“I know you got soul” sang Bobby Byrd famously before Eric B & Rakin turned his famous refrain into a hip-hop classic. There’s little doubting that Randy Muller, mastermind behind pivotal ’70’s & ’80’s powerhouses Brass Construction & Skyy has soul and a whole lot of funk too. After writing and producing genre defining smashes such as “Movin’”, “Changin’”, “Let’s Celebrate” and “Call Me”, Muller has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity as a new generation of music makers such as Kenny “Dope” Gonzales, Bob Sinclair, Laurent Garnier and Missy Elliot sampling or remixing his work. This has coincided with Muller’s own prolific output of late, firstly with 2007’s Randy Muller Boom Chang Bang’s “Groovin’ U”, which was followed by a series of shows in the US and Europe. He now returns to his soul/funk roots with a brand new band, Brooklyn Soul Biscuits, and a bold, new release "Soul Biscuits” on Plaza Records.
Longtime fans may be tempted to believe Brooklyn Soul Biscuits is Muller’s “new Brass Construction.” Not quite. "This project takes what I do to new levels," he explains. "In fact, the "Soul Biscuits" album is meant to represent the constituent parts of my musical self over time. Each track or “biscuit” connects to a particular time, place or period in my life. It’s like a musical travelogue of the last forty years."
With so much musical terrain to cover it’s little wonder that the collection was more than two years in the making. And the proof is in the grooves. There's no doubt this assemblage of handpicked musicians – including Jeff Smith (Family Stand) and Charles Daugherty on saxes, Larry Marsden (First Circle), Kevin Scott (Joe Public), James “Ajax” Baynard (Crown Heights Affair) on trumpet and Muller himself (keys, vocals, percussion) – proves a well-oiled crew with musical groundings in both the classic funk and soul sounds of the late '70s/early '80s (cf. earlier works by Brass Construction, BT Express and Skyy) and the contemporary neo-soul sounds of today.
Muller walks his rhythm while also pressing ahead. “I’ve never been into the idea of merely recreating something that was done before," he insists. "I needed contemporary flavor, so I also used a lot of younger musicians, singers and rappers.” Not unlike Daft Punk's new CD, "Soul Biscuits" answers a yearning for a return to something organic, funky and soulful in contemporary music.
“The songs selected for this album are 13 of more than 20 songs that I thought would be a good fit for a project like this,” says Muller. “The song “Beautiful Day” was actually written as an instrumental back in the 70s while at school in a chemistry class. However, it was never recorded in studio and was basically forgotten until about four years ago, when I came across a sketch of it and decided to record and develop the idea.” This track is a irresistible feel-good groove whose easy charm transcends all socio-temporal trappings. “Bring Me Down” was specifically written for all the 70s-funk-heads that complain about “today’s music." Muller says, "They relish the old vinyl sounds and kept urging me to do it like I did back then. It was put together chock full of authentic 70s musical expressions but with the right amount of today’s vibe to keep it both exciting and real.”
Most people associate the ’70’s with funk and of course I lived through it and we have those songs represented with things like “ Funky Holiday” and “All Funked Up” and “Strange Thangs”, for example. However, people have to remember that the ’80’s, with all the synth-laden groups like Slave, Zapp, not to mention our own Skyy, were very much a part of my musical diet.”
Fast-forward to the 90s and the 2000s and the songs “Off The Ground” and “Emotional” seem to be apt expressions of this Brooklyn native’s musical journey as well. There’s also a go-go style beat with “Come As You Are”, and a housey, funk dance groove with “The Worm”. Says Muller: “I think we’ve got all bases covered in a way that’s not merely generic recreations but more an homage to the past with one foot firmly planted in today.”
Soul Biscuits is a return to basics: classic funk and soul, while expanding its footprint to utilize today’s sonic space, encompassing a deja vu neo-soul freshness. The music straddles both past and present, with a rhythmic continuity that resonates across the decades.
“Soul is just an attitude. Either you got it, or you don’t” - Brooklyn Soul Biscuits
Havelock Nelson/Jeff Lorenz