Thursday, March 26, 2009
Funky Funky Houston Volume 1 - Rare and Unreleased Recordings from the Vaults of Ovide Records 1968-1969 (Funky Delicacies, 1999)
Although primarily known for being a blues and country town, this collection of tunes from the Ovide Records label proves conclusively that Houston also had a thriving funk scene that nowadays is unfortunately almost completely forgotten. What's presented here is pretty sophisticated in terms of arrangements and production, although the material never strays into glossy, proto-disco territory as the tracks all date from 1968 and 1969. There seems to be an equal emphasis on guitars and horns, and the performances at times recall the contemporary work of James Brown, early Funkadelic, Booker T. & the M.G.s, Kool & the Gang, and others.
Instrumentals make up approximately two-thirds of the material on this comp. Americans of '68 chip in with the propulsive "Hunching Sticks," "Baby, Baby, Baby," and "Come On Mama." The enticingly-named African Echoes show off some J.B.s-influenced moves in "Mgimbe/Zulu Lunchbag" and "Big Time." "Song for a Princess" is a catchy horn-driven piece by the T.S.U. Tornados, who also had numerous releases on Atlantic. "Cha-Cha," despite its title, may be the crown jewel of this collection. The sole unreleased track on this LP, it features some top-notch fuzz guitar leads, and with performing credit given to the Ovide All-Stars, one would have to assume the players were culled from some of the other groups that appear here. It would be nice if there were some liner notes that listed the musicians and especially the guitarist on this cut. The album's closer, "Cool Sticks" by Ambassadors of Soul features some fine guitar-organ interplay in addition to excellent polyrhythmic conga-drum playing.
The tracks with vocals display the same high standard of quality. Soul Meditations' "The Bird" is a tribute to a like-titled dance with singing arrangements that at times recall early P-Funk. Mark Putney's gritty vocals grace "Today's Man" and "Don't Come Around Anymore," tracks that also showcase a superb backing band with an especially outstanding vibraphonist. I can't say enough good things about the Masters of Soul's "I Hate You." More of that bad-ass fuzz guitar, great vocal harmonies, and an unforgettable line in, "I hate you in the daytime, but I love you at night" combine to make this a true funk nugget. Pete Mayes' "Peace" features more tight playing and a message that is very much a product of its time.
Collectors of funk 45s may turn up their noses at this collection, but for those of us who were not at the right place and right time to acquire such artifacts, this sho' nuff is nice to have.
Get Funky Funky Chicago here.
1. The Bird - Soul Meditations
2. Today's Man - Mark Putney
3. Hunching Sticks - Americans of '68
4. I Hate You - The Masters of Soul
5. Mgimbe/Zulu Lunchbag - The African Echoes
6. Baby, Baby, Baby - Americans of '68
7. Peace - Peter Mayes
8. Big Time - The African Echoes
9. Song for a Princess - T.S.U. Tornados
10. Don't Come Around Anymore - Mark Putney
11. Come On Mama - The Americans of '68
12. Cha-Cha - The Ovide All-Stars*
13. Cool Sticks - Ambassadors of Soul
* previously unreleased