Johnny Pate – Are You Man Enough (Theme To Shaft In Africa) [1973]
July 19, 2011

Johnny Pate, what a legend. composing the soundtracks to two of the biggest blaxsploitation movies of the seventies, Shaft In Africa and Brother on the Run. This for me is one of his very best offerings, keeping the funk nice and mature rather than descending into wah-wah cheese that for me killed many a funk track. The break is absolutely mint, combined with the soulful, funk bassline and your laughing.

From Discogs
Track A.4 of this album (Shaft In Africa) is a fantastic instrumental song made famous later by Norman Cook, using it as an intro for his “It Began In Africa” song that appears in the “Urban All Stars EP” from 1988 under the “Urban” Label. The Congas, Percussions and heavy breaks reminds me of Michael Viner’s “Incredible Bongo Band”. Shaft In Africa continues to be an essential sample by many Dj’s and Hip Hop Producers.

Stevie Wonder – Living for the City [1973]
May 20, 2011

Another cracker from Stevie, without a doubt my second favourite track on Innervisions after Higher Ground. Double the amount of synth, double the amount of awesome, I still find it hard to believe that Wonder basically played every instrument AND did the vocals on all of Innervisions. Insanity!

Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground [1973]
May 20, 2011

Another stormer from Stevie Wonder, this time taken from the seminal 1973 release, Innervisions. The album is absolutely groundbreaking and was universally recognised at the time as Wonders finest work to date. Higher Ground is nestled right in the middle of the tracklist, a crime in my opinion as it far outshines “Too High”, it should have been the opener !!

From WikipediaIn 2003, the album was ranked number 23 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[15] The magazine wrote in that occasion:

… Stevie Wonder may be blind, but he reads the national landscape, particularly regarding black America, with penetrating insight on Innervisions, the peak of his 1972-73 run of albums–including Music of My Mind and Talking Book. Fusing social realism with spiritual idealism, Wonder brings expressive color and irresistible funk to his synth-based keyboards on “Too High” (a cautionary anti-drug song) and “Higher Ground” (which echoes Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of transcendence). The album’s centerpiece is “Living for the City,” a cinematic depiction of exploitation and injustice. Just three days after Innervisions was released, Wonder suffered serious head injuries and lay in a four-day coma when the car he was traveling in collided with a logging truck.
—Rolling Stone

Lyn Collins – Think (about it ) [1973]
February 24, 2011

The Amen might be the spritual soul of most breakbeat driven music but its impossible to overlook the classic that is Lyn Collins’, Think. In its own right, the track is amazing, soulful and funky with some great conscious lyrics, catchy as hell. Then you have the four bar break and hook that EZ Rock swiped wholesale for his and Rob Base’s “It Takes Two”, frankly, they could have saved themself some work and used Lyn’s vocals too but hey…

Other noteable usages (courtesy of Wikipedia)
In 1988, DJ Slick Rick used it at the end of “Children’s Story” and Janet Jackson sampled the song in her 1990 hit “Alright”. Much later, Fatman Scoop sampled “Think” for his own version of “It Takes Two”. Other recordings that sample the song include Kardinal Offishall’s “Clear!”, Lil’ Romeo’s “2Way [dub]”, Dizzee Rascal’s “Pussy’ole (Old Skool)”, De La Soul’s “Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin’s Revenge)”, EPMD’s “Gold Digger”, Dream Warriors’ “Face in the Basin”, Chubb Rock’s “Ya Bad Chubbs” and The Real Roxanne’s “Roxanne’s On A Roll.” At least one jazz musician has sampled the song, Vinnie Colaiuta, 1994, in the opening track of his self titled album. Today’s song “I Got the Feeling” samples a vocal from the song. Mariah Carey’s remix of “Heartbreaker” featuring Da Brat and Missy Eliott sampled the song and Snoop Dogg’s “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)” on Carey’s album, Rainbow in 1999, and from Snoop’s 1993 classic influential debut album Doggystyle.

And we havent even started into Drum & Bass yet, there’s a stack of hardcore and jungle tunes that ripped that “woo, yeah” break section as the secondary percussion to a main snare break. Ironically, it mixes perfectly with the Amen Brother break to fill the high end while the Amen takes the deeper bass and rough snares. Classic.

Billy Cobham – Stratus [1973]
February 15, 2011

Notice that bassline? Recognise it? You should. Its the sample that Massive Attack used for “Safe From Harm” on the album Blue Lines. However, lets put that aside for a moment and take a look at the track itself. Probably one of the most involved Jazz Funk tracks ever released, the bassline from Lee Sklar absolutely smashing the opposition, quality drum work from Billy Cobham and some crazy ass guitar waah’s from Tommy Brolin (later of Deep Purple). Total legend.

From Wikipedia
Cobham branched out to jazz fusion, which blended elements of jazz, rock and roll and funk, playing and recording with the Brecker Brothers (notably on their 1970-founded group Dreams), and guitarist John Abercrombie, before recording and touring extensively with trumpeter Miles Davis. Cobham’s work with Davis appears on A Tribute to Jack Johnson, among other recordings. Cobham is also one of the first drummers to play open handed lead: a drummer that can lead (or ride) with either hand and begin or end a beat or fill with either hand (most drummers lead with 1 hand). He was also one of the first drummers to play with 3 or more snare and/or bass drums and multiple hi-hats[citation needed].

The preface to his work with the Mahavishnu Orchestra was his work on guitarist John McLaughlin’s album My Goal’s Beyond.[1]

In 1971, with fellow Davis alumnus McLaughlin, Cobham co-founded Mahavishnu Orchestra, a definitive jazz fusion ensemble. Cobham toured extensively from 1971 to 1973 with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, who released two studio albums and one live album. The original studio versions of tunes on the live album were later released as The Lost Trident Sessions in 1999.

In May 1973, while still with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Cobham recorded his first solo album Spectrum with keyboardist Jan Hammer, from the Mahavishnu Orchestra, guitarist Tommy Bolin, who later played with heavy rock band Deep Purple, and bassist Lee Sklar.

The Isley Brothers – Summer Breeze [1973]
January 14, 2011

I dont usually do the weather gloat thing but seriously, its 75F (27c) outside and its the middle of bloody January in Los Angeles. Say what you will about this city, hell I beat down on it all the time but the fact its so damn warm out is intoxicating.

Hence – a simple, timeless classic from the Isley Brothers, despite it actually being a cover of Seal and Crofts soft rock original. The track needs almost no introduction, everybody I have ever known loves this song and with good reason. The Brothers are doing what they do best, silky smooth vocals and catchy hooks. The waaa-waaa pedal gets a huge work out courtesy of Marvin Isley complemented perfectly from the piano and bass. Absolute perfection.

From Discogs
Classic R&B Soul group established in the early 1950’s from Cincinnati, Ohio. O’Kelly Isley, Rudolph Isley, Ronald Isley and Vernon Isley (d. 1956 in automobile accident) comprised the orginal group. Put out the well known hit “Shout!” in 1959. 1963 started own label T-Neck and added Jimi Hendrix on lead guitar. 1965 signed on to Motown where they recorded “This Old Heart of Mine”. Left Motown in 1968 and re-started the T-Neck label in 1969. Recorded their famous track “It’s Your Thing”. In 1973 added younger brothers, Ernie and Marvin Isley as well as O’Kelly’s brother-in-law Chris Jasper. During this era from 1973 to 1983 the group put out the majority of their huge hits like “Between the Sheets”, “Choosey Lover”, “For the Love of You”, etc

Skull Snaps – Trespassin’ [1973]
January 14, 2011

Funk for a Friday, starting with this massive cover of the Ohio Players “Trespassin'”. Gone is the heavy Motown slant of the original, instead trading for some of the best bass and horn work your ever likely to hear. Simple lyrical composition means you’ll be singing along to it in no time, nodding your head and tapping your feet. As pure a Funk track as your ever likely to get, total classic.

If your interested, the Ohio Players version is also excellent! – The Ohio Players – Trespassin

From Wikipedia
Skull Snaps were a funk group that released one eponymous album on the small GSF label in 1973 before disappearing. It was, in fact, the group originally known as the Diplomats, which released numerous singles between 1963 and 1970 with some success.
The Skull Snaps’ album contains drum breaks that have been sampled numerous times on various hip hop records: The familiar opening drum pattern of It’s A New Day can be heard in songs by well-known acts such as Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Das EFX, Eric B. & Rakim, Digable Planets, DJ Shadow, Rob Dougan, and The Prodigy.

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – The Love I Lost [1973]
December 28, 2010

While we’re at it, lets have another!

The Love I Lost was released 2 years before Bad Luck but actually had the original arrangement on the B-Side. The B-Side became so popular that they released it as its own track 2 years later. However, this track is a timeless classic, perfect harmonies, catchy bassline and drum work. Its bloody perfection. Listen. We’ve all had our heartbroken but there’s no better way to get it soothed than listening to this track. Absolute classic. Incredible. Wonderful.

James Brown – The Big Payback [1972]
June 23, 2010

How can we be talking music without a James Brown track?! One of the heaviest funk beasts on Brown’s catalogue, gone are the gospel riffs and vocals and in comes a fucking monster slice of funk. The whole Payback album was slated to be a soundtrack for a Blaxploitation film, Hell Up In Harlem but the director rejected it claiming it wasnt “James Brown” enough. Ironically, its one of Browns most critically acclaimed works and remains a landmark funk album with the title track being the one of the most sampled tracks in history. He was the Godfather for a reason, give this a listen to get an idea why. JB Perfection.

Quincy Jones – Summer in the City [1973]
March 13, 2010

Absolute classic from one of my favourite composers, Quincy Jones. He takes only the lyrics from “Summer in the City” by The Loving Spoonful and transforms the tune into one of the greatest Jazz Funk compositions ever recorded. Such an epic piece of music is not meant to be encapsulated by one tune alone – which is why its been sampled a ton of times by a variety of artists.

From Wikipedia
The Quincy Jones cover of “Summer in the City” has been sampled by Massive Attack in the song “Exchange” from their acclaimed album Mezzanine, Nightmares on Wax in the song “Night’s Introlude” on the album Smokers Delight, and also by The Pharcyde on their seminal hit “Passin’ Me By” from the album Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde.