Black Heat – 1972 – Black Heat
Review by Soulmakossa
Rip, posting & additional info’s by Nikos
A searing debut from Black Heat – one of the best funk acts to record for Atlantic during the 70s, and a tight little group with a sound that’s a mixture of New Orleans funk and New York heavy! The album’s got a bit of vocals – figuring in on about half the tracks – but the main focus here is definitely instrumental – with a strong emphasis on choppy guitar, sweet organ licks, and cooking horn solos on trumpet, tenor, and flute – the last two of which are played by David Newman – not normally a member of the combo, but a great guest for this session! The sound is very tight, but never slick – and often recorded with an earthiness that recalls some of the best indie label funk of the period – like the kind of grooves you might find over at Perception/Today – with all the trippiness that might imply.
A1 The Jungle 5:14
A2 Chicken Heads 4:14
A3 Street Of Tears 3:44
A4 Barbara’s Mood 4:09
A5 Chip’s Funk 3:32
B1 Wanaoh 3:51
B2 You’ll Never Know 3:39
B3 Honey Love 3:01
B4 Send My Lover Back 5:51
B5 This Is Gonna Catch You 2:43
Black Heat, a rootsy funk band spearheaded by percussionist/vocalist King Raymond Green, is one of those shamefully underrated gatherings of rhythmic merchants that recorded hard-driving, meaningful music in the Golden Age of Soul without ever achieving real commercial, let alone crossover, success.
Their epynomously titled debut kicks off hard and heavy with the outrageously rockin’ “The Jungle“, a rhinoceros of groove giving the tried and true ‘my baby done left me’-routine a whole new spin.
“Chicken Heads” is a ferocious, fatbacked, swamp-tinged bit of funkin’, with sax legend David ‘Fathead’ Newman making an appearance. Check out those wicked drum breaks by Esco Cromer. Essential, lowdown, instrumental sleaze-funk.
Black Heat could get mellow, too, though… Green’s crooning like his namesake Al on the lovely, dark “Street of Tears“, featuring sobbing wah wah guitars and a droning, incessant Hammond buzz that really packs a punch. The follow-up, the instrumental “Barbara’s Mood“, sustains the atmosphere, adding a tad of jazz to procedures, but never forsaking a good, solid bottom provided by drums and bass. And the band pumps out the groove juice all the way through on the organ-dominated “Chip’s Funk“… A monster jam filled with Bradley Owen’s guitar riffin’ and some good ol’ country harmonica wailin’.
The fattest, meanest, greasiest funk is saved for Side B, however, with the über romp “Wanaoh“… a friggin’ wildabeast thundering over the Plains of Pure Phonk… Tribal chanting, big horns, Chip Jones’ finger-lickin’ good bass lines and that quintessential blaxpo-flute all come together to make up a nasty stew of super hardcore funk. Amazing.
It turns a bit awkward for a while with “You’ll Never Know“, tho’, a neo-doo wop work-out that sounds mightily out of place here. Far better is the uptempo, bouncing groove of “Honey Love“, which has more of that communal vocalizing and snappy conga.
Black Heat then begin a laid-back, breezy journey into jazz/funk/latin/fusion with the longest cut here, “Send My Lover Back“. This instrumental truly is where trumpeter Rodney Edwards gets off. Sheer bliss, that horn… And still that funky beat underneath all of it…
Closing the LP is another more smooth soul oriented ballad, “Time Is Gonna Catch You“, a nice enough slowie reminiscent of the stuff The Stylistics were coming out with at the time, but certainly not on par with the funk blowouts that preceded it.
In all, a must-have for funk lovers.
A stone classic from Black Heat – the group’s second album, and even tighter than their first! The group’s size has dropped a bit between albums – but that only helps them cook even more – dropping a bit of the horn section from before, which allows even more emphasis on their razor-sharp rhythms! There’s a slight hint of Afro Funk in some of the rhythms – and the keyboards cook with lots of sweet clavinet lines – mixed with a production style that features some bubbling electronic elements that remind us a lot of that crazy “magic bag” that was used by the Lafayette Afro-Rock Band. That group might be a good point of comparison, but the band also shares a lot of Kool & The Gang’s ensemble funk style – especially on their cover of “Love The Life You Live” – which they burn here beautifully!
A1 No Time to Burn 3:43
A2 You Should’ve Listened 5:34
A3 Check It All Out 6:58
A4 Love the Life You Live 6:33
B1 Super Cool 3:58
B2 M & M’s 6:53
B3 Things Change 5:02
B4 Rapid Fire 1:33
B5 Times Have Changed 5:39
Black Heat’s second album was lead off and named after the group’s sole chart hit, the incessant, loud, funkathon “No Time to Burn“. Everything that made the band’s premier output so ‘together’, is revisited here, and then some…
Esco Cromer’s fatback drums propel the insanely funky “You Should’ve Listened“, with Chip Jones pluckin’ out vicious bass licks, Johnell Gray spreading some molasses over the groove with his clavinet and a long, drawn-out blaxpo-styled flute solo, probably played by Ray Thompson.
The ominous, slow grinding groove of “Check It All Out” incorporates a slight Latin feel, and has that tribal atmos all over it with the entire gang howling and hollering in the back. Up front, bandleader King Raymond Green gets down in a super righteous, political bag.
Bradley Owens pumps some vicious wah wah guitar in the fast-paced romp “Love the Life You Live“, further featuring cascading horn riffs and a purring, gospelish Hammond organ. Raymond Green’s skill on the conga is given centre stage here; along with Cromer’s in-the-pocket jammin’, it enhances that typical Afro-vibe. It’s back to low, lowdown funkin’ as Black Heat tears into “Super Cool“, which has a more rock-oriented guitar sound but is still drenched in that fatty, punishing brass. The bridge is sheer genius… amidst the descending riffs the whole group puts in some righteous lyrics, while drummer Cromer keeps steppin’…
The highlight here surely must be the all-out, stretched-out, freaked-out funkathon “M&M’s“… Starting off teasingly, it dives into a groove so viciously, stone cold stanky, it reminded everyone Black Heat didn’t give a hoot about the rise of disco… This is super raw, super hard, tribal funk… Thompson’s sax-solo is way up there with the best of Maceo’s work-outs for the Godfather…
Giving some time for a breather, Heat finally serves up a more downbeat dish. “Things Change” is almost Southern in its soul testifyin’, especially with that organ buzzing around in the back. The harmonizing also conjures up the sounds and mellow groove of Earth, Wind & Fire.
Undoubtedly due to time restraints, the blaxpo-instro “Rapid Fire” barely reaches one and a half minutes, but it’s a solid jam all the same. Concluding this funk fest is another politically-minded message driven tune: “Times Have Changed” has the same brooding, slightly haunting vibe first displayed on “Check It All Out“, with a key role here for bassist Chip Jones.
A super, SUPER hard waxing of uncut funk…