Songs You May Have Missed #541


Con Funk Shun: “Love Shine” (1978)

Another slice of smooth funk from criminally overlooked funk/soul outfit Con Funk Shun. Not all R&B acts of the era were self-contained musically or contributed to the songwriting credits as these guys did. And they could–and can–deliver the goods live, considering all the elements that make this song sound like a classic tune–the scratch guitar, tasty horns and Philip Bailey-style falsetto vocals–are performed not by hired guns but by the band members themselves.

Con Funk Shun have reunited with lead vocalist Michael Cooper (who had gone on to a solo career) to release a brand new album in 2015.

This 1978 album title track was never released as a single.

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Songs You May Have Missed #120

con funk shun

Con Funk Shun: “Love’s Train” (1982)

Here’s one of those instances where I’ll go ahead and say some things that make me sound like an old guy, and not apologize for it. If I sacrifice some cred to bring a great soul band of yesteryear to your attention, it’s well worth it.

I live at an intersection in a suburb where, as the drivers pause at the stop sign, they’re thoughtful enough to share their gangsta rap with you, behind your closed window on the second story across the street. Sometimes they even sit there awhile as if it’s a red light, just so more raptastic, expletive-rich sentiments can waft across the summer air. And I believe it’s the same song every time, even if the car or driver change. So I’m sitting across the street thinking, “I know, I know: you just wanna hit that, you just wanna git that, or whatever”.

This kind of rap is like that friend you have who never emotionally graduated–from eighth grade. You know, the guy you really can’t take anywhere classy, and wonder why he’s your friend at all. He’s full of stories of his exploits with women, and brags about his money but seldom reaches for the check. Most of all, he’s a backward sexist pig and no one calls him on it. But he does have a certain way with words, and kind of makes you look cool by association.

Or maybe that’s just what I think.

I also think, frequently: God save us from people who like one kind of music. They’re living in a type of poverty and don’t know it. And their intolerance of anything more artful or genteel influences some people–especially some young people–to follow a similar course.

But I come here to praise music, not to bury it. And I feel the need to pull on your coat about a band many seem to have overlooked. Con funk Shun, whose peak years stretched roughly from 1977-85, were an extraordinary soul-funk band whose pop chart performance fails to reflect the quality and diversity of their output. Their hook-filled pop-funk tunes (“Too Tight”, “Ffun”) put them squarely in Earth, Wind & Fire territory. The falsetto ballad “Straight From the Heart” could be right from Thom Bell’s Stylistics songbook. Few bands did both types of soul as well.

“Love’s Train”, which somehow missed the top 40 even on the R&B charts, is a ballad that perfectly tells of one of love’s dilemmas, and the complexities of relationships that aren’t quite over. It’s delivered casually, over a slow burner of an arrangement, but has real lyrical depth. I think it’s one of the true little-known treasures of “old school” soul. And the kind of song I wish the guy at the stop sign was familiar with.

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