SummaryOakland guitar ace Eugene Blacknell released multiple singles that ranged in style from raw R&B to power house funk. His musical career stretched from the early 1960s when as a talented and sharp dressed kid, he would become the youngest musician from the Bay Area to play the Apollo in New York, to the end of the 1980s when he died too young.
During that time he established himself as an East Bay original, an entrepreneur, and an activist. His ability to cross-over from R&B to blues, funk and soul put him at head of the Bay Area scene and he was often compared to the likes of Albert and BB King. His business dealings were inspirational. His band were able to break into new scenes and live circuits, and he helped improve standards of pay for African American musicians in the Bay Area. With so many accomplishments it's an irony of fate that he died before releasing an album despite having recorded enough material for several.
Ubiquity's re-issue arm, Luv N'Haight Records, worked with Gino Blacknell (Eugene's son, himself a producer and a young member of Eugene Blacknell and the New Breed at the tail-end of their existence) to compile information, images and music to release this first official album by Eugene Blacknell. Gino has always promised his Mom that he would make sure his father's music was eventually released. Digging up hours of old master tapes he found unreleased material, radio advertisements, demos, live recordings, and he even improved mixes on several tracks. He also found footage of his father riding choppers with Sly Stone, checking out drag car races, and playing live at San Francisco music festivals. During the process of putting this album together Gino suffered chest pains that turned out to be a series of minor heart attacks. At time of writing he is in good shape and recovering well and was able to help finish out this project, which in the meantime we had coincidentally titled "You Can't Take Life For Granted" after one of the unreleased cuts.
Without an album release, which would have cemented his recordings in the most accessible format back in the day, the legacy of Eugene Blacknell has been kept alive by way of the stories past on from musicians lucky enough to work with him. In addition his handful of tracks released on 7" singles have been sampled by many, most notably Beck ("We Know We Have Got to Live Together" was used on "Black Tambourine"). His singles have become DJ-favorites with the rarest fetching top dollars on the collectors market.
This compilation is made up of his super rare early releases as Eugene Blacknell and the Savonics, the highly sought after raw instrumental funk as Eugene Blacknell and the New Breed, his big band party-style vocal tracks, and a host of unreleased material including the radio advertisements, live recordings, and both vocal and instrumental studio cuts. Fans of Bay Area Funk will recognize the different musical periods that Blacknell goes through with comparisons ranging from acts like Johnny Talbot and Tower of Power to Sly Stone and Graham Central Station.
The CD and LP booklet (plus downloadable pdf) include rare pictures and a complete history by way of interviews with his widow, band members, and Bay Area notables. Interviews with Lillie Blacknell, and drummer Curtis Moore, will be made available as a stream and podcast in the weeks leading up to the album release. Rare band footage may well surface via youtube or myspace.
With 25 tracks in total this is the official Eugene Blacknell debut album, and the story of a musical prodigy and a Bay Area soul, funk and blues legend who finally gets to release an album.