“Capricorn Flight”: It’s the Bass II

As with Waylon Jennings‘ deeply-felt “Abilene” or Ruby Wright’s surprisingly bass-centric  “Adios Aloha,” one cannot but feel alarmed by the depth of bottom in the opening synth notes of this charmingly analog production – recorded at Cincinnati’s Counterpart Studios, with Shad OShea and Wes Boatman at the helm (get it?):

“Capricorn Flight”     The Saturn Symphony Orchestra     1981

Lo and behold, “Capricorn Flight” would be from the pen of Manzel Bush – however, using the alias The Saturn Symphony OrchestraLast September, Zero to 180 celebrated the groovy ‘space funk’ sound of Manzel, who would record two 1970s dance tracks for Cincinnati’s Fraternity that would be highly sought by DJs and vinyl enthusiasts in the decades since.

Manzel Bush photo courtesy of DISCOGS.COM

Manzel BushThree digits for original copies of “Capricorn Flight” are what to expect at auction. with prices hitting as high as $316 in 2008 and $210 plus $200 — both from 2018.

First appearance of Cincinnati skyline in Zero to 180

Saturn Symphony Orchestra 45-aJust discovered this delightful vintage ad c/o Aerial Noise

Manzel ad

“Space Funk”: Groovy Synths

Is Cincinnati aware the degree to which Manzel‘s two 45s “Space Funk” (from 1977) & “Midnight Theme” (1979) have become revered dance tracks around the globe?  Note the trippy backwards drumming intro that immediately draws in the listener on “Space Funk”:

“Space Funk”     Manzel     1977

The number of times Dopebrother Records have reissued (and remixed) these tracks – originally produced by Manzel Bush & Shad O’Shea – is a testament to their durability, as well as desirability by DJs and vinyl enthusiasts worldwide.  One recording of “Space Funk” posted on YouTube has enjoyed 180,000+ “views” to date.

Worth noting that Harry Carlson would sell 20-year-old Fraternity to Shad O’Shea in 1975, thus allowing Fraternity to stake a claim as America’s oldest continuously operating independent record label.”  Shad would then consolidate operations at Counterpart Creative Studios in Cheviot, where Manzel’s two singles were created.

What’s the deal with this 1988 release?  Need info, please
Manzel 45

Discogs.com waxes biographical about Lexington, Kentucky’s Manzel:

“The Manzel story began quite unsuspectingly.  In 1976 O’Shea built Cincinnati, OH’s first state-of-the-art recording studio, Counterpart Creative Studios, and recorded some sessions by Manzel.  The instrumental funk group from Lexington, KY, consisted of Manzel Bush (keyboards), John L. Van Dyke (guitar), and Steve Garner (drums).  Just before the sessions were totally finished, Lieutenant Bush got called off to military duty in Germany, and O’Shea hired some players from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to finish off the sessions.  The first of the recordings to see the light of day were ‘Space Funk’ b/w ‘Jump Street,’ which O’Shea released on Fraternity in 1977.”


Discogs has the rest of the story:

“Two years later, after some further tweaking by Bush, came the ‘Midnight Theme‘ b/w ‘Sugar Dreams‘ 45, and that was that.  Manzel were no more.  Bush stayed in the military, raised a family, and left music behind.  Twenty-five years later, in 2004, the recordings of Manzel resurfaced with the aid of Kenny Dope and the Undercover Brother.  The two wanted to reissue the original, very rare, and quite bootlegged Manzel recordings.  However, the Dopebrother guys didn’t just reissue the original 45s.  They dug up the tapes from the original Manzel sessions at Counterpart Creative, remixed and remastered them, and then released everything on a lavishly detailed CD, Midnight Theme.  They also released a ‘Midnight Theme’ b/w ‘Space Funk’ single on 7″ vinyl with a picture sleeve reproducing the artwork from a flyer for a Manzel show in the ’70s.”

“Get Down People”: $500 Funk

How cool that a 45 released on Shad O’Shea‘s Counterpart label – “Get Down People” by 400 Years of What – sold on Ebay for over $500.  However, if it weren’t for Buckeye Beat’s comprehensive listing of 45s released on Cincinnati’s Counterpart Records, I might have missed out altogether on this classic mid-70s disco-funk party jam:

“Get Down People”     400 Years of What     1975

Given the year of release (1975), I have to assume this song was recorded at O’Shea’s Counterpart Creative Studio in Cincinnati’s Cheviot neighborhood — the 45 label says these recordings were produced by 400 Years of What.   According to the informative blurb that accompanies the above YouTube video/audio clip:

“400 Years of What became *the* party band in the Cincinnati area after The House Guests [featuring ‘Bootsy’ & ‘Catfish’ Collins] dissolved around 1972.  Led by bassist Gordon Hickland, draftees from the House Guests included saxophonist RalphRandyWallace and trumpeter Ronnie Greenway.  With the addition of [future Zapp] keyboardist GregTuffyJackson, guitar slingers Big Jimmy Callery and Clarence Miller, and drummer Little Jimmy Roberts, the core of the crew was established.  For the band’s mid-’70s airing on Shad O’Shea’s Counterpart label, the traps were manned by FrankKashWaddy, destined to be a key player in the triumph of the Parliament sprawl and especially Bootsy’s solo works.  An early incarnation of this outfit backed Gloria Taylor on the singer’s rare single for the House Guests label [inaugural release, in fact], with her ‘Brother Less than a Man‘ being a primitive, rough version of the band’s later release as ‘Do What You Like.'”

Carfagna, Dante.  “The Cincinnati Connection:  The Local Roots of Bootsy Collins and Kash Waddy.”  Waxpoetics Aug./Sept. 2006: 93-94.  Print.

Because of high demand from DJs and mixmasters, this single was reissued in 2006 on Dopebrother Records — check out this bit of verbiage from the Hum Records catalog:

“Dopebrother is back with the first of two, super-rare sides of deepest dance floor funk from Cincinnati.  400 Years Of What dropped this often talked about but seldom seen single on Counterpart Records back in the heyday of Black Power, but in spite of the right-on vibe and intense musicianship, the record barely made it out of Ohio.  With original copies nearly impossible to uncover, it has only been through deep-pocketed collectors and DJ’s that anyone has gotten to hear the amazing A-side, a burning instrumental with extended drum breaks and an irresistable groove.  The B-side is just as strong, a Funkadelic-esque stoned headnodder with chanted vocals.  Dopebrother’s fully licensed and clean transfer from the Counterpart masters is an essential pick up for any funky DJs and afficionados of deep grooves.”

Original 1975 single                                         2006 reissue single

400 Years of What 45-1975400 Years of What 45-2006

More recently in 2013, Party Platter would launch their up-and-coming record label with this very same 45 – the first in a series of archival releases to showcase Cincinnati artists.

Photo courtesy of Party Platter

400 Years of WhatLeft to Right:  Louis McQueen, Gordie Hickland, Clarence ‘BigJon’ Miller, Jimmy Callery, Randy Wallace, Frank “Kash” Waddy., and [man in yellow hat].

Weapons of Peace: Kill with Kindness

Weapons of Peace would spend their entire recording career on Playboy Records, interestingly enough.

Weapons of Peace LP

According to Robert Pruter’s Chicago Soul, “Playboy Records was part of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy empire and aspired to be an all-around label recording rock, country, and rhythm and blues.  Although headquartered in Los Angeles, Playboy mined Chicago for much of its R&B talent to build its stable and managed to sign Major Lance, Willie Henderson, and Weapons of Peace, among others.”

“Just Can’t Be That Way”     Weapons of Peace     1976

Just Can’t Be That Way” was released as a twelve-inch single – possibly the first for the Playboy label.  1975-1976 would see the first wave of 45 rpm releases in this larger (and much higher fidelity) format.  As Tom Moulton recounts in Love Saves the Day:  A History of American Dance Music, 1970-1979:

“‘The twelve-inch happened by accident,’ says Tom Moulton.  ‘I was cutting a reference disc for Al Downing’s “I’ll Be Holding On,” and Jose Rodriguez ran out of seven-inch blanks.  I said, ‘Oh, it’s a shame, the single only uses up a little bit of space.’  To which Rodriguez replied, ‘We’ll just open it up and spread out the grooves.’  The result?  ‘I almost died because the level was so loud.'”

Scepter Records released the first 12-inch single – “Call Me Your Anything Man” by Bobby Moore – in June, 1975.  As reported by Billboard in their June 14, 1975 edition (“12-Inch 45s Via Scepter Up Sound Level for Discos“) —

“Scepter Records is launching a policy of servicing discos with 12-inch 45s to keep the recording level at a maximum as often as possible.  According to Stanley Greenberg of the label, Scepter has found that to produce a single of more than five minutes in length, the recording level requires lowering.  With the new, larger singles, the problem is hopefully remedied.”

“Just Can’t Be That Way”     12-inch single     1976

Weapons of Peace 12-inchPlayboy’s artist roster would also include (pre-ABBA’s) Björn & Benny with Anna & Frieda, Barbi Benton, Mickey Gilley, Wynn Stewart, Bobby Borchers, Al Wilson, Leadbelly, The Hush Puppies, Mack Vickery, and Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds.

Also fun to point out that the 1976 debut album by Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers was released on Beserkley Records, although marketed & distributed by the Playboy label.

Playboy aPlayboy b

History’s Dumpster writes a concise history of the Playboy label that identifies how and when Hugh Hefner’s musical enterprise ran aground.

“Meu Piao”: Disco Nova

In the late 1990s I took a chance on a CD at Marshall’s (from the cheap-o bins they use to keep near the register) by Astrud Gilberto — the 1960s singer who helped popularize bossa nova.  The title of the disc, Gold, was not only misleading but annoying, since these ten songs had already been sequenced (differently) and released in 1977 as an album entitled, That Girl From Ipanema.

Astrud Gilberto LP

The standout track for me is “Meu Piao” – sounds like a club hit from the original disco era, and yet it appears never to have been released as a single:

“Meu Piao”      Astrud Gilberto     1977

I particularly enjoy the elegant disco stylings of the session bass player toward the end of the song.  I find it funny, though slightly maddening, that these extensive musician and production credits for this album list two notable session bassists – Ron Carter and Will Lee –  and yet still fail to name the artist responsible for the nice fretwork on the bass guitar for “Meu Piao”!

Song written by Alfredo Ricardo do Nascimento (a.k.a., Zé Do Norte)