2. doing it to death

“Because there had to be at least one James Brown track on this list — Godfather of Soul, Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Soul Brother No. 1 and a bunch more, I’m sure. Including I hope some reference to funk. He did invent funk, didn’t he? What do I know? I’m just some white guy from the suburbs. I’ll tell you what I know. I know that whatever it is we’re all doing here, this being alive, this ever expanding sustained chain reaction of possibilities that comes with breathing, moving, growing, learning, dreaming, DANCING — we’re doing it to death. And even death is no end, because trust that whatever happens (or doesn’t) after we die — the groove goes on, the song doesn’t end, we’re fated to life eternal. Not any of our mortal stuff obviously. That all plays itself out in time even if you go vegan, pump iron, take your vitamins – you are gonna die, your flesh is gonna rot. No it’s the immortal stuff I’m thinking about, the noise we make, the light we shine and reflect, the seeds we plant, and how they grow. By which I mean ideas, passions, commitments, sacrifices, songs – the grooves in particular. None of that stuff ever dies.

Which is all just an approximation of a pile of thoughts I had this past New Years (into 2001), while DJing on some unnamed island, monster sound system, high on some of the local shrooms — not hallucinating or anything, just elevated enough to see (and feel) that the crowd were finally at the point where they’d dance to anything. But what the DJ wants at such a moment, is to give them exactly the right thing. And there it was: The JBs’ Doing It To Death. Not even a James Brown album per say. He gave this one to his band, because who was he really without his JBs? The album itself kind of a rarity, my copy pressed in Germany, 1973, one of those records you spend a long time looking for. And yeah, the title track‘s the treasure that makes it all worth the trouble. Like the intro says, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, there are seven acknowledged wonders of the world. You are about to witness the eighth’. No clever DJ tricks required, just drop the needle, slay everyone in the room, give them eternal life. Call it a paradox. I won’t argue. We need more paradoxes.” (Philip Random)

(photo: Universal Music archives)

47. I’m gonna booglarize you, baby

“In which the good Captain (Beefheart, that is) sublimely demonstrates what white men ought to be doing with the ole Mississippi Delta Blues – not just imitating them but working them, taking them somewhere deep, strange, more complicated, and yeah, probably inappropriate, because I don’t think booglarize just means to compel someone to get out on the dance floor. Though I did have the exquisite experience of watching a couple dance to it once, all wild hair and hippie beads. I was still just a kid really, maybe fourteen, hanging out at my friend Carl’s place during one his big brother’s parties. One of those legendary wild and wasted mid-70s affairs, before disco hit and confused everything in terms of what constituted suitable dance music. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s first time I ever heard the Captain’s music. Paid attention to it anyway. But how could I not have noticed something like I’m Gonna Booglarize You, working at least three separate yet finely intertwined grooves with such finesse that a man couldn’t help but get to growling. Or a boy. Anybody really.”  (Philip Random)

(photo: Gijsbert Hanekroot)

73. hyperbolicsyllabic – sesquedalymistic

“I’m guessing the title is sort of a nod to the Mary Poppins tune, though the song itself takes off in a more resolutely soulful direction. And cool it is until the groove takes over and things genuinely elevate care of  the kind of musical genius that isn’t afraid to just let the piano speak, give it all the space it needs, don’t worry, it won’t disappoint you. Isaac Hayes (yeah, you may know him better as Chef) being the genius in question, the groove itself being so hot that Public Enemy would put it to stunning use a couple decades later in Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos (one of their greatest moments) … almost as if Mr. Hayes had it planned all along. And maybe he did.” (Philip Random)

(photo: Chuck Dees)

89. one nation under a groove

“Because it made John the drug dealer cry. Tough guy, carried a gun sometimes (or claimed to anyway), you did not f*** with him. It was 86 Street nightclub, 1988, maybe three hours into the 19-piece P-Funk All Stars extravaganza, George Clinton and company riding a groove that had been building all evening, just wave after wave of funk infused fabulousness, everything building, building … and finally shifting slightly, evolving into a recognizable song, the one about there only being one nation, the one which entices us to all move in groovy unity. That’s when John nudged me, pointed to a tear on his cheek. If that musical moment had somehow been pressed to vinyl in all its power and glory, it would probably be number one on this list. But I guess we’ll just have to go with the album version from a decade previous, which like so much of the Parliament-Funkadelic stuff, works fine even as it falls magnitudes short of the live item. Oh well. Maybe you had to be there. I was.” (Philip Random)

262. keep on truckin’

“Growing up in suburban wherever back in the latter part of the early 1970s, you didn’t get much so-called black music on the radio, or the record stores for that matter. But every now and then, something epic like Keep On Truckin’ managed to blaze on through. I had no idea who Eddie Kendricks was (though I had heard of the Temptations), but man if my head didn’t turn whenever it came on, particularly the long album version which, to my then fourteen year old ears, just seemed to go on forever in the best possible way, expanding my soul and my consciousness as to what music could and should be. And honestly, it still does.” (Philip Random)

EddieKendricks-1973-truckin.jpg

338. pots on, gas on high

Some have called 1971’s Endless Boogie a failed experiment, but they’re wrong. Even if main man John Lee Hooker was just hanging around for much of it, letting the mostly white boys do the work (Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Steve Miller, Gino Scaggs among others), it matters big time that he was there, bearing witness, leaning in every now and then to mumble something perhaps relevant to the temperature of the groove in question. Or maybe he really was just looking at the stove, pots full of weird potions bubbling over, setting the atmosphere itself alight.

JohnLeeHooker-younger

430. love ritual

“The secret for me with the Reverend Al Green is generally to catch him when he’s in a less reverend phase. Which is definitely the case with Love Ritual, a track I originally discovered via a mid-90s remix. Which got me looking for the original vinyl, which was easy enough to find. And it was better. More emphasis on the vocals, and thus the soul, set in motion by the groove, but not bound by it.” (Philip Random)

ALgreen-1976

630. that’s how I feel

They were the Jazz Crusaders until 1971 at which point they became merely the Crusaders, and less of a straight up jazz outfit, more of a funk driven item. But one thing that didn’t change (and never would) was the rich and prodigious power of the music. That’s How I Feel showed up on their second album as the Crusaders, the perhaps confusingly titled double shot called 1. Nothing confusing at all about how it made things move.

Crusaders-1973