FUNCTION UNDERGROUND-THE BLACK AND AMERICAN ROCK SOUND 1969-1974.

Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974.

Now Again Records.

Just over a month ago, Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 was released by Now Again Records on vinyl as part of Record Store Day as a limited edition of 2,000. As a result, many people who wanted a copy of Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 were left empty handed and disappointed.

Fast forward five weeks, and Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 has been released on CD by Now Again Records. Those who were left empty handed and disappointed on Record Store Day, now have a big smile on their face. Especially since a CD copy of Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 is less than half the price of the vinyl edition. This leaves more money to be spent on vinyl or CDs. More importantly though, they’ve got a copy of Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 which features many oft-overlooked and hard to find tracks. 

This includes 1984’s There’s A Wrinkle In Our Time, Purple Snow’s Down By The River, Jimi Macon’s Jimi’s Guitar Raps With The Bass, Blacklites’ BL Movement, LA Carnival’s Blind Man Revolution The Siesta Is Over and Black Maffia’s I Want To Take You Higher. They’re just a  few of the fourteen tracks on Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974. It according to the hype that accompanies the release: “an overlooked and important portion (sic) of rock n’ roll’s history.

During the period that compilation covers, 1969-1974, rock music was by far, the most popular musical genre. That had been the case since for some time. However, by the period between 1969 and 1974, there were a number of different sub-genres of rock, ranging from psychedelic rock, folk rock and garage rock to  progressive rock, heavy rocky and symphonic rock. Bands from each of these sub-genres were enjoying successful careers, and releasing critically acclaimed classic albums. Many young people looked on enviously.

Especially, many young musicians who were either considering forming a band, or had just formed a band, these bands were living the dream. They wanted to follow in their footsteps and enjoy a tantalising taste of fame. This was the case on both sides of the Atlantic, with members of new bands dreaming that their band would become next Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd or Yes. That was no surprise, and was nothing new. 

Music had long been a career that offered an escape from the grinding poverty that blighted many countries. That was why many young people were buying a guitar, bass or drum kit on hire purchase, in the hope that one day, they would be a member of one of the lucky bands plucked from obscurity.

These bands started off practising in basements and garages, before graduating onto the local live scene. That was where groups hoped that they would come to the attention of local A&R reps for the major record labels. For bands in Britain and America, this was the start of a journey that ultimately, they hoped, would end in fame and fortune, and of course all the trappings that the rock star life brought.

This was something that members of new bands in Britain had been dreaming of since The Beatles changed musical history with Love Me Do in 1962. Two years later, the British Invasion groups arrived on the American shores, and proceeded to change musical history. 

After that, pop and rock began to dominate the US charts, while R&B became known as soul. It was no longer as popular as R&B had once been. While some soul artists enjoyed success, it was more sporadic. The exception was the music being made by the Motown soul factory in Detroit. Motown’s releases were very different to many other soul labels. This was soul with the rough edges smoothed away, that designed to appeal to all Americans. Purists saw Motown’s music as a sanitised and formulaic version of soul. However, Motown found an audience across the racial divide.

That was the case with many other types of music, and had been in America since the British Invasion in 1964. Young Americans bonded over their shared love of music. Music was something that brought together young people from different races and backgrounds, In a country divided by race, pop and rock music was something that brought the American youth together. 

This would continue to be the case. By the late-sixties, there were many multiracial bands. Among the most successful were  the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Love which was fronted by enigmatic Arthur Lee. Both bands would create important, innovative and influential music. So too would multiracial bands like Santana, Sly and The Family Stone and War, who incorporated rock into their genre-melting sound. Rock music had crossed there racial divide.

Not everyone believed or believes this. In the liner notes, the author recalls that:  “rock n’ roll became perceived as something for the Caucasian kids.” However, perception and reality are two very different things. From the late-sixties onwards, many new rock bands were being formed in American cities. Some were multiracial bands, while others featured members of the black population. They then embarked upon a career that they hoped would end with them releasing a single or album. These bands were the lucky ones, and the ones that enjoyed a degree of success. This includes the fourteen bands on Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974.

1984 open Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 with There’s A Wrinkle In Our Time. It was penned by 1984 and produced by Michael Nise. There’s A Wrinkle In Our Time was released on the Pennsylvania based Round Records in 1970. It’s an irresistible fusion of rock, funk and soul, which sadly, was the only release by Round Records and 1984.

Purple Snow released Down By The River in 1969, on the short-lived Saquarius’ label. The label’s only release was Down By The River, where Purple Snow showcase their talents as they combine rock, psychedelia and soul. There’s even a hint of CSNY during Down By The River, which sadly, was the only single Purple Snow released. 

Oe of the rarest singles on the compilation is Jimi Macon’s Jimi’s Guitar Raps With the Bass. It was released around 1970, on Doin’ Our Thing Records. It finds Jimi Macon unleashing a guitar masterclass. He deploys various effects including a wah-wah pedal, as he combines funk and rock on Jimi’s Guitar Raps With the Bass. It’s one of the finest moments on Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974.

Creations Unlimited released Corruption Is the Thing on the Soul Kitchen label in March 1972. There’s a definite Jimi Hendrix as Creations Unlimited, who are obviously talented musicians, as they fuse elements of funk, rock, soul and social comment.

Straight away, the lead guitar on We The People’s Function Underground, which as released on Darlene Records around 1969. Function Underground’s lead guitar has also been influenced by Jimi Hendrix. However, that’s just one of a myriad of influences that play their part in Function Underground. This includes rock, psychedelia, funk and jazz, as this genre-melting jam unfolds and reveals its secrets. 

Michael Liggins and The Super Souls With Duppa Jack released Loaded Back as a single the Arizona based Mighty label, in 1969. Loaded Back was produced by Mike Lenaburg, and is quite different from previous tracks. It’s a slow burner with a slow,  spacious arrangement. Just drums accompany a flute, before a blistering rock guitar is unlashed, and the band lock into a groove. They fuse rock, jazz and funk, and create a long lost hidden gem that’s sure to appeal to sample hungry hip hop producers. 

Stone Coal White released Stone Coal White in 1970, on the Shur ’N’ Tel label. It’s a lo-fi, guitar driven fusion of rock, funk and psychedelia which features another effects laden guitar masterclass.

On Blacklites’ BL Movement, which was released on Salt City Records, it’s keyboards that take centre-stage and jam. The rest of the band play a supporting role, as rock and funk are combined by Blacklites.

In 1969, the Ebony Rhythm Band were released Soul Heart Transplant as a single on the short-lived Lamp label. On the B-Side was Drugs Ain’t Cool which was produced by Herb Miller. As the song explodes into life, and the Ebony Rhythm Band deliver their message, and combine psychedelia, garage rock and rock on what was their only single. That’s a great shame, as the Ebony Rhythm Band being a talented band.

Cisneros and Garza Group released Funky Nassau as a single on L-Z-E Records in 1969. On the B-Side was I’m A Man. It’s a hidden gem, where Cisneros and Garza Group combine elements of funk, soul, jazz and rock to create a melodic and memorable song.

In 1970, LA Carnival released Blind Man as a single on Pacific Avenue Records. It features a heartfelt, soulful and an arrangement that’s a mixture of funk and rock. Together, they create another of the highlights of Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974.

The Revolution throw a curveball during the introduction to The Siesta Is Over. An organ that sounds as if it belongs in a church plays, before The Revolution unleash a fusion of rock, funk and soul that was released during 1970, on M&M Records. 

In 1971, The Black Conspirators released L-O-V-E as a single. On the B-Side was Just Gotta Be Free, a fusion of funk, soul  and rock. From the opening bars, it’s obvious that The Black Conspirators are talented musicians. They create a genre-melting track were funk and soul combine with blistering rocky, guitars. Together they create an uber funky, dance-floor friendly, soulful song.

Black Maffia’s I Wanna Take You Higher has never been released before, and is thought to have been recorded by the Black Maffia around 1970. It’s another fusion of funky and rock that showcases another talented band during this live jam. It’s a welcome addition to Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974, and closes the compilation.

As compilations go eclectic described Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974. This isn’t rock in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, it’s rock given a twist. Elements of funk, jazz and soul are added to the mix, on Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound. It’s a compilation that will appeal to many different music fans. 

Especially anyone whose interested in funk, jazz, soul,  rock and psychedelia. Similarly, anyone who buys compilations to discover new music, then Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 then will be of interest to them. It features fourteen rarities, ranging from singles, B-Sides and an unreleased track. There’s several hidden gems, and tracks that be of interest to sample hungry hip hop producers. Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 will appeal to a variety of people. 

This also includes those who were unable to find a copy of the vinyl edition on Record Store Day. For many people, Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 was at the top of the their Record Store Day wish-list. That was no surprise, given the quality of Now Again Records’ previous releases. However, with only 2,000 vinyl copies of Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 for sale on Record Store Day 2017, many people were left empty handed and disappointed, Not any more, given the release of Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974. That disappointment has been replaced by a big smile and a CD copy of Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974, which is the latest lovingly curated release from Now Again Records.

Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974.

 

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