For sure there are problems that I still have with how the American public school system is structured,especially when it comes to the projection of the arts. However one thing that happened to me in fourth grade inspired this article. During a class studying project on mythology all of us were given a special sheet of paper about each Greek/Roman myth we were reading. It is important to note African and Middle Eastern mythology was not at all discussed. However this sheet of paper posed a question about a myth: “from what point of view is the story told? (and by whom?)”. It was always the most difficult question for me to answer since every myth extends from a different point of view-each revision over the years and centuries in fact. The idea of individual viewpoint and the slant of a given cultural zeitgeist lays out the dynamic behind the first subject I’m going to be covering here-music critics.
Now I’m not one of those people who feels critics have no place being on the planet. Quite the contrary a music critic can be extremely helpful. They have to me,especially when it comes to an understanding about the existence of music. But I’d like to share some personal advice to you,the reader about the importance of how to read critical articles about music. While many critics are well rounded and give a full impression (both in their opinion of the music itself and it’s content), there are others who let strong personal bias get the best of their professional integrity. This often has a lot to do with said critics cultural back round. Thankfully today we have a special tool to help with this-the internet itself. One can easily look up the back round of any critic somewhere online. Which leads to the heart of what I want to get across. If a given critic has strong rock experience,especially as a DJ during the disco-dance era of the late 70’s say,they are liable to have a strong generational dismissal of funk and soul-which at the time was all lumped into the category of “disco” as a means to condemn it culturally.
With jazz critics who condemn funk-jazz fusion, generationalism again comes into play. For a number of reasons that really don’t stand much sensible ground, anything related to 70’s era jazz fusion presented itself as one progression in the music that jazz admirers were never able to adapt to. It seemed to divide musicians and writers very harshly in the jazz community. And although some of these same writer/critics are highly complimentary to modern jazz innovators such as Esperanza Spalding and Robert Glasper,its interesting that whenever these artists reference 70’s style jazz fusions those same prejudices come to the surface. Whether its a rock critic with an implied “disco sucks” attitude they don’t understand and won’t grow beyond,or a jazz writer fearful of electronic instrumentation in the music they love any of these writers and critics can make or break not only the success of songs and albums,but of entire musical genres themselves. Funk is an important example. Its popularity has been minimal and often misunderstood. So much so that much of the funk era’s original albums were unavailable on CD during the digital age. Only within the last half decade has that began to change.
What is following here is basically my own little epilogue/bibliography/acknowledgements section of this article,where I will provide web links for you about the following reissue labels I am about to discuss. These labels have been extremely helpful in releasing quality re-mastered CD’s of funk,soul and jazz fusion classics that never received the kind of digital age treatments most major rock albums were getting. Wounded Bird,founded in 1999,specialize primarily in the jazz/funk/fusion side of the spectrum-in particularly the 70’s and 80’s. Funkytowngrooves is a European label who began around 2007 and specialize mainly in 1980’s boogie funk. One thing that’s important to note is that these labels are only licensed to release given albums for a limited amount of time. Therefore their reissues only tend to remain in print for a year or two,and become extremely rare once their run is over. BBR (Big Break Records) are a subsidiary of the UK label Cherry Red and are reissuing funk,soul,R&B from the past four decades. Two important qualities about this label is not only do they keep their reissues in print,but also provide well researched and informative liner notes as well. So I hope that this article has helped put some things into perspective for those in a perpetual search for the perfect beat.
*As promised,here’s a reference section to provide links to the labels I mentioned in this article. I strongly encourage you to browse their catalogs. Thank you!
Wounded Bird Records:
Big Break Records: