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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Second Spin: Slave, Slave

Posted By on Tue, Feb 24, 2009 at 7:30 AM

Artist: Slave

Album: Slave

From: Vintage Vinyl

Year: 1977

Label: Cotillion Records

What it sounds like: George Clinton and P-Funk performing during an acid trip gone bad. 


Best Track: "Slide." The first cut on the album opens with a dark cackle, a tooting bicycle horn and a smooth funk groove; it's all very disconcerting, really. There's a sinister sounding horn section with the trumpets in particular setting a blistering pace that transitions into a lengthy noodling guitar solo.

There ain't much to the lyrics, just silly, empty, funk rhymes sung in falsetto, urging listeners to slide. Two lines stand out: "You ain't got to speak/everyone knows you're a freak/just slide/get low" and "You're a lowdown lady/but your game is kind of shaky." All I know is that "Slide" is infinitely better than "The Stanky Leg."

The song ends in a psychadelic haze, with distorted guitar shredding, a relentless funk bass, shakers, a washboard, and, I think, the bike horn again.

Worst Track: "Screw Your Wig On Tite." Maybe it's just the title, but I could never take this strange George Clinton-sounding song seriously. Then again, there's also the horns, which are like a funk "Flight of the Bumblebee" and the lyrics, which are as silly as the title would lead you to believe: "We gonna dance/screw your wig on tite/do it baby/tite!/we gon get down tonight."


Who you can thank for the amazing cover art: Art Direction: Abbie Sussman/Bob Defrin. Cover photo: Shig Ikeda. The portraits on the back have each band members zodiac sign and nickname written with them. Drac is a Gemini, in case you were wondering.

The Facts: Slave formed in Dayton, Ohio in 1975. They were part of a wave of funk bands emerging from Ohio at the time, a group that included The Ohio Players, Zapp, and Sly Slick and the Wicked. All in all, a pretty outstanding group.

The founders were guitarist Drac (Mark Hicks) and trumpeter Steve Washington. Other members on this album, going off the nicknames on the back cover: Mr. Mark, Tiny, Floyd, Lockett, Bimmy, C.B, and Danny. That sounds like the starting line-up for the funk all-stars.

"Slide" was their first hit, reaching number one on the Billboard R&B charts. After that they switched members a few times (Washington and two others went on to form the group Aurra), then record labels in 1984 and 1986. Their most recent release, The Funk Strikes Back, came in 1992.

I think this line from their All Music bio says it best: "Their best tracks were lyrically simple and at times silly, but the arrangements and rhythms were intense and hypnotic."

The Internet doesn't seem to know what any of the band members are up to these days, but this Wiki Answers page about that very subject as a very succinct guess.

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