Category Archives: Funk

Chaka Khan – Like Sugar (2018)

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Last year, Chaka Khan teamed up with the Major Lazer producer Switch and his partner Sarah Ruba. The immediate result was the hi-energy single ‘Like Sugar’, Khan’s first recording in a decade. The choice of sample – a mix of The Fatback Band’s ‘(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop’ from 1982 – is a fitting shout out from the queen of funk, now in her late 60s.

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The Fatback Band ‎- Yum Yum (Gimme Some) (1975)

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I recently heard this track in a pretty cool clothes shop in Richmond (London). I didn’t buy any threads, but I do pass on the sound of The Fatback Band. The opening, title track from their 1975 long player is also standout for being much better than the rest of the album. The band was in transition (for quite a few years) but these misfits still knew how to partay! I give you ‘Yum Yum’ and its hungry groove.

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Stevie Wonder ‎- Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You?) (1972)

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Good morning all. A couple of weeks ago, I featured Cody ChesnuTT’s work as a one-man band. Last week, it was the turn of Todd Rundgren. Todd was not the only man with the prowess to be both the singer-songwriter and the band in 1972. With a new contract from Motown in his hands, Stevie Wonder released the long player Music of My Mind. On the album is the standout sound of ‘Superwoman’ with its harmonies, ladles of metaphors and clever use of synthesisers. Have a great week.

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The Stone Roses ‎- Fools Gold (1989)

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I started the week with The Rolling Stones; I end it with The Stone Roses. 30 years old this week, ‘Fools Gold’ is as iconic as the ‘Funky Drummer’ break that it is looped around. The band’s guitarist John Squire was in Eastern Bloc Records in Manchester when he heard the potential in Clyde Stubblefield’s drum work for James Brown. The title and vocals of the track were inspired by the Humphrey Bogart movie The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre. The production was heavily influenced by the Dust Brothers-produced Young MC track ‘Know How’. Whereas the bongo-fuelled madness is pure Madchester. The single was originally released by Silvertone Records as a double A-side with ‘What the World Is Waiting For’, but there was only one ‘Fools Gold’. Have a great weekend.

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Cody ChesnuTT – Look Good In Leather (2002)

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Cody ChesnuTT’s debut album The Headphone Masterpiece was an incredible collection of work. Its 36 songs were recorded in his home studio on a four track and mixed on a pair of headphones. What binds this home brew together is his voice. While previously featured ‘Michelle’ sounds like Prince, the penultimate track ‘Look Good in Leather’ delivers a vocal that both The Purple One and Terence Trent D’arby would have been proud of.

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Michael Kiwanuka – Final Days (2019)

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A couple of years ago, I featured the opening track (‘Cold Little Heart‘) off Michael Kiwanuka’s second album Love & Hate. Last week, he released his latest full-length effort to a very warm reception indeed.  Such is the strength of Kiwanuka and its Danger Mouse production that I could have selected half a dozen songs. Keeping with the the downbeat titles, I have plumped for the beautiful sound of ‘Final Days’.

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Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good (2007)

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‘Rehab’ and its title track may have taken the plaudits, but Back To Black is laced with treasures. By her second album, Amy Winehouse had hooked up with producer Mark Ronson and together they incorporated 1960s soul, modern R&B and Winehouse’s libertine experiences to create something magical. Listening to my selection today, it’s not the Amen break infused production of ‘You Know I’m No Good’ that stands out, it’s the poignancy of her lyrics: “I told you I was trouble”. Winehouse sadly died in 2007 from “misadventure”.

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Prince – I Wanna Be Your Lover (1979)

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Good morning folks. Completing a run of posts from the late 1970s, like so many times before, my attention is drawn to Prince. In 1979, disco was eating itself, funk was in transition and drum machines were about to conquer all. Enter, stage right, Prince Rogers Nelson from Minneapolis. His breakout single ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ would tear up the dance floor jam and leave the world of pop music better. It would feature on his self-titled sophomore album. Have a great week.

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Ian Dury & The Blockheads – What A Waste (1978)

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A year after Iggy was striking out again, another remarkable performer was also playing his own tune. “I could be the driver an articulated lorry/I could be a poet I wouldn’t need to worry/I could be a teacher in a classroom full of scholars/I could be the sergeant in a squadron full of wallahs.” ‘What a Waste’ was originally released on Stiff Records as a single. Essentially a song about being in a job that makes you happy; for Ian Dury and his Blockheads, this included mixing Two-tone with glam and jazz funk.

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Boz Scaggs – Lowdown (1976)

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It may not be cool, but it’s Boz Scaggs. Having first made his mark as a member of the Steve Miller Band playing guitar plus writing and singing a few songs on the band’s first two albums, Boz set out on his own path. He’s probably best known for the slick R&B hit ‘Lowdown’ from his breakthrough 1976 album Silk Degrees. Blue-eyed soul.

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Karen O & Danger Mouse – Turn The Light (2019)

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Now for a different take on the sound that is funk. Karen O might be an unlikely source, but then she has teamed up with Danger Mouse. The production on ‘Turn the Light’ includes a glorious bass line and steady groove. It features on their collaboration LP Lux Prima.

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Lizzo – Juice (2019)

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Before I forget some holiday detail (and my usual morning slot), I need to post an earworm in the hope that I will revisit it one day as the throwback banger that it is – and not as the pervasive sound of my summer travels. ‘Juice’ was released at the start of the year as the lead single from Lizzo’s third album, Cuz I Love You. It was made for the dance floor, but not my cochlea. Have a great week.

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Payfone – I Was In New York (2019)

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Together, Phil Passera and Chieka Ononye are Payfone, the new-wave-funk-disco duo from East London. Their electronic sound has created a seriously funky bassline in the track ‘I Was In New York’. It’s a 10-minute burn…. stay with it.

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Anderson .Paak – King James (2019)

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Anderson .Paak was busy in the studio earlier this year pleasing crowds with a return to the grooves that proved so infectious on 2016’s Malibu. “If they build a wall, let’s jump the fence, I’m over this”. Never has a protest song sounded so breezy. ‘King James’ features on his fourth album Ventura, released in April this year.

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Mariya Takeuchi – Plastic Love (1984)

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I started the week with a track from Haruomi Hosono… I end with another influential figure in the world of city pop. Outside of Japan, Mariya Takeuchi is best known for marrying her collaborator Tatsuro Yamashitathe and releasing the classic 1984 song ‘Plastic Love’, with its dancefloor-filling final chorus. The Japanese genre is an unexpected mix of 1970s/1980s smooth AOR and jazz funk. This very American sound is strange through the filter of a Japanese scene. Have a great weekend.

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