Posts Tagged ‘Funk’

Crawling Over the Musical Tree

March 13, 2011

Mighty Mighty – Jesse Anderson from Mighty Mighty 7″

Awhile ago, as I was sitting on my morning busride to work in DC, the bus pulled up to a stop and I looked out the window at a tree along the sidewalk.  Crawling on the bark was a single ant.  I was struck by how enormous the tree must be for that ant, and wondered if in it’s ant-brain it was overwhelmed by the seemingly endless scope of the bark it was crawling over.

The reason I bring this up is as a listener of music, I sometimes feel like that ant.  There is so much music that is out there, and I have no hope of ever covering every inch of that musical tree.  But trying to see as much of it as possible has its rewards.  One of those is finding Jesse Anderson’s “Mighty Mighty.”  Anderson was a Chicago musician who put out this 7″ on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label in 1970.

I originally found this on the great Soul-Sides blog, and I generally download anything that I remotely like from his blog and come back to it later.  I stumbled across this again recently as I was wandering through my Itunes library.  I was immediately smacked by the hugeness of the guitar and drum groove.  That is funk.  The guitar is wah-wahhed to the hilt.  The drums are begging to be sampled by DJ Shadow.  The two are in lockstep.  And then on top of it comes a flute.  Yes, a flute.  And the mellowness of that flute compliments the richness of the drums and guitar.  It doesn’t attempt to overpower the song, like say this.  The flute gives way for a short drum fill and a guitar solo, but flits back in to the groove effortlessly.  Clocking in at a short 2:20, it definitely leaves you wanting more.

Anderson apparently never made it big, but when I hear this, I’m reminded of the Beastie’s Boy’s attempts at funk instrumental tracks on Check Your Head and Ill Communication, and I know if they’d been able to put together something this funky, it would have been much bigger than Anderson’s ever was.  I’m just glad I found it on my crossing of the musical tree and can enjoy it.

Sadly, I can’t find anywhere online that has the song, so let me know if you want a copy.  In searching for it, I came across a gem of a clip from Soul Train (apparently Earth Wind and Fire recorded a song by the same name that bears no resemblance to Anderson’s version).  Enjoy:

 

Mr. Wright

April 30, 2010

Nothing to Write Home About – Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band from You’re So Beautiful

Well, I had to write about this song.  It’s the namesake of my blog.  I discovered Charles Wright and his band on the excellent Soulsides blog (which I recommend to everyone).  However, like most people, you’re probably familiar with at least one of their songs.  That would be the superb Express Yourself (a separate entry on that song coming soon).  You know it either by the song itself, or more likely the sampling of it for the N.W.A. song of the same name.

Mr. Wright is no one hit wonder.  Wright starts Nothing by asking the band if they’re all ready.  Oh yeah, they’re ready.  Horns, drums, a wooo! from the female backup singers.  Wright coughs, clearing his throat.  Then he begins a vicious song that should be a standard for anyone wanting to break up with someone via song.  “Every time you come into my life/something goes wrong/cause you don’t want to love us true/all you want to do is use me/ that’s all you want to do.”

The song effectively shifts between an uptempo beat with horn stabs, a guitar meandering in the background, and a slightly slower tempo towards the end of the verses where the backing vocals, horns and guitar take an almost orchestral sound (especially round the 1 minute mark).

The last verse ends with Wright saying “cause the time you spend with me is nothing to write home about”, then repeating the song title, turning it over to the backing singers to repeat it a few more times and the funky drums and horns adding the exclamation points.

So why do I love a song with such bitter subject matter so much?  I’m certainly not in a place in my life where I’m feelin’ what Charles is singing about (nor do I plan on feelin’ that way).  I think it’s the juxtaposition of the decidedly happy music (and even Wright’s singing is pretty upbeat) with the biting content of the lyrics.  A withering break-up song that makes you nod your head and want to dance.  Probably even if you’re on the receiving end of it.