Footage of Marvin performing his 8 minute interstellar funk opus, featured on his 1978 release, Here, My Dear which is considered his most personal album ever written, mostly due to the events that unfolded prior-to and during the recording process. At the time, Marvin’s relationship with Anna Gordy reached a tipping point of no return, and began to disintegrate drastically. Throughout the entire album, Marvin vividly paints the ups and downs of his relationship with the daughter of Berry Gordy, especially on Is That Enough? (does that intro sound familiar?) where he declares:
“The judge said she got to keep on living the way she accustomed to / She trying to break a man / I don’t understand / Somebody tell me please, tell me please / Why do I have to pay attorney fees?”
Goosebumps! A Funky Space Reincarnation however, tells a romantic tale of leaving Earth on a love-triggered journey into interstellar space, and is this writer’s favorite off the entire fourteen-track deep LP, and definitely one of the funkiest cuts.
Music won’t have no race. Only space, Peaceful space!
Originally released on Stax Records’ subsidiary label, Enterprise, David Porter’s I’m Afraid The Masquerade Is Over was just one chapter in a series of many recorded for his 1974 Soul-Opera album Victim Of The Joke? By the mid-70s, Porter was already a well-established and highly esteemed song writer for Stax, who, along with writing partner Isaac Hayes, had penned many top charting hits for the racially integrated Memphis, Tennessee label. Hits included Soul Man and Hold On, I’m Comin’ by Sam & Dave, the former which charted at #2, while the latter rolled in a #1 hit; The Charmels’ As Long As I’ve Got You; Soul Girl by Jeanne & The Darlings (which served as a call-and-response song to Sam & Dave’s Soul Man); I Like It by The Emotions and many more.
The down side to Porter’s story was that by the time Victim Of The Joke? was released, Stax was already in a steady state of decline, where the label was currently dealing with shady business when music exec Clive Davis was fired shortly after CBS struck a distribution deal with Stax, ultimately leading CBS to quietly back out of the deal. Eventually Stax completely folded and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in ’75, but not before Porter released his unique soul opera.
The upside to this story is that Porter’s single, …The Masquerade Is Over, solidified his legacy in music forever when countless producers ended up sampling Hip-Hop’s favorite Stax break (which interestingly enough was recorded way before the album was released). In my opinion Porter & Hayes top the list of my favorite and most legendary songwriters of all time, and it’s safe to say I’m not the only one who shares this opinion, as the two multi-talented artists have been inducted into the acclaimed Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In my humblest opinion, Zap Pow’s 1972 hit This Is Reggae Music epitomizes the perfect coalescence of the bouncy rhythm of Reggae, the impassioned sounds of Soul and the unrestrained spirit of Funk. It hits the right notes, at the right times amidst a superlatively balanced blend of wah-wah guitar licks that drive the track, a filthy bassline, a string section arranged by Harry Robinson (which is usually unheard of in reggae music) and the vocal mastering of Dwight Pinkney. Although I’d love to have heard this exact song with Beres Hammond on the vocals, Dwight really does his thing, complimented with those amazing strings. God damn. Did I mention the strings? This is reggae music.
Wade Marcus is a beast on the low though. The brother caught his break producing and arranging for an assortment of Motown as well as a few noteworthy Blue Note artists that include Donald Byrd, The Dramatics, Marlena Shaw, Lou Donaldson, Eddie Kendricks, The Emotions and so much more. He also scored the soundtrack to the 1972 blaxploitation film The Final Comedown which was released on Blue Note. Until recently, I didn’t know much on his exceptional musical career until I blindly purchased his album, A New Era from ’71.
Boy does this album have some gems on it. Two standouts are the obvious cover of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ Spinning Wheel which was also famously covered by Dr. Lonnie Smith, which in turn gave birth to mad Hip-Hop samples. Wade’s version features a heavy break, but for me, it’s all about the title track, A New Era (up top) which features the brilliant Hubert Laws on flute for the first half of the song. The second half breaks down into a dark cinematic library funk leviathan, full of strings, rattles, gloomy brass sections and of course a monster drum break. Mood musik is the word.
A song from my childhood that I remember vividly hearing emanating from Pops’ Nissan Datsun back in the 80s. During that time when most oldies (but goodies) were mad short (like Kim Jung Un’s stature and temper. Speaking of, have you ever seen a photo of dude that shows him from head to toe? No. Know why? Because with his iron-fist raised, he said so. Unless you wanna get thrown in his labor camp, eat funky-ass week’s old sticky white rice and watch re-runs of Dennis Rodman’s wrestling career. Nobody wants that). Co-written by the greatest to ever fucking do it, Otis Redding.
As a proud Japanese brotha, another niche trade I’ve gotten pretty hardcore into is digging for Japanese funk, soul, jazz and rare groove records. Just as it was with Italian exploitation, Armenian, Peruvian or Brazilian sounds of the time, Japan was (and still is) heavily influenced by the Western sounds of Motown, Stax, Blue Note, CTI, etc. and they took it serious when it came to emulating those sounds and having it crossover to a Japanese market. The funky little mover up top is by Japanese rock band SAS (Southern All Stars) which my ani-san (big brother) Hiro (aka DJ XXXL) scooped up for me and brought back to Hawaii from Japan. Sadly I don’t understand a lick of Japanese, apart from a few well known phrases my Grandmother and Grandfather used to throw around. What I do know is the joint features a chunky drum break intro, and despite the language obstacles, you can’t help but feel the energy and soul the song exudes. Pure vibes, son!
It’s hard being a digger in today’s economy. It’s even harder knowing you have a growing list of “Holy Grails” that steady increases in price, and you’re already pinching pennies to buy more records. Let’s add the cost of a jump ticket (skydiving) and wanting to save up for some fairly used gear (container, main parachute, reserve parachute, AAD, etc) which can run upwards of $2000. And that’s used gear we’re talking about. Obviously all this quasi-saving and spending leads me to a pretty mundane lifestyle, save for those days (or months) I do get to fling myself from an airplane 13,000′ up. The price we pay for pleasure though, right? Some like to splurge it on a Thai hooker and some blow. Not I. But I digress.
One record that’s up there on my “To Get” list is the very fucking rare After Laughter by Wendy Rene (of The Drapels). You know, that highly sought after 45 with the old Stax logo, flipped into the legendary Tearz. That one 45 that fetches upwards of $200 + because, well, it’s that fucking rare. So I said “Fuck it”, caved in and bought the repress. (Trust, I will get my hands on the original one day). I’ve included the re-imagined reggae cover by Belizean singer Sweet Tea up top. Peep that bassline though. Rugged and raw! Cop it here for a mere bag of shells.