Bob Blank – The Blank Generation: Blank Tapes NYC 1975-1985

January 01, 1970

(Strut Records)


Bob Blank was there. Talk about being the right guy
at the right place at the right time. Blank opened his Blank Tapes studio in New York in 1975, and
proceeded to record and produce a high volume of home-grown disco, funk, no and
new wave, art jazz and more. The decade that followed the studio opening was
one of the most fertile in NYC’s musical history, and Blank had his hands in
and on quite a bit of it.  The fine folks at Strut Records have done us
all a service (again) by re-issuing 13 of Blank’s classic recordings from
1975-85 on The Blank Generation.


The first three tracks are super-charged, super-sophisticated
disco-funk from Debby Blackwell, Charanga 76 and Milton Hamilton, a 1-2-3 of
slick urban dance floor fillers. But come track four we suddenly come face to
ear with…the deep space prophet himself, Sun Ra and his Arkestra, bugging out
to the big band funky groove of “Where Pathways Meet.” From Studio 54
to Saturn in one quick jump; now that’s a leap into the wonderfully strange.
After some pleasingly abrasive arty new wave from The Necessaries we really get
to the heart of the matter here with “A Cruise to the Moon” by Lydia
Lunch. One of the prime tracks from Lunch’s deliciously wicked Queen of Siam album, “A Cruise” features one of Robert Quine’s greatest snake-handling guitar
runs and a horn section so snide that it’s practically a poke in the eye. Queen
of Siam
was a high-water mark for Lunch and Blank both, and remains a
subversive delight after 30 years of play. 


Lydia Lunch is followed by “Jazz is the Teacher, Funk is the
Preacher” by James Blood Ulmer, another undeniable classic and a statement of
purpose from one of the era’s great jazz-funk instigators. The progression from
straight-up dance music to Blood Ulmer’s iconoclastic jazz/rock is pretty
severe, but makes perfect sense in Bob Blank’s anything-goes musical universe,
where bringing out the best in an artist or track is clearly always at the
fore-front of his modus of operandi. The remaining tracks cover various
permutations of funk and disco, all fabulously produced with Blank’s great ear
for detail. Fonda Rae’s “Over Like a Fat Rat” is a ZE Records finger-popper,
and Mikki’s slippery “Itching For Love” is as close to p-funk as The Blank
gets. The chirpy, percussion heavy “I Got a Big Bee” by
Bumblebee Unlimited sounds like Chipmunk Disco. Gladys Knight’s pop-disco “It’s
a Better Than Good Time,” Lola’s leggy, extended percussion work-out “Wax The
Van” and Aural Exciters after-hours smooth groove “Emile” wind it up and wind
it down. 


Standout Tracks: “A Cruise to the Moon,” “Jazz is the
Teacher, Funk is the Preacher,” “Where Pathways Meet,” “Music Trance,” 
“Itching For Love,” “Over Like a Fat Rat.” CARL HANNI



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