Boscoe – 1973 – Boscoe
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One of the hippest records ever to come out of Chicago – the sole recording by Boscoe, a group who was even more obscure and experimental than contemporaries like The Pharoahs or Artistic Heritage Ensemble! Like those groups, Boscoe has a very unique, very visionary approach – one that’s not content just to echo the standard post-Coltrane modes that other spiritual jazz groups around the country were hitting – but which instead moves into territory that touches on the darker sides of funk, soul, and spoken word of the time – all with a message that’s incredibly powerful, and conception that’s wonderfully fresh throughout!
The group’s lineup features tenor, trumpet, trombone, guitar, bass, and drums – but they way they’re put together is often far different than other funky combos – and it’s clear that the group had as much of a sensibility about the overall sound of their record as they did their freer grooves. At times, there’s a righteousness here that recalls the best of the early Westbound Records scene from Detroit – but there’s an even higher agenda too, which is more in keeping with the spiritual aspriations of their Chicago contemporaries, and which really show up in the lyrics. The whole album’s a masterpiece from start to finish – unlike anything that we can think of, still ripe for rediscovery today, and just the kind of set that makes us prouder than ever of our Chicago heritage!
A1 Introduction 4:38
A2 Writin’ on the Wall 8:03
A3 He Keeps You 4:25
A4 We Ain’t Free 8:02
B1 If I Had My Way 4:24
B2I’m What You Need 4:11
B3 Money Won’t Save You 3:39
B4 Now and Den 10:21
By Tim Lukeman
This should have been the first of many albums from Boscoe, but it came & went without much notice — mainly because the band had integrity & refused to compromise their music in return for a big record deal, choosing to release it themselves. Now it returns like a powerful prophetic voice from the past, a potent brew of funk, fusion, politics & spirituality through visionary struggle. Man, do I miss music like this! Simply as music, it reaches down into the soul; Boscoe could play like nobody’s business. Yet it’s never mere agitprop or sloganeering — these are songs, first & foremost. And the lyrical content has something real & urgent to say, something that still needs saying today, perhaps more than ever.
This is music from a troubled but powerful era, where pride & righteous wrath spoke through soul & funk. Even the one love song is for a strong woman, sung by a man worthy of respect, as part of a vision for a better future. And the long concluding track, “Now and Den” — it is beautiful, passionate, yearning & filled with fire. This is an astonishing album — most highly recommended in every way!
This truly is one of the darkest, most unpleasant albums I have ever heard. Unpleasant atmospherically, for the music and lyrics are superb.
Boscoe was one of those sadly underrated black avant-garde musical ensembles that recorded one preposterously rare album and then vanished in obscurity. On this LP, you’ll hear Harold Warner on trumpet, Reg Holden on trombone, Darryl Johnson on sax, James Rice on guitar, Ron Harris on bass and Steve Cobb on drums.
Draped in the irreverent colors of Marcus Garvey’s flag, this rough and raw album could best be described as a manifesto of black nationalism, smotherd in intense, angry funk with a hint of far-out jazz and proto-rap aesthetics.
“Introduction” and “Writin’ on the Wall” are what make this LP so creepy; the dissonant, minor keyed guitar noodlings, sudden bursts of drums and a flurry of brass activity (at times sounding classical/baroque, then jazzy and blaxpo-like) provide the perfect, ominous backdrop to the lyricist’s philosophical muttering. Musically as well as lyrically, this sounds a bit like early Funkadelic, with one major difference: All sense of irony, sarcasm, tongue-in-cheekiness and playfullness is discarded here for desperately political musings that are too heavy to be molded into a George Clinton-esque, party-ish stew of rock, funk and a sense of optimism, even if it’s riddled with cynicism.
Simply put: there’s no joy here. The fact that the two tunes opening the disc are low-key, meandering (in a good way) and downbeat only add to that sentiment. PS: “Writin’ on the Wall” ends in a cacophony of sounds, and one can hear eerie sirens in the distance bringing this ‘get ready for (social? racial? civil?) war’ warning to a disturbing close.
“He Keeps You” and “We Ain’t Free“, on the other hand, are both hard driving funk workouts that are firmly rooted in the groove. Lyrically, though, the gloom still runs thick.
Rather strangely – and maybe as a reluctant nod to commercialism – side B lacks most of the intensity of its flip. “If I Had My Way” is pleasurable enough, but nowhere near as in-your-face as the sermons that preceded it. Stranger still is the inclusion of the bona fide ballad “I’m What You Need“… which seriously sounds way out of place here.
Fortunately, the funk steady groove of “Money Won’t Save You” and the 10-minute free-jazz/funk “Now and Den” get the LP back on track. Nonetheless, the hardest stuff undoubtedly is on the A-side, and it’s those four songs that cause a considerably unnerving mood.