While most school bands recorded songs made famous by professional big bands (Stan Kenton was particularly popular) and used hand-me-down arrangements from university programs (like North Texas State's Lab Band, which supplied this album's "Nine Monks" and "The Newborn Hippopotamus"), many struck out on their own, with original tunes or unique arrangements of contemporary material. Most of these releases were recorded and pressed by custom houses like Century Recordings, and sold to friends and family members in extremely small quantities. Oddly enough, no one has thought to collect these recordings before now (although a few bootleg LPs have included tracks by Houston's legendary Kashmere Stage Band).
On Schoolhouse Funk, Shadow has drawn together some of the finest examples of the genre, with heavy emphasis on covers of funk classics (including the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing," Dennis Coffey's "Scorpio," Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon," two from War, three from James Brown, and four from Parliament-Funkadelic). Even Paul McCartney gets the treatment on a breakbeat-laden version of "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey." While a few of the performances are amateurish and some of the arrangements a little brassy, many of these kids have remarkable chops and verve. What's more, the students' recorded monologues are priceless, providing a perfect snapshot of adolescents trying to shed their gawkiness with equal parts slick showmanship and naive exuberance. If the album has one weakness, it's a lack of context. Although the layout and photos are great, the album would benefit from liner notes or, at the minimum, a list of the kids who funk us so well.