12/10/2019: “Night Stroll” by Dam-Funk

Dam-Funk, usually stylised with an accent on the ‘a’, makes some exquisitely modern funk. It’s basically computer music, produced on a PC rather than played by a band.

That gives him an incredible versatility when it comes to sounds. The song glitters with whirling synthesizers, from the rich string synths to the reverb drenched hook.

The bassline is crunchy west coast goodness – and one of the key reasons that this song is instantly recognisable as a product of California

There’s a fair bit of grooving undertaken during the song, which keeps the song feeling fresh.

In many ways, “Night Stroll” feels like it could have been made by Flying Lotus. However, its a lot more accessible than a great deal of FlyLo stuff…

The track was released in 2010, on an E.P. called Los Angeles 7/10. The E.P. features two songs by Dam Funk and three by Computer Jay, making for pretty captivating listening.

11/10/2019: “Lihue” by Nohelani Cypriano

Having never been to Hawaii, I suspect I have a rather idealised version of what it is actually like.

Social problems aside, I do imagine Hawaii is an embodiment of this song, which is relaxed, tropical and full of soul.

Aside from the slightly squeezed “Hawaaian paradise of love” line, this song is just amazing.

Nohelani Cypriano has a great voice, which is well served by the concoction of synth instruments on this funky masterpiece. There’s even some exotic sounding birdsong!

The squealing keys are perfect for sun-drenched funk, and although this song is laid back, it’s still eminently dance-able.

The bassline is particularly brilliant as well, which stands the song in good stead as a boogie classic. It was pretty obscure, but has been dug out and given a new lease of life in recent years.

The song was originally released on Nohelani, in 1979, but has been re-released as a single in 2014.

08/10/2019: “Bamako” by Songhoy Blues

The story behind Songhoy Blues isn’t particularly heartwarming. They were formed because they are exiles from the north of Mali, where a jihadist group took over in 2012 and banned music.

The name is from “Songhoy” – their ethnic group, and “desert blues”, the type of music they play.

“Bamako” is a full on funk song. The band were inspired by 60s Western guitar music themselves, owing a large debt to psychedelic rock. Nonetheless, layered funky guitars and horns have a particularly African rhythm to them.

The track does feel very modern, it’s true. This isn’t 70s afrobeat; this is new funk from Mali. The drums have some pace to them, cementing the song’s energy at a high level, but it’s the guitars which really get things moving.

The track was released in 2017, and is from the album Resistance.

11/09/2019: “Ta Lassa” by International Soleil Band

As far as I can tell, the only difference between this and the “Hide & Smile” edit is that the latter is a bit more punchy, and perhaps better arranged.

But I do like the charm of the original. It loses very little dancefloor zestiness. The same key elements are there: the fidgety bassline, slick drum pattern – with cacophonous bongos – and of course, the wonderfully harmonious guitar licks.

The vocals are joyous and calm, yet still glide out in a way almost reminscent of Jamaican dancehall toasting.

The song combines traditional elements with modern synths. Not only that, but it does it very well, so that there is not even the slightest trace of cheesiness!

The song originally came out in 1983, on an E.P. called International Soleil Band. It seems to be the only release the band did. But as with all cool African records, Soundway Records re-issued it in 2016…

10/09/2019: “Gorilla Man” by Condry Ziqubu

A lot of amazing musical styles have emanated from South Africa, but I’m inclined to think that the electronic genres are the best, and usually the most unique.

But even mainstream funk/disco can benefit from the diverse touch of South African music!

“Gorilla Man” is so funky it seems set to explode. I have no idea what the song is about; neither am I particularly worried about that. It is, as far as I’m concerned, a masterpiece.

The track is driven along by a smorgasbord of synths, from the delicious bassline to the captivating hook. The melody is actually ripped off from the fantastic Italo-Disco hit “Dance For Denise”, which was released the year before around Europe.

But this version has more of the South African Bubblegum vibe, and is accordingly much cooler!

The track was released in 1986, on an eponymous E.P.

08/09/2019: “Man’s Best Friend (Instrumental)” by George Clinton

George Clinton is known for good times funk, but this surely one of the most feel good tunes ever recorded.

It’s worth noting that although there’s nothing really wrong with the vocal version, this is just better. The instruments are so brilliant, especially the guitar, that they deserve more space to shine.

It’s a real party tune, using a stadium filling snare to pin the beat down. The bassline is a shimmying, saucy synth. But it really is the guitar which adds that special touch.

The song is also divided into about 4 sections, which loop round each other flawlessly. My favourite is the hands in the air bit at the start, but it helps to have some more chill sections because it provides a bit of contrast and keeps the song interesting.

The instrumental version of the tune came out in 1983, as a B-Side to “Dog Talk” by K-9 Corp – most likely another George Clinton moniker of some sort. It’s hard to tell because it appears exclusively in connection with “Dog Talk”.

25/08/2019: “Just A Touch Of Love” by Slave

Slave make good times music, with some serious boogie potential.

“Just A Touch Of Love” is the title track of the band’s 1979 album, which was their 4th. It got to number 9 on the U.S. R’n’B singles chart, but it’s undoubtedly an enduring classic.

Their sound on this one is a very smooth and silky sound, rather than the more hard edged sound they were known for previously.

As with most famous funk songs, it’s the twanging bassline which leads proceedings and gives the song a distinctive touch. The guitar and rhodes piano provide light embellishments, creating a beautiful groove.

The basic groove lasts for most of the song, although it does change at points to slightly busier arrangements.

The main vocals are nice enough, but it’s the backing vocals which stick in your head and give the song a dreamier character, as well as being incredibly easy on the ear…

22/07/2019: “Doing It To Death” by Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s

This song has such an infectious bounce that it almost seems like it could just go on forever. It doesn’t though; the track lasts about 5 minutes in the most common form, although the album version stretches it to 10.

The guitar lick is one of the primary culprits for the criminal amounts of grooviness, as well as the slapping drum beat.

Some other key suspects are Fred Wesley’s trombone and James Brown’s off kilter lyrics…

Fred Wesley & The J.B.s is an odd choice to credit the song to. Not along did James Brown write it, he also provides the vocals. The song is basically a studio jam over the core bass, drum and guitar groove, and Brown just tells the musicians what he wants.

The vocals are a mixture of chatting and chanting, and are sure to please any decent crowd. At one point, he even instructs the band to play their instruments in a lower key, which they duly do!

The song was released in 1973, and was number one on the soul chart in the U.S.A.

21/07/2019: “Brother Father Mother Sister” by Tim Maia

This is such a joyful song. The lyrics are more about chastising his family (a stand in for society at large) for their transgressions, with a big verse at the end about the essential unity of the human race and our combined struggle.

The actual music is just phenomenal. The bassline is an ecstatic leaping pacesetter, echoed by rich strings and a funky guitar. The vocals are sung with such soul, and are married to the underlying melody wonderfully.

The guitar solo is very pleasant to listen to as well, stepping skilfully amongst the bass and drums with just a hint of organ in the background…

Tim Maia is a Brazilian artist noted for mixing Samba styles with Funk and Soul, and also MPB, a Samba influenced fusion style popular in Brazil.

“Brother Father Sister Mother” was released in 1976 on the album Tim Maia. Strangely, he has a lot of albums named after himself, but this was also on World Psychedelic Classics 4, a compilation released in 2012.

Brilliant!

10/07/2019: “Valdez In The Country” by The Nite-Liters

“Valdez In The Country” has a relatively complicated lineage. One thing is crystal clear though: Donny Hathaway is the genius behind it.

The first iteration of the song is called “Patty Cake”, and was released in 1969 by King Curtis. Then, Hathaway did a version for the band Cold Blood in 1972. Finally, he recorded his own iconic version in 1973, which is a fantastic tune.

The Nite-Liters’ version is not necessarily the most accomplished. Much of the nuance of Hathaway’s version is lost, and the song doesn’t go nearly as far in terms of technical musicality.

What it does do however, is emphasise the song’s best bits. The horns are bold and bright, the bassline is fluid and funky, the guitar riff is much more apparent than other versions. It’s a much more high energy version than Hathaway’s chilled out rendition.

The Nite-Liters were an iteration of New Birth, the long running funk ensemble. Their cover of “Valdez In The Country” was released in 1973 on A-Nal-Y-Sis.