What’s unique about the dozen tracks listed below? Yeah, yeah, obviously they all formed the backbone of the funk and soul soundtrack to my teen years in the 1970s when I would hear them on the dancefloors of the Lacy Lady, Croc’s, Racquel’s, Gold Mine, and on Radio London’s Robbie Vincent show and on Capital Radio’s Greg Edwards session. What’s amazing is that only this month I heard some of them playing out at the newish if retro-styled Old Compton Brasserie as the most credible playlist in Soho that night. It reminded me of the pre-disco cocktail bars in Covent Garden which became our favourite haunts at the time.
Seventies jazz-funk in a millennial eaterie for an audience of all ages? Why? And why now? Asking the manager these very questions revealed that they reflected the personal tastes of one of the directors of the long-standing Maxwell’s restaurant group, happy to recall his own youth and his dancing feet. You wonder how many ears present during this evening knew that every tune was a gem from the golden age of club music. OK, on your feet, readers. These should be enough to get you slow-dancing and dad-dancing in your lounge.
MAXWELL’S FUNKY DOZEN FROM THE 70S
Rufus feat. Chaka Khan Once You Get Started (1974) – The track that brought Chaka Khan to my attention in the UK. I was sent the vinyl import album Rufusized before its UK release.
Emotions Flowers (1976) – One of the best female vocal groups who sang with EWF and featured in the video of Boogie Wonderland. This mid-tempo soul ballad was very popular.
Undisputed Truth You + Me = Love (1976) – High-octane disco chant that had me leaping around the dancefloor thinking I was on Soul Train. A Lacy favourite.
Idris Muhammad Could Heaven Ever Be Like This (1977) – Great jazz-funk crossover. Another Lacy tune with great sax and brass.
Dr Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band Cherchez La Femme (1976) – Totally inspirational due to their stylish vintage fashion, multi-racial lineup and jazzy vibe, augmented by the beautiful vocal stylings of Cory Daye. Like Manhattan Transfer, August Darnell’s early sophisticated incarnation was a huge influence on me wanting to sing in a band.
El Coco Cocomotion (1977) – More jazzy, mostly instrumental string-laden latin infused disco, which conjured up Fred and Ginger (the latter dancing backwards in heels) at the Copacabana. This was music for lovers to spin to, entwined close up and sensual. A Robbie Vincent and Lacy favourite.
Harvey Mason Till You Take My Love (1977) – Uptempo disco-funk percussive and brass driven with excellent Merry Clayton vocals imploring a seemingly reluctant partner to believe in love. Co-written with David Foster (who was responsible for Cheryl Lynn’s phenomenal floor-filler Got To Be Real), the gospel richness of the melody is in the same vein.
Herbie Hancock Thought It Was You (1978) – Veteran jazz-funker had a huge commercial hit with this early vocoder-driven disco track that’s still fresh today. From the great album Sunlight. A pioneer who later released the influential Rock It hip-hop genre-busting track with Bill Laswell in 1983.
Dazz Brick (1976) – Revolutionary sound at the time and one of those funk imports that we bought the minute we heard it. Still a favourite.
Aquarian Dream You’re A Star (1978) – Another jazz-funk band heavily played in clubs and by Robbie, very much like Crusaders. I bought this album the minute it came out and enjoyed several more gems.
Patrice Rushen Haven’t You Heard (1979) Just one of the effortless jazz-funk standout tracks from her career as an accomplished vocalist and keyboards player, multi-instrumentalist who taught Prince to sequence keyboards and arrange music. Her early albums are sweet jazz-funk bliss, many tracks being sampled later by RnB stars including George Michael and Mary J Blige.
Deniece Williams Free (1976) – Now mostly a Gospel singer and former backing vocalist for Stevie Wonder’s band Wonderlove. This amazingly was a Number 1 and came blasting out of Essex soul boys’ cars through the summer of ’77. One of my all-time favourite singers at a time when quality soul could top the UK charts.