THINGS GONNA GET BETTER: STREET FUNK AND JAZZ GROOVES 1970-1977.
THINGS GONNA GET BETTER: STREET FUNK AND JAZZ GROOVES 1970-1977.
As the seventies dawned, America was still at war in Vietnam, and the struggle for racial equality continued. Things were improving, but still, when it came to racal equality, America’s report card said “could do better.” There was hope though.
The civil rights movement hoped that as the seventies progressed, the racial barriers that had blighted America’s recent past would become be consigned to the dustbin of history. After all, wasn’t America a more prosperous country than it had once been?
Following World War II, America went on to enjoy a prolonged period of economic expansion. The automobile, aviation and electronics industries thrived, while new industries prospered. Between 1940 and 1960, America’s Gross Domestic Product increased by 150%. Meanwhile, housing became more affordable, and more Americans qualified for mortgages. Many of these homebuyers, were the baby boomers. Their spending power helped fuel the economy during what economists called the Long Boom. By 1969, America was certainly a much more prosperous country.
Unemployment had fallen between from 6.7% in 1961 to 3.9%. With unemployment less than 5%, American economists referred to America as enjoying full employment. America it seemed, was a much better place as the seventies dawned.
Or so it seemed. There was still poverty and unemployment in both urban and rural America. Homelessness was still a problem, and every night, people slept on city streets. Many of those slewing rough were veterans who had returned home from Vietnam. They had suffered horrendous injuries; but in their hour of need, their country failed them. Across America, thousands of veterans were struggling financially, living in abject poverty. This included a disproportionate amount of young black men.
Civil rights activists had analysed the figures of those that died or were injured in Vietnam. They discovered that, a a disproportionate amount of those killed or injured were young black men. The injured were suffering from either of physical and psychological problems. Some of those let down by their country, turned to drugs to blot out the pain. Soon they had a drug problem. This would be one of the many problems that blighted America during the seventies.
Little did anyone know that the seventies would become one of the most turbulent decades in American history. America was consumed by Watergate, which lead to the impeachment and resignation of President Nixon on August 8th 1974. That day President Richard Nixon was transformed into Tricky Dicky. His presidency hadn’t been the most successful.
Just a year earlier, on March 29th 1973, America ended its military involvement in Vietnam. It was the war that America couldn’t win. The war in Vietnam cost America dearly. 58,282 American soldiers were killed in action, and another 303,644 Americans were wounded. Many of those that came home when the war ended, came home to a turbulent America.
No longer was America the prosperous country of the sixties. As the veterans returned home in 1973, they discovered an Oil Embargo. It had a serious affect on the American economy. Especially when the price of oil quickly quadrupled. To make matters worse, unemployment had risen and was 4.9%. It would continue to rise, reaching 8% later in the seventies. By 1979, there was another oil crisis, and stagflation had hit the American economy. Inflation at just over 10%, poverty rife and a feeling of discontent could be felt across America. Workers felt they had no option but to strike. Elsewhere, the ghettos in American cities became a breeding ground for disaffected youth. America wasn’t the same country as it had been during the hope filled sixties. However, one thing didn’t change, the quality of music.
Especially the music many black Americans were listening to. They enjoyed a soundtrack of groundbreaking music, which often had a social conscience. Everyone from Funkadelic and Vernon Garrett to Richard “Groove” Holmes, Idris Muhammad and Lonnie Liston Smith, to Don Julian and The Larks, Harold Alexander and Pretty Purdie and The Playboys provided the backdrop to black America between 1970 and 1977. These artist feature on the BGP Records’ compilation Things Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977, which is the latest instalment in Things Gonna Get Better series.
Things Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977 opens with Funkadelic’s A Joyful Process. It’s a track from Funkadelic’s 1972 album America Eats Its Young which was released on Westbound Records on May 22nd 1972. The album reached 123 on the US Billboard 200, and number twenty-two on the US R&B charts. When Loose Booty was released as a single, A Joyful Process was on the B-Side. Those that flipped over to the flip side, discovered a delicious and joyous slice of P-Funk produced by George Clinton. It veers between has a loose, lysergic and cinematic, to a much tougher funky sound. The addition of lush strings is a masterstroke, to a track that would grace any Blaxploitation soundtrack.
By 1975, Vernon Garrett had renewed his acquaintance with the Bihari brothers. They had worked with Vernon Garrett before, so when they launched their new label Big Town, gave him a call. Vernon Garrett went on to release one album and four singles for Big Town. The album was Going To My Place Baby as a single. Hidden away on the flip side was a cover of Billy Ray Charles’ One Man’s Loss. It was produced by Billy McCloud and features a truly impassioned, soul-baring vocal from Vernon Garett. It’s enough to make you seek out the original album. However, an original copy will set you back $329 or £253.
Richard “Groove” Holmes was one of the many Hammond organists who were popular during the sixties and seventies. However, Richard “Groove” Holmes stood out from the crowd, and was one of the most successful B3 players. He had enjoyed a top ten US R&B hit with Misty in 1966, when he was signed to Prestige. After leaving Prestige, Richard “Groove” Holmes had short spells with other labels, and in 1975 signed to Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions.
That’s where Richard “Groove” Holmes released Six Million Dollar Man. Without doubt, one of the highlights of the album was 125th St And 7th Ave. It features a nimble fingered funky performance from one of the masters of the big burner.
In 1971, thirty-two year old drummer Idris Muhammad was signed to Prestige. Later that year, he released his debut album Peace and Rhythm. The following year, 1972, I’m A Believer was released as a single. It was easily, one of the highlight of Peace and Rhythm. No wonder. I’m A Believer featured the vocal prowess of Sakina Muhammad. She delivers the lyrics as if she means every word, while the all-star band combine jazz and funk seamlessly. So good is this song, it’ll make a believer out of you.
Lonnie Liston Smith has to be one of the most underrated jazz musicians of the seventies and eighties. He released a quartet of albums for Columbia between 1978 and 1980. They’re must haves for anyone interested in jazz-funk. Especially 1980s Love Is The Answer, which features Give Peace A Chance (Make Love Not War). It was easily the highlight of Love Is The Answer. So it was no surprise when this the hook-laden anthem was released as a single in 1980. It’s lyrics are just as relevant today, as they were in 1980.
The same year Richard “Groove” Holmes released Six Million Dollar Man on Flying Dutchman Productions, Oliver Nelson released Skull Sessions. By then, Oliver Nelson had established a reputation for providing the themes to television and movies. However, that was only part of the story.
In 1975, the alto saxophonist released the album Skull Session. It’s one real hidden gem of an album, which features a stunningly grotesque album cover. One of the highlights of Skull Session was the title-track, where Oliver Nelson combines traditional instruments and new technology. Synth are utilised on Skull Session which takes on a futuristic, cinematic sound. It showcases the multitalented Missouri born musician. Sadly, it was the final album released during Oliver Nelson’s lifetime. He died of heart attack later in 1975, aged just forty-three.
During the seventies, Blaxploitation movies became a phenomenon. The quality of films varied from genre classics like Shaft, Super Fly and Black Caesar. Other Blaxploitation movies were parodic, while some were decidedly average. However, many a Blaxploitation’s movies saving grace was an uber funky soundtrack. That’s no surprise. Some of the great and good of soul, jazz and funk recorded Blaxploitation soundtrack, including Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Melvin Van Peebles, James Brown and Sun Ra. However, a name many people may not of heard about is Don Julian and The Larks.
They provided the soundtrack to the 1973 Blaxploitation movie Shorty The Pimp. It was later rereleased by Ace Records in 1998. The title track then featured on Don Julian and The Larks’ 1974 album Super Slick. Shorty The Pimp is one of the standout tracks from Super Slick. Soulful and funky, it epitomises the sort of track that featured on an early seventies Blaxploitation movie.
The Solicitors are one of hundreds and thousands of groups who released just a few singles, before calling time on their career. One of the singles The Solicitors released was Music For The Brothers, which was released on Excello in 1970. Music For The Brothers is a blistering slice of instrumental funk. It’s musical gold, that DJs and sample hungry producers will treasure.
Soulful and funky describes Billy Sha-Rae’s Do It. It sounds as if it belongs on Blaxploitation soundtrack. Do It was released by Billy Sha-Rae in 1970, on Spectrum Records. Later, Billy Sha-Rae seems to pay homage to James Brown as he vamps his way through the uber funky Do It.
Some people will remember Harold Alexander from his time with Pucho and His Latin Soul Brothers. However, by 1971 Harold Alexander was about to embark upon a solo career. He signed to Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions. Harold Alexander released his debut album Sunshine Man in 1971. It featured a musical masterclass from Harold Alexander on The Rope, one of Sunshine Man highlights.
Back in 1971, Gil-Scott Heron was signed to Flying Dutchman Productions. That was when Gil-Scott Heron, Brian Jackson and vocalist Victor Brown formed a group Black and Blues. They recorded just a trio of tracks, including Chains. Sadly, none of the songs were released, until 2014. That’s when they featured on BGP Records extended reissue of Gil-Scott Heron’s Pieces Of A Man. Two years later, and Chains makes a welcome appearance on the BGP Records compilation Things Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977. Chains is a truly beautiful, heart-wrenching track which features an impassioned deliver from Victor Brown.
My final choice from Things Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977 is Pretty Purdie and The Playboys’ Whatcha See Is Whatcha You Get. This was a track from Stand By Me (Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get), the only album that Pretty Purdie and The Playboys ever released. It was released in 1971, on Flying Dutchman Productions, and features a stunning solo from New York session drummer, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie on this wistful sounding, timeless track.
Although funk and jazz compilations are plentiful, Things Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977 stands head and shoulders above the competition. They’re mere also-rans compared to Things Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977. It’s the second, and best instalment in BGP Records’ Things Gonna Get Better series.
BGP Records, an imprint of Ace Records have been releasing quality funk and jazz compilations for over twenty years. So much so, the BGP Records’ logo is synonymous with quality. So is Dean Rudland’s name.
Dean Rudland is a veteran of countless critically acclaimed compilations. The latest is Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977. It’s the latest in a long line of quality compilations bearing Dean Rudland’s name. Not for the first time, Dean Rudland has compiled what can only be described as a must have compilation for fans of jazz and funk. That’s no surprise.
Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977 oozes quality, and will be a welcome addition to any record collection. The twenty tracks are a mixture of singles, B-Sides, album tracks and Dave Hamilton’s unreleased track What’s The Matter With The World. That’s what many Americans must have been thinking during what was one of the most turbulent decades in modern day American history.
Between 1970 and 1977, America seemed to stumble from crisis crisis. By 1973, America had left Vietnam, having realised this was one war they couldn’t win. As the veterans returned home, the Oil Embargo began. Soon, the price of oil quadrupled. Less than a year later, President Nixon was impeached and resigned in 1974. When he left office, unemployed was rising, while poverty and inequality were still rife. It was a far cry from the hope of the sixties. However, one thing hadn’t changed, and that was the quality of music being produced in the land of the free. This includes the twenty tracks on Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977, which is must-have compilation for anyone who likes funk, jazz and soul.
THINGS GONNA GET BETTER: STREET FUNK AND JAZZ GROOVES 1970-1977.