Masterful funk from the Detroit powerhouse labels of Eastbound and Westbound
by Dean Rudland
The film 'Standing In The Shadows Of Motown' is trying its best to reinstate one of the oldest music history myths, namely that Detroit died a sudden musical death at about the time that Berry Gordy's eye was caught by the Californian sun and a beckoning Hollywood. Fortunately someone forgot to tell Detroit. In 1969, Holland, Dozier and Holland set up their Hot Wax and Invictus outfits and Armen Boladian's Westbound Records opened up its doors as one of the most adventurous mainstream record labels to commit music to vinyl. Over the following decade it would release pop, jazz, sweet soul and some wonderfully deranged funk.
Boladian was already a long-time fixture on the Detroit music scene when he launched Westbound in 1969. He had run labels such as Fascination and his Record Distribution Corp was a well known local enterprise. His new label was formed as an outlet for a new group put together by another veteran: George Clinton. After an unsuccessful stint as a songwriter with Motown's Jobete Music, he scored a big hit, I Wanna Testify, with his vocal group the Parliaments on Don Davis' Revilot Records. However, by 1969 the hits had withered away and George and his allies had taken on board two new influences: rock and LSD and was developing his whole 'Parliafunkadelicmentthang' George and his buddies cast a large shadow over our compilation, with their unique slant on things having an overwhelming effect on the output of the label. They are here with the mighty I'll Bet You, a Clinton and Sidney Barnes soul stomper for Billy Butler transformed by Tiki Fulwood's 'bad-ass' drums and an interlocking guitar lick from Eddie Hazel. As that really wouldn't be enough we've also brought out the wonderful You Can't Miss What You Can't Measure - an album-only cut from the Cosmic Slop LP that comes on as the bastard offspring of Sly Stone and the Temps.
In addition we have Boby Franklin's wild take of the Maggot Brain track Hit It And Quit It which we think may feature Funkadelic members. The connection continues with the unreleased RPM by Boots, aka William "Bootsy" Collins. He had bailed out of his role as a member of the JB's [he played on Sex Machine, the James Brown-meets-rock experiment of Funky Down Here and the King 45 version of Talkin' Loud And Sayin' Something] by the beginning of the 70s. Collins then became a central member of Parliafunkadelicment, appearing on a whole host of George Clinton-related albums from 1972 onwards. RPM is one of two tracks from his only Westbound session.
Westbound hit big with the album sales generated by Funkadelic and big selling singles by the Detroit Emeralds. Unlike a lot of small independent labels they concentrated on developing artists over album releases although they also dug into one-off pieces some of which ended up as terminally obscure. Silky Vicent and his one Eastbound 45 a highly collectable slice of funk, Robert Lowe, the Motivations and Jackie Harris and the Exciters are all artists with records that fall into that category and are featured on the compilation. Freddie Wilson's JB alike In Born Soul which was possibly recorded as a follow up to his one Eastbound single Promised Land might have been a highly collectable 45 if it had seen release. It has its debut here.
Of the more successful acts included, is Donald Austin with the always worth hearing Crazy Legs, a big local hit. The boisterous Melvin Sparks cut Get Ya Some with its incredible conga and drum breakdown is popular with the hip hop fraternity. Alvin Cash weighs in with his only (and impossible to find) 45 on Westbound, Stone Thing, which has a typically heavy and impossibly danceable groove that we would all be happy to dance to.
That just leaves us with tracks from a couple of fairly major players in the Westbound arena. The Ohio Players who scored #1 on the R&B charts with Funky Worm, were a very funky band-.-we've unearthed a previously unreleased track, their take on Traffic's Feeling Alright. The Counts never really kept with their early promise as far as hits were concerned, but did record some incredible records ncluding the latin-tinged funk that we have included here. Mighty!
So what are you waiting for, get into the Westbound vibe. It's worth every minute of your time.