Posts Tagged ‘funk

08
Jun
18

Sly & The Family Stone “Greatest Hits”

I don’t think I ever owned a copy of earlier Sly and the Family Stone records, but I had this 1970 greatest hits record, it feels like, all my life, and everyone had it, and you know all the songs—they were on the radio, they were on TV, and they’re still being played here and there enough that you might hear one on any day somewhere and it wouldn’t be a surprise. But if you put the vinyl record on your stereo and listen to it closely, like I’m doing, it actually sounds fresh, since the reality of the music is different from my memory—it’s actually rawer, more innovative, and generally more interesting than the version in my memory. Particularly the songs: “Everybody Is A Star,” “Life,” “You Can Make It If You Try,” “Stand!”—really, all of them. No matter how well you know them in your sleep, it’s amazing how much better they sound “in person” (just you and your hi-fi).

I remember this time in junior high or high school when Sly and the Family Stone were on some variety TV show the night before, and everyone was talking about it at school the next day. Imagine that! There was some kind of confusion when the band took the stage, because then, Sly, or all of them, left the stage, I think, before coming back and playing. I don’t know what was going on, and it might be possible to find a video of that now, and even people discussing it, but I remember that as a very unique, very real moment, that really separated itself from the usual, over-rehearsed bullshit. He seemed like he had a great sense of humor, was having lot of fun, and had great style. This record has a just terrible cover, you’ve seen it, but over time it’s become kind of a classic, I guess. But the back is better, just a huge picture of Sly with a red knit hat and the best teeth I’ve ever seen. And the album cover folds open (and there are some liner notes, which I don’t remember being there—pretty good, too) and there is a giant vertical picture of the band, kind of out of focus, grainy, weird perspective, and Sly with those great boots—really, one of the best band pictures ever.

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31
Jan
18

Captain Sensible “Sensible Singles”

Apparently someone staying at this “North Woods” cabin was into alphabetizing the record collection because this one was on the shelf right next to Captain & Tennille. I’ve never heard it or even knew it existed—but I know Captain Sensible as the bass player from The Damned, and I always thought he had the best punk rock name of all. Also, great style. Apparently this is his collection of his singles, hit or otherwise. I imagine he’s got an entire career I don’t know about, and unfortunately I’m not going to get much info off this album cover—there are no song credits or performance credits. He’s got a pretty good band, anyway. He does thank them, kind of; in the crude past-up photo of him on the back cover, wearing a sailor suit with women’s jewelry, in a drawn-on speech bubble coming from his mouth he’s saying: “Thanks to all the nutters who contributed to this vinyl masterpiece…”

The front cover is a huge, garish photo of the captain, painted on in places, with a crude painted tropical scene background. He’s wearing ridiculous sunglasses (or maybe they’re painted on) that look like vinyl records. And of course his captain’s hat. I wonder if he’s making fun The Captain (of Captain & Tennille)? Interestingly, this record is on the same label (A&M) as Captain & Tennille (at least the record I just listened to). Some of these songs are great, some inspired, and some are total rubbish. Which is exactly what I said about the Captain & Tennille record, essentially. It might sound like I’m trying to see how many times I can write Captain & Tennille while writing about Captain Sensible, but no. I just don’t know what to make of this record. He’s got some serious songwriting collaborators: Rodgers & Hammerstein (well, that one’s a cover) and Robyn Hitchcock! The rest I don’t know, but I’ll look them up later. I’ve got to read an interview with Captain Sensible—or maybe there’s a documentary about him somewhere.

Okay, this song, “Wot”—I remember this one, kind of a mindless disco number, repeating over and over, “Say Captain, say WOT!”—about one million times, or until you’re about ready to throw something. But I like it—it kind of reminds me of an Ian Dury song. “Martha the Mouth” is a really nice song—really good pop hook, and I’d love to be able to understand the lyrics. This is a record in which a lyric sheet would be welcome. “Stop the World” is a kind of “white funk” song—which reminds me of Royal Crescent Mob, from Columbus, Ohio. Didn’t they have a song, or album called stop the world, or something? “Glad It’s All Over” is another good one, and “It’s Hard to Believe I’m Not.” These songs sound like hits—in some kind of parallel universe maybe? “There are More Snakes than Ladders.” “I’m a Spider”—serious hit song with a chorus that goes: “I’m the spider, deep inside ya.” I don’t know. Insane. There could be a serious Captain Sensible rabbit hole out there. Enter at your own risk.

10
Nov
08

Average White Band “Soul Searching”

It’s hard to figure out why I like this record so much, because for one thing, it’s AWB, after all, a band I never liked. But this turned out to be my summer record this year—that happens sometimes—a single record becomes the soundtrack for an entire season. It’s usually summer, when you’re lazier, slower moving, and the right thing just settles into your heat-compromised brain. My notes on this record are as follows, starting with July 8, 2008: “Overture” is my favorite. It’s not bad. Good. Too hot to really think soundtrack. Lot’s of band-in-the-studio pics. Good basketball music. I’m obsessed with it. Best: “Overture,” “I’m the One” (15-60-75), “Sunny Days”—great soul song. (End of notes.)

I’m not totally convinced that they sound much like 15-60-75 (The Numbers Band) but that one song always makes me think of them. The odd thing about liking this record so much is I am well aware of being at aesthetic odds with a lot of musical choices they make: in chord changes and progressions, in instrumentation, and in production. I like some songs way more than others. And still, I really like the record as a whole. It works really well as a record, from beginning to end. It goes from nostalgic to corny to boring to exciting and emotional, but it all works together.

“A Love of Your Own” is a really nice song. “Goin’ Home” has some really excellent repetition—to the extent that I had to check, the first couple of times I heard it, to see if the record was skipping. “I’m the One” and “Sunny Days” are my favorites. The song “Soul Searching” sounds like the title song for a 70s TV show about three guys (a hot headed handsome Italian-American, a freckly, goofy Irish-American with a huge afro, and a calm, articulate African-American) who travel the California coast in a flower-power dune buggy searching for the perfect wave, but finding trouble everywhere they go. They end up solving a lot of people’s life crisis’s, while teaching them not to be racist, to be open-minded and spiritual, and to generally chill out and laugh at things while still being serious inside. They break a few ladies’ hearts, as well.

I can only think that I must have heard this record while I was in high school. After all there was an intramural basketball team called AWB (for “Average White Basketball Team”). (It pains me to admit that I was on a team called “Utopia.”) All I knew was that it was baffling to me that a band would call themselves “average” and/or “white”—though they played “black” music. I was aware of their logo, scripty lettering with the W depicting a woman’s (or shapely guy’s) ass. Little did I know they were from Scotland! I was making the transition between prog rock and punk rock, and I had no time for the subtle charms of this record. But I really think I must have heard it. I think I must have been in somebody’s basement, a party going on, 1976, and I’m steadily drinking a 12 pack of Stroh’s. In spite of not being able to commandeer the sound system with Elvis Costello, and hating the smooth, commercial sounding crap that was on, there was something about the music, I guess—and maybe liking a girl that was there, and the magical process of intoxication—that remains.




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