Tag Archives: funk

Pay Your Respects to the Amen Break

It matters little what sort of musician or music fan you are, chances are you have been influenced by the Amen Break.

These four bars, or about six and a half seconds of music, which were found on the track Amen Brother, the B side of the The Winstons‘ grammy nominated single Color Him Father, changed the course of music

It’s a drum break that has been replicated and sampled millions of times, and heavily influenced styles as diverse as hip-hop to rock, and given rise to genres such as jungle.

But the Winston’s never got paid for the track, not a single cent – not for any sales or radio play, and not for the countless times it has been sampled. According to Richard L. Spencer on an interview with the BBC, Gregory Coleman, who played the drum break, died “broke and homeless” around 2006.

But now someone has decided that perhaps its time to do something about this. I think the campaign blurb says it best;

“So here is where all of you come in, if you have ever written or sold any music with the amen break, or even just enjoyed one of the countless hundreds and hundreds of tunes that contain it over various genres and styles of music, please donate towards the good cause of the worldwide music community giving something back to the man behind the legendary breakbeat.”

The aim is simple, lets throw some cash the way of Richard L. Spencer – the person who wrote the arrangement for the track, and seemingly the only surviving member of The Winstons.

To contribute – http://www.gofundme.com/amenbrother

The Radio Show that Inspired this Campaign – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00hb618 (Will require an IP proxy outside of the UK)


I’m Back/Some Funky New Releases

I know, it’s been awhile since my last post. Partly, the real world has gotten in the way (read as, making sure I pay my rent). But I’ve also been playing a lot of gigs, and working on getting a piece of paper that says I can do stuff (read as, working on my degree). But I’ve now freed up, which means I can focus much more time on music, and writing about music.

This has come at just the right time having just picked up what would have to be two of the funkiest releases of year.

The first is from the J.B.’s titled These are The J.B.’s. That’s right, The J.B.’s have a new release! And I’m not talking about just any J.B.’s lineup, this is the short lived and infamous one featuring Bootsy and Catfish Collins on bass and guitar. The tracks were recorded between May and September 1970 and scheduled for release in July 1971. But other than a couple of test pressing, for reasons only fully known to James Brown, the album never ended up being released…until now!
J'B's Front Cover

This album is just what you’d expect from this J.B.’s lineup; funky, funky, and funky! Each track has the relentless grooves that you’d expect with the Booty’s bass sitting front and centre and arrangement that are the tight and punchy sounds that the discipline of James Brown produced. If you love James Brown, and/or the J.B.’s, then you need this album – but you need to get in quick. Pressings are apparently very limited, and word on the street is that there was only a total of 80 copies distributed to Australia, and they’ve already been sold.

The next release sitting on my turntables is from Melbourne’s own Emma Donovan w/The Putbacks titled, Dawn. I’ve normally associated The Putbacks with deep funk, but this defiantly a neo-soul album. The slug from the drum and bass thirty seconds into track 1, Black Woman, has neo-soul written all over it. Combined with the harmonic movements in tracks such as Dawn, and Emma Donovan’s sultry vocals, and you have record that is sophisticated without being pretentious. This is a record that is layered with subtle detail and certainly deserves more than a few plays.

The Soul of Melbourne – A Compilation of Melbourne Soul Music

The Soul of MelbourneA few months ago I wrote about how soul music in Melbourne had finally come of age. Unbeknownst to me at the time of writing, preparation was in place which resulted in the creation of The Soul of Melbourne, a compilation that brings together some of the best tracks that the Melbourne soul scene has to offer.

On the surface you know you’re in safe hands being complied by the two people who can claim Melbourne soul is part of their expertise; the Godfather of Melbourne Soul, Chris Gill (Northside Records), and the man responsible some of the best tracks to have come out of this city, Lance Ferguson (The Bamboos).

The obvious inclusions are all there such as funk and soul heavy weights The Bamboos and Saskwatch, bad ass groove playing young’ns The Cactus Channel, the slick and sexy Electric Empire, and recent U.S Billboard Chart entrant Clairy Browne and The Bangin Rackettes.

Further to this, the diversity of Melbourne Soul is on offer featuring the afrobeat goodness of Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, the hypnotic bollywood sounds of The Bombay Royale, and the downtempo soul grooves of Chet Faker.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Melbourne soul compilation if it didn’t showcase the depth of the scene with two of my favourite bands The Putbacks and Deep Street Soul, and two bands that were previously unknown to me, The Mighty Show Stoppers and Gypsy Brown. For me, the discovery of these last two bands makes the record well worth the purchase.

This compilation marks a flag in the road for what I hope will be an ever strengthening Melbourne soul scene. In particular it shows how far Melbourne rhythm sections have come with the amount of quality instrumental tracks that don’t just make the cut, but hold their own when compared to vocal tracks. It does however highlight the lack of male vocal talent that exists to the extent that Sly Johnson featuring The Bamboos was included. Whilst it is a high quality track and an A1 performance from The Bamboos, I can’t help but wonder if the inclusion was necessary to help balance this shortcoming.

Overall, regardless of what type of soul music you like, and regardless of where you live, you will not be disappointed with this record. It demonstrates the quality, depth and diversity that Melbourne soul has to offer. And whilst New York is without a doubt the soul capital of the world, it shows why Melbourne has placed itself on the map.

** I’m still listening to a digital version. The wax, I’m told should drop late December and I’m hoping includes liner notes about all the bands.

Melbourne Soul Comes of Age

Whilst there can be no debating that in the last 15 years the home of soul music has returned to its rightful place of Brooklyn, New York, it is time to recognise that Melbourne’s soul scene has now come of age.

Chances are that if you read the paper or listen to (non-commercial) radio you’ve at least flicked past something about The Cactus Channel and their new LP Haptics (Hope Street). Whilst part of the focus is their age (they’re only just old enough to get into bars) it’s still an LP with some nasty grooves from a quality bunch of musicians with an instrumental maturity fitting of the style.



Second to this is Saskwatch.  As they embark across to Europe they’re are about to release their first LP, Leave it All Behind (Northside).  If this album lives up to the quality of their previously released 7inch’s and sharpness of their live shows then this album is sure to be spinning regularly on the turntables of every funk and soul officinardo between Melbourne, New York and London.

What’s most interesting about these releases is not the bands or their ages but rather who is releasing them. Bands who could now be described as the elders of Melbourne soul such as The Bamboos, Cookin on Three Burners and Deep Street Soul, previously had to rely on European labels for release. But then enter Hope Street who after a series of 7inch releases had full length success with The Bombay Royale and should see the same as they release The Cactus Channel.

Second this with Northside, and although this is Northside’s first release (with the exception of the accompanying 7inch) label owner Chris Gill is as much an elder of Melbourne Soul as any of the bands having owed and run the record store Northside Records for the last ten years.  Chris will have no problem garnering the attention both locally and internationally that Saskwatch deserves.

In Richard Guilliat’s slightly inaccurate article on Melbourne Soul he was not scared to call Melbourne “the funk capital of the southern hemisphere.” This has probably been true for some time now given the bands that have been coming from here, but what really caps this is the integration of Hope Street and Northside into the mix.  Finally Melbourne soul bands can rely on Melbourne representation and reliable Australian distribution. A friend from Bendigo recently told me that he first heard of the Bamboo’s on a trip to the US.  This is a by-product of what happens when local bands sign to overseas labels, the label focuses it’s often limited marketing budget to overseas consumers and leaves very little to the home town of the band.

This coming of age will mean further growth of the Melbourne soul scene. Local distribution and representation means that everyone in Melbourne will (and why shouldn’t they) know about the best local acts hence strengthening the scene and seeing further growth.

Now check out this nasty groove from The Cactus Channel.

Golden Plains Music Festival

Well I’ve just returned from Golden Plains music festival. Right now I’m very dusty, regrettably sunburnt, and little bit smelly, but still glowing form the positive vibes that only Auntie Meredith can provide.

Golden Plains and Meredith Music Festival would have to be without a doubt one of the best run festivals. Every thing seems to have been properly thought about. From the landmarks, to the bars, to the set times and the number of tickets sold, not to mention what seems to be a very effective ‘no dickhead policy,’ everything that Auntie Meredith has done is done right. The organisers deserve a big pat on the back for being able to think about the smaller details that make this a hassle free festival experience.

The highlights undoubtedly for me where Saskwatch and Charles Bradley who both played on Sunday’s bill. Saskwatch’s sound has developed into a sweet and smooth soul groove and their Golden Plains performance has left me eagerly anticipating their forthcoming debut album. Charles Bradley; there is nothing that one can say that truly states the raw emotion that comes from Charles Bradley when he sings. Despite seeming a little tired having just landed in the country and having done a show in Melbourne the night before, this 64 year old was still able to hold festival goers in the palm of his hand with the rich and raw texture of his voice, and the suave dance moves that some performers half his age would lack the confidence and ability to do. Only one questions remains : Has there been a better male vocalist then Charles Bradley since Otis Redding? That question is definitely worth a discussion.

The Transatlantics live at Revolver Upstairs

Last night I went down to see The Transatlantics live at Revolver Upstairs.

The Transatlantics , who reside in Adelaide, have become one of Australia’s premier funk outfits and regularly make the journey to play shows in Melbourne. They’re history includes being Marva Whitney’s backing band in 2009 and supporting likes of Eddie Bo and Fred Wesley. They have recently released their debut album on Freestyle Records and have also have a trio of 7” records to their name.

The show last night was their usual great performance. The horn section was at their consistent best being the tight, punchy and a well blended unit that gives the Transatlanctics their authentic sound. The rhythm section where unfaultable holding hard, heavy and funky grooves all night. The sound at Revolver was it’s usual awkward self with the sound guy mixing from ten feet above where the audience stands, but it was of little overall consequence with the band, when you have a sound like they do you barley need to be mixed at all.