Tuesday, November 29, 2005

posted by O.W.

Dream Warriors + Gang Starr: I Lost My Ignorance (Gang Starr Remix)
From "Follow Me Not" 12" (4th and B'way, 1991: Germany)

Kool G Rap: It's a Shame (Butcher Mix)
From "Fast Life" 12" (Epic, 1995)

A quick update for mid-week with two cuts I had sitting around for a minute.

I'm not going to lie and say the Dream Warriors were unsung MCs - they were never that great, but they did have good taste in music and as it was on this song: partners. Gang Starr joined the Warriors for "I Lost My Ignorance" (a pairing sure to make all the acid jazz kids go nuts) and while the original version wasn't bad, this Gang Starr remix (which only appears on German copies of the "Follow Me Not" single) is considerably better with its smooth basslines and electric keys. It's almost good enough to make you forget the corny chorus.

As for the Butcher remix of "It's a Shame," that dark, moody loop (taken from, if I recall, a Ryo Kawasaki LP) is ace, sounding almost as ill as Kool G. Rap does. This track makes me nostalgic for G. Rap at his prime: straight up, one of the baaaaaaaaadest MFers to touch the mic; one line from him is more menacing than the G-Unit's entire catalog.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

posted by O.W.

Paul Nice: Soul On the GrillĀ 
From Soul On the Grill Vol. 1 (2004)

I've been meaning to mention this mix-CD for ages and finally got around to it. Paul Nice is one of those DJs who doesn't have to lace his tapes with the most obscure joints: he knows how to take perfectly common songs but cut and mix them together in a way that makes you completely appreciate both his skills and the quality of the songs themselves. This approach is straightforward and clean, balancing a good party DJs sensibilities with a few tricks but nothing close to the kind of masturbatory scratch routines some turntablists will go into. For example, check out how he flips "Home Is Where the Hatred Is" by Esther Phillips (the second song in that snippet mix above).

Simply put, if you want a great mix-CD filled with an excellent selection of '70s soul (some songs you've heard before, some you haven't), I guarantee this will likely stay in constant rotation for weeks.

Since releasing this volume, Paul Nice has also come up with a Vol 2: The '80s sequel as well as a nice Brazil anthology (not hyper-mixed, just good selections)

Friday, November 25, 2005

posted by O.W.

Bobbi Humphrey: Blacks and Blues
From Blacks and Blues (Blue Note, 1973)

Donald Byrd: Wind Parade
From Places and Spaces (Blue Note, 1975)

Both available on The Mizell Brothers: Mizell

As one of Blue Note's main producers during the mid-1970s, the Mizell Brothers sound was so distinctive that you could spot their signature on a song within the first few bars. I'm sure there's a better way to put this but their style was what I would call proto-disco soul; take a listen to a song like "Wind Parade" and you can definitely hear how disco would evolve out of this particular aesthetic: the vocals, the long, building tracks, the shiny studio sound, etc. The Mizells park their sound somewhere between Saturday night and Sunday afternoon if you follow me.

Their work for Donald Byrd's Spaces and Places is probably amongst their best known (though their production for the Blackbyrds is equally popular) and songs like "Wind Parade" and "Fallin' Like Dominoes" are indisputable classics of mid-70s soul-jazz. My favorite Mizell's related track though is Bobbi Humphrey's sublimely mellow "Blacks and Blues" - I love how it foregrounds Jerry Peters' beautiful piano work at the front end and Humphrey's flute floats in with a nice subtlety as does Fonce Mizell's clavinet. It's a great arrangement - memorable from jump and a song you can come back to a dozen times over and never tire of.

By the way, this Mizell anthology that Blue Note has just released includes at least two previously unreleased tracks (though I wasn't really blown away by either) from Donald Byrd and Gary Bartz respectively. Worth noting for completionists or just the curious. Also, Blue Note is sponsoring a contest tied into their recent releases (including the Mizell comp and that Axelrod anthology I put up last time).


Saturday, November 19, 2005

posted by O.W.

Lou Rawls: You've Made Me So Very Happy
From You've Made Me So Very Happy (Blue Note, 1969)

David Axelrod: Human Abstract
From Songs of Experience (Capitol, 1969)

Both featured on The Edge: David Axelrod At Capitol Records 1966-1970.

Not like he ever really disappeared off of anyone's radar screen but David Axelrod's making quite the comeback of late. Not only does he grace the latest issue of Wax Poetics but as we noted in our last Axelrod-related post, Eothen "Egon" Alapatt (Stonesthrow) has compiled and re-mastered a selection of different productions from Axelrod's prodigious years spent at Capitol Records in Los Angeles.

Let's be candid here - the fact that it's limited only to Capitol means that some of Axelrod's best work doesn't appear: his production for the Electric Prunes, his later '70s output for Polydor and MCA, etc. Also, I am really curious as to why "Holy Thursday" (which was recorded for Capitol) is absent on this anthology considering that it's one of Axelrod's most celebrated (not to mention sampled) compositions. This said, the material on here is still stunning, whether you're an Axelrod junkie from way back when or a newcomer to his material.

I for one had totally forgotten how good Rawls' version of "You've Made Me So Very Happy" is, especially with that soulful piano melody at the beginning; it adds a whole new dimension to the song, alongside the vocal accompaniment. I also love how they bring it back in after the last bridge. A remarkable production and arrangement.

As good as that is though, "Human Abstract" goes so much deeper (how deep? Seriously deep). The song builds a slow burn with a simple acoustic piano melody that quickly becomes the song's core refrain, playing itself over and over on keys and later, strings: the effect is both melancholy and mesmerizing. The song is also a showcase for Carol Kaye's distinctive bass work and she's plucking her way throughout. All these elements flow into the solemnity of the track; the song feels like heavy rain in the summer.


Monday, November 14, 2005

posted by O.W.

Isaac Hayes: The Look of Love
From To Be Continued (Enterprise, 1970)

Isaac Hayes: Need To Belong To Someone
From Black Moses (Enterprise, 1971)

Both available on Ultimate Isaac Hayes: Can You Dig It?

Isaac Hayes has been enjoying a resurgence in attention lately, and no, not just because of the new season of South Park (the fact that Hayes plays "Chef" is both awesome and bizarre). An anthology of Hayes' Stax years, where he recorded his best and most influential records, has just come out.

I have to say, I'm a little surprised this album is missing "Walk On By," considering how monster a song it is and how popular it's been in other contexts (soundtracks and sampling) but The selection here covers a nice diversity of different sounds and eras within Hayes' own mercurial career. "The Look of Love" captures the same kind of vibe that "Walk On By" has: take a Burt Bacharach standard, give it a huge symphonic sound, and make it sultry enough to seduce the pants off singles everywhere. God bless Barry White but Isaac's slow burn grooves were just as good.

"Need to Belong to Someone" sounds a lot like the Originals' "Sunrise" doesn't it? Just or Kanye needs to play with those intro horns - awesome stuff. Seriously though, this song, in particular, very much reminds me of Gamble and Huff or MFSB for some reason...the guitars are Memphis but the horns feel really Philly to me. Great song, either way.

If the whole of your Isaac Hayes begins and ends with Shaft, do yourself a favor and check out, Can You Dig It? (Yes, we can).

Bonus Beat:

Hawkeye: Still Jivin'
From Breakbeatraer (Melting Pot, 2005)

Meant to get this up earlier...my wacky brethren at Soulstrut.com have put their music where their mouths are and come up with a quartet of tracks for beat fanatics. Peep how Hawkeye flips on the Co Real Artists' "What About You" with his funky dance twister.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

posted by O.W.

Dorando: Didn't I
From 7" (Music City, 197?)

Ira Sullivan: The Kingdom Within You
From Strings Attached (PAUSA, 1984)

Both availalbe on Gilles Peterson's Digs America: Brownswood U.S.A.

Seriously, I don't get paid a promotional fee for plugging Ubiquity's albums but lately, they've just been rolling out all kinds of goodies and I can't help but want to ride for 'em. The latest is Gilles Peterson's Digs America: Brownswood U.S.A. comp...normally, I would have glanced at this anyways since Gilles has pretty damn good taste in music but he really outdoes himself with the selections on here. I can't even think of the last compilation that was this consistent in both quality and diversity. To put it another way, it's the kind of compilation I'd want to do. (Sadly, Gilles was actually at the Groove Merchant a few weeks back when I was there but I had no idea it was him until after he left the store. Perhaps the British accent and good taste in obscure jazz vocal albums should have given that away).

Frankly, I could have milked this thing for a dozen posts but I'll just content myself to plucking two songs off. First is an amazing soul ballad from a local Bay Area artist, Dorando. "Didn't I" has been a favorite among sweet soul collectors for a minute but he's far from a household name. As it is, my friend Justin Torres is helping to cut a comp for (guess who?) Ubiquity that will re-release Dorando's material, including some never-heard-before tunes. "Didn't I," from what I've heard, is about as good as it ever gets though and really, it's hard to imagine something that could top this. This is a song you need in your life. For real.

I switched up gears and went with Ira Sullivan's strange, sublime "The Kingdom Within You" for the other selection. As my Ben Sidran post from a few weeks indicated, I've really been feeling songs with good string accompaniments and this Sullivan track has the added bonus of vocals that take the song to that proverbial next level. The singing isn't the most on-key perfection you've ever heard but all the elements work on this track, especially on the chorus.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

posted by O.W.

I'm really tardy in posting this stuff up but hey, better late than...

Last month, Jesse Thorn of The Sound of Young America interviewed music historian Peter Guralnick (he being of Sweet Soul Music and Lost Highway fame) to discuss Guralnick's new book on Sam Cooke, called Dream Boogie.

Listen here.

Ian, one of our guest bloggers from earlier this year has an entire site dedicated to Northern Soul, 2 Minutes of Bliss. On it, there's a link to a massive BBC Radio documentary on the scene.