A1 Soul Train 5:03
A2 Run Jody Run 13:10
B1 Good Things 5:55
B2 Here Comes The Sun 5:05
B3 Girl, Don’t Let Me Down 4:20
B4 Just Free Your Mind 4:00
Produced by Charles Wright
Engineers: Ami Hadani (Soul Train, Good Things); Ami Hadani and Robert Appere (Here Comes The Sun, Girl Don’t Let Me Down); Lewis Peters (Just Free Your Mind); Lewis Peters and Ami Hadani (Run Jody Run).
Album edited by Nye Morton
Album cover design by Paul Bruhwiler, Inc.
Art direction by Ed Thrasher
The cover painting, “Winged Victory,” was created by scientist-artist Delbert Venerable II
Charles Wright – Vocals, drums on A1, A3, guitar, piano, organ
Robert “Sugarbear” Welch – guitar
Thomas Terry – Bass
Johnny “Guitar” Watson – piano on A1,
Garbriel Flemings – Trambourine on A1, piano on B3
Bobby Lexing – Tambourine on A1, maracas on B3
Bobby Sheen – Maracas on A1
Billy Richards – Maracas on A1
Harold “Peenie” Potier – drums on A2
Joe Banks – trumpet, cabasa
Gabriel Flemings – trumpet, drums on B2
James D. Meredith – trombone, horn arrangment on B3
Bobby Forte – saxophone
Yusuf Rahman – tambourines, horn arrangment on B2 and B3, clavinet on B3
Yusuf Moore – clavinet on B2
John “Streamline” Ewing and Richard Leith – trombones on B2, B3
Jackie Kelso – saxophone on B2
Freddie Hill, Melvin Moore, and Sal Marques – trombones on B3
Vanetta Fields – piano on B4
Maurice Miller – drums on B4
Clydie King, Venetta Fields, and Julia Tillman – backing vocals on B4
All rhythm arrangements by Charles Wright
Recorded at T.T.G. Recording Studio, Clover Recording Studio, and Paramount Recording Studio, Hollywood, CA
What do you do when your ensemble (The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band) loses one of the best drummers in the business, James Gadson? Well, you try and play the damn things yourself I guess. The result, on Charles Wright’s Rhythm And Poetry, is a bit like the first Funkadelic album with a concussion. It’s a fun ride but it’s loose. Very loose. If brain-damaged, synaptically-fried funk is your thing, you’ll love this record. The first track, “Soul Train,” is actually jarring in the sloppiness of the drums, and before looking at the credits on the album jacket I just assumed the drummer was too inebriated to keep time. Then when I saw it was Charles himself playing, I got a chuckle out of his emotive grunts while he did a drum fill worthy of your 12-year old cousin who just got his first trap kit for Christmas. Thankfully drums on the second track are handled by the more competent Harold Potier, but things remain strange when after a minute or two of sharp grooving, Charles bursts into a chorus of “Happy Birthday” for no apparent reason. The next thirteen minutes are a wickedly dirty jam with only a smattering of lyrics about the folkloric “Jody”, the guy always running around with other men’s ladies, and some great low-key fuzzed-out guitar solos from “Sugarbear” Welch. He uses one of my favorite guitar tones here – the sound of a stomp box pedal with a dying 9-volt battery in it! You know Hendrix used to save those things up just to have a supply of almost-dead batteries for his favorite pedals, or so I’ve been told. Charles is back on drums on “Good Thing,” but he redeems himself on this mid-tempo funk number. Of course there is also a curtain of incidental percussion to mask any mistakes. The “set a mood and see what happens” aesthetic of this “Rhythm” A-side of the album is typified in one instant on this song, at the very beginning: somebody barks at Bobby Lexing to ‘lay out’ on the maracas, and Charles, in a slow stoned drawl, retorts with “Let him shaken ’em the way he want to shake ’em…” Brilliant.
Things do get a little more coherent on the second “Poetry” side of the LP, with more structured pieces, actual songs. “Here Comes The Sun” is wonderful but then again George is my favorite Beatle. Purists might chafe at Charles’ raspy vocal, but the exquisite horn arrangement is downright regal. The closer, “Just Free Your Mind,” dedicated to the backup singers, is light and uplifting. In fact the entire “Poetry” side is light and uplifting, which seems almost necessary after the relentlessly raw grooves on the “Rhythm” side. As one of my online pals put it when I introduced them to this record – this one is a slow-burner that just keeps on burning all the way to the end. And I appreciate the rough edges a lot here, because in 1972 that roughness was about to slowly become an endangered quality, as funk bands tended to get tighter and tighter, outdoing each other with their instrumental chops and show-stopping arrangements. This record is really music for the sake of it, and we’re just lucky enough to be a fly on the wall.
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Magnets? How do they work?