More Mess On My Mind (ep)
These ‘from the vaults’-styled reissues really are turning out some classic finds. Last year there was two ‘found’ John Coltrane albums (to lose just one would be careless…right?) And there were other jazz gems – near-mythic stories of albums recorded and then shelved. Finally we get to hear them.
And so it is here with the ‘demo’ that a young Bootsy Collins and his brother Catfish and their band recorded for James Brown in 1969. He dubbed them The J.Bs and they went on to change the course of funk music not once (with Brown) but twice (as the backbone of Parliament-Funkadelic).
So here we have three long tracks – the opening title cut (a James Brown song) features Don Juan “Tiger” Martin on drums with the Collins brothers duking it out on popcorn-funk guitar (Catfish) and proudly poppin’ bass (Bootsy) as horn players Clayton “Chicken” Gunnells (trumpet) and Robert McCollough (tenor sax) stab down hard on the broken shards of the melody to trample out more rhythmic funk.
For The Wedge, an eight-minute soul-jazz instrumental (again by Brown) the Collins’ are joined by Brown sitting in on organ and Johnny Griggs’ driving congas, the master Clyde Stubblefield is on drums and that same horn section sits subdued this time while James plays the majority of the melody. It’s a great, hooky, swingin’ instrumental.
The closer here is the masterstroke – 22 minutes of medley under the name When You Feel It/Grunt If You Can which takes in snippets of the Meters’ (Chicken Strut), early Motown Stevie Wonder (I Was Made To Love Her) Hendrix (Power of Soul), and The Beatles (Something) via blasts of Kool & The Gang (Let The Music Take our Mind) and the James Brown originals that frame this all. You even get a bit of James’s vocal (“right on!”) and the horns have a blast (ha!) over drummers Stubblefield and Frank “Kash” Waddy and percussionist Griggs’ groove. Catfish plays the guitar line as if he’s adding extra hi-hat to the thick funk stew and Bootsy’s bass guitar is another bottom-bend drum pedal feel to add to the mix.
Legendary stuff here in its embryonic form. A joy. Soulful. Rich. And like discovering old photographs. There’s so much more being hinted at and so much more to come…
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