Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s – 1974 – Breakin’ Bread
An oft-overlooked gem from the JBs, their last album for People Records, and a stone funk classic that’s every bit as essential as the others! The band is still in fine fine form, with none of the fast-funk or proto-disco of some later recordings – and they’re working here in some really tight song formats that almost go back to the early days of the group’s first few singles. The album’s filled with great playing, wonderful grooves, and Fred Wesley’s keen sense of humor, which sparks the whole set with a sense of warmth and creative play that show why the JBs are still the greatest funk band ever.
Includes the excellent “Little Boy Black“, which begins with some tasty James Brown vocals; the oft-sampled “Rockin’ Funky Watergate“; plus “Step Child“, “Makin Love“, and “Rice & Ribs“. Not as drawn out as Doing It To Death, but more complicated than Food For Thought, and still a totally essential bit of funk!
A1 Breakin’ Bread 4:20
A2 I Wanna Get Down 3:14
A3 Little Boy Black 3:54
A4 Rice ‘n’ Ribs 4:05
B1 Rockin’ Funky Watergate 5:16
B2 Makin’ Love 3:36
B3 Funky Music Is My Style 5:24
B4 Step Child 6:43
Credited to Fred Wesley and the New J.B.’s, ‘Breakin’ Bread’ is the last great J.B.’s album, in my opinion.
Musically you can sense things were falling apart a bit: “Makin’ Love” is a shameless copy of the Ohio Players’ “Skin Tight”, while “Funky Music Is My Style” and “I Wanna Get Down” are less than inspired titles.
Names aside, “I Wanna Get Down” is a furious slab of down home JB-styled fonk, featuring another persistent bass hook by Fred Thomas and gospelfide vocalizing by the whole group. “Funky Music Is My Style” cruises that quintessential stutterstepping backbeat typical of the J.B.-sound on earlier material, most notably Brown’s “Ain’t It Funky Now” and the J.B.’s “To My Brother“.
There’s also a hint of reminiscing on “Little Boy Black“, a menacing horn heavy work out that has Fred Wesley putting the lyrics of Brown’s “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing” to his own personal use: ‘I don’t need nobody tell me how to blow my horn…’ Also, the musical backtrack slightly resembles Brown’s 1973 “Down and Out In New York City“, from the ‘Black Caesar’ soundtrack; it further shortly incorporates the main guitar line from “Good Foot” and, finally, it briefly mentions “Mind Power“.
The title-track is a southern fried funk gem, with the entire band rappin’ about good old get-togethers with the family. A real sense of longing for home is emitted from this driving sucka, sounding more like a mid-70s Southern Soul romp than an all-out funk. “Rice ‘N’ Ribs” also takes a trip down memory lane; starting out as a fatback funk beast, it transforms into a nitty-gritty blues shuffle.
Equally appealing is the sassy, lazy groove of “Rockin’ Funky Watergate“, a tongue-in-cheek instrumental showcasing Jimmy Nolen’s crisp, fluid guitar licks. Canned applause is added to this funk bomb for no apparent reason.
Concluding this set is the hyperactive, brilliantly insane “Stepchild”; something of a cross between speed jazz, rumble funk, acid bop and anything else that sums up ‘total musical chaos made sense’.