Wednesday, February 27, 2008
The Blackbyrds - City Life
The Blackbyrds, "Rock Creek Park" (YSI link)
The Blackbyrds, "Happy Music" (YSI link)
The Blackbyrds, "Flying High" (YSI link)
Man, we've been a little bad lately and it's time to to stop that with some great music about being in the city, hanging out in the park, falling in love, being in love, all the good things. We're gonna get out ahead of the disco era, go to its funk roots today with a few tracks from The Blackbyrd's City Life LP. This group was formed by jazz trumpter Donald Byrd in 1973 and featured members Kevin Toney (related to Andrew, I hope), Allan Barnes, Barney Perry, Joseph Hall, Pericles Jacobs Jr. and Keith Killgo. It all began at Howard University in Washington D.C., the band would release 7 albums through 1980, with this one considered their finest.
As for the music, it's beautiful jazz-y funk music, not quite as filthy as say, a James Brown number, but just as danceable and grooving. You can definitely sense Byrd's influence, as the music has an improvisational feel on the longer numbers, complete with soloing. You even get some Ron Burgundy-esque flute solos that add to the much lighter, airier sound than you expect with the funk. I think you can hear a little bit of the transition from funk to the disco sound here, especially on "Flying High." The track features bursts of horns and and soaring strings, up in the sky rather coming at you from below like the best funk.
Things kick off with the classic "Rock Creek Park," a song you may think you've never heard but you have at some point. Like "Funky Drummer," it's become a foundational break in hip-hop, later being sampled by everyone from De La Soul, Nas to Ice Cube. Beyond that nerd stuff, this one is just a great song, and not just because of the quasi-sex breakdowns. With electric guitar, tons of percussion, the thing chugs along. "Happy Music" is my personal favorite, pure fucking bliss. Lots of great electric piano take this one over the top, along with these chika-chika guitar chord breakdowns that I love.
Since I love to end with some good uplifting (or downlifting) lyrics, I'd be remiss not to throw up some from "Happy Music":
Happy music makes me you feel good all the time
Happy music takes the troubles off your mind
Happy music makes your foot loose and fancy free
Happy music takes you where you want to be.
It sure does, doesn't it? Yeah! Happy music! Let's do more of this!