Local radio here in Milwaukee recently saw a major change, as long-time public radio WYMS, which had featured jazz almost exclusively for years, is being transformed to a new entity calling itself Radio Milwaukee. The format is free-form leaning a bit heavily toward World Cafe territory…but even though I miss the ability to turn on jazz whenever I want to hear it (and of course I mean jazz, not the laxative crap traded under the name “smooth jazz,” which is jazz only if anything with a saxophone is jazz), any station that can play the Macromantics, Robyn Hitchcock, some hip-hop I couldn’t identify, and a deep-cut Jackson 5 track in a row is alright by me. It’s not going to supplant the mighty WMSE in my listening, but it is a nice alternative.
About that Jackson 5 track: turned out to be “I’ll Bet You,” from their second album, in 1970, which was written by George Clinton (and Pat Lindsey and Sidney Barnes). Funkadelic recorded its own version on its second album, also from 1970, so of course I had to dig up a copy of it. (Turns out it’s on eMusic, too – which I didn’t know, but I’d exhausted my monthly downloads anyway…). One source I ran into (and now can’t find dammit) says that the Jacksons’ version was released before Funkadelic’s version (can’t find info on the albums’ respective release dates).
Comparing the two versions is useful. The Jackson 5 version is more concise (as you might expect), and while the arrangement sticks pretty close to the Funkadelic version, it’s highlighted by a very nice, whining lead guitar sound, and a funky flute solo near the end, neither of which feature in the Funkadelic version.
Someone in the Jacksons’ camp was wielding a red editors’ pencil, because Funkadelic’s version is actually titled “I Bet You.” While the Jackson 5 version is dark and undeniably funky (I detect some Whitfield/Strong influence, too), the Funkadelic version is freakier and psychedelic in a way the then-teenaged Jacksons probably couldn’t comprehend. That’s not a slam on the Jacksons: their version is a fine track, and surprisingly funkier than I would have expected. But they didn’t have Eddie Hazel to pull off a snarling, wild guitar solo, or the odd electronic touches like that high-pitched, filtered organ whine near the beginning or the low-pitched rumbling later in the track (probably not even audible if you’re listening on cheapo computer speakers). Also: after that Hazel solo, about halfway through the track…do you think that’s where Talking Heads got the “Psycho Killer” riff from?