Skull Snaps – 1973 – Skull Snaps
One of the most legendary funk albums of the 70s a real gem through and through, and filled with the best range of sounds the east coast scene had to offer at the time! The Skull Snaps only ever cut this one album during the early 70s and it’s a masterful blend of hard funk, sweet soul, and soaring group grooving a mix that hangs together perfectly over the years, and which has the group sounding equally great on heavy funk and more club-oriented tunes! The group grew out of the earlier Diplomats group and are working here with great production from George Kerr and arrangements from Bert Keyes both talents who help keep the sound top-shelf throughout. Titles include the monster break track “It’s A New Day” (which virtually became the blueprint for hip hop at the end of the 90s!), the uptempo groover “Trespassing”, and the righteous funky soul cut “I’m Your Pimp”!
Original vinyl copies of Skull Snaps’ one and only LP continue to exchange hands on the rare groove market for three figures. So, this is a @320 vinyl rip of the reissue LP including original covers.
A1 My Hang Up Is You (4:02)
A2 Having You Around (4:30)
A3 Didn’t I Do It To You (3:15)
A4 All Of A Sudden (3:23)
A5 It’s A New Day (3:04)
B1 I’m Your Pimp (4:03)
B2 I Turn My Back On Love (2:45)
B3 Trespassing (4:03)
B4 I’m Falling Out Of Love (2:46)
Review by Trakbuv
Now here’s a surprise. I was well versed with the funk of ‘It’s a new day’, a track that has been lifted and moulded for the purposes of a seemingly never-ending queue of hip hop attacks. The band brand itself conjures up a brutal charge of threatening beats and hussling guitars where no prisoners are taken. Well, a certain man had other ideas, and that genius is George Kerr. Synonymous with the fabric of these pages, he is responsible for producing the likes of Linda Jones, The Whatnauts, Escorts, O’Jays, and Debbie Taylor. However, for me this is his ultimate triumph. Any wannabe producerheads out there, you only need to look at the previous two posts and this pearl to realise how sterile music has become. George is firing on all canons, ably assisted by arranger Bert Keyes.
And what an act he has to work with: Erv Littleton Waters, Sam O Culley, and George Bragg. Their roots can be dated back to 1958 as a quintet, ‘Tiny Tim & The Hits’ – classic title right there. Their founder, William Collier then re-grouped in 1963 to form The Diplomats, now joined by Mr Waters and Culley. They had a relatively solid output as a trio throughout most of the sixties for various labels, including Arock, Wand and Minit. Built around solid harmonies, but sadly poor sales, they struggled to get that important breakthrough at national level. In 1973, Sam and Erv were united with George, transforming themselves into the Skull Snaps, a trio of formidable vocalists, none of whom were shy at taking the spotlight. And those harmonies are sublime.
Inside Gatefold LP
Signed to Lloyd Price’s GSF label, they set about to work at Venture Studios, Somerville, NJ. The LP kicks off assuredly with the driving ‘My hang up is you’ that could easily be mistaken for a huge hit on the Invictus label. It has H-D-H stamped all over it. Glorious. For the next track, the tempo drops as we switch to something sounding like it was cut for the Brunswick label. George stages a dramatic Chi-Liteseque atmosphere that the guys grab with open hands – surely this is the hit they were searching for as The Diplomats. Heartfelt. Where is George taking us next I’m starting to think. Well, ‘Didn’t I do it to you’ is glorious two-step territory with a hint of JR Bailey. This has everything that genre yearns for, lush hooks, sterling vocals, and that infectious sway – this is my favourite and surely a major omission off any self-respecting rare groove compilation. Oh my. And the calibre doesn’t let up. ‘All of a sudden’ is a fantastic tribute to George Kerr’s skills – what he manages to cram into this track is breathtaking. Then it’s THE track – ‘It’s a new day’ – needing no introduction. Anyone not knowing this song – ‘just step to the back of the bus’. The Meters meets Ray Charles – perfection.
I’m stunned momentarily by the brilliance of it all. I get up from my awe and turn the record over. And I’m thrown back to my seat – with the thrust of the opening bars of ‘I’m your pimp’. It seems that every fabulous Norman Whitfield trick has been mustered to create this gem, and that line ‘I wear my hat to the side ……..and walk with a limp’ – audacious in the extreme. Brilliant brilliant. Next up – ‘I turned my back on love’ has the funky soulfulness of The Meters/Nevilles at their mellifluous best, with a great lead and harmonies, and cracking drum and horn intrusions, this is another corker. And yet more funk in ‘Trespassing’, once again it’s the production that pulls this above the mass of similarly sounding ditties – great bluesy guitar licks peppering this ‘un. Almost as a nod of respect to their long travelled journey through the 60s, they close proceedings with the sunny and soulful ‘I’m falling out of love’ – a wonderful and fitting conclusion.
This is one the best LPs to ever grace my eardrums – which just goes to show that there is still plenty of lost gold in them thar hills. This is a sumptuous journey through sound, exploring the best of the early 70s and all its glory. Magnificent!
Listen up the killer “It’s A New Day”