Category Archives: Slave

Slave@40: All I Had To Learn And Everything I Know From A April 1977 Funk Album

Image result for Slave 1977

Slave’s debut album is going to celebrate its 40th anniversary a month from now. In fact,2017 is going to be a 30th and 40th anniversary for a lot of classic funk albums. This Dayton,Ohio funk band is one that I first learned about through Rickey Vincent’s major funk literary tome in the late 1990’s. The album cover album had me seeking out the CD reissue still available at the time. Wound up picking it up at an HMV record store while vacationing with my family in Montreal. It was an eleven hour car ride back to where we lived then. So it was just one of many CD’s I listened to on the way back.

Six years ago coming this Sunday,the bands bassist Mr.Mark passed away. And in four months,it’ll be the anniversary of of guitarist Mark Hicks,known as Drac.  It was he who formed the band with Steve Washington,funky innovator of the electric trumpet,in 1975. This high school band got signed to the Cotillion label in 1977 and released their self titled debut the same year. It put them on the R&B and pop charts with the funk classic “Slide”. The album mixed jazzy and rock elements into the sound of funk. At the same time,its recently been made clear I had a lot to learn about this album at one time.

Slave is always an album I’ve loved to listen to. But in the now 20 years since I purchased my copy of it, its an album I’ve only returned to about three or four times in those years. Since beginning music blogging and knowing more musically inclined people,its helped in reviewing albums and songs. On both this blog and sites such as Amazon.com. Usually, I endeavor to present Amazon.com reviews on this blog that reflect well on the music being discussed. Today,I am going to present to you an Amazon review that I wrote of this album that reflects an understanding that has definitely been grown since it was written.


This CD has been in my collection for many years.Bought for it’s reputation and it’s fantastic album cover-one of my all time favorites.”Slide” is a great yowling funk tune,cool gimmicky bicycle horns too.”Screw Your Wig On Tight” is cool too-rocks a little harder but cool.As for the rest of the album?Well it jams and jams and jams and jams and jams and jams and JAMS!!!!!All Slave tend to do on this album is endless funky jamming-very true to the form but kind of boring sometimes.Those in the state of mind to hear singable,written tunes won’t find music to their liking here.

‘Slave’ is an album you put on after you’ve been listening to James Brown and early Tower Of Power.It is not in keeping with the funk of the late 70’s and what other music Slave would become known for in the years to come.There are no electronics and even a hint of dance or pop influence here-it’s straight ahead classic funk and nothing more. Amateurish,plain jane horn heavy funk without the frills so keep that in mind when you get this.


Its hard to believe that 12 years ago,I’d ever write a review calling anything Slave did “amateurish”. Of course,this was also around the time when I thought of the James Brown song “Get On The Good Foot” was dull because it repeated itself for far too long. Of course,that is an element of funk itself. Also,had no idea at that time that Slave were essentially a high school dance funk band in the beginning. Much as with Prince in his earlier bands,the songs he wrote tended to drag into into instrumental jams at times. Slave revealed more over the years since that review than even this.

Especially with their bass/guitar work melodic exchanges,have also come to realize just how far reaching songs like “Screw Your Wig On Tight” and “Separated” actually are in their funk. Along with grooving ballads such as “The Happiest Days”. Within two years,Slave had Steve Arrington aboard. And the band became masters of melodic funk such as “Just A Touch Of Love” and “Watching You”. On their first album however,it finds the band in a very different places that’s rawer and very powerful. And represents the band with the most hardest,instrumentally based type of funk.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Slave

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Watching You” by Slave

Slave are a band that I’ve desired to talk about for some time now. They were among one of the great late 70’s/early 80’s Dayton Ohio bands along with Heatwave and Zapp. What made them unique in their time however is that they were likely the first Generation X funk band-all of its members still in high school when they formed in 1976. Their first album the following year got them an instant smash funk hit with the song “Slide”,now a mainstay of what many funkateers refer to as “Dayton funk” subgenre. By their 1979 album Just A Touch Of Love,singer/songwriter/drummer Steve Arrington joined the band.

Arrington was only a member of Slave for four years,before leaving to form a successful solo career of his own starting in 1983. But in the early 80’s,Arrington’s unique (and occasionally idiosyncratic) vocal approach allowed Slave to become one of the bands to lay the building blocks for what is now known as the post disco/boogie funk sound. Their first album of the 1980’s (and second album to feature Arrington) was called Stone Jam. Its one of the few Slave albums to remain consistently in print over the years. One of its most well known (and successful) jams is called “Watching You”

Arrington throws the strong dance beat along with Mark Hicks high,clean guitar tone that revs up into the main chorus of the song. This features Ray Turner’s high pitched synthesizer melody and and the late Mark “Mr. Mark” Adams delivers a great walking,slapping bass line holding the whole thing together. The falsetto choral vocals transition to Arrington’s narrative vocals on the refrains. The bridge of the song has Arrington’s drums showcasing M. Mark’s powerful bass line as a solo-with Turner’s synths on the accents. A new chorus with both vocal parts continues until the song fades.

My friend Henrique and I often have a lighthearted dialog about a “super hip young brother in the early 80’s” driving around in a sporty little car trying to impress the ladies around him. “Watching You” brings up this image strongly. Its got the thick,bass/guitar oriented groove that was Slave’s stock and trade. That combined with its playful lyrics of young black people giving each other the admiring,romantic eye made the song and the Stone Jam album Slave’s biggest commercial success since the bands debut four years earlier. And this helps to define “Watching You” a post disco funk masterpiece.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Dayton Ohio, Slave

Grooves On Wax: Black Wax In Black Music Month

James Brown Showtime

James Brown’s albums up to the beginning of the mid 60’s seem to be helpful in showcasing what was influential on the future Godfather Of Soul. This 1964 album,his debut for Smash,is an excellent example of this. JB starts out with a spirited cover of the R&B classic “Caledonia”,originally by Louie Jordan & The Timpani Five. As a studio album overdubbed with applause,these songs find JB singing the blues on a number of rhythm & blues shuffles-removed for the most part from his typical live show of the era.

Key Jams: “Evil” and “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens”

Mirium Makeba

Miriam Makeba is an artist I’ve always interesting in hearing more from. This is an excellent album from 1967 for her. It really does a lot to bring out the sound of African soul-with a lot of elements that would eventually go into the world fusion sound in the future. Especially with the songs not all being sung in English. She even adds a folk song called “A Piece Of Ground”-which runs down the horrid inequity of apartheid in South Africa.

Key Jam: “Pata Pata”

Odyssey Of Iska

Wayne Shorter made this 1971 avant garde jazz album as he was transitioning from Miles Davis’s second quintet of the mid/late 60’s onto fusion pioneers Weather Report. And it really shows as Gene Bertoncini’s guitar-with it’s rhythmic overdrive along with former quintet made Ron Carter’s bass and Alphonse Mouzan’s drumming give this album the kind of Afro-Brazilian jazz/funk process sound Miles himself was already diving headlong into.

Key Jams: “Storm”,“De Pois Do Amor,O Vazio” and “Joy”osibisa-woyaya(16)

Osibisa are a  British,mostly Ghanan Afro pop group who were first described to me as being called “Obsidica”,and sounding like the Isley Brothers. Neither of those things being true of course,this 1971 album is in the Afro-Latin funk/rock/soul collection jamming much in the style of Mandrill and Santana.

Key Jams: “Beautiful Seven” and “Move On.

robertaflack-quietfire-cover

Roberta Flack is someone who today could almost be considered the godmother of neo-soul. Her understated vocal approach and naturally based instrumental style was a precurser of that. Especially on her earlier albums.  On these records though,they caught some heavily funky fire on a song or two. This 1971 release actually has a bit more than others-especially her ultra gospel drenched version of the Bee Gee’s “To Love Somebody”.

Key Jams: “Go Up Moses” and “Sunday And Sister Jones”

Edwin Birdsong

Edwin Birdsong,keyboardist and songwriter for the Roy Ayers Ubiquity who later worked with Stevie Wonder,really put himself out on this ultra funky 1972 debut album. He was a heavy purveyor of sociopolitical “people music” message songs as well. Even the lone ballad “It Ain’t No Fun Being a Welfare Recipient” tells the kind of story you generally don’t hear on too many slow jams. Birdsong’s holds-no-barred approach to humanitarian lyricism really inspires my personal funky emotions.

Key Jams:”The Uncle Tom Game” and “When A Newborn Baby Is Born,The Gets One More Chance” 

Open Sesame

Kool & The Gang totally reinvent the chemistry of their groove on this 1976 album,in their positions as The Scientists Of Sound. The jacket folds in half on the front to find portraits of the band members in the garb of Morrish royalty. From the casting of the “genie of sound” on the title song onward,this album finds their sound in direct transition from the heavy jazz/funk based sound of their earlier music to the disco era soul/funk melodicism of their under appreciated late 70’s pre JT Taylor period.

Key Jams: “Open Sesame”,“All Night Long” and “Super Band”

brick------_goodhigh-_101b

Brick’s sophomore album was where I discovered this heavily jazz based disco funk band. This 1976 debut album for them really helped put together their “disco jazz” type of music very well-with songs that featured more instrumental oriented jamming on many of the songs rather than the more heavily constructed pop type songs they would be known for on their following recordings.

Key Jams: “Dazz” and “Brick City”

Melba Moore

Melba Moore’s Broadway experience really helped her theatrical variety of heavily orchestrated soul balladry and disco/dance records she recorded during the 70’s. This 1978 album from her,produced by the Philly team of McFadden & Whitehead,contains one of my very favorite songs by her in the funkified “You Stepped Into My Life”.

Key Jams: “You Stepped Into My Life” and “It’s Hard Not To Like You”

Ohio Players - Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee -

The Ohio Players final album for Mercury from 1978 has gotten very mixed views from fans of this classic funk band. Yet from the very beginning,they make it more than clear that the then burgeoning disco sound was not yet effecting their heavy funkiness. As a matter of fact,this particular album is home to some of the hardest hitting funk the band ever made.

Key Jams: “Funk-O-Nots”,“Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee” and “Dance (If You Wanta)”

Pleasure

Pleasure’s jazz-funk sound out of Portland,Oregon is one that I am just beginning to explore. This 1980 album of theirs has become something of a big deal in recent years. With their sophistifunk production and jazzy instrumental solos,the band seem to have made their mark in the annals of funk as it transitioned from the 70’s onto the 80’s.

Key Jams: “Now You Choose Me” and “Yearnin’ Burnin'”

brass-construction-attitudes-20120328040716

Brass Construction’s title song for this 1982 album was one I thought came from Cameo due to a mislabeled MP3 sometime ago. It led me to the vinyl album,which is now recognizable as the bands transition to the stripped down,electro/naked/boogie funk sound of the early 80’s. It’s almost completely uptempo funk based saved for the jazzy mid tempo ballad “ETC”.

Key Jams: “Can You See The Light”,“Forever Love” and “Attitude”

slave-bad-enuff-1089025-1437603644

Slave were the last and youngest of the classic Dayton,Ohio funk bands,and were some of the architects of the boogie funk sound. That’s very prominent on this 1983 album,their first album of the 80’s without Steve Arrington. Actually,it’s a strong transition from their original live band approach to their more electro funk oriented sound that was about to come.

Key Jams: “Steppin’ Out” , “Turn You Out (In & Out)” and “Show Down”

isley-jasper-isley-broadways-closer-to-sunset-blvd-bonus-track-version-5954759-1448546073

Ernie and Marvin Isley along with Chris Jasper struck out as their own trio in 1984. This debut album from the same year is actually one of the strongest boogie funk albums of its era. That’s because the brittle drum machines are accented by the same powerful percussion the 3+3 Isley Brothers were known for.  That rhythmic approach mixed with layers of synthesizers,bass and guitar make this an superb extension  of the Isley sound as heard on the Between The Sheets from a year earlier.

Key Jams: “Serve You Right” and “Break This Chain

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, Afro Funk, avant-garde, Blues, Brass Construction, Brick, Edwin Birdsong, electro funk, Funk, funk albums, Isley-Jasper-Isley, James Brown, Kool & The Gang, Melba Moore, Miriam Makeba, Ohio Players, Osibisa, Pleasure, rhythm & blues, Roberta Flack, Slave, Uncategorized, Vinyl, Wayne Shorter

Anatomy of THE Groove for 6/5/2015: “Don’t Stop” by Brian McKnight

It wasn’t too long ago that I paid absolutely no mind whatsoever to the musical output of Brian McKnight. He seemed to be one of many groups and soloists who came out of the early/mid 90’s contemporary pop/soul scene. Most of these artists came across as possessing a docile performance ethic. And possessing little to no vocal and/or musical vitality. Without any undue cruelty? These artists didn’t seem capable of creating much in the way of uptempo dance music, let alone anything that was all that funky at all. One night while channel surfing half a decade ago,however? I came across The Brian McKnight Show.

This was an interview show at at contemporary artists involved in the creative process of music. Watching it a bit? McKnight revealed himself to be the same kind of multi instrumentalist (not merely a synthesizer/drum machine programmer),producer and composer he would generally be interviewing on the show. Often showcasing the artists and himself playing piano,bass and guitar? This got me curious enough to seek out some of McKnight’s current music. One such album, More Than Words opened with a song that continued this change of mind in the form of “Don’t Stop”.

Beginning with a jazz  fusion style drum roll and synth-horn improvisation,the song goes into a pulsing drum beat (accenting by the snare on one occasion) that is accompanied by a thick,phat and very funky slap bass line mixed right up front. That drum then turns into a rolling dance floor friendly,slow groove while the rhythm guitar comes in to play the higher pitched variation of the bass line right along with it. Along with the fusion like intro introducing each chorus? Not to mention the electric piano accompanied refrain? This groove keeps grinding itself into the listeners subconscious until it finally comes to an end.

While McKnights light (and often mildly over souling) vocal doesn’t add a great deal to the song itself? The way the chunky style bass/guitar funk groove holds up the songs extremely sensuous lyrical content provide some of the heaviest and strongest funk that Brian McKnight has ever produced in his long career. In a similar manner to Trombone Shorty’s “Long Weekend”? This songs slow grinding uptempo groove evokes the work of the underrated Ohio funk band Slave. Especially the bass playing of the late Mark “Mr.Mark” Adams. By focusing more on the instrumental groove than the vocals? This song,as Rique might put it,evokes a hip young middle class black American male circa 1980 driving around in a small car blasting Slave’s song “Watching You”. That plus it’s jazzy flavor make this a high water mark for instrumental funkiness for Brian McKnight

2 Comments

Filed under 2013, Brian McKnight, Funk, Funk Bass, guitar, jazz fusion, Mark "Mr.Mark" Adams, Ohio, Slave