Thursday, September 29, 2005

posted by O.W.

De La Soul: My Mindstate
LA Symphony: Broken Now
From Hip Hop Gold Dust (Antidote, 2005)

Both of these are off the new Prince Paul CD, Hip Hop Gold Dust which is a compilation of Paul's unreleased and rare productions, dating back to the early 1980s. Paul came to fame as a member of Stetsasonic, then the musical mind behind De La Soul in the late '80s and he's continued to stay in the mix through his work with Handsome Boy Modeling School. In the years in between he produced for everyone from Jaz and Jay-Z to Justin Warfield to Resident Alien, etc. I have a real soft spot for Paul (though I've heard rumors that he's not the nicest guy in person, but I really wouldn't know), not just because his productions were a big reason why I became a hip hop fan to begin with, but he was also the subject of the first cover story I ever wrote, around the time Prince Among Thieves came out (for URB Magazine). I still have a poster of that magazine cover in my basement.

In any case, the backstory behind "My Mindstate," is pretty bugged out, but then again, it is De La Soul so "bugged out" fits just fine. While the group was putting together their third album, Buhloone Mindstate, Paul and De La had the idea to create a fake album, filled with fake songs and give that to the label as a way to trick potential bootleggers into thinking this was the real deal. Ambitious idea - crazy really - but they only were able to finish two songs, of which "My Mindstate" was one of them.

The thing is: if you pay attention to it, it's apparent that the song is not meant to be taken seriously: it's filled with literal nonsense, i.e. random rhymes thrown together but no actual coherent thought. However, if you're just casually listening, it just sounds like another wacky De La song. Basically, the line between parody and reality for De La was always pretty hazy to begin with.

As for "Broken Now," this is an unreleased track from 2000 by a group I think has/had a lot of promise but never really got their chance to shine. I really like the production here: reminds me a lot of the "Blue Flowers" remix by Dr. Octogon that Paul did around the same time.

Monday, September 26, 2005

posted by O.W.

Curtis Mayfield: We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue
From Curtis (Curtom, 1970)

Curtis Mayfield: Right On For the Darkness
From No Place Like America (Curtom, 1975)

Curtis Mayfield: Hard Times
From Back to the World (Curtom, 1973)

As my man Noz pointed out, I've never (personally) done a Curtis Mayfield post here at Soul-Sides, though both Noz and Mark Anthony Neal both guest-posted Mayfield songs in the past. It's certainly nothing personal, I guess I tend to focus on more obscure artists to the point where I neglect the obvious ones (note: I have yet to do an Al Green post despite the fact that he is, hands-down, my favorite soul artist of all time. I will rectify this eventually). Since it pains me to think that the world might believe that I don't care for Mr. Mayfield (when in fact, I'm quite in awe of the man and his musical legacy), here's the corrective:

"We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue," which appears on Mayfield's self-titled solo album - his first after leaving the Impressions - isn't simply an amazing song (listen to that opening horn chorus. Good gawd) but it has one of the best titles ever. Also, the way that the song shifts from ballad to uptempo percussion jam midway through is a mind-blower.

"Right On For the Darkness," is an even more impressive composition and arrangement - one of the best songs he ever put together in his post-Impressions days, in my opinion. If you can't feel this, you simply can't feel.

Last, but not least, "Hard Times" was recorded a few years earlier by Baby Huey and the Babysitters, one of Mayfield's backing groups, and in contrast to the hard-edged funk of Huey's version, once it came time for Mayfield to lay down his take, he chills it out to this smoky, slick ballad. Sink into it.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

posted by O.W.

The Fugees: Take It Easy
From ??? (???, 2005)

Thanks to _______ for the clip. This is the new Fugees reunion joint.

Hot or not?


Friday, September 23, 2005

posted by O.W.

From: T*****:
    Long time fan of soul-sides ... In your latest post involving the Sylvers, you mention that Sylvers II is one of your 'top 5 soul albums of all time'. It really got me thinking...I know you're probably always overwhelmed with email, but if you get the time, of just off-the-cuff....what would be your top 5 (10 if you're feeling especially productive) soul albums of all time. No special criteria. Doesn't have to be 'underrated' or unknown. Just the top ones you wouldn't want to ever be without.
Dear T*****,

Thanks for writing and asking. I somehow knew this question would pop up when I wrote that thing about the Sylvers. The thing is: my Top 5 is constantly shifting and albums that I would SWEAR would make that list today, may not necessarily be on there next month depending on how my tastes change. This said, here's what comes to mind right now.

Al Green: I'm Still In Love With You (Hi, 1972)
I'm not going to claim this is the best soul album ever recorded but it's long been a personal favorite. Not only does it sport amazing production and arrangement as well as one of the best voices ever, but there are so many songs one here I never tire of: "Love and Happiness," What a Wonderful Thing Love Is," "Simply Beautiful," "I'm So Glad You're Mine."
Aretha Franklin: I Never Loved a Man... (Atlantic, 1967)
This is a tougher call since I absolutely adore Aretha and her songs but not necessarily all on one single album. That said, this one, her first on Atlantic after coming over from Columbia, probably comes closest to having the most songs I do like.
Sylvers: Sylvers II (Pride/MGM, 1973)
I wouldn't expect to find this on most people's Top 5...the Sylvers were, after all, derivative of the Jackson 5 who arguably made better songs and albums but personally, I love this album. The production is mind-blowing: it's rich, soulful, funky and engineered to a polished shine. You can find a single song like that on many albums, but this LP has about six or seven tracks like that.
Eddie Kendricks: People...Hold On (Tamla/Motown, 1972)
This album might dip off my Top 5 at times, depending on mood, but all things considered, it's one of the most complete soul LPs I can think of, just an incredible blend of great songwriting, production and variety. Everyone needs this LP in their life at some point.
James Brown: Gettin' Down To It (King, 1969)
The Godfather of Heavy Funk meets the Dee Felice Trio for a series of stripped down ballads. The pairing doesn't necessarily make sense on paper but it sounds amazing. This is, without a doubt, my favorite James Brown album.

posted by O.W.

Ghostface Killah: Be Easy
From Fish Scale (Def Jam, 2005)

The Sylvers: Stay Away From Me
From Sylvers II (Pride/MGM, 1973)

Rhymefest: Brand New
From Blue Collar Poppin' (J, 2005)

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: Pick It Up, Lay It In the Cut
From Dap-Dippin' With... (Daptone, 2002)

I'm hardly the first to put this up but bottomline: this Ghostface track is pretty hot, no? Pete Rock produced it, flipping the Sylvers track. I wish he let the sample play more instead of only at the beginning but we're not going to be too picky here. Speaking of the sample...I wrote about this Sylvers album before but the short reminder is this: it's fuckin' awesome. One of my top 5 soul albums of all time.

Rhymefest, aka the dude who wrote most of "Jesus Walks," finally gets some time to shine with his new 12" though you might be confused since Kanye hits the track first. Here's the thing: the two share some flow similarities - should we assume Rhymefest has been ghostin' for Kanye for a minute? Or maybe it's a Chi thing. This said, I'm feeling this fonky track but I'm really blown away by the lyricism by either artist.

As for that track, apparently even the Daptones had no idea Kanye looped up one of their tracks from Sharon Jones' debut album until someone pointed it out to them. Uh oh - I expect 'Ye will be getting a ring ring from someone's copyright representation soon. It's all good - dude can afford it. (Oh yeah, and this Sharon Jones LP kicks ass, especially the cover of Janet Jackson's "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" Rock with their rhythm nation).


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

posted by O.W.

Little Joe y La Familia : Cumbia del Sol
From Que Bruto (Buena Suerte, 1972)

Latin Breed : I Turn You On
From Texas Funk 1968-1975 (Jazzman,2002)

Latin Breed: Latin Breed Theme
From The Return of The Latin Breed (GCP, 1973)

(Editor's note: Today's guest poster is Chris Cardenas who's just launched his own audioblog, Sonic Reducer.)

During the Civil Rights movements of the 60's and 70's, young Mexican-Americans were in search of their own identity. They were not Mexican enough in the eyes of older Mexicans, nor were they American enough for mainstream white America. As a result, the Chicano Movement was born. The music of this time reflects the bicultural environment that was influencing young
Chicanos. Commonly known as La Onda Chicana (The Chicano Wave) or Chicano Soul, this music is a conglomerate of traditional Mexican music, soul, funk, and R&B.

"Cumbia del Sol," is an instrumental track off the album Que Bruto from Little Joe y La Familia. Little Joe was at the forefront of La Onda Chicana. Based out of Temple, Texas, Little Joe is considered one of the most important figures in the Tex-Mex music scene.

"I Turn You On," by Latin Breed is a smokin‚ Isley Brothers cover that some say is funkier than the original. Latin Breed were one of the most popular bands to come out of San Antonio. "I Turn You On," and "Latin Breed Theme," display their trademark four part harmony horn lines... as thick and funky as a humid Texas night.


Saturday, September 17, 2005

posted by O.W.

Run DMC: Slow and Low (Demo)
From King of Rock (Deluxe Expanded Edition) (Profile, 1985/2005)

Beastie Boys: Slow and Low
From Licensed to Ill (Def Jam, 1986)

Profile Records recently re-released the first four Run DMC albums (aka "the good ones") with expanded bonus tracks. On King of Rock, one of the songs included is the original version of "Slow and Low" which Run DMC recorded as a demo back around '84/'85. The group never ended up recording it but instead, gave the song to a group of white dudes from the Lower East Side who would shadow the group in and out of the studio. When it came time for them - the Beastie Boys - to record the song, Rick Rubin re-engineered the beat but the songwriting is mostly the same as what Run DMC wrote, though the Beasties did throw in their little ad lib, "White Castle fries only come in one size!"

Not to sound blasphemous or anything but listening to these two songs side by side (I had never heard the demo version before), the Beastie Boys' take really is the superior song compared to the Run DMC's. Of course, it's probably not fair to compare a finished album track with a demo cut but the Beasties' three-man lyrical weave really helps bring the lyrics to life in a way that Run DMC's version leaves flat on the table. Provided, the Beasties didn't write the song but they delivered the better performance in this case. (And the beat knocks harder too but I'm fairly certain a final album version of "Slow and Low" by Run DMC would have had an improved track to go with it).

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

posted by O.W.

K-Stone: Flesh 2 Flesh
From 12" (Spontaneous, 1994)

Frank Hatchett: Clap Clap
From Taking Off (Statler, 198?)

I am, by nature, a packrat, especially when it comes to records. I tend to have an over-sentamentalized relationship with records, enough so that I'm loath to get rid of pieces out of my collection. But the truth is: I don't need much (if not most) of what I have and increasingly, I've been trying to get rid of what I really don't want/need.

Case in point, both songs today came off records that I owned for a minute and then decided, nah, these can go back. The first is from a 12" by Detroit's K-Stone, nowadays better known as Dogmatic from Eminem's D12 offshoot group. What initially drew my attention was how this is a vaguely "conscious" song, meditating on K-Stone's dead peers, armed with a beat that sounds like something Da Beatminerz might have left on an early demo tape. In the end, I thought, "eh, this is ok but will I ever 1) play it out or 2) put it on a tape?" Answer: no.

As for the Frank Hatchett - he's like a Gus Giordano or Johnny Frigo-type who cut his own dance instruction albums, mostly on the Statler imprint. This is probably from the late '70s or early '80s based on the sound of it. The album had a few interesting tracks - "Clap Clap" being the best in the bunch. Reminds me a little of Blondie doin' rap. The rest of the LP just wasn't strong enough for me to ever pull it out again. So back it went.

The upside to all this: at least it gives me an excuse to digitize a few tracks.

By the way... one of my blog readers (Donger in the house) pointed me to this page: The Shadow Percussion Project. Basically, this guy in Minneosta, Brian Udeholfen, decided to notate some of the songs from Endtroducing into a form that a small ensemble could play. In the end, he worked with the Minnetonka High School Percussion and they staged a concert in May, performing "Building Steam With a Grain of Salt" and "Changeling." Given that Shadow likes to compile high school band music together, it seems quite appropriate that a high school band should cover his music.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

posted by O.W.

Allen Toussaint: Soul Sister
Love, Life and Faith (Reprise, 1972)

Allen Toussaint: Southern Nights
Southern Nights (Warner, 1975)

Both available on The Allen Toussaint Collection

Bonus track - The Meters: Message From the Meters
From 7" (Josie, 1971). Also available on Message From the Meters

The last few weeks have left me spiritually, mentally and physically exhausted so I've been slower on the posts. I wanted to do a NOLA-related post today but honestly, I'm not going to do this the kind of justice it deserves. I refer people, as always, to the excellent NOLA-inspired blog Home of the Groove, which has been doing an amazing job of staying on despite how difficult it must be for Dan Phillips to trudge on as his city has gone under (literally and metaphorically).

That said though, I felt like it's only right to direct some attention at the musical legacy of NOLA - not as an elegy, but just as a reminder of how rich this city's history has been. With that, I start with Allen Toussaint, arguably the city's most renown arranger, producer, etc.

Though Toussaint is usually better known by his compositions as done by others, I wanted to go with two songs that he actually performs himself. The first is “Soul Sister,” originally from 1972, which resounds with this feel-good, folk, rock, soul mix, all underlined by a strong, funky rhythm section. Awesome song.

Meanwhile, “Southern Nights” was made far more famous when Glen Campell recorded it but this original is a revelation – it’s eerie and dreamy, very far from Campbell’s rousing Dixie-rock version even though that familiar chord progression is distinctive on both.

By the way, Toussaint had gone missing a few days but was found at the Superdome and is now, presumably, relocated elsewhere.

As for the Meters' "Message From the Meters," this formerly 7" only track has gone on to become a cult favorite, covered by both Funk Inc., and Leon Spencer, sampled by various rap artists and it's just one helluva monster groove, with some vocal upliftment. Feel this - we got to get together.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

posted by O.W.

K-Otix: George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People
From (2005)

Mos Def: Katrina Clap
From ? (2005)

Goddamn, this is why the internet is awesome - songs can get dropped quick like this. Houston's K-Otix step up and say, "yup! We got it from here, 'Ye, damn," and spinning some new lines over "Gold Digger," send a big F.U. to Dubya. Take a hit off this and pass it around.

By the way, it's been a minute since I've heard from K-Otix but they've been one of my favorite underground groups for years. Respect.
(Thanks to HHH)

Meanwhile, Mos Def gets his two cents in with "Katrina Clap": not quite as musically catchy but Mos still has them heater rhymes for Bush and, as it were, Bono.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

posted by O.W.

Joe Bataan: Subway Joe
From Subway Joe (Fania, 1968). Also available on Latin Funk Brother.

Joe Bataan: Ordinary Guy
From Gypsy Woman (Fania, 1967). Also available on Young, Gifted and Brown.

Joe Bataan: Call My Name
From Call My Name (Vampi Soul, 2004)

Over on my pop/politics blog, Poplicks, I've been neck-deep in the social, political issues raised by the Hurriance Katrina in New Orleans. I admit, it's been emotionally and intellectually exhausting, and at times, a little despairing.

That's why I'm really glad Joe Bataan came to town this weekend to play what was really and amazing, amazing show at Herbst Theater in S.F. It wasn't sold out but it felt like a capacity show and it wasn't just that the music was soul-satisfying and rousing (which it was). It was also that Bataan has incredible presence as a performer and as my friend who went with me put it: "he's like your uncle. He just makes you feel like family," and the rest of the audience clearly agreed. I'm used to hip-hop shows where everyone is mad stand-offish at times, including the performer, but here, Bataan went into the audience to hand out photos, to lead a conga line, to bring up a 12 year old girl, to kiss women and shake hands, etc. It's not that he reinvented a stage show but rather, he knew exactly how to connect to the audience and brought it to us in a way that felt real, you know? That's rare these days but at 62, with 40 years in the music business, Bataan knows how to make that real for you. It was, without doubt, one of the best live shows I've been to in years and I hope, as Bataan is back on the touring circuit, others go out and see him.

I could get into why I find Bataan's music and career so special but I already do that in my story on Joe from this week's SF Bay Guardian. The short version is that he's had a really remarkable career and that he's an undersung but pivotal innovator in music since the mid-1960s. I'll be writing more about Joe in the future, don't you worry. I was also honored to sit in on his rehearsals last night (that's where the above photo comes from) and just see him work, up close and personal.

But ok, onto the songs. I start with one of his first big boogaloo hits, "Subway Joe," off the Fania album by the same name. Bataan wasn't the first boogaloo master - he followed in the footsteps of folks like Joe Cuba, Pete Rodriguez, and others - but what he brought into the genre was a real soulfulness that wasn't always present in the more party-song style of other key boogaloo figures. You also was very much into storytelling and "Subway Joe" is a perfect example of such.

"Ordinary Guy," has been Joe's trademark for years - he's recorded at least four versions of it, in different styles, over the years and it bespeaks his modesty and humility. It's also a superb sweet soul song - a signature track that is a great entry point into appreciating how he really innovated the entire Latin Soul genre.

Last but not least, Joe disappeared from recording for about 20 years but when he came back to it, he really blew a lot of folks minds on his Call My Name album, released by Spain's Vampi Soul and about to be put back out in U.S. rotation by Seattle's Light in the Attic. Imagine Bataan singing over smartly produced funk and soul tracks that both nod to his legacy but give it a different twist and that's what Call My Name is about. I personally really like the title track so I included it here.

Joe's got another album due out by winter called The Message which is coming out on his own label, JoBa Records. Keep an eye out for it or just keep an eye here. I'll certainly be talking about in the months to come.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 02, 2005

posted by O.W.

The folks at - a funk/hip-hop related message board - came up with a creative (and so far, very successful) way to raise money to donate to the Katrina relief funds (Red Cross). Since the board is full of record collecting psycho-nerds (myself being one of them), folks are donating records to be auctioned off on the site (f--- an eBay fee). All money for the LP will be donated to the quickly swelling fund, already up past $10000 now. Yeah, TEN THOUSAND (they had a matching donation set up by a member's employer).

This is not for bargain record shoppers, but if you were going to donate anyways, at least you can get some cool music along the way. Right now, goodies include original copies of:
  • Skull Snaps
  • Soul Searchers
  • Silver Apples
  • Chuck Carbo
    ...and dozens more.

    I'll be joining the soiree shortly, probably throwing up a copy of Pete Rock and CL Smooth's Mecca and the Soul Brother (original, of course).