“The hottest, jazziest, coolest, funkiest hits.”
It was August. We were gearing up for our third successive annual holiday to Courtown Harbour. The summer was proving to be a real scorcher. In a change from the usual chart round-up, K-Tel decided to make hay while the sun shone with their release of Cool Heat, a sizzling selection of funky numbers spanning the 1977 to 1983 period. Like another specialist genre compilation, Modern Dance, Cool Heat is hotly-mixed with tracks crossfading into each other. This is definitely an album for a future Mixcloud upload.
Reeling in the years.
1977: Weather Report – Birdland, Harvey Mason – What’s Going On?
1978: Lonnie Liston Smith – Space Princess, Herbie Hancock – I Thought It Was You, Quincy Jones – Stuff Like That.
1979: Spyro Gyra – Morning Dance, Stanley Clarke – Together Again.
1980: George Duke – Brazilian Love Affair, Azymuth – Jazz Carnival, Tom Browne – Funkin’ For Jamaica (N.Y.), Rodney Franklin – The Groove, Brothers Johnson – Stomp!
1981: Bob James – Sign Of The Times.
1982: Shakatak – Invitations.
1983: Mezzoforte – Garden Party, Bobby M – Let’s Stay Together, Level 42 – The Chinese Way, Mezzoforte – Rockall.
Opening track, Garden Party, is discussed on Chart Encounters Of The Third Kind. Sliding into the exotic and mysterious Space Princess by Lonnie Liston Smith. Check out his appearance on Gato Barbieri’s Under Fire. In another lifetime I wrote this:
“Under Fire, originally released by Flying Dutchman in 1973, was reissued on the Philips label in 1980. It’s a fluid Latin jazz record that sees Gato Barbieri jam with a stellar line-up including Stanley Clarke on bass and Lonnie Liston Smith (not to be confused with Lonnie Smith) on piano / electric piano.
El Paroma is harsh improv with a searing cacophony of instruments that gets more hypnotic as it unwinds over nine minutes. John Abercrombie’s guitar-playing is particularly relentless. Yo Le Canto A La Luna is more tranquil, a soothing melodic ballad with unobtrusive congas by James M’tume and a wispy vocal performance. The flailing rhythms of Antonico help to propel the track into a form of fusion heaven before it all ends too quickly.
The second side consists of two long pieces. Maria Domingas (written by Jorge Ben) is a frenzied race through riffs and sax while El Sertao consists of an intense yet harmonious groove that spirals out of control before quietly fading with a sweet coda.”
Moving on: the dusky grooves of George Duke’s southern fried Brazilian Love Affair. See Star Traks if you want to ride the Jazz Carnival. Take the love approach to Tom Browne’s Funkin’ For Jamaica (N.Y.), an edited school days / daze memoir of the neighborhood in tueens where Browne was born and raised. Keep the Brit funk firing for Shakatak’s sizzling Invitations while Bobby M and Jean Carn keep things happy and sad on their smoochy cover of Let’s Stay Together. Tina Turner would have more success later that year. Next comes Herbie Hancock’s disco sensation I Thought It Was You. Check out the 8:56 version on Sunlight. Side 1 concludes with Stuff Like That, a tune that slides between funky and grease from the hand of Da Q. Chaka Khan and Ashford & Simpson on vocals.
Jazzgasm, the way of Birdland – a jewel on Heavy Weather. And then Morning Dance, all mind blowing alto sax and furious percussion. Plus a steel drum to die for. Regulate! It’s Bob James with a Rod Temperton classic, Sign Of The Times. Rodney Franklin’s all about the groove while Stanley Clarke, also of Under The Fire fame, serves up a laidback special Together Again. Time for Level 42’s The Chinese Way – previously featured on Hotline while Brothers Johnson light up the night on Stomp! Dessert is served: a spaced out version of What’s Going On? from Harvey Mason. And for the coffee, the fusion sound of Mezzoforte (again) with Rockall, the newest tune here, reaching #75 during June 1983.
Herbie Hancock – I Thought It Was You
Level 42 – The Chinese Way
Lest we forget
Mezzoforte – Rockall