Sunday, February 7, 2010
Yesterday, on satellite radio, I caught Casey Kasem's American Top 40 show from way back in 1971. The top ten consisted of such songs as Climax's "Precious and Few", Nilsson's "Without You" and Don McLean's "American Pie". Yet among those soft-rock hits was something different: a groovin' funk number by Dennis Coffey called "Scorpio" which peaked at #6 on Billboard's Pop Chart. Coffey was an outstanding session guitarist who played on such great numbers as "Cloud Nine" (The Temptations), "War" (Edwin Starr), and "It's Your Thing" (The Isley Brothers). Often our hindsight view of funk concentrates on a few key artists like James Brown, Sly & the Family Stone, or Funkadelic, but a proper perspective of funk really should focus on the diversity of the era's singles. Coffey put out only two top 40 instrumentals, but both "Scorpio" and its follow-up hit "Taurus" are classics of the era and have been sampled several times since in hip-hop numbers. "Scorpio" sizzles with all the classic funk elements including heavy organ and a strong bass line by Bob Babbitt (it even adds some bongos in for good measure). The original is a bit harder to come by (iTunes and other sites have only rerecorded versions), but youtube has some great videos of the youth on Soul Train dancing to it. There's also an excellent version done by the Kashmere String Band (and released on the Stones Throw compilation Cold Heat: Heavy Funk Rareties 1968-1974 that's easier to find and worth checking out.