Kung Fu Man vs Shaft In Da Twilight Zone?
"Kung Fu Man Part II" (Charles Brimmer)
Charles Brimmer, JB'S Records. 1974
That's all, grasshopper
Here’s yet another 45 side recorded at Deep South Recording in Baton Rouge; but this time there is a distinct HOTG connection. From 1974, Charles Brimmer’s “Kung Fu Man Part I & Part I” on Senator Jones’ JB’S label out of New Orleans is obviously an attempt to capitalize on Carl Douglas’ smash of that year, “Kung Fu Fighting”. I am featuring the instrumental B side of this record because, on the A-side, Brimmer’s voice dominates the mix, making his insipid lyrics very hard to miss over the low volume, muddy sounding music bed. On the flip, the more prominent and a bit less muddy backing tracks reveal a strange, complex, and derivative composition of upbeat funk, arranged by none other than Wardell Quezergue.
In a futile attempt to add authenticity, both sides feature Kung Fu-like (?) phrases, sounding like a victim of Tourette’s syndrome hawking up phlegm, and a crude off-beat electronic clap effect dubbed in over the section that starts the tune with the “Twilight Zone Theme” inspired organ riff. Is this the place to ask what Rod Serling had to do with Kung Fu? Inspiring delusions of grandeur, Quezergue chooses to make “Theme From Shaft” the model for his arrangement. While these elements lift “Kung Fu Man” into the glorious realm of unintentional humor, that’s not to say that the playing isn’t quite good and the groove compelling on Part II with its rhythmic interplay of brass, strings, wah-wah guitar, organ, driving bass and percussive propulsion. And that’s why I bring it your way today, because booty shaking and laughing are both good for you.
New Orleans born Charles Brimmer was a pretty good deep-soul singer in his day, the early to mid-1970’s. During high school he cut his first single, and joined David Battiste and the Gladiators for a time when he graduated. He went on to make numerous other singles, some well-received, plus a couple of albums. I think he must have cut “Kung Fu Man” during the Baton Rouge sessions for his single “God Blessed Our Love”, a cover of the Al Green song, that came out on Chelsea and did very well nationally. You can hear a couple of his sides at the Soul Club Jukebox . Certainly, “Kung Fu Man” is not how Mr. Brimmer would wish to be remembered. But at least I chose the instrumental side, pursuing the groove.
I could have made this a Tuff City feature, since they have it on their Funky Delicacies CD, Senator Jones’ Funky Funky New Orleans; but they combined both sides on one CD track, and I didn’t want waste the bandwidth and make you sit through the first three minutes. So, I used my own vinyl. Interestingly, this music track, renamed “Chiller”, also appears on FD's earlier CD, Funky Funky New Orleans, credited to Louisiana Homegrown, with the Kung Fu effects replaced by “spooky” laughter. At least Senator Jones got a lot of use, if not any commercial bang, for his musical buck.