Brute Force - Brute Force

Brute Force

Released 1970 on Embryo
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 20/06/2007ce

Side One

1. Do It Right Now (4:10)
2. Some Kind Of Approval (3:40)
3. The Deacon (4:26)
4. Right Direction (3:19)
5. Monster (5:45)

Side Two

1. Ye Le Wa (14:35)
2. Doubt (4:16)


Stanley Strickland-tenor sax, flute
Arthur Ray Brooks-trumpet
Teddy Daniel Jr.-trumpet
Richard Daniel-electric piano
Thomas Lee Williams-bass
Russel I. Ingles-bass
Sidney Smart-drums
Robert A. Jones-congas
Sonny Sharrock-electric guitar
Herbie Mann-producer

Like most rock & roll music of the late 60's early 70's the genres of blues, soul and jazz were also going through significant changes. The free-jazz movement was largely centered around labels such as ESP-Disk, Impulse, Delmark, Solid State and later the BYG/Actuel label from France. I guess Atlantic records was also keen to get in on the avant-garde jazz game, hence the formation of the Atlantic distributed Embryo label (which may have been under the direction of jazz veteran Herbie Mann.) Embryo's roster of artists was impressive, some of the artists who cut records for Embryo included Herbie Mann (who issued the classic "Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty"), Ron Carter, Atilla Zoller, Sonny Sharrock, Sandy Nassan, William S. Fischer, Miroslav Vitous, Novac & others. Embryo's art work possibly was influenced by BYG in that most releases were issued in sleeves with similar artwork which gave the label the look of unity.

Brute Force were an interesting group who hailed from Yellow Springs, Ohio (also home to psychedelic group Mad River & Poco/Buffalo Springfield singer/guitarist Richie Furay.) This group had no connection to the New Jersey outfit of the same name. Ohio's Brute Force were an all black outfit who specialized in a loose, funky jazz/rock/soul hybrid, not unlike early Parliament/Funkadelic, War, Sly & The Family Stone & The Electric Flag. They also dabbled in a jazz-fusion style similar to Pharoah Sanders "Karma" album. Brute Force were childhood friends of avant-garde guitarist Sonny Sharrock (also a Pharoah Sanders sideman) and Sonny plugs in and guests on the first 3 tracks and most likely the whole album, but he is only credited to 3 on the cover. Side one of the record features the group's more soul styled tracks while side two stretches out in a jazz-fusion groove. I'm not quite sure who is singing lead on the album so I'll assume it is pianist Richard Daniel as he composes the majority of the selections. Daniel has a pleasing vocal delivery that reminds me of John Mayall and also Electric Flag singer Nick Gravenites.

Side One, Track 1. "Do It Right Now" This one is an all around good-vibes groover about the then still fashionable "we all gotta get together" trip. It brings to mind the good time sounds of The Sons Of Champlin on their "Loosen Up Naturally" album. Great horns, good beat and a nice slice of Sonny Sharrock's choppy guitar patterns.

2. "Some Kind Of Approval" Brute Force employs a Stax/Volt vibe on this track which resembles the psychedelic soul of The Electric Flag's classic "A Long Time Comin'" album. Great summertime sounds, perfect for sitting out on the back porch and pounding a couple of cold beers.

3. "The Deacon" This is a frantic instrumental dose of "acid jazz" that really gets down, lots of energy and a face paced groove which would have been perfect for a car chase scene from any "Dirty Harry" movie or episode of "The Streets Of San Francisco." Reference points would be Tower Of Power, PG&E, The Meters, Fatback Band, Bar-Kays.

4. "Right Direction" I'm not sure if any singles were extracted from this album, if not they certainly should have considered releasing this track on 45. It showcases everything that is great about this band, great playing, great punchy horns and a smooth as silk vocal that brings to mind Allen Toussaint. Sonny Sharrock is not listed as playing on this one but I swear I can his guitar magic front and center.

5. "Monster" Sonny Sharrock also appears to be present on this wicked instrumental which closes side one. This thing just tears your head off and lives up to it's title. Sharrock's broken-glass guitar phrases compete against the entire ensemble who are getting down in the fashion of 1969 vintage Funkadelic! High marks to Richard Daniel for his inspired keyboards. This number is a M-80 from start to finish.

Side 2 Track 1 "Yo Le Wa" I first heard this number on late night radio in the 80's and I was just knocked out, I had to call the radio station to find out who it was, then I went to work to score a copy of the Brute Force album. "Yo Le Wa" is without question the group's tour de force. To me it sounds like a second cousin to Pharoah Sanders "The Creator Has A Master Plan." By this point I'll once again assume Sonny Sharrock is present here, because the blistering guitar work during the song's mid section could be nobody else (except maybe Andy Gill of Gang Of 4.) The piece begins slow and trippy before leaping into action with a hypnotic groove that simply never lets up. Chant-like vocals are introduced midway in, giving the piece the overall sound of Hugh Masakela's "Healing Song" (from the "Monterey Pop" festival of 1967.) Every group member chimes in and wails to his heart's content, all the while the song never loses it's basic groove. I'm reminded at times of the great Australian band The Laughing Clowns. How I wish the MC5 had gone more in this direction.

2. "Doubt" This closes the album in beautiful fashion. After the all out wailing that is "Yo Le Wa" this is the perfect come-down piece. This number is simply gorgeous. It features a delicate flute played against Richard Daniel's righteous electric piano with just the right bit of light percussion. I would describe it as Popol Vuh meets Charles Lloyd.

Brute Force were an exceptional group, too bad they didn't record more. Luckily this album has recently been re-issued for CD by the Sepia Tone label. I can't say enough good things about this group and album. If you get this album and dig it I can also recommend the following albums that are in a similar style.

Pharoah Sanders "Karma" (Impulse 1969)
Pharoah Sanders "Tauhid" (Impulse 1967)
Buddy Miles Express-"Expressway To Your Skull" (Mercury 1968)
Jerry Moore-"Life Is A Constant Journey Home" (ESP-Disk 1967)
War-"War" (Liberty 1971)
John Mayall-"Jazz Blues Fusion" (Polydor 1972)
Eddie Harris-"Silver Cycles" (Atlantic 1969)
The Meters-"Fire On The Bayou" (Reprise 1975)
The Electric Flag-"A Long Time Comin'" (Columbia 1968)
The Electric Flag-"The Electric Flag" (Columbia 1968)
Hugh Masakela-"Masakela" (UNI 1968)
Parliament-"Osmium" (Invictus 1970)
Albert Ayler-"New Grass" (Impulse 1968)
Albert Ayler-"Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe" (Impulse 1969)
Archie Shepp-"Attica Blues" (Impulse 1972)
Joe Henderson "The Elements" (Milestone 1973)
Sonny Sharrock "Ask The Ages" (Axiom 1991)
Phil Upchurch-"Darkness, Darkness" (Blue Thumb 1972)
Flaming Ember "Westbound #9" (Hot Wax 1969)
Charles LLoyd-"Dream Weaver" (Atlantic 1966)
The Sons Of Champlin-"Loosen Up Naturally" (Capitol 1969)

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