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Old but Gold Gems of Amherst Records
Label Feature

Old but Gold Gems of Amherst Records

Amherst Records is one of the oldest indie labels in the USA, founded in the late 50s in Buffalo, NY by Leonard Silver. Their roster boasts primarily funk and soul sampled by the likes of Madlib, Wu-Tang Clan, Masta Ace, Public Enemy, and countless others. Since 1977, David Parker is involved with Amherst on the business/legal side of things, and as their in-house music historian.

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Amherst’s catalog includes a wide range of heavily sampled artists. Such as The Stylistics (Madlib, Jay-Z, Little Brother & tons of others), Chicago Gangsters (Slick Rick, LL Cool J, Apache), and The Whole Darn Family (Public Enemy, EPMD, Wu-Tang Clan). Do you have any all-time favorite cases of Amherst tracks being sampled?

Without hesitation, my favorite case is LL Cool J’s sample of “Gangster Boogie” in “Mama Said Knock You Out.” Initially, there were many claims of samples in both the music and master, many of which were eventually denied. While the sample of “Gangster Boogie” was clearly there, it was relatively short in terms of overall length, but still managed to make the song a sample classic.

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What’s some of your favorite less-sampled music from Amherst’s roster?

It always amazed me that not one other track from The Whole Darn Family’s album Has Arrived has ever been sampled. And “Seven Minutes Of Funk” is such a world-class sample, as proven by Jay-Z, EPMD, Grandmaster Flash & others... If I had to choose, I would go for “Ain’t Nothing But Something To Do.” I just think that this represents the real funk sound of 1975/76. It could be used like LL Cool J used “Gangster Boogie” in “Mama Said Knock You Out.”

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What does sampling mean to Amherst Records?

Sampling is great for Amherst. It has been a significant financial resource for Amherst and therefore its artists, producers, and writers. Sampling was a counterbalance for the loss of physical sales helping our artists financially through the last twenty years. Now as more and more of Amherst’s lesser-known artists are being discovered on a worldwide basis to be sampled.

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'Can't Stop Loving You' by Soul Dog has famously been sampled by Kanye West for The Weeknd's 'Tell Your Friends'

How does Tracklib help with that?

Tracklib was inevitable as the digital music industry matured. I believe Tracklib will allow a larger selection and genre of music to be sampled than ever before. That’s a win-win for all parties involved. It provides the end-user with an affordable license immediately with predetermined costs and terms. No negotiating time or hassle and all parties know in advance the deal. And the labels and publishers make more money with less work.

It also helps sampling labels clear songs in minutes rather than months. Which is important with the gap between record delivery and release often shrinking to a week or less. From the perspective of the rights holder, Tracklib gives the 95% of our catalogs that were not successful commercially upon release to become hits as part of new recordings.

A gold record for Jay-Z's "Ain't No Nigga/Dead Presidents" at the Amherst Records offices. For "Ain't No Nigga," producer Big Jaz sampled The Whole Darn Family's "Seven Minutes of Funk"
A gold record for Jay-Z's "Ain't No Nigga/Dead Presidents" at the Amherst Records offices. For "Ain't No Nigga," producer Big Jaz sampled The Whole Darn Family's "Seven Minutes of Funk"

Amherst is one of the oldest independent record labels in the United States. Does that still show in its aesthetics or way the label is operated?

The “aesthetics” of Amherst, like most indies, was formed in a large part by location—Buffalo, New York—and its inability to financially compete with the major labels. You must remember that America’s “funk belt” stretched from Buffalo to Detroit and as far south as Cincinnati. Some call it the rust belt for the auto and manufacturing businesses that began dying out in the 60s. But it was really the “funk belt.” Amherst signed artists that did not have access to, were turned down or dropped by the major labels. A great example was when we signed Spyro Gyra. The Buffalo band had submitted their finished first album to six major labels and were turned down by each one!

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There are many soul/funk-oriented labels around. To you personally, what makes Amherst Records stand out?

I guess I would have to say that for such a small independent label as Amherst Records is, we have some really great artists and producers on our albums. How many labels can say they have original tracks by Solomon Burke (Jerry “Swamp Dogg” Williams, Jr.); The Stylistics (Thom Bell and Linda Creed; Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager); Paul Butterfield (Paul Schaffer; Anton Fig); Val Young (Rick James); Jackie DeShannon (Jim Ed Norman) and unbelievable trumpet player Doc Severinsen and The Tonight Show Band (Jeff Tyzik; musicians Conte Candoli, Snooky Young, Bill Perkins, Ernie Watts, Ross Tompkins and Ed Shaughnessy).

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