Friday, June 19, 2015

“The Same Thing (Makes You Laugh, Makes You Cry)” by Sly & the Family Stone

The groundbreaking multi-genre band Sly & the Family Stone dropped this terrific underrated track back in 1979. The song is about life’s many paradoxes—how seemingly positive things could also have a negative component. The track boasts a moseying funk groove, which is deftly anchored by Keni Burke’s loafin’ bass line. The track also features some sweet guitar licks and cool talk-box work. And Sly delivers a strong lead vocal performance. His distinctive, malleable voice is in top-form here. Additionally, the background singers provide great support with their soulful, gospel-laced vocals.

This track was written by Sly and was a single from the Family Stone’s tenth studio album Back On The Right Track (1979). The collection was meant to be Sly’s big comeback LP—hence, the title. Unfortunately, the album failed to really catch fire. Its two singles (“Remember Who You Are” and “The Same Thing (Makes You Laugh, Makes You Cry)" didn’t crack the charts, and the album itself mainly got mixed reviews from most music critics, as well as failing to chart. It’s a solid collection of tracks, but it doesn’t measure up to the innovative and sterling recordings released during the band’s peak years (1968-’73).

In addition to Sly, the other original Family Stone members who played on the album were Cynthia Robinson (trumpet), Freddie Stone (guitar, vocals), Pat Rizzo (saxophone) and Rose Stone (vocals). Sly contributions on the album:  keyboards, vocals, harmonica and songwriting.

Some of the other musicians who played on the album included Alvin Taylor (drums), Keni Burke (bass), Ollie E. Brown (percussion) and Hamp Banks (guitar).

Back On The Right Track marked the first time that Sly didn’t produce his own album. The collection was produced by acclaimed music producer, arranger, songwriter and keyboardist Mark Davis. 

The Same Thing at Amazon

Friday, June 12, 2015

"Just a Touch of Love" By Slave

Dayton, Ohio-bred funk/R&B band Slave scored their second top ten R&B hit in 1979 with the sexy funk track “Just a Touch of Love.” Mark “The Hansolor” Adam’s slinky, sinuous bass line really makes this song. The talented late bassist had a gift for coming up with great bass lines that were at once catchy and super-funky. And Steve Arrington's lead vocal performance is packed with sensual soul. Additionally, Starleana Young’s lush background vocals help heighten the track’s strong seductive vibe. It’s just a snazzy little groove.

"Just a Touch of Love" was the title track from Slave's fourth studio album, which was released in 1979.  The song peaked at #9 on the U.S. R&B singles chart and #26 on the U.S. club chart. And it climbed to #64 on the UK singles chart.  It’s one of the band's most recognized tracks and has been sampled by a number of artists, including Del La Soul (“Keepin’ The Faith); Mariah Carey (“I’ve Been Thinking About You”); En Vogue (“Ooh Boy”); 2Pac, featuring Dwayne Wiggins and Silky (“Raise Off These Nuts”); Jurassic 5, featuring Nelly Furtado (“Thin Line”); and Kriss Kross, featuring Super Cat (“Alright”).

R&B star Keith Sweat recorded a solid cover of the song in 1997, which was included on his compilation album Just a Touch.

The lineup for Slave when they released the LP Just a Touch of Love was the following: Steve Arrington (vocals, drums), Mark Adams (bass), Danny Webster (guitar, vocals), Starleana Young (vocals), Steve Washington (trumpet, vocals, percussion), Mark “Drac” Hicks (guitar, vocals), Raye Turner (keyboards), Floyd Miller (trombone), Tom Lockett, Jr. (tenor and alto sax) and Curt Jones (vocals).

“Just a Touch of Love” was written by Arrington, Adams, Hicks, Turner, Young and Webster.

The song "Just A Touch of Love" at Amazon

Related blog entry: Slave Burned Up The Charts And Filled Dance Floors With Hit "Slide"

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

James Brown Funked Up The Stage On Late Night With David Letterman

David Letterman’s recent retirement from late-night television made me think of all the terrific music guests who had performed on his long-running talk show Late Night With David Letterman over the years—as well as the show’s great house band led by Paul Shaffer. When it premiered on NBC 33 years ago, the show was sort of a younger, hipper and more irreverent alternative to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. And Letterman’s show always booked top music talent.

My favorite music performance on the show was when James Brown treated Dave’s audience to an electrifying, roof-raising set back in 1982. Brown kicked off his set with a dynamic performance of his funk classic “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” which immediately got audience members moving in their seats. He even tickled the keys a bit during the song.  The funk/soul legend then launched into a rousing rendition of the nostalgic “There Was a Time," and he closed out his set with an explosive performance of his super-funky cut “I Got The Feelin’.”

Throughout the set, Brown thrilled the audience with some of his famous dance moves, illustrating why people dubbed him “Mr. Dynamite” back in the day. And he couldn’t have asked for a tighter backing band than Paul Shaffer and his talented crew, aka “The World’s Most Dangerous Band.” The lineup for the late-night band when this performance was taped was Paul Shaffer (keyboards, musical director), Hiram Bullock (guitar), Will Lee (bass) and Steve Jordan (drums and percussion). Also on hand were Brown’s longtime horn players Sinclair Pinckney (saxophone) and Hollie Ferris (trumpet).

In the ensuing years, the Godfather of Soul made a few more appearances on David Letterman’s show and never failed to tear the roof off each time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band Releases New Album Funk Life

Funk lovers rejoice! Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band are back with some brand-new music, and they’re funkier than ever. The talented Asheville, NC-based groove outfit dropped their much-anticipated fourth studio album, Funk Life, on Tuesday, June 2nd.  The eight-song collection is chock full of hot tracks, which showcase the band members’ sterling musicianship and impressive songwriting abilities.  The album is a worthy successor to their excellent 2013 release Onward!

According to the Booty Band’s website, Funk Life was conceived in the backseat of a 1972 Impala while the members were listening to a mixtape of P-Funk, Sly & the Family Stone, Aretha Franklin, Tower of Power and James Brown. And those inspirations are definitely apparent throughout this stellar LP but with the Booty Band’s own unique flavor. The album kicks off in style with “24/7.” The infectious groove is highlighted by John Paul Miller’s percolating wah-wah guitar licks and a dynamic horn arrangement.  And Al Al Ingram’s phat bass line keeps things nice and funky. The song also has a really cool music video, which was directed by Daniel Judson.

The album’s title track is an indelible funk groove that features a strong lead vocal performance from keyboardist/vocalist Mary Frances—aka Mama Funk. Another great track is the hard-funkin’ instrumental “Quick E.” This hot cut has some fantastic drumming from Lee Allen, and trombonist Derrick Johnson serves up a massively funky ‘bone solo.

The kinetic, high-energy “Wake Yo’Self” boasts a scorching organ solo from Mama Funk. And “Nah Brah” is an irresistible soul track, which is anchored by Ingram’s bumpin' bass line. He also handles the lead vocals on this cut.  The Booty Band drops a truckload full of funk on a badass cover of Lyn Collins’ “Mama FeelGood.” The cover features some super-tight drumming from Allen and a gritty lead vocal performance from Mama Funk, who more than lives up to her sobriquet. “Brand New Day” is a smooth laid-back track about taking control of your life and making efforts to improve it each day. The soothing soul groove features a great horn arrangement.

The album closes out with the wicked funk-rock track “Living The Dream.” JP Miller lets loose with some blistering fretboard funk on this dope cut.

Funk Life is a superb collection of tracks, and it shows that the Booty Band hasn’t lost a step when it comes to creating powerful funk grooves. The album is available for a free download at their website. The hard-working band has tour dates lined up throughout this month and in July. Their tour schedule is also available at their website.

Music video for "24/7"