Category Archives: Funk/ R&B/ Hip Hop

The Dawn of Hip-Hop DJs

From Brooklyn Disco to the Bronx Playground

“The idea of a d.j. making something new out of other people’s music might seem preposterous. But there’s no question that a real d.j. can shape a night of music with his personality, style, and spirit, magically turning a string of records into a spontaneous symphony.”

–Vince Aletti– The Disco Files 1973-1978
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Parliament: Mothership Connection

1976’s Mothership Connection is one of the best albums George Clinton released under the Parliament banner in the five years between 1975 and 1980. During that period the group released an incredible nine records (no greatest hits or live sets, either) and toured relentlessly. When not busy with Parliament, Clinton was busy supervising recording by his other group, Funkadelic, or the P-Funk All Stars, Bootsy Collins, The Brides of Funkenstein, Bernie Worrell, or Zapp. What is incredible is the high quality of all this music. To say, then, that Mothership Connection stands out among the work of this period is high praise indeed.

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David Axelrod/The Edge: David Axelrod at Capitol Records 1966–1970

Read David Axelrod: Soul on the Edge

David Axelrod/The Edge

David Axelrod stands as one of a handful of record producers who created a sound that, regardless of the artist with whom he was working, was recognizable as an Axelrod production. Phil Spector possessed a similar ability, as did Willie Mitchell. But Axelrod specialized in a gritty yet elegant sound that owed a great deal to the black urban experience.

The Edge: David Axelrod at Capitol DRecords 1966–1970 collects some of Axelrod’s production work as well as a selection of tracks from his own albums. Although you’ll have to hit the crates to find a number of Axelrod’s releases, this is a decent introductory CD. 

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Tony Joe White Lived It and Wrote It

by Marshall Bowden

Tony Joe White passed away on October 24, 2018. He died suddenly at home of a heart attack only weeks after the release of his album Bad Mouthin’. The following piece is adapted from a review of White’s album The Heroines with additional observations on his collaborations with Shelby Lynne.

Tony Joe White’s music is generally described as swamp rock, and it is true that he was one of the first performers to have a hit record with that sound. Back in 1969, when “Polk Salad Annie” became a hit record, there were a few other performers, mostly black, playing a swampy cocktail of sounds from the southern United States, but the mainstream public had never really heard most of them.

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Sun Goddess

How the paths of Ramsey Lewis and Maurice White led to the recording of this quiet storm classic

Ramsey Lewis recorded this track in 1974 with Maurice White & members of Earth Wind  & Fire

by Marshall Bowden

Ramsey Lewis was one of the more popular jazz musicians of the 1950s and 1960s, bridging the gap between gospel, blues, soul, and jazz. The Lewis of this period is best known for his gospel and blues-inflected pop tunes with a heavy backbeat, such as “The ‘In’ Crowd”, “A Hard Day’s Night”, and “Hang On Sloopy”.

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Aretha Arriving: Young, Gifted and Black

Aretha Franklin, great American singer, songwriter and pianist, passed away on August 16th. As a tribute, New Directions In Music takes a look at her landmark 1972 recording Young, Gifted and Black and Ms. Franklin’s place in the movement for black equality in America.

by Marshall Bowden

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Aretha Franklin had already had a long career by 1972. She had recorded a number of records for Columbia Records in styles that were largely jazz and cabaret singer settings, with only smatterings of R&B and soul, with tepid results. Her move to Atlantic Records put her into the orbit of Jerry Wexler, Arif Martin, and Tom Down and Aretha’s subsequent Atlantic releases were largely R&B and soul affairs with pop covers and the occasional look back at an earlier style

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