Thursday, March 31, 2011

Friday Funkdown | The Meters

The Meters were a New Orleans-based band that was active from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s.  Original band members were Art Neville (vocals), Leo Nocentelli (guitar), George Porter Jr. (bass) and Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste (drums).  Their sound is undeniable earthy and groovy and can be heard in such tracks as “Cissy Strut”, “Sophisticated Cissy”, “Look-Ka-Py-Py” and my favorite “The Hand Clapping Song”.
In 1974, they were invited to play a private party for Paul McCarthy.  He was releasing his album Venus and Mars aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA.  Soon after they toured world with The Rolling Stones in 1975 and 1976.  The band broke up in 1977.
Neville went on to gain huge success with The Neville Brothers, and after playing drums for Keith Richards, Zigaboo Modeliste decided to sue his producers over a contract dispute.  Zigaboo’s lawsuit continues to this day.  In his words; “When I found out how we was pillaged, how we was misused and abused, I couldn't get over it.  I just completely put the drums in the closet.”
Although they were never a big mainstream success, The Meters were highly influential to the funk movement.  Their music has been sampled by numerous hip-hop artists over the years, most notably Public Enemy, Gang Starr, Cypress Hill,  N.W.A., and Ice Cube in the late 80s/early 90s.
Doug Motta, who continues to enlighten me in the “I thought that sounded familiar” category of music, introduced me to this band.  I was amazed by the amount of samples that created some of my favorite songs of that era.  If it wasn’t for The Meters, we would have missed out on this hip-hop classic!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Funkdown | Average White Band

The Average White Band (AWB) was formed as a Scottish funk band in 1972 by original members  Alan Gorrie, Malcolm “Molly” Duncan, Hamish Stuart, Roger Ball, Robbie McIntosh and Onnie McIntyre.  They had their big breakthrough in 1973 when Eric Claptons tour manager Bruce McCaskill liked them so much that he decided to manage them.  Soon after, they relocated to Los Angeles and were signed to Atlantic records in 1974. 
They reached the height of their success in 1975 with the single “Pick Up The Pieces” which sold over one million copies.  The song knocked Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good" out of #1 on its way to the top of the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.
You can hear samples from many AWB tracks by artists including the Beastie Boys, Arrested Development, TLC, The Beatnuts, Too Short, Ice Cube and Nas. 
My good friend Doug Motta first introduced me to AWB in 1999.  Since then, I have been a huge fan.  I always keep “Pick Up The Pieces”, “Cut The Cake” and one of my all time favorites “School Boy Crush” in heavy funk rotation.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Funkdown | Lakeside

Lakeside is a funk band that was formed in the early 1970’s from many former members of two bands, The Nomads and The Young Underground.  The two groups played together in musical venues in the Tri-State (Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky) area.  Soon after, the two bands combined to form the Ohio Lakeside Express and eventually “Lakeside”.  After some bickering between members of the two bands, guitarist Steve Shockley, keyboardist Norman Beavers, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist and lead vocalist Otis Stokes, lead vocalist Mark Wood, background vocalist Tiemeyer McCain and background vocalist Thomas Shelby decided to pack their stuff and head west.  They landed in California in 1972.
Although they struggled to land gigs in the beginning, through word of mouth they were becoming an huge underground success.  After about six months, they were playing the best venues, e.g., "Whiskey a Go-Go", "Starwood Theatre", and "The Roxy."  In no time at all, the band soon found their groove after years of playing together.  Often times they dressed in costumes on their album covers and were one of the first funk bands to follow a theme for their albums.
They reached the pinnacle of their success with the release of Fantastic Voyage in 1980. This album exceeded all expectations and the title track "Fantastic Voyage" went to reach number one on the R&B charts.
Since then, "Fantastic Voyage" has been sampled by such hip hop artists as Coolio, Potna Deuce and B.G. Knocc Out and Dresta.  The song has also appeared in the popular video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas playing on radio station Bounce FM.  Other hits include: “Its All The Way Live” and “Raid”.
Growing up, I remember hearing this song and being fascinated by the opening lyrics.  It took me lass than a week to memorize them.  I have to admit, when I first heard Coolio completely sample the entire beat I was not happy.  But over time I could see why he used it…it was, and still is DOPE!
Several members of the group are still playing together and just finished a show in New Orleans on October 29, 2010.  Lakeside is currently available for booking.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

R.I.P. Nate Dogg

One of the most distinct voices of the G-funk era in hip-hop, rapper Nate Dogg, passed away yesterday, March 15th, the rapper's family confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter. He was 41. Nate Dogg, born Nathaniel D. Hale, had suffered strokes in both 2007 and 2008, but his death has been attributed to "complications from multiple strokes," his lawyer Mark Geragos said. Often recruited to adorn choruses in Death Row Records' glory days, Nate Dogg exploded onto the music scene as Warren G's gat-busting partner-in-crime on the hit "Regulate." Nate also frequently collaborated with his high school friend Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, and 50 Cent.
The biggest tracks to feature Nate Dogg, a four-time Grammy nominee, include Dr. Dre's "The Next Episode," Ludacris' "Area Codes," 50 Cent's "21 Questions," Eminem's "Shake That" and, our personal favorite, his own solo track "Never Leave Me Alone" with Snoop Dogg. In addition to appearing on every great rap album from The Chronic to Doggystyle to All Eyez on Me to Get Rich or Die Tryin', Nate released three solo albums on his own. He also made the "Eastside Hotel" one of the most famous locales in hip-hop history.
"We lost a true legend in hip-hop and R&B. One of my best friends and a brother to me since 1986 when I was a sophomore at Poly High where we met," Snoop Dogg said on Twitter. "You will always be with me forever and a day. You put the 'G' in 'G funk', you put the '1' in '213' and you put your stamp on everybody you ever did it with. I miss you because I am so sad but so happy I got to grow up with you, and I will see you again in heaven, because you know the slogan about 'all doggs go to heaven.' "
-Daniel Kreps

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Funkdown | Parliament Funkadelic

What better to commemorate the first installment of "Friday Funkdown" than with one of the funkiest bands of all time: Parliament Funkadelic.  This song is titled "Mothership Connection (Star Child)" and it is the title track from their most acclaimed album; Mothership Connection (1975).

George Clinton was the leader of the group and accompanied by a some famous defectors from James Brown's backing bands including Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley and Bootsy Collins, all of which would go on to have successful solo careers.

This group has remained influential throughout the music industry and has had a major impact on the hip-hop community.  I was introduced to their music as a child (1980ish).  My mother always had music on in the house.  She would play anything from funk to rock to reggae.  I was immediately drawn to the bugged out album covers which often contained the song lyrics either on the back of the album or on the record sleeve itself.  I would listen and read along, bobbing my head to the beat.  As I got older, I immediately picked up on the massive amount of samples used by artists such as Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, N.W.A. and the entire west coast hip-hop movement of the early 1990's. 

Believe it or not, these cats are still doing shows.  Although  most of the original members have moved on or passed away, George Clinton (he'll be 70 in July) is still available for booking