Captain Syrup – “Eyraland” Cassette (2019)

Get out your blender and put it on the counter. No, it’s OK, you don’t need to clean it first. A little leftover grime from those margaritas a few months ago is fine. Now put in some ice and some whiskey and some kind of non-carbonated fruit drink. Add some rock, a fistful of funk, and a dash of hardcore, blend and serve. Congrats. You’ve made a big pitcher of Eyraland.

I know, I know. Everyone wants Iceland to give us things like Sigur Rós and The Sugarcubes and Of Monsters and Men. But you know what, sometimes life doesn’t give you what you want. Sometimes it gives you filthy, funk garage rock. And when that happens you put it in the blender with a bunch of booze, get loaded, black out, and try to use your phone like an episode of CSI to piece your night together. Or a trip to the ER to get checked for SDIs.

This kinda-sorta new tape from Captain Syrup is the bomb. Funky and weird and fun and fresh and guaranteed to piss off the neighbors if you crank it up. When you want to have a good time just set your tape player to loop and hit play. Or if you’re not a luddite like me, just bring it up on Spotify, because you can stream it there too. Or better yet, kick the guys a few bucks and buy a digital copy straight from the band HERE and support the future of sleazy funk.

James Brown – “Jam 1980s” (1978)

Just in case James’ sparkly lightning bolt outfit and mustache didn’t make it clear, the jacket reverse of Jam 1980s tells you exactly what you’re in for – “JAMES BROWN – NEW DISCO SOUND”. The Godfather of Soul taking a stab at being The Godfather of… Disco?? And there’s also a statement from the man himself.

Here I am back where we all started because now people want real dance music. I am so glad that the public got wise to the electronic sounds! Either you can or you cannot. I thank God they say I can. Here it is so spank your butt off.

Wow.

All that being said, the opening track “Jam”, all 11+ minutes of it, is not disco. Like, not at all. It’s actually moderately funky. Not heavy funk to be sure, and the guitar solo is pretty rock ‘n’ roll, but hardly disco. Brown still does call-and-responses with the band and belts out his trademark “Ha ha!”s. This ain’t no Bee Gees, that’s for sure.

Jam 1980s was the 24th album Brown put out… in just the 1970s (he’d close out the decade with The Original Disco Man in 1979). That’s insane, and certainly fits his title of The Hardest Working Man In Show Business.

Latimore – “It Ain’t Where You Been… It’s Where You’re Goin’” (1976)

First of all, look at this cover. It’s OK. I’ll wait.

Now that’s cool. I’m not saying you could unironically rock that look today. If you’d tried you’d better be tough as hell and quick with your fists. But man, there is some serious 1976 cool happening here. Latimore, the noted keyboardist, is sitting at a piano… but in a barber’s chair. The whole thing dares you to pick up the record… if you think you’re down enough.

It Ain’t Where You Been… is more on the soul side of funk, but it definitely jams, the organ and horns supplying the funkiness over the rhythm section swing.

James Brown – “Black Caesar (Original Soundtrack)” (1973)

We’ve watched a handful of 1970s blaxploitation films recently, including 1973s Black Caesar. Seeing these films four decades later is a sort of surreal experience, their over-the-topness making them feel quaint and kind of funny, but that strips them of their original context and the place they filled in a segment of society who didn’t see their experiences reflected on the big screen. There’s a casualness to much of the violence and quite often the protagonists aren’t entirely good people, exposing their own faults for everyone to see and making no apologies.

James Brown did the soundtrack to Black Caesar, and frankly it’s brilliant. It’s at its best when it’s at its funkiest, which is no surprise, and tracks like “Down and Out In New York City” and “The Boss” are vinyl gold. The collection of soul and funk I was gifted recently is yielding a lot of great gems and is definitely expanding my mind, both into the roots of hip hop and just the pure beauty of funk itself.

Brass Construction – “Brass Construction II” (1976)

When you’re hanging out in Kirkland, WA, the United States’ coronavirus ground zero, and the governor has taken things as close as he can to a full martial law lockdown, and your company has everyone working from home for the foreseeable future, but it’s the first full sunny day in forever, you need some funk. Something to get the juices flowing, the feet moving, your soul stirring in a way that makes you think, “yeah, we’ll get through this nonsense”. So I dipped into the collection I recently got from Derek’s dad and came out with a copy of Brass Construction II. Sure, it’s not the funkiest funk that ever funked, leaning more towards disco than jazz, but it’s pretty fresh while we sit her and contemplate the word pandemic and what has happened to our retirement savings over the past two weeks. Cuz sometimes you just need to get a little funky, my man.

“Sambo (Progression)” is my recommended track. As an added bonus, the start of the B side opener “The Message (Inspiration)” sounds like the base for N.W.A.’s “I Ain’t the 1”. Get some.