Friday, June 01, 2007
Get On Down With Badfoot Brown!
Bill Cosby - Mouth of the Fish
After the fleeting tease of funk in yesterday's post it's only fair to provide a full-on, full-length funker to go into the weekend!
The '60s and '70s soul and funk forays of Bill Cosby have been covered on this page before, and again I will refer you to the great article at Funky 16 Corners about Cosby's musical projects for more information. What's neat about the Cosby musical records is that on all of them he surrounded himself with top-notch musicians who were able to turn what would otherwise be a collection of novelty -and perhaps even vanity - recordings into gems that record collectors and soul fans can appreciate. The Hooray For The Salvation Army Band LP had the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band working out the funk behind Cosby's strained singing, and subsequent LPs found the Cos working with some of the top jazz and soul session artists. Two LPs that merit particular interest in relation to high-level musical talent are the Bill Cosby Presents Badfoot Brown and the Bunions Bradford Funeral Marching Band albums that came out in 1970 and 1971 on Uni and Sussex, respectively. The Uni LP consisted of two long instrumentals, the moody "Martin's Funeral" (based on the assassination and funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr.) and a freewheeling funky jam session entitled "Hybish, Shybish." The Sussex LP was a mixed bag of material, and from that LP comes today's selection.
The Sussex Bunions Bradford album found longtime Cosby musical collaborator Stu Gardner lending his talents to the proceedings and some vocals, too, on tunes like the eccentric "Blues" (whose lyrics are silly enough to sound like a "Cosby Show" joke but features an interesting arrangement) and today's selection. "Mouth of the Fish" is straight-up funk, and it hooks you (pun intended) right away with an awesome drum-and-bass groove. Gardner brings gospel fire to the vocals and the background singers provide strong support, but the groove is the star of this recording, and accordingly the last half of the record is instrumental. That half of the record is the funkiest two minutes you'll ever associate with Bill Cosby: there's some horn solos, but then the band reprises the intro and a piano rides that groove on home.
Cosby would go on to record several more musical LPs throughout the '70s, all with Gardner's involvement, for Capitol and Stax (the At Last Bill Cosby Finally Sings LP on Partee; note also that Gardner released a solo LP, Stu Gardner & The Sanctified Sound, on Enterprise), and Gardner would work with Cosby from those days onward, composing the theme to "The Cosby Show" and then working with Bill on some jazz albums in the '90s.