Sunday, 1 September 2019

The Commodores - Machine Gun (1974)

I feel sanctified....


Released on 22 July 1974

Running time 36.06

Before they crossed over into the slick, smooth soul ballad market around 1977, The Commodores were first and foremost a solid funk band. This was their debut album, and there isn't an Easy or Three Times A Lady to be found anywhere on it. It is proper funk all the way. For many (often soul/funk purists), this was the best of The Commodores. I know what they mean, I have to say, as there is an invigorating, vibrant, raw funk feel to this early material, but they couldn't half do a good soul ballad in those later years, though.


1. Machine Gun
2. Young Girls Are My Weakness
3. I Feel Sanctified
4. The Bump
5. Rapid Fire
6. The Assembly Line
7. The Zoo (The Human Zoo)
8. Gonna Blow Your Mind
9. There's A Song In My Heart
10. Superman                                                  

The opener, Machine Gun, was a big hit, which was slightly surprising as it was an instrumental. It is, however, a sublime piece of clavinet-driven funk. The percussion is infectious and there are some spacey keyboard interjections throughout. This was my first experience of The Commodores, so my early memories of them are of this sort of thing, as opposed to smoochy ballads.

The dodgily-titled Young Girls Are My Weakness sees the vocals arrive on a Parliament-style funker. The vocals are shared between Walter Orange, Thomas McClary and Lionel Richie, who also played keyboards. Another track in knew from a long way back with The Commodores is the insistently funky I Feel Sanctified, which features pounding drums, uplifting vocals, rubber band bass and full, punchy horns.

That wonderful, deep clavinet returns for the thumping funk pop of The Bump, which hit on the latest dance craze which involved dancers bumping posteriors. It is a lively, appealing piece of fun. Rapid Fire is another thoroughly intoxicating, upbeat instrumental. The Assembly Line is a soulful, "message" song in the What's Going On style, but using a more muscular funky backing. There is a great drum solo bit near the end.

The Zoo (The Human Zoo) is in the same vein but it features some buzzy, psychedelic guitar. The brassy funk tempo is turned up big time on the wonderful Gonna Blow Your Mind, which is driven along by some genuinely impressive funky drumming. Some Stevie Wonder style harmonica appears too. Excellent stuff. There's A Song In My Heart and Superman are both lively, uptempo funky pop numbers, the latter having some rhythmic disco passages. This was a really good debut album from a group who would carry on ploughing the funk furrow for two more albums before changing their approach.


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