Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Chicago is a city known for its blue collar roots, its music, and its strangeness. It is also one of the most culturally divided cities in the United States, and because of its unfortunate divisions, it has given birth to some fairly eccentric musical combinations. In the late 60’s blues had turned into rock and roll, soul was either raunchy or polite, and funk was just beginning to bubble to the surface. Chicago had its share of soul and funk acts with artists like Curtis Mayfield and Alvin Cash shaking up things up across state lines. Chicago also had a healthy garage rock scene filled with white kids sporting page boy haircuts and new Fender guitars. These musical styles collide like a three car pile up on a little known Chicago funk compilation called Chains and Black Exhaust. Released on the Memphix label in 2002, this rare compilation captures an interesting time in midwestern music, and blazes through some of the deepest funk rock joints ever recorded.

The compilation is the work of record collector Dante Carfugna, and every track is taken from Carfugna’s deep 45 rpm record crates. Each track is a gem of strange fuzzed out psychedelic guitar, hard as nails drums, and vocals about wine, women, drugs, and tribulation. The mix of tunes highlights Chicago at its meanest, blackest, and funkiest. The tune “Yeah, Yeah” by the group Blackrock captures the compilation’s ethos perfectly, with its haunting introductory chant, menacing piano, soul guitar and pounding syncopated drums. Other tunes like, “Corruption’s the Thing”, by Creations Unlimited, highlight the vibrant psychedelic rock scene that was happening in Chicago’s far flung neighborhoods. More than a few of the tracks borrow from other midwestern bands like Grand Funk Railroad and The MC5, but the aggression and psychedelia is dipped in a thick soulful sauce that is pure Chicago. Some of the artists in this collection are not Chicago natives, but the sounds they produce represent Chicago's grimy, work a day shuffle perfectly.

Word on the street is Carfugna gave up record collecting a few years back, and has since gone down the proverbial straight and narrow path. Thankfully, he dug into his crates and gave the world Chains and Black Exhaust before he felt it was time to get out of the game - The world is better for it.

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