Category: funk

On this day in music history: July 12, 1971 – …

On this day in music history: July 12, 1971 – “Maggot Brain”, the third album by Funkadelic is released. Produced by George Clinton, it is recorded at Universal Studios in Detroit, MI from Late 1970 – Early 1971. Having established themselves with their self-titled debut and “Free Your Mind… And Your Ass Will Follow” in 1970, Funkadelic cultivate a sizable and loyal cult following with their unique brand of R&B, Funk and psychedelic rock influenced by the band’s prolific intake of LSD. The songs on their third album address concerns such as class and racial inequality, interpersonal relationships, the need for unity among people, and the ongoing war in Vietnam. The albums’ mesmerizing title track recorded in only a single take is its centerpiece. A nearly ten and a half minute long opus, featuring an epic solo by guitarist Eddie Hazel is inspired when George Clinton, who is tripping on acid, tells Hazel to play like he has just heard that his mother had died, and to put his emotions into his solo. Prior to the release of “Maggot Brain”, original members Hazel, Tawl Ross, Billy “Bass” Nelson, and Tiki Fulwood leave the band over financial and business disputes with Clinton. In spite of this, “Maggot Brain” becomes another success for Funkadelic, and its status as an important and influential album grows as the years pass. Numerous bands including Santana, Pearl Jam, Widespread Panic and Gov’t Mule cover “Maggot Brain” in live performances. The album  spins off three singles including “Can You Get To It” (#44 R&B, #93 Pop), “Hit It And Quit It” and “You And Your Folks, Me And My Folks” (#42 R&B, #91 Pop). It is remastered and reissued on CD in 2005 with three bonus tracks, including an alternate mix of the title track. The albums striking cover photos of a black woman (fashion model Barbara Cheeseborough) buried up to her neck and screaming (with a skull posed the same way on the back), taken by photographer Joel Brodsky (The Doors), become iconic images. Reissued on CD and vinyl numerous times over the years, most recently the vinyl LP edition is issued by 4 Men With Beards Records in 2014. Besides the standard black vinyl pressing, the label also issues limited edition colored vinyl LP’s (1,000 copies each) on orange, blue and white marbled, purple, and “Chocofunkalatte"vinyl. “Maggot Brain” peaks at number fourteen on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number One Hundred Eight on the Top 200.

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https://www.soultracks.com/first-listen-maurice-white-couldnt-be-me

On this day in music history: July 11, 1980 – …

On this day in music history: July 11, 1980 – “Wide Receiver”, the fifth album by Michael Henderson is released. Produced by Michael Henderson, it is recorded at United Sound Studios, Sound Suite in Detroit, MI, Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, PA, The Record Plant and Allen Zentz Recording in Los Angeles, CA from March – June 1980. A talented and highly versatile musician from an early age, Detroit native Michael Henderson establishes his reputation as a first rate bassist before even graduating from high school. At sixteen, he’s hired as a touring musician for Stevie Wonder as well as doing session work. In 1970, Henderson meets jazz icon Miles Davis during a gig backing Stevie at the Regal Theater in Chicago. Highly impressed with the young bassist, Davis jokingly but seriously tells Wonder, “I’m taking your f*cking bassist!”. Joining Davis’ band, Michael Henderson plays on several seminal albums recorded during Miles’ “electric period” including “Live-Evil”, “Jack Johnson”, “On The Corner”, “Get Up With It” and “Agharta”. Henderson leaves Davis’ band in 1975 to focus on a solo career after the trumpeter is side lined by health and substance abuse problems. The same year, the bassist records with jazz drummer Norman Connors, writing and singing the hit “Valentine Love” (#10 R&B). The following year, Henderson scores another major hit with Connors with the classic “You Are My Starship” (#4 R&B, #27 Pop). He is then signed as a solo artist to Buddah Records, releasing four albums and scoring more hits including “Be My Girl” (#23 R&B) and “Take Me I’m Yours” (#3 R&B, #88 Pop). In 1980, Henderson begins work on his fifth solo album. Along with friend and guitarist Ray Parker, Jr., Ollie E. Brown (drums) and Sylvester Rivers (keyboards), the album also features a young background singer from Detroit named Cheryl Norton. She goes on to greater fame during the 80’s as R&B singer Cherrelle. Primarily known as a soul balladeer from his previous hits, the new album marks a pronounced shift in that musical direction. Along with guitarist Randall Jacobs (later a member of Was (Not Was)), the bassist comes up with the up tempo and ultra-funky “Wide Receiver” (#4 R&B, #42 Club Play). Sporting a wicked back beat, references to NFL football and teaming with sly and humorous sexual double entendres, the song is an instant smash on R&B radio, though some stations actually ban the record for being “too suggestive”. It spins off two more singles including “Prove It” (#27 R&B) and “Reach Out For Me”. Out of print for many years, “Wide Receiver” is remastered and reissued on CD in 1997 by EMI/The Right Stuff Records, and is reissued again briefly by UK label Superbird Records in 2010. In 2014, it is reissued by Funky Town Grooves Records, featuring five additional bonus tracks. “Wide Receiver” peaks at number six on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number thirty five on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: July 10, 1985 – …

On this day in music history: July 10, 1985 – “Pop Life” by Prince & The Revolution is released. Written and produced by Prince, it is released as the second single issued from “Around The World In A Day”. With the “Purple Rain” film and soundtrack all but complete by early 1984, Prince does not rest on his laurels as he continues his prolific streak of writing and recording new material. “Pop Life” is written during this period, recording it at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA on February 19, 1984. The track features Prince playing most of the instruments with Sheila E. on drums, and Wendy and Lisa providing background vocals. The end of the song features a sample of a hostile audience yelling “throw the bum out” at Prince while opening for The Rolling Stones in 1981. The single is backed with the non LP B-side “Hello”, which is written in response to the criticism leveled at Prince due to him not participating in the recording of “We Are The World”, as well as the intrusiveness of the press in the wake of his huge mainstream success.  The track is recorded at Sunset Sound Recorders on May 24, 1985. “Hello” also features background vocals by Jill Jones. Both “Pop Life” and “Hello” are released with significantly longer versions on a 12" single simultaneously with the 7". The US 12" of “Pop” features a remix of that track by Sheila E., with the UK release including a different and much longer remix. The US 12" mix makes its CD debut on the compilation “Ultimate Prince” in 2006. “Pop Life” peaks at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 on September 21, 1985,  and #8 on the R&B singles chart on September 14, 1985.

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On this day in music history: July 9, 1982 – &…

On this day in music history: July 9, 1982 – “Keepin’ Love New”, the debut album by Howard Johnson is released. Produced by Kashif, Morrie Brown and Paul Laurence Jones, it is recorded at Celestial Sounds Studios and  Mediasound Studios in New York City from Early – Mid 1982. Born and raised in Miami, FL, Howard Johnson begins his music career performing in various bands, during the early to mid 70’s. In 1977, Johnson meets fellow musician Sandy Torano, while singing in a local bar. Having previously worked with major R&B acts like Phyllis Hyman and The Commodores. Torano asks Johnson to join his band Niteflyte as a vocalist. Johnson accepts the offer. They are signed to Ariola America Records in late 1978, and record their self titled debut album. Niteflyte quickly hit pay dirt in the Spring of 1979 with the infectious and breezy “If You Want It” (#21 R&B, #37 Pop). Unfortunately, it is the only sizable hit the band have. When they only land two more minor R&B hits, and a second album fails, Niteflyte breaks up. However, Howard Johnson is not out of the mix for long, when he is offered a solo contract with A&M Records. The talented singer is paired with songwriter and producers Kashif, Paul Laurence Jones and Morrie Brown to work on his first albums. The producers behind Evelyn “Champagne” King’s (then known as Evelyn King) major comeback smash “I’m In Love”, the trio proceed to work their magic on Johnson as well. Taking the singer to their home base of New York City, they hit the studio to work on his debut solo album. Kashif comes up with the funky mid tempo groove “So Fine” (#6 R&B, #1 Club Play), for Howard. The song features scintillating multi-tracked harmony vocals, and a Moog keyboard bass line that won’t quit. “So Fine” also features a who’s who of great New York background singers including a then unknown Freddie Jackson, Fonzi Thornton, B.J. Nelson, Michelle Cobbs, Philip Ballou and Regi King. The single quickly catches fire during the Summer of 1982, ascending the R&B and dance charts simultaneously. That is followed up by the title track “Keepin’ Love New” (#47 R&B) in the Fall. When Kashif and the others become involved with other musical projects, Howard Johnson works with other producers including David Frank and Mic Murphy of The System, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on his second and third A&M albums. Only landing two more top 30 R&B hits, Johnson forms the duo Johnson & Branson with singer Regis Branson. They release their self titled album on A&M in 1989, yielding only minor hits with “Let’s Get To Know Each Other Better”, “Jockin’ Me” and “So Much Emotion”. The album flops and they are dropped by A&M Records. Johnson will remain active in the music business, working with singer Donna Allen (“Serious”, “Joy And Pain”), recording the duet “Perfect Timing”.  In 2002, Johnson & Branson reunite briefly, recording a second album titled “Packed & Waitin’”, which is only released in Japan. The album features a new updated version of “So Fine”.  And after a nearly twenty five year hiatus, Howard Johnson releases his self titled fourth album in 2010. Out of print in any form for more than thirty years, Johnson’s major label debut album is remastered and reissued by PTG Records in 2005. “Keepin’ Love New” peaks at number ten on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number one hundred twenty two on the Top 200.

 

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On this day in music history: July 7, 1984 – &…

On this day in music history: July 7, 1984 – “When Doves Cry” by Prince hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 5 weeks, topping the R&B singles chart for 8 weeks on June 30, 1984, and also topping the Club Play chart for 6 weeks on June 30, 1984. Written and produced by Prince, it is the first pop and second R&B chart topper for the virtuoso singer, songwriter and musician from Minneapolis, MN. After principal photography on his first film “Purple Rain” is completed, director Albert Magnoli asks Prince to write another song for the film to underscore a montage sequence describing the vibe that he’s looking for. Stating “that it’s about your parents and about loss and redemption”. Prince tells Magnoli “OK”, and comes back the next day with not one but two songs that he feels will suit the director’s request. The two settle on “When Doves Cry”, and Prince goes off to work on it immediately. Prince enters Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA on March 1, 1984, with the assistance of engineer Peggy McCreary (aka “Peggy Mac”) recording and mixing the track in a single thirty six hour long session. Released on May 16, 1984, ten weeks ahead of the films July 27, 1984 opening date, the record is an instant smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #57 on June 2, 1984, it streaks to the top of the chart five weeks later. By the time the single drops off the charts it has sold over three million copies in the US alone, making “When Doves Cry” the top selling single of 1984. The single is backed with the non-LP B-side “17 Days” (full title: “17 Days (the rain will come down, then U will have 2 choose. If U believe, look 2 the dawn and U shall never lose.)”). Originally intended for Apollonia 6’s album, Prince keeps the track for himself, becoming a firm fan favorite. “When Doves Cry” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: July 7, 1973 – &…

On this day in music history: July 7, 1973 – “Doing It To Death” by Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #22 on the Hot 100 on July 14, 1973. Written and produced by James Brown, it is the biggest hit for the R&B/Funk band led by trombonist Fred Wesley. The song is the first single to be credited to James Brown’s backing band The J.B.’s and trombonist and musical director Wesley. The track is recorded at International Studios in Augusta, GA on January 29, 1973. The master take runs over thirteen minutes (later released in its entirety on the compilation “Funky Good Time” in 1995), is edited down to just over ten minutes and is released on The J.B.’s album “Doing It To Death” (originally on Brown’s People Records imprint). The single version is pared down to just over five minutes. The song is unusual as it has a key change that modulates down from F to D, rather than upward. “Doing It To Death” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: July 7, 1973 – &…

On this day in music history: July 7, 1973 – “Will It Go Round In Circles” by Billy Preston hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also peaking at #10 on the R&B singles chart on June 16, 1973. Written by Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher, it is the first pop chart topper for the virtuoso keyboardist and songwriter from Houston, TX. Preston shows his initial idea his writing partner Fisher, telling him he had a song but no melody. He quickly writes lyrics and a melody to Preston’s music, crafting it into a finished song. The track also features two young musicians that Preston hires for his band named George and Louis Johnson.  After leaving Preston’s band in 1975, the brothers are taken under the wing of producer Quincy Jones, writing songs and performing on Jones’ album “Mellow Madness”. The pair also signed to A&M Records themselves as The Brothers Johnson. “Circles” is released as the lone single from “Music Is My Life” in February of 1973. Entering the Hot 100 at #99 on March 31, 1973, it climbs to the top of the chart fourteen weeks later. The success of “Will It Go Round In Circles” enables co-writer Bruce Fisher to quit his day job working in the mailroom at NBC and work as a songwriter full time. “Will It Go Round In Circles” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: July 5, 1986 – &…

On this day in music history: July 5, 1986 – “Control” by Janet Jackson hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 2 weeks. Produced by Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Janet Jackson, it is recorded at Flyte Time Studios in Minneapolis, MN from August – October 1985. After Janet Jackson’s first two albums (released in 1982 and 1984), only achieve modest sales, A&M Records executive John McClain suggests that she work with songwriter and producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Formerly members of the R&B/Funk band The Time, the pair establish themselves as major up and coming producers after their initial success with acts including The S.O.S. Band, Change, and Thelma Houston. Jam and Lewis meet with Jackson, and develop an instant rapport. With Jackson eager to establish herself apart from her famous musical family, and wanting greater independence, she travels to the producers home base in Minneapolis, MN to work with them. “Control” proves to be Jackson’s breakthrough release, spinning off five top five singles each reaching a different chart position within the pop top five, with five of the albums six singles reaching #1 on the R&B singles chart, “What Have You Done For Me Lately” (#4 Pop, #1 R&B), “Nasty” (#3 Pop, #1 R&B), “When I Think Of You” (#1 Pop, #3 R&B), “Control” (#5 Pop, #1 R&B), “Let’s Wait Awhile” (#2 Pop, #1 R&B) and “The Pleasure Principle” (#14 Pop, #1 R&B). “Control” is certified 6x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: July 5, 1975 – &…

On this day in music history: July 5, 1975 – “Slippery When Wet” by The Commodores hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #19 on the Hot 100 on August 9, 1975. Written by Thomas McClary, it is the first chart topping single for the R&B/Funk band from Tuskegee, AL. After finally hitting the charts in 1974 with their debut album “Machine Gun”, containing the classic title track and the equally funky follow ups “I Feel Sanctified” and “The Zoo (The Human Zoo)”, the Commodores begin work on their sophomore effort with producer James Anthony Carmichael. Written by guitarist Thomas McClary, the firmly in the pocket groove of the slyly provocative “Slippery When Wet” is an obvious stand out from the beginning. With drummer Walter Orange handling nearly all of the lead vocal duties on the previous album, “Slippery” marks the first Commodores single to feature Lionel Richie singing lead, at the suggestion of Motown executive Suzanne DePasse. Released as the first single from “Caught In The Act” in April of 1975, “Slippery When Wet” catches fire quickly. Racing up the R&B chart within ten weeks of its debut, it makes a fast crossover to pop radio, becoming the Commodores second top 40 pop single. The success of the song propels the album into the top ten on the R&B album chart (#7 R&B), and into the top 30 (#26 Pop) on the Billboard Top 200.

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