“N.T. (Part 1)” b/w “N.T. (Part 2)”
Year / Label: 1971 / De-Lite
Catalog #: DE-544
Before I go get my bullet-proof vest to preserve my life after folks read the rating for this 45, let me say this: I have a love-hate relationship with Part 1 – Part 2 45s. (Or if you’re talking Polydor-era James Brown, Part 15 – Part 16 45s.) On one hand, many a funk 45 makes you question its expensive price sticker when a gorilla pimp of a jam is backed with a saccharine ballad that was the product of a group’s ill-fated attempt to please everyone and do what they couldn’t do well. Two part 45s eliminate that quagmire and it’s always dope to hear a great song stretch out into two halves. (“Discotheque Soul” by Ricky Williams and “Love the Life You Live” by Kool and the Gang, our group of discussion, come to mind.) But sometimes you just wish the artist edited the best stuff down to one side and gave you something else for the flip side. At risk of being shot by producers, diggers and fellow Kool and the Gang fanatics, I always wished that approach had been taken with the “N.T.” 45.
A Sizzler buffet of samples (including one of the funkiest and most crisp drum breaks of all time), “No Title” (that’s what it stands for) sounds like the magnificent seven foreshadowed that about 17 years later young kids without instruments would be scouring for DNA for beats. Probably the most sampled Kool tune outside of “Jungle Boogie,” “N.T.” gives you a choice of a (lengthy) sax solo, a (lengthy) trumpet solo, a (lengthy) flute solo, a (brief) drum solo, multiple refrains and ensemble playing to swipe from. Find me a producer from the Golden Era that didn’t borrow a lick from it at some point and I’ll show you a producer that wasn’t really a producer. From that standpoint, it’s a beatsmith’s wet dream – the first man to find this and sample it probably had an aneurysm. But when you strip away the sample-ability factor, “N.T.” meanders and loses steam at points. Recorded live as a show opener and canvas for the individual talents of a band still on the cusp of jazz – the LP it’s from, Live at PJs, is primarily comprised of jazz tunes and cover songs – its full six-plus minute version is in jazz format and finds a better home on the album than on the 7”. The slower tempo and stretched out arrangement make it a better fit for kicking back and zoning out to the LP. Had it been edited down to the length it was on the Ultimate Breaks & Beats (three to three and a half minutes) and another song was placed on the flip side (maybe “Ronnie’s Groove” or even the breezy cover of Charles Lloyd’s “Sombrero Sam”) it would’ve been a better bang for the buck. But that’s just my opinion.
When the dust settles, it’s still a funky, trademark early Kool and the Gang staple and the only tune from the group to ever make the UBB volumes (sans Lightnin’ Rod’s “Sport,” on which Kool and the Gang were the backing band). But the best thing about owning the “N.T.” 45 is witnessing the volume and crispness of the drum break when it rides on grooves that wide. Yikes!
Rating: 7.5 out of 10