The Lewis brothers, Pierre and Andre, were two very musical Twin City teenagers before a car insurance settlement crashed into their laps. Taking time from rehearsing alongside other mid 70′s funk pioneers of the coming ‘Minneapolis sound’ (such as The Time Predecessor Flyte Tyme and Sonny T’s The Family) the brothers decided to use their settlement money to finally fund the record that they had always planned on putting together. The time was right as the period was nearing its boiling point of revealing the synth funk era that would emerge in the 80′s. To boot, the musicians who would soon spearhead the movement were freely available to play and collaborate.
Still, it was a recording a few years earlier that had initially brought on the idea of a full album release. By bus Pierre and Andre had met with two other musicians still in the band hopping days of their youth, Sonny T. himself and a 21 year old Prince. At $120 an hour the players spent their studio time recording what would become the song “Got to Be Something Here”. Prince contributed background vocals into a swaying group of vocalists and played rhythm guitar onto the track that is arguably his earliest recording. It was Sonny T. who penned the song and it’s Sonny’s vocals who command it, a soulful ballad that was originally meant as a Sonny T./Lewis Brothers collaboration for the group The Family. The problem with the track was the hourly studio expense. Sonny and the brothers agreed: Whoever could pull together the money would own the masters.
An overturned Buick Century later Pierre and Andre Lewis had one side of an LP and an itch to record the other. Studio hopping with engineer David Rivkin (most likely by bus again) Pierre’s keyboards and Andre’s bass played alongside an array of additional musicians. By 1979 the release was sold city-wide, sleeved under the moniker The Lewis Conection. Despite this misspelling the LP legitimized The Lewis Conection, larger clubs were soon opening their doors to the brothers and offering them opening spots for much bigger acts. Even now, decades after its release both brothers are well into their 50′s and still live off their music despite no additional Lewis Connection releases. Andre has made a life for himself as a Nashville musician while Pierre has traveled to every music loving city in the nation working with new incarnations of KC & The Sunshine Band and most recently The Commodores.
“The Lewis Conection” LP has also made a legend of itself in recent years. Its initial pressing was so limited and notorious for the mythical Prince contribution that it had become an extremely sought after record. This status as a holy grail crate find made it ripe pickings for the Numero Group, the much loved purveyors of the rare and the label respected for re-releasing its trove unmolested of remasters. The quality of these recordings is the real deal, lo fi and Twin City raw. The LP in its entirety is a true time warp into an unseen corner of an era. “Get Up”, “Higher”, “Feel Good To Ya”,“Dynamic Duo”, and “Mr. G” (reportedly titled after Morris Day’s dog) offer a spiraling Parliament and Earth, Wind, & Fire ground-level mesmerization.
- Nick Bernal
Order a copy of the LP, CD or Digital from Numero Group by Clicking Here
Edward “Apple” Nelson cultivated a very special blend of funk and soul music with his Los Angeles based Apple and Three Oranges, a group whose works have come back into the light with the help of one of the best reissue imprints around, Now-Again Records. Active in the first half of the 70′s (1970-’75), Apple and Three Oranges released five 45″ singles in their career that have passed through some of the biggest funk and soul collectors out there. These limited edition and hard to find pressings have become prized collectors items for many in the world and the arrival of their material in archived and reissue form has been anticipated for years now.
The group would spread their resources in their day, working with Stage Music, Stanson and Sagittarius for the launching of these 45′s. The sound is lush, vibrant and reflective of the 60′s era of soul music that had become a staple of African American music. Over 40 years later and Edward “Apple” Nelson would be approached by the staff at Now-Again Records for an anthology collection of Apple and Three Oranges that would contain their entire recordings and the arrival of this collection has finally hit our world. Titled Free and Easy after the groups funk burner of the same name, 11 tracks are presented for a 30 minute ride into some of the best funk and soul ever created. Influential DJ’s like Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow have been presenting the groups rare cuts in live sets for years now and the launch of their entire collection in one place is a special gift for those who became aware of the group from DJ’s such as them and by other means.
Free and Easy has been presented with detail given the highest levels of respect, archiving very rare photos from the groups legacy around commentary from funk specialist Dante Carfagna and a lay out that will please the most hardcore of fans for the group. Now-Again Records are really opening up some important doorways into the past and is among the most package and musically pleasing releases the label has ever launched. Transport back to the soul ballads and dance floor burners that Los Angeles produced between 1970 and 1975 with Edward “Apple” Nelson’s Apple and Three Oranges. Funk and soul were the voice of the age and with the sonic shifts occurring all over the world in the 70′s, Apple and Three Oranges stayed true to their origins. Outside of the historical significance of the set, the music is truly special, rooted in a specific era of music that will never be brought back in this form and can be appreciated for everything great it stands for.
- Download the title track “Free and Easy Vol 1″ for free by Clicking Here
- Order a copy of the 2LP, Digital or CD version by Clicking Here
- This compilation produced, researched, annotated and with liner notes by Eothen Alapatt; additional transcription and coordination by Henoch Moore.
- All songs licensed courtesy Edwards “Apple” Nelson
- Restoration and remastering by Dave Cooley and Kelly Hibbert for Elysian Masters, Los Angeles.
- Art direction by Errol F. Richardson.
Lance Ferguson has been extending his pallet of musical possibilities through different monikers and this voyage continues with his newly created spiritual jazz project Menagerie. The group was created under the principle guidance of Lance for one of the latest releases on the Tru Thoughts imprint, They Shall Inherit. Sourcing together many new musicians for this project that sheds many influences into the late 60′s era with artists like John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Sun Ra, McCoy Tyner, Gary Bartz, Herbie Hancock and Pharoah Sanders. Texture of every kind glistens into each pocket and space and every line expresses a freedom you don’t hear often in modern music. Highly accomplished musicians on their instruments, the language of their music is taken very far into improvisatory settings with the command each members possess around the basic themes of every piece. Dynamics evolve in wave like patterns and rely on a collective whole that makes the music so alive and pulsating with positive energy that putting myself in a mental state to take notes on the album has proven to be difficult. All I want to do is feel and love an album of this type. With every solo I feel the instrumentalists searching for the highest possible state they can reach.
Coming from Australia, Lance Ferguson has put together an incredible band for Mengarie, centering around the talents of Melbrounre’s Phillip Noy and London’s Mark Fitzgibbon. The legendary talents of Roy Ayers makes an appearance on the track “Leroy And The Lion” and has a really special intro from Roy on the vibes. The rhythm section is soaked in beautiful rhythms and vibrations with Ferguson making one of his two appearances on the record. In an age of hands on and do it yourself, it’s refreshing to see a composer with this much vision to the new and old forms who can dedicate works for other musicians to perform. His presence is uniquely shaped on the record, becoming a part of every sound but only the catalyst to what was ultimately achieved by those he selected to take his vision further. You can feel the bright and warm feeling of ”Leroy And The Lion” from bottom to top and the vibes solo from Roy Ayers is one of the best moments on the album.
The album begins in a very spiritual mood with the opening track “They Shall Inherit”. As the title track, I gave a good amount of time to analyzing the album cover for the LP when I first heard it. It was a deep understanding of past culture and what the elders have to pass onto our kids and what is controlling our worlds sub-consciousness. This song is a language of musicianship that can never be lost and this is the type of beginning to an album that bridges the old styles to the new with a sense of energy and determination that is astonishing to witness. After the lush intro and vocal proclamation, the rhythm is set to a slightly slower tempo as the sax plays in a higher speed and is calibrated to a more powerful display of energy. The background vocals hover in and out while trumpet, piano, bass and drums create a platform of love for the soloist to go into the cosmos over. It’s everything that really centered my interests towards jazz in my youth and it’s hard to believe the men creating this were brought up in todays generations.
With tracks like “Jamahlia” and “There Will Come Soft Rains”, the deep modal jazz of the 60′s is at the heart of it all. Piano that sounds bigger than instruments processed through amps showers the mix with chord after chord while smooth upright bass and intricate drum work create a very soulful atmosphere. It’s music that I feel the most comfortable and reflective when encased inside of and are the pieces on the album I have played the most. The group takes a page out of the Headhunters music book with the fusion, funk and jazz track “The Chosen”. The Fender Rhodes is marvelous sounding and it has some incredible in the pocket drumming that really gives the music a weight hard to find in this style of music. Very funky yet exploratory with how the songs overtones layer into the pulsing rhythms. It’s one of the liveliest tracks on the record but has that deep and slightly dark groove that really brings it to the 70′s.
They Shall Inherit is a phenomenal record on the Tru Thoughts imprint and a continuation of jazz culture that has been thrown to the side by a lot of todays youth for processed sounds. This is the act of like minded human beings really feeling the moment, understanding the scales and notes they need to work in and exploring every possible relationship that can stem from a group setting. This is one of the best things I have heard in modern jazz.
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Country Funk 1969-1975 is one the latest compilation releases we have been sent from the many labels we work with and it’s one of the oddest bunches in the new batch we received from Light In The Attic Records. The foundations of this interconnecting genre simply called “Country Funk” stems itself back to the rich and strong musical era of the 60′s when genres were just a way for rich label owners to feel normal about the exploratory product they were putting their money into. America in particular was moving at light speed with many of the underground and mainstream artists and the major labels were opening up their doors to so many different types of sounds that it has become one of the most important landmark points in music history. Country Funk 1969-1975 catches this transition in full flight and bridges together artists on an eclectic list of labels that includes Warner, Sony, Arista, EMI, Universal, Capitol, Island and many others.
Country Funk 1969-1975 is straight up soul laced, voodoo funk derived anthems of all coasts of the nation known as America. The west, the east and the south all have a calling with the artists on this compilation, giving a sense of totality over the American country funk life never examined before. The rhythm sections for many of the songs have that deep funk and soul feel while many of the melodic ideas of the songs fall in line with country music. To even process how this sounds before hearing it was a challenge but once I made my way through these rare and choice cuts between 1969-75, I knew exactly why this compilation formed and will blow minds who love funk and country music in their respective domains.
Country Funk 1969-1975 is music of revolutionary thought and purpose, bridging separate worlds that had experienced a vast spectrum of racial tension and inequality in prior decades. Organs, guitars, bass, harp and many other instruments would serve as this bridge as worlds of different pasts become one and the deep pocket groove drumming explodes on every track. I love how voodoo drenched many of the pieces are, bringing together the spirit of Dr. John and Jimi Hendrix under one roof. The liner booklet comes with full information on every track along with cover scans of the original releases and much more. It really puts the style and background of every artists into perspective and contains some really beautiful drawings of many of the artists present. This is a superb compilation put together by one of the best restoration groups around, Light in the Attic Records.
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Australia’s The Cactus Channel are bringing some of the most authentic funk and dance floor music to the world in 2012. In a renaissance age where musicians are soaking in the deep sounds of the founders of the funk movement, The Cactus Channel present their music in a way that hits me the heaviest. As musicians who are not even legal to drink in many countries, it’s a little depressing to any musician out there who can step into a bar who can’t even come close to what this group does. For those of out there who humbly accept such a reality, it’s music that burns through your soul and gets down right to business. Live entertainment is always expanding and changing and The Cactus Channel are torchbearers in the standards of today.
When we got their debut full length LP Haptics from HopeStreetRecordings, it was an instantaneous moment of falling in love with a record. As I read through the press sheet I was stunned on many accounts: origins of these musicians, their age and how fast they are making their presence known. I couldn’t resist but asking for an email with anyone from the band and The Cactus Channel’s guitarist David Thor graciously gave some of his time for this exclusive interview. Some of the best dance floor music around from a band who of course still has a lot to prove to the world.
SCV interview with The Cactus Channel
Conducted by Erik Otis
I wanted to first start off by saying that I absolutely love what your group has achieved on Haptics. It’s something I am playing in my house all the time and still can’t believe what you all achieved. How long did it take for The Cactus Channel to really compose and record the songs on Haptics to the way the band desired?
Thanks a lot man, really glad you dig it.
The songs on Haptics are a collection of our strongest compositions that we built up over the past few years. We didn’t exactly have an album in mind when we were writing, but when HopeStreet posed the question of recording one, we just sat down and had a long think about what ones were strongest and what ones we enjoyed playing the most.
Once we got into the studio it took 3 or 4 days to get down the rhythm section tracks, and the week after the horn section came in for their turn.
There are so many originators of the funk and soul sound that I can hear in your sound. What records and artists are records that everyone in the band immediately connects with and loves just the same?
We started listening to funk/soul from two compilations named ‘New Orleans Funk & Soul Vol 1 & 2’ which featured artists such as Eddie Bo, The Meters, Aaron Neville, Lee Dorsey and Porgy Jones. The songs and artists were a massive inspiration. At first we started covering songs from these comps, later realizing they just did not work. After some luck we were successful with our own rendition of Porgy Jones’ ‘The Dap’, which you can hear on the B side of our first single.
Another major influence that inspires us most now are the bands and sounds coming out of the Daptone record label in Brooklyn, New York. Their guitar sound is something we have tried to emulate. Bands such as The Menahan Street Band, The Dap-Kings and The Budos Band are always on rotation with what we listen to. But saying that, we listen to plenty of other genres such as hip hop electronic, pop, jazz, folk, surf etc which all take some form of influence in our writing and/or individual playing.
Funk is a sound that has evolved over many years. It’s a sound that is one of the hardest to copy, let alone present an authentic form of it. You guys definitely present funk to me that is very authentic and extends the body of this foundation. What does funk music mean to the band and where does it stand to you in context of all music?
First and foremost it is dance floor music. The best funk, in my humble opinion, is the funk where the band is super tight, but still has a looseness about them. We are trying to capture that, keep the dance floor happening, but still trying to push funk in a new direction. We want to create new sounds, new rhythms, new vibes and have a somewhat fresh look at the genre, but still remain loyal. Essentially its just feel good music and we just want the audience to have as much fun as we’re having.
When you were all constructing Haptics, what was the biggest goal that everyone agreed to get across and through to the people?
We’re a live band, we write almost all our songs thinking ‘how will people get down to this live’. So we really wanted to be able to translate that onto record. We needed to keep the energy of our live shows but not forget that a record is a different medium and needs to be treated as such.
When I heard how old the members of your band are and your origin of Australia, I admittedly was blown away considering the fact that funk is one of the last genres I’d think about with these factors in mind. I love that type of mind expansion where the shoes fit and that’s all that matters regardless of origin and age. What type of history does funk have in Australia and what have been the greatest elements of the music community in Australia?
Everyone seems to be surprised by the fact that we’re all 18 and 19 and that we recorded the album while all 17… but at the time we didn’t think twice about it. It’s funny to think back and know we’ve recorded our first album underage. It’s a great feat!
For us, the history of funk in Australia started with The Bamboos. They released Australia’s first heavy funk 45 in 2001 and have since released numerous albums with their own take on funk and soul. I think seeing them live when we were 15 was one of those moments that pushed us in the direction we’re in now. Other bands such as The PutBacks, The Bombay Royale, Deep Street Soul and Saskwatch who popped up over the past few years are now adding strongly to Melbourne’s growing funk/soul scene.
DJs have also been a great help to us by playing our stuff on their shows, hosting us for live to airs and spreading our name around. It’s a big funk/soul community in Melbourne where everyone in the scene knows each other.
Melbourne is also home to the WORLDS longest running soul night called ‘Soul in the Basement’. 12 years running, it features some of Melbourne’s finest funk/soul DJs and a different band every Thursday night in the heart of the city. For the history of Melbourne funk & soul this night has been a great success in spreading the sound amongst the more general public.
How did the band link with HopeStreetRecordings and how has the experience been working with a label whose as dedicated as they are?
Our bass player was receiving lessons with the bass player from aforementioned 4-piece The PutBacks and he had ties with all the HopeStreet dudes as they recorded a 45 back in 2009. Mick Meagher (PutBacks bassist) saw us live and liked what he saw and then told HopeStreet manager Tristan Lydowyk that he should check us out.
Tristan liked what he heard and then decided to record a 45 with us. The label has been so great to us. They’ve provided recording, printing and all these other services which we would be nowhere without so we’re all so stoked they persisted with us.
Will the band continue down the same melodic territory of sound in the next release or will the band show a different side of what the Cactus Channel does?
As with any band, the sound will progress and mature so I’m sure you might be hearing something slightly different next time round. We’re all learning more about composing and experimenting with other sounds etc, but when it comes down to it, we’ll still be producing genuine dance floor funk and soul because that’s what we love most.
We really want to write the next album as a more cohesive record, I’m looking forward to it.
Thanks for your time, we really love what you are doing and look forward to seeing you live if you come to the States soon. Before we go, we wanted to ask, who are your favorite modern funk bands out today?
No worries, thanks for asking the questions. Hopefully we’ll be up your way soon… would love to do that! Favorite funk/soul bands: The Menahan Street Band, The Dap-Kings, The Budos Band, El Michels Affair, Saskwatch, The PutBacks, Hiatus Kaiyote, Charles Bradley, Lee Fields and The Expressions, Will Sessions, The Bombay Royale and Antibalas.
The best soul comp of the year has to go to the extensively researched and compiled anthology from Now-Again Records Loving On The Flipside. Collecting a rare grouping of 7″ pressings on a multitude of labels of material categorized as sweet funk and beat-heavy ballads, these are all heavy soul and funk about love that have that raw and gritty beautiful sounds of the 60′s and 70′s. The liner notes are some of the most expansive I have ever seen, something that is a standard for the Now-Again Records production and research team. Detailing all 21 songs with full photos and the background of the recordings, I can’t help but read the notes over and over from the sheer level of knowledge contained within.
Every song is crafted with the finest touch, showing a remarkable sense of musicianship and range from every artist present. The music is also enhanced sonically where possible, retaining the rich analog sound the recordings were first preserved on. Many of the songs from this anthology are b-sides or lesser known tracks from these brave frontier runners of a different and less aggressive side to the funk sound. Lyrically, most of the pieces are laced with backing harmony groups and shine in a way that can only be characterized by the time. Music can’t be made like this anymore and to have so much of it in one setting has become a very important piece to my music collection.
Loving On The Flipside is an amazing collection of songs recorded in one of the most active musical periods ever. Hearing the past and understanding what it offers in terms of culture is a defining feature of any generation and the message of love that breathes on every track shows the type of integrity these groups stood for. Deep, lush and vibrant songs from beginning to end, Loving On The Flipside is truly a timeless collection.
As the most recent practitioners in the legacy of funk, soul and uptempo floor burners, The Cactus Channel is a new force in the music world that has taken little time to gain the type of momentum and awareness that builds legends. From Melbourne, Australia, this group of teenagers – just out of high school – has set the stage for one of the most impressive debut records in the funk genre. From Maceo Parker and James Brown to The Meters and Cymande, the essence of soul and funk is drenched in all of the Cactus Channel’s compositions. With recordings on vintage gear that helped give the original funk music it’s raw and gritty sound and the classic set up of guitars, bass, organ, drums and horns, the group has now embarking on the release of their debut record this year.
The Cactus Channel have summoned up a lot of energy and the integrity of the past on their debut record Haptics. Released on the Australian imprint HopeStreetRecordings, ten tracks of the purest soul and funk grace this album, putting the group into a category of music very few rare have the opportunity to enter in this day and age. In an age where effects, experimentation and a desire for the new have pushed music to countless amounts of possibilities, The Cactus Channel go back to basics and fulfil a language that founding fathers of funk such as Bootsy Collins and Dr. John would be proud of. Who knows, they might already be, considering the type of buzz they have generated among many seasoned musicians in soul and funk already.
What makes Haptics such an authentic vehicle of expression in the name of funk is the musicianship, the punch the recording contains in the mixing and the hard hitting anthems that are contained in every track. Everything is mastered and positioned to maximize the presence and power of each instrumentalist. However, they manage to retain enough space for all the embellishments of the music to flourish and take full shape. Organ shows full clarity along with the beautiful interaction of guitars as the music moves in heated pace. The rhythm section is synced into time in the most highest form, never creating tension or a displaced feeling on the bottom end. The musicians all constantly play off one another into endless states of groove.
As technically gifted musicians as they are, it’s hard to believe these guys are as young as they are. Regardless of age though and to put it in the most simple terms, The Cactus Channel get down. They bring something new to the funk and soul game with a refreshing sense of clean dynamics through the raw and powerful essence of analog recordings. Can’t forget the past when playing the kind of sound Funkadelic brought to the world and one that has been a dominant featutre of all funk and soul music for over 50 years.
Haptics puts a lot of gust and weight into each track, highlighting a slightly different approach to the funk and soul world. “Derty D’s Thang” is one of those tracks I could picture Muhammad Ali coming out to a fight. With an added trumpet, the showcase of rhythm in the guitar, bass and drums is phenomenal. It has a slight African flavor in the core of what it is, channeling the energy of Fela Kuti in some small aspects. The pairing of double guitar rhythms is incredible and gives a lot of room for the sax and trumpet lines to shower in massive power in the upper registers. The drums hit every point of impact in perfect movement, constantly playing off the dynamics of the music with the most tasteful chops. The trumpet solo that ensues creates a moment of elevated expression that highlights how heavy and serious this record really is. “Level Up”, like “Derty D’s Thang”, is a high octane blast of energy that would get any room of people off their feet. The synth and sax solo’s are some of the best on the album, showing the phrasing these guys can achieve in their instruments that connects to all the greats. The horn harmony that maintains the presence of the song from beginning to finish is just as heavy, euphoric and megalithic as that in “Derty D’s Thang”.
The album takes a really interesting diversion with the heavy power soul cut “The Colour Of Don Don”. The horns stray away from really hard hitting and fast lines and sit at home with the long form, stretched out sections that are wrapped tightly around the splashes of note sequences. The guitars keep rhythm with the drums and bass and a really heavy soul vibe takes over. Steeped in early funk, this is the sounds of a very distant world that traces back to many areas of the States in the early 60′s. The masterful phrasing of Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters is felt all over the piece “Budokan”. With a classic and unaccompanied drum break that begins the song, this is one of my favorite songs of the album. Once the music kicks in, the band takes off at full flight. It’s one of those slow burners that gives a lot of attention to highly stylized rhythm guitar, lush horn lines and some of the most laid back and grooved out drum work. I dare you to listen to this track and not move from the rhythm and groove present. I don’t think it’s possible.
Closing out Haptics with a heavy nod to James Brown and their own diversion and personal stamp to sound in the ending song “Hot Teeth”, The Cactus Channel pass every test imaginable. They have imprinted their legacy mark in the funk and soul game and this is only the beginning. As members of the growing community of music in Australia, this is a group who is going to gain more momentum than they could ever imagine was possible. I say that statement as they are a band I really believe in and when it boils down to it, I’d find it hard for someone who didn’t agree that their sound is the best modern funk out. It is with great pleasure to present this review on the groups debut long player Haptics.
Order this record here http://www.thecactuschannel.com/TheCactusChannel/Records/Pages/Haptics.html
Cultures of Soul presents Tommy Stewart’s Disco Love Affair, a collection of rare and unreleased disco funk gems from the late 70′s that have really caught our attention. As the first disco review we have done at the site, it comes with great pleasure that we are able to present this compilation of important reissues that have been hidden from the general public for years. With a heavy dose of research around the life of Tommy Stewart (teacher, trumpet player, pianist, producer and writer), the package pulls back the curtain once again on an era that defined American dance music for many years. What makes Tommy Stewart’s Disco Love Affair so special is the soulful approach the music takes on, revealing a composer who extended his voice well beyond just the dance floor. Lush and complex arrangements are cleverly positioned around heavy ballad work and dance floor anthems. It was through Tommy Stewart’s path in the closing years of the 70′s that he was able to capture the 14 songs on this compilation. Funk, disco, soul, jazz and shades of the future can be heard all over Tommy Stewart’s Disco Love Affair.
Finding the origins of these recordings from Georgia, they are a sparkling reminder of the Atlanta sound that became a foundation for not only disco but many other forms of popular music after it. Separated into different sessions that took place between 1977 and 1978, the closing session from 1978 are my favorite pieces of the bunch and shows a band whose bottom end was just as powerful as the keyboard lines, horn arrangements and the rest. The first eight songs come from a session done in the spring of 1977 with the guest inclusion of vocalist Stevo. The story of Tony Stewart is really interesting in regards to these sessions as they were a response statement from Tony and his bands to the changing and evolving scenes around them. Soul, rock, blues and jazz music had been the bridge to funk music and funk was a bridge to disco and many other genres. You can hear this lineage in genre expansion all the way from beginning to end with Tommy Stewart’s Disco Love Affair.
It’s a compilation we highly recommend for any fan of popular dance music with that touch of soul in the 70′s and 80′s. With a cover to raise some eye brows and music to raise them even higher, it doesn’t get much better than this if you like things on the funky, sophisticated and soulful side of the disco world.
Order a copy from Cultures of Soul here http://www.culturesofsoul.com/2012/07/27/tommy-stewart-pre-order/
Washington DC’s Hilton Felton is probably the regions greatest organ player of any period. Steeped in the soul drenched flavor of organ players like Jimmy Smith and Big John Patton, Hilton Felton grooves in a way nobody even touches these days with the exception of a few key players. His introduction into the touring and recording scene came with the legendary Fats Theus. In 1970, Fats picked him up for a tour and released one record with the CTI imprint, Black Out. The massively heavy drum section of Idris Muhammed was present along with one of the best guitar players of the time Grant Green. The groups take on ‘Stone Flower’ on that album is incredible with Hilton Felton doing some of the most impressive organ solo’ing I have ever heard. George Benson took immediate attention to Hilton and picked him up for a tour shortly after this release, which would prove to shape Hilton’s abilities even more.
A family man and one who loved his city of DC, Hilton Felton took the unusual route after two years on the road and recording with Fats Theus and George Benson to be closer with his loved ones, start his own imprint and record music on his own terms. Yearning to be a self made independent artist, Hilton Felton started his own imprint Hilton Concepts in 1971, predating Minor Threat and many of the punk rocks who would create the DIY culture in Washington DC by almost a decade. Hilton Felton made some of the most interesting and diverse music, tapping into jazz, gospel, latin, street music, funk, soul, pop, psych rock and many other sounds that were dominating America’s airwaves during the 60′s and 70′s. London based Jazzman Records has culminated all of this lineage into a highly anticipated Best Of collection that spans from 1970-74. Collecting five tracks that spans 35 minutes, Jazzman Records selected a world of music from Hilton Felton that is the best entry point for anyone who hasn’t heard him and even better for those of who have. Pressed on vinyl and CD, the packaging is as good as the music, with rare photos and liner notes that explain the origins of every track.
The first piece, ‘Bee Bop Boogie’, is a classic sounding Headhunters groove from Herbie Hancock’s mid 70′s period. With a latin jazz emphasis in the drums and percussion, the piece moves flawlessly through its drop out moments when the band lets the percussion and drum tandem breath by itself. Hilton’s organ sound is just as superb and brilliant, showing a very soulful and sophisticated sound that lets the guitar comping transition in and out of solo’s seamlessly. Felton always has the rhythm and embellishes the most tasteful additives under the guitar with rhythm and harmony always at his side. The bass is always moving but never moving away too far and keeping itself trapped inside the groove this piece has. The sax work is pristine and soaring, with a glossy feel that makes it as dreamy as it is poignant. Felton turns out a true Herbie Hancock style solo around the five minute mark, running down his keys without missing a note or a beat. Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and many others in the 70′s had been utilizing a lot of electronics and Felton was right in line with all these masters, blasting away at his own sound and scene in DC.
‘Spreading Fever’ sounds like the perfect street league basketball anthem with a really rustic guitar sound that is heightened by a sax section and head nodding drum break. The bass is bumpin and there’s some really wild angular solo work on the guitar, with jabs of rhythm and staccato runs that make your head spin. Felton rests in the pocket for awhile, creating a canvas of soul drenched harmony that is out of this world until his restrain leads to some really intense solo’ing. It really doesn’t get much better than this with organ based jazz. ‘Dream Come True’ is a really dreamy soul pop song and the first in the collection to contain vocals. The organ work is really dreamy on this piece as well and the tone Felton gets in the last few minutes of the song really hints towards his deep gospel and family background. Every track has these small moments where Felton selects a very special tone on his organ for the song and it always fits so well. ‘Your Analysis’ couldn’t be better placed in the collection, pushing the energy to a maximum level with this psych soul rocker. With gut bucket and really intense drumming, fuzzed out psych guitar solo’s and some manic style freight train organ that always follows the intensity of the guitar, this is a testament to how lively his performances must have been. If you have heard any of the chittlin’ circuit Jimi Hendrix material, pre Experience, you know exactly what kind of sound this is. Felton’s organ solo is probably one of the most charged, exuberant and exhilarating of the collection on ‘Your Analysis’, with an apex of energy that is jaw dropping.
Jazzman Records collected five songs that truly represent the integrity, passion and grace organist Hilton Felton exerted into the many forms of music he identified with and presented himself to the world with. Best of releases are always hit and miss and this one is definitely a best of collection worth owning.
The Best of Hilton Felton 1970-74
- Bee Bop Boogie
- Spreading Fever
- Dream Come True
- Your Analysis
- Tell Her Love Has Felt The Need
‘The Dump’ by Soul Vibrations (Existensial Music. BMI)
Recorded early 1973, Galaxie III Studios, Taylorsville, NC and engineered by Harry Deal
Musicians: William Acosta (organ); “Soup,” “Carlos” (trumpets); Jimmy Flowers (guitar); Jarvis Sainer (bass); Ronnie Anderson (drums)
Produced by Soul Vibrations
Originally released on Vibrant single SO 12858 and pressed June 13, 1973. Reported to BMI December 17, 1973 and licensed by Gary Rector.
From Concord Records:
It has not taken Esperanza Spalding long to emerge as one of the brightest lights in the musical world. Listeners familiar with her stunning 2008 Heads Up International debut, Esperanza, and her best-selling 2010 release Chamber Music Society, were well aware that the young bassist, vocalist and composer from Portland, Oregon was the real deal, with a unique and style-spanning presence, deeply rooted in jazz yet destined to make her mark far beyond the jazz realm. That judgment was confirmed on February 13, 2011, when Spalding became the first jazz musician to receive the GRAMMY® Award for Best New Artist. On March 20th, 2012, Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group, gives us Spalding’s latest release, Radio Music Society, her most diverse, ambitious and masterful recital yet. 11 songs are accompanied by conceptual short films, which further express Esperanza’s inspiration and story behind each track. Shot in various locations including New York City; Barcelona, Spain; and Portland, Oregon; all videos will be available to purchasers of Radio Music Society as a digital download or a DVD on the deluxe version.
Radio Music Society is a companion, rather than a sequel, to Spalding’s previous disc, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart. “Originally I thought it would be fun to release a double album,” she explains, “One disc with an intimate, subtle exploration of chamber works and a second one in which jazz musicians explore song forms and melodies that are formatted more along the lines of what we would categorize as “pop songs.” Those are the two things that really interest me, and it intrigues me to think about different presentation approaches while writing each kind of song. On the pop song side, I think about listeners who aren’t into jazz, but I also think about the people within my musical community who can interpret each idea best.”
Numero Group and Cinefamily present an exclusive screening of the ‘70s Chicago film “Stony Island” from director Andrew Davis February 10, 2012
When it comes to reissue and rarity labels, there are few who enter the arena of integrity and strength of constant gem after gem being unearthed as Numero Group. Their expansion into the art and preservation of vintage film releases is now in full frution and the Los Angeles based Non profit Cinefamily is taking part with Numero Group for a very special film screening in this phase of Numero’s legacy. All of the following details are below, this is a film you have to see.
From The Cinefamily:
For the first time in 30 years, this classic slice of ‘70s Chicago storytelling comes to the big screen in 35mm, with director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) in person! Featuring a legion of legendary Chicago players (Gene Barge, Phil Upchurch, Larry Ball, Richie Davis, Tennyson Stephens, Ronnie Barron and a young Susanna Hoffs) alongside Dennis Franz and Rae Dawn Chong, Stony Island tells the story of a group of multiracial R&B performers, and how they’re affected by the death of a veteran musician from their circle. This super-rare film gives you a priceless look back at Chicago’s South Side neighborhood, at a time when very few films were made in within the city at all — and also contains a Medium Cool-inspired sequence filmed at Mayor Richard J. Daley’s funeral. Soon to be released this Spring 2012 on DVD/download for the first time, Stony Island is an incredible time capsule, and provides a sweetly funky soundtrack to boot. Andrew Davis will be here at the Cinefamily for a Q&A — and Numero Group DJs will be here to spin tunes both before and after the film!
Stony Island by director Andrew Davis
(first 35mm screening in 30 years, director Andrew Davis in person!)
Friday, February 10th | 10:30pm
Tickets- $10/free for members
Watch a vintage TV commercial spot for “Stony Island”!
The Cinefamily is a member-supported 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Our mission: to foster a spirit of community and a sense of discovery, while reinvigorating the movie-going experience.