18

Ronnie Foster: Ronnie Foster: Two Headed Freap – 1973

Marc Davis By

Sign in to view read count
The critics hated Blue Note in the 1970s, and that might be an understatement. Me, I'm kind of intrigued.

Fans of good old hard bop, or even soul jazz, were largely left out in the cold. Blue Note in the '70s was a label struggling for its very existence, desperate to find a niche and snag some sales. All of which drove the critics and jazz purists nuts.

Richard Cook, in his 2001 book Blue Note Records: The Biography, is positively savage. "The music which the imprint recorded was full of noodling, posturing and modish idiocy. Scarcely any of the musicians who recorded for Blue Note during this period emerged with any real credit or credibility."

Even Richard Havers, in his wonderful 2014 book Uncompromising Expression—a must-own coffee- table history of Blue Note—doesn't ignore the critical consensus. He quotes Hugh Witt of Jazz Journal: "It is sad that a label with the reputation of Blue Note should be reduced to recording the casual meanderings of background pop music."

Still, if you like soul, funk and R&B, you can't help digging many 1970s Blue Note albums. Ronnie Foster's Two Headed Freap may be the poster child for the genre, for better or worse. I like it. Foster is an organ virtuoso and Freap is a cross between Sly & the Family Stone and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. In fact, the title track could be an outtake from ELP's Tarkus. It's that kind of keyboard-crazy funky weirdness.

Two Headed Freap is full of soul-funk deliciousness. In addition to the title track, check out the closer, "Kentucky Fried Chicken," a heap of organ excursions—yes, noodling, if you insist—based on a catchy funk riff. Or the opener, "Chunky," which is more of the same.

Unfortunately, Freap also includes a few soulless, funkless muzak tunes. "Summer Song" is soulful enough—it sounds like it could be an instrumental version of an old O'Jays tune—but it merely distracts from the catchier tunes. Ditto an instrumental take on Al Green's "Let's Stay Together."

It's true: By 1973, Blue Note had wandered very far from its hard bop roots. No need to mourn. If hard bop is your cup of tea, there's plenty to feast on in Blue Note's back catalog. But if you're cool with late '60s/early '70s funk, Two Headed Freap is a tasty buffet.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Availability: Not exactly a rarity

Cost: $11 used, $17 new, $9.50 for MP3 files

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read My Fats Waller Obsession: Why Do We Collect Music? My Blue Note Obsession
My Fats Waller Obsession: Why Do We Collect Music?
By Marc Davis
May 31, 2017
Read Ike Quebec: Blue & Sentimental - 1962 My Blue Note Obsession
Ike Quebec: Blue & Sentimental - 1962
By Marc Davis
May 14, 2017
Read Jack Wilson: Something Personal – 1966 My Blue Note Obsession
Jack Wilson: Something Personal – 1966
By Marc Davis
May 1, 2017
Read Ronnie Foster: Two Headed Freap – 1973 My Blue Note Obsession
Ronnie Foster: Two Headed Freap – 1973
By Marc Davis
April 18, 2017
Read Bud Powell: The Scene Changes - 1958 My Blue Note Obsession
Bud Powell: The Scene Changes - 1958
By Marc Davis
April 4, 2017
Read Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup - 1959 My Blue Note Obsession
Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup - 1959
By Marc Davis
March 21, 2017
Read Paul Chambers: Paul Chambers Quintet - 1957 My Blue Note Obsession
Paul Chambers: Paul Chambers Quintet - 1957
By Marc Davis
March 3, 2017