Before the analog soul and funk recordings of labels like Daptone and Truth & Soul Records, before the UK deep funk movement and Brainfreeze -spiked interest in 45s, there was the Poets of Rhythm . Co-founded in Munich, Germany by guitarist JJ Whitefield and vocalist Bo Baral, the Poets released their classic debut LP, Practice What You Preach , in 1993 – taking inspiration from the raw sounds of the JBs and the Meters and channeling them into their own absurdly tight groove attack. No simple revivalists, the band would evolve compellingly over the next decade, recording under a gang of aliases (i.e. Bus People Express, the Soul Saints Orchestra, the Pan Atlantics, the Whitefield Brothers etc.) and exhibiting pronounced psyche and African influences that climaxed with 2001’s gem, Discern/Define . With a new career retrospective, Anthology: 1992-2003 , out today we asked JJ to share his thoughts on a few of the recordings that changed his life.
CLICK THE THUMBNAILS ABOVE TO CHECK ‘EM OUT
Poets of Rhythm Anthology 1992 – 2003 is out on Daptone Records .
1. Bootsy Collins – Ultra Wave (Warner Bros, 1980)
JJ Whitefield: I was listening heavily to George Clinton´s early ‘80s output, but was not looking into the P-Funk back catalog yet. When I found Ultra Wave , Bootsy immediately became my new hero and I tried to get everything he was involved with, which eventually led to James Brown.
2. Beau Dollar – “Who Knows” (King Records, 1970)
JJ Whitefield: I first heard this extra-hard swinging funk instrumental on a bootleg compilation. It made me try to search out the complete James Brown Productions discography. Not an easy task in Germany long before the Internet.
3. Charles Wright – Doing What Comes Naturally (Dunhill, 1973)
JJ Whitefield: I was already a big fan of his earlier stuff with the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. Then I found this and it blew my mind, with its mix of psychedelic hippie funk jams and beautifully arranged soul songs, spread over 4 LP sides.
4. The Meters – Fire on the Bayou (Reprise, 1975)
JJ Whitefield: George Clinton mentioned the Meters in an interview, which made me run to our local chain store where, strangely enough, they had a copy of Fire on the Bayou (this was the late ‘80s). It made me focus my interests on New Orleans music for the following years and The Meters became one of my favorite groups, together with Parliament/Funkadelic, the JBs and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band.
5. Hailu Mergia – “Muziqawi Silt” (Kaifa, 1977)
JJ Whitefield: For me, this is one of the highlights of Ethiopian music. I had been collecting music from east Africa for some time before I heard this, and my mind got twisted by the rhythm arrangement – which has the bass in 3 and the drums in 4. It makes for a very unique groove and, together with the genius in its simple horn line, Hailu and arranger Mulatu Astatke created a masterpiece.
BONUS: Various Artists - Got to Get Your Own: Some Rare Groove Vol. 1 (Charly, 1987) & Various Artists - The Message: Some Rare Grooves Vol. 2 (Charly, 1988)
JJ Whitefield: These included music by Eddie Bo and Cymande , both still remaining high in my favorite soul artists ranking. But more importantly, these two records laid the foundation for collecting 45s, because much of the stuff included was not available on albums in its original format.