Category Archives: Funk

Excuse me while I melt into Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul

If I said this to myself once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Every single time I find new music — new to me, anyway — I regret not finding it sooner. Major case in point today: Isaac Hayes’ 1969 landmark album Hot Buttered Soul.  

I’ve been familiar with the album cover, and Hayes in general, since forever, but I fell into Hot Buttered Soul by accident this time. I had picked up a Stax Records compilation  last week, and Hayes’ cover of Dionne Warwick‘s “Walk On By” was the final song on the record. The rest of the tracks were fine on their own, but this last one blew me over. It’s Hayes laying a heavy sheen of deep soul over Hal David’s and Burt Bacharach’s already moody and mellow hooks. So my initial instinct was to find where the hell this song originally existed, and Hot Buttered Soul was the first place I looked. It’s the first goddamn track. Don’t I feel the fool.

Isaac Hayes-walk-on-by

I’m a huge fan of Warwick’s more restrained, dignified version anyway, so to hear the always smooth Hayes pulling the rug out from underneath it was stunning. It’s got a lush, emotional orchestral section, a rough and fuzzy guitar riff, and Hayes crying from the pain of lost love all over. He also lengthened the song greatly, at more than 12 minutes, giving it a sweeping intro and a powerful, liberating ending.

The only good thing about finding incredible music years overdue is finally going through the amazing experience of that first listen.

Hear it:

Isaac Hayes: Hot Buttered Soul

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Filed under '60s, Funk, New Music, Soul

Bill Withers grants rare interview ahead of Carnegie honors

Bill Withers posing for a portrait around 1973.

Bill Withers posing for a portrait around 1973.

OkayPlayer has put out an interview with musician Bill Withers ahead of a tribute honoring the legendary musician.

The interview is part of several retrospectives about Withers, who penned the romantic acoustic classic “Ain’t No Sunshine” when he barely had experience as a musician.

Earlier this year Withers was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Tomorrow (Oct. 1), Withers will be honored at Carnegie Hall by artists like Michael McDonald, Anthony Hamilton, Sheryl Crow, Ed Sheeran and others. D’Angelo bowed out today due to unspecified illness.

In the interview, Withers speaks about his songwriting skills, his concerts, such as his Zaire event in 1974, and sampling. He also acknowledges he’s 77 and admits he fits squarely in that age group:

I would like to run and jump and roll over and stuff like that, but I don’t want to hurt myself.

Check out Withers’ scathing, honest funk-driven “Use Me”:

And watch him as he sings “Ain’t No Sunshine,” one of the most iconic songs of the 1970s. What has always been striking to me is the song’s simplicity, and beginning with just a minimal acoustic guitar melody sets the tone as the song builds, and then quickly fades. “Ain’t No Sunshine” seems built to go on and on, and the melody is so beautiful that you wish it would last longer than a couple minutes.

Maybe that’s part of the song’s appeal, but Withers packs in so much soul, from the lyrics to his pained voice to the tune’s rolling beat, it’s almost too much to bear. Like all good things, it’s over much too soon.

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Filed under Acoustic, Blues, Funk, R & B, Rock, Soul, VIdeos

Thundercat’s rolling bass drives “Them Changes”

Thundercat is back, this time with the retro-soul gem “Them Changes.”
Singer, producer and bass player Thundercat (Stephen Bruner) is known for working with Flying Lotusthundercat bass and Suicidal Tendencies. Bruner has also made a recent appearance on Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly,” but his resume includes working with Erykah Badu’s “New Amerykah” in 2008. He’s been collaborating with Flying Lotus since Bruner’s first album, 2011’s “Golden Age of Apocalypse,” which Flying Lotus produced.

Thundercat’s new single “Them Changes” channels slivers of Kool and the Gang’s romantic vocals and the easy-living piano of Hall and Oates and modernizes it into a new version of smooth R&B funk.

It’s an infectious hit, and its bumping and rolling bass lifts you off the floor.

Via Rolling Stone, Thundercat’s new mini-album, “The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam,” which Flying Lotus co-produced, is out June 22. Thundercat is on the Brainfeeder label.

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Filed under Funk, Retro Soul, Soul

Nile Rodgers, CHIC sign deal with Warner Bros.; album drops in June

Nile Rodgers performs with his band Chic on the third day of the Glastonbury music festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset June 28, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris (BRITAIN - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Nile Rodgers performs with his band Chic on the third day of the Glastonbury Music Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset, June 28, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Warner Brothers has announced a recording deal with guitarist and producer Nile Rodgers and his band CHIC, which Rodgers co-founded. Warner Bros. has also announced a deal with Rodgers’ and Michael Ostin’s label, Land Of The Good Groove.

Even bigger news — Rodgers has been busy prepping the first CHIC album in almost 25 years —  with the first single scheduled for March 20, and the album to drop in June.

Rodgers’ influence on popular music has thrived, since the golden days of 70s funk and disco, through his producing, composing and guitar work.

CHIC’s disco smash “Le Freak” will be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame on Sunday. Rodgers is set to receive the President’s Merit Award during the Academy’s 8th Grammy Week Celebration for the Producers & Engineers Wing of NARAS.

For the uninitiated, watch the video for “Le Freak”; its free-living, jumping soul-funk style that melds classical points with disco fire is unmistakable.


Concocted during New Year’s Eve 1977 and released in the disco/funk-rich period of 1978, “Le Freak” commemorates Studio 54’s snubbing of the band after Grace Jones didn’t notify the staff of the band’s arrival.

The song’s “Freak out!” and “Le Freak, C’est Chic” catchphrases can be found everywhere in pop culture across generations and with no sign of stopping; CHIC’s revival this year may only fan the flames.

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Filed under Disco, Funk, Pop, Soul, VIdeos

A cure for the nation’s cold snap: “Uptown Funk”


Mark Ronson’s newest gem “Uptown Funk” is frankly, a dance-funk synth explosion of fun-filled joy. It’s loaded to the gills with vibrant energy and brightness — a pick-me-up-and-carry-me-through-the-fall (and winter) kind of song.

“Uptown Funk” also features Bruno Mars, in case you need more motivation to listen to “Uptown Funk.”

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Filed under Dance, Funk, New Music, Pop

Prince retains royal title as king of rock on “Plectrumelectrum”

Songwriter, producer, guitarist, and hardest-working man Prince has released two powerhouse albums, the solo “Art Official Age” and “Plectrumelectrum,” with his band 3 Eye Girl.prince-3rdeyegirl-fixurlifeup-600x450

“Plectrumelectrum” is more rock-oriented than “Art Official Age,” and richer as well; a crowd-pleasing arena-rock binge.

“Wow,” with its grand refrain, is a lesson on the right way to open an album and sets the bar for the rest of “Plectrumelectrum.” Its message of a beautiful drug addict in denial is an unexpected twist.

“Another Love” also weaves a venomous message. As he cries out, “The greatest living soul, you’ll never know,” Prince is defiant in his bitter testament to lost love.

The hard-rock hooks on the title track riff a bit off the first half of Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean,” and the instrumental only gains strength.

Monster ’80s guitar chords and rhythms, including roiling chunks of downright hot funk, all dominate “Plectrumelectrum” ’s master-blaster sound.

The album is also full of sensitive, beautiful melodies. The country-tinged female vocals for “Whitecaps” float effortlessly on a contemporary wave, while “Stop This Train” is a delicate love duet set to a reggae beat.

Prince’s vocals sound just as good as they did five, 10, 15 albums ago, but now he’s got an extra edge to his messages of sensual love and social awareness.

If some felt Prince needed to shore up his title as the royal authority on dance, pop, funk and rock, “Plectrumelectrum” is here to shut them all down.

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Filed under Funk, New Music, Pop, Rock