Monday, January 26, 2015

"Free" By Graham Central Station, Featuring Prince and Chaka Khan

This Graham Central Station joint is funkier than skunk piss on a sweltering summer day. It's pure uncut funk like they used to make way back in golden era of funk music in the 1970s. The track features the powerful funk trinity of Larry Graham, Prince and Chaka Khan—and of course Graham’s super-tight band GCS. It’s hard to go wrong when you have this caliber of musical talent at the helm. And the song boasts some sterling horn work from former Sly & the Family Stone players Cynthia Robinson (trumpet) and Jerry Martini (saxophone), as well as some nasty bass from Graham. And Graham, Prince and Chaka serve up ample helpings of funk with their soulful, gospel-laced vocals. 

You can definitely hear some Riot-era Sly & the Family Stone elements in this slow-burn, percolating funk groove, as well as some Prince flavor. What’s also cool about this song is that you’ve got three great singers handling the vocals, and they all bring the fire.

“Free” was written by Graham and is from Graham Central Station’s album GCS 2000, which was released in 1998. The album was co-produced by Graham and Prince. Graham penned all the tracks on his own save for “Utopia” in which he co-wrote with Prince. The album was released on Prince’s label NPG Records. It was recorded between November, 1997 and January, 1998 at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota.  GCS 2000 is a solid collection of funk, soul and R&B tracks. It was Graham Central Station’s first American album release since his 1979 collection Star Walk.

The musicians who played on the album consisted of Graham Central station members and members of Prince’s band, The New Power Generation. In addition to those already mentioned, some of the other players on the album include the following: Gail Muldrow (guitar, vocals); Robert “Butch” Sam (organ, vocals); Brother Jules (scratches); Wilton Rabb (guitar, vocals); Michael Bland (drums); Marva King (backing vocals); Tina and Latia Graham (backing vocals); and Kirk Johnson (drums). Prince appeared on every track either as a vocalist or musician. But outside of “Free,” his other musical contributions on the album are uncredited.

GCS 2000 CD at Amazon

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