For as long as I can remember Funk / Soul music has always been regarded as a pure form of musical expression. Music refined down to the raw essentials.
The grooves, the riffs, the vocals all reveal a conception of an artist’s soul poured over the entire music composition; be it a rising crescendo or a near-sobbing voice wrung out in a chorus.
Originating in the late 1960s its fusion of Blues, Jazz and R&B showmanship all shrouded in ‘black-power pride’ has held strong for decades and as it moves through the years; it developed into greater levels of rhythmic dominance and intensity.
The impact is still felt and it is very much relevant even today, not only as a basis of early rap music and the root of (arguably) all 90’s Hip Hop – but a great influence into the Hip Hop sound derived now in the 21st century.
With the ‘art of sampling’ rearing its head again in the music scene and up-coming producers / DJs wielding MPC’s and different music software’s with deft skill – Jazz, Soul / Funk seem to be the pools of music resources they still derive inspiration from.
I asked him to give us his top of five Funk/Soul albums that have stood the test of time. The albums that still give him goosebumps and still maintain musical and production relevancy even today.
“First of all, it is not easy to pick only five albums as there is great music out there; so I have to compromise but here goes”:
Around 7 – October 2013
Marvin Gaye – Trouble Man (1972) – Motown
This is a really great soundtrack with incredible arrangements like they used to do back then. Naturally, you can instantly hear Marvin Gaye’s sound but in a different context. This is why this LP is unique and there are great samples in each track.
I’ve already made two Hip hop tracks out of these samples and I am also working on a House track for a next EP; so every time I listen to it I find something new.
Donny Hathaway – Live (1972) – Atlantic Records
I wish I was there when this was recorded. Just listen to the rhodes solo in “The Ghetto” or the bass solo on “Voices Inside”; it is such a thrill.
The sound of a live recording is so amazingly warm and for sampling nothing is better than the old tube amplifiers, vintage instruments, great musicians and the singing crowd. It makes it a pleasure to chop it up on an MPC.
Gil Scott Heron / Brian Jackson – Winter In America (1974) – Strata-East Records
There are so many good songs on this LP. The lyrics, the music, the tone of his voice and everything else are perfect. He had such an influence on Hip Hop artists and others; so this LP is essential.
On my track “Peace Tribute” I worked with a sample from “Peace Go With You Brother” and if you listen closely you can hear many more…
Shaolin Soul selected by RZA Episode 1, 2 & 3 – Soul Temple Entertainment
As for the compromise I mentioned earlier, well…this is it. It’s a selection from one of the great Hip Hop producer’s of his favourite Soul music tracks and it is such a blessing for my sampler.
Syl Jonhson, Al Green, Gladys Knight, Barry White, Labbi Siffre ….what can I say, this is music of the highest grade.
D’Angelo – Voodoo (2000) – Cheeba Sound & Virgin Records
In terms of production this album is amazing. It’s like you are with the musicians in the studio. The sound is soft and huge at the same time and I think that is the reason why it will stand the test of time.
When I first bought the LP, it remained for on my vinyl desk for a straight two weeks just playing it. Do yourself a favour and sample the drums by Questlove and you will know what I am talking about. And as a gift a track produced by DJ Premier, it has a sample I used (and I’m sure you’ll recognise it) in my track ‘Strictly Business’.