God bless Brooklyn’s Daptone Records. When fellow funk label Desco went under a couple years ago, Daptone stepped in to see
this project to completion. Recorded in 2000 by a crew of funkateers barely out of high school but who’d clearly studied their parents’ Meters and Booker T & the MG’s records, Thunder Chicken is the sound of Memphis, Muscle Shoals and New Orleans revisited, fatback-gritty and rawer than homemade soap, yet as sleekly soulful as a night at the Apollo. Right from the get-go the Imperials go knee-deep: “Thunder Chicken” (which opens and closes with the sound of a rooster — or somebody — squawking bloody murder) features gutbucket rolling bass, sinewy organ lines, a “Soul Man”-styled guitar riff and drumming so far in the pocket you can taste the lint. Gospel-soul shouter Joseph “Who’s The King” Henry weighs in on four of the album’s 11 tracks, ably resurrecting Eddie Floyd’s “Never Found A Girl” and playing James Brown to the Imperials’ J.B.s on original tune “Joseph’s Popcorn.” It sounds like 1968 all over again.
Pre-release buzz was so heavy that this got bootlegged in Britain before Daptone could get its version on the streets, so make sure you seek out Daptone’s DAP-003, featuring a stylized cover drawing of a rooster surrounded by lightning bolts.
Fred Mills writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].