Thursday, August 22, 2019

“School Boy Crush”: Average White Band’s Much-Sampled Classic That Forever Made Sleigh Bells Funky

The founding members of Average White Band in 1974 
The 1970s were the golden age of funk music. The explosive rhythm-driven style that James Brown birthed in the 1960s became a major force in contemporary music by the ‘70s. And funk wasn’t just music for people to shake their rumps to on the dance floor. It was also a powerful political statement. Funk was a sonic expression of freedom, protest and cultural identity for black Americans. And the ancient tribal rhythms of their African ancestors were apparent in funk’s potent grooves. Perhaps that was one of the reasons why rap artists were so drawn to funk.

A slew of amazing funk bands emerged in the ‘70s. And one of the top funk outfits from that decade was the ironically named Average White Band. When the band dropped its 1974 smash “Pick Up The Pieces,” many funk fans were initially shocked to learn that a group of white musicians from Scotland were able to capture the essence of funk music so accurately and with so much passion and soul. AWB’s predominately black following and the band's genuine love and appreciation for funk and R&B illustrated once again that music is the true universal language and has the power to break down racial, social and cultural barriers.

AWB released a lot of great music back the day, including the massively funky “School Boy Crush,” a single from the band’s Grammy-nominated third album Cut The Cake (1975). Although it was only a moderate hit on the Billboard singles charts—pop (#33), R&B (#22)—it went on to become a funk classic and huge sampling source for many hip-hop and R&B artists. It has been sampled on a total of 151 songs.

The track’s monstrous bass line and dead-in-the-pocket beat caught the attention of young artists and producers in search of strong grooves to sample. “School Boy Crush” also boasts nasty rhythm guitar licks, punchin’ horn lines and super-funky clavinet. And let’s not forget those dope sleigh bells! Sleigh bells never sounded so funky. Just that little touch added so much to the track and took it to a whole other level. It also enhanced the song’s childlike vibe of a kid experiencing his first crush.

Grammy-winning songwriter/producer Dallas Austin sampled those funky sleigh bells to maximum effect on TLC’s platinum-selling debut single “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg.”  The sleigh bells also turn up on Nas’ “Halftime,” a single from his landmark debut album Illmatic. Producer Large Professor did a masterful job of seamlessly incorporating the sleigh bells into the track’s powerful beat. And legendary hip-hop duo Eric B. & Rakim sampled the sleigh bells and the main guitar riff from “School Boy Crush” for their iconic track “Microphone Fiend.” Also, famed West Coast rapper Too $hort’s track “Life Is… Too Short” features a dynamic interpolation of the bass line, main guitar riff and other sonic elements from “School Boy Crush.”

In addition to “School Boy Crush,” a number of other AWB tracks have also been sampled, including their biggest hits “Pick Up The Pieces” and “Cut The Cake.” In all, their music has been sampled on a total of 447 songs, making them the fifteenth most sampled act of all time.

Average White Band had a big impact on both funk music and hip-hop. The creation of sampling enabled the band to reach a whole new audience of young listeners who missed the '70s funk revolution.

"Schoolboy Crush"

"Schoolboy Crush" at Amazon

TLC's "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg"

Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg at Amazon

"Microphone Fiend" by Eric B. & Rakim

"Microphone Fiend" at Amazon

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

NYC Duo BAD Will Make You “Sweat” With Hot New Single

New York has long been a hotbed for rising musical talent, and one of the most promising new artists to emerge from the Big Apple is the music duo BAD, which is comprised of singer/songwriter Julia Brex and producer/arranger/multi-instrumentalist Jackson Hoffman. The talented pair recently dropped the infectious electro-funk single “Sweat.” This track is an exhilarating throwback to the funky synth-filled dance grooves that DJs bumped at clubs and on the radio back in the 1980s and early ‘90s.  It’s a cheeky, playfully sexy ode to the workout culture and workout songs from that period.

The track features scorching synth blasts, a percolating beat, and super-groovalistic horn lines provided by acclaimed trumpeter/arranger Philip Lassiter and his funk band Philthy. And Brex’s rich, vibrant vocals sound terrific over Hoffman’s crisp production.

Brex and Hoffman, who met in high school, have been writing and recording music together for eight years.  They have focused primarily on pop songwriting and production work for other artists. Their shared passion for funk music resulted in the formation of BAD less than a year ago. They released their debut EP, GOOD, in March. The duo skillfully melded synth-funk and electro-pop on the tracks for the sterling four-song EP.

BAD draws inspiration from retro funk and soul, ‘90s and early 2000s pop and R&B, and contemporary pop and hip-hop. In a recent interview, Brex and Hoffman said that they want BAD to “be what a Prince and Max Martin collaboration could have been.” They added that they want to create music that is “nostalgic yet fresh, throwback yet brand new.”

Here are BAD’s social media links to stay apprised of new releases and any other projects the duo might have in the works: InstagramFacebook and Tumblr.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Soul/Funk Band The Burroughs Bring Some Classic Old-School Flavor To Digital 45

The Burroughs, Colorado’s stalwart purveyors of “Sweaty Soul Music,” recently released a digital 45 on Eddie Roberts' (The New Mastersounds) new label Color Red that features two new tracks. Fans of great old-school funk and soul will definitely appreciate this offering from the talented nine-piece groove outfit.

“The Slip” is a James Brown-inspired deep funk track. Frontman Johnny "RedBird" Burroughs serves up a dynamic vocal performance that captures the spirit of the Godfather of Soul right down to the bone-chilling screams and funky grunts. He also injects some wicked humor into the mix and displays his great storytelling skills. The song is a tongue-in-cheek tale about ducking the many pressures and aggravations of modern life. The band drops pure fire on this funkalicious groove—super-tight horn lines, bumpin’ bass, dirty rhythm guitar and a sizzling beat. And can we talk about that bridge? The Godfather himself would tip his hat to this monster of a bridge, which raises the track’s funk level through the roof. 

The Burroughs dip into some retro ‘60s-laced soul on the smooth summertime jam “Forever In Love.” This track has a fantastic horn arrangement that showcases the talents of the band’s amazing horn section. And Johnny delivers a lustrous vocal performance, which is further sweetened by the soothing background vocals. This is the perfect track to blast at a summer cookout. “Forever In Love” sets a chill nostalgic vibe that brings to mind vintage R&B classics from the 1960s and early ‘70s. The two tracks on the digital 45 were produced by Kim Dawson of Matador Soul Sounds and Mike Tallman, Color Red's Creative Director.

Formed in 2013, The Burroughs have earned a reputation as one of the most exciting and dynamic live bands in Colorado. The band thrills audiences with its potent brand of soul and funk and has built a dedicated following that extends across the state and beyond. The members are Johnny Burroughs (lead vocalist, bandleader); Mary Claxton (drums, vocals); Sean Hagemeister (guitar); Tom Amend (keyboards); Jeremy Fallis (trombone); Brian Claxton (bass); Alec Bell (trumpet); Briana Harris (alto saxophone); and Hayden Farr (baritone saxophone). 

The band’s charismatic frontman Johnny Burroughs grew up in the church and works as a licensed minister and music pastor; he brings that same passion and inspiration from his church services to the stage. The Burroughs’ shows are exhilarating, soulful celebrations where audience members are uplifted and energized. The band always brings the thunder at concerts and never fails to electrify its audiences. 

The Burroughs have performed at a slew of renowned music festivals and venues, including Bohemian Nights New West Fest, The Block Party, The Greeley Blues Jam, Boulder International Film Festival, The Fox Theatre, Denver Day of Rock, The Aggie Theatre, The Underground Music Showcase, among many others.

And they have shared the stage with national music acts such as Zapp, the Steve Miller Band, Orgone, The Reminders, Southern Avenue, Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, Walter Trout and Samantha Fish. 

The band released a full-length studio album, Got to Feel, in January of 2018. And they dropped their live album Sweaty Greeley Soul in 2015. The album was recorded live at the Moxi Theater in downtown Greeley, Colorado. The Burroughs were voted the “Best Band" of Greeley in 2014.

When The Burroughs aren’t blowing up the stage or laying down tracks in the studio, they focus on community outreach in their hometown of Greeley. They have partnered with organizations such as Weld Food Bank, Greeley Boys and Girls Clubs and Habitat for Humanity. And the band has an ongoing partnership with Greeley-Evans District 6 Schools with the goal of bringing music education to students of all backgrounds.

For info on new music releases and tour dates, visit the Burroughs’ website.

"The Slip"

"Forever In Love"

Both tracks on the digital 45 are available at Amazon 

Related blog entry: Love and Unity by the Burroughs