Cool R (1986) Let’s Talk About It (LP) Half & Half ST 62525 

Cool R

Let’s Talk About It 

1986

Half & Half ST 62525

*** noteworthy


Obviously influenced by every master of funk in the 80s, this has a small-town charm all its own.  While this is a varied set, it grabs you from the get-go with the 8+ minute opener “Dangerous.”  The set is produced and written Nathaniel Phillips, the band’s bass player, and that’s not surprising considering the popping bassline is a huge part of the charm.


Perhaps this offering from Portland, Oregon is not worth what you’d likely end up paying for it, this is certainly worth a listen if you dig obscure funk from the 1980s.

— winch (author of

Platypus (1979) S/T (LP) Casablanca 7171

Platypus
Platypus
Casablanca 7171
1979
Produced by Platypus

Rating:*** (Noteworthy)


Debut album by this Cincinnati outfit.  A funk disco sound runs through the entire set, but unlike many funk groups of the 70s, this delivered the goods without horns, and in contrast to most disco outfits, this relies much more on a thumping bassline and sometimes rock elements and less on synthesized sounds.

Considering they released this on Casablanca, the Parliament/Funkadelic comparisons were inevitable, and while those comparisons were justified, this has more of a disco sound and also shows influences from fellow Ohio funk outfits the Isley Brothers and Ohio Players, the influence of the Dayton outfit epecially pronounced on “Street Babies,” the influence of the Isley Brothers showing in the absence of a horn section.  The influence of these fellow Cincinnati soul brothers becomes pronounced as “Don’t Go Away” starts out, but the song has its own sound, ends up mixing elements of a rock power ballad with a traditional soul ballad.  While the build up of tension in the power ballad comes out of blues and soul traditions, “Don’t Go Away” clearly sees the influence channeled through the rock tradition.  It’s perhaps not the stand-out cut on the set, but it’s part of several mildly unique elements that makes this album a bit more interesting than most disco funk releases from this era.

This is definitely recommended listening for fans of disco funk, the sound coming out of the 70s and in some ways, clearly headed toward the 80s.  Some of the cuts will also interest others, especially the previously mentioned “Street Babies” and “Don’t Go Away.”  These two songs have little in common, one a hard-funk cut, the other a soul ballad, but both mix rock elements into the sounds.  While they certainly weren’t the only outfit to combine these styles, Platypus sometimes fused these styles to create a sound all their own.  Rock and funk both came out of R&B, but most of the funk outfits that followed Sly Stone’s lead of incorporating rock elements in the soul and funk used horns and lacked the slick polished sound of this outfit.


While this album sold poorly and the band broke up before the release of their second album (Cherry 1980), they managed to leave behind a small legacy with this release.

— winch

Hi-Tension (1978) S/T (LP) Island Records (ILPS 9564)

Hi-Tension
Hi-Tension
Island(ILPS 9564)
1978
Producers: Kofi Ayivor & Alex Sadkin
(Title track produced by Ayivor & Chris Blackwell)
Rating: ***  (Noteworthy)
This English disco-funk outfit found considerable success at home, where both the title track and “British Hustle” were hit singles and dancefloor favorites, but they were mostly ignored in the States where disco fans preferred England’s Hot Chocolate, the German sound, or their own artists.  The band eases into this set with “You’re My Girl,” picking up the pace for “Searchin’,” slowing it down again for “Autumn Love,” before cutting lose on the instrumental “Power and Lightning.”  After that, they continue with the rollercoaster, the second side opening with the pure disco sound of “British Hustle,” slowly it down slightly for “If It Moves You” before launching into “Hi-Tension,” which like “Power and Lightning,” should appeal to fans of funk, the two guitarists and four percussionists burning a groove through the superficial, the horns and organ helping out, punching holes through the disco haze.  This is stylish disco-funk and fans of bands such as EWF should give this album a listen.

This is mostly known for its dance cuts, but the slower cuts deserve attention as well, especially the EWF-style “Autumn Love.”  While they weren’t breaking new ground with this set, they picked the right influences and the right musicians.

— winch

Kiki Gyan (1977) Afro Reggae (LP) P.V.P. 7777

Kiki Gyan
Afro Reggae
P.V.P. 7777 (Holland pressing) 
1977
rating: *** (noteworthy)

African keyboardist Gyan joined Osibisa as a teenager, released this rare solo debut a few years later.  (Apparently, he’d never kick the drug addiction that started here.  It would end up killing him.)  This is African DISCO with some reggae and funk elements but fans of funk or reggae might be disappointed.  He offers some variety and some of the cuts are quite unique, but contrary to some sellers’ brags, this is not really funk but rather a disco-funk sound.  He creates a groove on some of the cuts but often loses the groove or floats over the groove in signature disco style.  He has one horn (soprano sax) and cool African percussion on some cuts, and his synthesizer often sounds very dated—which some listeners might find charming.  

The set is somewhat typical of bands led by keyboardists—typically not a good sign— but he keeps it playful and doesn’t waste much time showing off his chops.  The best cut is “Doing My Thing,” but other selections have some charm as well.  For fans of rare disco or African 70s music, this is a worthwhile listen.

Kiki Gyan (fender rhodes, piano, synthesizer, organ, bass, lead vocals, production), Jake Sollo(guitars), Richard Bailey (drums), Ray Allen (sax), Kofi Ayivor (percussion), Liza Strike, Helen Chappelle & Joan Stone (backing vocals).  Recorded in London.

— winch