Saturday, 13 September 2008

Mammatapee - Mammatapee!



81.7 MB
256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from Whitfield Records WHK 3171

Norman Whitfield's last big stab at reviving the disco funk success he enjoyed as a producer in previous years, Mammatapee was a more than competent group with some good song writers but as Dave Thompson puts it in his book
Funk: Third Ear - the Essential Listening Companion, their "sub-Rose Royce disco funk made no impression whatsoever and, by the early 80's, Whitfield had closed the label and withdrawn from the landscape." A bit harsh maybe but obviously they didn't make an impression, since this slice of wax seems to have practically vanished from the face of the Earth! There's plenty copies of their second and only other LP, On The One, floating around Western Blogonia and eMall but this premiere effort seems to have only ever been posted once sans password and that link is long dead.

Qui es mas macho?

Not only is this piece rare in the 0s and 1s format, you don't often see many copies for sale on eBay, GEMM or the like. Whenever they do pop up, they don't seem to be that highly sought-after and the pricing range remains $5-$15. My guess is thousands of copies are filed away and forgotten in record collections, hardly (if ever) played and kept mainly because of the seriously dope cover by Ramon Alvarez. BTW, I also searched out info on that artist for an hour and learned only one thing: Ramon Alvarez is a common Hispanic name. If anyone has any leads on him, please let me know because I'd love to see more of his illustrations.

The Undisputed Truth
Calvin Hardy (third from left - bass), (to the right) Dan Homes (drums),
Jack Weber (guitar) and
Isy Martin.

As far as the main members of Mammatapee are concerned, they were pretty much all pulled from Whitfield's stable of session musicians. Isy Martin had already put in time as a member of The Undisputed Truth (although his name was not credited on any albums) and appeared on many Whitfield sessions as a guitarist including the debut Stargard album, Junior Walker's Back Street Boogie and Rose Royce's Rainbow Connection IV. Apart from that, he was also member of the Coffeyville Rising Suns (and their later Bump City incarnation) who were recently inducted into the Kansas City Music Hall of Fame (on whose website it was mentioned he would be releasing a new CD in August 2008). Isy is listed in the artist directory of Black Gospel Connection with an Anaheim address and performed at an Anaheim community benefit last fall (with which the Whitfield clan was also involved) so it appears he's still musically
active in La La Land, just not in the secular industry - a familiar story for many soul and funk stars of yesteryear.

Mark Kenoly, one of the main creative forces in the group, is another fine example. He also appeared on the Stargard debut and their follow-up What You Waitin' For?, he popped and slapped for Rose Royce's Strikes Again! and he contributed to The Undisputed Truth's final album Smokin'. Mark is now deeply involved with his ministry and his gospel music. Big time.

Walter Downing completes the trifecta of Whitfield regulars in the band, having played on all the previously mentioned Stargard, Junior Walker, Rose Royce and The Undisputed Truth LPs. He has the singular distinction, however, of contributing to Sly Stone's Back On The Right Track in 1979. The funny thing is the tracks most influenced by Sly's sound are not Downing's compositions, they're Kenoly's. Unlike Mark and Isy, Walter seems to have completely fallen off the map since the mid-80s.

Update 01/01/10: An anonymous reader claiming to be Walter's nephew has left a comment with some excellent info on Mr. Downing and his career.

The only other credit I could source for Ella Faulk was as a backup vocalist on Caldera's Time and Chance release two years prior to this and she seems to be absent from On The One. Not much is known about drummer Jimi Valdez and outside of playing with his bandmates on Strikes Again!, Back Street Boogie and Smokin', I couldn't find any further info on the intertubes.

Ella Faulk - Vocals
Walter Downing - Keyboards, Vocals
Mark Kenoly - Bass, Vocals
Isy Martin - Guitar, Vocals
Jimi Valdez - Drums

Horn Section:
Jim Kerber - Trumpet
Ron Williams - Trombone
Mark Williams - Flute, Sax
Nytro Horns - Kenny Scott, La Morris Payne, Chris Powell

Outside musicians:
Junior Walker - Sax
Jack Ashford - Tambourine
Mike Nash - Oberheim
Trey Stone - Guitar
Melvin "Wah Wah" Ragin - Guitar

1 Sweet Poison
2 Girl, I Wanna Get Right Up Next To You
3 Something On Your Mind
4 Don't Bite The Hand (That Feeds You)
5 We'll Be Waiting
6 Rock Across The Nation
7 Caught Up In The Race
8 You're Good For Me
9 Good Lovin'
10 Long Distance Love

Although it may not be the strongest session Whitfield oversaw, it's also far from the weakest. Whitfield made good use of the Nytro horns (who would later work with Rick James as the Punk Funk Horns) and brought in some serious high-calibre ammo by enlisting Mowtown veterans Junior Walker, Melvin "Wah Wah Watson" Ragin and Funk Brother Jack Ashford for the proceedings. There are some sweet samples for producers in here (especially in the ballads), a couple tunes with real fire for the dance floor and one of my fave conscious party tracks of all time, Caught Up In The Race. Curiously, it's the most "spiritual" track on the album yet it was written by Downing and not the future pastor Kenoly so it seems they had some kind of inverse synergy as songwriters.

If you find yourself caught up then get out of the rat race with Soundological HERE or HERE.


Simon666 said...

Thanks Cheeba, some good stuff here - I only had one track of theirs before ... and yes, a great front cover. I'm a little disturbed by Mark Kenoly's wig on the BACK cover though, who does he think he's fooling ? :)

cheeba said...

You're very welcome, Simon! I totally think this LP was given short shrift.

I guess Kenoly fooled me! I'll buy that explanation cuz I could never quite place what was off about that Art Garfro he's sportin'...

alex said...

many thanks again cheeba!
awesome drop!

cheeba said...

Always a pleasure, alex. Especially for folks like you who stop to say thanks!

Lafayette said...

That was the most complete post I've ever seen...puts all of us to shame, really! Great job, Cheeba! :¬)


cheeba said...

Many thanks, Lafayette. I don't know about putting you to shame tho! I'm just tryin' to maintain the already high standards set by cats like yourself and the rest of 4BB!

Jazzsoulman said...

THank you Cheeba. This one fills one of my collection holes

Funkback said...

Awesome cover, awesome writeup. As a gospel musician myself I'm very curious to hear Kenoly gettin' down on tha Funk here. One can never have too much Whitfield. Thank U Cheeba!

Anonymous said...

Walter Downing of Mamatapee was my uncle. He died over ten years ago. His voice was so beautiful and articulated the emotions of any song. He was also a great pianist and could play anything by ear. He was enormously talented and didn't take credit for a lot of the work he collaborated on as a singer, musician, and composer. One of the songs he co-wrote with Isy was plagiarized and turned into "She's a Bad Mamajama", this tainted his relationship with Whitfield and impacted his musical career. He never complained, and took in stride. He loved music and life, so he wasn't bitter in the least. Though there weren't many albums, Mamatapee was very popular when touring in the U.S. South. Not that this blog is the appropriate place for it, but at his funeral many people spoke of his extraordinary generosity. He gave everything he could to anyone who needed and even those who didn't deserve it. Thank you for the blog, hopefully this clarifies a few things about the band and especially my uncle. Just for some additional trivia, Walter's uncle was Big Al Downing, famous country singer, one of the few black guys to regularly appear on Hee Haw.

cheeba said...

Thanks very much for the wonderful information on your uncle, anonymous. It sounds like he was a class act all the way!

Very surprised to hear of his Hee Haw pedigree and the fact Carl Carlton's big hit was actually a Mammatapee joint!

Rest assured that this blog is a very appropriate place for your remembrances. Shedding light on the unsung heroes of music is a big reason why this blog was started in the first place and your memories are appreciated and valued.

Thanks again!