TIR 60: Four Decades On Osiris Remains Overlord of the Funk Underworld

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Brought to you by FUNKNSTUFF.NET and hosted by Scott Goldfine — musicologist and author of “Everything Is on THE ONE: The First Guide of Funk” ― “TRUTH IN RHYTHM” is the interview show that gets DEEP into the pocket with contemporary music’s foremost masters of the groove.

Featured in TIR Episode 60 (two segments): Singer-composer-producer Osiris Marsh. A few will know who he is, some will realize who he is upon further explanation, while the majority will be unfamiliar with Mr. Marsh. The hope is this show serves as an eye-opener to most and a much-too-long-overdue tribute to those fortunate enough to have heard this man’s music in the past . . . and answer the question, “What ever happened to Osiris?”

Osiris is the Washington, D.C.-based band led by Osiris Marsh whose 1979 debut album, Since Before Our Time, was one of the grittiest, original and fantastic funk albums of funk’s holy 1970s decade. Released on Warner Brothers Records, the hard-hitting set featuring Marsh’s gravelly, soulful and gripping vocals came at a time when disco had chop-blocked funk at its knees and the 1980s was ushering in overly slick, watered-down and mechanical R&B.

Consequently, it came and went with scarcely a ripple on radio or the charts. However, opening with the pounding “Gamin’” and among other gems adding the bubbling “What’s the Use” and the bouncy “Consistency,” which was Osiris’ only single to ever chart, the Egyptian-theme-packaged album oozed and pulsated with greasy, lowdown funk and soul. Think Sly Stone meets Graham Central Station meets Gil Scott-Heron meets Parliament-Funkadelic, but yet retaining enough of its own character and stamp so as to not become too derivative of its source inspiration.

Core members of this amazing band, which include bassist Tyrone Brunson, who would go on to solo success with 1983’s “Sticky Situation” and “The Smurf,” also appeared on Osiris’ 1977 precursor album Let It Thru under the name The Family. That rare album’s opening tune “Music” bears some L.T.D. influence. As Osiris, the group would only release two more independent label albums, O-Zone 1981’s Osiris the Band! Both are well worth seeking out at O-Zone opens with the tremendous funk track “Fantality” and the Funkadelic-like “Say You Will” is not to be missed, with the rest of the set offering an eclectic song mix. Of particular note is that, as they shared the same management, the record includes contributions from the P-Funk camp with none other than Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker and the rest of the Horny Horns but also drummer Jerome Brailey. Osiris the Band! opens with the insanely hot funk groove “Gritt on It.”

That was Osiris’ last full-length album, although Marsh did release a 12-inch single in 1986 called “War on the Bullshit,” which is hard-hitting and epic as it sounds. In 2008, the compilation The Best of Osiris thankfully became more widely available, and the 14-track collection is a great place to start for the initiated or those unable to find any Osiris in digital format.

Here, the exceedingly gracious and good-natured singer talks about his vocal group beginnings, the path to Osiris the band, the harsh realities of the record business, his uncompromising commitment to creating music from the heart, why he feels blessed rather than bitter, and what might be up next.

Special thanks and gratitude to two people involved in making this episode possible: Maria Granditsky (well known in the social media world and through her website and pseudonym Miss Funkyflyy) for her support, love and commitment to the funk and for having the Web’s only in-depth bio info on Osiris Marsh; and to Marsh’s daughter, Africa, for coordinating the interview.

With that, it’s time to get some “gritt on it” with Mr. Osiris Marsh!

Recorded July 2018

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