Mp3 Killed the Vinyl DJ 1: Michigan Soul

The Northern summer had me forgetting it was summer at all, until suddenly the sun and warmth appeared again. The flame burns brightest before burning out, of course. Anyway, it seems only fitting to post some sunny music, after all that grim and bloody stuff Toilet Guppies has unleashed lately…

Earlier this year, on Tuesday 24 March, Uriel Jones—the last remaining Funk Brother—passed away at 74. The Motown house band in which he'd played drums had famously played on more number one hits than Elvis, the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Beach Boys combined. Not that that matters; their no-nonsense grooves surpassed that of the trucker in love with his dear ol' mama, the original boy band, the OAP rockers and those barber shop surfers, anyway.

This rarities comp isn't the best of the Funk Brothers, obviously, but it is the best of the Funk Brothers' stuff that has never been reissued on CD or mp3—the still unavailable tracks off of two 1971 albums, one by the Temptations, the other by the Undisputed Truth, both produced by visionary audio experimentalist, Norman Whitfield (who passed away in September last year).

In the documentary-as-tribute film, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, one of the Funk Brothers makes the contentious claim that it never mattered who sang on their backing tracks, so sure-fire stellar were they. An exaggeration, of course, but here both the singers of male vocal quintet the Temptations and mixed-gender trio the Undisputed Truth come off as somewhat dispensable. (Indeed, Motown and Whitfield would fire and hire singers at their whim, both bands going through almost unnoticeable line-up changes.) So in a sense, the stars here are the Funk Brothers, as well as arrangers Dave Van DePitte and Paul Riser—and maestro Norman Whitfield:

  1. It's Summer
  2. Ain't No Sunshine
  3. Ain't No Sun Since You've Been Gone
  4. You Got the Love I Need
  5. What It Is?
  6. California Soul
  7. Since I've Lost You
  8. Smooth Sailing from Now On
  9. Save My Love for a Rainy Day
  10. Like a Rolling Stone
(For the nerds:
1, 2, 5 & 8 from the Temptations'
Solid Rock.
3, 4, 6, 7, 9 & 10 from the Undisputed Truth's The Undisputed Truth.
All tracks 1971.)
Everybody needs somebody to hate, so no surprise that Whitfield—one of the writers of «Smiling Faces Sometimes» (only a paranoid song upon first glance) and «Papa Was a Rollin' Stone»—chose Bob Dylan's Schadenfreudian «Like a Rolling Stone» for the Undisputed Truth to record. The arrangement certainly misses the bite of the original, but it fleshes out the lyrics' sadistic (if somewhat sorrowful) glee with a sense of regret and paradoxical empathy, the song no longer an expression of loathing.

And for proof that the singers really weren't irrelevant—even when backed by the esteemed Funk Brothers—check out the Temptations' grooving along and playing off each other on the dreamy intro to their cover of Bill Withers' «Ain't No Sunshine».

Oh, and incidentally, Uriel Jones didn't even play on any of these two albums.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post, paying all due respect to 'The Funk Brothers'. Nice work!