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The Bar-Kays – 1969 – Gotta Groove

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In the wake of the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of four of their bandmates and soul legend Otis Redding, trumpeter Ben Cauley and bassist James Alexander formed a new edition of the Bar-Kays to cut Gotta Groove, a celebration of life and music that ranks among the funkiest, hardest-driving LPs ever released under the Stax aegis.

The record’s immense debt to Sly & the Family Stone is repaid via the two-part “Don’t Stop Dancing (To the Music)” which galvanizes the Bar-Kays’ trademark deep-fried soul grooves with an infusion of psychedelia. Even further out is the blistering “Street Walker” with its shrieking guitar licks and organ fills. But most of all Gotta Groove serves as a showcase for the ferocious drumming of Roy Cunningham and Willie Hall, whose relentlessly funky rhythms push cuts like “Humpin‘” and “Jiving ‘Round” well past their somewhat pedestrian melodies — little wonder the album’s proven a fecund source of samples for acts including Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, and GZA.

A1 Don’t Stop Dancing (To the Music) Part 1 2:53
A2 If This World Was Mine 3:10
A3 In the Hole 3:09
A4 Funky Thang 3:09
A5 Jiving ‘Round 3:14
A6 Grab This Thing 2:14
B1 Don’t Stop Dancing (To the Music) Part 2 2:21
B2 Street Walker 3:18
B3 Yesterday 3:18
B4 Humpin’ 2:44
B5 Hey Jude 6:03

By Soulmakossa

After the tragedy that took the lives of Otis Redding and four of the original Bar-Kays – Ronnie Caldwell, Phalon Jones, Jimmy King and Carl Cunningham – surviving Bar-Kays James Alexander (bass) and Ben Cauley (trumpet) decided to continue the group as a living tribute to their fallen brethren. Adding guitarist Michael Toles, drummers Willie Hall and Roy Cunningham, saxplayer Harvey Henderson and keyboardist Ronnie Gordon to the line-up, the new Bar-Kays waxed their first LP, ‘Gotta Groove’, in 1969. 

A wholly instrumental affair, this masterpiece belongs to the category of hardest funk albums released by Stax. Aside two Beatles covers (“Yesterday” and a wonderful take on “Hey Jude“, which takes the final vamp a step further), this is a platter full of deep-fried Memphis funk. 

In the Hole“, with its crashing, descending pattern and lurching horns sports a vicious, fatback groove with some rock hard guitars, and the nod to Sly & The Family Stone is even more evident on the two-part jam “Don’t Stop Dancing (To the Music)“. 

A jangling psych-blues rock guitar riff propels “Funky Thang“, while there’s more of a sweet soul sound to “Jiving ‘Round“, a showcase for the horn section as well as Willie Hall’s fatback drumming style. 

Grab This Ring” arguably is the zaniest track, a blues-based groove with some sassy sax solos, loping bass lines and all-out party chatterin’ and screamin’. 

But the hardest funk is saved for the rockin’ strut “Street Walker” – a ferocious thumper incorporating some psych-rock influences, but nonetheless dominated by an old-time blues harmonica – and the hard socking romper “Humpin'”, with more piercing guitar licks, thick Hammond stretches, Sly Stone-styled chants and plenty of brass. 

Essential hardcore funk.