Friday, December 26, 2014

"It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me" by Barry White

Barry White lit up the airwaves and got folks moving on the dance floor with this irresistible disco/funk smash back in 1977.  The song is hooked-filled and superbly arranged and orchestrated. And it nicely showcases White’s rich bass-baritone, which drove all the ladies crazy back in the day. The intro’s nothing short of epic; it kicks off with a bumpin’ backbeat coupled with a bodacious bass line, and the soaring strings eventually set in, lifting the groove to the heavens; it’s pure sonic joy. The song was written by Ekundayo Paris and Nelson Pigford, and was produced and arranged by White.

"It's Ecstasy" was the lead single from White’s 1977 album Barry White Sings for Someone You Love. The song performed extremely well on the charts, shooting to #1 on the U.S. R&B singles charts, where it remained for five weeks. And it peaked at #4 on the pop charts. It's one of White's most popular tracks, and it still gets a lot of play on old-school R&B stations. Also, it was featured in a steamy scene between John Leguizamo and Mira Sorvino in Spike Lee’s controversial 1999 film Summer of Sam.

White had the Midas touch during the 1970s. The gifted musician, composer, arranger, producer and singer/songwriter released a string of hits in that decade, including the R&B classics “You're the First, the Last, My Everything,” "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby," “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” and "Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up." During his amazing music career, White accumulated a heap of gold and platinum records and had international sales of more than 100 million--making him one of the world's best-selling music artists of all time.

White enjoyed a big career resurgence in the late ‘90s when some of his hits were featured on the popular TV series Ally McBeal. The Maestro made three guest appearances on the quirky series, including its finale in 2002.

It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me at Amazon

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Ball of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)" by The Temptations

The Temptations reflect on the troubled state of the world on their powerful political track “Ball of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today),” released in 1970. It was written by the legendary Motown songwriting/production team Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. This hard-hitting slice of psychedelic soul is among the best of the Whitefield/Strong compositions, which is saying a lot considering their sterling oeuvre. The track effectively captures the chaos, uncertainty, fear and collective anger during that period. The instrumentation—provided by the Funk Brothers—is tremendous. Bob Babbitt sets the tone with a foreboding bass line, giving the feeling of a ticking time bomb counting down to detonation. It’s one of the most iconic and recognized bass lines in popular music.

Additionally, the track is filled with ferocious horn lines and trippy sound effects provided by guitarist Dennis Coffey using Echoplex.  It also contains some marvelous harmonica work from Mike Campbell. And the Tempts bring tons of soul and passion to their vocals. Lead singer Dennis Edwards really shines on this track. His gritty vocal performance is filled with righteous anger and conviction, and his rapid-fire delivery on some of the verses gives the song a strong sense of urgency. The song touches on many of the hot-button issues of the early 1970s: rising unemployment, segregation, drug addiction, civil unrest, racism, corrupt politicians, gun control and war. Sadly, most of these issues are still big concerns today, making the song as timely and relevant as ever.

“Ball of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” had a very strong showing on the charts, peaking at #2 on the U.S. R&B single charts and #3 on the pop charts. It also charted in other parts of the world, climbing to #7 on the UK singles charts and reaching #5 on the singles chart in Norway. The song was featured on the Temptations’ 1970 album Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.

The track has been covered by a slew of artists from various genres. Some of the notable artists who have covered the song include Tina Turner (with the B.E.F.), Love and Rockets, The Undisputed Truth, Duran Duran, Anthrax and the Neville Brothers. And Whoopi Goldberg performed it in the 1993 comedy Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.

The lineup for the Temptations at the time of the song’s release was Dennis Edwards, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin and Otis Williams.

Ball Of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today) at Amazon

Monday, December 15, 2014

Top 14 "Crazy" Songs

Time to get wild and crazy! I’ve made a list of my favorite songs with the word “crazy” in the title. Check ‘em out:

14) Crazy Chicken – Graham Central Station (1977)

Larry Graham and GCS get busy with some fowl funk on this percolating, irresistible groove. It’s from the band’s fifth studio album Now Do U Wanta Dance (1977).

Crazy Chicken at Amazon

13) My Ladies Run Me Crazy – The Ohio Players (1976)
This loose funk groove is a track from the Ohio Players’ excellent Contradiction album. The track features tight horn lines and some badass drumming from James “Diamond” Williams.

12) I’m Crazy ‘Bout My Baby – Marvin Gaye (1963)
Marvin Gaye laid down some of his patented smooth soul on this this catchy R&B/pop cut. The song was the B-side of the Motown legend’s hit “Can I Get a Witness.” 

I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby at Amazon

11) Crazy – Seal (1990)
This atmospheric electronic/pop/soul track was Seal’s big breakthrough hit and put him on the map in the U.S. music market. The British singer’s vocals are soothing, soulful and reassuring; there is a richness and depth in Seal’s voice that just works so well on this track. “Crazy” peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and #2 on the UK singles chart. It topped the singles charts in Belgium and several other countries. It was the lead single from Seal’s self-titled debut album, released in 1991.

Crazy at Amazon

10) Crazy on You – Heart (1976)
Legendary Seattle rock band Heart scored their first hit single with this dynamic, mesmerizing rock track. The song is noted for its unique mix of electric and acoustic guitars. It boasts a cool quasi-classical acoustic guitar intro from Nancy Wilson. And her sister, Ann Wilson, delivers a searing lead vocal performance. This track nicely showcases Ann’s considerable vocal power. Lead guitarist Roger Fisher provides the memorable main electric guitar part, which is one of the most instantly recognizable guitar riffs in rock music. “Crazy on You” was written by the Wilson sisters and is from the band’s debut album Dreamboat Annie (1976). The track peaked at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. It’s one of Heart’s signature songs and still receives heavy airplay on classic rock stations.

Crazy On You at Amazon

9) Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne (1980)
 Heavy metal pioneer Ozzy Osbourne burned up the airwaves with this powerful, high-voltage track. The Ozzman delivers a rousing vocal performance, and Randy Rhoads’ fantastic guitar work keeps the rock factor high. And the hard-driving main guitar line is lauded as one of rock’s most iconic guitar riffs, and it’s also for noted for using the full minor scale. “Crazy Train” was the lead single from Ozzy’s solo debut album Blizzard of Ozz, released in 1980.  The song climbed to #9 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in 1981 and peaked at #49 on the UK singles chart.

Crazy Train at Amazon

8) Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Queen (1979)
Freddie Mercury channels a bit of Elvis on this irresistible rockabilly track. In addition to singing lead vocals, Mercury plays the acoustic rhythm guitar part. And Brian May keeps things rockin’ with some sweet rockabilly licks, and John Deacon anchors the groove with his solid bass playing. The track was the lead single from Queen’s multiplatinum-selling album The Game (1980). The track became the band’s first #1 single on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also topped the charts in several of other countries, including Australia and Canada.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love at Amazon

7) Crazy in Love – Beyoncé, ft. Jay-Z (2003)
Beyoncé kicked off her solo career in style with this infectious slice of R&B/pop. The song has an indelible horn-driven hook, which was sampled from the Chi-Lites’ 1970 song “Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So).” The celebratory horns fit nicely at the intro, sounding as if they’re heralding Beyoncé’s arrival as an exciting new artist on the R&B and pop scene in the early 2000s. The young singer/performer shows off her impressive vocal chops here, and future-hubby Jay-Z lends the track a bit of street cred with his smooth rap verses.
The song shot to the top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 2003, where it remained for eight weeks. It ended up being one of the best-selling R&B singles of all time, with sales of more than eight million copies worldwide. It’s also recognized as one of the top songs of the 2000s by a number of noted music publications. British music publication New Musical Express (NME) named “Crazy in Love" the #1 song of the decade (2000-2010), and it placed at #3 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Songs of the 2000s. The song also won two Grammys (Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Song Collaboration). It was the first single off  Beyoncé's multiplatinum-selling solo debut album Dangerously in Love (2003). And the song’s music video is pretty iconic in its own right.

Crazy In Love at Amazon

6) Crazy – Mud (1973)
English glam rock band Mud thrilled fans with this dark, mysterious track. The song has a nice fuzz bass part and some quality guitar work from Rob Davis.  And Les Gray’s haunting lead vocals add to the track’s sinister vibe. “Crazy” peaked at #12 on the UK charts and was the first of a succession of top-20 UK hits for Mud.

Crazy on vinyl at Amazon

5) Crazay – Jesse Johnson, Ft. Sly Stone (1986)
Guitarist/songwriter Jesse Johnson teamed up with music legend Sly Stone for this bass-poppin’, synth-filled funk party. The former Time member and Sly really gel on this high-energy groove. Sly’s voice is in top form here, and he really belts out the funk on this cut. The song was the lead single from Johnson’s second solo album Shockadelica (1986). It had quite an impressive showing on the charts, peaking at #2 on the U.S. R&B singles charts and #53 on the pop  singles chart.

Crazay at Amazon

4) Still Crazy After All These Years - Paul Simon (1975)
This beautiful, poignant tune is one of Paul Simon’s most beloved songs. The song’s narrator quietly reflects on his life as he approaches middle age. He’s set in his ways and no longer feels the need to try to change in order to please anyone else. The song has a bittersweet quality and sentiments that many can relate to.  “Still Crazy After All These Years” is the title track from Simon’s 1975 Grammy-winning album. The song peaked at #40 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. and climbed all the way to #5 on Billboard’s Adult contemporary chart.

Still Crazy After All These Years at Amazon

3) I’ll Go Crazy  - James Brown & the Famous Flames (1960)
This early James Brown classic was released five years before he blessed the music world with The Funk. The young Mr. Dynamite’s musical gifts are in clear evidence on this hard-groovin’ R&B cut, and the Famous Flames show why they got their name with some soulful backing vocals. The track was written by Brown and was his fourth R&B hit, peaking at #15 on the R&B charts. It was also the first single from his landmark album Live at the Apollo, which was released in 1963. 

I'll Go Crazy at Amazon

2) Crazy – Gnarls Barkley (2006)
In 2006, dynamic musical duo Gnarls Barkley (Cee-Lo Green and Danger Mouse) dropped this brilliant track, which is about the potential positive aspects of losing your mind and the freedom and peace it can bring.  “Crazy” was the first single from the duo’s critically acclaimed debut album St. Elsewhere (2006). The track’s huge success marked one of those rare occasions in which a truly unique song became an international smash. The song topped the singles charts in several countries and peaked at #2 on the U.S. pop charts. And it won a Grammy for Best Alternative/Urban performance at the 2007 Grammy Awards. It also topped Rolling Stone’s 2009 list of the “100 Best Songs of the Decade” and placed at #32 on NME’s list of the “150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years.” And it has made a ton of other best-song lists from major music publications.

Crazy at Amazon

1) Let’s Go Crazy – Prince & the Revolution (1984)
Prince showed the world that he could rock with the big dogs on this galvanic rock/funk transatlantic smash. The track features a monster rock-guitar riff and a face-melting solo served up by His Royal Badness.  It was the second single from Prince’s phenomenally successful Purple Rain album and was featured in his blockbuster film of the same name. The song topped both the pop and R&B singles chart in the U.S. in 1984. It’s one of the Purple One’s most famous tracks and a crowd favorite at his concerts.

Let's Go Crazy at Amazon

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band Blowing Up The Funk Scene

Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band (YMBFBB) is one of the baddest funk outfits on the scene at the moment. The Asheville, NC-based band has been killing it for several years now with their dynamic sound and electrifying live shows. YMBFBB was formed in 2002 and quickly established themselves as a great live act who brought massive doses of funk and excitement to each of their performances. And the band has shared the stage with esteemed groove masters such as Parliament-Funkadelic, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Galactic, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Bootsy Collins and Maceo Parker.

 In 2007, the Booty Band released their debut album, Now You Know. The album was well-received by critics and music lovers and was named Album of the Year by Home Grown Music Network. The network also crowned YMBFBB its Band of the Year. The band released their gritty second album, Doin’ It Hard, in 2012, which also received high praise from music critics and fans. The collection was followed up by the extra funkified remix album Re-Doin’ It Hard.

Over the years, YMBFBB underwent a few personnel changes before becoming the super-tight unit  they are today. The members of the talented quintet are the following: Mary Frances, aka “Mama Funk” (keyboards, vocals); Al Al “Sweet Nasty” Ingram (bass, vocals); John Paul “Smoke Machine” Miller (guitar, vocals); Derrick “Dr. Ock” Johnson (trombone, vocals); and Lee “Insta Funk” Allen (drums).

The band has a distinct and unique sound that encompasses funk, soul, rock and old-school rap. And they have a pretty eclectic selection of influences, which include P-Funk, James Brown, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dr. Dre, Frank Zappa, Bootsy, OutKast, Poets of Rhythm, Sly Stone, Snoop Dogg and Fishbone, among others.

 In October of last year, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band dropped their most recent album, titled ONWARD! The eight-song album is a marvelous collection of funk, rock, soul and rap. One of the album’s highlights is the Middle Eastern-tinged rock/rap cut “Precious Moments.” The track is superbly arranged, with powerful horns and keyboards and some sweet guitar riffs. And Lee Allen tears it up on the drums.

“Sanchez” is a sizzling, high-octane instrumental with a cinematic feel. I can imagine this full-throttle groove being used as background music for a high-speed car chase scene in an action flick. The infectious “Ante Up,” is another strong cut, which is elevated by Mama Funk’s soulful, sultry lead vocals. And “Trunk Fallin’ Off” is an irresistible hip-hop track that boasts a sick beat and a dope vocal hook from Mama Funk. And Al Al Ingram and JP Miller add to the booty-shaking festivities with their humorous rhymes.

Additionally, the band gets smooth and mellow on “Let Me In,” which features some stellar fret-burning from Miller. And “Juices and Berries” is a badass retro groove with percolating wah-wah guitars and blazing organ. Ingram accentuates the groove with a mackin’ bass line, and Derrick Johnson delivers the heavy-duty funk on his trombone. 

ONWARD! is a very strong and consistent effort; all the tracks are quality and nicely complement one another. The collection shows the band further expanding their singular funk sound. The guest musicians on the album are Greg Hollowell (saxophone on all the tracks and flute on “Reasons”), Mike Dillon (percussion on “Precious Moments”) and Cactus (aka “Agent 23”) wrote lyrics for “Precious Moments.”

Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band have been busy bringing their powerful brand of funk to appreciative audiences across the U.S.  The band plays an average of 150 shows per year and has a bunch of tour dates lined up for this month. Their next show is scheduled for Thursday, December 11 at Holy Mountain in Austin, Texas.  Check out YMBFBB's website to learn more about the band and get tour info.

Live Version of  "Ante Up"

Onward! at Amazon

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Strollin’ With Nolen" by Jimmy Nolen

Acclaimed axeman Jimmy “Chank” Nolen showed off his prodigious guitar skills on this smokin’ rhythm-and-blues instrumental. This jumpin’ groove no doubt had folks cuttin’ a mean rug way back in the day. And you can’t go wrong with a hot sax solo. Nolen wrote and arranged the track, which was released in 1956 on Federal Records, a subsidiary of Cincinnati-based King Records.

Nolen is widely celebrated in the funk community as one of the genre’s most influential guitarists. During his long tenure as lead guitarist for James Brown’s band, he played on a number of seminal tracks that helped launch funk music—which became an important and integral part of contemporary music. Nolen is credited with inventing the chicken-scratch guitar lick, a signature of the rhythm-driven funk sound. He played his famous chicken-scratch lick on Brown’s 1965 classic “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” which is considered by many as the first funk record.  Due to his creation of the chicken-scratch lick and his pivotal contributions to a slew of influential funk tracks, Nolen is known as the “Father of Funk Guitar.”

Nolen was born on April 3, 1934 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He became interested in music at a very young age and began playing the violin when he was nine. And after listening to records by legendary blues guitarist T-Bone Walker, he picked up the guitar at age14. Before long, Nolen was impressing audiences at local clubs with his considerable guitar chops. He was eventually discovered by blues singer Jimmy Wilson, who caught him playing at a club in Tulsa. Wilson quickly recruited the talented young guitarist for his band. Shortly thereafter, Wilson brought Nolen to Los Angeles, where he began playing guitar for trumpeter Monte Easter and tenor saxophonist Chuck Higgins.  During this period, Nolen was also cutting his own tracks on Federal Records, including “Strollin’ With Nolen,” “It Hurts Me Too” and “Movin’ On Down The Line.”

Nolen joined Johnny Otis’ band in 1957, replacing guitarist Pete “Guitar” Lewis. Nolen played on Otis’ R&B smash “Willie and the Hand Jive,” released in 1958. Nolen left Otis’ band in 1959 to form his own R&B outfit, called the Jimmy Nolen Band. The band gigged around California and Arizona’s “chitlin circuit,” playing small clubs and ballrooms. And the band backed several big-name blues acts who came through Cali. The band only cut one track in the five years that they were together, as their key purpose was to make a name for themselves as a great backing band. By the early ‘60s, Nolen was backing blues harp legend George “Harmonica” Smith and leading his own band.

Nolen’s soulful, gritty playing style would eventually catch the attention of James Brown. He joined Brown’s band 1965 and helped the legendary artist/performer make music history by playing on tracks that ushered in a new dynamic sound known as funk. Nolen remained with Brown for pretty much the remainder of his career, save for a two-year period (1970-1972) in he which played with Maceo & All the King’s Men; Brown’s controlling, mercurial behavior and tightfistedness got to be too much for most of the original members, which resulted in a mass defection in 1970. However, Nolen rejoined Brown’s band in early ’73, where he would remain until his death on December 18, 1983. 

The stoic axeman quietly made his mark on the music world. His contributions to funk are undeniable, and his influence as a guitarist is massive.

The Rhythm & Blues Years CD by Jimmy Nolen at Amazon

Friday, November 14, 2014

Review of Brick’s Self-Titled Second Album

In 1977, R&B/funk/jazz band Brick followed up their successful debut album, Good High (1976), with this surprisingly strong effort. The Atlanta-based quintet easily sidestepped the dreaded sophomore slump with this winning collection of R&B, funk, jazz, dance and pop. It proved that the success of Good High was no fluke, and Brick was definitely a band to be reckoned with. The LP is chock full of great tracks that make for a very cool and enjoyable listening experience.

One of the album’s biggest highlights is the sunny, upbeat cut “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody.” This breezy mix of soul, pop and jazz is pure sonic joy. Its irresistible chorus will have you singing along. Also, Jimmy Brown serves up a superb trombone solo, and axman Regi Hargis  Hickman sweetens the groove with his dope guitar work. The song saw some significant chart action, climbing to #7 on the U.S. R&B singles chart.

And “Dusic" is just incredible. The powerful groove is driven by Ray Ransom’s hypnotic and extremely funky bass line, which really pulls you in. And the song’s arrangement is tremendous: tight horns, phat beat, bumpin’ Hammond keyboard—all complemented by the band’s signature unison falsetto vocals. It also has a terrific bridge, which sounds like the band stopped off at a funk station to fuel up on some more funk before heading back into the main groove.

And Brown augments the funk with a killer flute solo. Listening to “Dusic” today, it still sounds as original and fresh as it did when it was first released more than 30 years ago. It kind of encapsulates Brick’s singular sound, which distinguished them from other R&B/funk bands during that period. The track performed extremely well on the charts—peaking at #2 on the U.S. R&B singles chart and #18 on the pop charts.

“Happy” is a blithesome soul/pop track with an uplifting, positive message. The song has a fun, playful vibe that wouldn’t sound out of place on a children’s TV program. It’s a great cut to put on when you’ve had a rough day and need a little boost. Brown again displays his versatile brass and woodwind skills on this track, playing a trombone, flute and trumpet solo. And the vocal work here is topflight, particularly on the unison-sung falsetto parts.

Another album highlight is the relentlessly funky party groove “We Don’t Wanna’ Sit Down (We Wanna’ Git Down).” Ransom’s bass work is fantastic throughout this hot track, and he takes the funk to another level with a nasty thumpin' solo during the breakdown. The track also boasts some dirty guitar licks and funky brass lines.

And the band members show off their considerable jazz/funk chops on the Earth, Wind & Fire-esque “Living From the Mind.” This kinetic, high-energy groove will have you bouncin’ in your seat and bobbin’ your head. And Ransom gets busy with some sterling bass playing on this cut.

The band slows things down a bit for the infectious love song “Honey Chile.” The track contains solid vocal work from the band members and a super-smooth sax solo from Brown.  Another great mellow track from the album is the soothing, reggae-flavored “Fun.” This is the perfect song to play while you’re just chillin’ and relaxing. And the track boasts some exquisite flute work from Brown, who’s pretty much the MVP of this album.

After listening to this album, you realize just how underrated Brick really is. This album catches the band at the very top its game. There are literally no weak tracks to be found on this outstanding collection. It’s an extremely consistent effort and stands up well after repeated plays.

And Brick is one of the band’s most commercially successful albums. It topped the Billboard’s U.S. R&B album charts and had an impressive showing on the Billboard pop album charts as well, peaking at #15. The album was co-produced by Brick and Phil Benton and was released on imprint label Bang Records.  And all the band members tended to the songwriting duties.

The lineup for Brick when they dropped this album was the following: Jimmy Brown (saxophone, flute, trombone, trumpet and vocals); Ray Ransom (bass, keyboards, vocals and percussion); Eddie Irons (drums, vocals and keyboards); Regi Hargis Hickman (guitar, bass and vocals); and Donald Nevins (keyboards, vocals).


"Ain't Gonna Hurt Nobody"

Brick album at Amazon

Related blog entry: Brick Adds A Little Jazz To Their Funk on Hit Song "Dazz"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I’m Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-70

A daring and innovative artist, Sly Stone was never afraid to try something different and unique with his sound, and he embraced new technology in his recordings. He was one of the first big-name artists to incorporate drum-machine beats into his music. Starting in the early 1970s, he began using an early analog drum machine called the Maestro Rhythm King MRK-2 (aka the funk box) on some of his tracks. And he famously employed funk-box beats on tracks for Sly & the Family Stone’s groundbreaking album There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971), including their #1 hit “Family Affair.” So for better or worse, Sly pretty much brought the drum machine into mainstream music with Riot.

And in addition to the Family Stone tracks, Sly also used funk-box beats for songs that he produced for artists on his short-lived imprint label Stone Flower Productions (1969-71). The label was set up by Sly’s manager David Kapralik with distribution by Atlantic Records.

A new compilation titled I’m Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-70 explores Sly’s first experiments with the funk box. On November 4, independent label Light in the Attic Records released the LP version of the 18-track collection, which features tracks that Sly wrote, arranged and produced for Stone Flower signees Joe Hicks, Little Sister and 6IX. The album also contains tracks from Sly’s solo efforts during this period. Additionally, the LP has an early version of “Just Like a Baby,” a song that would later appear on There’s a Riot Goin’ On. It’s interesting to hear this future Riot track in its early incarnation.

I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-70 also contains ten previously unissued tracks that are newly remastered from the original tapes. This album captures Sly as he was making the transition to a more dark, minimalist sound, which would define There’s a Riot Goin’ On. This new sound was worlds apart from the largely upbeat, optimistic and anthemic tracks found on the band’s previous album releases. These Stone Flower recordings served as Sly’s testing ground for the evolution of his new sound.

The album features two versions of “You’re The One” by all-female R&B trio Little Sister, which was fronted by Sly’s youngest sister Vaetta Stewart.  The early version of the song has a much different arrangement from the recording that was eventually released to radio. And the final version (“You’re the One, Parts 1&2") was released as a single and became a hit. The percolating funk/soul track climbed to #4 on the R&B charts and #22 on the pop charts.

The album also contains Little Sister’s stripped-down funk-box driven cover version of Family Stone track “Somebody’s Watching One,” as well as the trio’s full-band version of the song. The bare-boned, funk-box version of the song was released as a single and also became a hit, charting at #8 on the R&B charts and #32 on the pop charts.

Additionally, I’m Just Like You features tracks Sly wrote and produced for soul singer Joe Hicks, including the soulful, hard-groovin’ cut “I’m Goin’ Home” and its B-side “Home Sweet Home.” Another noteworthy Hicks track on the album is “Life & Death in G&A (parts 1&2).” This track has that singular, brittle, stripped-down funk-box sound that would distinguish many of the tracks on There’s a Riot Goin’ On.

And the collection also contains tracks Sly wrote and produced for six-piece multiracial rock group 6IX; these tracks are characterized by Sly’s new sonic direction, with slowed-down grooves and a heavy funk-box presence.  One of the standouts of the 6IX songs on the album is a slowed-down, extremely funky version of the Family Stone track “Dynamite.”

I’m Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-70 is a terrific collection of tracks and a fascinating snapshot of Sly exploring new sonic terrain and mining a brand-new sound in the process. This new innovative sound was introduced to the world through There’s a Riot Goin’ On, which has had a significant impact on contemporary music; today Riot’s influence can be heard in the genres of R&B, hip hop, funk, soul and even pop and alternative music.

Dynamite by 6IX

I'm Just Like You: Sly' s Stone Flower 1969-70 at Amazon

Related blog entry: You're The One (Part 2) by Little Sister

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown

This compelling HBO documentary chronicles the rise of music legend James Brown, who was one of  the most important music artists/performers of the 20th Century. The documentary, which premiered on October 27th, examines Brown’s amazing ascension from an impoverished youth to an international superstar and influential cultural figure. Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown was written and directed by Oscar-winning documentary film director and producer Alex Gibney, and Mick Jagger was one of the executive producers.

The documentary examines Brown’s massive influence on the music and entertainment world. He was a peerless dancer/performer who influenced a slew of great performers, including Prince, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, Terence Trent D’Arby, Janelle Monáe and Bruno Mars. And perhaps Brown’s greatest achievement was his invention of funk music, which is an explosive, beat-heavy, rhythm-driven form of R&B. Funk has spawned a number of popular music genres, including disco, hip hop, boogie, house music, go-go, electro music, funk metal and G-funk. And the documentary explores how Brown cultivated this new funk sound and continued to expand it until it was an essential component of R&B music.

Mr. Dynamite is filled with incredible concert footage that features some of Brown’s most electrifying performances, including his legendary appearance on The T.A.M.I. Show in 1964, which introduced him to a young white audience in the U.S. and significantly broadened his fan base. It also has his 1966 debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show where he blew television viewers away with his raw and dynamic performance style. These concert clips display why people started calling him “Mr. Dynamite.”

The film also shows clips from his historic concert in Boston, Massachusetts following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968. Riots were erupting in cities all across the U.S. at the time, and there were concerns that violence might break out in Boston as well. The concert was held on April 5, the day after the civil rights leader's assassination, and anger in the black community was still at a boiling point. When audience members starting getting rowdy and rushing the stage, Brown stopped mid-performance, chided the crowd for their behavior and how it hurt Dr. King’s legacy as well as the Civil Rights Movement in general. The crowd quickly quieted down, and Brown launched right back into the song he was performing without missing a beat.

Invaluable clips like this show just how much Brown was respected and revered in the black community at that time. There was probably no other person alive who could have defused the crowd's anger and agitation in such an absolute fashion. And most agree that Brown’s concert prevented riots from occurring in Boston during those sad and bitter days following Dr. King's assassination. The documentary also touches on how Brown was inspired to write “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)," one of the greatest and most important black pride anthems ever recorded.

The documentary profiles the funk pioneer flaws and all. It pulls no punches when addressing the Godfather of Soul’s shortcomings. It paints a portrait of an exceptionally talented but controlling, insecure and somewhat isolated figure who had serious trust issues. The documentary examines Brown’s rough childhood, which may have been the root of his insecurities and sometimes irrational mistrust of people; his mother abandoned him when he was four, and he spent many of his childhood years living in his aunt’s brothel in Augusta, Georgia, and his father was often out of the picture as well.

Some of Brown’s former band members shared stories of his volatile temper and the despotic fashion in which he controlled his band. However, the musicians also praised Brown for his undeniable gifts as a performer and as a true music innovator and how they were proud to have played on some of his classic tracks, which ushered in new type of R&B sound in the 1960s and ‘70s. Some of band members who were interviewed for the documentary included Maceo Parker, Bootsy Collins, John “Jabo” Starks, Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis, Clyde Stubblefield and Fred Wesley. The film also contains numerous clips of interviews that Brown gave throughout his career, which offer some insight into his political and personal beliefs during different periods in his life.

And the documentary also features commentary from contemporary artists who discuss how Brown had influenced and inspired them as musicians and performers. Some of these artists include Kanye West, Ahmir-Khalib Thompson (aka Questlove), Chuck D and Janelle Monáe.

Brown was truly a one-of-a-kind artist. His impact was undeniable, and he wrote a new chapter in music history and blazed a path for numerous artists who followed. He achieved this through preternatural talent, obsessive drive, a powerful work ethic and sheer force of will. And this absorbing, well-researched documentary does a tremendous job of exploring Brown’s life—onstage and off—and how he came to be the world-shaking funk dynamo who forever changed the game in popular music and entertainment.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Girl Callin’ by Chocolate Milk

New Orleans funk/R&B band Chocolate Milk lit up the airwaves with this super-smooth cut back in 1977. The chill, laid-back groove just kind of pimp strolls and has an understated swag to it. The first thing that caught my attention about this track was the infectious piano part that’s played throughout the song. It’s just a simple two-chord progression, but it's very effective and really pulls the groove together.  Kool & the Gang used a similar keyboard part for their 1979 dance-floor smash “Ladies’ Night.” The song also has some terrific horn work and a sweet sax solo from Amadee Castenell, Jr. In addition, the vocals on this track are topflight, particularly the silky falsetto background harmonies.
“Girl Callin” was a single from Chocolate Milk’s fourth studio album We’re All In This Together, which was released in 1977. The song was written and produced by renowned songwriter/producer/arranger Allen Toussaint, who also helmed the album. It’s one of the band’s biggest hits, climbing all the way to #14 on Billboard’s R&B singles chart.  The album also performed quite well on the charts, climbing to #34 on the Billboard’s soul album charts.

Chocolate Milk was formed in New Orleans in 1974. The band’s core members began playing together while still students at St. Augustine High School. The original lineup for the band was the following: Amadee Castenell, Jr. (tenor saxophone, flute, percussion, vocals); Frank Richard (lead vocals, percussion); Joe Foxx (trumpet), Mario Tio (guitar); Robert Dabon (keyboards); Dwight Richards (drums, percussion, vocals) ; Ernest Dabon (bass);  and Ken “Afro” Williams (percussion).

And in the tradition of many fledgling young musicians in NOLA, Chocolate Milk started out playing for tourists on world-famous Bourbon Street and at Club 77. The band was soon cutting demos at Sea-Saint Studios in hopes that they would be heard byToussaint or his business partner the late Marshall Sehorn, who was a songwriter, producer, entrepreneur and music publisher. Toussaint eventually heard their demo for the song “Action Speaks Louder Than Words” and was quite impressed.

Sehorn negotiated a deal with RCA for Chocolate Milk to sign with the label. After the band signed with RCA, Toussaint got them into the studio to record their debut album Action Speaks Louder Than Words, which was released n 1975. He co-produced the album with Sehorn. The LP’s title track is a wickedly funky synth-driven protest song.  It’s one of the Chocolate Milk’s biggest hits and probably their most recognized song. The track peaked at #15 on the R&B singles chart in the U.S. and climbed to #69 on the pop singles chart in the states. The breakbeat on the song has been sampled by numerous hip-hop artists, including Eric B. & Rakim (“Move The Crowd”) and Stetsasonic (“Don't Let Your Mouth Write A Check Your Ass Can't Cash”).

Toussaint produced or co-produced five of Chocolate Milk’s eight albums and occasionally wrote songs for the band. Throughout the ‘70s and early ‘80s, Chocolate Milk dropped a ton of great funk and R&B tracks. And in addition to Girl Callin’ and “Action Speaks Louder Than Words,” some of  their other R&B hits included “Groove City,” “Blue Jeans,” “Say Won’t Cha,” “Take It Off” and “Hey Lover.”

 Chocolate Milk was made up of an extremely talented group of musicians who possessed tremendous studio chops.  In addition to working on their own albums, the band members were in-demand session players; they have played on tracks by many celebrated artists, including Aaron Neville, Lee Dorsey, Patti LaBelle, Paul McCartney and Irma Thomas. They were also Toussaint’s regular studio band as well as his touring band on the road.

After nine productive years, the band broke up in 1983.  Chocolate Milk left behind a wealth of great music and made a name for itself as one of New Orleans’ finest funk and R&B outfits.

Over the years, Chocolate Milk has reunited for special events and concerts. And the band has been performing together more frequently in recent years.  In April of this year, they performed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which is one of the premier music festivals in the United States. That must have been quite a treat for old-school fans of this super-talented band to watch them performing together onstage again; and the performance no doubt earned the band some new fans as well.

Girl Callin' at Amazon

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"New Toy" by Lene Lovich

Influential new wave artist Lene Lovich teamed up with synthpop pioneer Thomas Dolby for this percolating, high-energy track. It’s the title song from Lovich’s 1981 EP. The song satirizes our consumer culture and how people often equate love with material possessions: “I don't want, I don't want your affection/But I’ve got to have the car/I need it for the weekend/I’ve got the have the stereo/And a couple of deletions.” The urgent groove has a haywire, controlled-chaos type of flow. It was written by Dolby, who also played keyboards on the track as well as sang background vocals.  He penned the song as a "thank you" to Lovich for hiring him to be part of her touring band. This was a year before Dolby struck gold with his new wave/funk smash “She Blinded Me With Science” in 1982.

“New Toy” is a brilliant marriage of two singular talents. Lovich’s quirky singing style and eccentric persona was a great fit for Dolby’s unique and kinetic synthpop sound. It’s a shame that the two didn’t collaborate on more songs—or better yet have Dolby write and produce an entire album for her. “New Toy” peaked at #29 on the Australian singles chart and climbed to #53 on the UK charts. It also saw some chart action in the U.S., peaking at #19 on the U.S. Dance Chart, and it remained on the chart for six months.

Lovich’s look and sound had a significant impact on the post-punk scene of the late 1970s and early '80s. And her outrageous attire, outré persona and idiosyncratic vocal style influenced a slew of female artists who succeeded her, including Cyndi Lauper, Dale Bozzio (Missing Persons) and Annabella Lwin (Bow Wow Wow); and she has indirectly influenced more recent artists such as Gwen Stefani and Lady Gaga, among several others.  However, Lovich rarely gets the credit she deserves for being a genuine trailblazer.

As a teen growing up in Hull, England, Lovich developed an interest in art and music. She met guitarist/songwriter Les Chappell in Hull when both were still in their teens. The two shared similar interests and developed a lifelong romantic and professional relationship. The two moved to London together to attend art school. Once in London, they attended several art schools, including the Central School of Art. Lovich eventually became dissatisfied with the art scene and focused all her energies toward launching a career in music. She was involved in a plethora of different entertainment-related projects to help get her career off the ground, including a street busker; a go-go dancer with the Radio 1 Roadshow; a singer in a mass choir in a show called Quintessence; toured Italy with a West Indian soul band; played saxophone for Bob Flag’s Balloon and Banana Band and for the all-girl cabaret trio, the Sensations.

In 1975, Lovich, Chappell and some other local musicians formed the funk/disco band the Diversions. Lovich played sax in the band, while Chappell contributed his guitar skills. The band recorded some original tracks as well as a few cover songs, including Carl Malcolm’s “Fattie Bum-Bum.” The band failed to create much buzz or interest and broke up the following year. And in 1977, Lovich wrote lyrics to some of French disco star Cerrone’s songs, including his dance smash “Supernature.”

Lovich caught her big break when she contacted disc jockey/writer Charlie Gillett, who had her record a demo of the Tommy James’ 1967 pop hit “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Gillett was so impressed with the recording that he brought it to the attention of Dave Robinson, who was the president of independent label Stiff Records in London. Robinson liked the cover and signed Lovich to his label. She brought in Chapell, and they formed a band in her name.

In 1978, Stiff released the re-recorded version of Lovich's cover of  “I Think We’re Alone Now,” with the Lovich/Chappell-penned track “Lucky Number” as the B-side. A more polished version of “Lucky Number” was later released as an A-side. The track blew up, peaking at #3 on the UK charts and launched Lovich into pop stardom. The song is now considered a classic, as it’s one of the tracks that helped define the sound of early new wave music in the late ‘70s. It remains Lovich’s biggest hit and her most popular song.

In October of ’78, Lovich released her debut album, Stateless, on Stiff Records. Lovich and Chappell co-wrote seven of the album’s eleven tracks. The collection included “Lucky Number” and “I Think We’re Alone Now.” The UK version of the album contained their second hit “Say When,” which peaked at #19 on the UK charts. The band lineup for Stateless was Lovich (vocals, saxophone), Chappell (guitar, synthesizer, percussion, vocals), Ron François (bass, percussion, vocals), Nick Plytus (Hammond organ, piano), Bobby Irwin (drums, percussion, vocals) and Jeff Smith (synthesizer).

Following the release of Stateless, Lovich was soon headlining package tours and became one of the biggest names on Stiff Records’ roster. Some of Lovich’s other hits include “Bird Song” and “What Will I Do Without You.” Lovich definitely made her mark on new wave and alternative music, particularly in the late ‘70s and throughout the first half of the ‘80s. She has released five studio albums and one EP. Her last album, Shadows and Dust, was released in 2005.

Lovich is still a very active artist. She has some tour dates lined up for December in Italy, as well as some upcoming European dates scheduled in 2015.

New Toy at Amazon

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Fabulous Counts Brought Bucketloads Of Funk Back In The Day

The Fabulous Counts were a talented soul/funk/jazz outfit out of Detroit who released some top-grade funk back in the 1970s. The band never quite got the recognition it deserved. But it’s understandable why the band was somewhat overlooked, because there was so much stiff competition at the time they were active (1968-76). During this period, there was a slew of amazing funk and soul bands on the scene. As a result, the Fabulous Counts kind of got lost in the mix. Nonetheless, the band released some great cuts back in the day. For instance, they dropped the badass track “What’s Up Front That Counts” in 1971. This is some serious funk right here—sizzling organ, heavy bass, tight horns, poppin’ congas, wicked guitar licks and kickin’ drums. This cut displayed what a strong lineup of musicians the band had. It was the title track from their 1971 album, which was released on Westbound Records. The LP boasts a quality selection of funk and R&B cuts.

The Fabulous Counts were formed in 1968 in Detroit, Michigan. The band’s original lineup was the following: Mose Davis (keyboards), Raoul Keith Mangrum (drums), Demo Cates (alto saxophone), Leroy Emanuel (guitar) and Jim White (tenor saxophone). The funky quintet quickly made a name for themselves on the local scene as both headliners and a backing band for national touring acts.  They eventually caught the attention of famed bandleader, songwriter and producer Robert “Popcorn” Wylie. The band worked with Wylie on recording their first single “Jan, Jan, ”which was released on the Detroit label Moira in late 1968. It’s a cold-ass jam with dope guitar work, funky horns and smooth bass.

And although the track just missed making the charts, it went on to become a cult classic and is probably the band’s most well-known track.  The song was also the title track for the band’s 1969 debut album, which was released on Cotillion Records—a subsidiary of Atlantic records. (The band left Cotillion in 1970 to sign with Westbound Records, which was home to high-caliber acts such as the Ohio Players and Funkadelic.) The album was helmed by legendary producer Ollie McLaughlin.

Jan, Jan also contained the band’s second single release “Dirty Red,” an energetic, soulful instrumental. The record didn’t receive much attention and disappeared without much fanfare. The band finally saw some chart action with their third single, the raw, hard-driving funk groove “Get Down People,” (1970), which was included on their album What’s Up Front That Counts. Leroy Emanuel delivers a gritty, show-stopping guitar solo on this hot cut, and Davis tears it up on the organ. The song peaked at #32 on the R&B charts in the US and #88 on the pop charts.

The album also included the ultra-funky track “Rhythm Changes.” The band had a few lineup changes following their move to Westbound but didn’t lose an ounce of its funk. They also changed their name to simply the Counts at this time.

Before breaking up in 1976, the Counts had recorded a string of great tracks that are still appreciated by old-school fans of the band as well as hardcore funk and R&B aficionados.

What's Up Front That Counts album at Amazon

Jan, Jan by the Fabulous Counts

Jan, Jan the album at Amazon

Monday, October 6, 2014

Funkiest Halloween Songs

Halloween is looming, so it’s about that time to get your monster groove on to some frighteningly funky tracks.  So without further ado, here are my 22 funkiest Halloween tracks. Let’s BOOgie!

22) Everyday Is Halloween– Ministry (1984)

This fantastic electronic track is about the Goth subculture and how every day is like Halloween in this environment. Influential industrial metal band Ministry's founder and creative mastermind Al Jourgensen penned the song. He effectively sampled James Brown’s intro scream from the hit song “Get Up Offa That Thing.”

Every Day Is Halloween at Amazon

21) Frankenstein – The Edgar Winter Group (1973)

The Edgar Winter Group topped the pop charts with this ferocious rock instrumental in 1973. This track has the distinction of being the first hit song to have a synthesizer as the lead instrument. Although this is primarily a rock song, there are some dashes of funk sprinkled throughout.  Apparently world-renowned bassist Marcus Miller caught those funky bits as well. He performed a live cover of the song, which really stressed the funky parts. The track is from the band’s multiplatinum-selling They Only Come Out at Night (1972).

Frankenstein at Amazon

20) The Boogie Monster–  Gnarls Barkley (2006) 

Talented twosome Cee Lo Green and Danger Mouse get into the Halloween spirit on this creepy, baleful track. The ominous tune will have you looking under your bed and checking your closet before hitting the hay. The track is from Gnarls Barkley's Grammy-winning debut album St. Elsewhere, released in 2006.

The Boogie Monster at Amazon

19) Halloween Funk – Louis Edwards and Henry Parsley (2010)

This ghoulish track has a carnival spook-house vibe goin’ on. It also has some really cool keyboard work and a creepy Vincent Price-like spoken-word vocal. It’s a track from Edwards and Parsley’s 2010 album Kids Club.

Halloween Funk at Amazon

18) Blacula (The Stalkwalk) – Gene Page (1972)

Gene Page composed and produced this smooth R&B groove for the 1972 Blaxploitation/horror cult classic Blacula, which starred William Marshall and Vonetta McGee. The acclaimed late composer, arranger, conductor and producer scored the entire soundtrack.

Blacula (The Stalkwalk) at Amazon

17) I’m Your Boogie Man – KC & the Sunshine Band (1976)

This disco smash packed dance floors around the world back in the day. The track has an infectious groove with funky guitar licks, tight horn lines and some nice piano work. And that tambourine keeps the groove cookin’.

I'm Your Boogie Man at Amazon

16) Ghostbusters – Ray Parker, Jr. (1984)

R&B artist Ray Parker, Jr. scored his biggest hit with the anthemic title song for the 1984 comedy/fantasy/sci-fi blockbuster Ghostbusters. The catchy pop/R&B track struck a chord with a huge cross-section of listeners.  And the song’s music video was also extremely popular. It contains some fun clips from the film and is chock full of celebrity cameos, including Peter Falk, Irene Cara, John Candy, Carly Simon, Danny DeVito and Teri Garr.  However, before Parker could fully enjoy the song’s massive success, he was hit with a lawsuit. Huey Lewis of the rock band Huey Lewis and the News sued the R&B singer for plagiarism, claiming he lifted the song’s main groove and melody from the News’ hit song “I Want a New Drug.” The two parties ultimately settled out of court.

Ghostbusters at Amazon

15) Weird Science – Oingo Boingo (1985) 

New Wave rock band Oingo Boingo skillfully fused pop, rock and funk on this spastic, haywire groove. It’s the theme song for John Hughes’s 1985 teen sci-fi comedy Weird Science, which is about two high-school geeks who create their ideal woman on a computer—a bit of a computer-aged ‘80s update on the Frankenstein concept.  It was also the theme song for the television series of the same name, which premiered on the USA Network in 1994. The band included a longer version of the song on their album Dead Man’s Party (1985).

Weird Science at Amazon

14) I Put a Spell On You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (1956)

No Halloween song list would be complete without the inclusion of this spooky rhythm and blues classic. The song is by R&B legend Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, who’s often dubbed the original shock rocker. The track is included among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll and has been covered by several prominent artists, including Nina Simone, Annie Lennox, Marilyn Manson, Arthur Brown and Joe Cocker.

I Put A Spell On You at Amazon

13) Dead Man’s Party – Oingo Boingo (1985)

Oingo Boingo makes a second appearance on the list with the cool, kinetic groove "Dead Man's Party," which fits right in with the Halloween theme. Danny Elfman and his crew really had a knack for coming up with really catchy but slightly twisted songs. It’s the title track from the band’s 1985 release.

Dead Man's Party at Amazon

12) Monster – The Bar-Kays (1978)

This badass instrumental is by Memphis R&B/funk band the Bar-Kays. The dope funk groove has some great guitar work and powerful horn parts. The track is from the band’s 1978 album Money Talks and was the B-side of their funk classic “Holy Ghost.”

Monster at Amazon

11) Creature Feature – Billy Preston (1974)

The late, great keyboard maestro Billy Preston got busy with some serious synth-filled funk on this groovin’ instrumental. The track is from Preston’s 1974 album The Kids & Me.

Kids & Me CD at Amazon

10) Come Alive (The War of the Roses) – Janelle Monáe (2010)

Innovative R&B sensation Janelle Monáe showed a bit of her wild side on this brilliant track. The song has a spooky Halloween vibe to it. And the hard-driving rockabilly/punk groove gives Monáe room to really cut loose and get a little crazy. She delivers a truly inspired vocal performance. The song is from her critically acclaimed debut album The ArchAndroid, released in 2010.

Come Alive (The War Of The Roses) at Amazon

9) Ghosts – Michael Jackson (1997)

This irresistible little groove nugget is a track from Michael Jackson's 1997 remix album Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix. The track boasts a hot beat and some cool, spooky synth work. And MJ’s haunting harmonies will definitely put the listener in a Halloween mood. The pop legend co-wrote and produced the track with New Jack Swing king Teddy Riley. The song was also featured in MJ’s short film Ghosts (1997), which was directed by late special effects master Stan Winston; and MJ cowrote the film’s story concept with famous horror novelist Stephen King.

Ghosts at Amazon

8) Rigor Mortis – Cameo (1976)

"Rigor Mortis" is a monster dance groove by the super-talented funk/R&B outfit Cameo. It’s a track from the band’s debut album, Cardiac Arrest (1977), which introduced the world to their unique and dynamic brand of funk and R&B.

Rigor Mortis at Amazon

7) Thriller– Michael Jackson (1983)

Acclaimed songwriter/producer Rod Temperton penned this splendid slice of R&B. “Thriller” is one of Michael Jackson's most well-known tracks and has become the international Halloween anthem. The song’s epic video often overshadows what a terrific, well-crafted piece of music it really is. And it’s interesting to note that the song’s original title was “Starlight,” and the album was originally called Midnight Man. MJ even recorded a demo of “Starlight.” However, Quincy Jones didn’t think the title was strong enough. So Temperton came up with the new title “Thriller.” He rewrote the lyrics to fit the new title but kept the music the same. And keeping with the new horror-film theme, spooky sound effects were added to the song, such as a creaky door, wolves howling, a storm, etc. Also, legendary horror film actor Vincent Price added his iconic rap in only two takes. All involved ultimately decided that Thriller would be the better title for the album. The rest is history.

Thriller at Amazon

6)  Zombie – Fela Kuti & Afrika 70 (1976)

This percolating, high-energy track illustrates why the late, great Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti was such an acclaimed and beloved artist. The song is a blistering condemnation of  Nigerian soldiers who blindly followed orders like "Zombies" without giving thought to their actions. And in a broader sense, the song is an attack on law enforcement agencies in general that carry out the whims and agendas of a corrupt power without considering the rights of the citizens they're supposed to protect and serve. 

 "Zombie" is just an incredible piece of music, and the groove is so infectious that you can’t help but move when you hear it. The song is the title track from Fela & Afrika 70’s 1976 studio album release.

Zombie at Amazon

5) Little Monsters – RonKat Spearman (2004)

Multitalented musician/songwriter and performer RonKat Spearman dropped this massively funky cut back in 2004. The P-Funk Allstar cowrote the track with none other than Dr. Funkenstein himself, George Clinton, who contributes some cool-ghoul vocals. And P-Funk vocalists Kim Manning and Kendra Foster bring some sass and soul to the funky proceedings. The song is the title track from Ronkat’s 2004 EP.

Little Monsters at Amazon

4) Natural Born Killaz – Dr. Dre, featuring Ice Cube (1994)

Dr. Dre reunited with former N.W.A group mate Ice Cube for this chilling track. Dre lays down one of his baddest G-Funk beats on this cut. The eerie synth vamps create a truly sinister vibe that fits the song’s macabre theme of getting inside the minds of two homicidal maniacs. Dre and Cube both deliver strong raps—lyrically and execution-wise. Their horrifying, imagistic lyrics cut like a sharpened serrated edge knife. It’s raw poetry from the bowels of hell. And the music video is a bit on the disturbing side, well actually more than a bit. It has Dre and Cube playing two murderous psychopaths on a killing spree. The video is cinematic in scope and features veteran actor John Amos as a chief homicide detective heading up a huge manhunt for the killers. It also features a brief cameo appearance from Tupac Shakur as a SWAT sniper. This is probably the most genuinely scary track on the list.

Natural Born Killaz [Explicit] at Amazon

3) Superstition – Stevie Wonder (1972)

You know I couldn’t leave “Superstition” off the list. I would be derelict in my funk duty if I did. This wicked, clavinet-driven funk groove is one of Stevie's most recognized songs. It was the lead single from his landmark album Talking Book (1972); the song topped both the pop and R&B singles chart in the U.S. And it earned the music legend two Grammys, one for Best R&B Song and one for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.

Superstition at Amazon

2) Dr. Funkenstein – Parliament (1976)

Dr. Funkenstein is one of George Clinton’s most well-known alter egos. He’s the mad scientist who uncovered the ancient secret of the “Afronauts,” who have the ability to funkatize galaxies. With this discovery, the good doctor went about the task of cloning these Afronauts, so there would never again be a shortage of The Funk—a most precious resource. Dr. Funkenstein is all about having a good time and bringing great uncut funk to appreciative funkateers around the world.

Clinton delivers a clever and funny rap on this track. Here’s a sampling: “They say the bigger the headache, the bigger the pill, baby/Call me the big pill/Dr. Funkenstein, the disco fiend with the monster sound/The cool ghoul with the bump transplant.” The stupidly funky groove is anchored by Bootsy Collins' nasty bass line. The track has a fantastic intro and boasts a funkalicious trombone solo from horn legend Fred Wesley. And the song has an irresistible hook on the chorus. "Dr. Funkenstien" was written by George Clinton, Bootsy and Bernie Worrell and was a single from Parliament’s 1976 album The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein.

Dr. Funkenstein at Amazon

1)  Stretchin’ Out (In a Rubber Band) – Bootsy’s Rubber Band (1976)

Mega-talented bass man Bootsy Collins shook up the music scene when he dropped this incredibly funky cut back in 1976. The syncopation on this track is just insane—not a drop of funk is wasted. The dynamic groove is powered by Bootsy’s furious bass line and boasts hot brass jolts, dirty guitar licks and a super-phat beat. And P-Funk keyboard wizard Bernie Worrell brings some ghostly ambiance to the groove through his superb synth work. Oh, and let’s not forget the funky cowbell played by Bootsy.

For this track, Bootsy channeled his alter ego Casper, who’s the chillest, funkiest phantom in the spirit world. The song was co-written and produced by Bootsy and George Clinton and was the lead single from Bootsy's superb debut album Stretchin’ Out in Bootsy’s Rubber Band (1976).

Stretchin' Out (In A Rubber Band) at Amazon