Black Heat – 1972 – Black Heat

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Review by Soulmakossa

Rip, posting & additional info’s by Nikos

A searing debut from Black Heat – one of the best funk acts to record for Atlantic during the 70s, and a tight little group with a sound that’s a mixture of New Orleans funk and New York heavy! The album’s got a bit of vocals – figuring in on about half the tracks – but the main focus here is definitely instrumental – with a strong emphasis on choppy guitar, sweet organ licks, and cooking horn solos on trumpet, tenor, and flute – the last two of which are played by David Newman – not normally a member of the combo, but a great guest for this session! The sound is very tight, but never slick – and often recorded with an earthiness that recalls some of the best indie label funk of the period – like the kind of grooves you might find over at Perception/Today – with all the trippiness that might imply.

Tracks
A1 The Jungle  5:14
A2
Chicken Heads 4:14
A3
Street Of Tears 3:44
A4
Barbara’s Mood 4:09
A5
Chip’s Funk 3:32
B1
Wanaoh 3:51
B2
You’ll Never Know 3:39
B3
Honey Love 3:01
B4
Send My Lover Back 5:51
B5
This Is Gonna Catch You 2:43

Black Heat, a rootsy funk band spearheaded by percussionist/vocalist King Raymond Green, is one of those shamefully underrated gatherings of rhythmic merchants that recorded hard-driving, meaningful music in the Golden Age of Soul without ever achieving real commercial, let alone crossover, success.
Their epynomously titled debut kicks off hard and heavy with the outrageously rockin’ “The Jungle“, a rhinoceros of groove giving the tried and true ‘my baby done left me’-routine a whole new spin.
Chicken Heads” is a ferocious, fatbacked, swamp-tinged bit of funkin’, with sax legend David ‘Fathead’ Newman making an appearance. Check out those wicked drum breaks by Esco Cromer. Essential, lowdown, instrumental sleaze-funk.

Black Heat could get mellow, too, though… Green’s crooning like his namesake Al on the lovely, dark “Street of Tears“, featuring sobbing wah wah guitars and a droning, incessant Hammond buzz that really packs a punch. The follow-up, the instrumental “Barbara’s Mood“, sustains the atmosphere, adding a tad of jazz to procedures, but never forsaking a good, solid bottom provided by drums and bass. And the band pumps out the groove juice all the way through on the organ-dominated “Chip’s Funk“… A monster jam filled with Bradley Owen’s guitar riffin’ and some good ol’ country harmonica wailin’.

The fattest, meanest, greasiest funk is saved for Side B, however, with the über romp “Wanaoh“… a friggin’ wildabeast thundering over the Plains of Pure Phonk… Tribal chanting, big horns, Chip Jones’ finger-lickin’ good bass lines and that quintessential blaxpo-flute all come together to make up a nasty stew of super hardcore funk. Amazing.
It turns a bit awkward for a while with “You’ll Never Know“, tho’, a neo-doo wop work-out that sounds mightily out of place here. Far better is the uptempo, bouncing groove of “Honey Love“, which has more of that communal vocalizing and snappy conga.
Black Heat then begin a laid-back, breezy journey into jazz/funk/latin/fusion with the longest cut here, “Send My Lover Back“. This instrumental truly is where trumpeter Rodney Edwards gets off. Sheer bliss, that horn… And still that funky beat underneath all of it…
Closing the LP is another more smooth soul oriented ballad, “Time Is Gonna Catch You“, a nice enough slowie reminiscent of the stuff The Stylistics were coming out with at the time, but certainly not on par with the funk blowouts that preceded it.

In all, a must-have for funk lovers.


Bonus

A stone classic from Black Heat – the group’s second album, and even tighter than their first! The group’s size has dropped a bit between albums – but that only helps them cook even more – dropping a bit of the horn section from before, which allows even more emphasis on their razor-sharp rhythms! There’s a slight hint of Afro Funk in some of the rhythms – and the keyboards cook with lots of sweet clavinet lines – mixed with a production style that features some bubbling electronic elements that remind us a lot of that crazy “magic bag” that was used by the Lafayette Afro-Rock Band. That group might be a good point of comparison, but the band also shares a lot of Kool & The Gang’s ensemble funk style – especially on their cover of “Love The Life You Live” – which they burn here beautifully!

Tracks
A1
No Time to Burn 3:43
A2
You Should’ve Listened 5:34
A3
Check It All Out 6:58
A4
Love the Life You Live 6:33
B1
Super Cool 3:58
B2
M & M’s 6:53
B3
Things Change 5:02
B4
Rapid Fire 1:33
B5
Times Have Changed 5:39

Black Heat’s second album was lead off and named after the group’s sole chart hit, the incessant, loud, funkathon “No Time to Burn“. Everything that made the band’s premier output so ‘together’, is revisited here, and then some…
Esco Cromer’s fatback drums propel the insanely funky “You Should’ve Listened“, with Chip Jones pluckin’ out vicious bass licks, Johnell Gray spreading some molasses over the groove with his clavinet and a long, drawn-out blaxpo-styled flute solo, probably played by Ray Thompson.

The ominous, slow grinding groove of “Check It All Out” incorporates a slight Latin feel, and has that tribal atmos all over it with the entire gang howling and hollering in the back. Up front, bandleader King Raymond Green gets down in a super righteous, political bag.
Bradley Owens pumps some vicious wah wah guitar in the fast-paced romp “Love the Life You Live“, further featuring cascading horn riffs and a purring, gospelish Hammond organ. Raymond Green’s skill on the conga is given centre stage here; along with Cromer’s in-the-pocket jammin’, it enhances that typical Afro-vibe. It’s back to low, lowdown funkin’ as Black Heat tears into “Super Cool“, which has a more rock-oriented guitar sound but is still drenched in that fatty, punishing brass. The bridge is sheer genius… amidst the descending riffs the whole group puts in some righteous lyrics, while drummer Cromer keeps steppin’…

The highlight here surely must be the all-out, stretched-out, freaked-out funkathon “M&M’s“… Starting off teasingly, it dives into a groove so viciously, stone cold stanky, it reminded everyone Black Heat didn’t give a hoot about the rise of disco… This is super raw, super hard, tribal funk… Thompson’s sax-solo is way up there with the best of Maceo’s work-outs for the Godfather…
Giving some time for a breather, Heat finally serves up a more downbeat dish. “Things Change” is almost Southern in its soul testifyin’, especially with that organ buzzing around in the back. The harmonizing also conjures up the sounds and mellow groove of Earth, Wind & Fire.
Undoubtedly due to time restraints, the blaxpo-instro “Rapid Fire” barely reaches one and a half minutes, but it’s a solid jam all the same. Concluding this funk fest is another politically-minded message driven tune: “Times Have Changed” has the same brooding, slightly haunting vibe first displayed on “Check It All Out“, with a key role here for bassist Chip Jones.

A super, SUPER hard waxing of uncut funk…

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28 Comments
  • Gerald
    Posted at 13:59h, 22 June 2012 Reply

    Fu**ing some post! This is Funk man!

  • Paolo
    Posted at 14:18h, 22 June 2012 Reply

    Sample tracks sound great. Grabbed both of these. Love your review style of the tracks!

  • Duncanmusic
    Posted at 17:20h, 22 June 2012 Reply

    Thank you for posting these. I was lucky enough to be working in a record store back then and know the W-E-A (that’s Warner Bros-Elektra-Atlantic) promo man who gave me BOTH of these (he had to give me the second after I heard the first) …Why would a young white boy from Rochester NY get all fired up about these guys? Besides the fact that the first one wasa free and had a cool cover you couldn’t ignore, I guess I probably read a review somewhere, listened to it (which would raise the dead!) and also remembered that I had seen David Fathead Newman play with Ray Charles when I was 13 in 1964 and man he was good. I kept these two LPs until 1993 when I sodl the BIG DUMP of 200,000+ records. I used the first one a LOT in my DJ pile working at a hip jazz-funk-blues and everything else live concert club where I set the audience up for the live shows. It ALWAYS got responses and queries as to what it was. It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve heard it. Thanks for bringing back some great memories.

  • Mafu
    Posted at 18:48h, 22 June 2012 Reply

    mmmmmmm!

  • rich
    Posted at 21:34h, 22 June 2012 Reply

    awesome post of a great group. thanx

  • whoknows
    Posted at 02:26h, 23 June 2012 Reply

    WOW! What an incredible story…thanks for sharing! NOW THATS FUNK thats so dirty and raw it almost hurts! Can’t really put in words how we (FMS cats) appreciate that nitty gritty work yall put in to share these JEWELS. Thank you again and again and again and again and again…

  • Greg
    Posted at 19:33h, 23 June 2012 Reply

    another gr8 discovery 😀

  • Garth no Brooks
    Posted at 01:24h, 24 June 2012 Reply

    niceee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! wow this is a serious Funk~~~~~

  • FunkLovePower
    Posted at 12:12h, 24 June 2012 Reply

    Nice to find these somewhat obscure but truly outstanding albums.

  • Desmond
    Posted at 12:18h, 24 June 2012 Reply

    This is the perfect music to groove to, no matter your age. Thanks so much for sharing and Soulmakossa for his amazing reviews all the way.

  • zobba
    Posted at 15:51h, 24 June 2012 Reply

    thanks

  • Peter
    Posted at 18:57h, 24 June 2012 Reply

    Superb post man!

  • Gerome
    Posted at 23:17h, 24 June 2012 Reply

    Stunning funk Lp’s. Love u Funkmysoul.

  • BestRaf
    Posted at 08:56h, 25 June 2012 Reply

    Black Heat rocks. Thanks for introducing to me.

  • Mr.Fish
    Posted at 11:59h, 25 June 2012 Reply

    amazing stuff u have.. in my funk playlist..thanks 😉

  • slowdevine
    Posted at 18:47h, 25 June 2012 Reply

    this is REAL funk . thanks a lot

  • Andreas
    Posted at 09:01h, 26 June 2012 Reply

    Ohhh…… This so reminds me of hunting for records back in the 80’s. Great music, great times…

  • Krausssh
    Posted at 09:30h, 27 June 2012 Reply

    Excellent choice and reviews. Bless yall.

  • GabonFA
    Posted at 10:21h, 28 June 2012 Reply

    That’s Funk babe. Love both of them though the 2nd is superior to me. Nikos, thanks for sharing the gems.

  • zEN
    Posted at 13:52h, 28 June 2012 Reply

    Keep on funking us….Superb site.

  • Luigi
    Posted at 03:10h, 29 June 2012 Reply

    incredibilmente buono

  • JJMin
    Posted at 14:06h, 29 June 2012 Reply

    Funk you very much.

  • Dennis
    Posted at 08:04h, 02 July 2012 Reply

    Oh ya. Funk Power.

  • Raphy
    Posted at 01:19h, 26 July 2012 Reply

    I was gonna rip the first Lp….A favorite of mine..
    Great Post

    Big Up!@!

  • Daz
    Posted at 13:50h, 18 September 2012 Reply

    Two superb albums, many thanks and keep up the good work, it’s very appreciated!
    Daz

  • SFdoomed
    Posted at 05:46h, 04 December 2012 Reply

    Two more lost treasures. Thanks for sharing these wonders with us all.

  • Stoyan
    Posted at 21:57h, 29 January 2013 Reply

    Great post for a great band

  • Katrice Jones daughter of Chip Jones
    Posted at 15:41h, 19 November 2016 Reply

    I am Chip Jones daughter I am just recently hearing Black Heats albums myself. The more I listen the greater the discovery of th bands many talents get. I wish my dad were here to appreciate all great reviews

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