Earlier this year the independent Mascot label group announced they were setting up a new subsidiary label specialising in funk and soul… the Funk Garage. Intriguingly we were told that a certain Bootsy Collins was set to curate the new imprint. The pandemic, of course, has thrown all kinds of planning into confusion and disarray, but at last the Funk Garage is good to go with its first release and Mascot couldn’t have chosen a better artist to start things off for them than Maceo Parker.
The legendary sax man has, we all know, enjoyed a garlanded solo career… this is actually his 16th LP as leader. But, in the mainstream at least, he’ll be forever remembered for his time with James Brown and the ten tracker that is Maceo’s ‘Soul Food’ offers plenty that the Godfather would have been proud to put his name to. It’s obvious from the start…’Cross The Track’ is one of those funky and sparse workouts with insistent chanted vocals that became Brown’s calling card. A cover of the Meters’ ‘Just Kissed My Baby’ proffers more of the same grit. The Meters cover is significant. You see the album was recorded down in New Orleans with Eli Wolf at the controls and on their cover of ‘Yes We Can Can’ the funk is the looser, New Orleans kind.
Maceo tackles a few other well known tunes, including Aretha Franklin’s ‘Rock Steady’ and Prince’s bluesy ‘The Other Side of the Pillow’ – both given a proper Maceo makeover. He pays homage to one of his heroes – Dave “Fathead” Newman with a cover of his ‘Hard Times’…a little more restrained than you’d expect from Parker – as is the cover of Hugh Masekela’s evergreen ‘Grazing In The Grass’ . There’s also a tough take on Gene McDaniels’ ‘Compared To What’ – a song, which despite its vintage, still has plenty to say … especially right now.
As a starter for the Funk Garage, Maceo’s ‘Soul Food’ ticks all the boxes and you’ll note that the collection is subtitled ‘Cooking With Maceo’. Right on… that’s exactly what he does!