Thursday, November 9, 2017

“Ain’t We Funkin’ Now” by the Brothers Johnson

With the release of their blazing dance track “Ain’t We Funkin’ Now” in 1978, the Brothers Johnson showed once again why they were one of the big dogs of the funk game. Louis “Thunder Thumbs” Johnson’s powerhouse bassline drives this wall-shaking groove, and his brother, George “Lightnin’ Licks” Johnson, unleashes the funk with a scorching guitar solo. Also, the groove is augmented by a tight horn arrangement and Quincy Jones’ flawless production.

This mega-funky joint was a single from the talented duo’s third studio album Blam! (1978). It was co-written by Louis Johnson, Alex Weir, Quincy Johnson, Tom Bahler and Valerie Johnson. In addition to George and Louis, some of the other players on the track included their cousin Alex Weir (rhythm guitar), Steve Schaeffer (drums), Jerry Hey (Trumpet), William Reichenbah (trombone) and Lawrence Williams (saxophone). The track peaked at #45 on the U.S. R&B singles chart.

Blam! was produced by Quincy Jones. It topped the U.S. R&B album chart and climbed to #7 on the U.S. pop album chart. The LP went platinum, as did the other three Brothers Johnson albums that Q produced—Look Out for #1 (1976), Right on Time (1977) and Light Up the Night (1980).

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Influential Rock 'n' Roll Pioneer Fats Domino Dead at 89

Fats Domino, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s founding fathers, died of natural causes on Tuesday, Oct. 24, at his home in Harvey, Louisiana. He was 89. Domino was a towering figure in the music world who made significant contributions to rock ‘n’ roll and its development as a vital new genre in the 1950s.

The New Orleans-bred piano man carved out his own place in music history with his seminal sound, which is a vibrant mix of Delta blues, R&B, Dixieland and jazz. His powerful boogie woogie piano playing was complemented by his rich, soulful baritone voice. And in addition to his considerable musical gifts, Domino would charm audiences with his warm, easygoing personality. His genuine modesty was as big as his talent.

From the mid-'50s to the early '60s, Domino racked up a string of hits, including the standards “I’m in Love Again,” “Blueberry Hill,” “Ain’t That a Shame” “I’m Walkin’” “Blue Monday,” “Whole Lotta Loving" and “Walking to New Orleans.” Many of the songs were co-written by Domino and his longtime songwriting partner Dave Bartholomew.

During his career, Domino had 35 U.S. top-40 hits (11 of which landed in the top 10), and he sold more than 110 million records. He outsold every ‘50s rock act except for Elvis Presley. Additionally, Domino’s million-selling 1949 release “The Fat Man” is widely regarded as one of the earliest rock ‘n’ roll records.

Domino’s importance to modern music can’t be understated. He was one of the key progenitors of the new and exciting rock ‘n’ roll sound that took the music world by storm in the 1950s. And he was a significant influence and inspiration to many music greats, including Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Little Richard, Dr. John, Randy Newman and Elton John.

Moreover, Domino was among the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986—a well-deserved honor for an incredible artist whose music continues to be appreciated by people of all ages across all demographics.


"I'm in Love Again"



"The Fat Man"



Fats Domino performing "Blueberry Hill" on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956

Friday, October 13, 2017

"Funk Gets Stronger (Killer Millimeter Longer Version)" by Funkadelic, featuring Sly Stone

Funk masters George Clinton and Sly Stone
Legendary funk-soul brothers from another mother Sly Stone and George Clinton combine their groove forces for this dope Funkadelic joint. This funky strut of a groove is peppered with infectious horn lines, dirty guitar licks and stellar keyboard and synth parts.

Sly sings most of his verses in a bluesy whisper but occasionally lets loose with a few powerhouse wails to remind listeners that he was still in possession of one of the most soulful voices in funk music. And of course George Clinton is always down for a good funk party and contributes some clever lyrics and catchphrases as well as his signature off-center humor.

In addition to vocals, the multitalented Sly also played drums, keyboards, rhythm guitar and synthesizers on the track. Other players included Eddie “Maggot Brain” Hazel on lead guitar and Sly & the Family Stone alums Pat Rizzo (saxophone) and Cynthia Robinson (trumpet). Sly and Clinton co-wrote and produced the track.

This underrated funk cut didn’t get near enough play back when it was released on Funkadelic’s The Electric Spanking of War Babies album in 1981. In addition to “Funk Gets Stronger,” other great cuts from the album include the percolating “Electro-Cuties” and the lewd, crude and very funky “Icka Prick.”

Sly has recorded and toured with P-Funk off and on over the years and is close friends with George Clinton. Other P-Funk tracks that Sly has contributed his versatile talents include “Hydraulic Pump,” “Catch A Keeper” (both P-Funk All Star cuts), “The Naz” (Funkadelic) and “In Da Kar” by Funkadelic & Soul Clap.  Hopefully, there are more funky collabs to come with Sly, George and P-Funk.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Funkiest Synth Bass Lines

Herbie Hancock working his keyboard magic
The synth bass made its debut on the urban music scene in the early 1970s. It was introduced by groundbreaking artists like Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock, who had begun creating and experimenting with synthesizers in an effort to bring something fresh and unique to their sound. Synthesizers were soon taken up by other black musicians, and by end of the decade, many funk, R&B and disco artists had synth bass lines on their tracks. And by the mid ‘80s, the synth bass had become a fixture in contemporary music and could be heard in a number of different genres.

Listening to some of the great synth bass lines created over the years inspired me to make up a list of my 30 funkiest synth bass lines. Here’s the list in no particular order. 


Flash Light – Parliament 

Keyboard maestro Bernie Worrell took the synth bass to the next level on this galvanic funk classic. His big-bumpin’ Minimoog bass line serves as the funk engine for this roof-raising party jam, which had folks tearing up dance floors back in the day—and still does today.




More Bounce to the Ounce – Zapp 

Zapp’s influential funk classic features a Godzilla-sized synth bass line that forces listeners to surrender to the groove and rush the dance floor.




Living on the Front Line – Eddy Grant

This powerful politically charged reggae track boasts a searing synth bass line served up by the multitalented Eddy Grant, who plays every instrument on the track.




Bad  – Michael Jackson 

The sleek, sinister synth bass line drives this dynamic MJ classic, one of pop/soul legend’s funkiest grooves.




Boogie on Reggae Woman – Stevie Wonder

 Stevie brings bushels of funk and sonic joy through his amazing moog-bass work on this classic track. This song never fails to generate smiles and get heads bobbin’ whenever it’s played.




Smokey – Funkadelic

Bernie Worrell serves up some moog-bass brilliance on this unearthly gospel/funk masterpiece. The Wizard of Woo’s low-end work on this cut is thick, deep and devastatingly funky.




Sign ‘O the Times – Prince

Prince somberly reflects on the sociopolitical ills of the world on this funkified electro-blues chart-topper, which is anchored by a hard-hitting synth bass line.




Chameleon – Herbie Hancock

Jazz legend Herbie Hancock blew the minds of music lovers near and far when he dropped this gloriously funky instrumental back in 1973. This jazz standard features the now iconic synth bass line, which Hancock played on an ARP Odyssey.




Speed Demon – Michael Jackson

MJ brings massive doses of funk and attitude to this smokin,’ fuel-injected groove, which is bolstered by a badass synth bass line. 




Into the Void – Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor lays down a savage synth bass line on this ferocious industrial-funk groove.




(Not Just) Knee Deep – Funkadelic

Legendary groove master Junie Morrison delivers a sublimely funky Minimoog bass line on this epic funk/dance classic.




I Come Off – Young MC

Rhyme master Young MC spits his tight verses over a treacherous synth bass line on this dope old-school cut.




 Maybe Your Baby –  Stevie Wonder

Stevie delivers some potent synth bass magic on this blisteringly funky tale of heartbreak and infidelity.




Hyperactive! –Thomas Dolby 

 This electrifying new wave/funk hybrid is built around an urgent, stuttering bass line. It’s a truly unique groove that only the mad scientist of synthpop Thomas Dolby could have dream up.




Soft and Wet – Prince

This early Prince joint is filled with stellar synth work, including an irresistibly funky bass line. 

[couldn't find a clip of the original studio recording of the song online]


Atomic Dog – George Clinton

 George Clinton’s iconic and influential funk classic has a super-dope synth bass line that puts some extra stank on the funk.




You Are a Winner – Earth, Wind & Fire

Keyboard wizard Larry Dunn’s hyperkinetic synth bass line catapults this supersonic groove to its funkiest capacity.




Smooth Criminal  –  Michael Jackson 

 This singular R&B/rock/pop gem boasts an indelible synth bass line that immediately hooked listeners upon first play. It’s one of the most memorable and immediately recognizable bass lines in MJ’s discography.




Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop) – Parliament

Bernie Worrell lends his keyboard genius—including an ultra-funky Minimoog bass line—to this monster dance-floor groovathon.




Battle Flag – Lo Fidelity Allstars, featuring Pigeonhed

Andy Dickinson's inspired bass work (played on a real bass through synth pedals) significantly elevates the funk level on this exhilarating remix of Pigeonhed’s song.




Got to Give It Up – Marvin Gaye

Music legend Marvin Gaye personally laid down the bumpin’ synth bass line on this influential funk/disco classic. He played it on the RMI harmonic synthesizer.




Drive Me Wild – Vanity 6

This sexy Prince-produced track features a funky robotic-sounding synth bass line.




The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) – Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott’s blissfully bizarre 1997 hit contains one of the phattest synth bass lines to ever grace a track. I mean this bass line is straight-up obese and insanely funky.




Cash in Your Face – Stevie Wonder

Stevie’s scathing musical statement on housing discrimination features a wickedly funky synth bass line.




Superfly Sister – Michael Jackson 

MJ gets waist-deep in the funk on this super-tight groove, which boasts a bangin’ synth bass line.




Reach for It – George Duke

George Duke’s funkalicious Minimoog bass line sets off this awesome groove in style.




Hey Mr. Jones – Jane Child

Multitalented Canadian artist Jane Child delivers some fantastic low-end synth work on this dark, harrowing peek into drug addiction.




Gloryhallastoopid (Pin the Tail on the Funky) – Parliament

This loose, good-time Parliament groove features a nasty funk bass line on synth.




Natural Born Killaz – Dr. Dre and Ice Cube

Former Death Row keyboardist Priest "Soopafly" Brooks serves up a menacing synth bass line on this diabolical G-Funk joint.




Action Speaks Louder Than Words – Chocolate Milk

This smoldering political-message track is anchored by Robert Dabon’s angry Moog bass line.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

“Scorpio” by Dennis Coffey and The Detroit Guitar Band

Motown guitar legend Dennis Coffey and The Detroit Guitar Band blessed the music world with this incredible instrumental back in 1971. Coffey serves up a potent guitar performance on this sizzling funk/rock cut. The dynamic track also features a terrific drum/conga breakdown, followed by a badass bass solo from famed Funk Brother Bob Babbit. Also, a bit of song trivia: the opening guitar line is actually made up of nine guitar riffs overdubbed by Coffey, spanning three octaves, giving it a more explosive and powerful sound.

 “Scorpio,” written and arranged by Coffey, was a single from his second album, Evolution (1971). The track shot up the charts—peaking at #6 on the U.S. R&B charts and #9 on the U.S. pop charts—and went on to sell a million copies. It’s now considered a funk classic and has been sampled on a number tracks, including “Bust of Move” (Young MC), “Night of the living Baseheads” (Public Enemy), “The Score” (The Fugees, featuring Diamond D), “All My Love” (House of Pain), “We’re All in the Same Gang” (West Coast Rap All Stars), “Jingling Baby” (LL Cool J) and “Mama Gave Birth to the Soul Children” (Queen Latifah, featuring De La Soul).

In addition to Coffey and Babbit, the other players on “Scorpio” are Joe Podorsic (baritone guitar); Ray Monette (tenor guitar); Eddie “Bongo” Brown (congas); Uriel Jones and Richard "Pistol" Allen (drums); Early Van Dyke (piano) and Jack Ashford on tambourine.

Coffey was born in Detroit, Michigan on November 11, 1940. He began playing guitar at age 13 and had his first recording session at 15 where he laid down some hot licks on Vic Gallon’s rockabilly single "I'm Gone" on the Gondola record label in 1956.

In the early ‘60s, Coffey played with the rock ‘n’ roll instrumental band the Royaltones.  The band landed the hits “Poor Boy” and “Flamingo Express.” The Royaltones also played on tracks for other artists, including Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Del Shannon.

During the late ‘60s through the ‘70s, Coffey made a name for himself as a prolific session player for the labels Motown, Invictus and Sussex.  As a member of the Funk Brothers—Motown’s legendary house band—Coffey played on tons of great tracks, many of which went on to become classics. 

Some of the well-known tracks that Coffey played on include “War” (Edwin Starr), “Band of Gold” (Freda Payne), “Someday, We’ll Be Together (Diana Ross and the Supremes) and the following Temptations songs: “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today),” “Cloud Nine,” “Psychedelic Shack,” “I Wish It Would Rain” and “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me).” 

Coffey’s creative use of distortion, Echoplex, fuzz tone and wah-wah pedals helped enhance the psychedelic-soul flavor on some of the Norman Whitfield-produced tracks for the Temptations.

Coffey also played on Funkadelic’s 1970 self-titled debut album, contributing his strong fretboard skills to the haunting, freakafied joint “Mommy, What’s a Funkadelic?”

The guitarist, composer and producer released his first album, Hair and Thangs, in 1969. He dropped his third album, Goin’ for Myself, in 1972. The album contains the exhilarating rock/funk instrumental “Taurus.” The track performed well on the U.S. singles charts, climbing to #11 on the R&B charts and #18 on the pop charts.  And the album peaked at #37 on the U.S. R&B album charts.

Following Goin’ for Myself, Coffey continued doing session work as well as dropping several more solo albums on the Sussex and Westbound labels. And he, along with Mike Theodore, produced and arranged the 1972 international smash “Nice to Be With You” by soft-rock band Gallery. 

The guitarist also holds the distinction of being the first white artist to perform on Soul Train. Coffey and The Detroit Guitar Band performed “Scorpio” on the super-hip music-dance television program on January 8, 1972.

Additionally, Coffey scored the 1974 Blaxploitation martial arts flick Black Belt Jones, which starred Jim Kelly. The film is now considered a cult classic.

Coffey continues to gig and record music. He recently released the album Hot Coffey in the D: Burnin’ at Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge, which is a live album that was recorded in 1968.

Check out Coffey’s official website for upcoming concert dates and other info.


Friday, July 14, 2017

B.T. Express Kept Dance Floors Packed With Smash “Do It (‘Til You're Satisfied)"

Funk/disco band B.T. Express exploded onto the music scene in 1974 with their smash debut single “Do It ('Til You're Satisfied)." The dynamic funk-dance groove struck a chord with radio listeners and dance-floor junkies across the U.S.—from the hood to the ‘burbs—becoming a massive crossover hit. The track’s irresistible bass line, percolating wah-wah guitar licks, bumpin’ beat and super-tight horns had folks setting dance floors on fire back in the day. The track also boasts some funky conga work, dramatic strings, scorching organ and soulful vocals.

“Do It ('Til You're Satisfied),"penned by songwriter/guitarist Billy Nichols, was the title track off the band’s debut album, released in 1974. The song shot to the top of the R&B singles chart in the U.S. and peaked at #2 on the pop singles chart. And it charted at #8 on the U.S. dance charts. The album’s sizzling second single, “Express,” topped both U.S. R&B singles and dance charts; and it climbed to  #4 on the U.S. pop singles chart. The album also performed extremely well on the charts. It reached the summit of the U.S. R&B album chart and reached #5 the pop album chart. The LP eventually went gold.

The band scored another huge success with their second album, Non-Stop (1975). The album topped the U.S. R&B album chart and peaked at #19 on the pop album chart. Following Non-Stop, B.T. Express released several more albums to diminishing returns, with the hits coming in few and far between. Songwriter/producer/singer Jeff Lane produced the band's first four albums.

B.T. Express was formed in Brooklyn, New York in 1972. The band was originally named The King Davis House Rockers and later changed to Madison Street Express, then the Brooklyn Trucking Express, and finally B.T. Express. The band’s original lineup was Richard “Rick” Thompson (guitar, vocals); Bill Risbrook (tenor saxophone, flute, vocals); Terrell Wood (drums); Barbara Joyce Lomas (vocals); Carlos Ward (alto sax, flute, piccolo, woodwind); Dennis Rowe (percussion); and Jamal Rasool, previously Louis Risbrook (bass, vocals).

The band experienced several personnel changes over the years. Some of the other members included the late keyboardist/songwriter/producer Kashif Saleem (previously Michael Jones); drummer Leslie Ming and guitarist Wesley “Pike” Hall, Jr. B.T. Express disbanded in 1987.

Give Up the Funk: The B.T. Express Anthology 1974-1982, a comprehensive two-disc, 31-track anthology package of some of the band’s best work, was released in April.

B.T. Express is considered one of the pioneering acts of the funk-disco movement that was taking hold in popular music in the mid-1970s. And their music is now being appreciated by a new generation of music lovers thanks to sampling. The band's music has appeared on numerous hip-hop and R&B tracks via samples. For instance, “Do It (‘Til You're Satisfied)” has been sampled in 37 songs, including “Déjà Vu” (Beyoncé, featuring Jay-Z); “Addictive” (Truth Hurts, featuring Rakim); “Baller” (Dr. Dre) and “Gangsta Luv” (Snoop Dogg, featuring The-Dream).

Saturday, July 1, 2017

“Fresh” (Scratch Mix ) by Tyrone Brunson

Bassist, singer, songwriter and producer Tyrone Brunson dropped this bumpin’ cut back in 1984. The super-funky instrumental showcased the musician’s prodigious bass-poppin’ skills. It also boasts a hot beat, dope scratching and sterling synth work. Additionally, the track features some great James Brown samples, which were borrowed from his classics, “Say it Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud” and “Hot Pants.”

“Fresh” is a delicious slice of the influential electro-funk sound that was dominating hip-hop music at the time. The track was written by Brunson, Barry Eastmond and Milton Bond and produced by Russell Timmons, Jr. It was the title song off Brunson’s second album, Fresh, released in 1984. The scratch remixers for “Fresh” were Reggie Thompson and Scott Folks. The track also has a cool vintage ‘80s music video filled with pop-lockers, a scratchin' DJ, breakdancing, etc. And the DJ in the video is none other than the O.G. himself: Ice-T.

Calvin Tyrone Brunson was born on March 22, 1956 in Washington, D.C. He played and sang with several local bands throughout the ‘70s, including the tight funk outfits The Family and Osiris. Brunson landed a record deal with the Columbia-distributed Believe In A Dream label in 1982. His first single,“The Smurf,” which was named after the popular dance craze, became a heavily played club banger in New York and elsewhere. It climbed to #14 on the U.S R&B singles chart and #52 on the UK singles chart. The track was included on Brunson’s debut album, Sticky Situation (1982). The album’s title track was also released as a single and was a moderate hit, peaking at #25 on the U.S. R&B singles chart in 1983.

“Fresh,”the title track from Brunson’s 1984 sophomore album, had a solid showing on the U.S. R&B singles chart, climbing to #22.

Brunson eventually moved to MCA Records and released the album Love Triangle (1987) on the label. The collection was produced by James Mtume, who's best known for his production work with the popular R&B/funk band Mtume. In addition to vocals, Brunson played bass, synthesizer and drums on the album. The title track is a lush R&B ballad that features Gayle Adams, who turns in a soulful, impassioned vocal performance. Unfortunately, the song failed to gain any traction on the charts nor did any of the other songs on the album.

Following Love Triangle, Brunson worked mainly as a background vocalist, most notably for hit-making R&B trio Levert.  He left the music scene in the ‘90s and became a teacher of computer networking. He died on May 25, 2013 in Washington, D.C., at the age of 57.

“The Smurf” is what Brunson is most remembered for, but that are many other strong tracks in his catalogue that are definitely worth checking out, including "Fresh."


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Old-School Gold: “Trespasser” by Bad Medicine

Bad Medicine was a talented funk/soul outfit who dropped some serious funk back in the day, including the bad-ass instrumental “Trespasser” in 1974. This smooth funk groove is sonic perfection. It features a cold-creepin’ bass line; sleek, imaginative synth parts; and dope guitar work, including funky wah-wah licks and some sweet Wes Montgomery runs. The track also has a great sax solo. Befitting its title, “Trespasser” has a furtive undercover vibe. 

Bad Medicine was formed in Syracuse, New York on Halloween night in 1968. The band’s formation sprang from a mutual love the members shared for blues, soul, R&B and “roots” music. The original members were Greg Johnson (bass), Tom Corradino (guitar/keyboards), Richard Clarke (drums) and Harry Rado (guitar). Saxophonist David Morton joined the fold shortly after the band’s formation.

The band’s repertoire consisted of a mix of originals and covers of contemporary funk and R&B hits, as well as popular blues classics. The young musicians made a name for themselves opening for well-known acts such as Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and Mitch Ryder. The band’s jumpin’ live shows always had people gettin' down and tearing up the dancefloor. The tight groove outfit soon became very popular around the Syracuse University area, establishing a dedicated following. The last addition to Bad Medicine was keyboardist Johnny Crocitti.

Bad Medicine was a bit of an anomaly due to its racial makeup. There weren’t many all-white bands playing straight funk, soul and R&B at the time. It even caused the band some problems booking gigs at certain venues. 

In 1970, the band released their first single, “She’s Taken All My Money,” on the small Orbit label. It’s a slide-guitar blues tune in which Corradino sings lead vocals. Around this time, the band befriended local record store owner Arthur Lane, who was planning to start his own record label, Enyx Records, with business partner William “Sugarbear” Armstrong. This began the band’s productive association with the label.

Enyx Records was launched in early 1973. With Enyx, Bad Medicine laid down the rhythm tracks for several songs featuring up-and-coming soul vocalist Michelle Sobers, including the Dr. John-penned “When The Battle is Over,” the label’s first release.

Bad Medicine released “Trespasser,” on Enyx Records in 1974. In an old interview posted at Soulstacks.com, Arthur Lane explained the genesis of the track: “I recall distinctly in the winter of 1974 telling Richard [Clarke] how cool it would be to record a song called ‘Trespasser.’ I asked him to imagine the feeling he would have if someone were up to no good and trespassing on his property. So I said, ‘Richard, just transfer the intensity and rage you would have chasing this guy into a song called ‘Trespasser.'”

The band recorded “Trespasser” at George Day’s Dayson Recording Studio in Syracuse. The players on the track were Tom Corradino (guitar); Johnny Crocitti (piano); David Morton (saxophone); Harry  Rado (guitar, rhythm); Greg Johnson (bass); Richard Clarke (drums and percussion); and George Day played Moog synthesizer. It was produced by Lane and Armstrong.

Only a minor hit locally upon its original release, “Trespasser” is now considered a cult classic due to its inclusion on Stone Throw Records' much-buzzed-about compilation The Funky 16 Corners (2001). The track has been embraced by funk aficionados and music lovers, old- and new-school. It has been sampled by Limp Bizkit (“The Key”), Cut Chemist (“Bunky’s Pick”), Yesterday’s New Quintet (“Thinking of You”), and Parallel Thought, feat. PackFM and Jean Grae (“Freaky").

Bad Medicine abruptly disbanded in 1975 after Corradino was seriously injured in a car crash on a snowy road.  More than a decade later, Corradino reunited with his old bandmates, Rado and Clarke, in the Washington, D.C.-based R&B/zydeco outfit Little Red & the Renegades—Corradino (accordion and piano), Rado (guitar) and Clarke (drums).

 Little Red & the Renegades are still going strong and have some gigs lined up this summer. Clarke is no longer with Little Red. He hooked up with Krewe of Renegades some years back.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

PHO Puts Modern Touch On Classic Funk Influences With Sophomore Album

Minneapolis-based progressive funk band PHO are back with some killer new tracks. The talented septet recently released their sophomore album, two.  The album, which consists of 13 instrumentals, is a strong follow-up to the band’s acclaimed debut album CASH It (2015). With two, the band brings a modern sensibility to classic funk influences, such as the J.B.'s, Parliament, the Meters and Tower of Power. PHO infuse the funk with their own unique flavor, adding a dash of psychedelia and hip-hop to the mix.

The album kicks off with the sumptuous and soulful “Sour Town.” It’s followed by “#2,” a high-octane funk groove that boasts imaginative synth work and blazing horn lines. The funk is relentless on this smokin’ cut. The funkalicious “Still Waiting” is a full-on sonic feast. The infectious groove has a stellar horn arrangement, tight drumming and some dope changes.

Next up is “Dr. Drake,” a powerhouse funk jam filled with fat bass, dizzying horn lines and wicked guitar licks. There’s definitely some Prince flavor permeating this hard-hitting funk track.

“Dew Like Me” is a smooth, laid-back groove. The track features some superb playing from the horn section, and the band drops some flute into the mix to enhance the groove’s chill vibe. PHO keeps things on a mellow note on “Responsibility,” a top-notch track heightened by the band’s flawless playing and a smoldering guitar solo.

The majestic “Tomorrow In Texas” is an album highlight. The track has sort of a cinematic flow and showcases the band members’ strong compositional skills. Everything is on point here: the musicianship, the arrangement, etc.  It’s just a brilliant cut and very inventive.

“Pop Top” is a potent groove that features some incredible guitar and keyboard work, as well as a splendid horn arrangement. “South 2nd” is one badass track; it boasts some super-funky bass work and a hot trumpet solo.

 “Face” is a stone-cold funk jam with some cool psychedelic flourishes and jazzy changeups. Also, the drumming is tremendous on this cut. The album closes out with the high-energy, horn-driven “Famous Waves.” 

This album is a very impressive sophomore effort. It’s consistently good and doesn't have a single weak track. The album was produced by John Davis and PHO. It was recorded in Cannon Falls, Minnesota at the legendary Pachyderm Studio where Nirvana recorded their final album, In Utero. The special guest musicians featured on two are Kirk Johnson from Prince’s New Power Generation on percussion and Sten Johnson on trombone.

The members of PHO are Luke Ibach (bass), Arthur "LA" Buckner (drums), Spencer Christensen (guitar), Patrick Horigan (keys), Lukas Skrove (trumpet and flugelhorn), Joe Paris (guitar) and Aaron Levin (tenor sax and flute). Former PHO member Demetrius Mabry, who was still a member during the recording of two, played drums on the album while Buckner played percussion.

Formed in 2013, PHO have taken the music world by storm with their dynamic funk sound, impeccable musicianship and thrilling live performances. The young funk outfit has captured the attention of legions of funk lovers, including Minneapolis' most celebrated musician—Prince. In the winter of 2016, the late music legend caught one of PHO’s live performances on Youtube and was very impressed. This led to an invite to open for funk master Larry Graham and Graham Central Station at the fabled Paisley Park complex in Chanhassen, Minnesota. PHO’s sterling performance at Paisley Park prompted Prince to post the following tweet to the band: “Come back anytime. Just Holla.” The Purple One’s blessing has helped open up many great new opportunities for the band.

PHO are currently one of the hottest rising young bands on the modern funk scene; the band has a dedicated following that continues to grow each day, and they have played with acclaimed funk outfits such as The Motet, Dopapod, Dam-Funk, Dumpstaphunk, among many others.

Some of PHO’s influences include James Brown, Slave, Jimi Hendrix, The Time, Lettuce, P-Funk, Fela Kuti, Sly Stone, and of course, His Royal Badness. The band brings a fresh new energy to the funk game; they’re charting out their own path but never losing sight of the classic funk traditions that provide the foundation of their music— and cultivating their new “Minneapolis Sound” in the process.

Check out PHO's website for tour dates, music releases and other info.


"Dr. Drake"

Friday, May 19, 2017

Superstar A Cappella Group Pentatonix Take On Michael Jackson’s Classics

World-famous a cappella group Pentatonix harness their vocal gifts to pay homage to Michael Jackson in their video “Evolution of Michael Jackson" (uploaded in 2015). The group performs a medley of some of the pop/soul legend’s biggest hits, covering his early days with the Jackson 5 through the Dangerous era. The talented quintet brings their flawless harmonies and creative vocal arrangements to these ageless classics.

Formed in Arlington, Texas in 2011, Pentatonix are one of the most successful a cappella groups in the world. They have sold more than six million albums in the U.S. alone and have earned three Grammys, as well as several other prestigious awards. And hundreds of thousands of fans across the globe flock to their sold-out concerts. Also, the group has shared the stage with music luminaries such as Stevie Wonder and Dolly Parton.

Additionally, Pentatonix’s videos garner millions of views on YouTube: "Evolution of Michael Jackson” currently has more than 32 million views, and their "Evolution of Music,” video has over 100 million views.

Group members are Scott Hoying (baritone), Mitch Grassi (tenor), Kirstie Maldonado (mezzo-soprano), Avi Kaplan (bass) and Kevin Olusola (beatboxer/ vocal percussions). Kaplan recently announced that he will be leaving Pentatonix after the group wraps up their world tour in September. He explained on a video posted at the group’s Facebook page that their fast-paced schedule had become too draining for him, mentally and physically, as well as prevented him from seeing family members and friends when he needed to.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Something In The Water by Mike Zabrin’s Funktastic – Album Review

Funk, jazz and R&B lovers get your ears and groove motors ready for some hot new music by bass wunderkind Mike Zabrin and his talented crew Funktastic.  The 25-year-old musician, songwriter and producer is set to release his new album, Something In The Water, on June 6.

The 10-song collection is a worthy successor to Zabrin’s widely acclaimed debut album Funktastic (2014). Like its predecessor, Something In The Water seamlessly fuses funk, jazz, soul and R&B on its tracks, as well as showcases the Chicago-based musician’s tremendous chops and consummate production skills.

The album kicks off with the hugely funky “Here We Go Again,” which features a powerhouse vocal performance from Laura Burke. Zabrin puts an exclamation point on the funk with his stellar bass work. The track also boasts some dirty guitar licks from Dumpstaphunk’s Ian Neville and super-tight horns, including a funkified trumpet solo from Connor Bernhard.

The band mellows things out a bit on the second track, “Blinded by Love,” with guest vocalist Sam Trump serving up some smooth soul. The lush groove is underscored by the impeccable horn work from Jim Schram (saxophone) and Trump (trumpet). And Zabrin’s bass playing here is fluid and funky. The track has a really chill and relaxed vibe going on.

Burke illuminates “What Do We Call This?” with an incandescent vocal performance. The soul-drenched love jam boasts a terrific sax solo from Schram. 

The album’s title track is a superb jazz-funk workout that showcases drummer Dana Thompson’s fantastic chops. The track also has an excellent horn arrangement, and Hayden Ashley kills it on keys. Burke adeptly handles the vocals here.

Zabrin delivers another incredible bass performance on the brilliant jazz-fusion instrumental “Slice.” The track also features some more dazzling sonic pyrotechnics from Funktastic’s badass horn section.  “Slice” is followed by the gorgeous “Where I Stand,” featuring Burke on vocals. 

The second half of the album starts off with the luminous soul ballad “Only,” which features award-winning Chicago vocalist Sarah Marie Young.

Things get funky again with “You Stepped In A Dream,” another potent jazz-fusion instrumental that showcases the band members’ impressive musical abilities. The album closes out with two more amazing fusion instrumentals, “Familiar Faces” and “Count It In Again,” respectively. 

Something In The Water is a really strong sophomore effort, displaying Zabrin’s consistency and versatility as a musician, producer and songwriter.  For those who love listening to great music performed by extremely talented musicians, this collection is definitely worth checking out.

In addition to those already mentioned, the Funktastic crew also includes Jeff Swanson (guitar), Doug Ferdinand (keyboards), Kiana Mayes (vocals), Ron Jacoby (trombone) and Nathan Mark (drums).

Check out Zabrin's website to preorder Something In The Water, concert dates, and other Funktastic-related info.


Video for "Here We Go Again," the first single from the album


Related blog entry: Review of Bass Phenom Mike Zabrin's Debut Album Funktastic

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Prince and Sheryl Crow Performing “Everyday Is a Winding Road” at Lilith Fair

With the recent one-year anniversary of Prince’s death on April 21, I’ve been binging out on his music and videos over the last few days. During the binge, I came across this great clip of him sharing the stage with Sheryl Crow for an electrifying performance of her song “Everyday Is a Winding Road.” The performance took place on August 22, 1999 at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and was part of the Lilith Fair music festival.

This clip illustrates Prince’s incredible versatility as both a musician and performer. He was right at home in this country-rock milieu; he contributes some sweet country licks on guitar and brings some church to the proceedings with his gospel-infused vocals. And Crow delivers a bluesy vocal performance. She can definitely get down when she wants to.

Additionally, the Purple One transfixes the audience with a soul-stirring guitar solo. You can see the  passion and pure joy he had for the act of playing and performing here--a true artist in every sense. He and Crow elevated an already terrific song with this powerhouse performance.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Funk on Friday" by Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band

Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band are known their good-time funk music and creating a fun party atmosphere at their shows.  The Asheville, NC-based groove outfit definitely brought the funk and fun on their 2007 track “Funk on Friday.” 

The freewheeling funk groove boasts a superb horn arrangement with Greg Hollowell on sax and Derrick Johnson on ‘bone. And lead guitarist John-Paul Miller serves up some fantastic fret work while Ric Bennett holds down the groove with his extra-funky drumming. The song has a loose Fat Tuesday jamboree flow goin’ on and features a cool old-school-style rap from Josh Phillips. It's the perfect track to kick off the weekend on a funky note.

“Funk on Friday” is from the Booty Band’s critically acclaimed debut album, Now You Know, released in 2007. The band’s full lineup at the time of the album’s release was Al Al Ingram (bass and vocals); Greg Hollowell (alto and tenor saxophone); John-Paul Miller (lead guitar and vocals); Derrick Johnson (trombone), Ric Bennett (drums); Josh Phillips (vocals, percussion and rhythm guitar); Grady Gilbert (rhythm guitar); and Suzanna Baum (vocals).

Since the Booty Band dropped Now You Know, they have consistently released great music and are a badass live act; their concerts are like one big funky party. The hard-funkin’ band has some concerts lined up for May, July and August. Check out their website for show dates and music release info on new music releases.




The Booty Band performing "Funk On Friday" at the Emerald Lounge in Asheville


Related blog entry: Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band Releases New Album Funk Life

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Commodores Drop Some Southern Funk on “Gimme My Mule”

In addition to Lionel Richie’s chart-topping ballads, the Commodores were known for Southern-fried funk jams such as “Gimme My Mule," one of the Alabama-bred band’s funkiest releases.

The gutbucket groove is anchored by Ronald LaPread’s insanely funky bassline and boasts a wicked horn arrangement, nasty guitar licks and some sweet clavinet work from Milan Williams. And Richie delivers a raw, earthy lead vocal performance.

The song was written by LaPread, and its title references the unfulfilled promise of "40 acres and a mule" to newly emancipated slaves following the Civil War. It also touches on the virtues of living in a small country town versus the hustle and bustle of the big city.

"Gimme My Mule" was the first single from the band’s third album, Movin’ On, released in 1975.  The song peaked at #11 on the U.S. Dance Club Songs chart. The album’s big hit was Richie's soul ballad “Sweet Love,” which climbed to #5 on the U.S. pop charts and #2 on the U.S.  R&B charts.

Following “Gimme My Mule” the Commodores continued to release great funk tracks throughout the mid and late ‘70s, including these groove nuggets: “Fancy Dancer,” “Thumpin’ Music,” “Brick House,” “Funky Situation” and “Too Hot To Trot."


Monday, April 10, 2017

George Clinton To Be Honored At SESAC Pop Music Awards

Funk legend George Clinton will receive the SESAC Legacy Award at the 2017 SESAC Pop Music Awards, which will take place on April 13 in New York City.  Clinton was the key architect and guiding force behind Parliament-Funkadelic, one of the most iconic and influential funk bands of all time.
 
With Clinton at the helm, P-Funk set the music world on fire in the 1970s with its rich gumbo of funk, rock, soul, gospel, psychedelic-soul and blues. The innovative groove outfit has had a significant impact on contemporary music, particularly in the genres of R&B, funk, dance, electro funk and hip hop; P-Funk’s massive influence on hip hop is probably second only to James Brown’s.

Some of the big-name artists and bands that have been majorly influenced by P-Funk include Prince, OutKast, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Gap Band, Dr. Dre, Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Digital Underground, to name of few.

Clinton, who was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, wears many hats as P-Funk’s leader: producer, songwriter, singer, impresario, talent wrangler and prolific idea’s man. Clinton’s boundless imagination, charisma and strong production skills coupled with the stellar talents of some of the baddest musicians on the planet made P-Funk of one the most important music acts not only of the 1970s but of any era.

And in addition to his work with P-Funk and its many offshoots, Clinton has released top-notch music in his solo efforts, including the acclaimed in 1982 album Computer Games, which contains the influential funk anthem “Atomic Dog.”

Over the last several years, the P-Funk mastermind has become an outspoken advocate for creators’ rights, particularly in copyright reform and royalty collection. His advocacy coincides with SESAC's focus on artists' rights.

Established in 1930, SESAC Holdings is the only U.S.-based Music Rights Organization that administers public performance, mechanical, synchronization and other rights. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Jackson 5 Get Funky On "Get It Together”

By 1973 the Jackson 5 had begun to shed their bubblegum-soul sound in favor of funk-laced dance grooves. The sizzling “Get It Together” exemplifies this new sonic direction. This was the funkiest single the J5 had released up to that point, and it still ranks as one of their funkiest tracks. The percolating groove features crackling clavinets, dynamic strings, poppin’ congas, funky bass and nasty guitar licks.

Michael delivers a gritty lead vocal performance, displaying a newfound maturity in his voice. The 15-year-old pop/soul star adapted well to the changes in his voice brought on by adolescence. Additionally, his brothers provide their signature smooth harmonies with some very soulful turns from Jermaine.

“Get It Together” was the lead single and title track from the group’s ninth studio album, released in September of 1973. The song was written by Hal Davis, Don Fletcher, Berry Gordy, Mel Larson and Jerry Marcellino; and arranged by session guitarist Arthur Wright. It performed extremely well on U.S. R&B singles chart, peaking #2, and was a modest hit on the U.S. pop charts, climbing to #28.  Of course, the album’s breakout track was the Grammy-nominated smash “Dancing Machine,” which went on to become a J5 classic.

The J5 would bring the funk whenever they performed “Get It Together” live. They performed it on The Bob Hope Show, Soul Train, One More Time and The Jacksons TV Series. The group would also raise the roof with this hot cut in concert.




The Jacksons performing "Get It Together" in New Orleans during the 1979 Destiny Tour

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rock 'n' Roll Trailblazer Chuck Berry Dead at 90

Rock 'n' roll pioneer Chuck Berry died on Saturday, March 18, in his home outside St. Louis. He was 90.  Berry was one of rock music’s most important architects; his influence is incalculable—resonating in nearly every aspect of popular music. The rock legend's iconic guitar-playing style and peerless storytelling gifts in song are forever etched in the collective minds of music lovers the world over and will no doubt continue to be appreciated centuries from now.

Berry’s seminal tracks from the mid-1950s to the early ‘60s were vital in helping shape rock 'n' roll music. His sound was an exhilarating mixture of blues, R&B and country and western.

Also, Berry was a natural-born showman. He lit up the stage with his innate charm and humor, which were equally matched by his boundless energy and rare talent.

Berry truly embodied the spirit of rock music, and his tremendous impact cannot be underestimated. Every rock band and artist, from superstars to fledgling garage bands, owe a great debt to Chuck Berry, “The Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

"Johnny B. Goode"


"Promised Land"


"Roll Over Beethoven" Live

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Legendary “Funky Drummer” Clyde Stubblefield Dead at 73

Clyde Stubblefield, one of music’s most influential and acclaimed drummers, died on Feb. 18 from kidney failure. He was 73. Stubblefield’s creative drum patterns on James Brown’s seminal grooves provided the foundation for the blossoming funk sound of the mid-1960s through early '70s. And he has not only influenced countless funk musicians but also legions of artists and producers in hip hop. 

Stubblefield was a member of Brown’s band from 1965 to 1971. And during his tenure with the Godfather, he played on funk classics such as “Cold Sweat,” “I Got the Feelin’” “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” “Mother Popcorn,” and “Ain’t It Funky Now.” And he was featured on Brown’s Cold Sweat and Sex Machine albums.  Stubblefield also brought his powerful drumming talents to Brown’s legendary concerts.

Additionally, Stubblefield held the distinction of being one of the most sampled drummers in hip-hop history. His iconic drum break on Brown’s 1970 single “Funky Drummer” has been sampled on more than 1,000 songs. Some of the notable artists who have sampled the drum break for their tracks include Public Enemy, Run D.M.C., LL Cool J, Nas, Mos Def, the Beastie Boys, Dr. Dre and Boogie Down Productions.

Upon hearing the news of Stubblefield’s death, Roots drummer Questlove wrote, “The Funky Funkiest Drummer of all Time. Clyde Stubblefield thank you for everything you’ve taught me. The spirit of the greatest grace note left hand snare drummer will live on thru all of us.”

Stubblefield's impact still resonates strongly today in funk, hip hop, R&B, breakbeat and many other music genres. Rest in peace funky drummer.

"Cold Sweat"


"Funky Drummer"

Monday, February 20, 2017

Funk Legend, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Walter “Junie” Morrison Dead at 62

Influential funk artist Walter “Junie” Morrison died on January 21. Morrison’s daughter, Akasha, confirmed the news via his Facebook page last Thursday.  He was 62. The cause of his death has not been made public.
 
The gifted multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, singer, producer and arranger made a tremendous impact on the music world through his association with two legendary funk outfits--the Ohio Players and Parliament-Funkadelic.

The Dayton native joined the Ohio Players while still in his teens in the early 1970s. Morrison served as keyboardist, lead singer, songwriter, arranger, producer and musical director for the band. He contributed to the writing and producing of sterling tracks such as “Pain,” “Pleasure” and “Ecstasy.”

 And Morrison wrote and produced the quirky funk classic “Funky Worm” (1973) on his own. It was the band’s first single to reach number one on the R&B charts, as well as their first gold record. Morrison also provided the comical “Granny” voice on the track; and his inventive synthesizer  solos—played on an ARP Pro soloist—have been widely sampled on hip-hop records--233 songs according to the WhoSampled site.  Moreover, Morrison’s synth work on “Funky Worm” has been much-emulated by West Coast hip-hop producers, becoming a staple of the G-Funk sound of the ‘90s.

The musician left the Ohio Players in 1974 and released three solo albums—When We Do, Freeze and Suzie Super Groupie—before he began working with P-Funk in early 1978. He made major contributions to Funkadelic’s landmark album One Nation Under a Groove. His original composition formed the template for the album’s influential title track. Additionally, he contributed to the writing of nearly every track on the album.

 Other P-Funk albums in which Morrison contributed his myriad talents include Parliament’s Motor Booty Affair and Gloryhallastoopid; and Funkadelic’s Uncle Jam Wants You. He and George Clinton co-wrote the brilliant funk/dance classic “(Not Just) Knee Deep” for the Uncle Jam album. Morrison also provided the song’s incredibly funky Mini-Moog bassline. The oft-sampled track has also had a huge influence on hip hop.

Additionally, Morrison played keyboards and co-wrote songs for Clinton’s 1982 album Computer Games, which contained the iconic funk Anthem "Atomic Dog." Clinton is said to have called Morrison “the most phenomenal musician on the planet.” Morrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of P-Funk in 1997.

Morrison continued to work with Clinton and P-Funk off and on over the years as well as releasing more solo albums: Bread Alone (1980), Junie 5 (1981), Evacuate Your Seats (1984) and When The City (2004).

In addition to P-Funk, Morrison produced music for other artists, including two tracks on Soul II Soul’s 1995 album Vol. V: Believe (“Universal Love” and “I Care”).

Morrison’s music spans generations. Artists young and old have shown their appreciation for his invaluable musical contributions. Solange Knowles recently paid tribute to him on “Junie,” a song from her critically acclaimed album A Seat at the Table (2016).

The legendary groove master will be greatly missed by funkateers, hip-hop heads and general music lovers alike.


"Pleasure" by the Ohio Players



"One Nation Under a Groove" by Funkadelic


"Super Spirit" by Junie Morrison

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Nik West Drops Funky New Joint “Bottom Of The Bottle”

Bass dynamo Nik West recently released her hot new single “Bottom Of The Bottle.” This irresistibly funky track showcases both West’s prodigious bass skills and impressive talents as a vocalist.

The song boasts an infectious melody that’s supported by a dope bass-thumpin’ groove; West also throws a cool little rap into the mix. The track is accompanied by a vibrant, colorful music video, which nicely complements the song.

In a recent interview with Vibe magazine, West explained that "the song is about letting go of all of your worries, and instead of wondering why bad things happen, and instead of drowning yourself with the negative, don’t let hard times keep you down for long. Live your life to the fullest and try to see the good in it all. Smile, whistle, sing, dance even if you’re “’at the bottom of the bottle.’”

The talented young musician/singer/performer has definitely been living life to the fullest and making a name for herself in the music game in the process. She has been receiving tons of praise for her incredible prowess on the bass as well as her electrifying live performances and strong vocal abilities. 

Additionally, the Arizona native has worked with big-name music artists such as Prince, Marcus Miller, Bootsy Collins, Lenny Kravitz, Steven Tyler, George Clinton/Parliament-Funkadelic, John Mayer and Dave Stewart. And she has appeared on the cover of a slew of bass musician magazines and has been featured in a number of publications for Vanity Fair, Teen Vogue, Rolling Stone, Afropunk, among others.

West has some gigs lined up next month. Check out her website to keep up with tour dates and new music releases.




Related blog entry: Funkiest Female Bass Players

Sunday, January 29, 2017

“Hot Pants, Pt. 1 (She Got to Use What She Got to Get What She Wants)” by James Brown

James Brown burned up the charts back in 1971 with his sizzling hit track “Hot Pants,” a funky ode to the women’s sexy fashion shorts.

This cut finds the legendary funk master completely immersed in his pure groove element. This is funk straight with no chaser as only the Godfather could do it.

Guitarists Hearlon "Cheese" Martin and Robert Coleman underline the funk with some sassy licks while bassist Fred Thomas and drummer John “Jabo” Starks adeptly anchor this killer groove.

The smokin’ horn parts are provided by Fred Wesley (trombone), St. Clair Pinckney (tenor saxophone) and Jimmy Parker (alto saxophone). The track also boasts a great bridge, where Brown lets loose with some primal funk screams.

Brown co-wrote “Hot Pants” with Wesley. The song, also produced by JB, topped the R&B charts in the U.S. and reached #15 on the pop charts. It was released as a three-part single on his label People Records in 1971. It’s one of his most popular ‘70s hits, which he’d often perform in concert.

“Hot Pants” has been sampled by a slew of rap artists, including Eric B. & Rakim, “Paid in in Full (Seven Minutes of Madness – the Cold Cut Remix),” MC Hammer, “Pump it Up,” and Gang Starr, "2 Steps Ahead.”

Additionally, some of Brown’s funk associates recorded Hot Pants-themed tracks, including “Hot Pants Road” by the J.B.’s and "Hot Pants - I'm Coming, I'm Coming, I'm Coming” by Bobby Byrd.