Aside from sounding like the music from gritty ‘70s cop shows like Starsky & Hutch, Bob James’ brand of jazz-rock also lent a helping hand to the Hip Hop of the late 1980s. Not only is this album chock-full of breaks and liftable bass lines, but closing track Nautilus became one of the most sampled tracks of all time.
Used in songs by Public Enemy, Run-DMC, Eric B. & Rakim, A Tribe Called Quest, Soul II Soul, and many, MANY others, it’s up there with Clyde Stubblefield’s Funky Drummer break, James Brown’s Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose breakdown, or the Winstons’ Amen Break as one of the building blocks of Hip Hop.
This record is so ahead of its time, it even exists as a pre-cursor to disco. Side-two opener Night On Bald Mountain pre-dates the funkier, more well-known version (Night On Disco Mountain) of the Pachelbel melody by David Shire on 1977’s Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
This is James’ debut album proper as a solo artist – he has two earlier releases credited to him, but this feels more like the beginning of his solo career. Titled One, James would follow this with Two and Three, before getting more creative with album titles. His fourth album is titled BJ4, and then the fun really begins with Heads (featuring a 5-cent nickel on the cover), Touchdown (six points in an NFL game), the self-explanatory Lucky Seven, H (the eighth letter of the alphabet), before abandoning the concept with 1981’s Sign Of The Times.
Hidden Gem: Valley Of The Shadows