The ‘Amen’ break is possibly the most famous drum break of all time. There are very few Jungle or Drum & Bass producers who haven’t used this sample at least once. Without this one sampled break, Jungle and Drum & Bass would lose hundreds of influential records that were made using it. But where did it come from? Who were the musicians responsible for such an integral part of the genre? Quite a lot has been written about this break and many discussions in documentaries have covered it but for those who are unaware, here is an overview.
The sample is taken from the drum solo in a track called ‘Amen Brother‘, the b-side of the single release of ‘Color Him Father‘ (single)’ in 1969 by a Soul group called The Winstons. The tracks were then both re-released later that year on The Winstons’ album also entitled ‘Color Him Father‘ (album)’. Links to the individual songs are provided but listening to the album in its entirety will give a far better feel for the group and their sound.
The Winstons recorded the single and the album at LeFevre Sound Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. The single was their greatest commercial success as a band managing to achieve Gold status and charting at number 7 in the US National Charts. Despite being sampled on thousands of songs the group only received royalties from sales of their record and not from the sample’s use in other recordings.
The Winstons were made up of Richard Spencer (lead vocals and tenor saxophone), Quincy Mattison (lead guitar and vocals), Ray Maritano (alto saxophone and vocals), Sonny Peckrol (bass guitar and vocals), Phil Tolotta (second lead and organ) and most importantly to the development of Jungle twenty something years later, Gregory C. Coleman (drums and vocals). The record was produced by Don Carroll and engineered by Rodney Mills.
There are a number of videos talking about the different ways in which the Amen Break has been used. It is near impossible to cover every use of the break as it is still constantly being used on new tracks everyday. Some of the videos which talk about it merely scratch the surface but they do provide a clear idea of how important this break was not only to the development of Jungle and Drum & Bass but to sample based music in general. The video by Mixmag is a short snapshot of the history of the break. Where as this longer recording of Nate Harrison in 2004 goes into more detail.