Sunday, February 26, 2006

posted by O.W.

A Soul-Sides/MAN Black History Month Collaboration

Written by Mark Anthony Neal

The thing that has always struck about the Soul music of the late 1960s and the 1970s was not simply that some of it aimed to be political but that this was music that took seriously the challenges of being black in America.  When cats weren’t being “black and proud” that needed to find ways to pay the bills, keep the peace at home, provide for aging elders, do the laundry, toss jacks with the babies on the floor and any number of things that make for the everyday that is this thing called life..  It’s not that this era had its lack of party and bullshit—can Rufus Thomas get some love?—but the music of this era simply had a gravitas about it. This was music that was a product of an era that was largely unprecedented—some semblance of social justice for the former shackled and enslaved—where folk could really take the time to imagine a life well lived.


1. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway: Be Real Black For Me
Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway (Atlantic, 1972)

Culled from their first full-length collaboration Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway rings like the Breaking Bread tome that Cornel West and bell hooks would craft nearly two decades later.  Just some grown ass folks talking about some grown-ass ish.  Though some might read “Be Real Black” as some essentialist trap that discourages inter-racial relationships on the one hand and then ups the ante on “real” blackness on the other, the emphasis here is on the “be real”—the blackness was assumed. Flack went on to become a major star in the years after this recording—on par with Carole King and Joni Mitchell in that singer-song-writer sense—and Hathaway, unfortunately became another entry into the Soul-Man tragedy.

2. Stevie Wonder: Heaven Help Us All
Signed, Sealed, Delivered (Tamla, 1970)

Innervisions, with the brilliant “Living for the City” was seen as the great breakthrough in Stevie Wonder’s political consciousness, but the seeds were already there  on discs like Music on My Mind, Talking Book and even Signed, Sealed and Delivered, which is where “Heaven Help Us All” is drawn from.  Recorded during the midst of the madness that was the late 1960s and early 1970s, Wonder pleads the cause for all involved, especially the people with “their backs against the wall.”  Brilliant in its simplicity—majestic for its insight—Wonder delivered a prayer in what would be the opening salvo of what would become one of the most extraordinary commercial and critical runs ever experienced by a pop artist.

3. Esther Phillips: Home is Where the Hatred Is
From a Whisper To a Scream (Kudu, 1972).
Also on
Home Is Where the Hatred Is.

The song is  Gil Scott-Heron’s—an unfortunate premonition to the illicit drug dramas that would dog hip-hop’s god-father griot for years to come.  Esther Phillips knew quite a bit about those dramas having been on the road since she was a teenager in the late 1940s—It’s like Phillips’ version of  “Home is Where the Hatred Is” gets at a core that Scott-Heron wasn’t even ready to deal with.  Always well regarded by serious fans of rhythm and blues, Phillips’s  CTI recordings in the 1970s, including From a Whisper to a Scream, where “Home…” is taken from, helped introduce her to a broader audience.  And of course it helped that her version of “Home…” sounds like the soundtrack to a Blaxploitation film yet to be made.

4. Aretha Franklin: Precious Lord/You’ve Got a Friend
Amazing Grace (Atlantic, 1972)

Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace is a singular achievement: a pop-diva at her peak, the Queen of Soul in full regalia, taking her loyal subjects back to her roots—and indeed the roots of the revolution—not on the industry’s terms, but in the spirit of folk like the ailing Clara Ward (who sat in a front pew) and a still-on-his journey Thomas Dorsey.  It was Carole King who helped Ms. Franklin achieve cross-over success via the memorable “Natural Women”, but in “this house, on this morning” Ms Franklin wanted folk to remember that she was a product of “this house” and the music that is still its foundation even as it brings the house down every Sunday morning.  So “Precious Lord/You’ve Got a Friend” brings Carole King in conversation with Thomas Dorsey (the once and famous “Georgia Tom”) and it a quintessential American moment.

5. Isaac Hayes: They Long to Be (Close to You)
Black Moses (Stax, 1971)

And he parted the Soul Seas…Too often though, folk reduce Isaac Hayes’s legacy to the Shaft soundtrack and yeah that’s a hell of a legacy, one that earned the man an Oscar.  Before Shaft Hayes genius was already established on recordings like Hot Buttered Soul and …To be Continued.  Anticipating folk like Gene Page, Barry White, and Paul Riser, Hayes in the late 1960s and early 1970s laid down the foundations for what could only be called Symphonic Soul.  And then at the height of his fame he made his biggest cultural statement: Black Moses, a double-album dissertation on the sound of Soul and one that we too often forget when the conversation turns to Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life or Prince’s Sign o’ the Times. So Hayes takes the wonder-ist (as in the bread) of white-bread pop—the Carpenter’s “They Long to Be (Close to You)—and transforms it into nine-minutes of Memphis drenched sunrise, replete with beats that crate-diggers would be mining for decades after. 

6. The Isley Brothers: Get Into Something
Get Into Something (T-Neck, 1970)

Mr. Biggs (aka Ronald Isley) is just one of the manifestations of the Brothers Isley—a natural progression from the baby-making era of “Between the Sheets” (1983) and “Spend the Night” (1989). Somewhere around 1975 the Brothers Isley—who have been doin’ this  thang for damn near 50 years—found their niche, cliché as it may be, in smooth grooves like “For the Love of You”, “Voyage to Atlantis” and “Footprints in the Dark”. For those who weren’t down with the brothers from the T-Neck days (and before) the 3+3 era of “That Lady” and “Summer Breeze” is nothing short of foreign concept; The Brothers Isley as rockers?  For my money it was that period between “It’s Your Thang” (their breakthrough single from 1969) and 3+3 that was most interesting as you can literally hear the brothers push the boundaries of expectation. And thus you get the 7-minutes of sipping-syrup funk that is “Get Into Something” decades before DJ Screw drips off the lips of the H-Town faithful.  “Get Into Something” captures that moment when there is nothing but expectation and little care about what it was supposed to look like—just get into sumthin’.

7. Billy Paul: This is Your Life
Going East (USA Philadelphia Int'l, 1971)

Jimmy Webb—he of 1960s white-bread complexity--wrote the song.  I first heard the song via a version by Norman Connors sung so sweetly by Eleanor Mills.  I first heard Billy Paul’s version on MLK Day (‘86’ or ’87) when ‘BLS’s Franklie Crocker (the “Chief” Rocker) mixed the song’s intro behind the oratory of MLK.  It would be years before I would track down the vinyl to Going East (1971)—a gem of an album Paul released before the soiree with “Mrs. Jones”.  Paul is pictured with the still lovely Nancy Wilson on the back jacket of Going East—it was meant as an introduction of sorts. Tracks like “Love Buddies” (a real “Quiet Storm” classic), “There’s a Small Hotel” and the aforementioned “This is Your Life” captured Paul in his element

8. The Emotions: Peace Be Still
Wattstax (Stax, 1972)

The Emotions were one of the many acts invited to perform at Wattstax, but due to scheduling conflicts the trio was forced to perform in a local church in Watts. “Peace Be Still” was a composition written by the legendary James Cleveland, who was at the peak of his fame and influence when The Emotions took on his baby. Though Cleveland wasn’t exactly long-in-the-tooth this performance has the feel of the passing of a torch—the old guard of the Civil Rights era giving way to the first generation Soul Babies.  The “Country Preacher” (Rev. Jesse Jackson) can be heard in the background throughout grunting and groaning encouragement to the sisters.  It would be a few years before The Emotions would have any real commercial success, via “The Best of My Love” (1977) and their galactic collaboration with Earth, Wind and Fire on “Boogie Wonderland” (1979). 

Saturday, February 25, 2006

posted by O.W.

Darondo: Didn't I + Let My People Go (snippet)
From Let My People Go (Luv N Haight, 2006)

Darondo: Didn't I + Make It Right(?)
From Taped Interview with Justin Torres and Dave Gabriner (2005)

The last time I wrote about Darondo (and misspelled his name), people responded strongly to his song, "Didn't I," and hey, I can't blame you: it's one of the most sublime songs I've ever heard.

I recently had the opportunity to write about "Double D" Darondo (when the piece actually runs, I'll let ya'll know where it appears) and he's such a fascinating figure. Raised in the Bay, he was leading a house band in Albany as a high school student. Became a pimp in the 1960s and stayed pimping until the early '80s and in the middle of that, he dropped three singles (six songs total), all of which are ridiculously rare. Then he left the music business and hasn't been back since.

Thankfully, the folks at Luv N Haight, with help from my friend Justin Torres, just released Let My People Go which not only includes those six songs, but also includes three songs from a previously unreleased reel recovered from some dusty box in Darondo's attic (or so we assume).

Just because I like Darondo's story and voice so much, I'm dropping a few cuts on you, including some special tracks. I had to put "Didn't I" back into play just because it's that damn good. I also put up a snippet of the album's title track, a really amazing Black Power anthem that appeared on his last single, done for Af-Fa Records.

Now, here's the bonus: Justin Torres and Dave Gabriner interviewed Darondo last fall, happened to borrow my mini-disc recorder for it. During the interview, he asked Darondo to blow the dust off his guitar and play some tunes; he hadn't played or sung in a long time and there are points on the tape where he's fumbling to remember what the lines are or what key the song was supposed to be played in. That said, even when fumbling, he's mesmerizing.

With Justin's permission, I included a short version of "Didn't I" (he tried the song three times but never got past the first verse). I also included a song that Darondo never released (I don't know if he ever recorded it) and lacking a title, I just dubbed it "Make It Right," taken from one of the lines. You can hear Justin and Dave at the end, expressing how blown away they are by it. I second that emotion.

(I forgot to mention, in the early '80s, Darondo started to host a variety of programs for Soul Beat, a local cable channel. The Luv N' Haight website has clips from the show: truly bugged stuff. My favorite is "Wish you were here."

2/25 Update: Weekend America ran a segment on Darondo today. In fact, they interview Justin and he mentions the songs taped above.
3/13 Update: "Didn't I" is today's NPR Song of the Day


Friday, February 24, 2006

posted by O.W.

People sometimes write to ask what I use to help put together Soul Sides and I thought I should give ample credit to the various software programs that I heavily depend on. Keep in mind: I'm a Mac guy so some of these won't apply to PC folk (too bad for you):

For Sound Editing: Sound Studio 3.

Not only does it do basic recording and sound editing, but it has a nice array of useful filters (I use the "Fade In/Fade Out" ones all the time) and the new version now comes equipped with multi-tracking capabilities for people who want to get really fancy or even just do basic podcasting. I know Garage Band can do many of the same things as well but frankly, for ease of use (as well as lower demands on your CPU), Sound Studio 3 will do you just as well, if not better.

For Batch MP3 Conversions: iTunes-LAME

Sound Studio will let you save files as MP3s but if you want to do conversions in batches (which I frequently do), then this program combines the relative ease of iTunes with the superior MP3 encoding of the LAME standard (though they really need a better name).

For Blogging: Ecto

I'm sure there are many desktop interfaces that work with different blogging hosts but so far, I've found Ecto to be ace. I didn't think it'd make that much of a difference but being able to edit and post new blogs from my desktop (as opposed to having to log into a website) makes a huge difference in speed and convenience. The most powerful feature for folks like me is that it allows me to manage multiple blogs at once (I have about six or seven that I update at least once a month). Try it once and you'll never want to go back.

For FTP: Transmit 3

Simple, intuitive yet with many powerful features. I used to be an avid user of Fetch and Transmit was strong enough to make me switch over.

Anything I miss? Ask in the comments section.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

posted by O.W.

Eddie Fisher: Jeremiah Pucket + East St. Louis Blues
From Eddie Fisher and the Next One Hundred Years (Cadet, 1970)

It's no secret - by me or any collector of soul-jazz - that Fisher's One Hundred Years LP is a favorite. He wasn't as high-profile as, say, Phil Upchurch or prolific as Grant Green but Fisher's got a deep fan following, much of it due to this album in particular. It was out of print for decades but I suspect the cult interest in the album, fueled by internet-hunting record diggers, high profile articles (Wax Poetics), and other sources lead Verve (which now controls the Cadet catalog) to reissue it.

It is, to be sure, a remarkable album, beautifully balancing Fisher's background in both blues and jazz with a budding interest in the kind of electric guitar dabblings that everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Eddie Hazel were experimenting with. It all comes together on the very first song, "Jeremiah Pucket," as great a song that bridges together all these elements as you could ask for. I've also included Fisher's ode to his old neighborhood: "East St. Louis Blues" as another example of how well Fisher pulls off this unique sound.

*By the way, one of the remarkable things about the internet is how the most random people will find you - and no, I don't mean stalker ex-boy/girlfriends. I originally wrote about this Eddie Fisher album back in 2000, back when Soul Sides was just a record review site vs. an audioblog (oh, if I only had thought of the potential back in the day...) and also posted one of his songs from another album, The Third Cup back in Nov. 2004. From these two things, Eddie Fisher's son (who lives in the Bay Area) tracked me down and we swapped correspondence a few times, leading up to the re-release of the album. He actually hand-delivered the album to me and showed me some great photos he took of his father (should've scanned one, now that I think about it). Anyways, that was a real honor and I'm glad to have played any role in helping bring attention to this fantastic album.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

posted by O.W.

I had the occasion to speak to Joe Bataan over this weekend and given that he and Ray Barretto were both at Fania Records at the same time in the mid/late '60s, I wanted to know what Joe remembered of his old colleague:
    "We hung out together, we partied together. He had a very silent sense of humor. A tall, lanky guy, very soft-spoken. He was a gentle giant.

    He had the “Watusi” that was very influential, as far as I’m concerned, because it was done in the “American” vein and it crossed [over]. One of the first records that crossed, it was a big seller. What it did, it incorporated the Blacks...the beat allowed Blacks to dance. The combination of that with the Latin feel opened it up. The Jews found the music in the Palladium with the Puentes and Palmieris but with the “Watusi” it started bring in the Blacks into the music venture of Latinos; it’s like Eddie Palmieri did with “Asúcar.” The beat and the clave is what connected for the audience. That opened the doors and that’s what gave young guys like myself [the idea] that we could do something one day.

    I know he ventured into jazz a lot...he played with a lot of the jazz greats like Chano Pozo. Barretto learned from him; he was the second coming of Chano Pozo. Very influential, his sound was very distinct, his arrangements. To this day, beloved by Latinos all over the world. He will be sorely missed." -
    Joe Bataan, 2/19/06


posted by O.W.

Ray Barretto: El Watusi
From Charanga Moderna (Tico, 1962)

Boogaloo Con Soul
From Latino Con Soul (United Artists, 1967)

Acid + A Deeper Shade of Soul
From Acid (Fania, 1967)

From Together (Fania, 1969)

From Our Latin Thing (Fania, 1972)

Slo Flo
From Barretto Live: Tomorrow (Atlantic, 1976)

(Editor's Note: Jeff Chang and I collaborated on the following post. I write the following:)


Ray Barretto passed away on Friday from heart failure, at age 76.

With his signature, thick-rimmed glasses, Barretto never looked like what'd you expect from a king of Latin percussion: he seemed more like, well, your accountant maybe. Yet even if he never became as famous as his fellow conguero Mongo Santamaria, for many Latin music aficionados, he was just as revered, if not more, especially given a late career resurgence in the last five years. Barretto was also part of a larger wave of great percussionists to come out of New York, alongside Tito Puente, Willie Bobo and Sabu Martinez and of that bunch, none was as influential as Barretto in helping to push the Latin soul sound in the 1960s and '70s.

Barretto's early influences came out of the Latin jazz experimentations of the 1950s, specifically Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca" which became one of Barretto's early hits during his years as a studio sessionist and sideman, recording for Blue Note, Riverside and Prestige. His emergence as a bandleader came with Riverside but it was his move over to George Goldner's Tico Records (the king of Latin labels until Fania came along) that yielded Barretto's first huge hit: "El Watusi".

"El Watusi" was a charanga, one of the precursors to the boogaloo - you can hear on "Watusi" how boogaloo would build on the same basic elements as the charanga: piano-lead rhythm section, hand claps, and an irresistible dance groove (albeit at a much slower tempo).

Barretto rode the success of "El Watusi" for years: his next album for Tico was called El Watusi Man, two years later he released, Viva Watusi!. By 1967 however, Barretto had moved onto trying to capitalize on the boogaloo craze, recording his Latino Con Soul (a simple but rather genius title) for United Artists. "Boogaloo Con Soul" comes from that LP (the title is a bit redundant since, technically speaking, the "con soul" part is implicit in boogaloo songs). It's a cool tune, one of the slower boogaloos out there, especially in comparison to Joe Cuba or Pete Rodriguez's hits of the same era. It's also longer than most, clocking in just over five minutes and in that respect, many of Barretto's boogaloos nodded to his background in jazz and the longer compositions of the genre.

After Latino Con Soul, Barretto moved over to Jerry Masucci and Johnny Pacecho's Fania imprint - then still a fledging label - and then released Acid which is, hands-down, the greatest Latin soul album ever recorded. I say this not simply because it had some of the best songs in the genre, but it was also a surprisingly consistent album. Many Latin LPs in the mid/late '60s (and really, Acid is more of a post-boogaloo LP, especially in how it pushed the genre forward) tended to try to touch one at least three or four different dance rhythms: so you'd have a boogaloo or two here, a mambo there, a shing-a-ling there, etc. Acid, in comparison, was one of the rare albums of the era that embraced Latin soul (and jazz) wholeheartedly, not afraid to play the crossover card with songs that were clearly a meeting point between the Brown and Black musical cultures of New York. Barretto wasn't alone in this regard - Joe Bataan would be another obvious example - but Acid ranks as the album that did it best.

The title track is a monster, blending both soul, Latin and jazz. I remember the first time I heard this: Chairman Mao was playing it at the Saturday night weekly he and Citizen Kane used to share at APT in Manhattan. I usually don't try to sweat the DJ but when this came on, I had to ask Mao what the hell it was. Believe me, over a club system, the song is amazing.

The track wasn't alone: other notable songs were the epic "Espiritu Libre," the raucous "Soul Drummers," fairly straight forward boogaloos like "Mercy, Mercy, Baby" and "Teacher of Love" and a personal favorite: "A Deeper Shade of Soul" (which became the source for a song by the same name in the late '80s by a European group called the Urban Dance Sqaud).

Following Acid, Barretto put together several more Latin soul themed albums including Hard Hands, the compilation Head Sounds (which was basically a few key cuts from Acid plus a handful of new songs including "Drum Poem" and a version of "Tin Tin Deo", and Together. The title song, "Together" is a stunner, not only for its fiery rhythm (which seriously kick ass) but listen to the song content: it's a definitive post-Civil Rights Era anthem that I'll put up against anything from James Brown.

(Jeff takes over from here):

Barretto's records for Fania were some of the label's firsts, and paved the way for the experimental, probing, but always relentlessly dance-able records to follow. Barretto found the groove and then opened it wide.

Fania Records ushered in the "Golden Age of Salsa", and the historical parallels to what happened in hip-hop during the late 80s are striking. Salsa was a conscious effort to frame a particular world-view in sound: an Afrocentric brown-power music, if you will. Barretto's contribution was key. Album manifestos like Que Viva La Musica and Barretto Power made him the KRS-One of salsa, to Eddie Palmieri's Chuck D.

(You might even think of Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe as the Ice Cube and Dr. Dre of salsa. The very existence of the Fania All-Stars was extraordinary—as if the Stop the Violence Movement wasn't just a one-off but a central, ongoing project!)

Just as importantly, Barretto helped shape Fania's seminal sound, which was essentially a Puerto Rican update of classic Cuban music, extended into descargas or jams. To extend Oliver's observation above, the sound was meant to move past the fast cycle of dance crazes into something more capital-I "Important", something that was literally art for the people, in exactly the same way that P.E. set out to end an era characterized by fads like the Wop, the Cabbage Patch, and the Robocop with a conscious nod to a tradition of Black music and political struggle. Salsa took it black to the future.

One of Barretto's biggest hits, "Cocinando", alludes to Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va" and Celia Cruz and La Sonora Matancera's "Cha Cha Guere", but extends the themes into a nice long solo vehicle. At once, the music is meant to be more contemplative and virtuousic. The version here by the Fania All-Stars—where I've edited in a brief interview with him at the beginning—is from the label's biggest sound-and-vision statement, the movie feature Our Latin Thing (Nuestra Cosa).

In the mid-70s, now feeling stifled by salsa, Barretto left Fania. In a sense he was right on time. Groups like Santana, El Chicano, Malo, War, Earth, Wind & Fire, and War had taken Latin rhythms into the pop mainstream. And this was also the heyday of what would become known as the breakbeat—with Latinized, globalized funk coming from the Jimmy Castor Bunch, the Incredible Bongo Band, and Babe Ruth. The time had finally come for the sounds Barretto had pioneered during the 60s. In the liner notes to the classic 1976 live album Tomorrow, he wrote, "Gracias to la gente, the people who came out and kept us alive while they waited for the rest of the world to catch up!"

"Slo Flo" is a monster jam from that album. Barretto's playing is masterful throughout, and this is an all-but-forgotten gem of the era, known mainly to serious Latin music heads and breakbeat fans. Like a lot of other Latin musicians, he migrated toward disco. It was simply the latest dance thing. A hustle anthem, "Stargazer", is from 1978, and Barretto's precision breakdowns would be imitated by house bands who played behind the earliest hip-hop records between 1979 and 1982.

Though he never got the credit, it's hard to conceive of hip-hop's backbeat these days without Hard Hands. He laid it down, and people followed, improvised on over it, whether with their sampling machines or their hips. He never asked for much more.

Be sure also to visit Captain Crate's Barretto tribute.

Labels: , ,

Monday, February 13, 2006

posted by O.W.

Pharcyde: She Said (remix)
From 12" (Delicious Vinyl, 1996)

A Tribe Called Quest: Busta's Lament
From The Love Movement (Jive, 1998)

Slum Village: Fall In Love
From Fantastic Vol 2. (Goodvibe, 2000)

Jay Dee: Fuck the Police
From 12" (Up Above, 2001)

Jay Dee: Last Donut of the Night
From Donuts (Stonesthrow, 2006)

I was originally planning on writing a Jay Dee primer but emotionally, it just seemed a bit too distanced. I'll do another post later for the uninitiated but today's is meant to be more personal.

Let me start by saying that I had never really thought of Jay Dee as one of my favorite producers of all time. I had always liked his work, respected how much others respected him, but when I think about my favorite beatmakers, names like DJ Premier or Diamond D or even Kanye West and Just Blaze tend to pop up first.

Yet, when I went back and started listening to older Dilla songs, I was struck 1) by how much I still liked them, including ones that are 10 years old and 2) that there was something very distinctive about Jay Dee's production that explained why they weren't always at the forefront of my mind.

My friend Hua nailed it right on the head: Dilla's beats were "anti-anthemic" which is quite unlike other hip-hop songs which deliberately want to stick in your head as much as possible. It's not that Dilla wanted his tracks to be ignored but their brilliance were precisely in how subtle they were. Jay Dee filtered most of his samples, sponging over obvious melodic loops or snippets, and instead, left you with impressions and moods, or as Hua noted, "textures and ambiance." If all this sounds rather vague that's exactly the point: Dilla's tracks had a kind of vagueness to them: you couldn't always pinpoint where the "hook" was. Instead, it's the "feel" of the beat that beckoned you in, wrapped you in its warmth (and Dilla's beats all exuded warmth), and generally, left you feeling good.

Case in point: the "She Said" remix was one of Dilla's early productions (he had, of course, produced much of Labcabincalifornia, much to the delight of some, the horror of others) and despite the song's more melancholy content, the track has that "happy/sad" quality that great songwriters aim for. On a personal level, when I was listening to this again, it brought back a rush of nostalgia though I'm not even sure for what. I had this vision of listening to it, driving through West L.A. which might be possible though I think the song actually invented a memory rather than tapped into an old one.

"Busta's Lament" was a random album track off A Tribe Called Quest's final album but I liked it best of all the songs on that LP. This, to me, is what a "happy" track should sound like; music that brings a smile to your lips, brightens your day but isn't saccharin or cheesy. I remember actually putting the song on a mixtape but I mastered it from CASSETTE because the vinyl wasn't out yet; that's how much I liked it.

"Fall In Love" is one of the first Slum Village songs I heard and from what I've seen, it is, by far, the favorite SV track for a lot of cats. It's such a perfect Jay Dee track: start with that crunchy breakbeat, then drop in that mesmerizing (filtered) sample that embodies the Dilla aesthetic; it smudges over the obvious parts of the sample (except on the chorus) yet you can't get enough of it. Great hook too.

"Fuck the Police" is another fan favorite - when it first came out, people were blown away by it, not just because of the song title (which, by 2001, is rather tame if you think about it) but the track was insane with its blistering, crackling drums and that flute sample running underneath. This is one of the exceptions to the "anti-anthem" standard: this song was meant to be heard and remembered even if Dilla had to drill a hole in your head to do it.

Lastly, it seems only appropriate to include something from Donuts, the album that came out just the Tuesday before Dilla passed. With a melancholy heart, I noted that the very last song on the album was called "The Last Donut of the Night." (And the song before that is called "Bye"). Seemed only right to end on that note.

Saw this on the website:
    "On behalf of Mrs. Yancey we ask that in lieu of flowers, any heartfelt donations be made payable and sent to a fund which has been established in her name:

    Made Payable to Mrs. Maureen Yancey

    Donations can be mailed to:

    Maureen Yancey
    132 N. Sycamore Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90036

    Bank Wires can be sent to:

    Wells Fargo Bank of Los Angeles, CA
    Routing Number: 122000247
    Account Number: 6043250676

    Please note that donations made to Mrs. Yancey are not considered a charitable deduction. This will be considered a gift of help."

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 02, 2006

posted by O.W.

Steve Parks: Movin' In The Right Direction
From Movin' In the Right Direction (Solid Smoke, 1980)

The 3 Pieces: Backed Up Against the Wall
From Vibes of Truth (Fantasy, 1975)

I don't profess to know much about so-called "modern soul." In fact, I think one sure sign of knowing nothing about modern soul is actually using the term. Well, maybe that's not exactly right...our valued colleague over at The Number One Songs In Heaven has a "brief history of modern soul" which defines the genre vis a vis Northern Soul.

When I use the term, I'm mostly talking about a sound - it's a style of soul that's slicker than the R&B of the early '70s, more "shiny" if that makes any sense. It's timeline and style definitely brushes up on disco but it's not disco. Confused yet? Just listen to the songs and maybe that will make more sense.

Wish I knew more about the Steve Parks's a local, Bay Area album whose title track has gotten a lot of play on comps and want lists. And...that's about all I know. Song is great though - buttery smooth and though it might be Bay LP, it sounds like something more apt for a cruise down HWY 1 in Southern Cali.

The 3 Pieces were a Washington D.C. group that Donald Byrd helped assemble in the mid-1970s. Apparently, group member Lincoln Ross was a student of Byrd's at Howard University and helped bring in two friends of his, percussionist Andre Richardson and vocalist Jerry Wilder, all of whom were in the their early 20s (I think) when the went off to Fantasy Studios in Berkeley to record Vibes of Truth. The album is a mix of both more straightforward soul cuts like "Backed Up..." and a few instrumental pieces that loosely resemble something the Blackbyrds might have done. Nice stuff, especially "Backed Up..."