Jim Russell Records, RIP

I’m headed back to NOLA this week and decided to dedicate a shorter episode to some of my favorite Crescent City songs.

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  • Robert Parker: Caught You In a Lie (NOLA, 1967)
  • Willie Harper: I Don’t Need You Anymore (Tou-Sea, 1968)
  • Allen Toussaint: Louie (Scepter, 1970)
  • Eddie Bo and Inez Cheathem (Seven 7, 1968)
  • Inell Young: What Do You See In Her? (Libra, 1972)
  • Floyd Anckle and the Majestic Brass Band (C&E, 197?)Intro/Outro: King Herbert and the Knights: Cissy Strut


We Like It Like That – Official Trailer from Mathew Ramirez Warren on Vimeo.

I promised (threatened?) that I’d drop some Latin on you all for a future podcast and what better than to bring in We Like It Like That filmmaker Mathew Ramirez Warren to come in and talk boogaloo with me. We chatted about the inspiration behind the film, tracking down Latin music old-timers, and the importance of public-funded arts (save the NEA!) Then Mathew joined me in running down a playlist of some of our favorite boogaloo jams.


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Included songs:

  • Ray Barretto: New York Soul (Fania, 1968)
  • Willie Rosario: Watusi Boogaloo (ATCO, 1968)
  • Louie Ramirez: New Breed (Mercury, 1967)
  • Joe Bataan: Subway Joe (Fania, 1968)
  • Ray Barretto: Together (Fania, 1969)
  • Tony Pabon/La Protesta: Free (Rico, 1970)
  • Jimmy Sabater: Times Are Changing (Tico, 1969)
  • Willie Colon: Skinny Papa (Fania, 1968)
  • Pedrito Ramirez: Micaela (Popo, 196?)
  • El Gran Combo: Kiss My Nose (Gema, 1967)
  • Kanté Manfla: Mosso Gnouma (Djima, 1969)
  • Bobby Matos: El Casa De Alfredo (Philips, 1967)Outro: Sunlightsquare Combo: I Believe In Miracles (Sunlightsquare, 2010)

Subway joe


In honor of the Groove Merchant’s recent pop-up at RappCats in L.A., this week’s playlist is built around songs from that sale and a couple of other GM gems collected over the years.


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  • Spanish Fly: Soy 18 With a Bullet (Familia, 1992)
  • The Luscious Three: Say What You Mean (T’Suga Rays, 197?)
  • Nora Aunur: I’ve Found Someone On My Own (Alpha, 1972)
  • Mac Five: A Song For My Father (Century, 1975)
  • The Royals: Summertime (Vagabond, 196?)
  • Steve Parks: All In A Day (Reynolds, 197?)
  • Dawn & Sunset: Include Me (DT&V, 1972)
  • Rovi: Proposal (Omicron, 1975)
  • Magico: Vino Rojo (Fuerza, 1985)
  • Johnny Dankworth: Return From Ashes (RCA, 1972)
  • Intro/Outro Music: Sonny Stitt: Turn It On (Prestige, 1971)


Just uploaded my latest episode of the Record Wheel; thanks for the positive feedback! I’m serious: I don’t do this stuff to hear myself talk so as long as folks out there enjoy it, I’m happy to do it.

I put up a poll on the Facebook group and folks wanted hip-hop, so that’s what I served up.


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  • Nikki D: Your Man Is My Man (1990)
  • Blackalicious: Changes (1994)
  • O.G. Style: Catch ‘Em Slippin’ (1990)
  • Jewel T: County Blues-Rikers Island Mix (1992)
  • Fam-Bam Clicc: Fam-Bam Thang (1995)
  • Jupitersciples: Reach Out (2004)
  • J-Zone: Just a Friendly Game of Basketball (2004)
  • Marco Polo feat. Large Professor: Radar-Remix (2007)
  • People Under the Stairs: The Dig (2002)
  • Diamond D: Best Kept Secret – 45 King Remix (1993)Intro Music: Pierre-Alain Dahan: Phasing Drums No. 3 (1972)
    Outro Music: Joe Quijano: El Loco (Cesta, 1964)


Wheel of fortune slots wheel by wheelgenius

For those of you who subscribe to my (old) Sidebar podcast, you may (or shortly will) discover a new episode awaiting you, the first in nearly two years. One of my ambitions for this year is to produce more audio content and while I’m working on a more ambitious podcast idea, I decided, in the short run, to create something that was simple to throw together at home: an annotated playlist.

Record Wheel #1

The conceit is simple: pick one of my iTunes thematic playlists, hit “random,” pluck out the first 10 songs and talk about them. I started with my “Favorites and Recent” playlist, which I use on my phone for either 1) recent digitizations or 2) favorite songs. As such, this particular spin of the wheel yielded some obvious hits but in the future, I’ll likely pick other playlists that are filled with songs off the beaten path.

This is an experiment. I’m basically taking what could have been a 10-song Soul Sides post and turned it into a podcast instead. Maybe people will prefer just reading the same content vs. listening to me yammer on about them. Send me some feedback and let me know your preference. If enough folks like it, I’d be happy to do more down the road.


  • Ohio Players: Ecstasy (Matthew Africa Edit) (Westbound, 1973/2012)
  • Jack McDuff: Shadow Of Your Smile (Atlantic, 1967)
  • Leo Sayer: Magdelena (Warner Bros, 1976)
  • Chi-Lites: Oh Girl (Brunswick, 1972)
  • Joni Mitchell: All I Want (Reprise, 1971)
  • The Ethics: I Want My Baby Back (Vent, 1969)
  • Francois Rauber: Improvisation (Unidisc, 197?)
  • The Relatives: More Time To Explain (Archway, 196?)
  • The Pharycde: She Said (Jay Dee Remix) (Delicious Vinyl, 1976)
  • The Hassles: 4 O’Clock in the Morning (United Artists, 1968)

Intro: Tonio Rubio: Slowrama (Tele-Music, 1973)


For my latest BeatTips piece, I delved into “Looking At the Front Door” and why Large Professor’s production was so next level in regards to song structure. When I get the time, I might take the song and give it the Sliced treatment.


Secret Santa: Christmas Medley
This is a reup of one of my favorite “wait, what?” holiday sonsgs: a medley of Christmas carols from a mid-70s LP out of Europe. I like how the announcer tries to explain, in very formal language, how the arranger here makes things funky.

Happy holidays everyone!


Tonio Rubio: Bass In Action No. 1 + Latin Leitmotif
From Rhythms (Tele Music, 1973)

I didn’t include this in my year-end wrap-up because, technically, it wasn’t a discover; I’ve known about it for years, it just took until now to finally track down a copy. As I’ve written in the past, I’m not a heavy library collector by any means but there are a few titles that I’ve chased throughout the years, none more so than this Tele Music title from Tonio Rubio. In terms of sheer bang-for-buck, I’d rank this as high as any library LP out there though for me personally, this is primary a 2.5 tracker.1

“Bass In Action No. 1” is on the short list of “songs that sounded like a hip-hop beat 15-20 years ahead of time.” I mean…c’mon: the slow, lumbering bass line, the drifting electric piano, the way the breakbeat patiently waits to pop in around the one minute mark. It’s straight up proto-trip-hop.

Edit: James Burgos made a great observation: “That track reminds me of [Cannonball Adderley’s] “Hummin‘.” The Rhodes seems like it even quotes some of the horn phrasing.” I think he’s 100% correct; this sounds like a riff on “Hummin.'”

“Latin Leitmotif” is equally delicious, least of all for its phasing effects and that killer montuno that’s played on…actually, I’m not sure what the hell it’s played on. Piano and bass in tandem? (My wife describes it as “a dirty piano” and that works for me). This track is so fun and funky, it makes you wonder what the hell Rubio and the Tele Music crew were thinking (or smoking) when they sat down to tape it.

Like I said, took me years to track down a copy but all good things to those who…

  1. The half track is for “Bass In Action No. 2” which is very similar to “No. 1” except for the added scat singing.


According to Slate’s Dan Kois, Stevie Wonder’s “We Can Work It Out” is the best Beatles cover out there:

Stevie Wonder and his cover of “We Can Work It Out,” not only the best Beatles cover of all time but the only one that is definitively better than the Beatles’ original.

Now…my first response to this claim can be summed up as “OH, WORD?”

To my mind, as good as Stevie’s cover is, it’s in competition with at least two other covers from the same era: Al Green’s “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and Aretha Franklin’s “Eleanor Rigby.” Showdown!

Who wins? You decide.


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The horns dropping into “Full Salsa” constitute one of my favorite musical moments of the year. The motif returns several times over the course of this long salsa dura jam but it’s all about this opening moment where the arrangement is more sparse, thus setting up the horns to provide an unexpected blast of heat.1

My discovery of Les Vikings stems back to 2015, when I visited Paris’s Superfly Records and became aware of the French Antilles imprint Aux Ondes/Disques Celini. The quality of the Latin music on the label is exceptional, with “Guaganco In Jazz” being one of the most puro Afro-Cuban examples you can find on them.2

I go weak at the knees for practically anything with electric piano, least of all in the service of a good Latin groove. This entire Drum Solos volume is just that: a Latin percussion instructional album that makes heavy use of what I assume to be a Rhodes.3 Nothing here is that complicated, rhythm-wise, but that’s the point: it’s meant to be easy for the amateur percussionist start improvising over which means we get nothing but killer riffs. Same applies to “Medium Cool,” off a library album that’s simply entitled Pianofender Blues (the moment I saw the title and cover, I just figured “yep, I’ll take this.” It didn’t disappoint.

The Pedro Plascencia is an example of another weaknesses: cover songs. I love the sheer ferocity of Plascencia’s playing on here. The arrangement isn’t very different from the original Barbara Acklin/Young Hot Unlimited version but his solo-ing adds that precious bonus element.

  • Gnonnas Pedro and His Dadjes Band International: Dadje Von Von Von (From The Band of Africa Vol 3. African Sounds Ltd., 1977)
  • Cymande: One More (From Cymande. Janus, 1972)

I ordered the Gnonnas Pedro LP on the strength of its Latin elements but the most striking cut on it is closer to the group’s West African roots. “Dadje Von Von Von” has an infectiously funky momentum to it and the guitar does marvelous work on here.

With Cymande, I had the opportunity to interview their founding members on the occasion of their surprise reunion. That gave me an excuse to revisit their catalog beyond the big hits like “Bra” or “The Message,” and the one track I kept coming back to was the mellow, hypnotic “One More.” It’s funny how a song that’s so seemingly simple on the front end can be completely captivating even if it’s initially little more than a slow guitar line played over some lightly chattering percussion.

I ended 2015 on a NOLA-note with Zilla Mayes and 2016 also had its own Crescent City moments. The Rhine Oaks – essentially The Meters trying to sneak from under their Josie contract – create a Euro library record vibe with the mesmerizing “Tampin'” while Willie Harper’s “I Don’t Need You Anymore” is one of the most devastating deep soul sides I’ve heard in ages (more about it here).

I wrote about the Karriem as one of the first posts of 2016 and it’s only fitting to include it on my year-end wrap-up since it’s still one of the best things I heard all year. By sheer coincidence (or is it?) it was reissued for the first time ever this year too.

The Cole 7″ came from the now defunct Soulific Records store in Long Beach (RIP!). I wouldn’t have guessed this was a Jamaican single; it sounds like a crossover track that could have easily come out of Chicago or Detroit but that was deliberate as Cole was a pen name created by Winston Francis when he opted to cut a series of songs that differed from the roots reggae sound he was becoming known for. What’s especially great is the flipside, which is an instrumental that replaces Cole/Francis’s vocals with guitar instead.

These three can all be filed under “reissues I only discovered now.” The Banks, in particular, has been in my crates since it first came out in ’09 but I hadn’t bothered to really listen to it. It’s fantastic, basically a Brothers of Soul song in all but name only (but once I realized that, it was clear why I found the sound so familiar). If I’m not mistaken, the song was never on 7″, not LP, which explains why Ever-Soul (Daptone subsidiary) went through the trouble to reissue it as a B-side.

The Mind & Matter was something I was peeping out at the Groove Merchant and both myself and Cool Chris loved the switch-up that starts around 4:45. A young Jimmy “Jam” Harris was a beast!

Staying on the Numero tip, I think that same trip to the Groove Merchant is what brought me the Master Plan Inc. 7″, which missed my radar back in ’13. This song is so perfect across the board: the funky wah-wah guitars that kick things off, the open break that follows, the falsetto lead, the way the horns accent the track, gorgeous, all of it. I’m pretty sure this was unreleased but had it come out back in the day, you could easily have convinced me this would have become a $1000 single.

These days – until perhaps the end of days – what I’m drawn to is the sweet soul, end-of-night closing cuts. The Pagan I (re)discovered retroactively because of how Kali Uchis sampled it and it was yet another reminder of how Pagan was the greatest of the Latin soul crooners (no offense to my man Joe Bataan, who comes in at a close second).

The Pretenders song is yet another fantastic sweet soul offering on the Carnival label (also see: the Manhattans and Lee Williams & the Cymbals). I’m almost certain that’s Patricia Tandy on lead vocals and dare I say, I think she does a better job singing this one than on the Manhattans original.

I picked up the Larks single because I thought they were the same Larks from Los Angeles that Don Julian lead but I’m now thinking they were an entirely different group (albeit from the same era and with a similar sound) from Cleveland instead. Doesn’t matter – still a great doo-wop influenced tune.

Freedom Suite was one of several Chicano bands out of East Los Angeles that competed in a talent contest, with the top placing groups being included on the Chicanos Explode In Concert compilation. This might just be my favorite LP purchase for the year…I mean, amateur high school bands from East L.A. recording sweet soul tunes? I am all in. (It was hard picking my favorite song off the LP but hearing Freedom Suite cover Robert & Johnny’s 1958 classic was simply irresistible, esp. when they go all polyvocal.

The Sam Cooke was one of those songs I’ve always heard in the background somewhere but it wasn’t until this year that I truly sat with it and added it to my short list of all-time favorite Cooke songs. Also, I love that Journey basically bit it to make “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.

And lastly, we come to a song that I listened to more times than I could have counted in 2016. I’ve already written about why I sat with so much Mayfield/Impressions this past year and “I’ve Been Trying” was the one song I kept returning to, just to hear that three-voice falsetto stack that comes at the song’s end. Maybe I toss around the word “sublime” too much but this is one case where it’s 100% apt.

  1. I should point out that this song has an earlier section which sounds completely different and I edited it to get to this part of the song sooner.
  2. The great thing about this era of Les Vikings is that it’s not just classic Afro-Cuban tracks but a whole plethora of different styles they played with.
  3. I’m basing this on the bell-like tone. Could be a Wurlitzer though.