Classic Rock Bottom

This week's selection might be the ninth in a series. Then again, it most probably is not.

A long, long time ago, a wise person stated that this here site needs more funk. That person was obviously the wisest of the wise so were going to spend the month, and maybe longer, with funk. There may be an artist or two that you wouldn't expect to bring the funk, there might be an artist or two you know, maybe there will be an artist or two you don't know. Who knows? I'll just go with the funky flow. 

Some might ask why I'm posting this album a little bit early. Well, it is a holiday weekend and it's never to soon the bring the funk! NEVER!

This week's pick is the 1975 (40 year anniversary!) release from George Duke, "I Love The Blues, She Heard My Cry". This isn't straight funk but a mix of jazz, rock AND funk. Maybe there will be another album or two like this in the series, but I'll leave that up to the funk and where it takes me. 

For your reading pleasure, here's a bio on George Duke courtesy of

George Duke was an accomplished keyboardist, producer, arranger, bandleader, and composer. He was successful in both popular music and jazz, and straddled both sides of that aisle for most of his career. Duke grew up in Marin City, California, and in high school played in his first jazz group. His early influences were Miles Davis, Les McCann, and Cal Tjader, all of whom played a role in the diversity of his composing, playing, and arranging. After graduating from high school, he attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and majored in trombone and composition with a minor in contrabass; he received his bachelor's degree in music in 1967. He continued his studies at San Francisco State University, where he earned a master's degree, and briefly taught at Merritt Junior College in Oakland. While in school, Duke was part of a house band at San Francisco's Half Note with Al Jarreau. The band backed some of the biggest names in jazz, including Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon.

He also began his recording career in 1967 while still in school. His first recording, The George Duke Quartet, Presented by the Jazz Workshop, was released on Germany's Saba imprint, which later became MPS, a label he enjoyed a fruitful relationship with in the '70s. In 1969 Duke heard a record on the radio by French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, and through his relationship with Pacific Jazz honcho Dick Bock he was able to make contact with Ponty; they eventually recorded The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio in 1969. The band played a slew of club gigs in the Bay Area, and at one such performance he was heard by audience members Frank Zappa and Cannonball Adderley. He was invited to join Zappa's Mothers of Invention and accepted, spending much of 1969 and 1970 with him. Duke then spent 1971-1972 as pianist with Cannonball Adderley's band, and then returned to Zappa from 1973-1975.

In 1975 he worked with Sonny Rollins and co-led a group with Billy Cobham. Throughout these years, Duke recorded six albums for MPS: Solus/The Inner Source, Faces in Reflection, I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry, Feel, The Aura Will Prevail, and Liberated Fantasies, all of which are now regarded as jazz and jazz-funk classics. Duke signed to CBS in late 1975 and released his first solo album for the imprint, From Me to You, in 1976, and began scandalizing jazz critics with his inclusion of funk, disco, and soul elements in his compositions, and in the array of musicians who performed with him. In 1978 he recorded his breakthrough, the crossover funk album Reach for It; it took him into the upper reaches of the pop charts, and moved his concert appearances from clubs to arenas. Follow the Rainbow and Brazilian Love Affair both landed in 1979 and ran up the charts as well.

By the late '70s he was also producing projects for jazz, pop, and Brazilian artists including Raul de Souza, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and A Taste of Honey, whose single "Sukiyaki" hit the top spot on the pop, adult contemporary, and R&B charts and went multi-platinum. Duke became a producer of note, going on to score hits with Jeffrey Osbourne ("Stay with Me Tonight," "On the Wings of Love") and Deniece Williams ("Let's Hear It for the Boy," "Do What You Feel"). After that, production played as large a role as making his own records -- during part of the '80s almost surpassing it. Duke produced a diverse range of projects -- including records by the Pointer Sisters, Barry Manilow, Smokey Robinson, Melissa Manchester, 101 North, George Howard, Gladys Knight, Najee, Take 6, Howard Hewett, Chanté Moore, Everette Harp, Rachelle Ferrell (his key collaborator in the early '90s), Gladys Knight, Keith Washington, Gary Valenciano, Johnny Gill, and Anita Baker -- in a wide range of styles. Many of these records charted highly.

Duke began the '80s with the first Clarke/Duke Project recording (with bassist Stanley Clarke) that netted his own number Top 20 crossover hit, "Sweet Baby" (number 19 Pop, number 6 R&B). He also released the solo works Dream On, Guardian of the Light, and Rendezvous as well as another Clarke/Duke Project album before leaving Epic for Elektra in 1984. There he recorded Thief in the Night, George Duke, and Night After Night. Duke's music delighted mainstream audiences and crossed over from pop to adult contemporary to the R&B charts effortlessly.

The '90s commenced for Duke with a third and final Clarke/Duke Project recording before he signed to Warner Bros. upon the courting of legendary label boss Mo Ostin. While his debut for the label, 1993's Snapshot, hit the charts because of its smash single "No Rhyme, No Reason" (sung by Ferrell), the biggest surprise for audiences came later, in 1995, with the release of The Muir Woods Suite. A large jazz concept work, it was recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Duke playing keyboards, Clarke on bass, Chester Thompson on drums, and Paulinho Da Costa on percussion fronting a symphony orchestra. It was actually recorded in 1993, but Duke spent two years "fixing" the tracks before it was released in 1995; he later performed it numerous times in concert. Jazz critics who had long derided his pop success and wrote him off suddenly took notice again. Duke, however, was courting no one. In 1996 he released Illusions and nailed another single in the Top 40 with "Love Can Be So Cold." Some of the players and singers featured on the album included Ferrell, James Ingram, Joyce Kennedy, Mervin Warren, Marvin Winans, the Emotions, Lori Perry, and Everette Harp. Duke finished the decade with a string of albums for Warner including a second concept work, After Hours, before leaving the label after 2000's Cool.

Duke threw another change-up in 2002 with Face the Music, issued on BPM. He played mostly acoustic piano on the date -- something he hadn't done in years -- and used the same core band on the entire recording (another rarity). His main sidemen for the date were bassist Christian McBride, drummer Lil' John Roberts, and Jef Lee Johnson on guitar. Though there are other instruments and players, these men appear on every track. The album Duke was released in 2005, a hodgepodge of music he'd left off other projects. In 2006 he released In a Mellow Tone, a more traditional jazz album with Brian Bromberg on upright bass and Terri Lyne Carrington on drums, and the jazz critics took notice once again. Duke returned to jazz-funk and R&B for 2008's Dukey Treats, on Heads Up/Telarc, once more using singers and a slew of musicians. It was followed by Déjà Vu in 2010. In 2012, he produced Jeffrey Osborne's Time for Love album (released in 2013). During the sessions, Duke's wife of 40 years, Corine, died from complications due to cancer. After some time spent away from music in order to properly grieve, he entered the studio in early 2013, and recorded Dreamweaver, which was released in July of that year. Undergoing treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Duke passed away in a Los Angeles hospital the following month, just over a year after the passing of his wife. He was 67 years old.

Of course this is not complete with the album review:

The list of heavyweights who join George Duke on 1975's I Love the Blues: She Heard My Cry is impressive -- some of the participants include Johnny "Guitar" Watson, singer Flora Purim, percussionist Airto Moreira, guitarist Lee Ritenour, drummer Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, and guitarist George Johnson (of Brothers Johnson fame). With such a cast, one would expect this 1975 LP to be outstanding, which it isn't. But it's a respectable effort that thrives on diversity. The highlights of this album range from decent fusion instrumentals, like "That's What She Said," "Giant Child Within Us-Ego," and "Sister Serene," to the mellow soul ballad "Someday" and the Jimi Hendrix-like heavy metal/hard rock offering "Rokkinrowl," which finds Duke singing lead and contains some of Ritenour's more forceful playing. Meanwhile, Duke and Watson perform a vocal duet on the title song, which is the only 12-bar blues number on the album. In 1975, some jazz fans wished that the artist would stick to instrumental fusion and stay away from R&B and rock singing, but, in fact, it was jazz that Duke would eventually move away from. I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry isn't recommended to those who only want to hear Duke as an instrumentalist, although it's enjoyable if you like hearing some rock, soul, and blues singing along with your fusion.

I Love The Blues, She Heard My Cry

1. Chariot
2. Look Into Her Eyes
3. Sister Serene
4. That's What She Said
5. Mashayu
6. Rokkinrowl, I Don't Know
7. Prepare Yourself
8. Giant Child Within Us - Ego
9. Someday
10. I Heard The Blues, She Heard My Cry

Availability: New or used runs around $9.

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I love his collaboration with Stanley Clarke.  I also love the mid-to-late 70's output of Clarke.  His album Modern Man was in constant rotation at my friends house, whos brother played the snot out of that album.  So much so it became embedded in my mind, good thing to!!!  This kind of music is a great escape for me.

Also admit to having a soft spot for their hit Sweet Baby.  Its a lovely ballad ...

This is more than just funky, there is that jazz fusion funk mixed in with some soul, and he makes it work.  Its a complex listen which I like.  The other thing I like about this music is that, just like Rock and Roll, the listening experience and jammin' improve with more volume.  You also are guaranteed (more often than not) of some really superb production.  You really hear every instrument being played - Check out That's What She Said in this fashion.  Stellar!

Anyone catch the Hendrix-esque vocal in Rokkinrowl?  Bass work is slammin' throughout as well!  Giant Child starts off slow and a little too jazzy for me, but it fixes itself and jams.

Though this maybe 80% instrumental its really cool!  Also, it may fit the previous theme, but I see this as a new theme. Nice work Jon!!!

I'm very happy to see (hear) that the vocals have returned.  

Chariot - This is a way cool song.  Funky, soulful and a butt load of wocka wocka geeeeetar.  

Look Into Her Eyes - Picks up right where Chariot left off.  This one even has a touch of prog with the time changes. Jazzy too.  It's got some weird vocals toward the end.

Sister Serene - Slow jam.  

That's What She Said - Is that a xylophone?  Sure is some killer guitar.  And little did he know that the song title would become such a popular saying some 35 years later.  Where did the vocals go?

Mashayu - Not really sure what kind of musical statement this is.

Rokkinrowl, I Don't Know - Scott is right about the vocal, but to me it's a bit more of Hendrix meets BTO.

Prepare Yourself - More funky jazz.

Giant Child Within Us - Ego - More xylophone.  Some piano.  Some trumpet.  Some terrific drum work about a third of the way through.  

Someday - Another jazzy slow jam.  Nothing particularly special.

I Heard The Blues, She Heard Me Cry - Cool song title.  Sounds like a day a the beach inside of the inner city. Strange.  Kind of makes me think of the beginning of What's Goin' On by Marvin Gay.  This is bluesy, first time I've heard that on this album.  

This is a good album.  Not necessarily my style over all, but elements of it are very cool.  This is not a continuation of the previous theme, because that theme was fully instrumental albums, and we got some vocals on this one.  The new theme is funk.  Next album will be funky.


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