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Of all the musically genres, Funk is one of the hardest to describe. George Clinton, an undisputed master in the art form, once stated, “The more one thinks about it, the harder it is to get the feel of The Funk. It's just done.” While James Brown, the Godfather of Funk created his own signature groove that emphasized the downbeat with heavy emphasis on the first beat of every measure to etch his distinctive sound, rather than the backbeat that had had typified African-American music up to the 1960s. Brown’s cue to get his band to play “on the one” is the backbone to Funk as we know it. Changing the percussion emphasis and accent from the one-two-three-four backbeat of traditional soul music to the one-two-three-four downbeat with an even note syncopated guitar rhythm featuring a hard-driving, repetitive brassy swing.

But ultimately the best way to understand what Funk is all about is to listen to it; lots of it! In the 1970s Ohio, and in particular Dayton, was a hotbed for Funk. Acts including Ohio Players, Slave, Zapp and Roger Troutman, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Sun, Lakeside and the Dazz Band were among many funk-based acts to emerge from the Midwest city. Platypus was another act in the city’s rich funk heritage that would prove to be nothing more then a brief footnote in the genre’s history. In a short-lived career, their style of Funk was specifically influenced by progressive rock, earning compliments from Rick Wakeman of Yes, with the group’s modest fan base, particularly in Japan, defining their sound as “between rock and soul”.

Their 1978 self-titled debut combined elements of the Ohio Players’ gritty grooves, with the disco sheen of Heatwave, and the raw melodies of their Casablanca label mates Parliament/Funkadelic. However, and unlike the aforementioned, the one element missing from Platypus’ arsenal was a horn section. The brass section is one of the corner stones that the genre was built upon and what separates acts like the Isley Brothers from the Funk into the R&B classification. Regardless, there’s still more then its fair share of funky goodness on PLATYPUS. “Street Babies” and “Dancing In The Moonlight” were the two songs that earned Platypus an artist/producer recording contract with Casablanca. “Dancing In The Moonlight” was released as a single with a vocal not unlike the Bee Gees, with harmonies that take inspiration from the Gibb brothers. It’s by far the most radio-friendly of the 7-tracks that formed the original opus. (This expanded deluxe edition has twice that number, with additional extended and edited versions, and extensive liner notes featuring interviews with all four surviving original members).

Group member Arthur Stokes co-wrote “What Goes Around Comes Around” for Michael Jackson’s BEN (1972) album and “I’m Glad It Rained” for The Jackson Five. Upon moving to Los Angeles in the mid-‘70s, members of Platypus worked with Motown producer Hal Davis and contributed to sessions for Thelma Houston, 5th Dimension and Diana Ross. Platypus was mentored by Roberta Flack after she saw the group headline at the Bottom Line in Osaka, Japan. She teamed them with producers James Mtume and Reggie Lucas, who co-wrote “Dance If You Can” with Platypus just before their work on Stephanie Mills’ 20th Century Fox debut. It’s typical of their early Mtume sound, while cuts like the funky bass strummed “Body And Soul” and “Love The Way You Funk” could be dead ringers for Steve Arrington and his funky Slave ensemble. The latter in particular is a killer jam that even has elements of Rick James nuances to the vocal licks.

Out of print for almost 35years, BBR could well have found a quiet sleeper here that could become a surprise big seller, not least thanks to the quality of the production and all round ageless appeal of the tracks within. Platypus did record a sophomore set in 1980, CHERRY, but it’s not a patch on this quality slice o’ ‘70s funk that’s an absolute must for collectors of the heavy, heavy grooves.


About the Writer
Lewis Dene has been involved in the many facets of music business for over 20 years. As a music journalist he has previously written for Blues & Soul, Record Collector, Music Week and the BBC, in the process compiling and/or writing liner notes for over 200 CDs (including a number for SoulMusic Records). Lewis currently consults for Kings Of Spins and is a resident DJ for Hed Kandi in America.



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