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Music Review: Funk Brothers – Funk Brothers Live in Orlando

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The Funk Brothers have played on more hits than the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, and Elvis … combined. Which is one hell of an achievement, especially compared to their relative obscurity.

These guys were the musical backbone of so many of the hit Motown groups which came to prominence from the 1960s onward. They’ve won Grammy Awards, they’ve played for the President of the U.S., and several of them have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their reputation as the backing group for hundreds of Motown hits was well-earned, but they were well-known to only a small circle. It’s only in the past seven years that their names began to be known outside that Motown circle. In spite of being “on call” seven days a week, their names were not even included in Motown releases until several years into their time with the label.

The lineup changed often over the years; early musicians in the group who appear on this CD include Bob Babbit on bass, Uriel Jones on drums, and Eddie Willis on guitar. They’re also joined by several other musicians on various instruments and vocals through a 13-song, 57+ minute CD of the hard driving funk that they’re known for. It was recorded live in Orlando in front of a raucous New Year’s Eve crowd.

If you’re a Motown fan, even a casual one, you’ll probably recognize every one of the songs on this CD. You’ll also recognize much of the same beats that gave such rich backing to musicians such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, Martha and the Vandeallas, and many more. But all that changed when Berry Gordy moved Motown’s headquarters from Detroit to Los Angeles. In 1972, after 13 years of seven-day-a-week sessions in the famed “Snakepit,” which was what these studio musicians who shaped the Motown sound called the cramped, smoke stained, dimly lit room where they recorded, the Funk Brothers were no more.

You can catch a couple of their performances on Youtube, and Myspace has a profile of the group, as well as Wikipedia.

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About Lou Novacheck