HARD... RAW... DEEP... FUNK: 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Batty Davis - Betty Davis (1973)

Betty Davis' debut was an outstanding funk record, driven by her aggressive, no-nonsense songs and a set of howling performances from a crack band. Listeners wouldn't know it from the song's title, but for the opener, "If I'm in Luck I Might Get Picked Up," Davis certainly doesn't play the wallflower; she's a woman on the prowl, positively luring the men in and, best of all, explaining exactly how she does it: "I said I'm wigglin' my fanny, I'm raunchy dancing, I'm-a-doing it doing it/This is my night out." "Game Is My Middle Name" begins at a midtempo lope, but really breaks through on the chorus, with the Pointer Sisters and Sylvester backing up each of her assertions. As overwhelming as Davis' performances are, it's as much the backing group as Davis herself that makes her material so powerful (and believable). Reams of underground cred allowed her to recruit one of the tightest rhythm sections ever heard on record (bassist Larry Graham and drummer Greg Errico, both veterans of Sly & the Family Stone), plus fellow San Francisco luminaries like master keyboardist Merl Saunders and guitarists Neal Schon orDouglas Rodriguez (both associated with Santana at the time). Graham's popping bass and the raw, flamboyant, hooky guitar lines of Schon or Rodriguez make the perfect accompaniment to these songs;Graham's slinky bass is the instrumental equivalent of Davis' vocal gymnastics, and Rodriguez makes his guitar scream during "Your Man My Man." It's hard to tell whether the musicians are pushing so hard because of Davis' performances or if they're egging each other on, but it's an unnecessary question. Everything about Betty Davis' self-titled debut album speaks to Davis the lean-and-mean sexual predator, from songs to performance to backing, and so much the better for it. All of which should've been expected from the woman who was too wild for Miles Davis."


1. Betty Davis - If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up (5:00)
2. Betty Davis - Walkin Up The Road (2:55)
3. Betty Davis - Anti Love Song (4:31)
4. Betty Davis - Your Man My Man (3:39)
5. Betty Davis - Ooh Yea (3:09)
6. Betty Davis - Steppin In Her I. Miller Shoes (3:14)
7. Betty Davis - Game Is My Middle Name (5:12)
8. Betty Davis - In The Meantime (2:43)

Betty Davis - If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Baby Charles - Baby Charles (2008)

Baby Charles are a contemporary British deep funk outfit, and from the evidence of their self-titled debut, it seems impossible to assume it was recorded anywhere other than 1970s New Orleans. The hazy thickness of the record feels like a fever dream of blaxploitation funk, the kind of sound your reptilian memory bank automatically associates with Quentin Tarantino soundtracks. There is nothing academic about any of this, however. Where many live funk groups see their best efforts wilted by a certain "earnest conservatory student" vibe, Baby Charles effortlessly summon the sort of unholy, sweat-in-uncomfortable-places funkiness you probably thought hadn't survived past 1978.


1. Baby Charles - Treading Water (4:11)
2. Baby Charles - Invisible (4:38)
3. Baby Charles - Comin' From A Higher Place (3:08)
4. Baby Charles - Life's Begun (4:51)
5. Baby Charles - No Controlling Me (3:52)
6. Baby Charles - Hard Man To Please (3:57)
7. Baby Charles - Step On (2:57)
8. Baby Charles - Indecision (3:39)
9. Baby Charles - I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor (4:28)
10. Baby Charles - Back Of My Hand (4:01)
11. Baby Charles - This Time (2:57)
12. Baby Charles - The Sphinx (3:48)

Baby Charles - Back Of My Hand

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend (1971)

"Baby Huey's only album, released after his untimely death, is titled The Living Legend with good reason. He was legendary in his appearance, a 400-pound man with a penchant for flamboyant clothing and crowned by a woolly Afro, a look that is best illustrated by one of several rare photos included in the Water Records edition that shows our man in a wide-lapeled polka-dot shirt with a lime-green jacket. Beyond his unusual appearance, though, he was graced with a stunning, fierce voice on par with Otis Redding and Howard Tate, wailing and howling one moment and oddly tender and sentimental the next. Nowhere on Living Legend is his range more apparent than the opening track, "Listen to Me," where listeners are introduced to both the enigma of Baby Huey and his diamond-tough psychedelic funk backing band, the Baby Sitters. The high-energy instrumental workout "Mama Get Yourself Together" is worthy of the J.B.'s and a hazy, spiraling ten-minute rendition of Sam Cooke's chestnut "A Change Is Going to Come" confirms that the Baby Sitters could hold their own with Blood, Sweat & Tears. Further lore that catapults The Living Legend from good to great: the production was helmed by Curtis Mayfield, reason enough to make it near essential, and is highlighted by three of his compositions, "Mighty Mighty," which Mayfield and the Impressions recorded a few years earlier; "Running," a classic Mayfieldcut that can only be heard here ripped to glorious bits by a band that is trying to let every member solo; and "Hard Times," which Mayfield himself would revisit on his 1975 album There's No Place Like America Today, although Baby Huey's razor-edged reading remains the definitive version -- no small caveat considering Mayfield not only wrote the tune, but could rightfully be considered one of the architects of soul to boot."



1. Baby Huey - Listen To Me (6:41)
2. Baby Huey - Mama Get Yourself Together (6:15)
3. Baby Huey - A Change Is Going To Come (9:31)
4. Baby Huey - Mighty Mighty (2:49)
5. Baby Huey - Hard Times (3:23)
6. Baby Huey - California Dreamin' (4:48)
7. Baby Huey - Running (3:39)
8. Baby Huey - One Dragon Two Dragon (4:03)

Baby Huey - Hard Times