Here we go: the first of our six-part breakdown exploring the impact and legacy of the Ultimate Breaks and Beats compilation series. In this piece, we’ll be looking at instalments 501 through 505. There’s a link at the bottom to the next part, so be sure to continue on down the rabbit hole!
The first official instalment of the compilation series, SBR 501 was released in 1986. The most notable inclusion on the series debut is The Winstons’ “Amen Brother,” which features one of the most sampled breakbeats of all time. Since appearing on Ultimate Breaks and Beats, the ‘Amen break’ has graced almost 3000 seperate tracks, also proving instrumental in the development of breakbeat and drum-n-bass music. All in all, SBR 501 includes 3258 samples.
Though "Mary Mary" was first recorded by The Butterfield Blues Band in 1966, it was actually written by Monkees member Michael Nesmith. They included their version of the track on their '67 sophomore album, More of the Monkees.
Bad Bascomb was a short-lived alias of Wilbur Bascomb, a jazz bassist who worked with artists such as Galt MacDermot and Jeff Beck and contributed to the 1979 Hair soundtrack. "Black Grass" was the opening track from Bad Bascomb's 1973 LP, Black Grass Music.
The Winstons' "Amen Brother" houses the 'Amen break,' one of the most widely used drum samples of all time. The break was played by the group's drummer, Gregory C. Coleman, who tragically died homeless in 2006. He never received any renumeration for his drumming on the track.
7th Wonder were a seven-piece funk group from Tuskagee, Alabama. They released three LPs between '78 and '80 - "Daisy Lady" was featured on the second, 1979's Climbing Higher. The group had their biggest hit the next year with "I Enjoy Ya."
D.C. LaRue was a dance musician most successful throughout the '70s and '80s. "Indiscreet" was included on his second studio album, 1976's The Tea Dance.
"Indiscreet" has been sampled just once: by Sweet Tee on her 1987 Christmas track, "Let The Jingle Bells Rock." Sweet Tee released just one album in '88, It's Tee Time, which was a minor hit and scored her four charting singles.
Rufus Thomas was an R&B artist who experienced his greatest success on the legendary Stax Records throughout the '60s and '70s.
"Do The Funky Penguin," one of his most famous novelty hits, has been sampled more than 100 times. It's appeared on tracks by Eric B. & Rakim, Ghostface Killah, Pete Rock, Busta Rhymes and Jay Dee, with many of the samples utilising Thomas' distinctive ad-libs.
In the most superficial sense, SBR 502 adheres to the age-old rule of disappointing sequels: the six tracks within have brought forth 639 samples. Granted, three thousand is a hard sum to follow. That doesn’t mean it’s without some classics, such as jams from Wilson Pickett, Funkadelic and Juice.
SBR 502 opens with Wilson Pickett's "Get Me Back On Time, Engine Number 9 (Pt. 1 & Pt. 2)." Pickett's
In Philadelphia is not a live album, as the title might suggest: it was the first studio album he recorded in the city after cutting many of his LPs in the South.
The next track is Juice's "Catch A Groove," a '76 disco track popular for its oft-sampled break. Juice themselves are an obscure outfit, and they released just three tracks in their odd career.
The break at 1:56 was first sampled in 1983, on The B-Boys cut "Two, Three, Break." It's since become a commodity for producers, and has appeared in tracks by Beastie Boys, Ultramagnetic MCs, Public Enemy and Del the Funky Homosapien.
It’s been covered more times than it's been sampled: 24 to 18, respectively. Whilst there's renditions from Waylon Jennings, Joe Cocker and Prince, the track has been sampled by acts such as Tone Loc, Beck, Ultramagnetic MCs and LL Cool J.
Funkadelic’s “You’ll Like It Too” was included on Connections and Disconnections, a watershed moment for the group. It’s actually the work of three original members who quit the original group and took the name as P-Funk crumbled in the ‘80s.
You can trust Roy Ayers to bring the vibes, because Ayers is one of the most famous vibraphone players of all time. “The Boogie Back” was included on Roy Ayers Ubiquity’s 1974 LP Change Up The Groove, and was one of just two tracks on that album penned by Ayers himself.
The track, which has been sampled 25 times, is most famous for its distinctive appearance on N.W.A's "Fuck Tha Police."
The Ultimate Breaks and Beats cut is errantly credited to Disco Italiano, the LP title, a misnomer that's since plagued the relatively unpopular inclusion. The track has been sampled just once, appearing on Philly rap group Tuff Crew's 1988 track, "It's Mad."
It’s a double helping of bongo goodness on SBR 503, but the fates of those two prospective samples were wildly different: one has become one of the most identifiable instrumentals in hip hop history, and the other - lifted from the very same album - has yet to crack double digits. Of the 896 samples pulled from the tracks on SBR 503, 543 come from “Apache” alone.
Lynn's debut single, 1978s "Got To Be Real" is one of the defining tracks of the disco era. Ray Parker Jr., of Ghostbusters fame, played guitar on the cut.
The track was first sampled on Funky 4 + 1's "Rappin' & Rockin' The House," a track released in '79, hip hop's first year on wax. It's since appeared in tracks by Fat Joe and N.W.A, and was covered by Mary J. Blige and Will Smith for 2004's Shark Tale.
Perhaps the most iconic instrumental hip hop sample of all time, Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache" boasts an incredibly famous hook. It was one of the three records used by DJ Kool Herc in his first 'Merry-Go-Round,' the then-novel process of segueing from break to break.
Herman Kelly and the Life's "Dance to the Drummer's Beat" has been sampled more than 160 times. The short-lived Miami-based Latin soul/funk group released just one LP, 1978's Percussion Explosion!. "Dance To The Drummer's Beat," one of just two singles, was accidentally titled "Dance To The Drummer Beat" due to a typographical error.
The record contains a second track from the Incredible Bongo Band, "Bongo Rock '73," the lesser-known title track from the group's debut album. Though it was a hit at the time, "Bongo Rock '73" has since been overshadowed by the enduring appeal of "Apache."
Up next is Upp’s “Give It To You,” a track from their Jeff Beck-produced 1975 debut. Beck also contributed all the guitar work to the group’s first album, though he wasn’t credited in the liner notes.
A mid-’70s soul singer who shared her stage name with the legendary color-line crossing baseball hero, Jackie Robinson was a presence in her own right, largely due to the popularity of “Pussy Footer.” The German-born singer had an irregular career, retiring just before the turn of the century.
Ah, Syl Johnson: he’s the successful soul singer who knows the benefits of a good copyright infringement lawsuit. That’s not even a diss: the man himself once conducted an interview from what he called “the house… that was built with the Wu-Tang money." Also featured on this instalment is funk legend Bobby Byrd, most famous for discovering James Brown; Z.Z. Hill, a quiet blues legend who died from injuries sustained in a car crash; Isaac Hayes, who may just be the progenitor of cool; and Tom Jones, who’s a total combo breaker. Johnson contributes 309, or 38%, of the 813 samples taken from within.
Syl Johnson's “Different Strokes” is a track over which a few notable sample clearance lawsuits have been fought - both Wu and Yeezy were fined.
The track has since been sampled on more than 300 tracks, including joints by Wu-Tang Clan, Kanye West & Jay Z, Public Enemy, EPMD, Eric B. & Rakim and Quasimoto. Syleena Johnson, who sang vocals on West's 2004 hit, "All Falls Down," is Syl's daughter.
The oft-sampled track was definitively flipped in the same year as SBR 504 was released, forming the crux of Eric B. & Rakim’s cut of the same name. It later appeared on tracks by Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Kool G Rap & DJ Polo and KMD.
The next break is courtesy of blues artist Z.Z. Hill. It’s taken from “I Think I’d Do It,” the final track on Hill’s 1974 sophomore album. The influential singer died in ‘84 from injuries sustained in a car accident.
The break has been sampled by acts such as Eric B. & Rakim, N.W.A and Ghostface Killah. also made an appearance on early French rapper Sidney’s “Nation Rap,” which was produced by a 23-year old David Guetta.
The break on “Sing Sing,” a 1978 single by one-album Icelandic disco outfit Gaz, has been called “the backbone of Baltimore club music,” though it also impacted the evolution of the early 2000s Jersey sound.
The next breakbeat is courtesy of Stax soul legend and hip hop favourite Isaac Hayes. “Breakthrough” was included on Hayes’ Truck Turner OST, a soundtrack for a 1974 blaxploitation film in which Hayes played the titular bounty hunter.
Though it may seem an unlikely inclusion, SBR 504 includes Tom Jones’ “Looking Out My Window.” The 1968 non-album single has since become one of Jones’ most sampled compositions, thanks largely to the breakbeat within.
Dynamic Corvettes, a Maryland funk outfit, released just three singles in their short career. The third, “Funky Music Is The Thing,” has since become a sampling staple.
It was first sampled by Funky 4+1 in 1983, though it exploded in popularity after featuring on Ultimate Breaks and Beats, appearing on cuts by acts such as Dan The Automator, The D.O.C., Jaz-O, Ice-T, Public Enemy, Just-Ice and DJ Shadow.
There’s some interesting oddballs in this one: a cut from the Wild Magnolias, an acclaimed but niche funk act from New Orleans; some mid-’70s Bo Diddley; and a jam from the long-mysterious (but, thanks to some great journalism, now-uncovered) group Banbarras. Whilst SBR 505 is the second instalment we’ve looked at that’s surpassed 1000 samples - there’s 1021 over the seven tracks - it still doesn’t come close to SBR 501’s incredible 3258 flips.
Johnny Hammond’s “Shifting Gears,” a 1975 soul/funk track, has been sampled just over 20 times in the forty years since its release. Born John Smith, the organist adopted the keyboard-related “Hammond” to distinguish himself from guitarist Johnny Smith.
American performer Bo Diddley is amongst the most influential of any 20th century artist: his innovations helped bridge the gap between blues and rock, setting the stage for contemporary music as a whole.
The Wild Magnolias are a singular act: a Mardi Gras Indian tribe who also perform as a funk outfit, they’ve existed in some form since the ‘50s. In 1970, the group cut their first single, which led to their classic, self-titled 1974 debut.
One of the most sampled breakbeats of all time, Melvin Bliss’ “Synthetic Substitution” was broken in by Ultramagnetic MC’s on their debut single, 1986’s “Ego Trippin’.”
Since then, the otherwise-obscure one hit wonder has been sampled more than 760 times, a clear favourite of producers such as Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and Public Enemy’s The Bomb Squad. It’s also appeared on cuts by 2Pac, Ice-T and De La Soul.
“Get Up And Dance,” a 1978 disco track by Freedom, has been sampled since the infancy of recorded hip hop. It first appeared on Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “Freedom,” a 1980 Sugar Hill single, also appearing on a 1981 Mr. Magic track and Jazzy Jay’s 1985 single, “Def Jam,” produced by label co-founder Rick Rubin.
20th Century Steel Band was a nine-piece British outfit, though most members hailed from Trinidad. The group were active for just three years, in which time they produced two albums, the highlight of which was 1975 single “Heaven & Hell Is On Earth.”
Banbarras released just one two-part single in their blip of a career. “Shack Up,” a disco jam from a mysterious group of session musicians, has since been sampled more than 50 times. Interestingly, “Shack Up (Part II),” which was featured on SBR 505, is the less sampled of the two parts.