PLAY THAT FUNKY MUSIC WHITE BOY

One of the greatest buzzes of rescuing vinyl from a bargain bin is when a piece of music contained therein not only completely defies your expectations, but is completely excellent. When I salvaged the above LPs I was probably hoping there’d be at least one decent enough track on each. Perhaps a pop ballad with just the right chord changes and string parts to help it transcend that genre; a country-ish ditty that was more ‘ish’ than ‘country’; or in the case of Chris Moon, maybe – just maybe – some 70s heaviness that wasn’t yet another pointless blues-rock-by-numbers yawnfest.  One thing’s for sure though: based on the sheer caucasian-ness emanating from the sleeves, I was definitely not reckoning on bona fide funkiness…

This Jamie guy was Jamie Carr. Not to be confused with the R&B singer James Carr who recorded for Memphis indy label Goldwax in the mid to late 60s. The Mr Carr we are dealing with managed to eek out an LP on major label Capitol in 1970 which promptly became a major flop. At least that’s what I presume since I’ve only seen it once, when I bought it in Bakersfield, CA as I travelled through on a road trip. I can’t find anything about him online, so I’m guessing it hasn’t been discovered and heralded as a long last classic. Yet. Produced by Artie Kornfield, he who helped get Woodstock off the ground, it’s a very shiny affair. All the bells and whistles are used, but on the whole it’s really not that good. All, of course, except the title track ‘Sound Of The Drum’ which is a huge funky stew of hammond, horns and honky singing. ‘Hey you. Do you believe in the sound of the drums when you’re getting stoned?’ asks Jamie right out of the gate. Why yes, Jamie, I do. And so do you by the sound of it. Which is no doubt why the record comes complete with a (misleadingly) psychedelic back cover.

Tony Bruno sounds like quite a character. At the beginning of the 60s he was a Brill Building songwriter; from that same address he ran Nomar Records for a New Jersey bookmaker; he produced Maxine Brown’s first hit; he worked with Gene Pitney and he recorded the soundtrack for the movie Hell’s Angel’s 69; into the seventies he recorded soundtracks for porno flicks as well as the bizarro “Stickball” under the pseudonym P.Vert (google it, it’s kinda worth it). In the middle of all that he recorded a 1967 album for Buddah which tanked but then somehow got re-released on Capitol in 1968. In 1969 Capitol put out this, his second LP, which sounds pretty much like how it looks: Vegas-y crooner-y and pretty forgettable. All except for this funked up version of The Beatles’ 64 B-side. It was produced by Artie Ripp, co-founder of the labels Kama Sutra and Buddah, who obviously knew a thing or two about hit-making. He didn’t manage to pull it off with Tony Bruno, but together they did turn out a real funky gem and put a completely different spin on a Beatles oldie. A buck well spent, methinks.

When I found Allan Scott’s sole 1969 Tower LP it was lurking in the cheapo section of a dusty record store somewhere in the Inland Empire. I’ve since seen it filed under country, male vocals and easy listening. Apparently no-one knows what genre Mr Scott belongs to. I’m not sure he knew either, the album is that all over the place. But he somehow manages to drop this absolute monster of a groove bomb, and arguably the definitive version of the oft-covered Bee Gee’s song. Dare I say I prefer it to the fabulous Nina Simone version? File under funk.

Irishman Raymond Edward O’Sullivan should need no introduction. I bought this LP as I’ve had a soft spot for his hits ever since I was a young lad wearing shorts and a blazer to primary school in England. ‘Alone Again’ used to fascinate me (He’s going to jump of a building?! Nooooooo!!!). And ‘Claire’ sounded so lovely, didn’t she? Anyway, that’s the kind of nice and pleasing early 70s pop I was expecting. So I was caught a bit off guard when the bongos, cowbell, and funky guitar jabs made an appearance on ‘Too Much Attention’. Ironic title since the track never seems to have got the attention it deserves.

Looking at the picture of this chap Chris Moon you’d have to assume he is pure ‘rawk’. But of course, it’s never that simple. Chris is really Jeff Monn, lead singer of New York garage band The Third Bardo who appeared on the Nuggets compilation with “I’m Five Years Ahead Of My Time” (ironically enough, recorded in ’67 but sounding like it’s from early ’66). In 1968 Vanguard released the fantastic ‘Reality’ LP under his real name, a lost baroque-folk classic which I’m proud to say I have a minty copy of but which I had to pay proper money for. Well, forty bucks anyway. Julian Cope’s site Head Heritage (well worth adding to your favorites) does a great job telling you all about ‘Reality’. As for The Chris Moon Group: this record came out on CBS off-shoot Kinetic in 1970. It successfully circumvents the indulgent blues jamming I was expecting and delivers a solid listen that leans to the funky side. In ‘No Doubt About It’ Chris gets all raspy over the funkiest groove on the record, as he repeatedly tells us ‘We’ve got so much soul, we don’t need no Bayou.’ True dat.

Bobby Darin was born born Walden Robert Cassotto on May 14, 1936 in East Harlem, NYC. Hence the title of this totally overlooked, cracking album. Released on his own label, Direction Records, in 1968 the catalogue number is even 1936. That’s how personal this record must have felt to him. And what a record it is too. Generally listed as Folk or Folk Rock, there’s a lot more to it than that. And whatever you generally think of when you think of Bobby Darin music can be checked at the run-in groove. The first 20 seconds of track one side one let’s you know you’re in for a unexpected ride. While string players saw away at the same note the band kick in with a confident, soulful groove before Bobby asks ‘How do you kill a mountain?’. Teeny bopper music this is not. Several tracks brush shoulders with funk, but Long Line Rider throws its arms around it and holds on tight. Just another guy from Harlem doing his thang.

 

 

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