Week 32: Sonic Pioneers

By: Lafayette

Aug 09 2009

Tags: ,

Category: 1973

51 Comments

Hey, friends!

We’re already into the last hours of Week 32, but better late than never, right?! Since this week has been my last off from work, I’ve been busy cramming as much vacation into it as humanly possible – and it’s been a blast! But now I’m all vacationed out, and almost even look forward to getting back to work (and some decent air conditioning).

Week 32 was supposed to be all about a sweet contribution from our old friend Paros (check back in a couple of days for that), but I just had to sneak this one in first…another favourite discovered this summer – The Gregory James Edition and their 1973 album “Prophets of Soul”. The album is yet another instrumental gem…this summer’s been all about them instrumentals – though not as laid back as the Art Jerry Miller album. This Chicago trio – consisting of Gregory Bibb on keys, James Norris on guitar and Anthony McAllister on drums – goes for the more upfront, hard hitting approach…with a really original take on instrumental soul music.

The best proof of that is found on their renditions of Bill Withers “Ain’t No Sunshine” and Al Green’s “Love & Happiness” – spaced-out, otherworldly, hi-tech grooves led by a fierce Farfisa organ, backed by some funky clavinet, a wah-wahed or crisp Gretsch and some incredibly bangin’ drums. The album holds 3 original songs and 4 covers (apart from the previously mentioned, you’ll also find a cool version of Isaac Hayes “Shaft” and funked-out take on Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Make It Easy On Yourself”) – all killer, no filler! My only complaint is that the album is kinda short. Just 28 minutes long – but they really make every minute count! Check out the opening cut “Brother Marcus” – the mellowest song on the album…just plain beautiful: (Most photos in this preview are from a Google image search with the keyword “Chicago 1973”.)

Oh…yeah, one more thing. This shouldn’t count as a complaint as such, but it’s pretty evident that the art department was in a rush when handling the cover and the liner notes. Firstly, they got the name of the band itself wrong, and thought that they were called Prophets of Soul, because “Gregory James Edition” is handled typographically as the title of the album. Secondly, the back cover is full of spelling errors and the liner notes, damn, they’re something special. My guess is that the band jotted down some notes presenting themselves and the 7 songs on the album, and maybe their scribblings were illegible or too long or something, because the temp secretary who typed them out did a hack job…some of the (unintentionally) funniest reading I’ve done in years…really! Here are some excerpts:

………………………………………………………………

“’Ain’t No Sunshine’ was the initial attention getter for a tremendously talented song writer and performer, Bill Withers. It’s typical of the love a black man feels for his mate.”

“’Grandma Heavy was written by the guitar player after the death of his grandmother. The music is modern rock with the intricate playing of the New Orleans guitar. Older people are all knowing and have the ability to invigorate young people with a tremendous drive for life.”

“Changing Thing is a typical of American life in the last of the 1960’s. Institutions have been torn down; morals, technology, religion, though all have made giant steps forward. The song is based on what Gregory James Edition considers 20th century music to be, chance and game. Chance in that the creator creates and hopes. Games in that the creator follows the rules or guidelines of contemporaries and of musical knowledge…”

………………………………………………………………

See what I mean!? I couldn’t understand half of it! :¬)
Read more of the hilariousness on the hi-res cover scans included with the download.

Evidently this was Gregory James Edition’s one and only album, but Gregory Bibb recorded some solo material later on, and kept doing session work as well, like on the Walter Jackson album “I Want To Come Back As A Song” from 1977. Gregory passed away recently – read the comment from his son on this Youtube clip featuring GJE’s rendition of “Love & Happiness” – and then check out the info provided over at Chi-Sound Records website.

Go get the original 1973 vinyl right here (ranging between $10.90 and $139.99) – where you also find the only other song I know of by the Gregory James Edition…the 7″ single “Sunday Lady”, for only $10! There’s also a $8.99 vinyl reissue available over at Dusty Groove – who describes the album like this: “Rhythms are lean, laidback, and nicely stripped-down – funky, but chilled out – in a kind of a groove that was years ahead of its time, and which is now only finally getting its due. There’s some really heavy drums on the best cuts – hard, but with rhythms that are slightly off-kilter, in a way that makes for a really refreshing groove!”

Gregory, James & Anthony…true prophets of soul – thank you for the music!

(Ps. Found an interesting story about crate digger Matlock’s search for this album – and Gregory James Edition’s influence on the UK jungle/drum’n’bass scene of the late 90’s…a must-read – check it out here! This is also where I borrowed the cover photo featured in the preview clip above! Thanks are due for both!)

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51 comments on “Week 32: Sonic Pioneers”

  1. Enjoy, peeps! And please leave a comment – share your opinions…on the post and/or the album!

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  2. Oooohhh yeahhh! Sounds sweet!
    Been hangin’ for this weeks post to see what gem would pop up!
    Lovin’ it every single week – without fail!
    Keep up the tremendous work guys!

  3. Thanks, Kizza…yeah, kept ya’ll hangin’ for too long, I know! But this weeks album sure is worth the extra wait! 😉

  4. Thanks again 4bb fam

  5. hi to the bros

    just downloading that release, i take a minute to thank you all for the genezrous work you make.

    i’ve ust been trying to encode a couple of LP i have, then this confirmed if necessary that it’s a pretty long an tough job.

    i was alsm sensible at the mail you’ve sent a coupe of weeks ago, asking for some more respect or gratefulness from your downloaders. be sure that though i’ve mostly been quiet i have very much respect for you and your job.

    thanks again, long life to the bros

  6. Again, you guys come up with the jams!

  7. Love me my 60s garage rock so it’s great to hear some farfisa funk for once. Brunswick is one of my fave imprints and I love the chi-town sound but this is a real rare treat – can’t think of anything else that sounded quite like this at the time.

    Hell, just finally hearing the “Changing Times” break and finally knowing the source for it is the bomb! Last year I posted one of the main the d’n’b tracks to use the break, “I’ll fly Away” by Ballistic Brothers and I’ve wondered where it came from for 15 years.

    Dope upon dope upon dope and lovin’ the new groove you and the brothers are finding yourselves in at your new home, Laf. Many thanks!

  8. Whoa! Nice nice funky album………another one never seen……….keep bringing the heat brothers!!

  9. Love that Farfisa sound.

    Thanks.

  10. OMG! Lol on the liner notes!!!! ” It’s typical of the love a black man feels for his mate.” Wow! “Older people are all knowing and have the ability to invigorate young people with a tremendous drive for life.” WTF!!! “Shaft has been the most imtated and provacative song of the 70’s?!?” “Love and happiness has the beat that is basic to every modern black American” … uhhh wow!!!…

    Now lets get into into the album because it is a gem for real! I had to give a listen all the way through like 4 times just to make out what all the different kinds of keyboard sounds were buried in this treasure. Now I already have mad love for instrumentals.. and especially from folks from my home town Chicago. Brother Marcus kicks off a really fresh jam, very full wah guitar chords and an almost eerie mellow progression especially when the crazy farfisa kicks in, its just a taste of whats to come later in the album, But this is a very haunting and cool track.. the clavs mixed with the other keyboards in Ain’t No Sunshine give a high tech almost Nintendo game system synth sound, but not in a cheesy way .. more like a cool futuristic yet retro sound, I mean the covers on this album hold their own as very unique interpretations, personally I think the shaft “cover” (or “seeking to imitate Issac Hayes” as the album notes point out) is so unique it could stand on its own as its own entity like how the Bar-Kays did “Son of Shaft”. First off the Issac Hayes song is titled “Theme from Shaft” and this song is titled something different, and second aside from the intro this song takes on its own life, this could be an entirely different song. Grandma Heavy is cool, that drummer can lay down some fast funky beats (easily could be sampled as jungle) that really help the song chug along, the wah sort of jazz guitar is very cool. “Changing things” is my favorite cut on the album, psych synth soul that really goes out there. Creepy cool and kinda progressive jazzy with eerie atmosphere noise fading in out of the track, with that crazy drummer Anthony playing I belive brushes on the snare but very quick and precise and I love the break with the flanger effect on the drum kit. The love and happiness cover has the beat that is basic to every modern black American, hahahaha J/k! But does showcase James on guitar, and keeps the keys in the back… very smooth . The last track “make it” is cool, smooth and kept me guessing how they got that almost telephone ring sounding effect out of that keyboard, and the funky solo greg plays on the keys toward the end is really cool, a great way to end what should have been a longer album, but a GEM! and thanks so much for posting!!!! Look forward to next week!

  11. good lookin out on this one. love the crazy instrumentals, especially the last 2 tracks. much appreciated!

  12. Yes, yes yes and yes!
    Thank you fam for the rare gem!
    Awesome

    Pier

  13. never heard or seen this before. a real treat. nice work!

  14. Yeah, Cos…thanks…it’s a treat alright! 😀

  15. What a great offer, I think this is a “once in a lifetime chance”. Thank you so much guys

  16. Hi again.Thanks for sharing ,i must apologize because i didn’t thank you some downloads i did but ,excuse me, they’re hard times for me since i’m unemployed and i’m a little ming-gone (excuse my poor english).Sorry for that and thanks for still being there ,i love you.

  17. This place is ace, many thanks
    K

  18. Thanks a lot for this gem!

  19. Thank you!

  20. Many many thanks for this gem!

  21. Thanks for this Album… This is really Cool. Keep up the great work.

    Peace & Love, Seekhan

  22. Thanks so much. Can’t wait to give it a listen.

  23. aaaah. most exXxcellent stuff this is! thanks a zillion for the share, this was a very exciting lissening trip…a real gem with all the right ingredients for me: wah, crazy keys and a tight ass rhythm section…well ofcourse it WAS 1973, so . . .
    on heavy rotation coming weeks over here, that’s for sure. Again thanks.
    peace, E-mile

  24. Had to spray the house and take a shower after hearing that one. It was just too funky. I can’t say anything that hasn’t been said. Luv it Laf! Great post.
    Naw…GREAT POST!!!

  25. thanks again!!! stuff is reallll funkalicious! funny liner notes too!

  26. DOPE album, thank you…

  27. AMAZING album, Thanks!!!

  28. This is some serious digging you done! Great find..a blaxploitation lounge classic.

  29. appreciate the post….keep the soul comin’

  30. wow haven’t heard of these guys before….can’t wait to check it. thanks for the crate diggin!!!

  31. Damn, Laffy! How do I follow up these amazing gems 😛

    Listening now… strange, yet beautifully funky in the same breath. Top work once again. I’ll holla soon, mon frer.

    Peace and blessings.

  32. Much Thanks 4bb!! Definitely worth the listen.

  33. You know its the truth! Good lookin’ out on this Chi Town rarity!

  34. Very nice lp. thanks.

  35. Straight up fire!! Wooh! Hell of an album! This is inspiring me to make more beats!!

  36. GOOD LOOKING!!! SMOOTH.

  37. this leaves me speechless, with tears in my eyes. the best share ive seen for months.

    thanks
    chip

  38. Thanks for this wonderful album! For those interested, check out the cover of “Ain´t no sunshine” from Norwegian band Espen Horne. Very reminiscent to the Gregory James cover from this album!

  39. I am a drummer so i must say that i love the drumming on this . Thanks for putting this up .

  40. Thanks much.

  41. DOPE album!!!!!!!!! Man, I have been slipping! Gotta get back into the groove of things. Thanks for this post. unbelievable

  42. thank you !! what a cover !!

  43. I once held this record in my hands at Bagatelle Records in Long Beach, CA (Big Ups) and set it down for a cheaper 80’s boogie album that was so unimpressive that I can’t even recall what it was. At the time I had never heard this joint and was merely intrigued by the cover, the Dakar label and a few of the contributing artists. But since then i have heard snippets and I kick my own ass often for not shelling out 15 bucks for a pretty nice copy. Whenever I dig this one is always in the back of my mind as one of the “ones that got away” -(I have many of these). Anyway, good post. I gotta keep digging before I can spin it but at least I’ll be able to throw it on the iPod for some funky listening -One


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