Prince and the Revolution – America b/w Girl (1985) (12″ extended single)

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PRINCE and the REVOLUTION – AMERICA / GIRL (12″ extended single)

Side One:  America (21:46)

Side Two: Girl (7:36)

ARC (Allied Recording Company) pressing
Matrix / Runout: 0-20389-A SHI [ARC logo] B-21968 -SHI SLM △ 10-764 1-1X
Matrix / Runout: 0-20389-A SHI [ARC logo] B-21968 -SHI SLM △ 10-764 1-1

Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; ClickRepair on “Girl” only, set to “1”; clicks and pops removed individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

It’s almost Independence Day in the USA.  So, a twenty-one minute jam on the funkiest single from the Around the World In A Day, because why not.  Playing until the tape reel ran out, there are some fun solos from Prince and Dr. Fink, but the group had yet to incorporate the horn parts that would become part of the instrumental workout on the road, and so this is probably less interesting than it could have been.   As the tempo never varies, I’ve found this makes a good track for when you need something epic to power a good run or workout of your own (and those versions of “A Love Supreme” or “Echoes” you have your iPhone usually result in you standing still and staring off into space).   You can hear the live treatment that this song got, which was about half as long as this, on any number of high-quality bootlegs.  They mostly seem to follow the pattern in this video clip, minus the somewhat sloppy drum solo played by P.

 

03 - Label A_2Being a godless commie my own self, I always wanted to think of this song as an ironic comment on patriotism.  Given what we now know about his truly deep religious convictions (which he insisted were sincere from the beginning), I’m not entirely sure any more.  It seems possible he may in fact be implying that Jimmy failing to pledge allegiance to the flag has some causal relationship to him now living on a mushroom cloud.  Little sister, making minimum wage and living in a one-room jungle-monkey cage, may still be better off than those Reds, who most definitely didn’t have anything this fun to dance to.  Taking it all at face value, this has to be the funkiest Cold Warrior anthem you’re likely to hear, at least until James Brown released “Living In America” in December of 1985 and sang the pugilistic praises of all-night diners and black coffee.  Prince obviously drew a lot of inspiration from James, especially on this song (and especially specially on the live rendition).  Was everyone just feeling particularly red, white, and blue in 85, or was there some sinister CIA program to accelerate Perestroika by covering the globe with feverish funk celebrating capitalist freedoms?  There’s a history dissertation idea in there for some of you grad students out there, you can thank me later in your acknowledgements.

04 - Label B_2“Girl” is not my favorite B-side from Prince, but it’s certainly not terrible either, and the extended version makes the track more, um, charming.  Dig, if you will, the picture of Kraftwerk abducting Barry White, forcing him to breath through a helium tank, and ordering him to compose and perform an erotic proclamation of lust for their new record (“Please Barry, show us how you humans make with the sexy music”), and you’ll have some idea of “Girl.”  Well, except that the mechanical rhythm that chugs along underneath the track is generated by a couple low notes on a Hammond organ rather than a synth.  The spoken parts of the extended tune, which simulate one half of an intimate conversation of some kind, are Prince at his most blush-inducing.   It features the line, “”All I have to do is think about you, and I can have an orgasm.  Sounds funny, doesn’t it?  Marry me.” Just like the track Temptation from this same album, it’s stuff that’s so over the top that only he could pull it off without appearing completely silly.  Okay so maybe a little silly, but we know the man could laugh at himself, because he apparently approved of Dave Chappelle’s depiction of him dry-humping a basketball.

The extended mix also features collaborator and love-interest Susan Melvoin reciting the lyrics backwards with “boy” switched out for “girl.”  It is only just barely audible with all the other stuff going on in the mix, and so for fun I’ve isolated it for all those people who have trouble playing digital audio backwards.  This is just the right channel (where her voice is) and with EQ applied to accentuate just the voice.

 

So whether you are enjoying beers and barbecue in the Land of the Free or just enjoying yourself in one of the lesser countries of the world, here’s a little extended paisley magic for your collection.

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Prince and The Revolution – Let’s Go Crazy / Erotic City (1984) (12″-inch extended single)

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02 - Back_2

 Prince and The Revolution

1984 Warner Bros. Records – 9 20246-0 A

A     Let’s Go Crazy (Special Dance Mix)     7:35
B     Erotic City (“Make Love Not War Erotic City Come Alive”)    7:24

Matrix / Runout (Side A): [SRC logo] 0-20246-A-SRI I-2
Matrix / Runout (Side B): [SRC logo] 0-20246-B SR2

Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair (Let’s Go Crazy only, manually auditioned) and individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

 

On days like this, I sometimes post here just to keep busy.

This is really an iconic extended single for Prince.  On the first side, you have the rousing anthem that persuaded rock fans like my brother that His Royal Badness was a force to be reckoned with, while on the flip side you had pure and nasty electro funk.

Let’s Go Crazy (Special Dance Mix)

“Let’s Go Crazy” is celebrated for good reasons. By 1984, popular songs based around guitar riffs which were also danceable were few and far between in the almost thoroughly segregated music scene of the US, yet here was a manic message of elevators and purple banana peels urging everyone to let go and shake what the good Lord gave them.  It’s Little Richard backed by Ike Turner & The Kings of Rhythm with a Juno synth and a Linn drum machine.  One of the many things I like about this song is a detail that is easy to forget when I haven’t heard it for a while: the way the guitar solo in the middle is mixed lower than nearly everything else going on around it.  It’s a brilliant strategy of psychological rock-warfare that must have led billions of listeners to reach for the volume knob at just the right moment.  This extended mix throws in a different pentatonic minor progression with a discordant piano plonking away and a portion of the opening spoken prologue repeated, then suddenly dropping into a groove that sounds like… Minneapolis soca?  There is some almost-Caribbean percussion going on in the left channel (Sheila, is that you?) that makes me imagine people celebrating más in their winter coats outside First Avenue.   And as he did for most of his career, Prince manages to cover all this ground while sounding completely natural rather than self-consciously eclectic, to the point where we aren’t even surprised when we flip the record over and have our minds blown by the non-album track “Erotic City.”  That’s not to say he didn’t know he was pushing all kinds of boundaries – not just by testing the limits of Reagan-era prudish hypocrisy, but musically.  We have to assume the the club owner in Purple Rain wasn’t the only person who must have told Prince, after one fashion or another, “Your music makes no sense to nobody but yourself.”  Well eventually even he “gets” it in the end.

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03 - Label A

“Erotic City” is noteworthy for lots of things.  It is the first recorded Prince track to feature Sheila E. (unless she did in fact play the percussion on Side A but I don’t think there she is credited).  Although I have not been able to bring myself to watch it yet, she apparently brought down the house at the BET awards this past weekend in a medley that opened with ‘Housequake’ and ended with this track.  I plan to watch it, I just have to work myself up to it. I don’t “do” award shows, and plan to avoid some of the tribute material if possible, so I’m hoping to find just the clips of Eryka Badu, Bilal, and this medley if I can find them out there without having to suffer through the rest.

Erotic City

In the version that was unleashed on the world in 1984, she sings the second vocal part.  She has insisted that she is actually singing “funk” and not “fuck”.. Maybe some of the time, but I find it doubtful, and that’s definitely not what Prince is singing.  Anyway it didn’t stop the track from getting some airplay on R&B stations and becoming a legendary weapon in many a club DJ’s arsenal.  When Prince inducted Parliament-Funkadelic into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few years ago, he claimed he went home and wrote this tune immediately after seeing them play a show in the early 80s.  I can believe that.  The electro bass groove drives things for well over a minute before any vocals come in.  The guitar on this song was recorded with the tape at half-speed to give it a sped-up, hyper-space sound (if you played the 45 rpm disc at 33 and 1/3, the guitar would almost sound normal).  There is additional vocal overdubbing done at half speed too, and for brief moments the mix is suddenly filled with feral, over-sexed chipmunks.  This was a favorite encore number for Prince and I’m glad to be able to share it here.  But don’t forget to visit the Fun With Vinyl blog where there are still a couple days left of Paisley June.  DJ Ritchie there has all the extended singles you will ever want, and there are lots of them, so go have a listen!

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Prince and The Revolution – Mountains & Alexa de Paris (1986 12″ extended remix)


01 - Front_2

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Prince and The Revolution
Mountains 12″ extended remix
1986 Warner Brothers 0-20465

45 RPM 12-inch single

Side 1
Mountains (9:56)
Side 2
Alexa de Paris (4:56)

Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair (manually auditioned) and individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.


In Matt Taibi’s eulogy for Rolling Stone magazine, he mused that maybe the world had grown too angry of a place for Prince.  After waking up to today’s news headlines from Orlando, and having done some work on this post over the last few days, I keep thinking about that and wondering if maybe he’s right.  Who is going to write celestial tunes like this one, when we need them most?

Love will conquer if u just believe


I think I can measure how important the “Parade” album was to me by the fact that it was the last of Prince’s classic back catalog hat I listened to after his death.  It’s like I had to work myself up to it.  For one thing, it ended up being a swan song for this phase of Prince’s creative arc, as he dissolved The Revolution afterwards and lost a little (but not all) of the dreamy gauze of psychedelized folk-funk that took place in that unique musical alembic.  As great as the music still to come would be, I recall being distinctly bummed out when I heard that he’d fired nearly everyone.  “Parade” also marks the introduction of more pronounced jazz influences into Prince’s music, helped along by the presence and influence of Eric Leeds and Sheila E. There’s an art-house aesthetic going on too, with the monochromatic cover art (and film, which I didn’t see for years until after the record came out)… But let me save some of this energy for a full post on the Parade album (is that a promise? Sort of, I’m notoriously bad about keeping my promises here..) and get to talking about this single.

Mountains (extended mix)

Co-written with Revolutionaries Wendy Melvoin & Lisa Coleman, the  song “Mountains” encapsulates a lot of what I find so enchanting about the record.  For whatever reason, after the news of April 21 broke, it’s the song I wanted to hear.  “Sometimes It Snows In April” occurred to me instantly,  but it seemed almost too obvious, and anyway I wasn’t ready to hear it yet.  “Mountains” for me always embodied the warmth and transcendence that Prince & The Revolution were capable of at their best.  It’s truly one for the purple hippies out there.  Propelled by a Mu-Tron modulated bass riff and chugging rhythm guitar, it has an implied drone through it, which emerges fully with a tamboura-type sound at the three and 1/2 minute mark, after the bebop-inflected instrumental bridge.  On live bootlegs from 86, you can hear that they would often precede the song by an extended faux-Indian drone using this synth patch.  Prince plays finger cymbals on the tune.  The lyrics, which can be a little hard to make out as his falsetto gets enveloped by the sonic mountains, are cryptically mystical ‘love conquers all’ stuff.  In the music video he is seated cross-legged on a carpet in the middle of the band with a pair of maracas, wearing his bolero hat.  At this point Prince was a master of mid-tempo funk, and this tune lopes along like some sort of troop formation marching through the valleys of Neptune for an assault on the Holy Mountain or something else suitably epic.  The single immediately preceding this one from Parade was the number one smash Kiss,  and the lush soundscape here contrasts sharply with that tune’s austere minimalism.  In comparison this song did poorly on the charts, only reaching 23 on the Billboard Hot 100, and some fans blame that for an even worse chart performance of the next single,  Anotherloverholenyohead, with some arguing that the latter is a better song and should have come first.  I can see their point.  From one perspective, “Anotherlover” is perhaps a more immediately engaging song, a bit more melodically and rhythmically complex than “Mountains,” and it definitely has more dynamic tension.  In fact I always thought “Mountains” was the last single released from the record, maybe because it has a ‘coda’ kind of feel to it, like it should be at the end of a cycle (hell, it plays during the final credits of Under the Cherry Moon, so apparently they felt it worked as a coda too).

The extended version features Eric Leeds playing some saxophone solos worthy of the Parker Brothers (Charlie and Maceo), and some choice trumpet breaks by Atlanta Bliss.  A brief, fat-tone-with-the-treble-rolled-off jazz guitar solo bubbles up out of nowhere and quickly disappears.  There is some kind of wood flute piping out riffs that sound like some lost Traffic jam.  Dr. Fink gets to drop a few squalls of synth leads.  In all, this is one of the more interesting extended mixes in Prince’s catalog.  In fact,  it’s not just extended but fully remixed.  Compared to the album version, this mix is a lot more robust and dynamic.  (edit: Actually the vocals are a lot clearer on the album version, while this mix has more of everything else…)

From an unfinished book by Prince fan “madhouseman”:

After the original session on Saturday, November 30, 1985 at the Washington Avenue Warehouse in Minneapolis, some additional work was done on the track in Minneapolis and it was shelved until Friday, March 28, 1986, when it was edited for the 7-inch and 12-inch mixes for release (the 2nd released from PARADE). “Mountains, a song on the Parade album that I always loved which was Wendy and Lisa’s song, the horn parts on the album version are pretty sparse,’ remembered Eric Leeds. “There’s a couple of lines, but we did a 12-inch version of that which is my favorite 12-inch that Prince ever did. I think it’s a great, great performance, just the whole idea of the 12-inch. There’s nothing particularly heavy about the horns on that, but I just really like some very simple stuff. I just remember the whole thing, and just being a part of that was just really nice. I guess the horn parts in themselves don’t really stand out as being anything special, but it was just cool.“

The additional horns were overdubbed for the song on April 1, and more mixing and editing followed on April 6, 22, and 27th.

It was eventually released on May 7 1986 (single release) and the 12 inch was released on May 21.

On the flip side of this single is the instrumental Alexa de Paris which was not included on the album.  For anyone who lamented the absence of any extended guitar workouts on Parade, well then here’s a tune for you.   Although conditioned to expect the unexpected, I wonder how many fans anticipated an unabashed progressive rock -influenced track that sounds like it could have comfortably fit on a late-70s Genesis or Camel record.  The drumming is pretty unmistakably Sheila E., with her proto-metal kick and snare fills that are, again, a little unexpected from somebody who got their start playing jazz, jazz-funk, and salsa with Herbie Hancock, George Duke, and her dad Pete Escovedo.  Clare Fischer, whose understated string arrangements play a prominent role on the LP, apparently wrote charts for this entire song, but it sounds like they were only used for one brief section, settling in well like an extension of the band.  There’s a flashy drum solo near the end, but sorry – no break beats in this one.

Alexa de Paris

Although Alexa de Paris is a cult favorite among fans, rarely performed live,  and is great fun to listen to, I’m glad it wasn’t included on the album proper.  One of the things I really love about “Parade” is that, perhaps more than any other record in his back catalog, it sounds like it could have been recorded at any time in the last 30 years.  In 1986, it sounded to me like the kind of thing they could have put on the Voyager satellite to introduce Earth’s civilization to our extraterrestrial neighbors.  It’s an almost seamless patchwork of the past and future.  I am still unsure how Prince and his engineer Susan Rogers achieved some of the sounds on the record.  “Traditional” instruments often sound abstracted and processed, “synthetic” instruments sound organic and warm, and they achieve a real density to the sonic palette worthy of any of today’s avant-knob-twiddlers. And remember this was still being done on analog tape, before the days of non-destructive digital editing.   Okay, I guess the Linn drums are unmistakable 80s trademarks, but they are retro-cool again so that doesn’t count.  Anyway my point is that Alexa de Paris just screams mid-1980s in its aesthetic and doesn’t date as well as the Parade material.


On to more mundane things.  The impetus that prompted me to finally leave Blogger was  discovering a blog that a friend tipped me off to, Fun With Vinyl.  My friend, like many an unfortunate soul who either ran out of space or swallowed the industry propaganda of the time, sold or gave away all of his records at some point in the 1990s.  He’s been going back and finding all the extended 12″ Prince singles that he used to own.  I have a handful, but truth be told, although I’m plenty OCD about music in other ways, I have never been a completest collector of any single artist (that way, there is always more to discover!).  So, there is stuff on the Fun With Vinyl site that I don’t have and even things I’d never heard.  I was impressed by the clean look and easy functionality of the place, struck up a new online friendship with DJ Ritchie who runs the blog, and started planning my escape from the shackles of Blogger.

Apparently every June at Fun With Vinyl has been a Paisley June for years now, with special Prince-related posts, in honor of his June 7 birthday.  This year is obviously poignant, as he would have turned 58.  DJ Ritchie has decided to highlight the treasure trove of 12″ singles, which include many remixes and non-album cuts, by inviting guest bloggers to post their write-ups on individual releases.  It’s a great and fun idea, and there are lots of personal reminiscence and anecdotes from these bloggers – the kind of stuff I like.  I highly recommend you all check it out if you’re interested.

Today I’ve opted to share my own needledrop here, because it is something I enjoy doing and I have a near minty-fresh copy of this one.   I’ll probably post more of these singles from my stash, though not necessarily in the month of June, so head on over there to continue the celebration.

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The Gap Band – You Dropped A Bomb On Me (12″ extended mix) b/w Humpin’ (1982)

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THE GAP BAND

Total Experience Records (TED 702)

Vinyl, 12″, 33 1/3 RPM

Released:1982

A     You Dropped A Bomb On Me (Special Disco Mix – Long Version) (13:05)

    Remix  – Michael Evans 

B     Humpin’ (5:06)

    Produced For – Lonnie Simmons Productions
    Published By – Total Experience Music, Inc.
   Mastered by Kendun Recorders / Allen Zentz Mastering, Los Angeles

Welcome to the new home of Flabbergasted Vibes!

For a long time now, I’ve considered ditching the clumsy Blogger platform and moving to WordPress, but the thought of trying to migrate so many years of content was very daunting.  I finally took the plunge due to some inspiration from a blogging friend (more about him in another post, soon to come) and have been working on this in secret for the last month.  There are still a few wrinkles to be ironed out, but it’s coming along pretty well.

So, hoping that you are blown away with this news, and because I’m a corny dude, I figured the first post for the new site should be an extended mix of the monster electro-funk jam You Dropped A Bomb On Me.  Armed with an octave-splitting synth riff, a slamming drum beat, a couple of organ chords laying low like an ambush in the mix, some thunderous tympani rolls, and some toy laser guns they bought at Toys R Us, The Gap Band threatened to launch the funkiest World War III with this single.  Many rose to the dance-off challenge thrown down by a presiding DJ in 1982 over this one.  And here we have 13 glorious minutes of it, nearly 8 minutes longer than the album cut from The Gap Band IV.

Unfortunately, my copy has a tiny wobbly-warp at the tippy-top edge of the record that makes the first few seconds nearly impossible to track properly.  Luckily there is no music there: it’s an intro of somebody with a Vocoder saying something about dropping a bomb on you, followed by some laughter from the band, and then an air raid siren.  Through the miracle of modern technology, I was able to get most of this through wizardry.  Changing the weight on my turntable tonearm so that it could mostly track this intro (there is still a tiny glitch during the Vocoder speech) unfortunately makes the needle skip once the music starts, so I got creative and did two passes on this with adjusted counter weights, and then spliced them together.  Oh the things I will do for you, my beloved readers!  I bet you can’t even hear the “tape splice.” If you think you can, be the first to leave the exact time code in the comments section and, if correct,  you will win a prize of one $20 gift certificate to Toys ‘R Us.  Unfortunately the gift certificate expired in 1982, but it’s a collectors item so that should make you happy.

 

Which leads to the curious bit of trivia about this single.  When the Mattel toy corporation got wind that The Gap Band had bought an array of toy laser guns and rocket ships to take back to the studio and create the overdubbed “battle” sound effects that you hear in the second half of this extended mix, their marketing people hatched what seemed at the time like a mutually beneficial promotional campaign.  After talks with Lonnie Simmon’s Total Experience Productions, they decided to make the experience more total by shipping the first few thousand copies of the extended single with a $20 gift certificate to America’s biggest toy retailer, Toys R Us.  Mattel then released some Gap Band ray guns, boldly proclaiming “As heard on the hit song You Dropped A Bomb On Me in bright letters on the packaging, and even created a series of camouflaged action figures of the Wilson brothers, modeled on the outfits they wore in the music video.

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You Dropped A Bomb On me

The whole campaign ended up losing money, as most  fans came into the store hoping to buy a genuine air raid siren, sales of which were of course tightly restricted during the Cold War.   Disappointed, most ended up buying the electronic Simon Says game, made by Milton Bradley.  Mattel’s Gap Band Action Figures are thus extremely rare and super collectible today, almost never appearing on eBay or in private auctions.  Reportedly, Henry Kissinger has a full set on a bookshelf in his office.  I would never have thought the repulsive little man had a funky bone in his body, but when a TV reporter asked him in 1983 what kind of music he put on to relax, he answered, “The Gap Band, that’s my jam.”  It is safe to assume that this is the song that made him a lifelong fan.

In case any of you audio geeks wanted to know what one of these analog synth bomb drops look like visually, here’s a spectragram

06 - Spectral bomb

On the flip side is another hit, Humpin’, which is from their previous album, Gap Band III — which, to confuse things, is not actually their third album (any more than IV is their fourth album), but merely their third album since teaming up with producer Lonnie Simmons and signing to Mercury/Polygram.  They had also released albums on the Shelter Label and the RCA subsidiary Tattoo Records before they started numbering their releases.  Does that imply that we should consider the first two albums as non-canonical?  Prequels?  Lore?

In any case, Humpin’ is more than a little inspired by the P-Funk empire and is as infectiously fun as ‘Bomb’.  There’s no verse/chorus structure, it’s essentially all one extended chorus vamp, with delirious giggling and silly rhymes from Charlie Wilson throughout.  Chair dancing is permitted, but real dancing is encouraged.  Also I swear it sounds like Jimmy Castor doing the “heave.. ho” chant in the middle.  It should be noted that in spite of the label stating this to be a “long version,” this appears to be the same mix as the one used for the album release.

Humpin’

Thankfully, unlike Toys R Us gift certificates, great music has no expiration date.*  And, hey, neither do these links!

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*No money was received from America’s biggest toy retailer, Toys R Us, for the writing of this post.  If there had been, perhaps I wouldn’t have taken such a cheap shot at their lousy gift certificate policies.

Manchild – Power And Love (1977)


Manchild
Power And Love
1977 Chi Sound Records  CH-LA765-G

A1     Red Hot Daddy  3:25
Written-By – A. Johnson, K. Ferrell, R. Griffin
A2     (I Want To Feel Your) Power And Love   3:46
Written-By – C. Bush, S. Johnson
A3     Especially For You      6:06
Written-By – C. Bush
A4     Takin’ It To The Streets     4:04
Written By – M. McDonald

B1     You Get What You Give    2:31
Written-By – A. Johnson, K. Ferrell
B2     We Need We      4:06
Written-By – R. Griffin
B3     These Are The Things That Are Special To Me 3:37
Written-By – D. Simmons, K. Edmonds
B4     Funky Situation      5:46
Written-By – K. Edmonds

Recorded At – P.S. Recording Studios
Remixed At – Universal Recording Studio
Mastered At – Capitol Mastering

   Acoustic Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Handclaps, Backing Vocals, Vocals – Kenny Edmonds (tracks: B4)
Backing Vocals – Harold Gooch (tracks: A1, A3, B1)
Bass Guitar, Effects [Mutron], Handclaps – Anthony Johnson (8)
Congas, Bongos, Percussion, Handclaps, Backing Vocals – Daryl Simmons
Drums, Handclaps – Robert Parson
Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes], Piano, Piano [Acoustic], Synthesizer, Strings [Ensemble], Handclaps, Backing Vocals, Vocals – Chuckie Bush (tracks: A3)
Handclaps – Dwayne Johnson (tracks: A1, A4), Thomas Henderson (tracks: A4)
Rhythm Guitar – Harold Gooch (tracks: A1, B1)
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Lead Guitar, Soloist [All Solos], Rhythm Guitar, Clavinet, Piano [Acoustic], Handclaps, Backing Vocals – Reggie Griffin
Vocals, Backing Vocals, Handclaps – “Flash” Ferrell

Producer – Sonny Sanders
Co-producer – Sid Johnson
Mastered By – Wally Traigett
Photography By – Pamoja Photos
Engineer – Paul Johnson (5), Paul Serrano, Scott Rowley
Remix engineer – Bruce Swedien

Recorded at P.S. Studios, Chicago, Illinois.
Remixed at Universal Studios, Chicago, Illinois.
Mastered at Capitol

==================================================

This is a solid funk record in the vein of mid-70s Kool and The Gang or EWF, with a couple of well-crafted slow-jam ballads, one of which has a strong Commodores flavor to it. What the material lacks in originality, it makes up for in execution. These guys are tight and the record stays entertaining throughout. If they can make me actually enjoy the song “Takin’ It To The Streets,” then they’ve got something good going on. The socially-conscious lyrics sound more convincing when not coming from Michael McDonald’s beardy-face full of yacht sea-foam, too.  I know it is still tempting to skip right over it after those first few measures, but trust me that there’s a funky breakdown at the end that makes it worth hanging around at least once.

From the looks of it, I believe they got their name because these guys were all teenagers when they started. This Midwestern group featured a young Kenny Edmonds, later known as Babyface. Well he really earns his nickname here (see photo below). After two records with these guys, he would go on to be a member of The Deele in the 80s, and then obviously on to super-stardom in the 90s on his own, when he continued to collaborate with Daryl Simmons from this group. Babyface only sings on one tune here, the closer “Funky Situation,” which also happens to be the most complex funk-fusion jam on the album.  Most of the lead vocals are handled by one Chuckie Bush. The smokey, Moog-enchancing slow-burner “Especially For You” was a minor hit for these guys.  They probably would have had more success if the record had come out a few years earlier, as this sounds a lot more like a hard funk album from 1974 than 1977 in a lot of ways. It was reissued once on CD but for some reason the song “We Need We” was dropped from it. This is odd not only because it is one of the best tunes here, but also because its omission from this short album brings its running time down to slightly under 30 minutes.  It was written by multi-instrumentalist Reggie Griffiths, who also has a crapton of album credits with all kinds of artists, as well as being responsible for a monster electro jam called “Mirda Rock” in 1982.

http://flabbergasted-vibes.org/fv/D4BA3BCD511ADF84.rar

http://flabbergasted-vibes.org/fv/1C49D2B269B06945.rar

http://flabbergasted-vibes.org/fv/917C45D240C03073.rar 

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Ben Sidran – Don’t Let Go (1974)

Ben Sidran
Don’t Let Go
1974 Blue Thumb BTS 6012 


A1 Fat Jam 3:23
A2 House Of Blue Lites 3:08
A3 Ben Sidran’s Midnite Tango 2:40
A4 The Chicken Glide 3:43
A5 She’s Funny That Way 3:34
A6 Monopoly 1:27


B1 Don’t Let Go 3:18
B2 Hey Hey Baby 3:30
B3 The Foolkiller 3:45
B4 The Funky Elephant 3:27
B5 Snatch 3:48
B6 Down To The Bone 1:08

Alto Saxophone – Bunky Green
Bass – Kip Merklein (tracks: B4), Phil Upchurch, Randy Fullerton (tracks: A1 to B3, B5, B6)
Drums – Tom Piazza (tracks: B2)
Drums, Percussion – Clyde Stubblefield, George Brown, Phil Upchurch
Guitar – James P. Cooke, Phil Upchurch
Harmonica – Jerry Alexander
Organ – Jim Peterman
Piano, Vocals – Ben Sidran
Tenor Saxophone – Sonny Seals
Horns arranged  by Sonny Burke

Strings arranged by Les Hooper
Art Direction – John P. Schmelzer

 

Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

Possibly it is because of his uncanny resemblance to Neil Innes – or the suspicious fact that nobody has ever seen them both in the same place, at the same time – but  sometimes I don’t know how seriously to take Ben Sidran.  But I doubt that fact would bother him, because he’s been far too busy accomplishing an insane amount of things in his long and prolific career for my perplexity to concern him at all.  Although at this point in his life as an artist, Ben Sidran is pretty firmly ensconced in the “jazz” area of your local record store, his overall vision and his diverse body of work taken as a whole is pretty hard to categorize, and there is a touch of whimsy to much of it.  Plus, his records are always fun, a word that doesn’t get paired with “jazz” nearly enough.

In his early days, he flirted with the life of rock stardom when he teamed up with his old college friend Steve Miller.  Sidran contributed extensively to his most interesting record (Brave New World), co-wrote his most charming hit single (Space Cowboy), stuck around for a few more records before going back to his old home base of Madison, Wisconsin, where he has essentially stayed ever since. He published his doctoral dissertation (which he earned in England in the 60s while moonlighting as a session man) as a book, back when dissertations were actually readable,  called ‘Black Talk’.  He hosted a late-night television show as idiosyncratic as he was, called “The Weekend Starts Now,”  in which he had guests like Kinky Friedman and Jane Fonda when she was at her anti-war finest, as well as jazz heavies like McCoy Tyner and Danny Richmond.  He’s worked with Tony Williams, Jon Hendricks, Phil Upchurch (who appears on the album here), and produced records for Mose Allison, Van Morrison, and Georgie Fame.  And somehow he has managed all this while also hanging out with Eric Idle and George Harrison and producing an entirely separate body of work under the name Neil Innes.

On his own albums, Sidran’s stable of musicians was always interesting.  For “Don’t Let Go” we have fellow Madison resident Clyde Stubblefield on drums, Phil Upchurch on bass and guitar, and saxophonists Sonny Seals and Bunky Green all joining the party.  Jim Peterman, a colleague from his Steve Miller days, provides some organ on a few tracks. The original songs here are all compelling, and Sidran seamlessly blends in jazz chesnuts from other composers: a very free and liberal interpretation of fellow Wisconsin-ite Freddie Slack’s “House of Blue Lites” seasoned with some profanity and jabs at New York snobbery,  a similarly stylized “She’s Funny That Way” (recorded by Gene Austin), Bud Powell’s brief ‘Monopoly’, and “The Foolkiller” from Sidran’s most obvious musical idol, Mose Allison. The original tracks span jazz, funk, and even soul in the song “Hey Hey Baby,” which is almost catchy enough to be a hit, as soon as understated Mose Allison-like beatnik crooning comes back into style.    Allison’s “Foolkiller” is arranged in an unrecognizable way and ornamented with greasy slide guitars and harmonica.  The only track that really nods to his past as a denizen of 60’s swinging London is the group composition (mostly likely emerging from an improvised jam) titled The Funky Elephant,which sounds like Dr.John dropping acid with The Beatles.  But not the 1968 Beatles so much as the 1974 Beatles, so basically a few years before they formed Klaatu, I guess.  The cut “Snatch” showcases Stubblefield at his best on the drum kit, tossed over a bed of mixed Wurlitzer and piano, and horn and string charts that make it all sound so easy. (It also makes an appearance on Flabbergasted Freeform Fourteen.)

A curious bit of trivia about the title track of the album: it was written for the original television series adaptation of “Serpico” but was shelved when the project was put on hold for several years due to legal complications.  When the show finally took to the airwaves in 1976 (for only one season, alas), Sidran’s track was not used.  It was written for a scene in which Frank Serpico is a given a surprise birthday party by the rest of his precinct and gets all teary-eyed and starts hugging and kissing everyone.*

Sidran appears to be, constitutionally speaking, a workaholic unable to simply take it easy.  He continues to record, perform, and write.  One of his most recent endeavors is a book regarding the role of Jews in the music business, titled “There Was a Fire: Jews, Music, and the American Dream.”  I’m sure archive-based historians might turn up their noses a bit at his interloping, but as a Jew and a musician I think he’s got a right to explore the subject, and seems to have kept busy on the lecture circuit talking about the book over the last few years.  You can catch some of his talks on his YouTube channel.  This channel, incidentally, is one of the more impressive artist channels I have seen on YouTube, as somebody (if not Sidran himself, then a stalwart staffer) has uploaded a ton of archival material, including lots of clips from the aforementioned television program from the early 1970s.  Check it out here.

(*Disclaimer: this trivia fact may or may not have any basis in our consensual reality.)

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