Monday, November 2, 2020

Patrick Cowley "Some FUNKETTES"


(Dark Entries, 2020) This wonderful record features what I assume are bedroom recordings the great Patrick Cowley made as he was figuring out what he could do with electronic instruments in the mid-70s. These are cover songs, relatively faithful to the originals by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, People's Choice, and the rest, but also spare, loose, and underground dance floor ready. There are a few vocals, but these are mostly extended instrumentals that I played over and over and over while I negotiated my weird 2020 days, with my life feeling funkier by having these grooves as my soundtrack. Bazuka's "Dynamite" is one of my favorite records ever, and though I could have done without Cowley's Jimmie Walker impression to open it, I can honestly say that hearing this unexpected cover version was a major treat. While these versions are (obvioiusly) much sparer than the Motown or Moroder productions, figuring out how to break down beats and grooves into something simple, sublime, and grand is exactly the kind of work the architect of Hi-NRG needed to do to get to the point where he could lift Sylvester to the heavens, and could spread his "Menergy" around. The recordings on this were done between 1975 and 1977, but that's all the information included as far as their provenance. In lieu of liner notes there is a jarring decade-old essay by Cowley's friend Francesca Rosa (whose photograph of a bushy Cowley graces the cover) that opens with warm anecdotes about being broke, carefree roommates in SF during a time that felt to them culturally comparable to Paris in the 20s. It ends with a lengthy, heartbreaking, detail-heavy account of Cowley's brutal battle with HIV, striking him down just as his career was taking off. The biggest hits by Cowley, Paul Parker, Sylvester, Two Tons of Fun, and the other artists in the Megaton Man's realm are eternal and authentic and magnificent, but hearing these groovy sketches that are more low key and just kinda fun adds seasoning to the sounds of that scene, so I am really glad Dark Entries is unearthing this stuff.

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