Brothers of Hope - Nickol Nickol
Long one of my favorite Philly funk tracks, ‘Nickol Nickol’ by the Brothers of Hope is a little known (hence inexpensive) track that ought to be much better known.I grabbed my first copy off of Ebay years ago, mainly because I was picking up as much Gamble Records product as I could get my hands on, and it was less than $10. That proved to be a wise investment, because unlike many sub-$10 funk 45s, this one packs a serious wallop.This is not to say that it’s a model of hard hitting, make your hair stand on end, make some UK fanboy drop a load in his trainers funk.
But what it lacks in sheer dynamic energy it more than makes up for it with a surplus of atmosphere and subtlety (yeah, I know that funk 45s are records not generally known for their subtlety, but that’s because some folks aren’t listening to the right records…).It’s one of the spookiest (and I mean that in a good way) funk 45s in my crates and despite the slower tempo is a serious groover (sounded great when I spun it a few weeks ago, and elicited a few queries from the crowd).Never having seen any info on the group (or any other recorded work), I assumed for a long time that the Brothers of Hope were in fact another in a long line of aliases for the Gamble/Philly International/MFSB rhythm section, including Bobby Eli, Norman Harris, Earl Young , Ronnie Baker and Vince Montana. A recent communiqué from Mr. Eli confirmed as much*.This solid pedigree is evident in the excellent playing on the record. The tune opens with a reverb-ed guitar line, then a second guitar playing a “counter” line. The bass and drums (hard and waaayyy up in the mix) soon follow accompanied by Mr. Montana on the vibes (not sure who’s playing organ here, maybe Lenny Pakula??). There’s a great polyrhythmic thing happening here too that makes ‘Nickol Nickol’ a treat for the ears as well as the feet.One of the cooler things here is the vibes quoting from ‘Eleanor Rigby’ as the record fades out.The flip side is a fairly run of the mill cover of ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’. As I said, you ought to be able to score a copy of this record at a relatively decent price. If even that is too rich for your blood, ‘Nickol Nickol’ was included on one of Soul Jazz’s Philly comps.
* The Philly rhythm section – in addition to their busy schedule backing up a wide variety of artists – also recorded a number of recordsd under other names for a variety of local labels. The word on the grapevine is that a comp is currently being assembled that will include many of these pseudonymous groups. I await it eagerly.