Mother’s Finest is an American band founded in Georgia in the early 1970s by singers Joyce Kennedy and Glenn “Doc” Murdock. They quickly recruited Gary “Moses Mo” Moore on guitar, Barry “B.B. Queen” Borden on drums, Jerry “Wyzard” Seay (a/k/a “Wizzard”) on bass and Mike Keck on keyboards. Their signature sound was a blend of expressive, R&B vocals, heavy metal guitar and funk rock rhythms.
Like many musical crossbreed bands in their early stages, Mother’s Finest was (and to some extent still is) a sound in search of an audience. Their beginnings are a little confusing in that their premiere platter, Mother’s Finest, was issued on the RCA label in 1973 and then again three years later (1976) by CBS. The music itself was neither disco, rock, nor soul although the group generally bridges the gaps between Labelle, Earth, Wind and Fire and numerous white boogie bands.
Of their first few releases, this would be considered a lesser effort by some critics. Indeed, the sound was much less integrated that the band itself (which at the time had four black members and two white ones). Familiar rock riffs were practically coated with glossy, superfunk harmonies.
Today though, the record is still a rare collector’s piece partially because it includes an ironic tune titled “Niggizz Can’t Sing Rock’n Roll”. Shortly after the album hit the record racks the group was criticized for including the number by an important religious leader so they promptly dropped it from their live performances. To this day it remains unclear why Caucasians have a sense of humor about films like White Men Can’t Jump but at least some significant portion of blacks simply cannot tolerate self-deprecating humor.)
In the Fall of that same year (1976), the band enjoyed a noteworthy gig opening for The Who on a laser lit tour through Canada. While Mother’s Finest was admittedly an unusual choice for an opening act, they reportedly impressed everyone with not only their music but choreography as well. After that it was back to the studio to record and release their follow up, 8-cut album, Another Mother Further in 1977 on CBS.
This one was generally smoother and less frantic and their music would soon become more soul-oriented. Produced by Tom Werman (then famous for working with Ted Nugent), this platter had a fuller sound to it—one that was rounded out with an extensive use of synthesizer and strings. Nevertheless, the recording still only received two stars from Rolling Stone magazine.
While this was twice as high as what their debut disc received, it was still considered overall to be a mediocre effort. It was considered to be artistically insubstantial although “not truly wretched”. On the other hand, Mother’s Finest was well respected within the southern rock musical community. Many musicians gave them credit where it was due.
In fact, their one-time fellow Epic Recordslabel-mates The Stranger were known to play muisc from Another Mother Further as their introductory music. Despite this somewhat unsuccessful critical response, the band carried on and the next year (1978), they would play in a German broadcast called Rockpalast . This gig garnered the group a cult status in Europe (which continues to this day).
1978 was also the year the band put out their next studio album, Mother Factor, on the CBS label. Critically-speaking, this record fared no matter than the previous release. The would continue to play and record however and as the decade came to a close they would even manage to release a live record as well appropriately titled Live also on CBS Records.
The seventies were not without recognition though as the band charted with the singles “Fire” which reached number 93 on the Pop Singles chart, and “Baby Love” hit number 79 on the Black Singles chart and number 58 on the Pop Singles chart. They would also score with “Don’t Wanna Come Back” which hit number 54 on the Black Singles chart and “Love Changes” reached number 26 on the same chart. Perhaps the band’s best two tracks from this period were “Hard Rock Lover” and another tune that made the charts, “Piece Of The Rock”. Even Rolling Stone admitted these tunes— not coincidentally two of their shortest– were pure stud rockers.
As the 1980s opened, Mother’s Finest would put more emphasis on adding a heavy rock edge to their songs. This was very evident in their 1981 album Iron Age which was put out on Atlantic. They would continue to perform and by 1983 they would be back with CBS releasing another album One Mother To Another. It would not be until the end of the decade that they would manage to sign a deal with Capitol and release If Looks Could Kill which included the single “I’m ‘N’ Danger”.
As the 1990s opened, however, they would be with BMG for their first disc of the decade, Subluxation. It would only take them two years before they would take a slightly new direction with yet another CD, Black Radio Won’t Play This Record. This was largely a funk metalpiece on the Scottie Brothers label and to some extent had a sadly somewhat all too appropriate title.
Never a band to give up, they embarked on a world tour. After all, their cult following was (and remains) very much alive in other countries. Their 1993 tour line-up, however, was slightly different from the founding roster with: Kennedy and Murdock still on vocals, Seay still on bass but with John Hayes on guitar, Dion Derrick on drums and Ace Baker on keyboards.
The tour would seem to urge them on and they returned home to release several additional albums including the compilations: Rock Your Soul in 1996 on Sony Special Products, The Very Best of Mother’s Finest: Not Yer Mother’s Funk in 1997on Razor & Tie and Definitive Collectionin 1998on Sony International. They would also put out Not A Bootleg on Independent and Baby Love on Kiosk in 1998. (Oddly enough, some sources have doubts as to whether Baby Love was truly a genuine Mother’s Finest album.)
As the new millennium was upon us so was the band’s 2000 Independent release UMEUSWE and the compilation Burning Love: Beston the Cedarlabel. It would not be until three years later, however, that they would take another change in musical direction with Meta-Funk’n-Physical on CNR Records. This CD had a noticeably more hip-hop sound to it and included a more electronic backbeat.
Sources report that Moore had returned to the fold and that Kerry ‘Lovinggood’ Denton was brought in on drums and Johnnetta “JJ” Johnson was added as background vocalist as well. 2004 also saw the release of the band’s first DVD titled At Rockpalast (after the above-mentioned live performance in Germany). They also released another live performance—this time on CD—in 2006. It was titled LIVE @ Villa Berg: RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW and put out by MTM/SPV Music.
Some fans feel that Mother’s Finest would have a smoother ride without changes in their line-up and/or musical focus. (In fact, the most recent roster presently features Kennedy, Murdock, Moore, Seay , Hayes and drummer Joey Williams). Others indicate the group should avoid solo projects such as Kennedy’s touring on the international Daughters Of Soul tour alongside such artists asNona Hendryx, Indira Khan(daughter of Chaka Khan), and Simone(daughter of Nina Simone). Perhaps the truth can be found somewhere in between or perhaps Mother’s Finest has yet to fully find itself or its full audience. Perhaps only time will tell . . .
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.