Funky Golden Rule
The older I get (having just passed another birthday, my wife assures me I won’t be over the hill for three more years – say what?), I am increasingly unable to abide straight beats. The more syncopated and polyrhythmic the better for this freak of geezerhood. Maybe you’ve noticed. If not, hear this.
"Do Unto Others" (Barard, Castenell, Dabon, Hughes, Richard, Richards, Smith, Tio, Willams)
Chocolate Milk, from Comin', RCA, 1976
That’s my friend (and, since Katrina, infrequent HOTG contributor), Dwight Richards, tearing up the beat, along with percussionist Ken ‘Afro’ Williams, on “Do Unto Others”, a little monster from Chocolate Milk’s third LP, Comin’. I just recently found this copy, the only album of theirs I lacked from the period (1975-1979) when Allen Toussaint produced their records for Sansu Productions, co-owned with Marshall Sehorn. Having played the LP repeatedly lately, I think Comin’ is their most thoroughly funk-infused effort of the lot, if you judge da funk in degrees of syncopation (as I usually do), rather than in the more elusive qualities of attitude or feel. While none of the other material on it is quite like this one, the album has made me re-evaluate Chocolate Milk yet again.
In essence, “Do Unto Others” is Dwight, ’Afro’, and bassist David Barard having at it with not a straight beat sequence to be found. I think the track probably originated in the band’s live improvisations, where Dwight has said they developed much of their material. The broken-field percussion and off-kilter feeling bass and guitar ostinato do not let up here. Adding counterpoint are the hot horn insertions and - what is that? - a synth break. At least it’s old school analog (a mini-moog perhaps?). Playing more subtle supportive roles back in the mix are a percolating clavinet and tasty rhythm guitar. But, if the Golden Rule of funk is really “give the drummer some”, then I’ve got to say that Dwight’s chops invoke my awe here. You can hear why he was also one of the regular session crew at Sea-Saint in the Seventies.
It has been my often spoken opinion over the years that I’d be perfectly blissful listening to just a great New Orleans rhythm section lay down grooves all night. There’s that much going on. Forget the vocals, the soloing, however strong. Those of you who require a bit more of the melodic with their grooving may not go for this unusual Chocolate Milk piece. But, I don’t think you can deny that it is a strong statement of their musicianship, revealing the band’s intense, homegrown rhythmic sensibilities in no uncertain terms. To me, it rules.
Chocolate Milk on Comin':
Dwight Richards - drums
Kenneth 'Afro' Williams - percussion
David Barard - bass
Robert Dabon - keyboards
Steve Hughes - guitar
Mario Tio - guitar
Amadee Castenell - saxes
Joseph Smith - trumpet
Frank Richard - vocals
Dwight Richards writes:
Dwight here.......All I can say is WOW! Dan, I bow down to you brother. You are the MASTER of obscure tracks!!! I couldn't even remember this title and I played on it....WOW!!!! I haven't heard this song since I recorded it in the mid seventies. It was like listening to it for the first time...THANK YOU. I honestly don't know how you find these things..this is your talent, keeping this music alive!! Considering all of the unwanted funk I've been in since Katrina this was a treat that brought a big simle to my face. Thank you for finding this. And yes, this was a recorded jam session that was released on an album. I don't think we intended it to be a record. We would usually jam for a few minutes when we first got into the studio for a session just to get warmed up. This track was just us stretching out and having some fun and I guess we decided to keep it. Glad you liked the drumming. Sorry I haven't been by to comment more, but of course I've been busy trying to put my life back together. . . . By the way, if you want to hear something mindblowing just for your own listening pleasure,check out "Confusion" on the first Chocolate Milk alblum. On that cut the band just absolutely shows off it's musical chops. It is a lot like the Herbie Hancock Headhunter band. Of course we were friends of them during the time, so the influences went back and forth.I'm playing two different time signatures at once on the drums. One on the hi-hats and another on the snare and kick. . . .
It's so good to have your comments here again, Dwight. I know Katrina messed with you big time. If I can put a smile on your face for a few minutes, then that makes my day. And, any props I can give, you deserve. I was pretty sure that tune was jam-based from what you had told me about how y'all worked; so, thanks for the insight about it being a recorded in-studio warm-up. Awesome. You guys sure knew how to have fun! And, yes, I just listened to "Confusion" again on Action Speaks Louder Than Words. Appreciate you reminding me (us) about that track, too. As I recall, CM started out playing jazz. It shows on that one. And that whole album is a mo-fo, too.