Stark Reality Now

Hip-hop label Stones Throw has lovingly repackaged this bizarre collection of psychedelic funk tracks recorded between 1968 and 1970 by the Stark Reality and a more unique treasure would be hard to find. While these tracks dish out hefty funk, wild jazz flourishes and fat rock grooves performed with stellar chops, what makes the album a real treat is that most of these tracks were intended to be children’s songs. Eight of the 12 tracks here were originally released as The Stark Reality Discovers Hoagy Carmichael’s Music Shop, an album of interpretations of Carmichael’s children’s songs in order to introduce the music of the lauded American songwriter to the "kids” through a contemporary workout. So contemporary was this revision that 33 years later, underground hip-hop greats like Large Professor and J-Live are lifting its beefy riffs to infuse their own sounds. Stark Reality was fronted by Monty Stark, who is noteworthy for playing his vibes through fuzz pedals, and the band was filled out as a rock outfit with electric bass, guitar and drums, turning the group into a true progressive fusion of funk, rock, jazz, pop and psychedelia. Think of a supremely funked-up and jazzed-out version of Freak Out-era Zappa and you might get the picture. But once you add in fuzz-toned vocals chiming "sticks and stones, bottles and bones, any old junk for sale” on the distortion driven "Junkman’s Song” you’re in for a heavy trip. Highlights include the Stark-penned numbers "All You Need To Make Music” (a music notation workout) and the driving psychedelic pop of "Sunday’s Song” along with the unhooking of Carmichael’s "Comrades” and "Dreams.” Powerful stuff. (Stones Throw)