Thursday, June 26, 2003

Zalatnay Sarolta: Hadd Mondjam El (Pepita 197?)

I've been on some weird European kick lately - Swedish, Polish, Finnish, etc. LPs and 45s have really been catching my eye. This Hungarian female rock LP has been seen gracing both the Groove Merchant and Sound Library's walls o' fame and I can see why. For them drum break junkies (of which I am admirer though not full-time addict), this record is pretty friggin' sick and I'm just tickled that it's on...well...a Hungarian female rock album. I mean, I'm sure this stuff grows like trees over in Hungary but out here, it's pretty outstanding.

Sarolta's vocals are ok but then again, I don't speak Hungarian so what can I really say? Many of the arrangements don't catch your ear per se, though there sounds to be a Wurtlizer or Rhodes somewhere in the mix. Maybe a clavinet too. But seriously, whoever's working the drum kit on this MFer deserves some props. The drums on the title cut are ridiculous - big, fat, clean, as if Bob Powers cleaned it up. The opening break on "Ne Hidd El" sounds straight up like a twist on the "Put Your Hand in the Hand" pattern and song for song, this is probably the best track as Sarolta finally lets her vocals out to play a bit (she's rather restrained elsewhere). The break returns midway through, this time accompanied by a firm bass guitar. And ending side A is "Egyszer..." which has a chicken scratch guitar accompanying the opening break as the song kicks into a swinging party jam.

Like I said, this LP might appeal more to break heads but as for me, it gets by just fine on the novelty factor.


Loot OST (CBS 1970)

I was turned onto this album a few years back by Cool Chris at the Groove Merchant. It's a soundtrack to what I can only assume to be some wacky British heist film (something the English seem to excel at making). What's noteworthy is who cuts the soundtrack: Keith Mansfield of KPM/Mohawks fame. Not having heard most of the KPM LPs that the Mohawks played on (you got $500 for me to catch up?), I can't compare this but I can say it's been one of my favorite LPs that I've been listening to lately.

A lot of this soundtrack isn't very notable - the vocals are particularly bad and most of the songs aren't '60s pop riffs. But "Loot's the Root" is a surprise since it starts off with the aforementioned forgettable vocals and then midway swings into a jamming mod-groover (not unlike the Nilsmen joint I mention elsewhere on this blog) full of darting organs and slammin' percussion. What's strange is that, if you look at the LP, where you think the song is about to end just ends up being a transition where the track strips down and brings in a female vocal to close the song out. There's also some cool clunky jazz bits on the short but sweet "Where It's At." The jam is "Stealth in the Night" which is one of those slow builders...the song kicks off with some dialogue from the film and ramps up two times until it really gets going. When it does, Mansfield just laces you with this zinger of a track - mid-tempo and superfly, bringing back his zingy organ and a fantastic rhythm riff.

The last butter track is "The Undertaker Song" (even the song titles are wicked) which is a return to the "Loot's the Root" motif but this time, he whips it up with a conga break and the track is even fiercer than before as Mansfield goes nuts on the organ. Wild hot.


The Nilsmen: Le Winston b/w The Sand Step (RJR 196?)

There's actually two covers to this 45, one that has "The Sand Step" on the front and feat. a woman sitting on the beach, but I'm going with Bardot puffing on a cancer stick. "Le Winston" is a little too high energy for my tastes though it's not bad per se. The real gem is the flip - "The Sand Step" is one smokin', groovin' mod organ banger. It sizzles on this infectious bassline and organ vamp that runs throughout and the drums break down three times to boot. At the beginning and end, a sexy, breathy female voice says, "sand step" and I don't know if it's a dance or what but I'm down for it.

The Butts Band: Hear & Now! (Blue Thumb 1975)

Ok, in the pantheon of bad band names, this has to rank pretty high It'd make sense if someone actually IN the group was named Butts but, no, the leads are Robby Kreiger and John Densmore. No Butts there. Who knows why this '70s rock group decided to pay a tribute to the power of the ass (not that it doesn't deserve a tribute or anything) - all we know is that they did.

What I can't figure out - besides that whole silly name thing - is why more kids aren't really up on this. I mean, this LP has at least three solid breaks on it plus some fun, soulful rock that gets damn funky for a bunch of white folk (plus a token brother in the mix). I mean, dig on "Don't Wake Up" which is solidly a funk cut with its chicken scratch guitars, grooving basslines and slick drums. Not to mention the 4-bar break that kicks off my favorite song on this album, the soulful "Caught In the Middle" which, honestly, has some really laughable songwriting (ex: "I think of myself as a grain of sand/here I sit/infinite/just a grain/I feel no pain.") but it has a ska-feel to it and I can imagine swaying to it on some beach as it plays. And then there's a cover of "Get Up, Stand Up" which is pretty solid (though who knows if Bob would have approved), at least enough to fool drunk frat guys. Seriously though, I like this album. Think you might too.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Ghostface Killah: Bulletproof Wallets Promo 2xLP (Epic 2002)

"The Sun", a song feat. Slick Rick and Raekwon, was supposed to start Bulletproof Wallets but I'm assuming sample clearance (or who knows? Slick Rick's never-ending legal drama?) prevented it from being included on the final release. Pity too since it's one of the best Ghostface songs like...ever. How can you possibly front on a song that 1) has Slick Rick on it. That should be good enough but 2) features three rappers talking about how ill the sun is. That's ill to the 3rd power. Whoa. And 3) features a rhyme by Ghostface ("the sun could never be pussy/he always comes out") that was quoted in The Boondocks which is just a way for both Ghost and Aaron McGruder to flash just how much cooler they are than the rest of us. We're not worthy. (This double LP clean promo also features the never-released original mix of "Flowers" which is radically different from the final version. Be careful though - Epic apparently put out another promo version of this same album which includes "The Sun" but leaves off the "Flowers" mix. However, the version listed here is missing "Love Session" and I think one other song - you sort of need to buy both to get the whole set intact.

Gang Starr: 2 Deep 7" (Chrysalis/Cooltempo 1992)

Why is it always the British that come with ill remixes while Americans kind of snooze by on just the album cuts? Don't get me wrong - there's a fine tradition of hip-hop remixes right here in the U.S. of A but you can always, always count on the Europeans to come with some bonus mixes just because they feel like it. Case in point, this 1992 7" of Gang Starr's "2 Deep". First of all, who knows who thought the song was really worth putting on 7" to begin with? But hell, if you're going to go through all that trouble, you might as well get a remixer and Cooltempo invites on IG and Dodge to remix the track. It's no Dimension Ball remix of "One Love" or anything, but the chunky drum break and slick bassline make this sound as good as the choppy, jerky, horn-y original. Personally, I think it's an improvement - a tall statement since it's rare that Gang Starr need a remix to begin with.

Willie Rosario and His Orchestra: Boogaloo and Guaguanco

This is easily one of the best boogaloo albums you can find for under $30. Sure, Joe Bataan's Fania albums are amazing too, but original copies of those puppies will set you back to a flat wallet. Rosario gives you not one, not two, but three (yes three!) excellent boogaloos for your buck, plus a slick mambo jazz cut to boot. For starters, "Watusi Boogaloo" is just a solid, solid example of what a good boogaloo should sound like: fun, catchy, with plenty of people screaming in Latin-tinged voices, the whole nine. Personally, I can't believe no one's bothered to comp this cut yet. Ridiculous. I've always liked Rosario's cover of "Taste of Honey" - it begins with a slow brass build-up but then gets a lil funky as this classic standard gets the boogaloo treatment. "Light and Sweet" is the third in the trio, and in my opinion, the least interesting, but it's still dependable. Ending the album is the airy, swinging "Stop and Go", that mambo jazz cut I mentioned before. For anyone looking to start up a basic Latin collection, this one comes highly recommended.


Patti Drew: I've Been Here All The Time (Capitol 1969)

I admit - I'm a sucker for female vocals these days. Soul just sounds better when you have a soul sister scream and swooning on it and I've been collecting up a storm of different records featuring funk fatales. This Patti Drew record has been a personal favorite of late too because its two best songs are also covers (another obsession of mine). The first is the sizzling hot version of "Fever" that' Not only does it scorch along but it also has the album's most ambitious music, throwing in a slick electric piano alongside more conventional brass and a whipped rhythm section. Then there's her cover of Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle" which is very loyal to the original but - and this is where it all comes together - it's the fact that it's sung by a woman that notches up the wickedness factor. Yow! (Alas, the rest of the album is not so noteworthy...still, two cuts is twice as nice as an LP with only one.)