Three Records That Blur the Line Between Funk, Soul and R&B

by Administrator 29. December 2017 16:07

It’s no secret that funk, soul and R&B music all have their roots in African American gospel music. But too often, those associations get lost in the hard lines of a genre. Today, we’re breaking out of that mold.

So, we lined up some records that really highlight the shared roots of these genres. Check them out!

Mr. Cool by Charles Spurling – King 6077 (Released 1967)

 

Label owner: Sydney Nathan, 1540 Brewster Ave, Cincinnati OH; 1255 South Wasbash, Chicago IL; & 2131 South Michigan Ave, Chicago IL (1943–1973)

Side A: Mr. Cool
Side B: You’d Be Surprised (The Way I Love You)

Charles Spurling is an artist who got his start right here in Cincinnati. Despite having recorded a few records of his own, Spurling is best known for his prolific songwriting. He was the driving force between megahits such as the oft-sampled “Unwind Yourself,” “Ball of Fire,” and “The Boy Needs Someone To Love.” Spurling also was involved with the legendary James Brown, known as the “Godfather of Soul,” all the way until the 70s, working as both a songwriter and later as head of the artists and repertoire department for King Records. There, he was in charge of discovering and nurturing new talent for King Records. As a part of his pursuits, he discovered artists who would later become legendary, most notably Bootsy Collins.

One of Spurling’s favorite parts of King Records was that they would allow him to record his own records from time to time. “Mr. Cool” was born out of that arrangement. “Mr. Cool” is the soul record of our arrangement, with a true call-and-response that echoes the actual words Spurling sings. Despite being soul, “Mr. Cool” does not stray far from it’s blues roots, featuring a classic blues progression in the song’s background.

The record’s B side is a stark contrast to its A side. The song begins with a beat and bassline that can only be described as intense. Listening to it feels as though you’re about to charge into battle. Suddenly, the instruments unleash the song’s true melody, and the intensity fades into an upbeat soul tune with background singers echoing Spurling and frequently drawing out other parts of the song.

Fool, Fool, Fool by Elliott Shavers – Magnum 718 (Released in 1964)

 

Label owner: Roger Davenport & Hunter Hancock, Los Angeles, CA (1964-1968)

Side A: Fool, Fool, Fool
Side B: A Swingin’ Party

Elliott Shavers is a Texas-born musician who got his start as an R&B singer after he moved to Los Angeles. He was only active for six years between 1961 and 1967, but in that time he recorded over 30 published songs for smaller labels such as Imbo, Ellen, and Magnum, the latter being where this record came from. Several times he garnered near-national attention and got picked up by a bigger label for national releases, which happened with “Scratch That Itch,” which he released on King Records under the name “Elliott Shavers & His Blazers.” Shavers kept a low profile after those 6 years in the industry. In fact, nobody knows if he is even still alive.

At first listen, “Fool, Fool, Fool” is as bluesy a song as they come. A 12-bar progression, distorted guitar riffs, and a simple beat all call forth the essence of sadness that started on plantations so long ago. However, the piano and saxophone featured in “Fool, Fool, Fool” from pure blues into a place where mournful vocals share the spotlight with background instruments: rhythm and blues. Whether you feel that Shavers’ hit is pure blues or R&B, it’s blues all the same, filled with mournful lyrics like “Things ain’t what they used to be/And your love for me is not the same.”

The record’s B-side picks up right where the A-side leaves off. Despite “swing” being included in the title, “A Swingin’ Party” is a pure blues instrumental where a saxophone takes the spot that a singer ordinarily would. Also, a piano takes on the role of rhythm guitar, playing the 12-bar progression that signals blues.

Let’s Get Nasty by Chuck Stephens – East Coast 1001 (Released 1975)

Label Owner: Roy Charles, Hammond, Jamaica, NY

Side A: Let’s Get Nasty
Side B: Girl, I Want To Make Love To You

Both Chuck Stephens and East Coast Records are shrouded in mystery. Both are obscure, and there’s next to no information out there on either of them. East Coast Records only ever published one record: this one. And Chuck Stephens only ever recorded three records. Whatever caused Stephens to give up recording after only two years, we can be thankful that he left us the funky recordings he did.

“Let’s Get Nasty” came out in the middle of the 1970’s, when the Sexual Revolution was at full swing, and it shows. Whereas other records that we’ve featured on our blog make various references to sex and sexuality, none is so plainly explicit as “Let’s Get Nasty.” The song features (what appear to be) violins that have a sound to them similar to that of an electric piano, placing it in a place somewhere in between soul and funk.

The record’s B-side is as obscure as Stephens himself. There are no recordings of it publicly available. The closest you can get is to listen to the sample on our website (link). If you want this B-side for yourself, you had better order the record!

Diversify Your Record Collection

Pricing, details (grade, side A/B, quantity) and sound clips for each of the above records can be found via the following links:

Mr. Cool – Charles Spurling

Fool, Fool, Fool – Elliott Shavers

Girl, I Want To Make Love To You – Chuck Stephens

We provide a simple online ordering form for all  of our records. Enter your billing and shipping information, provide details about the record you’re requesting, hit submit, and sit back.

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