The Bar-Kays – 1969 – Gotta Groove
Amazing work from the new version of The Bar-Kays – a group who reformed to become a combo as heavy as any of the best funky groups from Detroit, LA, or New York at the time! There’s a style here that’s a sweet Memphis distillation of ideas bubbling under in music by Sly Stone, Funkadelic, and others – taken to new territory here by a group that was already steeped in 60s soul instrumental sounds!
The cuts show a great ear for simple hooks and playful instrumental twists and turns – still with a bit of the trumpet used on Bar-Kays work of the past, but more in a groove that lets the guitar step out nicely with psychedelic soul undercurrents!
A1 Don’t Stop Dancing (To the Music) Part 1 2:53
A2 If This World Was Mine 3:10
A3 In the Hole 3:09
A4 Funky Thang 3:09
A5 Jiving ‘Round 3:14
A6 Grab This Thing 2:14
B1 Don’t Stop Dancing (To the Music) Part 2 2:21
B2 Street Walker 3:18
B3 Yesterday 3:18
B4 Humpin’ 2:44
B5 Hey Jude 6:03
After the tragedy that took the lives of Otis Redding and four of the original Bar-Kays – Ronnie Caldwell, Phalon Jones, Jimmy King and Carl Cunningham – surviving Bar-Kays James Alexander (bass) and Ben Cauley (trumpet) decided to continue the group as a living tribute to their fallen brethren. Adding guitarist Michael Toles, drummers Willie Hall and Roy Cunningham, saxplayer Harvey Henderson and keyboardist Ronnie Gordon to the line-up, the new Bar-Kays waxed their first LP, ‘Gotta Groove’, in 1969.
A wholly instrumental affair, this masterpiece belongs to the category of hardest funk albums released by Stax. Aside two Beatles covers (“Yesterday” and a wonderful take on “Hey Jude“, which takes the final vamp a step further), this is a platter full of deep-fried Memphis funk.
“In the Hole“, with its crashing, descending pattern and lurching horns sports a vicious, fatback groove with some rock hard guitars, and the nod to Sly & The Family Stone is even more evident on the two-part jam “Don’t Stop Dancing (To the Music)“.
A jangling psych-blues rock guitar riff propels “Funky Thang“, while there’s more of a sweet soul sound to “Jiving ‘Round“, a showcase for the horn section as well as Willie Hall’s fatback drumming style.
“Grab This Ring” arguably is the zaniest track, a blues-based groove with some sassy sax solos, loping bass lines and all-out party chatterin’ and screamin’.
But the hardest funk is saved for the rockin’ strut “Street Walker” – a ferocious thumper incorporating some psych-rock influences, but nonetheless dominated by an old-time blues harmonica – and the hard socking romper “Humpin'”, with more piercing guitar licks, thick Hammond stretches, Sly Stone-styled chants and plenty of brass.
Essential hardcore funk.