THE FUNKY TALES BEHIND EACH TRACK

1. WELCOME TO MY WORLD

One of the first songs PTFI played for me, it was an immediate "gimme that one."  This big funkalistic thump-step just screamed out at me! I had no idea how I was going to fill up something that thump-a-listic with words, but it was too exhilarating to ignore.  So much thump, so much sound splatter, how do you master something like this?  But the "lines" just came quickly, and then the ideas came.  Like Chris Herod's album art, it was a case of just trying to make something funkay enough to keep up with the brilliance of the artists in on the project!

 

We were always looking to fold in funky connections.  The 420 Funk Mob had just played Berkeley, a great underground club called the Cloud Nine.  During that show Mike "Clip" Payne invited (commanded) me upfront (there was not a real stage) and he said "here's the mike, you'll know what to do!"  I was like, whaat?  Then the band - Lige Curry, Mike Hampton, Danny Bedrosian and others went into this crazy P-Funk record I didn't recognize.  (almost all their set was early Funkadelic, but this one was bumping up and down like crazy, then Dr. Illenstine got in my ear and said "Hydraulic Pump"!  So I went for it, shouting "jump up in the air and stay there" and all kinds of Pee Funkativity!  I gave it what I had, the local funkateers gave me the vibe to keep going, and at the end Clip said those words "Give it Up for Rickey Vincent!!"  Ooh that was nice!   The entire show was live streamed worldwide, so the Maggots know where that line came from!

         Once I had some loony lyrics together, and dropped them in, I told Phil I needed an interplanetary voice to get going and put a P-Funk level alternate universe type layer onto it, so I channelled my inner Sledhicket (Patrick "Sledhicket" Norwood, who produced the incredible industrial show 'Mind Drill Grease' at KALX back in the day!) and ripped off the final verse.

         Then it became a bit like crunchy cereal without the milk.  I quickly felt like a female voice was needed, someone that could float over the top and sing / sang those lines from Bootsy's Rubber Band, "Welcome, to My World"  from "May the Force Be With You."  Obviously there was only once choice, the indominaable Kimiko Joy.   Kimiko is one of my favorite people and one of my musical heroes out in the Bay.  She one of the most versatile and most gifted artists I know! It took about a year before we could get her into the studio to sing those lovely vocals for us.  She studied those original Mudd Bone vocal hooks and hooked us up!  That was sweet!

         But there was more!  The summer of 2015 Bootsy's Rubber Band came to town and that tour featured Mudd Bone himself, as well as Frankie Kash and Bootsy.  (Bone actually sang those vocal lines into my phone that night, but we couldnt make them work in the mix.)  That night backstage after the show I played some of the RV CD for Bootsy and he just loved it.   I got him to say the line at the end:  "Aah Rickey Vincent baba, you are a fool for the Funk!"  Oh yea!  At that point I was inspired to finish the entire record!

 

2. RIDE ON IT

This track was given to me by Al Eaton, famous Bay Area music producer and delightfully funky guy.  He produced some of the best hip hop tracks in the 90s, and the walls of his place up in El Cerrito back in the day had the gold record plaques he got from producing the first couple Too Short albums for Jive Records.  Al knew how to play funk music that sounded like funk samples, and give rap tracks a living breathing funk feeling, while sounding like a loop or sample.  He just dropped this track on me one day years ago, and said 'my cousin Skyler Jett did the vocals, and I asked Paris to do the rap'  Wow.  I was overwhelmed.  That took some work, but it also was a way for Al Eaton to gain some visibility, as I played that song every Friday night to start my KPFA show "The History of Funk" and I still play it every Friday night!   Skyler Jett has been around, singing with some of the best bands in the business (I introduced him once when he was lead singing for The Family Stone at Kimball's East, and he has his own inspiring music at skylerjett.com).  Paris of course is the "Black Panther of Hip Hop" with years of conscious political rap albums - now available at GuerillaFunk.com, and his credibility in hip hop circles is un-touchable.  It was a no-brainer to include this song on the RV CD!

 

 

3. FUNK-O-NOTS

Oh man this was such an inspiration!  Early on in the process of this album I told Phil we had to do a cover of one of my favorite Ohio Players groove jams.  The song is not one of their most famous, and it was more of a groove jam that held a lot of memories for me.  Early in the 2000's my brother Teo Barry Vincent and one of his incredible musical buddies Tony Green took me to a music store and bought me a Gibson bass guitar!  It was beautiful!  I never played before, and Tony showed me the bass lines to Funk-O-Nots.  I always thought that one day I would learn to play bass, and play that song!  Well, I never really learned to play the bass, and I loaned it to Funkyman my radio co-host and I have not seen that thing since.  But I always heard that line in my head.

       Once it was time to make music for the RV CD, it was on!   But everyone I told about it, just tinkered around, and it was hard to get the sound I was looking for.  (even though the original has a disco-funk feel, it is dine by jazz masters improvising all around the groove, so doing a cover with the right feel is tricky.)  My man Tiny in Amsterdam heard I was making music and I asked him to make a version of the tune.  Tiny is heavy on the keyboard dance licks, and he made a cool instrumental version, but I was still in the hunt for that thump.  Then I kicked it with G Koop, who is a great producer and did a lot of tracks for the Funkadelic Shake the Gate CD.  He did a few basslines for me too, but I was still hungry for something that put it all together.  My homie Bobby Easton tinkered with some rhythm licks that were hittin', but they didn't reflect the feel of the original tune. Finally,  Phil whipped up his own rendition and ripped the version you hear now.  He said it was rhythm guitar not bass that was doing those licks and hooks.  It also helped that Phil stayed true to the song structure of the original song, which gave me space to ACT A FOOL everywhere!

       It was a no-brainer that when it came time to say the parts "Attention, Funk Stars and Funk O Nots, You Are Not Funky!" only one person was qualified to drop that one, Zoot-Zilla baby!  He gave us a few lines and we went from there, making up nonsense as we went along.  But all of the nonsense had to do with making that choice:  to either funk, or not to funk!  An important choice if there ever was one!

       Phil and I went through version after version, constantly adding silliness and non sense messages until it started to sound like something from the Ultra Wave album with all the extra sounds.  Early on, I had a diabolical plan to involve the local Bay Area funk band the Funkanauts to play on the track, and maybe even sing "funk or not" themselves, but as the album dragged on, I had to wrap up quickly.  So just as a place holder I needed some vocals to sing "To funk - or not - or not to funk!"  So I got my boys Marcus and Gary to run rough over the voices and sing the hook with me!  Phil mixed that in and bang!  I Finally all the pieces fit together and we were done! 

 

4. THUMPASORUS GALACTICUS

         This was the second jam in the project.  It was actually made years and years ago.  Back in the 1990s Phil had made an instrumental track so funky and full of thump, I used it for my intro song way back at KALX radio.  I never forgot the jam, he called "A Live Sample" on his demo CDs back in the day, and I told him to dig that one out, I got something for him!  So one day in 2014 I drove to Phil's spot, he put that track on and I dropped those interplanetary lines in one take!  Bam!

         It took us a few more tweaks to get all the sounds of the thumpasorus groove right, and I tweaked one verse later on, but damn!  So happy with how this thing came about, and how much a vision from George Clinton could continue to resonate with me!  Ever since the Mothership Connection album dropped, and the final song (which is often the final song on live P-Funk shows to this day) "Night of the Thumpasorus Peoples,"  I have been wondering for years and years, ever since 1975:  "who the funk are the Thumpasorus People?" "Where did they come from?"  "What are they here to do?"  So I finally had the chance to explore it a bit myself!!  To me, the Thumpasorus People are not unlike Orisha, ancestors that keep us on track, in the case of the Funk, the Thumpasorus keep us pointing toward The One!  To them, "Thump is the holiest of rituals!"  Oh man that was a lot of fun!  Thank YOU George Clinton for expanding my mind and making me think of those Thumpasorus People for 40 years!

 

5. WEST WORLD

This one was another no-brainer.  My relationship with Dr. Cornel West goes back to 2001, when he put his first music album together: Sketches of My Culture.  Davey D was playing it one day on KPFA and I was stunned!  A famous black intellectual working the R&B format to bring The Knowledge!  I was about that from the start!  So I hit up Davey and he put me in contact with Mike Dailey, who is one of the producers of Dr. Wests music along with Cornel's brother Clifton West.  I talked to Mike and sent him a copy of my Funk book, asking him to foward it to Dr West.   Mike sent it on to Dr West (after reading the book!) and one day I'm at the house and my phone rings.  "Is this Rickey Vincent?"  "yes"  "This is Cornel West... my brother the way you tell our people's story through the funk is truly a . . ."   I don't remember what else he said!  But we've been cool ever since.   In fact, at the end of that conversation, Dr. West asked if he could do anything to help my career along, and I told him 'yes I'm applying to the Doctoral program at UC Berkeley in Ethnic Studies"  and so Dr. West was one of the first to write my letter of recommendation to that program.  So I got in the program, and seven years later I wrote that dissertation on The Lumpen that Dr. West mentions in the song.  That dissertation became my second book PARTY MUSIC: THE INSIDE STORY OF THE BLACK PANTHERS' BAND AND HOW BLACK POWER TRANSFORMED SOUL MUSIC.  Oh yeah! You can get the book from amazon.com here!  (And a lot more info is at rickeyvincent.com)

         So Dr. West and I had some history for sure.  When he came to the Bay Area in 2007 we had a phone conversation that became part of the track, and in 2011 Dr West spoke at Pauley Balroom at UC Berkeley, in a conversation with Carl Dix.   He shouted out a nmber of activists that night, as well as "that brother Rickey Vincent, who wrote the definitive text on Funk  music!"  It was also amazing that during the talk, Dr. West went all in about Sly Stone, and ran down those lyrics to "Stand!"  off the dome, and they in fact fit right in, untouched into the beat!

         So I dug up that 2007 interview, and we could not believe it when I asked Dr West where he got his funk from, and he started singing "I Wanna Know if it's Good To You" by Funkadelic!  Yes so deep into the funk, we were in West's World!  So it was a thrill to put all those sounds together over one of Phil's monsrous beats.  So even if you don't care about Dr. West or his politics or his not so secret funkativity, there is still the unrelenting funk of PTFI!

 

6. THE ONE AND THE THREE

This was one of my crowning achievements as a funk historian.  An interview with The Godfather of Soul James Brown!  But not just any interview, we went all kinds of places in that interview.  I just kept the parts associated with The Funk.   This was in 1993, shortly after Mr. Brown was out of jail, and shortly after his triumphant Pay Per View performance that returned The Godfather to the glory of #1 status as the American entertainer that he deserved to be.  Unfortunately, when James Brown got down to the business of making new R&B music, he found major obstacles, and his music was not being played on pop and R&B stations then.  So I can only imagine how livid he was when he was told a raggedy college radio deejay wanted to interview him and help promote his new music.   My first question to Mr Brown that day was 'how are you being recieved at radio stations today?"  I figured that he was being treated like royalty but I was wrong.  Mr. Brown went right into a diatribe about how out of touch radio people were and how angry he was about it.  Ooh, well at least that meant I could get some good opinions out of him.  So after about 5 questions about the business, I layed into him "let me ask you about the funk..."

         As far as I know, it was the first time he really started to spell out where the funk come from!  If you look at other documentaries, it was not until later in the 90's that he started to spill the beans about his funk formula!  So I always kept that cassette tape nearby, and when the RV CD thang came up, it was a no-brainer to include this bit! 

         Shortly after James Brown passed away on Christmas Day in 2006, my friend & colleague Daphne Brooks put together a James Brown Symposium at Princeton University, where she works as an English Professor.  I was able to go and meet up with a great many JB scholars and writers and former band members, and so I edited together the "funk question" segment of that interview, and I got to play a few moments it to the audience there.   So it was ready to go when the RV CD came about. 

         I took a loop from the Payback and made a home made version, then Phil made a new one and cranked it up.  As soon as we had a mix together, I approached the James Brown estate, to get their permission and approval for the use of our conversation with Soul Brother Number One.   Fortunately, the person in charge of the issues was Peter Afterman, who not only supported my jam, he said his son was a student in my sclass bat at SF STate!  So The Funk was truly coming home to roost!  haha!

 

7. GO WIGGLE

This one jumped out at me the minute Phil played it.  It had such a delicious buttery bass line that bounced all the way through!  I barely noticed the icey keyboards and brilliant guitar work that made it a mean funk piece. The instant I heard it I said "that sounds like a song called 'Go Wiggle.' 

 

I always had my own ideas about the "Go Wiggle" concept that George put forward on the Motor Booty Affair album in 1978.  Some of them were as sexy and nasty as George's liquid language back in the day, but once the record started grooving, the lyrics just fell into place and a silly family-friendly take on the wiggle just came from me, and it made the most sense.

 

I think most of us funkateers have our own ideas about what it means to have a "Go Wiggle," a special thang that is a bit more extra than just moving around, it is the spark that makes U move, that primal inspiration!  But I kept it family friendly and just "had a lot more fun!"

 

I was adamant about keeping that buttery bass line through the song, as it is so easy for today's music to rely on the bass drum kick instead of the bass guitar bump.  But Phil knew what I was talking about, and that sweet thump on the 1 and 3 does the trick!

 

I had fun referencing a lot of P-Funk-isms, like the intro vamp "I am the jock and and I'm back on the scene..."  which plays on the intro to "Mr. Wiggles," which is actually a vamp on a Cab Calloway "rap" from waay back in the day!  And the little vamp of "that was alright, but some of y'all ain't doing what your'e supposed to do..."  I couldnt believe that came out of my mouth as the song was going.  It totally fit, and most P-Funkers know that is borrowed from Phillipe Wynne's vamp on "Uncle Jam"  yea baba!  So much fun making this track!

 

It was easy to get my former student Kimberly Martin to do the part.  She had no idea what it was about, but she is one of those super ambitious, super talented young women, and she is always asking me for a letter of recommendation to some dazzling program or research opportunity.  Just as I came up with the idea of "explaining" the Go Wiggle, Kim reached out to me, asking for a new letter, and I said, 'no problem, I'll meet you in the classroom, we have a little silly business to take care of first!

 

8. AMERICAN-AFRICANS

This one is nuts.  I was inspired many years ago by a record called "Shut Up" by MC 900 Foot Jesus.  Look him up.  His music is hilarious.  I always liked how pseudo-serious it sounded, but ridiculous at the same time.  Great funk has elements of both the silly and the serious. 

 

So this song began early on as a crazy afro-funk loop, with those "Shut Ups" added in.  And early on I had some diabolical notions of using sound bytes to tell a very serious issue of racial identity - that is played over some ridiculously funked up riff - so that it is hard to know how to be serious, even though the subject matter definitely is.

 

Phil did his magic and made the groove fit perfectly.  It was up to me to provide the content.  It was so much fun compiling all the great pieces.  I actually was talking with some students when I said "They tell you that youre African Americans... so what do you know about Africa?"  Yes I taped a talk I did with some wonderful 8th graders at Willard Middle school in Andrea Pritchett's class in 2014.  Andrea is a balls-to-the-wall activist with Cop Watch and other no-nonsense community organizations that I've known since the Anti Apartheid protests of the 1980s, and I'm proud that she is teaching at my former Middle School because I know those kids are getting the real deal!  She let me have a day with them discussing African history and racial identity that day, and it was a blast.  I couldnt teach that group every day but that day was wonderful. 

 

The original talk had a list of comparisons, I startedy by saying, 'if you are a Filipino American, you know some of your Filipino heritage, if  you are a Mexican American, if you are an Irish American, you have a sense of your national identiy and your roots.  But if you are African American, what do you know about Africa?  Compared to the other 'hyphenated' groups, not a damn thing.   That was easy to show with the sound byte from everyones favorite TV dingbat from The View...

 

The Neil deGrasse Tyson bit was obviously from a recent visit to Sway's radio show, and the clip was so hilarious and educational and righteous and serious at the same time, it was a no brainer to drop it into this track.  Same for the Honorable Louis Farrakhan, and Dr. King.  Those pieces just jumped out at me over the years and stuck in my head.  Even the crazy "you black bastard" rant, from Kain, one of the Last Poets.  His outrageous solo album has a song called "I Ain't Black" that goes so so far in on that topic it is unforgettable! 

 

The James Brown piece was also something I've had for years, borrowed from a long lost Mike Douglas Show episode, where Jb get into it with journalist and TV producer David Susskind.  It fit just right, so right that there is actually a reason why "The One and the Three" isnot 7 minutes long, because I wanted to spread out the JB genius! 

 

The final edit to the song came when we put Juan Carlos' voice on the "Shut ups!"  Juan is a brilliant percussionist, and he asked to be on my album.  Phil wanted him for another track, and I wanted him for one reason: I knew he had exactly the right voice for those!  I had taken "shut ups" from other sources, but the final one, "Shut Up Already, damn" everyone could tell was from Prince.   (at the end of Housequake) so to be safe, I made a plan to replace all of the "shut ups"... then of course we lost Prince before he could ever hear this... and like most everyone else I'm still lost in the wilderness trying to come to terms with losing him. 

 

Those crazy rhythm guitar riffs are from Patrick Simms.  He used to play in Katdelic and he blew my mind every time saw him.  He was always so tight, no matter how ridiculous his lick was, he would lock in in perfectly funky.  I was very happy to have his sound glue this song together.

9. PUT THE WORD OUT

This was the most fun of the set!  Early in the process I heard a 70's re-make in my head, and I wanted it to be something dazzling, yet lost and almost forgotten.   I kept hearing this Heatwave tune, from the Central Heating album, the one everyone knows has "Groove Line" and "Star of A Story" but most folks slept on the actual opening track, "Put the Word Out."  I could hear all the guitars, the horns, and the special vocals from Johnnie Wilder and just knew that a new take - from younger artists - would be all that!

 

Back in 2013 I got to know some great young musicians, Will Magid, Zeb Early, Paul Oliphant, and Zeke McCarter.  Will is a musical genius, who plays trumpet and synthesizer in his own delightfully funky act!  He also has the personality that just invites good vibes and creative collaborations.  Zeb is his buddy, and plays a mean rhythm guitar as well as some great deejay equipment.  Will and Zeb also work with Paul on Smoked Out Soul, a badass bi-monthly jam session where they loop old soul tracks, play bumping thunderous beats under them, then riff over them with live trumpets, guitars, drums and percussion.  It is so right on time!

 

Will Magid also works with one of the areas great singers, Ezekiel McCarter, the lead vocalist and dancer and entertainer for Con Brio, an up-and-coming act that has been touring the world for most of 2016, and just released their CD "Paradise" this past summer.  Will and I both knew that Zeke was blowing up, way back in 2013, so I felt it was going to be a rush against time to get him into the studio!

 

So after a year of talk, we started on the track, way back in 2015, laying guitars, tinkering with drums & beats.  Will decided early on to slow the track down some from the disco-funk pace of the original, and let all the soulfulness come through.  He suggested we add Uriah Duffy on bass, and Kevin Wong on the organ, and their work was right in the pocket! 

 

The kicker was the day we got Zeke McCarter to come to Will's Happy Rabbit studio and lay the vocals down.  Those two had a natual communication, and each take, each part was just effortless and fluid.  It was a joy to witness the song taking shape from bottom to the top, until the entire thing was done!  This experience left me so joyful and grateful to make music with such spirited, talented & generous people!   Gave me hope for the Future of The Funk!

 

10. TRIPPIN' WITH JUNIE

This one came together right away, once Phil played that slamming track for me.  I said "I can put Junie on this and it will kick ass!"  I had to teach myself some editing techniques, and get Phil to arrange the song just so Junie's special voice can fall right in there.  It was such a delight to bring one of the greatest and least known Funk Legends back to the foreground. 

 

As soon as Phil heard that interview segment, he produced those hooks with "Keyboard Tone Wizard" all over them!  It was so hilarious!  For a minute, that was the working name of the song, but it just looked a bit confusing on the playlist, especially with another Wizard on the CD, Bernie Worrell.  Phil told me about that George Clinton segment from the Family Series tracks, and bam! 

 

The interview came about way back in 2005 when Junie reached out to me to promote his album When The City, which is still his most recent complete album work, and a stroke of funk genius!  His vibe, his flavor, his funkativity is just infectious and I'm so happy that people can learn so much about him from just these minutes on the phone with him.

 

We also talked about his writing and performing on "Knee Deep" and One Nation and much of that Warner Brothers Funkadelic music, but there was not room for an entire expose, just a celebration of one of the all time greats!

 

Once we had the voices layed in, I simply had to give homage to the Junie-isms we all know and love, so I got Kimiko Joy to ask the question, "Which One is Junie Morrison?"  And Zoot Zilla's vibe is so right on time!   "Security, can we get some security here?"  If folks don't know, they should listen to "Deep" from Parliament's Motor Booty Affair!

 

11.DEEP SEA DIVERS

Ooh this one is so sweet & tangy!  I really wanted something liquid and squishy on the album, and many years ago on the radio my co-host Funkyman and i ad-libbed a song about the "deep sea divers" who are deeper that the average funkateer, and live at the bottom of the sea, with the cat-fish! 

 

The song and the concept continued to grow, and for a minute I was collaborating with my homegirl Pam MacDonalds group, the Samba Funk.  Their conceptual leader Andre Preston has volumes of cartoon-booklet stories of the Funquarians, some of which are black mermaids that inhabit the ocean as descendants of the slave babies thrown overboard during the Middle Passage.  Now THAT is deep!

 

But as the project drew toward a close, the musical guests I had in mind fell through, and so Phil put his own stamp on the Underwater Groove and bam!  All of a sudden the idea of trying to edit down Andre's brilliant work gave way to the con-cept of recognizing the women of P-Funk, who most certainly have been swimming at the deep end of the sea from the get go!

 

As soon as I heard Phil's instrumental version, in my mind I could hear Dawn Silva talking over it.  Her husky, sultry, seasoned funkalicous voice was a no-brainer for this, and when I approached her about the idea, she was all in!  I asked my man Mike Dailey (Cornel West producer) about some Sacramento studios, and he turned me on to Joe Archie.  So Dawn and I met up at Joe Archie's Levite Music House in Sacramento, and once she heard that track, she jumped in all over it, and started singing those floating background vocals!  I didn't ask her to, I was just on a mission to get her to read that funky dialogue I wrote, but she would not be denied, and kept on singing, and added the shout out to the other Women of the P as well!

 

What we did I think will help move the dial as many former P-Funk members and women performers are still in search of the super-groovalistic way to explore the Funky situations they've been through, and still keep it On the One.  Dawn wanted to make her own version of this song, so fans can look forward to further incarnations of the Deep Sea Divers in the future!

 

12. HOLLOW COST

Damn.  I was determined early on in the project to have a Hip Hop tune that reflects the hella deep vision and talent that I've been involved with over the years in Bay Area Hip Hop.  Visualizing the track was easy, making it come together took a minute for real!  First, I didn't have a beat, and when I asked Phil for a Hip Hop track, he said 'any beat can become a hip hop beat,'  so I took one of his deep grooving, pulsing slow instrumental grinders and started arranging it so it would have 16-bar breaks in place for some true rhymers to spit on time. 

 

I gave some thought to a concept of how Brown people have been ripped off for centuries, how all that we've done has been commodofied and taken from us, how it is a price that can never be repaid, a hollow.... cost.  Once I put the ideas together, the Hollow Cost of colonization, and the Black Holocaust of slavery, damn all the pieces came together.  It was just about letting some top shelf master rhymers know what's up.

 

Next I reached out to Rico Pabon, the unbelievable righteous rapper from the original group with the name Prophets of Rage.  Rico's work just kicks ass, and we shared a panel at UC Berkeley with Jeff Chang a few years ago, when we were asked to debate the "RapGenius" website with its creator.  Man that day was a hoot, and Rico and I talked about collaborating way back then.  A few years later I reached out to him, gave him the concept, sent him the beat, and man what he delivered kicked my ass again!  Then I reached out to one of my favorite people, Chhoti Maa.  I don't know exactly what her name means, but she delivers the most righteous bilingual decononized raps I've ever heard, and I figure she would be down for this session.  She's an educator and activist too and was a delight to work with. 

 

Since my homie Boots Riley is a card carrying anti-capitalist, I thought he would be a shoo-in for this project, but he kept telling me he's writing a movie script, so I kept it moving.  Then I reached out to Paris, my homie that did the opening rap on the History of Funk intro jam, and a closet funkateer himself.  Paris has some of the most incendiary and political raps ever made.  If you need any example, check out the Sonic Jihad album, or The Devil Made Me Do It, or Guerilla Funk, or his latest, Pistol Politics.  It doesnt get any harder than Paris, and when I told him about the project and asked him to contribute, he jumped at the chance and just killed it!

 

It felt so good and I was so proud to have this many top flight rappers on this track.  It gave me hope for the future of Hip Hop as a true vehicle for the voices of the voiceless.  I added Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, to put the feel in context, and bam!  And this track is on MY album!

eee

13. RV @ SIXTEEN

This project has had three separate lives, all of which were connected to my own life in some way.  Along the way of doing the RV CD, I came across the Afro-futurist Ytasha Womack, who wrote an essay to her 'teenage self' in one of her writings.  That looked like a lot of fun I thought, figuring someone important, with an interesting life could really do that thing right... well, a great deal of this RV CD involved claiming my own bad self as worthy of this madness! 

 

 Then it dawned on me that I had been looking for a mellow 'cool down' type song for the RV CD, and Phil had made just the track.  It was a haunting slow tune, with five slow and low breakdowns, and then a grinding mellow take of some classic soul riff it took me many takes to recognize.  Here's the spoiler:  you can hear My Cherie Amour in the heavy metal hooks! 

 

So there it was!  Once again Phil had exactly the track I was looking for, and I had the cool down concept for the song as well.  It was just a matter of writing a letter to "RV at Sixteen."  That was actually a lot of fun, bringing back those high school days, when I partied, smoked the weed, chased (all the) girls, played that funk, and went to school now and then.  But in retrospect, it was a major time to grow up in the East Bay.  The Oakland Raiders did win their first Super Bowl on January 9th, 1977, and just two weeks later, Parliament-Funkadelic did land The Mothership at the Oakland Coliseum on January 19th, 1977; and the movie Star Wars did come out that summer, May 25th 1977, all when I was 16 years old, on top of the world!

         Everything else in that dialogue is true too.  My mom and the Black Panthers, my dad's radical history books, granpa Tad driving the cousins to Bag End (a family cabin way up in the San Gabriel Mountains), all of it.  It took a quick minute to frame every piece in the breaks, and to own up to the complete self-absorption of the concept, but I figured it was the last song of an entire album of Rickey Vincent concepts, and this one fit the bill.  I was very happy with the product, although the hooks kind of started to all sound the same as the verses of the song kept on going...it could use a bit of an addition, I just wasnt sure what kind...until Gabriela came along!

         Commenting on one of Davey D's deep facebook posts in February 2016, I found myself having a FB conversation with someone that seemed to speak in their own dialect of ideas, a truly original, spiritual thinker.  She started talking about a show she was doing at the New Parish, so I looked her up and discovered she was a singer with a four song EP, (check out Gabrielawelch.bandcamp.com).  This was right around the time Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire passed away.  I was not in good shape.  Right around that time there was an awful tribute to Maurice on one of those award shows that just infuriated me.  After a bit of my righteous ranting, Gabriela told me she was going to do a Maurice White tribute during her New Parish set.  I figured it would be a cheesy pop track, not something essential like "That's the Way of the World" but that was in fact the song she was doing.  I made a point to see her show and, damn!

         That girl can sing.  I've seen a great many singers but few if any with the range and command and pure soulfulness that Gabriela has.  Out of the blue, this white girl that was a master vocalist, and student of classic soul music just showed up, just as I was looking for the finishing touch to my Heavy Metal Motown record!  Gabriela sings in every style and backs up a number of other artists, and one day she will be front and center in the spotlight, I'm sure of that.  After that New Parish set I showed her the RV CD demo and she said "I need to sing on this!"   

         It took a minute to get a session together, and trying to explain the purpose of the song was a hoot.  There aren't really any comparable tunes I know of.  Eventually I just said "when I stop talking you do your thing over the hooks."  That's all she needed.  With the help of Lyz Luke, I got us some time at Fantasy Studios, and Gabriela showed up and just started ripping those riffs like she does.  In a flash she was out of there and my record was for all intents and purposes finished!

 

14. BERNIE'S "P" SOUP

This song is a real tough one sometimes.  We all heard late in 2015 that our Super Funky Hero, Dr. Bernie Worrell had stage Four lung cancer, and would not be around much longer.  I reached out to Judie Worrell right away, hoping to, maybe, get Bernie involved in my record, and maybe get more people involved in his situation.  I didn't exactly know what I wanted, but I reached out to Judie anyway.  She said 'you want an interview?  okay next Monday, 10am, done"  That's Judie.  It was a start.

 

I also felt guilty because I was doing research on the Mothership Connection sessions, and I didn't want to just be 'that guy' that takes from someone at a tough time in their lives.  So not knowing exactly how to play it, we did the interview.  Bernie tried to remember those sessions as best he could, and I avoided references to George as best I could.  (Bernie and Judie and George had some serious issues at the time).  But Bernie was a sweetheart about everything, and our talk got deep and delicious, until he said he was done and couldnt go any more.  All I could do was blurt out "I love you Bernie, and I want people to love you too..." 

 

I didn't know what to do with what I had just recorded.  For a few weeks I just sat on it.  But Judie had announced a big tribute to Bernie in April in NYC, put together by Nona Hendryx.  So in promotion of that event, I did a Bernie tribute show and played the interview.  I still wasnt sure how to follow up, and I asked Judie about getting Bernie to play on a song, but she said he was too tired from that trip, and the other commitments he had. 

 

Right around that time Phil sent me a Bernie tribute song he had made.  He hadn't even heard the Bernie interview, he just made that groove, and dropped a few sound nuggets in over the jam.  I told him about the recent talk with Bernie, with good quality sound, and I sent it to him, and Phil did the rest.  A day or so later, bam, there it was.

 

It was so beautiful, and meaningful, I didn't know what to do with it.  We already had 14 songs ready to go, but damn.  I slipped it onto the playlist and it just found a home, as the last original tune on the Rickey Vincent CD.  There are days when I play the song and it just brings me to tears.  But all I can say is, as a funkateer, all we can do is give our super funky heroes as much love as we can give them.  On good days I'd like to think I've done that.  And I'm immensely grateful to Judie Worrell for allowing me into their lives during such a heavy time for them.

15. GO WIGGLE - EXTENDED PLAY

Ooh this one was so much fun!  It was clear that after we did the original "Go Wiggle," that 3 minutes was not enough for this song!  Once I got into the silly stupid voice and was willing to own the entire 'fool for the funk' concept, I was ready to go on and on with this. 

 

It really took a minute for me to climb on top of this incessantly funky bounce and claim enough funk-authority to ride it all the way through.  Sure, on Friday nights on the radio I can get silly now and then, but this album is also beholden to people like Dr. Cornel West, scholars that reached out into the popular music realm, not necessarily funky entertainers.  But I was ready to do what ever it takes, what ever the party calls for! 

 

So as soon as we got "Go Wiggle" together, I started thinking about a "full band" version with live drums, ,percussion and some guest artists.  I wanted this track to stretch out and be a true bonus version.  My inspiration was the extended play of the Brothers Johnson's "Get The Funk Out Ma Face."  Anyone that knows funk history knows that the original BJ track clocks in at under three minutes, but is still a rocking socking funk Monster!  But then, with the popularity of their first album Look Out For #1 solifified, they recorded a much different take of the same song, with a bigger, wider sound and an incredible jam blasting ending.  To any fan of the Brothers Johnson, you can hear the difference between each take fairly easily.

 

Once Phil and I started to imagine an extended jam, Phil made a longer take, basically repeating the original song again, but with a few tweaks.  Very early I imagined two things:  some killer live drums, and a solo from Ronkat Spearman to wind up the song, and the entire album.  Ronkat and his band Katdelic are known for VERY extended funk jamming, and it is not uncommon for him to do long funk guitar solos.  I had in mind something like Drac's solo on "Slide" from Slave, and Ron was definitely able to to it!  Since Phil Jones was in Ron's band Katdelic for a couple of years, they had already developed a means of playing parts and sending them to one another over dropbox or some other program, so that was fairly simple.  What Ron sent kicked my ass!  It was so hot, Phil and I could not figure out where to fade it out, so we just let the entire thang burn all the way!

 

       The next step was getting some live drums played on the song.  My first and only choice here was Paul Oliphant, who has been playing in a number of bands in the Bay Area, from Afrolicious and Afro Funk Experience, to my favorite act, Smoked Out Soul.  Smoked Out Soul is a mind-blowing futuristic funk act, in which classic soul tracks are looped, pumped up with monster beats, and then live instruments are played over the beats, with Will Magid on trumpet, Zeb Early's great rhythm guitar work, Enrique Padilla's congas, and Paul Oliphant's hard driving backbeats on drums!  I love the way Will and Zeb load up the soul loops and big deejay beats, and Enrique and Paul just vibe on it and fill in with their live rhythms.  The sound produces some killer funk grooving! 

 

The best part of my project was being exposed to the enthusiasm for The Funk from these young musicians!  Over the summer of 2015 I asked Paul Oliphant if he would be down for recording some drums for my album and he was like "hell yes!  where's the session, I'm there!"  That was maybe the moment that I realized that this album was gonna come together for real!  We scheduled a session with Bryan Matheson at Skyline Studios, and Paul showed up, set up, and killed it!  (this was after a few scheduling snafus, and a bite from one of his dogs on his hand that delayed him a couple of weeks, but it finally came together at Skyline, with Tom Stone engineering, and we got some for-real back beats from Paul!

 

The next step was that percussion, and Paul Oliphant's groove-mate Enrique Padilla was the obvious choice!  It took a minute to schedule things at Will Magid's studio around Enrique's day job, but once we got him in there, he broke out with the tambourine, the congas and all kinds of other goodies, so Will got him on tape with all kinds of other songs, including Put The Word Out! 

       So at one point I had an entire 9 minute song with a great 3 minute basic section,and a killer Ronkat guitar solo for the last 2-3 minutes but nothing groovalistic enough to keep up with it all. 

 

I looked all around.  I asked my brother, Teo Barry Vincent, who plays a mean funk synthesizer, but he told me he was deep into his classical music studies at the Toronto Conservatory of Music.  I gave some thought to asking Bernie Worrell, but he was in failing health and not really available for this either. 

 

Then one day I was talking with Will Magid, asking if he could play a trombone, Fred Wesley style.  Will said he only had a crazy french horn looking thing.  Then it dawned on me, Friendly Fred is one of the best session guys IN THE WORLD!  And we have a history together, working on his memoir Hit Me Fred: Recollections of a Sideman (one of the best music bios around!), and I thought, maybe I can show off a bit, so I said to Will, 'maybe I'll ask Fred Wesley to do it himself!"  And I reached out to his daughter Joya, who directed me to Fred, and he was all about it! 

That was such a special moment in this music project, to have one of my super funky heroes - excited - to play on my record!  That was incredible!  The things musicians are capable of giving to us mere mortals is unbelievable!  And for Fred to still be all about the jamming, the travel and the on-stage party that playing funk music involves is truly truly a blessing!  THANK YOU FRED!!

 

Fred actually had a trip to Europe to take care of, then come back and drop that solo in his studio out in North Carolina.  He sent a few takes and bang, Phil dropped it right in there and it was on!

 

So there it is, some of the tales behind the funky tracks of the Rickey Vincent CD!  Tell your friends it's here and all that!

Each song was an adventure in its own rights, and for awhile there were a dozen adventures going on at the same time.  But Phil and I kept our Eyes on the Prize and got them done!  If you'd like to know more about how these tracks came about, here are their stories!

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