Charles Wright – Rhythm and Poetry (1972)

Charles Wright – Rhythm and Poetry
1972 Warner Brothers – BS 2620
Vinyl rip in  24-bit 96 khz |FLAC |Artwork at 300 dpi

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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Prince – Batdance / 200 Balloons (1989) (12″-remix)

Prince – Batdance / 200 Balloons
Vinyl rip in 24bit 192 khz |  Artwork at 300 dpi
Original release 1989
This Record Store Day release, April 22, 2017
Warner Brothers 21257-0

Scout’s honor, I swear I was already preparing this long before the news that Adam West, who introduced me and a lot of my generation to Batman and Eartha Kit with its campiest iteration, had passed away.  I was going to share it anyway because Prince would have turned  59 years old this last Wednesday,  and the 1989 Batman soundtrack  has such a mixed legacy that I imagined Robin Williams pranking him with it in the afterworld:  “Happy birthday, Prince.  I called the house DJ and asked him to play ‘Batdance’ on repeat all day long….”   The record was hyped up a lot as a “comeback” by the fickle music biz press, ironic considering that he had been putting out some of his most interesting and creative work with albums like Lovesexy and Sign O’ The Times, but those ambitious records did not take the world commercially by a Purple Rain-style storm.  When word got out that Tim Burton – who apparently was listening to those aforementioned albums while working on his Gothic reinvention of the Batman mythos – had asked Prince to put together a soundtrack, the hype machine began heralding that this high profile film was going to put Prince back in the “biggest star on earth” slot.   In the end the truth is probably best encapsulated by the phrase, “THROW IT!” from Shaun Of The Dead, when Prince’s Batman is separated from Shaun’s record collection, including several Prince LPs set aside as worth saving during a zombie apocalypse, and chosen instead to be used as a projectile weapon.  It’s a kind of distinction. Continue reading

Gap Band – The Gap Band III (1980)

The Gap Band – The Gap Band III
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/96kHz |  Art scans at 300 dpi
Genre: funk, disco | 1980
Mercury Records ~  SRM-1-4003

When I Look In Your Eyes     4:58
Yearning For Your Love     5:41
Burn Rubber On Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)     5:16
Nothin’ Comes To Sleepers     5:34
Are You Living     4:24
Sweet Caroline     3:21
Humpin’     5:06
The Way     4:46
Gash Gash Gash     5:18 Continue reading

Patrice Rushen – I Was Tired Of Being Alone (1982) [12″-inch single]

Patrice Rushen – I Was Tired Of Being Alone
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/96kHz | FLAC |  Art scans at 300 dpi
353MB (24/96) + 107MB (16/44) + 48 MB (320) |  Genre: funk / soul / disco | 1982
Elektra Records ~ K 13184 T

While I had been meaning to upload some more Prince extended 12″ singles in time for the anniversary of his passing last week,  I’ve been busy with other things and I had “Around The World In A Day” ready and in the queue.  As it turns out, I also picked up a couple 12″-inchers of his that I was missing at the latest Record Store Day along with other goodies in my first time visiting that crazy debacle in several years.  However, I’ve also been wanting to do a run of Patrice Rushen material for a very long time as well, and had this single simmering on the proverbial stove.  I got this from an independent seller at Camden market in London, because for me every day is record store day.  Why am I rambling on, conflating these two seemingly different people?  There’s an interesting link – Patrice helped Prince program his analog synths for his debut Warner Brothers album, is rumored to play on a couple tracks, and his song “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad” from his second LP was allegedly pitched to her, and she turned it down.  The young Prince may have had a bit of a crush on her, and who can blame him?  He was taller than her, and that didn’t happen too often…  In any case, she was destined to get together with me instead, and be my wife after Gal Costa dumped me.  And she would be too, if the mailman didn’t have a secret agenda against me, hoarding all my letters in a basement next to his stockpile of C4 that he bought off the dark net.  I would say something, but I’m too scared of him.

Continue reading

The Brothers Johnson – Right On Time (1977)

01-frontThe Brothers Johnson
Right On Time
1977 A&M Records SP-4644

Runnin’ For Your Lovin’     5:05
Free Yourself, Be Yourself     4:26
“Q”     3:25
Right On Time     3:50
Strawberry Letter 23     4:58
Brother Man     3:10
Never Leave You Lonely     3:02
Love Is     4:20

A1     Runnin’ For Your Lovin’  5:05 (George Johnson, Louis Johnson)

Backing Vocals – Alex Weir, George Johnson, Mortonette Jenkins Drums – Harvey Mason Horns – Tower Of Power Horn Section Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald  Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

A2     Free Yourself, Be Yourself      4:26  (George Johnson, Louis Johnson)

Backing Vocals – George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Louis Johnson, Richard “Jose” Heath* Drums – Harvey Mason Horns – Tower Of Power Horn Section Keyboards, Synthesizer – Ian Underwood  Percussion – Ralph MacDonald Rhythm Guitar – David T. Walker   Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

A3     “Q”     3:25  (Louis Johnson, George Johnson)

Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

A4     Right On Time      3:50  (Quincy Jones, George Johnson, Louis Johnson)

Backing Vocals – Alex Weir, George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Louis Johnson, Richard “Jose” Heath Drums – Harvey MasonHorns – Tower Of Power Horn Section Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Lead Vocals – George Rhythm Guitar – David T. Walker Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

B1     Strawberry Letter 23     4:58  (Shuggie Otis)

Backing Vocals – Alexandra Brown, Denise Trammell, George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Louis Johnson, Oren Waters, Stephanie Spruill Drums – Harvey Mason Guitar, Soloist – Lee Ritenour Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin, Ian Underwood Percussion – Ralph MacDonald

B2     Brother Man   3:10  (Louis Johnson, George Johnson, Dave Grusin)

Drums – Harvey Mason Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald  Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

  
B3     Never Leave You Lonely    3:02  (Louis JohnsonValerie Johnson, Peggy Jones)

Drums – Harvey Mason Guitar, Bass – George Johnson Lead Vocals – Louis Percussion – Ralph MacDonald Guitar, Bass – Louis Johnson

B4     Love Is   (Louis Johnson, George Johnson, Quincy Jones, Peggy Jones)

Backing Vocals – Alexandra Brown, Denise Trammell, George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Oren Waters, Stephanie Spruill Keyboards – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald  Guitar – George Johnson Guitar, bass – Louis Johnson

Horns arranged by Greg Adams

Alto Saxophone – Lenny Pickett
Tenor Saxophone – Emilio Castillo
Trumpet  – Greg Adams
Trumpet – Mick Gillette
Baritone Saxophone  – Stephen Kupka

Produced and arranged by Quincy Jones
Synthesizers programmed by – Ian Underwood, Michael Boddicker

Art Direction – Roland Young
Creative director – Ed Eckstine
Engineer – Norm Kinney
Assistant Engineer  – Chuck Trammell
Engineer, Remix – Don Hahn
Mastered By – Bernie Grundman
Book photography by  – Andy Kent, Dennis Callahan, Neil Preston, Randy Alpert,
Ron Phillips, Jim McCrary, Patricia Reynolds, James Fee
Design – Phil Shima

Produced for Quincy Jones Productions
Recorded from February 1st to March 21st, 1977 at A&M Recording Studio “B” Hollywood, California


This post is right on time to break the silence of nearly two months without a blog post. Flabbergasted Vibes (the blog) is on life support and the plug could be pulled any day, if not by me than by a Higher Power.  There’s been enough dying in 2016 without adding this place to the list, but my enthusiasm is definitely at low tide in the grand ebb and flow of things.

Sure, it seems like the world has come unstuck – personally, professionally, politically – but none of it is really a surprise.  I don’t have much to say about this particular album at this particular moment.    Spinning a well-worn dusty classic is about all I’ve got left, and I’m finding even that doesn’t cut it on most days.  But if you  are pressed for time on your way to the fallout shelter and unable to deliberate at length, you could do worse than randomly grabbing this off the shelf with a few other long-players.  I hope you had the foresight to equip your survivalist shelter with a working turntable and speakers.  And a bicycle, for generating electricity off the grid, obviously.

The instrumental reliability of The Brothers Johnson is beyond dispute, and here they have some big cheeses in their pantry to help serve up the funk – Harvey Mason on drums, the Tower of Power horns, Ralph McDonald on percussion, David Grusin and Ian Underwood on keyboards.  And, of course, the whole thing is greased with Quincy Jones’ aural butter to keep the smooth proceedings from ever getting so hot that they scorch.  Burnt, crispy funk was not Quincy’s thing.   The title-track, which strives a little too hard for silliness, is maybe a little boring and could use a little extra grit.  It’s hard to fault anything else though.  The highlight is naturally their cover of the Shuggie Otis’ song Strawberry Letter 23 .   Shuggie has always been “a musician’s musician,” and it’s not as if he was an unknown when he recorded this song for his second LP in the early 70’s.  But the fact that it wasn’t the huge hit it could have been the first time around just meant that the world got to enjoy it twice.  The Brothers Johnson version, which came out a full six years later, is remarkably faithful to the psychedelic spirit of the original.  Maybe it is less cryptic and more mysteriously happy.  Quincy’s production pushes it into heavenly and exciting places, and it sports an epic  layered guitar solo by Lee Ritenour too.  Has Tarantino ruined this song yet by making it the background for some ultraviolence?  I think he has but I can’t remember where.   There are some fine original songs here too in a similarly breezy, windows-rolled-down summer spirit.  In fact the opening and closing tracks of the LP could have been written as bookends to accommodate Strawberry Letter, which is sequenced squarely in the middle of the album (first song on Side 2).  There are a couple of tight instrumentals too.  But yeah, no doubt, Strawberry Letter 23 is the showcase piece here.

Is this the last post of 2016?


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