Wednesday, January 31, 2007

David Axelrod: Live From London
posted by O.W.

David Axelrod: The Edge + Holy Are You
From Live At Royal Festival Hall (Champion, 2006)

Like many, I discovered David Axelrod's catalog through the various producers who also stumbled upon his extraordinary catalog of production and arrangements from the 1960s and '70s. It's hard to exaggerate how remarkable a soundcraft he put together in those years; they defied genre conventions with a mesh of rock, jazz and funk aesthetics - and did I mention the symphonic accompaniments? - all woven together as if they were always meant to meld together so sublimely. (For more in Axelrod's career, here's a 2002 review I wrote on his Mo Wax album, David Axelrod. If I may say, it remains, to this day, one of my favorite pieces even if I probably overdid it on some of the adjective-use).

Despite his dense catalog, Axelrod rarely performs live - he's a composer/arranger foremost so he does most of his work in the studio - but he agreed to headline a show at London's Royal Festival Hall, resulting in this DVD/CD package. It's an interesting project - trying to recreate the songs that have made his music so famous - and to be sure, if you're expecting note-for-note re-enactments of various're not going to find it here. These are interpretations and while many obviously nod to the originals, it's hard to compare a live concert symphony with a studio band (especially when you had Carol Kaye and Earl Palmer in the mix!). "The Edge," - an Axelrod-produced cut for David McCallum (made famous on Dr. Dre's "The Next Episode") doesn't sound quite the same here: the guitar isn't as angular, the horns don't have the same wall of sound effect as the original. But you can still hear all the layers of music that were woven, an unforgettable blend of horns, guitar, bass, strings, and vibes (the latter which are new I think). I mostly included this song, however, because I loved Axelrod's monologue that starts it, all about how "sample money" basically gives him some cash to burn. Real talk.

I also included "Holy Are You," one of Axelrod's first major hits (done for the Electric Prunes) and the vocalist on there is Richard Ashcroft from The Verve. As it turns out, the group used to take to the stage with "Holy Are You" playing in the background and it only seems appropriate that Ashcroft would nod to the master by gracing his concert and singing the song.

Just to let you know - I didn't actually pick my favorite songs off the album - those would have been more like "Holy Thursday" or "The Human Abstract" but I wanted to give ya'll enough of a tease to whet your interest.

As it is, Dana Axelrod, David's son and the DVD's producer/director, sent me an extra copy of the project and I'd like to give it away to one lucky (and informed) Axelrod fan here.

This is what you have to do: I've created a short mega-mix of different Axelrod songs/productions. You have to tell me, in the correct order, what the titles and artists and albums are. (Yeah, it's thorough but did you think I was just going to give this away to caller #5?) Try to guess as many as you can but you have to at least include the artist, song title and album, assuming you think you know it. The person with the most correct guesses by the end of the weekend, wins.

Here it is: The Soul-Sides Axel-Medley Contest Clip[1]

Email your guesses to: First one with most songs correctly IDed gets the DVD/CD (the only caveat is for int'l winners - you'll have to cover postage, sorry!)

Congrats to Lou N. from Canada for winning the contest, getting almost all the songs right.[2]

For everyone else interested in the DVD:
Visit And this project is very much a DIY affair so they could use help getting the word out (note to my fellow bloggers/writers out there).

[1] Just to note, this was thrown together really fast and on the fly so it's not like O-Dub's mixing at its finest.

[2] The correct songs in the medley are as follows:
Electric Prunes - Release Of an Oath - Holy Are You
David Axelrod - Song Of Innocence - Urizen
David Axelrod - Song Of Innocence - Holy Thursday
David Axelrod - Songs Of Experience - The School Boy
David Axelrod - Strange Ladies - Terri's Tune
David Axelrod - The Auction - The Auction
David Axelrod - Earth Rot - The Warning (Part II)
David Axelrod - Seriously Deep - 1000 Rads
David Axelrod - Heavy Axe - Everything Counts
David Axelrod - David Axelrod - Shadow Knows

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ahmad Jamal + Archie Whitewater: Comfort Music
posted by O.W.

Ahmad Jamal: Stolen Moments
From The Awakening (Impulse, 1970)

Archie Whitewater: Cross Country
From S/T (Cadet Concept, 1970). Also available on Jazz Travels

Bonus - Etta James: Stormy Weather
From DJ Eleven's Winter Sadness Mix-CD

As fate would have it, I had been thinking about starting up a new series of thematic posts around "comfort songs" - it'd be the inverse of my "summer songs" series and I started picking out a few tracks for it.

Then DJ Eleven's mix-CD, Winter Sadness crossed my path and I thought, "nice, someone already went out and did it." I'm a big fan of all of Eleven's work (and damn, dude is prolific) and this mixtape, in particular, is a great concept that I hope inspires others to compile their own playlists.

As for me, it just reminded me to finally get around to assembling this post and here it is: two of my favorite comfort songs for cold winters. Pianist Ahmad Jamal may not have recorded the definitive version of "Stolen Moments" (Oliver Nelson still holds that down) but I like the clean simplicity of his trio's version. It manages to be melancholy yet is anything but a downer. I like Jamal's Impulse years in general and The Awakening is by far, my favorite LP in that catalog (as well as a hip-hop classic thanks to the number of loops taken from it).

Speaking of which, "Cross Country" is yet another of those songs which originally came to most people's attention because it was sampled (on Common's Resurrection) but the song is so much greater than just a loop. It's off of Archie Whitewater's lone LP for Cadet Concept, a weird, intriguing psych-rock-jazz album for lack of a more eloquent genre name. "Cross Country" is super mellow, especially with the electronic piano and's immensely appealing for creating a mood somewhere between somber and serene - all sublime.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Barbara Acklin: Struttin' Soulfully
posted by O.W.

Barbara Acklin: Am I the Same Girl?
From Seven Days of Night (Brunswick, 1969). Also on The Complete Acklin On Brunswick.

Charmaine Burnett: Am I the Same Girl?
From Party Keller Vol. 2 (Compost, 200?)

In posting up Enrique Lynch's "Al Ritmo Del Bump Bump" the other day and noting that it was an informal cover of Young Holt-Unlimited's "Soulful Strut," I realized that some folks didn't realize that "Soulful Strut" itself was a cover...sort of.

"Soulful Strut" was the instrumental track to Barbara Acklin's "Am I the Same Girl?" itself, a decent hit for the soul singer but was far eclipsed by Young Holt-Unlimited once they re-released the song as an instrumental and under the title, "Soulful Strut." It's actually a rather strange development insofar it's not often that you'd expect the instrumental version to outsell the original.

Just so we're clear: when I say it's the "instrumental track," I mean this literally. If you listen to the Acklin then try to pretend like she's not there, you'll realize, it's "Soulful Strut." They literally just stripped off her vocals and voila, "Soulful Strut." Young Holt-Unlimited also did the same thing on their version of "Light My Fire" and what's truly remarkable is that not one, but two different vocal versions of the song (by Jackie Wilson and Erma Franklin) were cut over that same exact track. I guess that sort of thing wasn't unusual, at least not at Brunswick.

Personally, I've always loved "Am I the Same Girl?" since I learned about it much later than first hearing "Soulful Strut" and it was a novelty (I mean this in a good way) to hear the familiar song but this time, with lyrics. It was also an introduction to Acklin (who I'm still learning about) though, strangely, I knew about her name mostly because she was the cousin of noted jazz/funk producer Monk Higgins.

The Charmaine Burnett cover of "Am I the Same Girl?" is much more recent even though it sounds like it could have been a vintage 1970s reggae version. Not a bad cover at all - the song works well in a roots reggae aesthetic (like most soul songs do). (There's also a version of the song by Salena Jones who recorded it for a British label - not bad but not as scintillating as I had hoped it might be.)

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Guide to Turntables For Digitizing Vinyl REVISED!
posted by O.W. a remix.

Based on numerous comments as well as corrections on other sites, I'm remixing this guide so I don't have to post a dozen updates as postscripts.


With all due respect to the NY Times, their recent story on computer-compatible turntables makes the process seem far more expensive and/or complicated than it really is.

I address some of the basics on digitizing in my "How to Start an Audioblog Guide" but I decided to write something down that'd be more detailed.

Keep in mind: this guide is intended for folks looking for a quick, efficient way to convert vinyl into digital files. It's is NOT meant for hardcore audiophiles who want to squeeze out the best sound possible. There are ways you can do it but it'd involve an investment of at least $500 and up vs. what's suggested below which shouldn't run most folks over $200, if even that.

First of all... let's assume you do not already have a turntable. You have a few choices here. This is the most important detail you should think about:

Until recently, most basic turntables did not have a built-in amplifier. This is because turntables are/were always plugged into something else that could amplify the sound, whether it's a home stereo receiver or a DJ mixer - building an amplifier into the turntable itself was unnecessary. However, if you want to plug a turntable into a computer, the lack of an amp presents a problem because the sound coming out will be too quiet for digital encoding.

Solution: Buy a turntable with an amp. You have a few options here, depending on convenience vs. quality. The convenience option would be something like a Numark PT-01 Portable Turntable. The quality option would be something like an Audio Technica AT-PL50. The key feature with both of these is that they have built-in amplifiers which will allow you to connect them directly into a computer without having to run them through another device such as a mixer or receiver.

The Numark is good for those who like its smaller footprint and the fact that it can be, if desired, battery powered and taken on the road. The Audio Technica is better for those who want better sound and plan to just digitize at home and don't really care about portability.

Alternative Solution: Buy a pre-amp. See footnote [3].

How do you connect these into a computer? This is where the NYT article really got things completely wrong: as long as you have a microphone jack on your computer (and just to be clear: not all have them but most do, including most laptops), you're good. This is where the NYT article and my original post both got it wrong. Sort of.

Depending on the kind of computer you have, the solution to connecting the turntable to the computer may already be provided to you: a stereo line input. I described this as a "microphone jack" though many others were quick to point out that most mic jacks are mono not stereo. My confusion arose out of the fact that most of the computers I've used to digitize vinyl have had combination microphone/line input jacks. (God bless Apple). I was under the mistaken impression that this was the norm therefore, not realizing that on many other computers (*cough cough* PCs), the mic jacks may not double as effective line inputs for stereo sound. So be sure to check ahead of time. These days, most new computers will have a stereo line input but not all.

Assuming you do have a stereo input, regardless f you're on a PC or Mac. All you need is this: an RCA/stereo jack adapter. It's $5. Walk into any Radio Shack and they'll have one. Plug the two RCA ends into your turntable, plug the stereo jack into your microphone port, voila. It's that simple...well, almost.

At this point, you can now send sound from your turntable to your computer but you still need some kind of software to process that information into a digital sound file format. The NYT recommends Cakewalk Pyro for PC users. I've never tried it so I can't vouch for it but I assume it's probably basic enough for a neophyte.

As a Mac guy, I use Sound Studio 3 which I think is a great, easy to use program for sound editing and digitizing though it does require at least a teensy bit of a learning curve (like any unfamiliar software) for someone to get up and running. Nevertheless, I've been using it for years, especially to edit my mixtapes and digitize stuff for so clearly, I'm pretty happy with it.

But what about USB turntables? These aren't bad options insofar as they too get over the limitation of not having a pre-amp built-in. The NYT recommends the Ion USB which, to me, seems more or less identical in features to the Numark TT-USB and both come packaged with Audacity, a sound file software program that works on both PCs and Macs. (I've used Audacity before, am not a fan but given that the turntable comes with it, at least you know they'll be compatible). Both these models have standard audio outputs if you want to plug them into a stereo system and not just your computer.

USB turntables are more convenient in that you won't need to buy that extra RCA/stereo jack adapter. The advantage of the non-USB turntables is cost: you'll save at least $50. Any which way though, any of these turntables will get the job done.

Does USB vs. line input make a significant difference though? There's considerable disagreement here and my opinion is: no. See below, footnote 1.

Which turntable should you get? Personally, I'd probably be more inclined to buy the Numark TT-USB, mostly because 1) it has pitch control (even though it is NOT designed for DJ use), 2) the sound quality is probably going to be decent and 3) it's a good brand (I've never heard of Ion). In second, I'd roll with the Audio Technica AT-PL50 because AT makes excellent audio devices and it has an automatic play option that's lacking on the other turntables. The Numark Portable is good for record diggers but the sound quality for digitizing vinyl likely just won't be there the same way it would be with the other models.

Let's be clear though: you don't need a USB turntable. You really don't. It's not a bad added feature but it's not essential. Again see [1].

Last, but not least: what if you already own a turntable? I already addressed this in the "How To" Guide but basically, if you already own a turntable, most likely, it lacks a pre-amp which means you to run it through some kind of amplifier. The easiest source would be a home stereo receiver. You would then run that RCA/stereo jack adapter out of the receiver (or you could even buy a different adapter and do it through the receiver's headphone jack) and back into your computer's microphone jack. It'd be a slightly more tangled set-up but hey, that's the breaks.

But what if your computer doesn't have an audio line input? Get a Griffin iMic. It will allow you to plug an audio input into it and convert it into a USB port on the other end which you can connect into your computer. For more info on the iMic (and its limitations), see footnote [2].

ADDED: A reader in the comments section noted that Turntable Lab has a page dedicated just to vinyl --> digital solutions. Some of these look pretty good but be careful: none of them seem to come with a pre-amp built in. You'd still have to run your turntable into another device in order to use these stand-alone USB/Firewire devices.

But what if your computer doesn't have a microphone jack or a USB port? Uh, time to upgrade.

Any questions I leave unanswered? Post in comments and I'll amend this guide accordingly.

[1]: I've been told by a few folks that it's probably better to go straight from the turntable into a USB port rather than the input jack mostly because sound quality will be better. It looks like most computers tend to have pretty low-end input jacks that will create added noise/distortion when you're trying to digitize. Therefore, the argument is that the cleaner sound option would be a turntable --> USB connection (i.e. something like the Ion or Numark) rather than going fro RCA outputs into a stereo jack.

This same advice is echoed by the bloggers at Wired:
    "Sure, you could connect a preamplified turntable directly to your computer's mic or line input, but if sound quality is at all important to you, the New York Times' method -- buying "special hardware" -- is a far superior option, because the built-in inputs on computers add all sorts of horrible noise to your signal. Only a USB input that processes the sound outside of the computer can deliver distortion-free sound."
Here's the thing: I actually disagree with this contention. If you're a hardcore audiophile, then sure, you could drop $500 on something like an MBox in order to get the best fidelity possible but if you're going to that lengths to digitize your original, deep purple, Prestige label jazz albums, why would you buy something as cheap or plastic as an Ion USB turntable? Doesn't make sense. My suggestions are for people who want to digitize their vinyl collection the most efficient way possible vs. people who won't let their audio cables touch the ground in fear that it might contaminate the sound quality of their $30,000 turntable.

Point in fact: I've digitized HUNDREDS of songs using nothing more than the above-mentioned RCA/stereo jack adapter into a mic port on three different generations of Apple Powerbooks/MacBookPros. Does it create symphony-hall-quality audio? No. But does it create sound files that sound slathered in distortion? Not in my experience. Going through a mic jack creates a perfectly acceptable sound file for most listeners, especially those listening to music in their car or over those cheap-ass white ear buds that Apple has now flooded the country with. Is USB cleaner? Probably but the difference is likely more subtle than most will pick up on (in fact, I'll create a little comparison later this weekend).

This isn't urging people NOT to adopt USB as the method of transfer. But for people who already own turntables who are worried that they might need to upgrade to a USB turntable or some other system, I'm merely suggesting: it's not that big of a deal. As long as you're audio wiring isn't being contaminated by, say, a running hair dryer next to your turntable, you should be fine. If you're looking for a first-time turntable purchase then a USB option isn't a bad way to go.

[2] The Wired bloggers offer some decent advice though they make a few mistakes in reading over my original post. For example, they wrote: "(I have a feeling the New York times reporter uses a Mac, and the Soul-Sides guy uses a PC.)"

Uh, look above. I write, "As a Mac guy, I use Sound Studio 3 which I think is a great..." I've been using Macs since 1990. I'm mildly mortified that anyone would confuse me as being a PC guy. Like...ewww. Yuck. Bleah.

More importantly though, Wired wrote: "Neither guide recommends which hardware to use..."

Wrong again. Look above: I recommend the same device Wired did - the Griffin iMic.

However, here's the problem: because the iMic works as a bridge between a conventional audio output and your USB port, it can and will pick up noise/distortion. In my experience using the first generation of the iMics, if you have a power source too close to the iMic, it will pick up distortion off that power source, creating a completely untenable buzz in your sound file. I'm not saying the iMic is bad; when it works, it works quite well but it's not a distortion-free solution 100% of the time.

[3]. I didn't include buying a pre-amp in the original guide because, to me, it seemed like one more thing someone had to buy and I'm all about keeping things simple. However, some people have access to older turntables that don't have a built-in pre-amps (most turntables do NOT have them, remember) but don't necessarily have a complete stereo system or DJ mixer they can plug all this into. Over at, "Chaircrusher" suggested this $50 pre-amp that one could buy as an alternative. For $50, that's not about to break the bank, especially if you end up picking up a turntable on the cheap from a garage sale or something. It's certainly cheaper than buying a DJ mixer or home receiver (assuming you don't already have one of these).

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Duke of Burlington, Enrique Lynch, Paul Guma: On the Sneak Tip
posted by O.W.

The Duke of Burlington: Slot Machine
From S/T (Joker, 1970)

Enrique Lynch: Al Ritmo Del Bump Bump
From Bailemos Bump Bump (Sono Radio, 197?)

Paul Guma Quartet: Black Fox
From New Sounds Over New Orleans (Top of the Mart, 197?)

When is a cover not a cover? In the case of these three songs, it's when they're uncredited covers, i.e. songs that clearly *cough cough* borrow from better known tunes but don't go out of their way to actually acknowledge this. In some cases, especially the second and third songs, there's an argument to be made that they're not outright cover versions but they're close enough for most to ID. Note: none of this is meant as a critique - I actually like surprises like this since you can't always tell what's on an album simply by reading a tracklisting.

The Duke of Burlington was an Italian outfit that specialized in instrumental tunes - I can't recall if they recorded any library albums but their music is along those lines. They had two LPs that I know of and this, their self-titled, has the better songs (though their second album wasn't bad) including "Slot Machine" which is a cover of "Look-a-py-py" by The Meters. I think the organ works better here than the acoustic piano but the song's not a bad flip on the original.

The Enrique Lynch is an interesting song - I assume it was a minor hit in Peru since I know of at least one other Peruvian artist, Otto De Rojas, who's recorded the same tune. Either way, the song isn't quite a note-for-note cover of "Soulful Strut" by Young Holt-Unlimited but it's too to be a coincidence either. It's a fun track - I like the festive spirit.

Last up: NOLA guitarist Paul Guma and his quartet from a private press jazz album recorded for the (now defunct) Top of the Mark restaurant in New Orleans. "Black Fox" is my favorite of this trio - a riff on Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" that manages to stray far enough away at times to be its own song though still incorporating some of the chord changes we associated with Withers' classic. It's just really well executed, especially with putting Guma's guitar forward and letting the rest of the quartet create an interesting bed of sound behind him.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

posted by O.W.

Thanks to everyone for giving feedback on the design for Soul Sides Vol. 2 (hereby simply addressed as SSV2). Looks like Design #2 is it.

Some more information on SSV2:
    The Theme: The full title is Soul Sides Volume Two: The Covers. Yeah, that's right, we're doing all covers (14 songs total). Folks who've followed my stuff for a while already known I'm a big fan of covers and this seemed like a great theme for the second volume. It's a bit too early to share the entire tracklist but suffice to say, there's some killer material on here - some of which has been posted up on the site before, some of which has not. Some of the covered songs include Latimore's "Let's Straighten It Out," Bill Withers' "Kissing My Love," Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band's "Express Yourself" and yes, even Linda Lyndell's "What a Man" (and no, it's not Salt N' Pepa).

    The Release Date: Late April. (I'll be more specific once we lock a date down).

    The Bonuses: Hopefully, I can hustle up and not only put Deep Covers back in stock but I'll have a few new surprises in my personal mixtape catalog to share. I never did quite get the bonus stuff for SSV1 figured out right and I'll try not to have a repeat with that chaos again.

Help Soul Sides!
    1. T-shirt design contest.

    I'm not trying to go all merch-ed out but hell, we've been around long enough to be a minor institution, I think it's time that we at least put a frickin' t-shirt in the mix. The problem is that I have no design skills. I was hoping there's enough budding talent out there for us to put together a t-shirt design contest (details very soon). Winner will get, at the very least: every Soul Sides/O-Dub related mix-CD...past, present and future.

    As noted, I'll get out details soon re: the contest.

    2. A Soul Sides monthly in Los Angeles?

    I've been so busy with moving/school the past half year that I haven't spent any time putting together any gigs. I do have an open invitation to join the folks at Funky Sole at some point (which I very much look forward to) but I wanted to see what the potential would be in the L.A.-area for a monthly featuring myself and guest DJs. Alas, I don't really know the bar/club scene very well but I'm hoping there's a few promoters in the mix out there who might be able to help navigate.

    Note: I'm not trying to resurrect the Legend parties or even compete on the level of something as great and well-established as the Root Down. I see this as being small but fun (and for the love of god, hopefully not a sausage fest of crazy record collectro types). Suggestions on where I might look? Holler.

    3. Soul Sides radio?

    Just a thought (esp. since I started SS after leaving 10+ years of radio). If there's anyone here who works in either A) local L.A. area college/community radio or B) satellite radio, get at me.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Jerry Butler: Spiced Up
posted by O.W.

Jerry Butler: I Need You + Don't Rip Me Off
From The Spice of Life (Mercury, 1972)

Snoop Dogg: Think About It
From The Blue Carpet Treatment (Geffen, 2006)

This may surprise folks but this is the only Butler LP I own...despite his incredible prolificness, Butler is one of many soul artists who I've been aware of but never made an effort to explore. I knew of his connection to the Impressions but I always thought of him more as a producer and songwriter, more or less forgetting that he had a massive career as a singer to boot.

I don't have a problem admitting - I discovered Spice of Life vis a vis Snoop Dogg and his "Think About It" (which opens The Blue Carpet Treatment). It was such a strikingly soulful track that I tracked the loop back to Butler's OG. No question, the instrumental passage is absolutely ear catching though the rest of the song doesn't quite hold up as well. In contrast, I do like the funky, bluesy "Don't Rip Me Off" the whole way though, especially in how understated Butler's singing is here - very cool and collected...the Iceman indeed.

I'm open to any Butler song suggestions people have. School me.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

posted by O.W.

The Masterplan: Only You
From 7" (Fos-Glo, 197?)

Symphonic Four: Who Do You Think You're Fooling (Parts 1 & 2)
From 7" (Zudan, 197?)

I'm dipping back in the 45 box for a couple sweet soul pieces. It's funny but, not that long ago, I didn't "get" why collectors went so ga-ga over sweet soul or northern soul but then again, not that long ago, I thought fusion jazz was good. Times change (thankfully).

A good sweet soul song may not have the kind of visceral, kinetic energy of a funk tune but its emotional impact - when done right - strikes far deeper and lasts longer. Maybe that's the product of age - the older I get, the more I like songs that I can just throw on, vibe out to and let that be enough.

Alas, I don't have a ton of info on either of these singles. The Masterplan, I know, are from the Bay Area (Fos-Glo was a local Bay label) and they cut at least one or two other singles but beyond that, I know nada. Likewise, the Symphonic Four are presumably out of St. Louis (since Zudan was a St. Louis label) but I know little else about them.

Of the two, "Only You" has that "sweetness" beautifully - a slow, light arrangement of strings, bells and piano anchor the music while the various Masterplan singers float over, whether individually or in unison with one another. Nice, so nice.

The Symphonic Four, in contrast, is more dramatic, especially how it opens on the swirl of organs and the heavy drums that eventually drop in. Of course, unlike "Only You," "Who Do You Think You're Fooling" isn't about falling in love but rather, love's betrayal and the song's dark tones accent the shift in mood. The killer part is that little guitar line that pops in around the's so simple but it gives the song this melodic hook that's hard to forget.

(By the way, I first heard the Symphonic Four off of Soul Boulders. Real heads know the deal).

Update: I heard from the infamous Funkyou! (eBay collectors know who I mean) who dropped this info on the Symphonic Four:
    you might find it interesting that i recently met the lead singer of the group. he is living in east st. louis. he later went on to join the detroit emeralds after the symphonic 4. the group members (of sym. 4) and the label are from st. louis, but the record was actually recorded in detroit. the backing band on the track is made up of some of the members of parliament/funkadelic. if you listen you can sort of hear the similarities to the early parliaments singles.
Thanks Jason!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

posted by O.W.

Every so often, I take it upon myself (pretension alert!) to look around the audioblogosphere (try saying that 10 times quick) and offer some general comments. Here's my latest installment:

1. ZShare = ?

One of my pet peeves in the past are sites that rely on rapidshare or yousendit or similar free services to transfer single songs (albums are a different story) mostly because it forces the reader to download the song without being able to listen to it first. What I like about ZShare is how you can listen to whatever it is you're about to DL before you DL it, thus coming to the conclusion, "hey, maybe I don't actually want to DL this?"

For any site that doesn't have the bandwidth to self-host, I haven't seen a better alternative than ZShare yet. I'm open to suggestions however.

2. Album blog insanity

I mean this in a good way (mostly). I've probably commented on this in the past, but while I'd never go album-based for (too time consuming, too much potential liability), I fully appreciate the appeal of them, especially when it comes to out-of-print material accompanied by actual context for why you should care to begin with.

I will say this much - and this is a larger philosophical point pertaining to cultural content and the internet in general: it is mind-blowing how much stuff is archived online now. No offense to the heydey of Napster but even that once mighty institution is starting to pale next to the simplicity of Technorati or Blogsearch to find practically any song/album you might reasonably imagine. I know the recording industry is crapping bricks over this (and to a large degree, I can understand why) but for music fans, it's an amazing time to get listen and learn to decades worth of amazing music.

In any case, if you find this all overwhelming too, blame/praise folks like these:
    Loronix. Hands-down, in terms of volume and consistency, the best album blog I've seen out there. If you're not a fan of Brazilian music and especially bossa nova after a few hours perusing the site, there's no hope for you. (Nitpick: They need better looking t-shirts. Just saying).

    Wake Your Daughter Up. They don't boast the volume that other hip-hop album sites do but in terms of the depth of writing that accompanies every post, I just appreciate the thought that goes into them. Quality over quantity, you know?

    The Smoking Section. Part album/song-blog for new releases, part online rap magazine. These dudes hustle harder than most bloggers I know put together. Especially as other bloggers have made the transition into more professional work (see Nahright's Eshkay power move to, I foresee Screw and Gotty being next to blow.

3. Where else to tune? For those of us still based around song-sites (so old school), here's two of my favorites plus a new spot:
    Office Naps. Yeah, I know, we partner with DJ Danny so I'm biased but f--- it. This is what I wish most audioblogs were like: great songs, great content, nice clean design. (You need to fix your RSS feed though!). As far as I'm concerned, I've yet to see a song-based blog that's got the overall package as nicely bundled as Office Naps. Look and learn.

    Captain's Crates. No fading the Captain either - just a great site with exceptional taste. Many of the songs he puts up earn their way onto my want list (much to the detriment of my pocketbook). Plus a radio show archive to boot? We're not worthy.

    Press Rewind If I Haven't Blown Your Mind. I love the basic conceit of this relatively new blog: not just song MP3s but magazine scans that accompany them. It's a great resource for not just music but also rap journalism.

4. Your suggestions? If you have a blog that you'd like to see considered for our blog roll, holla here. I'll probably update the list by sometime next week.


Friday, January 12, 2007

posted by O.W.

Charlie Whitehead & The Swamp Dogg Band: Let's Do It Again, Parts 3 & 4
From S/T (Fungus, 1973). Also on Songs to Sing.

Johnny Lytle: Big Bill
From 7" (Constellation, 1964). Also on The Loop.

I know it's been a while since I posted actual music on the site: I was gone all last week on vacation and this week has been spent recovering from being gone (ya'll know how that can go). To make up for it, I went deep into the private reserve and found a few old favorites I had forgotten about but I think the Soul Sides massive (i.e. you all) will like 'em.

The first is the nearly 10 minute "Let's Do It Again" by Charlie Whitehead, backed by the Swamp Dogg Band. It's listed as "parts 3 & 4" which begs the obvious question: where were parts 1 & 2 (and I still haven't tracked them down). This was Whitehead's first album under his own name but he had already cut LPs with Swamp Dogg previously, including the politically-charged Raw Spitt LP (which I still need to hear).

This song is a great example of funky soul in a proto-disco groove though it's far from the disco styles that drew so many people's ire by late decade. And hey, that opening breakbeat? Nice.

I'm a fan of vibraphonist Johnny Lytle's work/sound - his "Village Caller" is one of those songs that never fails to bring a smile to my lips. "Big Bill" is most easily found on his album, The Loop but the first time I heard it was off this Constellation label 7", a piece I got in a trade with Chairman Mao (Ego Trip). I'm not sure what else to say about it except that it's really, really good.

Actually, I do have more to say: what works about this is, to begin with, the interplay between vibes and organ...then that drum roll that brings in the rhythm section...then how Lytle's vibes dance about while Wynton Kelly's piano flutters underneaeth. Even though the song is hardly uptempo, the rhythm of the song is upbeat enough to make this wholly groove-worthy.

Next post won't take two weeks. Promise.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

posted by O.W.

Hey folks - sorry for being gone. Took a vacation out of town the past week for some much needed R&R. During that time, Zealous sent over some ideas for the new album cover for Soul Sides Volume Two. I wanted to share 'em with the public and get your feedback and which you like best:





No more feedback needed - thanks to everyone who voted!

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Monday, January 01, 2007

For Label Reps/Publicists
posted by O.W.

Q: Does accept submissions for reviews/write-ups?

A: Yes, but we ask folks to consider the fit before sending material through. Much as we like getting music to review, it would save both parties a lot of time and effort to avoid sending through material that doesn't synch with the site and its focus.

First of all, these are the main genres of music covered here at
  • Soul, disco and funk (1960s and '70s. More James Brown/Eddie Bo, less George Clinton/Rick James).
  • Hip-hop.
  • Latin/Afro-Latin/Brazilian, especially soul and jazz influenced.
  • Soul-influenced jazz (but not contemporary acid jazz) from the 1960s and '70s.
  • World music with a soul/funk edge.
  • ...and on occasion, various sub-genres of rock (psych especially).

Though most of what we cover tend to be "vintage" albums/singles from yesteryear, we also spend quite a bit of time covering new releases but in this order of importance:
    1) Reissues of previously released vintage albums covering the above genres.
    2) Anthologies/compilations of vintage material covering the genres above.
    3) New music in the vein of the above genres but these kinds of artists/projects have a fairly high bar to meet. It really depends.
To get a better sense, here are some smaller labels who've had success in drawing our interest have included: Now and Again/Stonesthrow, Truth and Soul, Daptone, Soundways, Light in the Attic, Emusica/Fania, etc.

Major labels working reissues/compilations of vault items - Atlantic, Stax, Motown, etc. - are of course, equally welcome.

Q: What if I'm a new artist/band and I want you to hear some of our music?

A: If you have music online, that'd be the best. Just email us a link to wherever we can hear your tunes. CD submissions are far less effective because of time reasons. Pre-programmed iPods though? That'd work. ;)

Q: How can I get your mailing address?

A: Email us.


O.W. @

posted by O.W.

Soul Sides link policy:

1) I only link pages that I'd actually visit myself. You might have the most kick ass death metal audioblog ever created but mine is not an appropriate site to trade links with. You might try Tofuhut though, who maintains the most thorough audioblog roll I've ever seen.
"Appropriate" means you at least include some postings that deal with soul, funk, jazz, hip-hop, etc.
2) If you don't update your site at least once a month, I'll likely remove your site from the roll. I don't clean house often but when I do, I check every single site I link to.
3) Do not post links to the comments below. From now on, please email your link requests here. I'll try to check every so often but don't expect a lightning quick turnaround.


posted by O.W.

Hosting this blog is as much a way of discovering music as it is for the readers. Here's my list of my favorite songs that I first heard in 2006 (and no, sound files are not available on most of these. Real fans already have 'em):

1. Ghostface Killah: The Champ
2. Smith: Baby, It's You
3. Practically everything off of Soul Boulders
4. Etta James: Sunday Kind of Love
5. Dells: I Can Sing a Rainbow/Love Is Blue
6. The Reflections: My Summer Breeze
7. The Kinks: Waterloo Sunset
8. Lupe Fiasco: I Gotcha
9. Donny Hathaway: What a Woman Really Means
10. Sam Taylor: Heaven On Our Minds
11. Don Gardner: My Baby Likes To Boogaloo
12. Fela Kuti: Water No Get Enemy
13. El Michels Affair: Ocho Rios
14. James Brown: Your Cheatin' Heart
15. Lee Fields: Honey Dove
16. Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators: No One's Gonna Love You More
17. Clipse: Ride Around Shining
18. Three Degrees: Collage
19. Promise: I'm Not Ready For Love
20. Jennifer Hudson: And I'm Telling You, I'm Not Going Away

And here are a few songs I loved that I didn't post:

1. J-Dilla: Signs
2. Cat Power: The Greatest
3. Nas: Can't Forget About You
4. Too Short, Snoop Dogg, Will.I.Am: Keep Bouncin'
5. Snoop Dogg: Think About It
6. The Whatnauts: I'll Erase Your Pain
7. Billy Preston: The Same Thing Again
8. Richard Hawley: The Ocean
9. Sweet and Innocent: Cry Love
10. The Shins: Sleeping Lessons