Sunday, December 31, 2006

posted by O.W.

James Brown: Night Train
From 7" (King, 1962)

James Brown: I've Got Money
From 7" (B-side of "Three Hearts In a Tangle") (King, 1963)

James Brown: Out of Sight
From 7" (Smash, 1964)

All available on Star Time.

I've been working on a JB appreciation essay for MTV's URGE site and in the course of doing research, I got into this tangential query of my own: where exactly did Brown and the JBs' innovations for funk begin? Depending on who you ask, different scholars/critics have varying opinions. This what most agree upon: "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" was the first hit record by Brown that clearly put forward his and the band's funk ideas ("Cold Sweat" further expanded on them). However, there were at least three singles before "Brand New Bag," that also point to the new directions in rhythm that Brown was working with.

The first was 1962's "Night Train," a song that should be familiar to most out there (but I'm including it anyways). The rhythm isn't as advanced as some of the later songs and the drums (played by James himself) are pretty straight forward rather than on some sophisticated syncopation tip. But the bassline - which is incontrovertibly funky - is definitely "on the one," which nods to a proto-funk sensibility and you'll notice that the horns on that song play much more of a percussive (rather than harmonic/melodic) function, which is one of the things that the JB horns would eventually become famous for by mid/late decade.

"I've Got Money" is a revelation - I had never heard it before until recently[1] and remember: it's from 1963. That's Clayton Fillyau on the drums, knocking out that wicked uptempo breakbeat (I'm assuming it's also Jimmy Nolen on guitar). Fllyau didn't grow up in New Orleans but he learned his drumming from NOLA stickmen which explains that prominent, second line style of syncopation he has going there. Seems like a lot of folks don't tend to talk about this single as being part of the Brown funk evolution but Jim Payne's Give the Drummers Some goes out of its way to credit the song as being incredibly important in understanding the connection between Brown, funk and the New Orleans' second line tradition.

(Here's a little bonus: "I've Got Money," isolated in the left channel, which is where the drums are. Fillyau is killing it here. "Amen, Brother," eat your heart out.

Last, there's "Out of Sight," the song that The Funky 16 Corners identifies as the main proto-funk song in the Brown catalog. It definitely sounds different from both "Night Train" and "I've Got Money," - has more of that slinky swing that we associate with the JB sound. No wonder too - the basic rhythm on this song was retasked to become "Papa's Got a Brand New Band."

And with that - happy new year. Thanks for everyone for supporting and Soul Sides Vol. 1 in 2006. Expect to see Vol 2 coming very soon in 2007.

[1] By the way, thanks to Doug Wolk with compiling almost every single JB or JB-produced single ever released. Sure makes doing research like this a lot easier!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

posted by O.W.

James Brown: Talkin' Loud And Saying Nothin' (Original Rock Version)
From 7" (King promo-only, 1970). Also available on: James Brown's Funky People 3.

James Brown: Give It Up Or Turn It Loose (Remix)
From In the Jungle Groove (Polydor, 1986)

Bonus: James Brown: Turn the Break Loose ( edit)

I'm genuinely honored that people expect the site to have something poignant to say about James Brown but honestly, I don't really have much to add besides 1) what I've already noted and 2) what other writers I respect have had to say about it. Maybe at some far later point, I'll have an epiphany to share but for now, I think there's enough very qualified voices out there who can breakdown everything you've wanted to know about his career and legacy without me having to reinvent the wheel on that one.

Instead, I want to simply share a few songs that have always been my favorites out of his catalog - and there are many, so expect this to be in the first in a long series.

What's remarkable about the two songs I have here is that neither ever saw a proper release until the 1980s and '90s even though, to me, they are far superior versions of songs that otherwise did appear as either commercial released singles or album cuts in the 1970s. The "Original Rock Version" of "Talkin' Loud and Saying Nothin'" was an unreleased King promo (still available on 7" for the intrepid) from 1970. It was recorded with producer Dave Matthews as part of the same sessions that eventually produced Sho Is Funky Down Here (often considered one of the black sheep of Brown's catalog, though people said the same thing about Gettin' Down To it and Soul On Top and I think history has vindicated both are marvelous examples of Brown's creativity and versatility). That album was Brown's attempt to foray into "rock" (though not like any rock music you could really compare it to) which explains the rougher, more fuzzed out sound of this version of the song. Brown eventually did release "Talkin' Loud" in 1972 but it was a different version, recorded in 1970 with the Pacesetters' era of the JBs).

Not to take anything away from that hit version (which was a monster smash for Brown) but I prefer the original version far, far more. Start with that raw guitar and the, "how ya like me now?" taunt that begin the song and then dig into the seams of what almost sounds like a garage funk rendition of the song's now familiar rhythms and lyrics. The JBs version sounds practically genteel in comparison to the rough edges of the original. It's possibly my favorite Brown single to play out when I spin - it just sounds incredible to me.

Same goes for the six minute version of "Give It Up Or Turn It Loose," possibly the most explosive funk groove that Brown ever laid out (though, in all fairness, there's many songs that could vie for that title). The song existed, in a sense, on the Sex Machine album but only as part of a medley and with overdubbed audience noise on it. This version (which again, is NOT like the actual commercial single) didn't receive a proper release until 1986 where it helped anchor the much-lauded In the Jungle Groove compilation, an anthology that went a long, long, long way to re-establishing Brown's centrality in the evolution of Black (and just plain American) music given how it became the blueprint for hip-hop's early sampling era.

In any case, this version of "Give It Up" is molten hot from jump. It's not wildly different in basic arrangement from the commercial version though it exclusively features a B3 Hammond organ. But whereas the commercial release is more stately and tightly wound, the Jungle Groove version really does turn things loose with a more expansive sound and energetic pulse. What makes it so insanely good though is the bridge which drops in around 4:20 where Brown strips things down into a simple conga beat and handclaps and exhorts you to: "clap your hands/stomp your feet/in the jungle brother" and follows this through for a few bars until yelling, "CLYDE!" and here comes Stubblefield on one of the greatest breaks in funk history before another four bars rolls by and here's James' yelling, "BOOTSY!" and Collins lays in with a mean bassline.

I liked this break so much, I made an edit of it so I could DJ with just that portion of the song through the track's end. It doesn't do proper justice to the entire song but think of it as a quick treat instead.

By the way, if you don't own In the Jungle Groove, it is, quite easily, the first album I'd recommend to anyone who wants to start digging into Brown's catalog. That's just my personal opinion and there will no doubt be other Brown fans who would suggest instead going with something far earlier (and hey, we'll get there) but for my generation, In the Jungle Groove is the Brown we first came to know (after *cough cough* conveniently forgetting "Living In America") and 20 years later, that anthology is still one of the hardest f***ing collections of music I know out there.

WFMU's Beware of the Blog has an excellent round-up of JB coverage 'round the WWW.

WFMU's "Music to Spazz By" show also had a three-hour dedication to the music of JB available in streaming audio.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

posted by O.W.

Jennifer Holliday: And I'm Telling You, I'm Not Going Away
From Dreamgirls (Original Broadway Cast) (Decca, 1982)

Jennifer Hudson: And I'm Telling You, I'm Not Going Away
From Dreamgirls (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Sony, 2006)

I'm breaking away from James Brown contemplations to share a small, personal confession: I haven't cried in years. At most, once or twice in the last 10 years and even then, not since the late '90s. I'm sure this is something a therapist could get to the bottom to but regardless, it takes a lot to move me to tears.

I share this because the closest I've come recently was listening to Jennifer Hudson sing "And I Am Telling You, I'm Not Going Away." The song has been mentioned in practically every review you can read about Dreamgirls but I was listening to the song prior to seeing the movie (which I finally did today). That's extraordinary, to me at least, that a recording would push me to the edge of some kind of emotional catharsis. When I saw the film - even though I knew the scene was coming, even though I knew what to expect from the song, it once again hit me somewhere deep. Not surprisingly, the theatre erupted in applause and catcalls and I've read that at some screenings, people arose in standing ovations. For a movie, ok?

I've been trying to figure out what it is about the song that's so powerful - and I'm not the only one. (By the way, can I just say that I love the fact that there still exists an opportunity for people to write criticism about a single song whether it's, the NY Times or even, yes, I thought Jody had some great things to say in his Slate piece, especially this graf:
    "The result is a cinematic diva moment for the ages: Even Judy Garland's most iconic on-screen ballad performances seem small compared with the last lingering shot of Hudson, the camera whirling overhead as she blasts out a final "You're gonna love me!" In fact, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" is a kind of summary of the great American diva tradition, our native answer to the grand opera aria-belters of the old world. The term diva has gotten rather watered down in current pop culture usage, to the point where the title is given to any moderately famous actress or singer with an air of hauteur about her and a personal trainer in her employ. But, in the classical musical formulation, Paris Hilton is certainly no diva—and for that matter, neither is Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston. Old-fashioned divadom entails not just an imperious attitude and a big voice, but a theme—pain, particularly as supplied by callous men and cruel fate—and a task: to transcend that anguish through cathartic declamation. You know the divas of whom I speak: Maria Callas, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, Garland, Aretha Franklin, and today's Queen of Pain, Mary J. Blige. And now, perhaps, Jennifer Hudson."
As Jody suggests, it's high-time the term "diva" gets reclaimed. I also thought it was important to also note: "In a society that still hasn't solved the problems or purged the guilt of its racial legacy, the spectacle of a black woman stormily standing up for herself can feel less like pop song convention, and more like a call to conscience," and though the film moves through issues of race and class with a conventionally light Hollywood touch, Hudson's character far transcends that of "just a singer." She's belting out an intense cry of longing, pain, frustration and power that if you can't feel it...well, you just can't feel.

But for all this, I've been able to figure out what the moment is in the song where it just tears into me. It comes about 2/3rds the way through, after the more uptempo bridge has pulled back to allow Hudson to return to the main chorus, where she's now stretched out every melismatic note as if her last (note: this is one case where the deservedly tired technique of melisma is actually executed exactly as it should be. American Idol twits please take notes and realize that if you can't do pull this off, then don't bother trying).

At around 3:40pm, Hudson screams, "I'm staying, I'm staying, and you, and you, and you, you're gonna love me!" and the band bursts into full power right here with the song's main musical motif - a simple but incredibly effective melodic passage that manages to accentuate Hudson's singing beyond where her voice alone could take it...yet never detracts or attempts to compete with her performance. She holds that note - "meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" before taking it back again into, "you're gonna love me" and the band makes sure that the longer you listen, the deeper you get pulled in with the gravity of it all.

Let's be honest - the music for the song itself is really not much to write home about. Actually, the music in the entire film is nothing to write home about - but it's at this moment where the accompaniment is essential to pushing the song to that proverbial next level where every beat of both Hudson's vocals and the band ratchets up the energy level exponentially.

In the last year, I've had similar, transcendent experiences with particular songs - the two most powerful being on Roberta Flack's "Gone Away" around 4 minutes in (listen to it and you'll fundamentally understand why anyone would have thought to turn that passage into T.I.'s "What You Know") and The Dells' "Love Is Blue" at :40, when the singer and group put together that awesome contrapuntal exchange. As great as those moments are, what Hudson pulls off is something even more extraordinary, not the least of which is because she's belting out with a gale force that Flack doesn't attempt and the Dells can't muster.

It's best to take a pause here and note: Jennifer Holliday did this same song on Broadway originally and made it into the classic it is today and I would be incredibly irresponsible for not saying that what she did with that song 25 years ago is still the standard against which anything else that follows will be compared to and rightfully so. I loathe to have to compare the two even though it's impossible not to and it's impossible to take anything away from Holliday's original. She has the more polished, nuanced voice, she has more performative experience to bring to the plate. What Hudson has in contrast is a rawness (not to mention incredible voice) and also the benefit of an expertly shot and choreographed cinematic apparatus that Holliday didn't have. This is a long-winded way of saying that while Hudson doesn't upstage Holliday's original, she does enough with it to at least figuratively co-own the rights. Both are incredible. (By the way, the L.A. Times recently ran a story of how Holliday's been shut out of the film project on every level despite the fact that her recording of the song is still being used to help push the movie. The irony is amazing. The story of Effie isn't so fictional, after all (also, please see how Beyonce got the best actress nod while Hudson had to settle for supporting actress even though any halfwit could tell you that Dreamgirls is about Effie, not Deana).

I have more to say about the movie, its depiction of Motown and its music and the story of Florence Ballard (the tragic inspiration for Effie) but I'll save that for another time. If you want a primer, read A.O. Scott's review in the NY Times which I thought was very fair in its criticisms.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

posted by O.W.

5/3/33 - 12/25/06

I've said this before but we are living through an era where many of the legends of soul music are quickly passing away. There were many we lost far before their time - Otis Redding or Marvin Gaye for example - but in the last few years, age (and poor health) is beginning to claim more and more. It's inevitable that we all die, of course, but who thought that we'd ever lose James Brown (especially at age 73)?

It's inevitable that I, amongst millions of others, will probably think about when they last saw Brown perform. That is the most indelible public image people have of Brown - as the Showman. Certainly, there were few performers who could command the stage like Brown. I saw him at the Hollywood Bowl just this past September for his Soul On Top show. Even at 73, he was spry, energetic and powerful. He knew what everyone was there for, he knew how to deliver for them. Ironically, I plan to go see Dreamgirls today and one of the central characters, James "Thunder" Early (played by Eddie Murphy) is modeled largely on Brown. He is, now and forever, the gold standard in performers.

But even if Brown had never taken a step onto a stage throughout his life, he still would have been - hands-down - one of the most important musical forces of the last 100 years in how he transformed the literal rhythm of popular music. The ways in which he introduced new forms of syncopation and polyrhythm into the gospel, blues and jazz training of his youth lead to a revolution in sound and style within soul music. Brown didn't invent funk (no single artist did) but he transformed the sound of popular music through his funk innovations. And of course, in the process, he also created scores of samples that, a generation later, would become the bedrock upon which hip-hop was built.

I can't even begin to summarize just how extraordinarily important he was, let alone go on the fool's errand of trying to pinpoint his best music (though I suspect that won't stop me from trying once I have more time to do so). His import as a cultural (and political) figure cannot be understated either. (This PBS profile of him does a good job for someone looking for a basic primer on Brown).

I will share this much though: I interviewed Brown in late August regarding the Soul On Top show. I initially was skeptical about taking the story on: I was trying to juggle a new job, still settling in from a laborious relocation and doing a feature story for the L.A. Times wasn't at the top of my list of priorities given the amount of time I knew it'd take. But I could get to interview James Brown. That, to me, was a no-brainer. You do the story, period.

Here's a short excerpt from that interview with Brown talking about how jazz played a role in his ideas about R&B. I'd explain what is so delightful about this but I don't it's necessary.

There will be a million and one youtube tributes and I'm not mad at that, obviously but definitely don't sleep on this (speaking of Soul on Top).

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

posted by O.W.

Big Daddy Kane, Roxanne Shante, MC Shan: A Cold Chillin' Christmas
From Winter Warnerland (Warner Bros, 1988)

SS Exclusive: O Tannenbaum
From (ssssshhhhh)

I've been laid up with grading 70+ papers so alas, I haven't had time to do up a more extensive holiday post but I've been meaning to at least put these two songs out there.

The "Cold Chillin Christmas" originally (and only) came out on a holiday album (2xLP actually) put out by Warner Bros. who distributed Marley Marl's Cold Chillin label. It's not quite "The Symphony - Holiday Edition" but three out of the entire stable isn't bad, especially with a double shot of verses from Kane when Kane was still the sickest rapper around. What I think is funny is that the sample here, Booker T and MG's "Hip Hug Her" would also become the basis for a later posse cut by Heavy D, Q-Tip and others: "Don't Curse." In any case, a nice bonus cut from the Cold Chillin stables.

As for the mystery cut - I got this LP from Cool Chris at the Groove Merchant several years back and I've been waiting to put out a "kitchen sink" mixtape of just weird/wonderful tunes from wherever. This one definitely qualifies - an unexpectedly spacey/funky version of "O Tannenbaum" (better known to Americans as the melody for "O Christmas Tree") off an album of Christmas music done by European artists. Still gonna keep this under the Santa hat for a while but I thought it was high time to finally share it with folks.

In terms of one of the all-time greatest Xmas songs though, no question, it's this. Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here" is basically a childhood's worth of nostalgia distilled into 3 minutes. Even if you heard the song for the first time, it just sounds like something you would have grown up with. The veritable definition of timeless.

Soul Sides is going to be laid up with grading and holiday/family responsibilities for the next week or so. We may not get another post until the new year and if so, thanks to all for your support and encouragement. See you in 2007.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

posted by DJ Little Danny

Elias Rahbani: Dance of Maria
From Mosaic of the Orient (EMI Lebanon, 1972)

Some really far-flung, disparate regions have seen the rare groove reissue treatment in recent years. Scandinavia, the former Eastern Bloc, North Africa, the Far East, South America: they all seemed to have their pioneering clusters of mad musical geniuses and jazz iconoclasts in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and it’s been fabulous to have their respective musical riches brought again to the surface like so many Concepción ducats. Soul Sides readers might remember O-Dub’s September 2006 feature on the Turkish dancer Ozel Turkbas, and Turkey, too, has seen some attention recently (see the insane, insane Mustafa Ozkent and Selda reissues on Finders Keepers, for example). Which finally brings us around to nearby Lebanon and this loopy bit of Levant pop.

In 1972 you’d still come across references to Beirut as “The Paris of the Middle East“ in current issues of National Geographic; the city was, after all, the region’s nerve center of television, cinema, and radio. And Lebanese pop wunderkind Elias Rahbani was squarely in the middle of it all. His “Song of Maria” works precisely because of its cosmopolitan soul: it’s Eastern melody with Western circuitry, experimentalism with a sense of pop humor, and it’s crammed with flowing Farfisa organ lines, electric bass, keyboards that aren’t mizmars but sound exactly like them, bouzoukis, guitars, and even a few choice moments for you breakbeat aficionados. But, then again, this was 1972, a ravaging decade and a half of civil war was still a few years away, and, as far as Rahbani was concerned, there was room for all of it inside the pleasure dome.

The Lebanese Civil War sent the city’s artistic, intellectual, and musical life fleeing in droves to cities like Cairo and Paris. As of at least 2005, however, Elias Rahbani was still residing in Lebanon; with a prodigious career as a pianist, lyricist, producer, arranger, and pop and classical composer, Rahbani now does what any aging Lebanese hipster would do - he hosts SuperStar
(سوبر ستار), the Arabic version of American Idol. It’s a show that, personally, I’d give my eye teeth to see. We wish him the best of luck.

--Little Danny (
Office Naps)

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

posted by O.W.

I'm nursing a cold so I don't have time (yet) to write up a proper tribute but to put it simply, Ahmetwas one of the most important figures in the history of R&B/soul as the founder (along with brother Nesuhi) of Atlantic Records. "Visionary" is not too generous a term here. Alas, Ahmet passed away today, at the age of 83.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

posted by O.W.

Sweet Cherries: Don't Give It Away
From 7" (T-Neck, 1973)

The Trinikas: Remember Me
From 7" (Pearce, 197?)

Here's a nice pairing of sweet n' funky female soul singles, following up on the previous Three Degrees and Third Wave posting. The Sweet Cherries is something I recently learned about - a girl group formed by the Isley Bros. (hence why they appear on T-Neck). I like how "Don't Give It Away" begins with a blend of sweet and northern soul elements but then drops in that drum break from nowhere. Alas, I've heard some of their other material (including a few ballads) and it doesn't quite stack up musically.

The Trinikas is something I wish I owned, though it's been reissued and comped out of its previous obscurity. It is such an amazing song given how strong the rhythm section knocks it down here and that contrasts with the gospel-tinged sweetness of the Trinikas voices. Beautiful stuff.

In other music: someone of you might have heard this hilarious rant by Young Jeezy when he got into an argument with Monie Love over whether hip-hop was, in fact, dead. Producer Jee Eye Zee took some of that dialogue and used it as part of his remix for Na' new song "Hope" off of Hip-Hop Is Dead. Good remix, good incorporation of the Jeezy/Monie debate. Check it out.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

posted by O.W.

(Editor's Note: As many of you should know, The Coup are one of my favorite groups. They're one of the last few honest rap artists out there which makes grinding out a career that much tougher on the independent tip. Right now, the group needs the help of fans following a terrible accident that luckily didn't kill anyone but has left the group in difficult straits).

From Boots Riley:
    So, we got on the bus after doing a show at The House of Blues San Diego as part of The Coup/Mr. Lif tour. As the bus took off, I thought that I would go lay in my bunk, listen to my Ipod, and write. But then Zhara, Mr. Lif’s friend and the tour’s merchandise seller, announced that she had “Anchorman” on DVD. Oh Shit. Will Ferrell or writing? Hot 16s would have to wait tonight…Good Night San Diego! So I stayed up in the front lounge of the bus and, even though I’ve seen this movie twice, commenced to laugh my ass off. Almost literally, because of what happened next. Shortly after the acapella singing of “Afternoon Delight” by Ferrell et al., a big bump, then another, then plummeting down as we tipped over to the left. I was sitting in the diner-like booth that many of these buses have in the front. I held on to the table with one hand and tried to guard my head with the other, all the while thinking that I was probably about to die. I don’t remember seeing everyone flying and flipping around me as it was happening, but Carter’s (the road manager) and Wiz’s face were covered in blood, and everybody seemed to be laying around hurt. The bus was on it’s side, with the entrance door up. I called for people to say there names so we could get a head count of who was conscious or not. Silk E, Q (drums), Riccol (bass), and Metro (Lif’s hype man) were trapped in the back lounge because the doors connecting the front and back lounges to the bunks were electrically powered and didn’t move with no power on. They ended up ripping and squeezing their way out of a tiny little window and jumped down off the bus as the rest of us got out the front. If anyone had been sleeping in the bunks, they would not have been able to get out. I was the third person to jump off the front of the bus, as I hung down to make the jump shorter, I saw that the front of the bus was on fire. I yelled to everyone, saying to get off the bus immediately because the bus was on fire and it could blow up. We all did. No one was killed. The bus was totally engulfed in flames. For a while no one stopped to help, supposedly because the thought we were “illegal aliens” crossing the border. Eventually some great folks stopped and helped. Silk E has two broken ribs and a punctured lung. Wiz has a broken nose, two deep lacerations to the head, and a shattered knee. Zhara has injuries to her hand and had to undergo surgery. Carter had to get stitches to his head and lip. The driver, Glenn, has a broken jaw. All the first three will be in need of follow-up treatments. We all have aching backs, legs, heads etc. Many of us are on pain killers.

    We lost everything in that crash and fire. We were packed to live and do shows on that bus for a month. Most of us had every stitch of clothing we owned on there. We lost clothes, computers, recording equipment, cameras, IDs, phones, keys to cars and homes. We lost cash.We lost all our damn instruments and equipment to perform with. We were and are happy to walk away with our lives. But now we’re home. Most of the band touring with The Coup has kids, rent that won’t quit, bills, and holiday expenses coming. We need money, because like I said the band doesn’t have the tools that they make a living with. Not only did we lose cash and material things on the bus, but we also were depending on this tour for money to make it through. It may take a year for us to see any money from the insurance company.

    I have set up a Paypal account so people can make donations for The Coup. The money will be split between Me (Boots Riley), Silk E, Q, Steve Wyreman (guitar), and Riccol. Mr. Lif is setting one up on his site and when I have that info, we’ll let you know.

    To make a donation, hit button in the “about” section on the front page of this profile, right below the paragraph and above the “We Are The Ones” video. This allows you to donate even without a paypal account.

    If you have an account, ours is Thank you in advance to anyone who does this, this is a really crazy situation. I never thought I would would be doing something like this. I also never thought that we would almost die like like that.
    We’re grateful for anything you can do.
    Thank you,
    Boots Riley

    P.S. Thank you for the messages of love and warmth we’ve been receiving. It makes a difference.


Friday, December 08, 2006

posted by O.W.

Al Hirt: Harlem Hendoo
From Soul in the Horn (RCA, 1967)

Dizzy Gillespie: Matrix
From The Real Thing (Perception, 1971)

I'm not feeling lazy - just nostalgic. These two are amongst the earliest posts that went up on Soul Sides back when we launched in 2004 (damn, that feels like a long time ago despite only being two years and change). They are also perfectly "common" in terms of songs that have no doubt graced many an other MP3 blog at some point.

We don't really care about that.

If it's not abundantly clear, I run this site as a proverbial "labor of love." I do it because it gives me a sense of happiness regardless if I'm compensated for it or not (though we'd love it if you buy our mix-CDs when we eventually get around to dropping 'em? And oh yeah - Soul Sides Vol. 2 is this close to being finalized. Thanks to Zealous Records for their, um, zealousness).

All I ask is very simple: you don't have to like the songs. But if there's one thing I cannot stand, it's people who suggest - in an obnoxiously condescending way - what this site should or should not focus on. It's not your site. If you think you can do a better job, then start your own audioblog. Otherwise, kindly take this advice.

Assuming we have an understanding, please enjoy the Hirt and Gillespie tracks with my full blessing.

By the way, speaking of "Matrix," here's one of my favorite uses of the song.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

posted by O.W.

Chaffey College Jazz Ensemble: Imagination Flight
Imagination Flight (Chaffey College, 1978)

Billy Brooks: 40 Days
From Windows of the Mind (Crossover, 1974)

I was perusing eBay the other day and came upon this auction. I had to gently lift my jaw off the table...$500? That's not as crazy as compared to, say, a Velvet Underground acetate but still, for this particular album, it seemed far inflated, especially for an album that, in the past, rarely sells for much more than $50-75. The main reason people even look for the album is the song I have posted above - which, in my opinion, is a really cool soul jazz tune. Just not 5 Franklins cool. You decide though.

The Billy Brooks isn't nearly as obscure..."40 Days" has been comped a bunch of times but that still doesn't prevent his album from selling well over $100 consistently. Some think the song itself - ATCQ sampleage aside - is piffle but personally, I've always liked how laid back and soulful it is. Whether it earns back its market price is a different story but it's all in the ear of the beholder.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

posted by O.W.

Nas: Where Are They Now?
From Hip Hop Is Dead (Def Jam, 2006)

Nas: Represent (O.G. Mix)

Under most other circumstances, a song like "Where Are They Now?" would probably be thought of as another sign that aging rappers are so nostalgia-ridden that they can just rattle off a list of defunct, forgotten rappers and that qualifies as a song. And hey, if people want to lay into it for being just that, it's a fair critique but for aging, nostalgia-ridden rap listeners like me, I find something endearing about Nas' elder statesmen posturing and attempt at reminding us of those who've come and gone in hip-hop's relentless celebration of the Now and amnesia towards anything older than a few years old. Besides, Masta Ace can't have all the fun.

But Nas...Buckshot? Really?

And since we're on a throwback tip, I threw in an early, pre-Illmatic mix of Nas' "Represent." On this note, supposedly, there's a demo of Nas out there (presumably the one that got shopped to Sony/Columbia) but rumor says that only Eric B. has it. Forget about "Eric B. for President," you need to emancipate the precedent!


Monday, December 04, 2006

posted by O.W.

Jay-Z: December 4th
From The Black Album (Def Jam, 2003)

Chi-Lites: That's How Long
From Toby (Brunswick, 1974)

Goodbye to the game/all the spoils/the adreneline rush.
Your blood boils/you in a spot knowing cops could rush.
And you in a drop/you so easy to touch,
No two days are alike/except the first and fifteenth pretty much.
And "trust" is a word/you seldom hear from us.
Hustlers we don't sleep/we rest one eye up.
And the drought can define a man when the well dries up,
You learn to work the water without workin'/thirst 'til you die (yup!)
And n_____ get tied up for product,
And little brothers ring fingers get cut up/to show mothers they really got em.
And this was the stress I lived with/until I decided/to try this rap shit for a living,
I Pray I'm forgiven/for every bad decision i made/every sister I played,
Cause I'm still paranoid to this day.
And it's nobody fault I made the decisions I made,
This is the life I chose/or rather the life that chose me.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

posted by O.W.

The Three Degrees: Collage
From Maybe (Roulette, 1970). Also on The Roulette Years.

Third Wave: Waves Lament
From Here and Now (MPS, 1970)

Every so often, I'll get a random email from someone who wants to send me a mix-CD. I'm very appreciative of the consideration but unfortunately, because of all the other stuff I have to juggle, I don't always get around to listening to stuff and most CDs end up queueing up on my desk.

The other week, I decided to root through the stack and came upon these two CDs that were part of a series called "Nothing Serious," sent out by a 20-something from San Jose, Veronica V. I had evidently received one in the summer and then another one in October but hadn't listened to either. I popped in the October edition and it opened with Slum Village's "Fall In Love" (never a bad way to open) and that got my attention...then a few songs later, "Collage" comes on. At this point, I'm thinking, "who put this out?" so I pull out the liner notes, start reading and I'm floored.

Let me rewind: first of all, as I quickly notice: the liner notes themselves are hand cut and stapled. The CD cover is either made through using some precision glue stick and glitter work or silk screened - either way, it's clearly hand-made and expertly so. Someone has definitely put some time into this. And then you read the liner notes and each song gets anywhere from a few words to entire paragraphs devoted to them. Did I mention there was a preface? It's a little like reading a series of MP3 blog entries except, far more interesting and personal than the standard rabble. It's more like an audio diary, only shared with a larger public, from someone I don't even know. Altogether, completely remarkable.

Speaking of which, so is "Collage." I confess, I had never heard this song before and for that alone, I'm graciously thankful to Veronica's labor of love. The song is really, really, really good. So melancholy but not a quiet song by any means and there's something about the three-part harmony and the rousing production which makes for a tune that's hard to compare to anything else out there...

...except maybe for the Third Wave, the 5 Filipino-American sister vocal group that George Duke put together for MPS back in the late 1960s. I've featured them on Soul Sides before but it's been a while and it seemed apropos given the similarities in sound between the Three Degrees and Third Wave. Thanks again to V.V. for her musical generosity.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

posted by O.W.

George Jackson: Aretha Sing One For Me
From 7" (Hi, 1972). Also available on The Hi 45's Collection Vol. 2.

Sharon Cash: Fever
From He Lives Within My Soul (Mothers, 1974)

(Bonus) Ghostface Killah: Outta Town Sh--
From More Fish (Def Jam, 2006)

????: ????
From ???? (????, 1976). Also available on Dusty Fingers Vol. 12

I know I give people who post here a hard time on occasion when all they seem to do is play "spot that sample." Contrary to some assumptions, our raison d'etre is not, in fact, dropping sample sources. If that's what you're after, please...

However, we also aim to please so I'm not above indulging people's interest in mo' samples. To wit: this post plugs two of the more obscure songs that Ghost's producers have flipped for the Wallabee champ.

The George Jackson is, to me, a strange tune (though apparently, Jackson's biggest hit for Hi) if only because it's a dedication tune to a living artist. I'm trying to imagine what Aretha Franklin would have thought, listening to this. Nice song though, especially with that opening piano and string combo (so well adapted for "Child's Play" off of Supreme Clientele).

As for the Sharon Cash...this explosive cover of "Fever" comes off what I assume is her first album (she had a more popular 2nd album released on Playboy Records a few years down the line). I had higher hopes for the He Lives Within My Soul LP since it was arranged by H.B. Barnum and appears on Mothers, the sample label and arranger who put out Spanky Wilson's incredible Doin It album but Cash's album turned out to be a bit of one-tracker. That said: great one-tracker. Just Blaze did a phenomenal job interpolating this for "The Champ" off of Fishscale.

As a bonus, I put up "Outta Town Sh--," a new song off Ghost's new mix-CD album, More Fish, one of the few solo cuts he's on (it's in the tradition of "Shakey Dog" though not quite as narrative). It's too bad the entire album isn't more like this but I'm not remotely mad. Listening to Ghost just let loose reminds you why he's The Truth for the faithful. The beat comes off a European library series - think Hanged Man for those who know the deal. I would have listed the info but last time I did that with "Kilos," a lot of whiners came out the woodwork so I figured I'd avoid the saline this time around. Good stuff though, regardless.


Friday, December 01, 2006

posted by O.W.

Jackson 5: >2468
From ABC (Motown, 1970)

Promise: I'm Not Ready For Love
From 7" (New Directions, 197?)

Both available on DJ Matthew Africa's Twee Funk Mix.

I was gonna hit ya'll with a dozen more Clipse posts then I figured...nah...

Anyways, if you recall, Matthew Africa and DJ B.Cause's Soul Boulders mix-CD was one of the best things I've heard all year and MA followed that up with his "Twee Funk" mix...some sh-- that he basically is giving away on his website. Yeah, he's ballin' that hard, he can just lace people with free mixes of obscure soul/funk tunes. God bless the internet.

The concept behind the "Twee Funk" mix is simple: kid-based soul/funk bands. That includes groups many of you probably know: Jackson 5 and the Sylvers but many you probably don't, like The Eight Minutes, Ponderosa Twins Plus One and The Young Gents. As it turns out, the first two songs off the mix were so good, I immediately put the Promise 45 on my want list and then realized: damn, how is it I didn't already own the Jackson 5 LP (oops)?

Anyways, both these songs are great, especially the Promise track which is currently receiving major rotation on my iPod. Don't know much about the group at all however (perhaps MA will chime in with some info). By the way, the mix online is kind of lo-fi but you can buy a more proper version from him. Support!

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