The Upshot: Think of it as a kind of soundtrack to a mid-‘70s Blaxploitation film that never got past the scripting stage but still holds up purely on its funky bonafides.
BY FRED MILLS
Rather than attempt to distill the convoluted backstory of this uber-rare funk album from Eothen Alapatt’s liner notes (which are a noble, if necessarily out there, attempt at same), I’ll just offer up the Amazon.com product description:
“One of the sought-after funk albums: a concept-piece executed by a Las Vegas hustler, pairing the troubled musings of a transient vocalist with the exuberant funk of a teenage trio. Embellished by session musicians in Hollywood with synthesizers and a large horn section, Marvin Whoremonger lurked behind a garish, anonymous jacket and failed immediately, despite producer Cholly Williams exhortations in his liner notes that the album would lead to international stardom for all involved. Forty years later it has aged well, and stands as an immediately accessible – yet bizarre – exercise in late-period, real funk music.”
Everybody crystal clear? No? Good. Neither am I, even after a couple of reads and multiple spins of the disc. But don’t let this journalistic discombobulation deter you from doing the proverbial run, don’t walk… ritual to your local record emporium, because this is some seriously fonky, stanky, nasty stuff. Which of course will not surprise anyone even remotely familiar with the Now-Again label’s output—both archival (such as this release) and contemporary—to date.
The Mark III was a group in name only, and a short-lived one at that: four Vegas teens—vocalist Marvin Neroes, plus the Thompson brothers as the musical ensemble—backed up with additional keyboards and horns. Producer Williams wrote the bulk of the material, although Neroes and one of the Thompsons also receive credit; think of it as a kind of soundtrack to a mid-‘70s Blaxploitation film that never got past the scripting stage. The music holds up, though, in spades (no pun intended). Opening track “Street Scene” could be an opening credits segment, with a slinky, push-pull, urgency and exhortations of “when you get down, don’t you get up/ do it, do it, ‘til you get enough.” Up next is “Pusher Man,” admittedly not the most original of titles, but its overtones of both Curtis Mayfield (duh) and Temptations, while not ultra-original either, give it a righteous mojo. Other highlights include the pulsing, nocturnal funk of “Sex in Motion” (it has more than a passing resemblance to “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”; there’s a bonus instrumental version here as well) and—speaking of instrumentals—“Funky Heaven,” which contrasts a squonky synth melody with some terrific funk guitar licks worthy of Motor City maestro Dennis Coffey. And don’t miss “The Party’s Over,” a kind of Kool & the Gang-meets-Sly Stone throwdown that courts extemporaneous chaos but never quite loses the plot.
Marvin Whoremonger dropped much earlier last year as part of the Now-Again Reserve subscription series, deluxe, handsomely packaged vinyl repressings of rare titles (the quarterly subscription includes a gorgeous wooden box for housing each year’s four LPs). Luckily, for more budget conscious punters, the CD version arrived in November, because it really deserves to reach as wide an audience as possible—as much for its irresistibly inherent weirdness/obscurity as for the compelling funk-soul grooves that come pulsing from your stereo speakers. And as per all Now-Again releases, the packaging is immaculate; here, you get a thick cardboard mini-LP sleeve housing the CD, a 28-page booklet on thick stock paper, and an outer slipcase.
Party’s over? Naahh—just starting.
DOWNLOAD: “Sex In Motion,” “The Party’s Over,” “Pusher Man”