Now I pretty much have been a funk-head since birth; I grew up listening to the sounds of Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Marvin Gaye and just about anything else that was funky in the air in the late 70s and and 80s. One of the things that really amazed me once I started digging through those old record crates as a young man is that even though there were plenty of albums and artists that I'd heard before and maybe already had in my collection, there were still sooo many that I didn't know and I had never heard before; even though an album may have been 20 or 30 years old already it was still a new discovery for me.
Recently I made such a discovery, a funky singer-songwriter and keyboard player named Clifford Coulter. Initially I found his name while researching a song that I really liked by Sergio Mendes called "Life." This song is the closing track to the album Sergio Mendes and The New Brasil '77, the same album that boasts the Stevie Wonder composition "The Real Thing" (as heard on the famed compilation Wonder Wrote It.)
This funky little ditty with some rather philosophical lyrics was written by Coulter, and while looking to see what else I could find by this gentleman I came across an album that really blew my mind called The Better Part of Me.
If you have an opportunity to check this album out, do it! It's amazing! Smooth jazzy funk with early 1980s analog synthesizers, lots of bright sparkling Fender Rhodes, phat disco drums and slapping bass. For those who remember my old radio show Soul Power 91.5, this album definitely would have gotten lots of spins.
Listening to the tracks, there are many instances where it feels very reminiscent of the stuff that George Duke was doing at the time, including Coulters funky keyboard riffs and his clean falsetto vocals (by the late Duke's own admission, much of what he was releasing during this period was meant to sound like Earth Wind and Fire - not surprising considering EW&F were one of the most dominant musical acts between 1975 and 1982.) Still, there is something very unique and special about the tunes on this album. As a songwriter and producer myself, I can really appreciate this music from a compositional standpoint, and the production is impeccable.
There's not a ton of info out there in the interwebs about this man. Apparently he only released three albums, The Better Part of Me being the last of them. According to Wikipedia (which, yeah, I guess you can take anything you read there with a grain of salt) this album in particular was produced by none other than recent Rock N Roll Hall of Fame inductee Bill Withers. I personally have not as yet checked out his earlier offerings: 1970's East Side San Jose and 71's Do It Now!, both of which were released on the Impulse! jazz label. From what I've read these earlier albums had more of a blues influence. You can bet I'm going to try to track those albums down as soon as I can.
He does have a Facebook page, and from the looks of it he is still active and doing some performances out on the west coast. Check it out:
Well I may not be a kid anymore, but I am always so happy when I can still make a musical discovery like this one. May you all have many more funky new/old discoveries!