Thursday, November 30, 2023

rep> Black Merda - The Folks From Mother's Mixer (1970-72 us, excellent funky psych blues rock, 2004 remaster)

Black Merda were a funky rock combo with a significant debt to Jimi Hendrix, mixing fuzz-toned, psychedelic blues-rock with folky acoustic passages and contemporary late-'60s soul. Featuring guitarists Anthony and Charles Hawkins, bassist VC Veasey (aka Veesee L. Veasey), and drummer Tyrone Hite, the group got its start in the late '60s after Veasey, Hite, and Anthony Hawkins had spent time in a band called the Soul Agents, backing Edwin Starr and Gene Chandler. Inspired by Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced?, they added Anthony's younger brother Charles on second guitar and christened themselves Black Merda. Despite some interest around their Detroit base -- including Norman Whitfield and Eddie Kendricks -- Black Merda signed to Chess, thanks in part to the psychedelic soul eccentric Fugi (aka Ellington Jordan), who they also backed on his Mary, Don't Take Me on No Bad Trip LP for Chess.

Black Merda's self-titled album sounded revolutionary enough, although the bandmembers were disappointed that it didn't reflect their heavy live shows. They then moved to the West Coast to continue playing with Fugi, but returned to Chicago to record a second album. Shortening their name to Mer-Da, the group returned in 1971 with Long Burn the Fire, a funkier outing that bore a likeness to early Funkadelic. The band quickly fizzled out, but over the next three decades, continued record-collector interest in the group eventually resulted in a reunion with Veasey, both Hawkins brothers, and Fugi, although Hite had died in 2004. 
by Steve Huey

Usually linked in with the brief explosion of "black rock" bands that followed Jimi Hendrix in the late '60s and early '70s, Black Merda's formula was a good bit more complicated than most, and their debut album blends elements of hard rock, blues, soul, folk, and embryonic funk with a tough and uncompromising political consciousness that makes the disc at once a product of its time and not quite like anything else around back in the day. 

The guitar work from Anthony Hawkins and Charles Hawkins is tough and organic, whether they're stretching out on extended blues jams such as "Over and Over" and "Windsong" or cutting some hard R&B-accented rock on "Cynthy-Ruth" and "Prophet." Bassist Vessee L. Veasy (who also contributes most of the lead vocals) and percussionist Tyrone Hite generate a lean but effective groove throughout as they jump from the streetwise soul of "Reality" to the acoustic meditation of "Think of Me." But as good as the music is on this album (and despite bland production from someone named Swan, most of it is very good indeed), what really sets it apart is the dark vibe reflected in the minor-key tenor of the melodies and the bitter realities of the lyrics. 

Grinding poverty, racism, political and social inequality, the ongoing nightmare of Vietnam, the growing schism between youth culture and the establishment, and the absence of any easy answers to the dilemmas of a nation spinning out of control dominate songs such as "Reality," "Ashamed," and "That's the Way It Goes," and the grim but wholly appropriate fable of "I Don't Want to Die" ends this album as if a lid were being slammed shut on a coffin. 

Black Merda anticipates the grim consciousness-raising session of Sly and the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On, which wouldn't arrive in stores until a year after this album, and if it isn't the stark masterpiece that Sly's album was, it's good enough that this group deserves to be regarded as much more than a footnote in the black music scene of the early '70s. 
by Mark Deming
1. Prophet (Anthony Hawkins) - 2:54
2. Think of Me (Anthony Hawkins, Charles Hawkins, Tyrone Hite) - 2:33
3. Cynthy-Ruth (Roosevelt Veasey) - 3:06
4. Over and Over (Anthony Hawkins, Charles Hawkins, Tyrone Hite) - 5:33
5. Ashamed (Anthony Hawkins) - 3:52
6. Reality (Roosevelt Veasey) - 2:01
7. Windsong (Anthony Hawkins, Charles Hawkins, Tyrone Hite) - 4:14
8. Good Luck (Anthony Hawkins) - 3:46
9. That's the Way It Goes (Roosevelt Veasey) - 3:16
10.I Don't Want to Die (Anthony Hawkins, Charles Hawkins, Tyrone Hite) - 3:52
11.Set Me Free (Anthony Hawkins) - 0:43
12.For You - 4:43
13.The Folks From Mother's Mixer - 4:13
14.My Mistake - 5:30
15.Lying - 3:30
16.Long Burn The Fire - 3:21
17.Sometimes I Wish - 3:45
18.I Got A Woman - 5:01
19.We Made Up - 3:45
Songs from 12 to 19 were written by Anthony Hawkins, Charles Hawkins, Roosevelt Veasey
Tracks 1-11 from "Black Merda" 1970
Tracks 12-19 from "Long Burn The Fire" 1972

Black Merda
*Anthony Hawkins - Guitar, Vocals
*Charles Hawkins - Guitar, Vocals
*Roosevelt Veasey - Bass, Vocals 
*Tyrone Hite - Drums, Vocals (Tracks 1-11)
*Bob Crowder - Drums (Tracks 12-19)
*Mary Hawkins Veasey - Background Vocals (Tracks 12-19)