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"