Willie Hutch-The Mack on Motown 1973. In my opinion, this is one of the best Blaxploitation movie soundtracks ever. It has fast, mid-tempo songs and ballads. It uses funk, soul, blues, rock and jazz, with plenty of breaks throughout. Some of the songs have that classic Willie feel where he changes the groove up. Vampin, Theme of the Mack, I Choose You, Slick, Mack Man (Got to Get Over), Mother’s Theme & Brother’s Gonna Work it Out are the best songs on here. “Hey man, you really don’t understand do you?” A classic quote from the LP and one of the first Blaxploitation soundtracks to use dialogue from the film.
Syl Johnson-Is it Because I’m Black? On Twilight 1970. I got put up on this one by my Pops but it took me years to find a copy. This LP has deep funk, psychedelic rock, blues and soul with a hard edge sound. Right On, the last cut on the LP, is one of my favorites on here. It’s like an early JBs cut where lots of instruments have solos, it’s up-tempo, funky, soulful with sparse message oriented vocals. My all time favorite on here is the first track: Is it Because I’m Black? It’s 7 minutes and some odd seconds of straight realness. All tracks in between these two are nice as well, especially Concrete Reservation.
Love Unlimited-In Heat on 20th Century 1974. Barry White produced this group. These were his back-up singers. There’s plenty of strings on most of the songs. I like the classic remake of Move Me No Mountain the best. Nas sampled this cut along with some others. The rest of the LP has some smooth grooves like Share a Little Love In Your Heart and I Belong to You. It also contains the Love Unlimited classic Love’s Theme. This female trio sings well together and sound much like the early Emotions or the Supremes after Diana Ross went solo, but it has a Barry White musical feel.
Bennie Maupin-Slow Traffic to the Right on Mercury 1977. This LP defines Fusion Jazz or Jazz funk. Bennie was the reed man that played with Herbie Hancock’s famous Headhunters band. Much like those records, there’s extremely funky and dope cuts on here: You Know the Deal, It remains to Be Seen, Quasar, Water Torture, Lament & Eternal Flame. Most of these are instrumentals or have very sparse vocals. There’s an all-Star fusion jazz cast of players like Patrice Rushen and Eddie Henderson. It’s just a really good example of what fusion jazz should sound like.
Les McCann-Talk to the People on Atlantic 1972. This is a must have for crate diggers. It’s pretty much the epitome of a break album. It sounds similar to an early 70s CTI Bob James LP and has been heavily sampled like one as well. The What’s Going On remake is a classic and shows Les’ vocal abilities. The drum break on North Carolina and Talk to the People have been used by many producers from the Golden Era of Hip Hop. There’s a couple vocal cuts like Let it Lay and Seems so Long. She’s Here and Shamading round out the instrumentals. Les has an extensive catalog but this is one of the best fusion LPs he put out.
New Birth-Comin’ From all Ends on RCA Victor 1974. The New Birth are a huge Harvey Fuqua produced band consisting of a female vocal group, a male vocal group and the Nite Liters as the backing band. There are several LPs by New Birth but this one is my favorite. It showcases a variety of sounds and genres, with groove changes, breaks, and straight funk. Comin’ From All Ends, Pretty Music, I Washed My Hands of the Whole Damn Deal, Echoes of My Mind and Do It Again are some of my favorites tracks on here. The two interludes aren’t bad either: End to End and Epilogue.
Ohio Players-Pain on Westbound 1972. This is their 2nd LP, coming a few years after the Observations in Time album. It’s their 1st with Walter Junie Morrison who really helped define the band’s sound during the Westbound years which is their best music. Players Balling is an extended funk jam that’s been sample by many. Never Had a Dream is a jazzy ballad with plenty of breaks. Pain is the funky title cut that hosts Walter’s vocals along with Singing in the Morning. Most of the songs are pretty long and the grooves are forever changing. The band plays a lot of different styles of music which helps make the LP sound tight.
Agustus Pablo-Original Rockers on Greensleeves 1979. This LP is a compilation of singles that were produced by Augustus from 1972-1975. The tracks were mixed by famous Dub producers King Tubby and Prince Jammy. Dillinger does the vocals for the best track on here called Brace a Boy. It’s a definite dub track with toastin’ throughout along with sparse vocals. Rockers Dub, Thunder Clap, Tubbys Dub Song, Jah Dread and Park Lane Special are mostly instrumental tracks with Augustus on keys and melodica. The way King Tubby & Prince Jammy mix these tracks is dope as well.
Parliament-Clones of Dr. Funkenstein on Casablanca 1976. The P-Funk movement was in full effect by the time this LP dropped. George and the gang are at their peak and songs like Gamin’ On Ya’, Dr. Funkenstein, Children of Production and Do that Stuff are straight mid and up-tempo examples of the P-Funk sound. I’ve been Watching You is a very funky ballad with Glen Goins on vocals. Other players on the LP are: Fuzzy Haskins, Bootsy, Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, Gary Shider, Grady Thomas, Jerome Brailey, Bernie Worrell, Debbie Edwards, and Taka Khan.
Prince- Sign ‘o’ the Times on Paisley Park, Warner Brothers 1987. My brother put me up on this one. It’s one of the last LPs Prince and the Revolution played together on. It’s a double LP, and full of tight songs like: Sign o the Times, Housequake, Ballad of Dorothy Parker, Starfish and Coffee, Hot Thing, U Got the Look, If I Was Your Girlfriend, Strange Relationship, I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man and Adore. As far as styles go, it has elements of house, pop/rock, ballads, funk and soul. There’s message music like the title track and fun songs like Starfish & Coffee. It’s a good example of the 80s.