Monday, August 29, 2005

Young-Holt Unlimited - Superfly

Young-Holt looking Super Fly
The only artist I’ve hit more than once in the short but illustrious history of this blog is the mighty Eddie Bo. I figured, “ I haven’t even done 100 posts yet, and God knows I have more than enough artists in the crates to avoid duplication for a while..”. But then, while digging through those self-same crates last week I pulled this gem out, and thusly Young-Holt Unlimited becomes the second repeat artist in the annals of the Funky16Corners blog (whoopee!). Anyway, I figured this’d work because it’s from a decidedly later incarnation of the group, in which Isaac “Redd” Holt (drums) and Eldee Young (bass) were joined by Ken Chaney on piano. I covered some of the basic history here. Today’s selection, a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Superfly’ appeared on the 1973 LP “Young-Holt Unlimited Play Superfly’ (see super “fly” cover above). The concept of said LP was Young-Holt dropping a whole sides-worth of covers from the ‘Superfly’ soundtrack, with the other side of the LP composed of other covers (and a few originals). I know there are folks out there that would file the Young-Holt catalogue with countless other similar groups - i.e. bands that were ostensibly “soul jazz” but made their bread and butter covering pop hits – and feel that records like this, while enjoyable are ultimately disposable. I say au contraire mon frere! While lots of uninspired soul-jazz was cranked out by poseurs or (even worse) great musicians trying to cash in, the Young-Holt organization (in it’s various configurations) had a real flair. They were always solid players, and they brought both an authentic jazz vibe to their recordings as well as an equally authentic soul/funk vibe. The concept of doing instrumental covers of the best tunes from Mayfield’s legendary soundtrack is an interesting one, with the Young-Holt group taking on mainly vocal numbers like the title track, ‘Pusherman’ and ‘Freddie’s Dead’ (all done well). This version of ‘Superfly’ cranks up the energy considerably (trying to duplicate that patented Curtis laid-back cool would have been foolish), with Chaney’s electric piano featured prominently (I’ll assume he’s playing the synthesizer as well), and some very cool guitar playing (not sure who it is). The overall vibe reminds me somewhat of early 70’s sides by the Crusaders (listen to ‘Put It Where You Want It’ from 1971’s ‘Crusaders 1’ LP, especially Joe Sample’s piano) in that it was funky, but not overly polished (which is a good thing). The feeling is that the 60’s aren’t long gone, the 70’s are definitely in the house, but things haven’t gotten out of hand yet (if that makes any sense at all). For a Chi-town record, ‘Young-Holt Unlimited Plays Superfly’ has a decidedly West Coast feel. Producer/engineer Paul Serrano was a journeyman Chicago jazz trumpeter who had a second career producing/engineering sessions for locals like Ramsey Lewis, Richard Evans, Terry Callier and Eugene Record. He’s also credited with designing the cover of this LP.

This LP has been reissued. Dusty Groove usually carries it, but appears to be out of stock (you can sign up to be notified when it comes back in).


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