Funky soul-jazz organist Caesar Frazier crafted superior Hammond funk. 75, his second LP, is a rare gem. It’s comfortably his greatest artistic statement.
The follow-up to Hail Ceasar!, it’s a taut, grooving set that expands his sound and, put simply, it’s got better songs. The key elements of his debut album are all there – production from maestro Bob Porter, accompaniment from hip players (Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Cornell Dupree, John Tropea) and arrangement from Horace Ott – but the overall sound is elevated. The tightly jamming, expressive jazz-funk makes for a richer, fuller, more satisfying experience.
75 is a mixture of hard-driving originals, deeply beautiful slower numbers to vary the tempo and a couple of classy covers. The crazy bombastic “Mighty Mouse” – a riot of horns, organ and in the pocket drums – became an acid jazz classic at Dingwalls and it’s easy to see (hear?) how. A blissed out, lushly instrumental take on Seals and Crofts’s “Summer Breeze” follows, perfect for those sunshine sets.
Side A closes with the heavenly “Sweet Children”. A loping, funky jazz masterpiece famously sampled by Kanye West for Common’s “Real People” from Be. It opens beautifully, with soaring sax and a funky horn section combining with weightless keyboard tones atop snapping drums. Unsurprisingly, the excellence endures right through to the end.
The B side opens with perhaps the album’s most famous track. "Funk It Down” contains the familiar “I can feel the funk” vocal refrain throughout. But it’s the gorgeous, insouciant bridge that you should all know and love, having been used as the hook for Gang Starr’s “Ex-Girl To Next Girl”. A great cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” comes next, with an unforgettable bass-line which anchors the entire heavy rhythm section workout. Dizzying organ, triumphant horns and sun-dappled guitar grooves combine to create “Walking On The Side”, rounding out a pretty smoking set.
This is one of those rare 70s funk-soul-jazz LPs on which a bad track cannot be found. It’s all essential. So of course finding original copies on vinyl at affordable prices has been tough for years.
Mastered brilliantly by Simon Francis, cut by Pete Norman and with painstakingly reproduced artwork by the Be With team, this fresh Be With reissue ensures this legendary LP now sounds, looks and feels as sensational as it should.