrument and brought the sound with him to San Francisco. Adding the steel guitar and slack key elements to blues music, he created some really unique sounds. His first and seemingly the only solo album, Sweet funky steel was released in 1973 on Janus Records. It was produced by Harvey Mandel, the former guitarist of the great Canned Heat. Mandel also played solo guitar on the album among three other regular guitarists and Roulette on steel guitar. So guitars are the key element here on this album, especially the steel guitar of course.
Songs on this album are mostly blues oriented but there’s few funky ones too. “Joaquin”, “Cause and effect” and “Million dollar feeling” are all downtempo, but quite funky tracks. At the same time they also sound kind of odd and unusual, but that’s because of the sharp and piercing sound of the steel guitar. The best track however is the last one, “Alleluia”. It’s an uptempo break’ish steel guitar funk track with nice beats. Quite obscure album I must say.
The Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Graterford, also known variously as SCI Graterford (SCIG), Eastern Correctional Institution, Graterford Prison, Graterford Penitentiary, and the Graterford Prison Farm, is a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections prison located in Skippack Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, United States, near Graterford. The prison, located on Graterford Road off of Pennsylvania Route 113, is about 31 miles (50 km) west of the city of Philadelphia.
The facility, built in 1929, is Pennsylvania’s largest maximum-security prison, holding about 3,500 prisoners. The grounds include an extensive prison farm on 1,730 acres (7.0 km2); the 62-acre (250,000 m2) prison compound itself lies within 30-foot (9.1 m) high walls surmounted by nine manned towers. An $80 million construction program completed in 1989 added a new administration building, a 28-bed infirmary, and 372 additional cells.
“The power of attorney are 9 men from Graterford Prison with something to say…” says the introduction of the band in the covers. These nine guys locked up in Graterford prison definitely had funk in their veins. Very little is known of this band, only the guys involved: Charles McDowell (bass), Gilberto Albizu (congas), Otis J. Graham (drums), Brother Edward J. X Smith (guitar), William Smith (guitar), Wilbur C. Brown (keyboards), Ronald Aikens (percussion), Marion Wilson (saxophone) and Stanley Watkins (saxophone). They seem to have aroused the interest of James Brown himself as the godfather of soul helped them to get their only album published on Polydor.
Songs are mostly soulful vocal funk numbers in here but there’s of course some slow jams too. The lyrics concentrate mostly on the life in a prison and on the other hand, in the ghetto. Really funky “Life is nowhere in the ghetto” starts the album and promises good. After few ballads comes up “Buck naked”, a really tight uptempo instrumental funk track. Then there’s “Jelly roll”, a midtempo instrumental funk jam. “I wanna be free” is exactly what the title sounds like, a song about the life in prison ja the yearning of freedom. It’s a nice uptempo funk track and among the best in this album. From the inside is an obscure album in many ways. Unlike most of the prison band albums that were private pressings, this was released in a major label. And James Brown was involved in this. Whether he did or did not actually do anything for them, he is still involved and there’s a letter from him pressed on the covers. Too bad the guys didn’t got more material released for a reason or another. Hope they got their lives together though..
Once America’s #1 organizer of dance workshops and competitions, Hoctor Dance Enterprises was established in 1959 by Danny and Betty Hoctor, a famous dance team who later founded a record company to produce material for dance instruction. From the early 1960s they produced wide range of music intended for dancing. Most of the albums produced are non-interesting traditional stuff, but there’s several pearls to be found from their catalogue too. Not much info is available of this record’s artist, Byron Peterson, except a short bio that’s written on the back cover.
The title Jazz rock U.S.A. is a little misleading one. the record doesn not contain any jazz-rock at all, it’s a mixture of mellow jazz grooves and jazzfunk. In their own way all the tracks are good or at least decent. There’s a lot of percussion, catchy horns and no electric guitar at all. Despite the occasional cheesy feeling, Jazz rock U.S.A. is one of the best ones as a whole in the Hoctor catalogue. Album starts with a groovy midtempo track “Sunday satisfaction” that has a kind of a break in the beginning and nice mellow groove throughout the song. Next up is a smooth cover of Bill Withers‘ classic “Ain’t no sunshine” that starts as a mellow downtempo groover and suddenly fastens the pace with a percussion break before getting back to mellowness again. Much covered Isaac Hayes‘ “Theme from Shaft” follows. It’s a pretty funky take with more jazziness than the original. The covers of Carole King’s “I feel the earth move” and Arthur Conley’s “Funky street” are also good ones. Rest of the songs are groovy jazz numbers such as “Blues down” and “Moogie mood”. Now that Hoctor Records has bankcrupted there’s no possibility to get exact info when this was released but around 1972 should be quite close.
I must admit that I don’t know anything about this band, except the two albums they released. The producer behind their albums is Gordon Gray, the same guy who also produced Alan Hawkshaw’s Non stop Hammond hits album. And that does not tell anything either. Whatever the story is behind them, they did pretty funky job with this one. Of course not everything is funky down here. There’s nice mellow numbers like the covers of Johnny Nash’s “I can see clearly now”, Syreeta’s “Your kiss is Sweet” or Kris Kristofferson’s “Help me make it through the night”. There’s groovy but a little cheesy cover of Love unlimited orchestra’s “Love’s theme”. And then there’s funk. “Funky Abbey road” with its fast pace sounds like it’s taken straight out of a blaxploitation chase scene and there’s also kind of a break at the end too. The really funky version of “Yellow bird” is an outstanding track too. It was originally a 19th century Haitian song with lyrics from a poem by Oswald Durand and it was then rewritten with English lyrics in the 20th century. The best track in this album however is the bboy anthem “Calypso rock” that starts with a long banging break backed by steel drums and continues with some nice guitar work. There’s also another version of this same album named Tropicana with a cover of a woman lying in a beach of some tropical island. In my opinion The original tropicana steel band is one of the funkiest steel albums of all times along the first album by the Dutch rhythm, steel and show band.
Billy Martin was an American trumpeter immigrated in Canada (not to be confused with percussionist Billy Martin of the Medeski, Martin & Wood fame). He was kind of a star in Canadian r&b scene, but vanished without a trace after three released albums. This one, supposingly his third album, Strawberry soul, was released in 1970 on a Montreal based Trans-World label. It’s an all instrumental funk album with a lot of brass, wah wah and jazzy feelings. Songs on the album vary from laid back funk tracks to uptempo funk groovers. Good example of downtempo funkiness are tracks like “Egg roll”, “It’s your life” and “Funky feelin’”, which was a minor hit and can be found from his other album I turn you on aswell. There’s also a nice uptempo version of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon man” and two other dancefloor fillers “Phillie dog” and “Stax”. Overall Strawberry soul is a very strong funk album. The original is really hard to find, but it has been reissued few times.
Super flute may sound a little cheesy album title and it reminds me of those cheap Italian, German or British cover albums that were released by the dozens in the 1970s. But as you know, one should never judge the record by it’s title - or cover. Ken Munson plays his flute like the greats Herbie Mann or Moe Koffman, but instead of jazziness, he does it more soulful way. The title track “Super flute” is a great uptempo funky track with breaks and all. And there’s more groovers as well. Uptempo flute funk tracks “Scramble” and “Papa was a rolling stone” with midtempo “Rocks in my bed”, “Back stabbers” and “Ode to Billy Joe” are enough for a reason to buy this one. Although little is known of Kenneth “Ken” Munson, I must admit that Super flute is really a magnificent album. It always gets you to a good mood no matter what.
Ke-mo sah-bee (pronounced /ˌkiːmoʊˈsɑːbiː/; often spelled kemo sabe or kemosabe) is the term of endearment used by the intrepid and ever-faithful fictional Native American character, Tonto, (and sometimes the Lone Ranger himself) in the very successful American radio and television program The Lone Ranger. It is sometimes translated as, “trusty scout” or “faithful friend” in Potawatomi.
Electric indian was a studio group formed from session musicians by producer Len Barry. It’s main purpose was to exploit the popularity of American Indians in the late 1960s media. Neither Barry or Vincent Montana Jr. - who did the arrangements with Jimmy Wisner - didn’t exactly know how the Indian music should sound like, so they imagined it and this was the result. Even though the music wasn’t even close to the native Indian music, the first single cut “Keem-o-sabe” on Marmaduke Records reached the US Top 20 in the Billboard Hot 100. After the success of the first release, United Artists took the group to release an album. And there it was, Keem-o-sabe.
Percussion driven music is what this album is all about. There’s cover songs such as bboy friendly version of Stevie Wonder’s “My cherie amour”, Jerry Butler’s “Only the strong survive”, JR Walker & The all stars‘ “What does it take to win your love”. Then there’s a cover of Blood, Sweat & Tears‘ “Spinning wheel” that usually don’t go wrong in any case. And there’s a magnificent bboy friendly breakbeat version of Marvin Gaye’s “I heard it through the grapevine”. There’s also another tight bboy track, apparently their own composition, “Rain dance” that has been played around a lot. Overall this is at the same time weird and really amusing album,
In the same year, shortly after the release of their greatest success, It’s just begun, The Jimmy Castor bunch released another album called Phase two. It uses the very same formula as in It’s just begun - funk with social awareness, pop hooks, gonzo comedy, fuzz guitar and latin rock elements. Despite the occasional feeling of some uninspired moments - like in “Luther the anthropoid (ape man)” that sounds a lot more like a remake of “Troglodyte (cave man)” than a sequel - Phase two is still somewhat a great album. In the book “Stairway to hell” (Da Capo Press Inc 1998) Phase two was even voted as the #10 heavy metal album of all times.
Castor’s Leroy-saga continues with the fuzzed latin funk/rock song “Say Leroy (The creature from the black lagoon is your father)” that was a pop chart hit. There’s two massive rockfunk/percussion breakdowns in this track too. The socially aware bboy classic “When?” guides the listeners through the hard life of the ghetto and at the same time grooves with a fuzz guitar drenched breakbeat frenzy. Then there’s latin flavored “Party time” and two mellow tracks “Paradise” and “The first time I saw your face”. The last track is a tribute to the greatest rock guitarist of all times, Jimi Hendrix, that Castor befriended with in the late 1960s after his first album. “Tribute to Jimi: Purple haze / Foxey ladey” is a great medley of Hendrix classics with Castor’s uncompromising funk-style.
Luther the anthropoid (ape man)
Say Leroy (The creature from the black lagoon is your father)
Thomas “Coke” Escovedo was an Oakland born percussionist who became known playing in Carlos Santana’s band. Later he went on his own and formed the latin rock group Azteca with his brother Pete Escovedo. Coke started his solo career in 1975 and released three albums. This second one, Comin’ at ya! was propably the best result. It was meant to be an attempt to please the ever-growing disco demand, and he succeeded pretty well. Glenn Symmonds on drums, Frank Mercurio on keyboards and synthesizers, Abel Zarate on guitar, Mark Phillips on bass and Coke himself on percussion form a tight combination. There’s also featuring artists Gabor Szabo playing guitar on one song and Joe Henderson playing tenor sax on three songs.
The songs on this albums are a mix between latin percussion driven mid 1970s uptempo disco and latin jazzrock fusion. “Diamond Dust / Vida” with Gabor Szabo’s guitar work is a good example of that latin fusion with a lot of percussion while “The breeze and I” instead is a cool disco track. “Runaway” is a midtempo track that starts with a nice break and continues as a vocal discofunk number. Best track no doubt is the uptempo dancefloor filler “I wouldn’t change a thing” that starts with a tight bboy break and goes on and on with really nice percussion driven beat and catchy vocals. Both “Runaway” and “I wouldn’t change a thing” were featured on the notorious Ultimate Breaks & Beats series.