Today is a day for giving thanks for something or another, and everyone knows what Sly Stone is grateful for. And believe me, I was intent on making this One Track Mind about a 1969 hit for the Family Stone that pretty much set the template for '70's funk, but then I got to thinking about another nifty cover that came out less then a year later.
We've talked about the great, soul-jazz combo from Houston, TX called the Jazz Crusaders, and then we discussed records by the Los Angeles, CA funk-jazz unit called simply, The Crusaders.
So when did the Jazz Crusaders become the Crusaders? The demarcation line came as the acoustic sixties became the electric seventies. Old Socks New Shoes New Socks Old Shoes released in the fall of 1970 after the band regrouped following a brief breakup brought on by dwindling meaningful gigging opportunities as the popularity of acoustic jazz went into a tailspin.
The reconstituted Jazz Crusaders, soon to drop the Jazz" from their name, gave in to audiences demands to play music that made them feel good." Joe Sample (keyboards), Wayne Henderson (trombone), Wilton Felder (tenor sax) and Stix Hooper (drums) didn't exactly mind the Motown music that became so popular at the time, either. Thus, Sample started regularly using an electric piano, Felder doubled on electric bass and session electric guitarists Freddie Robinson and Arthur Adams were brought in.
A band was transformed and on their way to becoming one of the premier funk-jazz bands of the next decade.
As it was their custom at the time, the band regularly added recent radio hits to their repertoire, and so it only made sense to introduce audiences to a funkier, more hip Crusaders and start Old Socks with Stone's butt shaking chart topper. It starts with a boss, fat bass line and both guitarists creating rhythms around it, one of them using a wah-wah pedal. Sample's Rhodes and Hooper's drums completes the groove. Instead of vocals there's that emblematic Henderson/Felder horn line, and then Felder peels off into a brief Texas-tough solo, signaling that the Jazz Crusaders hadn't really left jazz, they were just casting it in a more modern setting.
As if the underscore they weren't going to completely capitulate over to pop side, the two brass men go bonkers into free, freak mode for eight seconds, but the groove quickly returns before anyone could get up to skip over to the next track. That whack jazz interlude is followed later by a fuzz guitar interlude, adding a little bit of rock to the funk.
Over the next few years, the Crusaders would tighten up their new sound, but in this one song they found the ingredients for their eventual success. No one is going to claim it tops the original, but this jazzed up, somewhat experimental version of Thank You" might be its most interesting cover. Most importantly, you can move your ass to it just like the original...for all but eight seconds of it.
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