Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chicago Get Funky On "Skin Tight"

Not to be confused with the Ohio Players song of the same title, Chicago bring their own brand of brass-driven funk to their underrated track "Skin Tight." This funky jazz/blues/rock workout has a sexy swagger and so much soul. It's probably my favorite Chicago joint. The horns on this track are stone-cold, and drummer Danny Seraphine and bassist Peter Cetera keep the groove at a nice funky stroll. It's a great cut and often has me bobbing my head when I'm not even aware I'm doing it. I was not surprised to learn that trombonist James Pankow penned the song, because the horn section is featured so prominently and really makes the track. Pankow also contributes a funky trombone solo, and the late Terry Kath follows it up with a sweet guitar solo.

Clocking in at 3:19, "Skin Tight" feels like it could have gone on a bit longer. The groove is so good that it seems it should have gone on for another minute or two. This is one of those cuts that really needs a part two like James Brown used to do. "Skin Tight" is the song that really introduced me to Chicago's work. Prior to hearing "Skin Tight," I wasn't much of a Chicago fan. The only song by them that I was familiar with was their pop ballad "If You Leave Me Now." It's a pretty song, but it wasn't enough to compel me to check out their other stuff. But once I heard someone playing "Skin Tight," I was like, "Man, these dudes can get down." And that's when I began checking out their other stuff and found that they are a great band with a badass horn section.

"Skin Tight" is from Chicago's album Chicago X, which was released in 1976. The album was well-received, charting at #3 on the US charts and #21 on the UK charts. The album also contained the chart-topping pop ballad "If You Leave Me Now."

Download Skin Tight at Amazon

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Maceo Parker Set To Funk Up The Stage At The Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival 2012

Photo by xflickrx
Maceo Parker will bring bring his heavy sax funk to the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival come September. The six-day festival will take place on September 11-16 at several different venues in downtown Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. A stellar lineup of more than 80 musical acts are expected to perform and will offer a nice mixture of music styles, including electric blues, soul, smooth jazz and some good-ole gutbucket funk. In addition to Maceo, some of the other artists and bands scheduled to perform at the event include Keb' Mo', Kathleen Edwards, Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers, Rusted Root, John Mayall, Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, Afterburner and a slew of others.  80,000 patrons are expected to attend the event.

The  Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival enter its 22nd year and is going stronger than ever. It is internationally recognized for featuring top-notch musical talent, from established legends to promising newcomers. The festival began in 1991. In its first year, the festival ran for more than four days and had 9,500 attendees, 25 musical acts and 17 venues. Since its founding, the festival has grown each year. Tickets just recently went on sale for the this year's festival. To get more info about the event, visit their website.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bonnie Raitt Sets The Stage On Fire With A Gritty Performance of Talking Heads' Hit "Burning Down The House"

I just watched  this great clip of Bonnie Raitt performing a killer version of Talking Head's hit song "Burning Down the House." She does a really amazing job and puts her own spin on the track. I dig how she didn't try to emulate how Talking Heads did the song but brought her own soulful, bluesy style to the cut. I love the original version of the song and had heard several other covers of it, but none of them have really moved me until I heard Raitt's gritty rendition. She really made the song her own, and that's no easy task particularly for a fairly unique song like "Burning Down the House." And she blows up the stage with a badass Southern-fried slide guitar solo. When I heard that she had done a cover of the song, I thought it was an odd choice for her, because it was so different from her style, but she really nails it.

The performance was from her aptly titled live album Road Tested, released in November 1995. Surprisingly, it was her first live album after a distinguished 24-year career as a recording artist. The album is a 22-track, double-disc package from a series of recorded live performances that took place in Portland, Oregon and Oakland, California in July 1995. On the album, Raitt shared the stage with several notable musicians, including Ruth Brown, Bruce Hornsby, Charles Brown, Jackson Browne and Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. A companion DVD of Road Tested was released in 2001. This clip is from the DVD.

On April 10, 2012, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer relased her nineteenth album Slipstream. It was her first album release in seven years. She is currently on tour, and the tour will run through October of this year.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Roots Scheduled To Perform At Mountain Jam Festival 2012

Critically acclaimed hip-hop group the Roots will join a slew of other great artists and bands for the eighth annual Mountain Jam Festival. The festival will run from May 31 (Thursday) through June 3 (Sunday) and will take place at Hunter Mountain, in Hunter, NY. The festival will feature a distinguished and diverse lineup of artists and bands, from talented newcomers to legendary veterans. In addition to the Roots, some of the others artists and bands scheduled to perform at Mountain Jam include Steve Winwood, Ben Folds Five, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Givers, Dawes, and Gov’t Mule’s Tribute Ramble featuring The Levon Helm Band, among many more.

Mountain Jam Festival is a four-day, multi-stage event. This year, more than 50 bands are scheduled to perform on four stages at Hunter Mountain, a first-class ski resort located in the northern Catskill Mountains. Festival attendance is limited to 15,000 people, and camping is limited to under 5000 people to ensure an intimate, audience-friendly environment.

The festival began in 2005 as a one-day celebration of the 25th anniversary of legendary independent radio station Radio Woodstock 100.1 (WDST-FM), which is based in Utopia Studios in Woodstock, NY.  In 2006, Mountain Jam expanded to a two-day music festival, and then added a third day in 2007. In 2011, the festival added early Thursday admission for a limited number of attendees for a pre-festival party on Thursday night.

Since its inception, the festival has been garnering rave reviews. Rolling Stone magazine and a number of other noted national publications have consistently rated Mountain Jam as one of the top music festivals in the country. In 2011, Pollstar recognized Mountain Jam with a nomination for Music Festival of the Year. For more info about Mountain Jam, visit their website.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Papa Grows Funk Spreads Its Homegrown New Orleans Sound Across The Globe

Photo by Jerry Moran
Papa Grows Funk are one of the most prominent and successful funk bands to come out of New Orleans in quite some time. The funk quintet has been blowing up recently, with their international fan base steadily building. More and more people have been getting hip to Papa Grows Funk's authentic New Orleans-style brand of funk. The groove outfit's performance style is rooted in improvisation, recognizing the long-standing hot jazz tradition of some of New Orleans most celebrated sons, including Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. The band is led by Hammond B3 keyboardist and lead singer John "Papa" Gros and consists of Marc Pero (bass), June Yamagishi (guitar, backing vocals), Jason Mingledorff  (saxophones, backing vocals) and Jeffery “Jellybean” Alexander on drums and backing vocals.

Papa Grows Funk are known for their completely improvised shows, which have no formal rehearsals or planned set lists. This unique approach to performing gives their shows the loose, spontaneous feel of an authentic jam session, rather than a perfunctory run-through of  songs. The band members allow their groove instincts to dictate what they play. They might change a song or a groove at the spur of the moment. It's all about how the groove moves them.

Gros formed Papa Grows Funk in 2000. The name of the band was a play on Gros' nickname Papa Gros. He would lead regular Monday night jam sessions at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans. The musician would invite friends to sit in at impromptu jam sessions, and out of these sessions Papa Grows Funk was eventually born.

The band plays more than 100 shows a year. They have performed at some of the hottest venues and most renowned music festivals worldwide, bringing their homegrown New Orleans funk to places like France, New York City, Japan, Brazil, Chicago, Czech-Republic, Germany and more. The band recently played at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for their 12th consecutive year.

Papa Grows Funk dropped their fifth album, Needle in the Groove, on March 27 of this year. The album was co-produced by legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Allen Toussaint and Tom Drummond of critically acclaimed alternative rock band Better Than Ezra. The album is the band's first collective project. On their previous albums, the tracks were written individually by the members. For this album, the songwriting process  was a much more collaborative effort, with all the members having input on each song. The nine-song collection has been getting some love on the radio.  It's currently at #28 on the RMR Jazz Report and climbing up the FMQB TripleA albums charts.

Papa Grows Funk is currently on tour, and the tour will run throughout the summer. For tour info, visit their website. Also, here's a bit of Papa Grows Funk-related info. Guitarist June Yamagishi appeared on an episode of the HBO series Treme. The name of the episode is "Christmas Blues."

"Do U Want It?" from Needle in the Groove

The band performs "Make It Right Now" at the New Orleans Jazz Fest on April 29, 2012

Download Needle in the Groove at Amazon

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Brides of Funkenstein Perform "Birdie" Live In Houston

The sexy, soulful Brides of Funkenstein blow up the stage with a killer performance of their song "Birdie" from a 1979 concert in Houston. I was jazzed to find this clip of the original Brides (Lynn Mabry and Dawn Silva) performing live, especially on such a great track. In their concerts, the duo proved that they were the real deal and not some studio creation who couldn't cut it live. Their vocals sound just as powerful as they did on the original recording of the song. The band is also on-point, keeping things nice and funky. P-Funk guitarist DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight delivers a blistering solo, and Rodney "Skeet" Curtis lays down some super-funky bass thumpin'. Also, Dennis Chambers displays his superb drumming skills here, and the horns are holdin' it down.

It's fortunate that this great live performance of the original Brides was recorded, because the musical partnership of Mabry and Silva would soon come to an abrupt end when Mabry left the group that same year. Upon Mabry's depature, the Brides were quickly reformed, with new members Sheila Horne and Jeanette McGruder joining Silva to make it a trio.  The two were previously P-Funk backup singers, the Bridesmaids. They were solid replacements, but it just wasn't the same without Mabry. Silva and Mabry made an amazing vocal duo. Their strong, distinctive voices meshed so well together. The reformed Brides released Never Buy Texas From A Cowboy in November of '79.  The album was well-received by fans and critics alike.

"Birdie" is another great track from the Brides of Funkenstein's excellent debut album Funk or Walk (1978), a pretty underrated album in my view. The song was written by George Clinton, Garry "Starchild" Shider and Rodney "Skeet" Curtis.

They took the clip of the Brides performing "Birdie" live down at Youtube, but fortunately someone else recently uploaded the entire concert. If you just want to check out the "Birdie" segment, it begins at 7:53 and ends at 14:17.

Related blog entry: "Disco To Go" By The Brides of Funkenstein: Jumbo-Sized Funk

Purchase Funk Or Walk CD at Amazon

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Public Enemy To Headline Movement: Detroit Electronic Music Festival 2012

Influential hip-hop group Public Enemy will headline Movement: Detroit Electronic Festival 2012, which will run through Memorial Day weekend (May 26-28). The controversial rap legends will perform on the main stage at Hart Plaza in Detroit, Michigan on Sunday, May 27 at 11:00 p.m. Chuck D, Flavor Flav and the rest of the Public Enemy crew will no doubt bring the noise come Sunday. The festival will offer a diverse lineup of musicians and DJs. The lineup will include established electronic music acts as well as new artists on the scene. In addition to Public Enemy, some of the other artists scheduled to perform at the festival include Major Lazer, Claude VonStroke, SBTRKT, Mike Huckaby, Nina Kraviz, Jeff Mills (aka The Wizard), Droog, DJ Psycho and a slew of others.

The annual festival was launched in 2000 and was initially called Detroit Electronic Music Festival. The debut festival had a varied lineup that included internationally known artists and lesser-known local talent. The festival was fashioned after well-known dance music festivals in Europe. The event drew attendees from across the globe. Attendance at the first DEMF exceeded expectations, with an estimated one million-plus visitors over the three-day Memorial Weekend run. The event went under the name Detroit Electronic Music Festival for three years (2000-2003).  In 2005, it was called Fuse-In,  and it has been called the current name, Movement: Detroit Electronic Music Festival, from 2006 to the present.

Since the festival began in 2000, it's been held at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit every Memorial Day weekend. It has been sanctioned and financially supported by the City of Detroit. The festival celebrates and acknowledges Detroit as the birthplace of techno music. For more info about the festival, visit their website.

"Crazay" by Jesse Johnson Featuring Sly Stone

Funk/soul guitarist Jesse Johnson and music legend Sly Stone duet on this ultra-tight groove. Johnson wrote and produced "Crazay," a bumpin' synth-laden funk track. He crafted the perfect groove to showcase Sly's soulful voice. The multitalented funk pioneer really shines here, and it's cool to see him back in his element doing his thing. The track also has a great synthesizer intro and a funky slap bass line. It's a high-energy groove that has a joyful, celebratory vibe. 

The video for the song is also top-flight. It's filled with infectious energy and bright psychedelic colors, giving it kind of a 1960s Haight-Ashbury flavor. And Sly and Jesse both look like they're having a blast. When the song was released back in 1986, I thought Sly was due for a big comeback, because he was really on his game here. Unfortunately, the big comeback never materialized but still a very cool track and video. Anyway, comeback are not, Sly was the guiding force behind one of the most influential bands in the history of popular music and a true music innovator.

"Crazay" was the first single from Johnson's sophomore album Shockadelica (1986). The track did quite well on the charts, rising all the way to #2 on the R&B charts and #53 on the pop charts. Jesse Johnson is one of the most talented artists to come out of the Minneapolis music scene spearheaded by Prince back in the 1980s. Johnson's a talented songwriter and highly gifted guitarist. He was the lead guitarist and primary songwriter for The Time. His Shockadelica album is a terrific collection of songs, and it showcases his gifts as a musician and songwriter. He wrote, produced and arranged all the tracks on the album. After a nearly 14-year hiatus from the music scene, Johnson released the double album Verbal Penetration on October 27, 2009.

The visual quality of the video is kind of dodgy, but it's the best one I could find that would allow me to embed it. The sound quality's cool, though.

Download Crazay at Amazon

Related blog entry: "Love Struck" by Jesse Johnson

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fishbone Set To Perform At Denver Day Of Rock

Pioneering alternative rock band Fishbone will take the stage at the upcoming 3rd annual Denver Day of Rock. The event will be held on Saturday May 26 in downtown Denver, Colorado. Denver Day of Rock is a unique event that is presented by Concerts For Kids to raise awareness of children in the Denver community. The free event will feature five stages of live music throughout downtown Denver. In addition to Fishbone, some of the other bands and artists scheduled to perform at the event include Toto, Amanda Capper, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Lee Avenue, Alicia Witt and Offbeat Revolution, among many others.

People attending the event will be asked to bring cans of non-perishable food that will directly benefit Food Bank of the Rockies (FBR). During the event, there will be several bins at various locations along the 16th Street Mall where people can drop off cans of food. All food donated that day will go directly to FBR to help the Denver community fight hunger. 

Denver Day of Rock made its debut on June 6, 2009. The event had two stages of music, one in the Cherry Creek neighborhood and one in Downtown Denver's Theatre District. The event was concluded that evening with a ticketed event at the Fillmore Auditorium.  Alternative rock/hip hop band the Flobots performed for a crowd of more than 1,500 sponsors and patrons and helped raise money for and raise awareness of children’s charities throughout Metro Denver.

In its second year, Denver Day of Rock grew considerably. The event featured 20 bands on four stages up and down the 16th Street Mall and drew more than 100,000 people, which was ten times above the expected attendance.  The event included local acts such as Jason Vigil, The Epilogues and P-Nuckle as well as national acts like Five For Fighting, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Fishbone and more.

Concerts For Kids is a Denver-based not-for-profit foundation that raises funds for and awareness of local children’s charities. Christie and Walter Isenberg created the organization in 2004, with the goal of enriching the lives of children by supporting efforts in the areas of healthcare and education. To learn more about Denver Day of Rock and Concerts For Kids, go their website.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The 25th Anniversary of Michael Jackson's Bad Album Will Be Celebrated in Style With A Deluxe Music and Concert Package

August 31st of this year will mark the 25th anniversary of the release of Michael Jackson's Bad album, the pop superstar's mega-selling follow-up to Thriller.  In celebration of the album's anniversary, a deluxe package that features music and concert footage from MJ's Bad era will be released on September 18, 2012. The Deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition includes three CDs, two collectible booklets and the first-ever authorized DVD release of a performance from his record-breaking Bad World Tour.

The DVD portion of the package contains MJ's legendary concert at Wembley Stadium in London on July 16, 1988 when he performed before 72,000 fans. Prince Charles and Lady Diana were among the audience members for the sold-out show. The DVD is not a compilation of performances but one complete show. It was sourced from MJ's personal VHS copy of the performance as shown on Jumbo Trons during the concert. The visuals have been restored and the audio quality enhanced for the DVD.

The first CD in the deluxe package is the original remastered Bad album. The second CD contains previously unreleased material recorded in MJ's personal home studio in Encino, California. This material includes early demo versions of songs from Bad as well as demos for songs not included on the final album. All of the music is being released as it was originally recorded during the Bad sessions; nothing has been added or altered. Additionally, the CD includes remixes of songs on the Bad album from notable DJ/producers. And the third CD features the audio from the sound truck recordings of the July 16th Wembley concert. It's the first-ever CD release of Michael Jackson in concert as a solo artist and is the only concert from the Bad World Tour known to exist on multitracks.

And the package also includes two extensive booklets that have never-before-seen photos from the Bad recording sessions, video sets and the concert tour, as well as the original Bad cover art, a two-sided poster among other cool MJ items. The deluxe package is a great way to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the landmark Bad album and something his fans will definitely dig.

Related blog entry: Michael Jackson's Bad: Out Of The Shadow of Thriller

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Donna Summer and Chuck Brown Left A Legacy of Great Music

The music world lost two great talents last week: Donna Summer and Chuck Brown. Legendary disco queen Donna Summer passed away last Thursday May 17 at age 63 after a long battle with lung cancer.  And Chuck Brown, "the Godfather of Go-Go," died from multiple organ failure as the result of sepsis on Wednesday May 16. He was 75. Both artists released a wealth of great music during their long, distinguished careers. In tribute to both artists, I thought I'd make a list of my favorite three songs from each.

 My three favorite Donna Summer tracks:

State of Independence - This cover of Jon and Vangelis' 1981 song is my favorite Donna Summer joint.  Her voice sounds terrific over the Caribbean-flavored groove, and the song has a beautiful anthemic chorus. Its spiritual message and slightly Calypso beat was a nice departure from her more upbeat, frequently hedonistic disco hits. The track is from her 1982 album Donna Summer, which was produced by Quincy Jones. The track featured an all-star choir, which included Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, James Ingram, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Loggins, Lionel Richie and Brenda Russell. 

Listen to it here

Dim All The Lights -  This infectious disco track has a great melody and is also quite soulful. It was written by Summer and produced by her longtime collaborators Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. The song is from her multi-platinum album Bad Girls, which was released in 1979.

Listen to it here

Hot Stuff - This blistering rock-tinged disco track had clubgoers burning up the dance floor back in the day. The ferocious groove showcases Summer's powerful vocals. The song features a searing guitar solo from Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, who was formerly a member of both the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan. The track was massive. It was played everywhere: discos, parties, car radios, etc. "Hot Stuff" shot to number one on both the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. The track earned Summer a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance at the 1980 Grammy Awards. She was the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance. "Hot Stuff" is also from Summer's Bad Girls album.

Listen to it here

My three favorites Chuck Brown grooves:

If It Ain't Funky - This ridiculously funky track is from Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers' album Bustin' Loose (1979). The horns are crazy-tight on this cut. The track also features a dope guitar solo courtesy of Chuck B. Oh, and did I mention the bridge? It's so funky that it would make the Mr. Dynamite himself "back up and do the James Brown." The track also has some nice poppin' bass.

Listen to it here

Sticks and Stones - This monster groove has kind of a P-Funk thing goin' on. The heavy, loafin' bass line keeps the groove right in the pocket, and the soulful background vocals add tons of  flavor to the track. It's straight-up nasty funk and makes no bones about it. The track is from Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers album Funk Express, released in 1980.

Listen to it here

Bustin' Loose - "Bustin' Loose" is the ultimate go-go jam. It's a furious groove that decks you with a one-two punch of funk. The bodacious bass line bulldozes its way through the groove, and the horns are on fire. "Bustin' Loose" was Brown's biggest hit and spent four weeks atop the R&B singles chart in 1978 and rose to #34 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The Neptunes incorporated the hook from "Bustin' Loose" for rap star Nelly's 2002 mega hit "Hot in Herre." It's a great rap song, but it can't touch the funk of "Bustin' Loose."

Listen to it here

Related blog entry: "Funk to the Folks" By The Soul Searchers

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Music Heavyweights To Perform at Music Midtown 2012 In September

Pearl Jam
Some of music's biggest names will be performing at  Midtown Music 2012 come September. The two-day event is scheduled for September 21-22 and will take place in the 10th Street Meadow at Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Georgia. The park has two stages on which the artists and bands will perform. It's going to be a massive groovathon with performers representing a wide spectrum of genres, from alternative to R&B and indie rock to hip hop among others. Some of the artists and bands set to take the stage at the festival include Pearl Jam, T.I., Foo Fighters, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Ludacris, Florence + the Machine and Van Hunt, to name a few.

Music Midtown is a huge music festival held in Atlanta, Georgia that was launched in 1994 and ran until 2005. In its peak years, the festival drew in access of 300,000 attendees annually. The festival began as a two-day event with three stages. It later expanded to a three-day event. During the time when the festival had a three-day run, it had six main stages, and each one was typically sponsored by a local radio station. The stages were used to feature dozens of bands that played in a myriad of music styles. Due to a decline in ticket sales and rising expenses following the 2005 Music Midtown, promoters placed the festival on hiatus in 2006, which ran through 2010. In 2011, the festival started up again in its current incarnation of a two-day event on two stages. For more info about Music Midtown 2012, go the their website.

Friday, May 18, 2012

On The Pier by Lo Fidelity Allstars featuring Bootsy Collins

"On The Pier" is a mind-blowing track by British big-beat band Lo Fidelity Allstars that features ace funkster Bootsy Collins. It's a haunting, atmospheric groove in which Bootsy rap-sings his lyrics in a half-stoned Jimi Hendrix drawl. The track is pretty out there, but it subtly grabs your attention and draws you in. It is an acid-tinged excursion through a dreamlike soundscape of cosmic keyboard riffs, tottering horn parts, some laid-back bass, and distant guitar licks that sound like they're being played from some faraway funky galaxy.

The playfully seductive female background vocals add a little spice to the mix. The narcotic groove lulls you into an intoxicated state of sonic bliss, and by the time the track is over, you'll jonesin for another listen. This is one high where you don't need to cop and blaze up. All you need to do is put on your headphones, turn up the volume, and the groove will do the rest. "On The Pier" is from Lo Fi's third album, Don't Be Afraid of Love, released in 2002. The band's lineup for the album included Andy Dickinson, Johnny Machin, Dale Maloney, Phil Ward, Martin Whiteman and Del Vegas.

Lo Fidelity Allstars caught the wave of the big-beat movement in the mid-90s and rode it to success. The band is known for their experimental sound that skillfully mixes hip hop, funk, disco, R&B with various electronica styles. Their tracks feature heavy dub bass lines and breakdown organ riffs. They are probably most recognized for their epic remix of Pigeonhed's funk track "Battle Flag." The members originated from various cities in Northern England, and the band was formed in Leeds in 1996 before they relocated to London. Lo Fi attracted the attention of major record labels while in London. After signing with Skint Records, the band relocated to Brighton where the label is based. They released their fourth album, Northern Stomp, in 2009. The album was well-received by critics and fans.

Download On The Pier at Amazon

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Big Ol' Nasty Getdown Pays Tribute To Funk Music

The Big Ol' Nasty Getdown is a unique and comprehensive project that pays homage to the history of American funk music and is dedicated to raising awareness of the genre's huge influence on contemporary music and culture. The Getdown brings together a distinguished and diverse group of talented musicians. The funk collective is made up of a rotating lineup of roughly 90 musicians from 50 touring bands. Some of the musicians involved in the project include members from the following bands: P-Funk, Fishbone, Graham Central Station, Kool & the Gang, Sun Ra Arkestra, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Blackalicious, Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band, Dumpstaphunk and Galactic, to name a few.

And one of the participants in this sprawling, ambitious funk project is none other than Dr. Funkenstein himself: George Clinton. You can't get any funkier than that. Some of the other funk luminaries who participated in this project include Norwood Fisher (bassist and founding member of Fishbone and Trulio Disgracias); the late, great Garry "Starchild" Shider (P-Funk); Patryce “Choc’let” Banks (Graham Central Station); legendary soul singer Sidney Barnes; and P-Funk vocalist Belita Woods (RIP), who passed away just two days ago on May 14.

The Getdown was formed by John Heintz (bassist/founder/producer), John-Paul Miller (multi-instrumentalist/producer) and multi-instrumentalist Derrick Johnson. Heintz is a member of the band Trulio Disgracias, and Miller and Johnson are both members of Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band. The seeds for the Getdown funk project were first planted in New Orleans nearly five years ago with a historical star-studded gathering of musicians. Out of this meeting of the minds grew a supergroup that celebrates funk music and works hard to get the genre the recognition it deserves. The project is a labor of love for all those involved. It's extremely cool that so many talented musicians are involved in this project, as funk is often underappreciated and its massive influence frequently downplayed.

The funk conglomerate will drop its debut album, Volume 1, on May 22. The 11-song collection is filled with incredible music and, of course, plenty of funk. The album kicks off with the sizzling funk track "The Big Ol' Nasty Getdown." The track has a super-tight horn arrangement and a badass bass line (courtesy of Heintz). It's a great groove to set off the album proper. The funk continues with "Include Me," in which P-Funk diva Belita Woods delivers a soulfully gritty vocal performance. The track also features a scorching guitar solo by Eliot Cohen. "I Will Wait For You" is a beautiful ballad that showcases singer/songwriter Laura Reed's sultry vocals. And the backing vocals are provided by George Clinton, Garry Shider, Belita Woods and Sidney Barnes. It's just an amazing song.

"College Funk" is a monster jam that features some fantastic horn work by members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band. John-Paul Miller delivers a dope guitar solo, and Roosevelt Collier kills it on the pedal steel guitar. Following "College Funk," Ralph Roddenbery and Belita Woods duet on the country-soul song "Wake Me Up." It's a stellar track with a devastating chorus.

George Clinton and Sidney Barnes share lead vocals on the outré jazz-funk track "The Beauty of Pretty." Derrick Johnson contributes a great trombone solo on this cut. In addition to the songs mentioned, the other tracks are also top-notch on this impressive debut. Volume 1 is a great listening experience from start to finish and the perfect showcase for the immensely talented members of the Big Ol' Nasty Getdown. To learn more about the Getdown and their upcoming album, check out their website.

"The Big Ol' Nasty Getdown"

Volume 1 at Amazon

Sunday, May 13, 2012

James Brown and B.B. King Performing At the Beverly Theater

I found this great clip of music legends B.B. King and James Brown performing together in concert in 1983 at the Beverly Theater in Los Angeles. I taped the concert years back when it first aired on HBO, but lost it awhile ago. And I would always miss it whenever the channel aired it again. So I was ecstatic when I recently found that someone had uploaded the entire show on youtube. The video contains amazing performances from both artists. The concert kicks off with a terrific set by B.B., which includes the classics "The Thrill Is Gone" and "Let The Good Times Roll."

Following B.B.'s set, James tears up the stage with some of his biggest hits. The Godfather showed he hadn't lost a step and delivered a powerhouse performance, which featured some of his dazzling footwork. He kept the audience on its feet with his raw funk and unrivaled charisma. Some of the tracks he performed included "The Payback," "I Got the Feelin'," "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," "Doin' It To Death," "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," and "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine."

This is the legendary show where Michael Jackson and Prince were in the audience. James invites MJ onstage to sing and perform briefly. The look on his face when MJ does "the James Brown" is classic. Prince was also invited onstage to perform that night, but unfortunately his part was edited out of this video. For the show's finale, James and B.B. perform the blues classic "Sweet Little Angel" as well as Jame's hit track "Jam." It was an epic concert.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival 2012 Set For Memorial Day Weekend

Several talented artists and performers will descend upon Simi Valley, California come Memorial Day weekend for the 23rd Annual Simi Vally Cajun & Blues Music Festival. The festival will take place on May 26 and 27 at the Rancho Santa Susana Community Park in Simi Valley, California. It should be a jammin' good time.
The Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival made its debut in 1988 as a New England Clambake fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise. Within two years of its inception, the festival adopted the Cajun Creole music theme. The Cajun theme caught on and became extremely popular, helping the festival garner national attention. It grew to become one of the biggest festivals of its kind west of the Mississippi River.

The festival currently presents live Cajun, Creole, zydeco and blues entertainment on multiple stages and offers more than 150 food, beverage, craft and sponsor booths. The annual jamboree draws approximately 15,000 attendees each year. 100 percent of all festival profits are donated to charitable, educational and humanitarian causes. Profits from the festival have resulted in total charitable donations in excess of $1,500,000.

Some of the artists scheduled to perform at the festival include The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Bonne Musique Zydeco, The Bayou Brothers, The Mighty Mojo Prophets, Billy Lee & the Swamp Critters, and Gator Beat. The festival will also pay tribute to late blues legend Muddy Waters.  The tribute will feature some of the great players who had jammed with Muddy, including James Cotton, Bob Margolin and Paul Oscher. Waters' son, Mud Morganfield, will also be performing in the tribute. For more info about the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival, go to their website.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

André 3000 Set To Play Guitar God Jimi Hendrix In Upcoming Biopic

It looks like hip-hop star/actor André  Benjamin (aka by his stage name André  3000) will be playing legendary rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix in the upcoming biopic All Is By My Side. According to a report from the Irish Film and Television Network, the OutKast member has been tapped to portray the left-handed axe master in the long-awaited film. Benjamin has been the frontrunner for the coveted role for a good five years now, so the news wasn't much of a surprise to industry insiders or anyone else for that matter.

It will be really interesting to see how Benjamin fares in the role. He's appeared in several films and is a decent actor. But none of those roles have been as challenging or demanding as playing Hendrix will no doubt be. The results could be disastrous, or Benjamin may exceed expectations and surprise everyone, similar to Jamie Foxx's startling turn as Ray Charles in the acclaimed biopic Ray (2004).

Novelist and screenwriter John Ridley will direct All Is By My Side. This will only be the second feature film that he has directed. Ridley, who will also write the screenplay, is most recognized for writing the films Three Kings and U-Turn. The project is currently in pre-production in Wicklow, Ireland with principal photography set to begin in three weeks in Dublin and Wicklow. The shoot will last six weeks in total. The film will chronicle Hendrix's time in England in 1966 and 1967 when he and his band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, were putting together their landmark debut album Are You Experienced?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Three Funk Masters Share The Stage For Prince's 1999 New Year's Eve Bash

Funk masters Prince, Larry Graham and Maceo Parker set the stage on fire in this awesome jam session from Prince's Rave Un2 the Year 2000 DVD. The energy on the stage is palpable. You really got to give it up for Prince; he really knows how to put together a massive funk session by bringing together super-talented people. Maceo tears it up with some funky sax work, and Prince's band, the New Power Generation, keeps the groove tight. NPG vocalist Rosie Gaines blows it up with some terrific scatting, and guitarist Mike Scott delivers a smooth, jazzy solo.

And Prince kills it with some dope dance moves that would make even James Brown himself take notice, including an incredible eight splits in a row. His Royal Badness also delivers a cool keytar solo and also works it on percussion. Larry gets his moment to shine on his own jam, "It's Alright," which was released during his Graham Central Station days. His vocals sound just as powerful and soulful as they did when he originally recorded the track back in 1975.

Rave Un2 the Year 2000 is the video of a Prince concert taped sometime in December of 1999. The concert was originally broadcast through Pay-per-view on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1999. The concert was recorded at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Prince performed some of his biggest hits, including  "Let's Go Crazy," "Raspberry Beret" and, of course, "1999." And in addition to Maceo and Larry Graham, some of the other special guests included Lenny Kravitz and Morris Day & The Time. Kravitz performed his hit song "Fly Away" and his well-known cover of The Guess Who's classic "American Woman." The Time performed their monster hits "Jungle Love" and "The Bird."

Rave Un2 the Year 2000 was Prince's first full-length live concert video since Sign o' the Times back in 1987. And in addition to the concert footage, the DVD contains a short documentary featuring interviews with some of the concert's participants, a "Freedom Newz" statement by Prince about artistic freedom, and bonus songs featuring George Clinton, Larry Graham, Jimmy Russell, Cathy Jensen and NPG.

The segment with Maceo begins at 35:24.

Purchase Rave Un2 The Year 2000 at Amazon

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Film Review of Marley

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
Filmmaker Kevin Macdonald’s documentary Marley is a fascinating portrait of Jamaican superstar Bob Marley, who introduced reggae music to the world.  It is a very insightful and comprehensive exploration into the life and legacy of the music legend. The film effectively captures the many faces of Bob Marley:  the thoughtful songwriter/poet, the fiery human rights crusader, the charming womanizer, the spiritual messenger, the charismatic performer and the global icon.  Like many gifted artists, Bob Marley was a very complex individual, and this film lends some insight into his many complexities. The film takes a compelling look at Marley’s incredible journey to superstardom and his massive influence on music and pop culture.  It is a truly inspiring film and gives the viewer an idea of who the real Bob Marley was behind his now mythical stature.

The documentary spends a good deal of time exploring Marley’s childhood. It shows how young Marley often felt like an outsider among his peers due to his biracial makeup. His father, Norval Sinclair Marley, was a white Jamaican-born Marine officer and captain as well as a plantation overseer, and his mother was black Jamaican teen Cedella Malcolm. Cedella was only 18 when she gave birth to Bob, and Norval was in his 50s or early 60s. The future reggae star was born Robert Nesta Marley in the mountainous village of Nine Mile in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica on February 6, 1945. Cedella and Norval got married shortly after she became pregnant with their son.  Marley saw very little of his father, who was frequently absent. When Marley was ten, his father died of a heart attack. Shortly after his father’s death, Marley and his family moved to a very poor section of Kingston, Jamaica called Trench Town.  The film chronicles how Marley grew up in extreme poverty in Trench Town. But despite his rough upbringing in Trench Town, Marley always maintained a great fondness for the area and immortalized it by mentioning it in several of his songs.   

Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) does a stellar job in showing how Marley’s rough childhood helped shape him into a highly spiritual individual.  The film gives a stark view of what it was like for young Marley growing up in abject poverty and often feeling ostracized by his peers. His less-than-ideal surroundings put the fire in his belly and drove him to find a way out of his situation.  He developed a great passion for football and music. He learned how to play guitar and began writing songs at the age 14. The film reveals how music became a huge part of Marley’s identity and spiritual being. It seems that music would have always been an important part of his life, whether he achieved great success with it or not.  

Additionally, the documentary contains tons of great concert footage. Marley was truly an electrifying performer, and the concert footage captures some terrific moments of him completely in his element on stage. You can see how the music touched his soul in his performances. Marley had no planned-out steps or choreography; he just went with wherever the music took him. Also, the documentary is filled with classic Marley tunes.

The film also focuses on Marley’s unwavering devotion to the Rastafarian religion. He was first introduced to Rastafarianism by music teacher and mentor Joe Higgs. His Wailer band mates Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh also became devout followers of Rastafarianism.  And the three smoked ganja (marijuana) as a Rastafarian religious sacrament.  They also all wore their hair in dreadlocks in honor of Jah. Millions of people around the world became aware of the Rastafari movement through Bob Marley & The Wailers.

The documentary shows Marley as an outspoken crusader for human rights and a champion for the underclass. It also reveals how Marley was the most politically influential figure in Jamaica for a time, and politicians sought to affiliate themselves with him to help improve their standing with the Jamaican public. Marley is shown to have played a pivotal role in quelling the escalating violence between two warring political parties and was almost killed in the process. His theme of unity struck a chord and no doubt saved many lives.

The film features some revealing interviews from friends, family members, band mates, business associates as well as Marley himself. Some of the interviewees are quite colorful, particularly Bunny Wailer. Wailer is quite a character, and all of his interview segments are interesting and funny. The documentary also featured interviews with some of Marley’s children, as well as his wife Rita Marley.

The film examines Marley’s very close but unconventional relationship with his wife Rita.  From the time Marley first met Rita in the mid-1960s, she remained a very important part of his life until his death at age 36.  She was Marley’s loyal, dedicated wife as well as a musical and spiritual partner. She was a member of the vocal group the I- Threes who provided background harmonies for Bob Marley & The Wailers.  She put up with Marley’s many infidelities for what she felt was the bigger cause of getting his music and message across to the world. The relationship between Marley and Rita was very spiritual. They shared a powerful bond that has never been broken.

The film’s running time is 144 minutes, but it doesn’t feel like it. Marley is such an absorbing piece that the time goes by really fast and actually leaves you wanting more. Very few films, let alone documentaries, can do that. Macdonald does a tremendous job in profiling this very complex artist, presenting Marley flaws and all. It’s a superb documentary and is a must-see for Bob Marley fans and film lovers alike.

Rent Marley at Amazon

George Clinton And P-Funk To Perform At The Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival 2012

George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic are heading overseas to the UK next month to perform at the 3rd annual Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival. George and the P-Funk crew will be performing on Friday June 29th at Moseley Park, Birmingham, England. The band will return to Moseley Park for another performance on Sunday July 1st. 

The Mostly Jazz Festival (now called Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival) made its debut in 2010. The impetus behind the festival was to celebrate "the dynamic grooves, innovation and excitement of the modern jazz movement." It was designed to showcase the diversity of contemporary jazz in all its different forms: jazz-fusion, avant-garde, free and modern jazz, song-based jazz, etc. Another goal of the festival was to recognize jazz's influence on other important music genres, such as Latin, funk and soul.

The three-day festival will be held on June 29-30 and July 1st. In addition to Uncle Jam and P-Funk, some of the other bands and artists scheduled to perform at the festival include Fred Wesley & The New J.B.'s, The Family Stone, Miles Levin Quintet, Ghostpoet, Soweto Kinch and Odyssey. Sounds like it's going to be a blast. For more festival info, go to their website.

Friday, May 4, 2012

"Disco To Go" By The Brides of Funkenstein: Jumbo-Sized Funk

P-Funk disciples the Brides of Funkenstein scored their biggest hit with the hugely funky single "Disco To Go" in 1978. It's a colossal groove that hits on all cylinders. I'd say it's up there with some of the funkiest tracks in the P-Funk canon. Bootsy Collins' Space Bass is on full funk mode here. His bass line is similar to the one on Funkadelic's "Stuffs and Things" but slowed down a bit to ensure maximum funkatude. "Disco To Go" was originally slated to be the title track for Bootsy's Rubber Band's second album, which is not surprising considering the groove sounds so much like a Bootsy joint.

The track is like a funk battle cry with the Brides leading the charge. They sound like two badass amazonian soul sisters heading a funk brigade. The great horn work on the track was arranged by keyboard maven Bernie Worrell and trombonist Fred Wesley, who was the musical director of James Brown's legendary band the J.B.'s.  It's funny that the word "Disco" is in the title of the song, as there's nothing disco about it. The groove is full-on stank, gutbucket funk, not disco by any stretch. The track kicks off with a James Brown-style intro, which also closes out the song. The groove is just a funk wrecking ball, destroying all that's in its path.

"Disco To Go" is from the Brides of Funkenstein's debut album Funk Or Walk. The song was co-written by Bootsy and George Clinton and did quite well on the charts. It went to number seven on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles charts and was certified Gold with more than 500,000 units sold.

The Brides of Funkenstein were formed in 1978 and consisted of Lynn Mabry and Dawn Silva, who were previously backup singers with Sly & the Family Stone. The two joined the P-Funk army in the mid '70s. They toured and recorded with the monster funk/rock collective, providing background vocals on a slew of hit tracks, including classics "Flash Light," "One Nation Under a Groove" "Bop Gun (Endangered Species)" and "Aqua Boogie."

Mabry left P-Funk in '79 and later resurfaced as a backup singer for Talking Heads during their highly successful Stop Making Sense tour in 1983. She also appears in the award-winning documentary Stop Making Sense (1984). At this time, Mabry was a highly respected and much-sought-after background vocalist, touring with top music acts such as George Michael, Stevie Nicks, Bette Midler and Rita Coolidge. She's currently a business partner with Sheila E. In 2001, the two established Elevate Hope Foundation to help abused and abandoned children.

Following Mabry's departure, the Brides of Funkenstein morphed into a trio. P-Funk backup singers  the Bridesmaids--Sheila Horne and Jeanette McGruder--joined Silva as the reformed Brides of Funkenstein.  In 1979, the newly formed Brides of Funkenstein released the album Never Buy Texas From A Cowboy. The album earned the Brides a Cashbox Rhythm & Blues Award in 1981 for "Best Female Group." The album's title track, "Never Buy Texas From A Cowboy," became a hit in Europe, Asia and the Midwest.  The album resurfaced in 2001 when Rolling Stone magazine named it one of the "top 50 coolest albums of all time."

Silva left P-Funk in 1981 and recorded and toured with the Gap Band the following year. She signed a solo recording deal with Polygram Records in 1988, but her debut album on the label was never released. Her first solo album, All My Funky Friends, was released in Europe on Musisoft (Paris France) in December of 2000 and sold thousands of units. The collection was lauded by Tower Records as the only authentic funk album to be released in more than 20 years. In addition to P-Funk, the Gap Band and the Brides of Funkenstein, some of Silva's other recording and touring credits include Ice Cube, Roy Ayers, Coolio, B.B. King and Snoop Dogg.

Related blog entry: The Brides of Funkenstein Perform "Birdie" Live

Purchase Funk Or Walk CD at Amazon