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12 Sep 2016

Black Merda “Black Merda” 1970 US Psych Funk Rock

Black Merda “Black Merda” 1970 US Psych Funk Rock
Black Merda were formed in Detroit in 1968 with Anthony Hawkins on guitar and vocals, V. Veasey on bass, guitar and vocals, Tyrone Hite on drums and vocals, later adding Anthony’s younger brother Charles Hawkins on guitar and vocals. Essentially they were session musicians in the R&B scene playing with Edwin Starr (He named them The Soul Agents) and other Motown acts as well as other labels that signed singers and needed experienced bands to make their records. Ellington ‘Fugi’ Jordan’s, Mary Don’t You Take Me On No Bad Trip from 1968 for example)But originally they were more Soul and R&B orientated, regularly appearing with bands from the Sixties scene in Detroit. Later they played with The Temptations but at some point they got the Hendrix bug, started listening to Cream and The Who and changed direction – they have become known as the first all black Rock band. 

This band probably lacks the songwriting prowess of the bands that influenced them, but they have that sound from then and happily being lesser known, you probably haven’t heard many songs by Black Merda before. Sadly it’s hard to hear Purple Haze, Strange Brew or Magic Bus AGAIN and however mind-blowingly brilliant these songs might have been they are so overplayed – finding bands from that era, that have that feeling and that sound is a real delight. Black Merda slot in somewhere between Psychedelic Soul, Hendrix and Cream, Sly and the burgeoning Funk scene that exploded into the seventies. It was an era of changing times as black and white music fused together – Sly And the family Stone were a black and white band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience were a black and white band, Love were a black and white band and later Rufus were a black and white band (and even later Prince). 

Their two albums, Black Merda released on Chess in 1970 and Long Burn The Fire released on Chess subsidiary, Janus in 1972 are extremely hard to find. They were re released by Funky Delicacies in 1996 and as usual with obscure reissues they too have become hard to find. So venture out, find their records and send them to me (Ha Ha) because I don’t have them in the archive, but please make sure you keep copies for yourself…… 

Heavy duty fuzzy funk and a landmark album from one of the most Hendrix-inspired groups of the early 70s! The style here is guitar funk with plenty of rock thrown in – all really fuzzed-up in production, and often a bit distorted – so that the group are kind of a lost link between the work of Betty Davis and the more mainstream sounds of Jimi! These guys also backed up Fugi on the massive “Mary, Don’t Take Me On No Bad Trip”, but the sound here’s even heavier – even more guitar-jamming than early work by Funkadelic!….. 

Usually linked in with the brief explosion of “black rock” bands that followed Jimi Hendrix in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Black Merda’s formula was a good bit more complicated than most, and their debut album blends elements of hard rock, blues, soul, folk, and embryonic funk with a tough and uncompromising political consciousness that makes the disc at once a product of its time and not quite like anything else around back in the day. The guitar work from Anthony Hawkins and Charles Hawkins is tough and organic, whether they’re stretching out on extended blues jams such as “Over and Over” and “Windsong” or cutting some hard R&B-accented rock on “Cynthy-Ruth” and “Prophet“. Bassist Vessee L. Veasy (who also contributes most of the lead vocals) and percussionist Tyrone Hite generate a lean but effective groove throughout as they jump from the streetwise soul of “Reality” to the acoustic meditation of “Think of Me.” But as good as the music is on this album (and despite bland production from someone named Swan, most of it is very good indeed), what really sets it apart is the dark vibe reflected in the minor-key tenor of the melodies and the bitter realities of the lyrics. 
Grinding poverty, racism, political and social inequality, the ongoing nightmare of Vietnam, the growing schism between youth culture and the establishment, and the absence of any easy answers to the dilemmas of a nation spinning out of control dominate songs such as “Reality,” “Ashamed,” and “That’s the Way It Goes,” and the grim but wholly appropriate fable of “I Don’t Want to Die” ends this album as if a lid were being slammed shut on a coffin. Black Merda anticipates the grim consciousness-raising session of Sly & the Family Stone‘s There’s a Riot Goin’ On, which wouldn’t arrive in stores until a year after this album, and if it isn’t the stark masterpiece that Sly’s album was, it’s good enough that this group deserves to be regarded as much more than a footnote in the black music scene of the early ’70s……. 

Black Merda (Pronounced Black Murder), the first all black rock band to write and play their own music in the late 1960s and early 1970s, are considered to be Black Rock pioneers as well as the originators of their own style of Black Psychedelic Rock. 
They released two albums in the 1970’s “Black Merda” (Chess 1970) and “Long Burn The Fire” (GRT 1972) which weren’t properly promoted when first released, but are now seen as Black Rock classics by a growing number of international music fans. Their 2005 release “The Folks From Mothers Mixer” (Funky Delicacies 2005) containing both of 1970s albums on one CD, is lauded as the most creative, lyrically and musically diverse albums of that genre. Now they’re back! Like the Phoenix from its ashes! and the Butterfly from its cocoon, spreading their wings in the 21st century, funkier and musically diverse as ever, with a new batch of songs, to take you on a magical musical trip, that’ll have your heads and minds bouncing and tripping, in some new directions and happy positions. So sit back, and relax, and enjoy the Funk-Rock majesty of Black Merda’s “A Force Of Nature”. Extensive liner notes by rock critic Michael Hurtt (Mojo magazine etc.). ….. 

Prophet (A. Hawkins, V. Veasey) – 2:52 
Think of Me (A. Hawkins, V. Veasey, C. Hawkins, T. Hite) – 2:31 
Cynthy-Ruth (V. Veasey) – 3:03 
Over and Over (A. Hawkins, V. Veasey, C. Hawkins, T. Hite) – 5:29 
Ashamed (A. Hawkins, V. Veasey) – 3:50 
Reality (V. Veasey) – 1:59 
Windsong (A. Hawkins, V. Veasey, C. Hawkins, T. Hite) – 4:12 
Good Luck (A. Hawkins, V. Veasey) – 3:45 
That’s the Way It Goes (V. Veasey) – 3:15 
I Don’t Want to Die (A. Hawkins, V. Veasey, C. Hawkins, T. Hite) – 3:51 
Set Me Free (A. Hawkins, V. Veasey) – 0:28 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..