Category Archives: Funk


Tago Mago, 1971

So this is the New Year! Let’s make a deal: if I resolve to be a little more consistent about posting to TBSYHAD (5 songs a week, like I told myself in the beginning), will you resolve to check the site more often? Really? You will? As a sign of your loyalty, will you also promise to listen to “Halleluhwah” in its entirety today? I’m not gonna ask that you stay seated the entire time — it’s cool if you need to get up to do the dishes or something. I mean, 19 minutes … that’s about how long it takes to do dishes anyway. I promise it’ll be worth it. I was reminded recently how much I love this band — specifically for this album and Ege Bamyasi — when I heard the spooky “Vitamin C” over the opening moments of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice. “Halleluhwah” captures a similar anxious groove, then stretches it beyond all reasonable measure.



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“When the Party’s Over”

Allen Toussaint
Southern Nights, 1975

While I don’t think this song necessarily gives it away, Allen Toussaint is known and respected as one of the most important figures in the history of New Orleans music. With his reputation as a pianist, songwriter and producer already secure, 1975’s Southern Nights was a swing for the fences — his attempt at a concept record a la Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone or the other album-format heroes of the day. The end result isn’t nearly as diverse or well-remembered as the best from those performers, but a handful of classics still made the cut, notably the title track, “Basic Lady” and the easy Sunday-morning funk of “When the Party’s Over.” Like all the best songs in the genre, it sounds as warm and inviting on the first listen as on the fiftieth.



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“Ja Funmi”

King Sunny Ade
Juju Music, 1982

I must confess I don’t know too much about King Sunny Ade, the jùjú genre or Nigerian culture in general. My understanding is that Juju Music, KSA’s major-label debut, made quite a splash in America when it was released in the early ‘80s, paving the way for the minor Afro-Pop wave that followed. It’s not too much of a stretch to listen to “Ja Funmi” and understand how this music, or music like it, would’ve captivated Paul Simon, David Byrne and other white artists of the time. (I’m probably getting the influences all wrong — in theory, Graceland was built more on South African sounds, and Talking Heads were Fela Kuti devotees. Still, for an uninformed WASP, the similarities are clear.) What’s fascinating about this record, and even more so follow-up Syncro System, is the way KSA successfully integrates his singular guitar sound with modern-for-the-time production: drum programming, deep bass and a pristine mix that sounds phenomenal through a good set of speakers. Since Ade’s playing is inimitable, the music has aged remarkably well and continues to be popular among “world music” fans and crate diggers alike.



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“Where Pathways Meet”

sun ra
Sun Ra
Lanquidity, 1978

Something different then, for a Friday. There’s just no easy way into the Sun Ra catalog, no matter how you slice it; the legendary keyboardist recorded over 100 albums between 1956 and 1993. More than any other jazz performer or composer – even Miles Davis – his body of work engages the entire history of the genre, including works for big-band orchestra, solo piano, bebop and a much-lauded free jazz period. It’s intimidating but you’ve got to start somewhere, and Lanquidity is as good a place as any. Though rooted in the avant-garde spirit of his earlier work, it also brushes up against the popular funk and R&B of its era. “Where Pathways Meet” is the album’s most up-tempo cut, with a steady rhythmic bed like a spoonful of sugar for first-time listeners.

[audio ]


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