Craft Recordings releases two exceptional double vinyl albums of an unheralded funk pioneer.
Dyke & The Blazers – Down On Funky Broadway Phoenix 1966-1967 – Craft Recordings CR00322 (2021) 180-gram stereo double vinyl, 71:50 ****1/2
(Arlester “Dyke” Christian – vocals; Alvester “Pig” Jacobs – guitar; J.V. Hunt – saxophone; Bernard Williams – saxophone; Rodney Brown – drums; Elmer Scott – drums; Richard Cason – organ; Alvin Battle – baritone saxophone)
Side 1: Funky Broadway (Part One); Funky Broadway (Part Two); So Sharp; Swamp Walk; Don’t Bug Me; Broadway Combination
Side 2: Triple Funk; Extra Funk; Uhh; What Am I Treated So Funky Bad
Side 3: City Dump; She Knows It; Funky Broadway Time (Part One); Funky Broadway Time (Part Two)
Side 4: The Showmen Inc.-The Tramp (Part One); The Showmen Inc.-The Tramp (Part Two); Extra Funk (Alternate Take); Call My Name; Broadway Combination (Alternative Take); So Sharp (Alternative Version)
Dyke & The Blazers – I Got A Message Hollywood (1968-1970) – Craft Recordings CR00323 (2021) 180-gram stereo double vinyl, 75:19 ****1/2:
(Arlester “Dyke” Christian – vocals; Al McKay – guitar; James Smith – baritone saxophone; James Gadson – drums; Leon Hayward – keyboards; Gabriel Fleming – trumpet; Raymond Jackson – trombone; John Rayford – saxophone; Bill Cannon – saxophone; Bill Carter – saxophone; Bob Hogins – organ; Joe Banks – trumpet; Sam Cross – saxophone; J.V. Hunt – saxophone; Melvin Dunlap – baritone saxophone; Sam Cross – saxophone; Larry Goldman – saxophone; Clifford Solomon – saxophone; Harold Holbrook – percussion; Ray Jackson – piano; Clarence McDonald – piano; Jimmie Jerome Smith – percussion Mack Johnson – trumpet Richard Aplanalp – saxophone)
Side 1: We Got More Soul (Full-Length Version); Funny Walk (Full-Length Version); The Wobble (Full-Length Version); Shot Gun Slim; Bring It On Back
Side 2: Let A Woman Be A Woman-Let A Man Be A Man; Funky Bull (Part One/Full-Length Version); It’s Your Thing; My Sisters’ And My Brothers’ Day Is Comin’; Soul Cake; You Are My Sunshine
Side 3: Booga Jivin’; Black Boy; Moon; Stuff (Full-Length Version); Runaway People (Full-Length Version)
Side 4: WUFO Radio Spot; Funky Bull Pt. 1 (Promo Edit); Do It Together (Original Mix); Day Is Comin’ (Demo); The Walk (Part One-East); I’m So All Alone (Alternative Take).
Craft Recordings has released two albums (Down On Funky Broadway/I Got A Message) on re-mastered 180-gram vinyl from soul-funk pioneers Dyke & The Blazers. Each of the releases is a compilation with some previously unreleased material. While not as popular as the Stax sound, Muscle Shoals or Motown, this group was the embodiment of pure soul in the mid 1960’s. The first album (recorded in Phoenix, AZ) contains the gem, “Funky Broadway”. The relentless groove with organ and horns is infectious. Certainly Wilson Pickett’s hit version of the song in 1967 didn’t help the band’s success. But this is the genuine article with hooks galore on tracks like “So Sharp”, “Swamp Walk”, “Don’t Bug Me” and “Broadway Combination”. Singer Arlester “Dyke” Christian has genuine soul and ample vocal chops. He has the energy of Otis Redding and when he reprises his hit on “Triple Funk”, he name drops Pickett and Jimmy Smith for their covers. The band is tight and precise like James Brown. Most of the tracks are straight ahead funk, but there is a bluesy turn on “Why Am I Treated So Funky”. And they make no bones about the importance of “Funky Broadway” with additional related jams. Christian’s inspired showmanship is prevalent, especially on cuts like “The Showman Inc.- The Tramp” (of course Parts One and Two).
The soul party continues on I Got A Message–Hollywood (1968-1970). Pride and identity reverberate on the inspirational “We Got More Soul” as the singer pays homage to Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Taylor, James Brown, Nancy Wilson and Pearl Bailey. The band is top-notch and glides through hook-driven numbers like “Funky Walk”, “The Wobble” and “Shot Gun Slim”. The dynamic remains unchanged, but the muscular performances resonate. There are accessible songs like “Let a Woman Be A Woman-Let a Man Be A Man”, performed with street-inspired testimonial fervor. A cover of the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” is a change, and showcases the group’s instrumental prowess. As with most soul music of this era, there is a socio-political message “My Sisters’ And My Brothers’ Day Is Comin’” is a simple play on the title as a refrain, but it has a deeper meaning. “Black Boy” also reflects on these issues. Again the musicianship is visceral and elevates songs like “Soul Cake”, “Booga Jivin’” and “Stuff” with palpable dense sound and era-defining wah-wah guitar licks. Christian’s commitment and enthusiasm never abate whether he’s shouting out a litany of cities, (“The Walk”) or just being upbeat (“Do It Together”).
If you enjoy funky soul, these Dyke & The Blazers vinyls will be like Christmas arriving early. If you weren’t an aficionado of this kind of music, you will be!