The Politicians (featuring McKinley Jackson)

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1970-72)

- Chuck Boyd -- 

- Stanley Cleveland --

- Melvin Griffin -- sax, keyboards

- Charlie Hearndon -- 

- Melvin Griffin -- sax, keyboards

- McKinley Jackson -- vocals, trombone

- Zac Slater -- drums, percussion

- Danny Wood -- vocals


  line up 2 (1972)

- Peanut Roderick Chandler -- bass, sax

- Melvin Griffin -- sax, keyboards

- McKinley Jackson -- vocals, trombone

- Clay Clarence Robinson -- keyboards, trumpet

- Zac Slater -- drums, percussion





- Chairmen of the Board (Danny Wood)

- Danny Wood (solo efforts)





Genre: soul

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  The Politicians Featuring McKinley Jackson

Company: Hot Wax

Catalog: HA 711

Country/State:  Detroit, Michigan

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 691

Price: $45.00


Originally known as The Peps which quickly morphed into The Politicians, the original line-up featured McKinley Jackson, along with Chuck Boyd, Stanley Cleveland, Melvin Griffin, Charlie Hearndon, Zac Slater and lead singer Danny Wood.  The group attracted local attention as the house band at Detroit's Legendary 20 Grant Motel.  By 1972 they were known as McKinley Jackson and the Politicians, with a line-up showcasing bassist Roderick Chandler, keyboardists Melvin Griffin and Clay Clarence Robinson and drummer Zac Slater.  


back cover photo left to right: Griffin - McKinley - Chandler - Robinson - Slater


I'm guessing their partnership with Hot Wax records was a result of Jackson's long standing relationship with Motown's Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland.   After all, Jackson was a longstanding member of Motown's sessions band, playing trombone on dozens (if not hundreds) of Holland-Dozier-Holland recording sessions for the label.   That would certainly explain how Jackson and company ended up releasing one of the first album's on the trio's post-Motown Hot Wax imprint. 



Billed as McKinley Jackson & Politicians, the group made their debut with a 1971 single:




- 1971's 'Love Machine - Part 1' b/w 'Love Machine - Part 2' (Hot Wax catalog number HA 7102)


With McKinley on lead vocals, the tune featuring a rugged, dance ready melody, the tune wasn't bad, but really wasn't indicative of what their forthcoming album sounded like.





Musically the album featured a collection of ten largely-original instrumentals ranging from hardcore funk ('Psycha-Soula-Funkadelic' and 'Funky Toes'), to a radio friendly ballad ('A Song for You').   Technically these guys were pretty amazing, easily measuring up top Motown's Funk brothers, Hi Records' Hodges Brothers, or The Memphis Horns.  Unfortunately, the absence of a singer clearly limited their audience.   Still, it's one of the better releases on the Invictus/Hot Wax roster.  


"The Politicians Featuring McKinley Jackson" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Psycha-Soula-Funkadelic (instrumental)   (Ruth Copeland - McKinley Jackson - Melvin Griffin) - 3:43   rating: **** stars

I'm guessing this was inspired in no little part by George Clinton's Funkadelic work ('Free Your Mind ... and Your Ass Will Follow') with a bit of Norman Whitfield psych-soul thrown in for good measure.  Stunning way to open an album.  The George Clinton connection was underscored by the fact Ruth Copeland co-wrote the tune.

2.) The World We Live In (instrumental)  (Ronald Dunbar - Eddie Wayne - McKinley Jackson) - 4:22  rating: *** stars

The horns  were more prominent on the instrumental 'The World We Live In' (as was the whip sound effect), but the result was equally funky !!!    
3.) Church (instrumental)   ( McKinley Jackson) - 3:15
   rating: **** stars

To my ears, Jackson's 'Church' had the kind of commercial melody and edge that characterized the best Invictus/Hot Wax tunes.   They should have slapped a  gritty vocal on it and released it as a single.    probably my favorite track on the album.    
4.) Free Your Mind (instrumental)  (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier - Eddie Holland) - 2:50
   rating: **** stars

Fuzz bass overload !!!   Another killer slice of funk and easy to see why Hot Wax trapped it as a single.  Should've provided the band with at least a modest hit.   The basic track was re-recorded by label mates 8th Day who released it as a 'B' side entitled 'Freedom Is (instrumental)'.   The tune's been sampled to death by the likes of D-Nice, Dr. Griff, and KRS-One.






1972's 'Free Your Mind' (instrumental) b/w 'Love Machine' (instrumental) (Hot Wax catalog number HS 7174)






5.) Everything Good Is Bad (instrumental)    (Angelo Bond - General Johnson - Gregg Perry) - 4:14   rating: **** stars

So I'm familiar with this one from the first 100% Aged In Soul album and this could very well be the same track sans the lead vocal (I'm too lazy to compare them side by side).    Quite unlike the rest of the album, this one had a cool jazzy edge and some anonymous group vocals to it.  

(side 2)
A Song For You (instrumental)   (McKinley Jackson - Melvin Griffin) - 4:31  rating: *** stars

Co-written by Jackson and Griffin, 'A Song For You' was an unexpectedly pretty ballad with kind of a Van McCoy/Barry White-meets porno flick soundtrack vibe to it.  Shame former vocalist Wood, or someone wasn't on board to handle a lead vocal.   
2.) Speak On It
(instrumental)   (McKinley Jackson - Melvin Griffin) - 5:48   rating: **** stars

One of the album's more interesting and challenging tunes, 'Speak It Out' managed to somehow combine a catchy and highly commercial melody with a sophisticated keyboard, pedal steel (?), horn, and strings arrangement.   Anyone who doesn't recognize how good Jackson was should check this tune out.   
3.) Funky Toes (instrumental)  (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier - McKinley Jackson) - 4:04
   rating: **** stars

Hardcore '70s funk simply doesn't get much better than this instrumental - gurgling clavinet, wah wah guitar, heavy percussion, killer bass line ...   Wonder how many times its been sampled over the years ...   
4.) Politicians Theme (instrumental)   (McKinley Jackson - Charlie Hearndon) - 2:50
   rating: **** stars

I'm usually not a big horn fan, but 'Politicians Theme' is one of the rare exception - the horns actually improve this tasty groove.  To my ears the tune always always sounded like it had a Stax soul edge.     
5.) Close Your Big Mouth
(instrumental)    (McKinley Jackson - Zac Slater) - 3:06   rating: *** stars

One of the album's isolated disappointments, 'Close Your Big Mouth' sounded like a throwaway studio jam that was packaged with a bunch of after-the-fact studio noises.  Shame, since the underlying groove was actually pretty good with some of the album's best guitar work.    Kudos to Griffin for his electric keyboard solo. 



Neither the album, nor the singles sold well (the cover showing a seemingly pissed-off Jackson probably didn't help), but Jackson and the band essentially took over the role as Invictus/Hot Wax house band, playing on pretty much everything those labels released over the next couple of years.  Jackson then followed Dozier to the West Coast where he worked as an arranger on a slew of mid and late-'70s projects including Popcorn Wylie's "ESP" album.  


For anyone interested, Dave Thorley undertook a fascinating and extensive interview with Jackson for The Soul Source website.  You can read the article at: