BACKGROUND MUSIC FOR BEING COOL AS SHIT
the blackbyrds – wilford’s gone
lee ritneour – theme from three days of the condor
the sweet inspirations – why am I treated so bad
the lost generation – talking the teenage language
little beaver – let the good times roll
pat stalworth – questions
leo’s sunship – give me the sunshine
the sisters love – give me your love
serge gainsbourg – requiem pour un c
stretch – why did you do it
monophonics – like yesterday
hailu mergia – yegle nesh
the sorcerers – pinch of the death nerve
tommy stuart – bump & hustle music
ju-par universal orchestra – time
bill withers – ruby lee (EDIT)
pat thomas & kwashibu area band – me ho asem
woima collective – woima
the fabulous three – white sands
dario deidda – drugs market dance
Tense Preparation – Nick Ingman is an arranger and composer from the UK that’s worked with orchestras and pop acts alike, including Portishead and David Bowie. In the 70s he was composing for the BBC and making library records. These are funky as hell and even more rare (as hell). Meet a collector of library records once in your life and you’ll know the true meaning of the word nerd.
Wilford’s Gone – Some O.G. gangsta shit from the 1975 Cornbread Earl & Me soundtrack. The Blackbyrds, you may recall, were a funk ensemble comprised of Donald Byrd’s Jazz students at Howard University. They are one of the reasons Hip Hop sounded so good in the 90s, because a lot of my generation’s producers grew up with these records in their house.
Theme from Three Days of the Condor – Nothing says west coast mid-70s jazz/funk guitar like Lee Ritenour’s sultry grooves. He released a ton of solo stuff that every record collector I know has seen time and time again in flea markets while digging, and he’s still active today. He’s also a session veteran, having supported cats like Dizzy Galespie, Joe Henderson, Lalo Schifrin, and he even played on Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell”
Why Am I Treated So Bad – The Sweet Inspirations were a Gospel/R&B group that included none other than Cissy Houston (Whitney’s mama). They were well known on the soul circuit as backup singers for people like Dionne Warwick (Cissy’s cousin), Solomon Burke, and Aretha Franklin. They also sang backup on Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” and Hendrix’s “Burning of the Midnight Lamp”. This Staples Singers’ cover is from their self titled debut album in 1967.
Talking the Teenage Language – This has got to be the first record I know of to ever feature that “fo sheezy my neezy” type dialect made famous by Snoop Double Dizzogg. Who knew it went back so far?! These Chicago cats kinda sounded like an alternate universe Temptations with Wolfman Jack on vocals.
Let The Good Times Roll – Little Beaver is Willie Hale, a buck-toothed virtuoso guitarist and singer from Arkansas. This is from his 1974 album, who’s title track “Party Down” was his biggest hit. You’ll notice the distinctive early drum-machine percussion track that sounds a lot like the beat for Timmy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Live Together”, which is no wonder, since Timmy Thomas was actually Little Beaver’s keyboard player.
Questions – Pat Stalworth released this one hit wonder as a 7” in 1974 on the Ohio label Fly By Night, which promptly folded after its release. The record was the brainchild of Cleveland’s first black TV anchor, Bill Jacocks. He used local funk band Mother Braintree for the rhythm section. They later morphed into funk superstars Dazz. It became a hit in the UK’s Northern Soul scene and is now a much sought after 45.
Give Me the Sunshine – Leo’s Sunship was sort of the band that never was, breaking up before their only album was released in 1978 due to the death of bandmate Johnny Simone. They were formed by songwriter Kenneth Stover, a Georgia native who was under contract at Motown as a writer/producer/singer, writing the first draft of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”, and singing backup in the studio and on tour for many Motown artists including Stevie Wonder.
Give Me Your Love – You may remember the Sisters Love as the band performing on stage during the iconic “Players Ball” scene in The Mack. They were formed in 1968 by former Raelettes, Ray Charles’ backup singers. They released this Curtis Mayfield cover in 1973 on MoWest, the short-lived LA office of Motown best known as the home of The Commodores.
Requiem Pour Un C – Few people were ever as cool as Serge fucking Gainsbourg. Deal with it.
Why Did You Do It – You probably never realized this song is a diss record meant for Mick Fleetwood. Stretch was a band that Fleetwood Mac’s management had formed in 1974 to go on tour with Mick, posing as Fleetwood Mac, while the real band was in turmoil. Then they cancelled the tour, and Mick claimed to have never heard of the entire scheme. This went to #16 on the charts. They broke up around 79, during which time total badass Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden was on drums. Who knew?
Like Yesterday – If not for the flawless sonic recording, you would hardly know this record came out in 2011. Monophonics are a funk act from SF in the vein of Sharon Jones and other retro peeps that seem to be able to actually make a living keeping the funk/soul flame burning. Pretty fucking cool if you ask me. Check their site and catch them live.
Yegle Nesh – This is the B-side of the recently released 7” from Ethiopian jazz/funk keyboard legend Hailu Mergia. You can hear the A-side on this headphone odyssey mix from a couple months back.
Pinch of the Death Nerve – Some young cats from Leeds doing their own take on Ethio-Jazz. Defintely has a Mulata Astatke thing going on. I can dig it. Came out just a couple months ago. Peep their whole album for under $10 HERE
Bump & Hustle Music – Tommy Stuart – Though he did sit in with both Fred Wesley and Duke Pearson in the 60s, Tommy Stewart began to really make noise in the early 70s, composing music for Blaxploitation movies on the Buddha label. After that he went on to work with cats like Luther Ingram, Tamiko Jones, and Loleatta Holloway. This is his one semi-hit that came out in 1976, and even that was mostly long after that fact. Still, it cooks along nicely, and I’ve seen people claim it as one of the early disco/funk fusions.
Time – The Ju-Par Universal Orchestra was a short-lived Jazz Funk act out of Detroit circa 1976. This is from their “Moods & Grooves” LP from that same year. Guitar legend Phil Upchurch lays it down for The D.
Ruby Lee (EDIT) – Just when I think I’ve exhausted every Bill Withers song I could put on a mix, I come across this overlooked gem. I’ve owned the “+’Justments” album for almost 3 decades and only recently began to really appreciate this song. The long, subtle moan towards the end from Bill is that signature touch of real soul that few others could ever replicate. Most producers would have turned it way up, but Bill just lets it sit under the Fender Rhodes, then linger on as the music fades. This was co-written by Melvin Dunlap from Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band, who also plays bass.
Me Ho Asem – Yet another new gem from the Ghanian High Life revival that has been happening for the last several years. Pat Thomas, now 66 years old, is a legend of Ghanian pop music – playing in foundational bands in Accra from about 1970 onward. He frequently collaborated with Ebo Taylor, who is featured on this latest record. Tony Allen on drums too. No wonder it sounds so beautiful.
Woima – The Woima Collective are a German 10-piece band delivering solid Afro Funk. They rose from the ranks of Munich’s Poets of Rhythm, and you can mos def hear these roots in the brass section, who really carry this funky groove along. This is from the 2010 debut LP “Tezeta” on the Dutch label Kindred Spirits, who put out LOTS of good shit.
White Sands – This ancient sounding recording was made quite recently right here in Brooklyn, just a few blocks from my apartment. These dudes are down with the Soul Fire label and The El Michaels Affair and their ilk of retro funksters. My favorite part is that they purposely make it hard to figure out who they are and when this shit was actually recorded. They even put FIVE random dudes on the cover of the “Very best of The fabulous Three” just to confuse people. This is disruptive marketing for record nerds and I love it. It’s God’s work and somebody’s gotta do it.
Drugs Market Dance – Some dope Jazz to round out the mix and take us home. This is from Salerno’s Dario Deidda, from his 2003 debut LP “3 From The Ghetto”, produced by none other than rare groove icon Ben Sidran. You just can’t beat the sound of a real band throwing down like this. You know it. I know it. Thanks for listening.