You know, it's easy enough for me to sit here and complain about how no one's releasing any dope material anymore, how musicians suck, how the mainstream is so completely deaf to real music. It's easy to complain. But I've been asked to prepare a shortlist of some reissues and some definitive jazz recordings as a sort of "guide." I won't profess to know all as I list these, but these are simply recordings that have struck me in the past and I still listen to them daily because, well, they're dope as hell and the recordings themselves and those who have, out of pure love, brought these recordings back to market deserve the props. Look, you can listen to your stupid rock records, your Lil' Wayne records--I'll be listening to these ferocious reissues. I know not of the availability of these records--I simply just pulled them from my shelf. So, for those in the mood for a hunt, good luck. Records are in no specific order.
MICKEY AND THE SOUL GENERATION
IRON LEG: THE COMPLETE
Reissued under the careful eye and ear of Josh Davis (DJ Shadow, who also wrote the liners), Mickey and the Soul Generation's Iron Leg marked the genesis, really, of the reissuing phenomenon. The Soul Generation's organs and wah-wahs absolutely drip from every recording heard hear. It's less funk and more groove, but make no mistake--it's ill as hell. San Antonio's finest! Tejas representin'. Bonus disc collects six live recordings.
THEY SAY I'M DIFFERENT
Light in the Attic
I was floored when I got my grimies on this, one of two Betty Davis albums reissued by Light in the Attic last year. I ain't never heard any of her stuff and, by virtue of the sick heads at Light in the Attic, 2007 reintroduced Betty Davis to the world. Her abilities to use her vocals as an instrument are fantastically intriguing. She goes from cool, bluesy heartbreaker to absolutely explosive funkstress in the same song. Hell, sometimes she does it in the same lyric. They Say I'm Different reaches into a realm of funk largely unrecognized thanks to Betty's prowess. She's a beast.
TEXAS FUNK: BLACK GOLD FROM THE LONE STAR STATE
The wonderful heads at Jazzman have been doing this for quite some time--there's Midwest funk, Florida funk, Carolina funk and, this, my personal favorite. When you drive across the largest state in the continental US multiple times like I have, it's hard to imagine a time when funk roamed those vast farmlands. Like in the case of the Vern Blair Debate (featured here) from my own Lubbock, Texas! If you've been to Lubbock, it's basically a university and 150,000 people sitting right in the middle of thousands of miles of dirt and wind. But Jazzman found Vern Blair. Find this recording. In fact, visit their site for unprecedented selection of funk:
DIRTY LAUNDRY: THE SOUL OF BLACK COUNTRY
A Munich label that reissues rare black recordings in bizarre fashion (see also Hits and Misses: Muhammad Ali and the Ultimate Sound of Fistfighting), Trikont brings us this equally weird but uber-listenable compilation of country-inspired soul music--if that makes any sense at all. It's James Brown belting out "Your Cheatin' Heart" and Candi Staton singing "Stand By Your Man"--there's plenty to love on this collection. It might be a hard find, but seek it out. It's way ill.
The story goes like this: Charles Mingus made a historical trek through Europe in 1964 with Jaki Byard, Eric Dolphy and Clifford Brown. The tour would catch an inspired Eric Dolphy in the final months of his life and Charles Mingus as raw and mean as ever. The recordings had forever been bootlegged until Sue Mingus went on a tour of the region and walked into record stores and stealing the bootlegs citing, "I'm just taking back what you have taken from my husband." She took the recordings, remastered them, released them and called them Revenge! The sound is incredible and the recordings are as intimate as Charles Mingus live recordings get.
Before Cali-Tex became a household name for its amazing findings of funk treasures, there was Schoolhouse Funk, one of the earliest recordings to carry the imprint. Compiled by "Motorcycle John" (believed to be DJ Shadow, again), Schoolhouse Funk collects just that--high school jazz bands blasting out the meanest, funkiest and nastiest sounds you'll ever hear. Every time I listen to it, I'm still blown away by how technically gifted these musicians were at such a young age. These recordings make the Coronado High School Jazz Band sound like a cat dying.
Dusty Groove America
Hard to do any better describing this recording than how Dusty Groove does it on the back of the CD: "Mad keyboards galore--electric piano, Hammond, and more all played in a unique all-improvised session from teh legendary Pete Jolly. The set's unlike anything else that Pete ever recorded--and is in a space somewhere between CTI funk of the early 70s and some of Herbie Hancock's more experimental electric jams. Paul Humphrey handles the drums, alongside percussion from Milt Holland and Emil Richards--and the albums filled with incredible funk tracks that have a completely original flavor!"
HOME SCHOOLED: THE ABCS OF KID SOUL
In the increasingly competitive funk reissue market, Numero Group has managed to stay in front with their beautifully packaged and infinitely charming reissues. One of the most poignant compilations to come from the Numero Group is this--a compilation of soul tracks recorded by youngbloods of hungry parents looking to launch their kid to Michael Jackson status. The result is a adorable party of some of the sickest kids ever to take the bandstand.
THE FUNKY 16 CORNERS
Taken from the name of the Highlighters' tragically under-recognized classic track, The Funky 16 Corners was the paramount of funk reissues coming from traditionally hip hop labels. Stones Throw was among the earliest to channel old recordings through their label structure to their faithful fans. Because of their dedication, compilations like this, one of the finest to hit the market, have made funk aficianados out of hip hop heads and, in the process, have helped an entire generation rediscover the roots of hip hop. The Funky 16 Corners is just one of those compilations that never grows old.
Light in the Attic
You gotta love Light in the Attic. Not only are they the nicest guys on the planet, but they put out some of the baddest material you've ever heard. Wheedle's Groove introduces us to the nicest players from their hometown of Seattle. Taken from decade's span (1965-1975), Wheedle's Groove (with a few exceptions that honor Seattle's current funk scene) is a brilliantly compilation of clean remasters that introduce heads to the Black On White Affair (one of the baddest bands I've ever heard) and the Overton Berry Trio and their slick instrumental version of "Hey Jude." I wish I knew what "Attic" those dudes found their vinyl in.
And for that cat that's spent his last four years spreading lies about me and dragging my name through the dirt to my partners and co-workers, I'd advise keeping my name out of your mouth on your extended period of vacation. You're a coward, a fake and a child. The most sickening element of your game is that you hide your hatred behind this persona as a God-fearing family man. I won't call you out by name like you've done to me, but you know who you are. You're a front, but your deception has now been exposed. I look forward to our next conversation, punkass.