Thursday, February 28, 2008

posted by O.W.

Sunny and the Sunliners: Soul Pride + Cissy Strut
From The Missing Link (Key-Loc, 197?)

I wanted to thank everyone for their support in picking up one our CDs. As a gesture of my gratitude, I decided to slip out another of the "top shelf" records (though not from a fire crate record[1]) with two cuts off this Sunny and the Sunliners LP. The group was based around San Antonio and had a long, healthy career, releasing singles and albums on the Key-Loc label. (Later, group member Rudy Guerra would go onto found a similar band, The Latin Breed, who are equal legends in the Texas funk scene, especially with their releases on GCP.

Like most of Sunny and the Sunliners albums from this era, Missing Link is a mix of Tex-Mex ranchera songs with a few odd soul and funk tunes mixed in. Apart from the two songs included above, there's also a slower, instrumental cut, "Boo Boo" and a midtempo funk tune, "Pressure Cooker" (good name). I appreciate that diversity and seeming eclecticism though I know, for the group, there likely was no contradiction in them playing a Norteño track one minute and a soul one the next.

Their cover of "Soul Pride" is pretty loyal - a good funk slammer, no doubt - but their version of "Cissy Strut" is something fierce, especially with their addition of the "Sing a Simple Song" horn bridge (nice). Is it my favorite cover of this Meters classic? Tough call - I do dig the new elements they throw in but I might have to stick with the Hoctor cover (and don't sleep on the Trinidad Steel Drum Band's either).

[1] Fire crate records = some DJs joke about keeping a crate of records that they'll grab in case of a fire. It's a good idea for a future post, no?

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posted by O.W.

The Rascals: Groovin'
From Groovin' (Atlantic, 1967)

Editor's Note: This guest post comes from Scott Homewood who wanted to muse on the magic of the (Young) Rascals, one of more prominent blue-eyed soul groups that emerged during the mid/late 1960s. --O.W.

Written by Scott Homewood:
    When someone brings up the word "soul" pertaining to music, I immediately flash back to the first time I heard "Groovin'" by The (Young) Rascals. Let me tell you a little something: if you have not heard their stuff, you are missing out on some of the most soulful music you will ever hear. Some of you might remember the band from the mid-'60's when they still had the word "Young" as part of their name (as they did when "Groovin'" became a hit) before they shed it in defiance of their record company like a snake shedding it's old skin to become shiny and new again, just as they later shed their "pop band" persona to pursue some more esoteric groove-based music. But, sadly, if you remember the band at all you probably remember the band most as an "oldies" station staple thanks to their hits "You Better Run" (yeah, they did it way before Pat Benatar and way better, too, I might add), "It's a Beautiful Morning", the aforementioned "Groovin'", "People Got To Be Free" and many, many others. Based around the swirling keyboards and soul-drenched vocals of Felix Cavaliere, the remaining members (vocalist/percussionist Eddie Brigati, guitarist Gene Cornish and drummer Dino Danelli) more than held their own.

    While I find most people consider their music as part of the "rock" genre, I have always considered their some of the deepest soul music I have ever heard. Even before they started making concept albums towards the end of their career, their music was steeped in it, though in their early days it was more R&B based. Later on though, after they said screw off to pandering for hits, they could've given the Average White Band some lessons in cutting the cake. In fact, to my ears, their last two or three albums compete with classics like Stevie Wonder's Innervisions and Marvin Gaye's Hear, My Dear as latter-day soul masterpieces. But then, I have always heard the soul in their sound, right back to the day where their hit "Groovin'" dug its' groove down deep into my soul. To listen as the band evolves from their R&B roots to their later sound is aurally mesmerizing and well worth whatever it takes to by their albums, especially since they have all recently been reissued.

    But, back to "Groovin'".

    I first heard the song about ten years after it was first released when sitting around the dining room table at my brother Robert's new house as he and his wife Marie unpacked their belongings and started to settle into their new environment. This was in January of 1977 and they had moved from their duplex apartment across town to a new place just across the street from where our parents lived. I was overjoyed as I idolized my older brother. He was a music freak and he had turned me into one as well. All my musical heroes like James Brown, Chuck Berry, Solomon Burke, Jimmy Reed and The Rolling Stones were recommended by my brother, who thankfully knew quality when he heard it. He once got me started on a major blues kick when he casually remarked one day that he liked B. B. King and Muddy Waters. Weird names to me, I started saving my allowance to buy any of their albums I could get my hands on. Muddy Waters? Is that near where the Howlin' Wolves hang out?

    Anyway, as I watched them set up their new house (and helped a little), eventually the record player was removed from the cardboard box used for the move and watched as it was set up on their silver-shiny metal entertainment center. Soon the albums were also unpacked as well as a large stack of 45's I had given to my brother as a Christmas present a year before. I had acquired the vinyl booty at a garage sale from an older couple who noticed me salivating over all them and said I could have them for nothing. Of course, before I gave them to my brother I had made sure to take out the James Brown and Rolling Stones singles I wanted for myself. As my brother's wife sat the box of singles on the table, he noticed them and thought it would be cool to play some. He asked his wife and I to pick whichever ones we wanted to hear. I had already taken out all the ones I knew and liked before giving them to him so I had no idea what any of them sounded like and, thus, deferred to his wife, who excitedly picked out The (Young) Rascals' "Groovin'". Not knowing the song or the band, I said to myself "whatever" and prepared to get back to helping my brother unpack.

    The gentle sound of the bongos beating and the birds chirping immediately caught my ear as if someone had grabbed my head and twisted it Exorcist-like towards the speakers. Up to that point I could not remember a song with an introduction anywhere near as compelling. Then, as the song flowed, I knew I was hearing something special. Something that was about to change my life. It was nothing like any of the Top 40 hits I was used to hearing on the AM stations. It wasn't a throwaway novelty or glammy, pop rock - it was pure soul, but not like the teen-pop Motown songs everyone else liked but that I felt were too obvious and dumbed-down. This shit was DEEP. This was a song filled with passion, love and heart - it seemed more mature and meaningful than most of the rock songs of the time that I was used to hearing. And I've later gone back and listened extensively to the music around when the song was a hit, and there's not too much that can compare. It was a slice of life, made by those who seemed to have lived a little of one, unlike myself who was still in school and hoping to experience some of the things The Rascal's lead singer Felix Cavaliere was singing in his song.

    Though the song's lyrical thrust was simple on the surface - being about the lead character spending a leisurely Sunday with his girlfriend - what the song implied was ten times more powerful than what it said outright. The song's lead character and his girlfriend were deeply in love, led busy lives during the week and looked forward to their special time on Sunday afternoons when they could relax and be together. When you're a kid and still trying to figure out where you belong, how and how much to love someone else, and how to act in a relationship - this was powerful stuff. Stuff that spoke volumes about what it was like to be an adult in a relationship. The song's simplicity yet earnestness is the charm, its sense of giving so unalloyed. At it's core the song is just a slice of life - but it implies much and says volumes to those just starting to really live. To me, this shows deep, deep soulfulness. Sure, the bass doesn't make your booty feel like shaking and there ain't a funky horn section led by Fred Wesley, but to me, this song and this band, epitomize what soul is about - deep relationships. Sure, later on I figured out "groovin'" could stand for "fucking" - I mean, check this lyric: "life could be ecstasy, you and me endlessly...groovin'" - but at that point what I thought it meant was just as important to me. Everything the Rascals were and what they became is forever captured in this song. The early innocense and the later explorations of soul and jazz. Though my other favorite part of The Rascal's sound, Gene Cornish's grinding rhythm guitar breaks, was absent in favor of a softer tone, everything you ever wanted to know about The Rascals is contained in this song.

    Everyone and their brother should know this song. Thankfully, mine did, thanks to his wife, who I found out had been the one to turn him on to The Rascals.

    The Rascals would eventually get out of the pop song business and explore full-on soul and jazz with their later albums. Rambling masterworks, these way experimental albums would embrace far-reaching concepts and themes far more mature than most "pop" acts, with the music always based on Cavaliere's soulful keyboard work and husky vocals. Though the band broke up by 1974, the Rascals' music still resonates today and provides many cool grooves to dance to, grooves I can listen to over and over now that the band's long-neglected back catalog is available again.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

posted by O.W.

Buddy Miles dies at age 60.

Apart from his excellent cover of Neil Young's "Down By the River" (above), Miles was responsible for "Them Changes," a song that in all its permutations, I've always found to be excellent.

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posted by Captain Planet

Mud.jpg Wolf.jpg Frog.jpg

Muddy Waters : I Just Wanna Make Love To You & Mannish Boy
taken from the album
"Electric Mud" on Cadet (1968)

Howlin' Wolf : Spoonful, Smokestack Lightning & Evil
taken from the album
"The Howlin' Wolf Album" on Cadet (1968)

Wynder K Frog : Into The Fire & Howl In Wolf's Clothing
taken from the album
"Into The Fire" on United Artists (1970)

It makes little sense to me, how after years of tirelessly searching the used bins at hundreds of music stores, religiously reading the record reviews in all types of periodicals, and more recently, scouring the vast savannas of the blogosphere for great sounds, somehow, I still have managed to miss some of the most fundamental things. Enter
Muddy and Wolf.

I found these 3 records together at the same small local shop that I picked up those
Super Blues & Bo Diddley LPs at a while back, and I have a hunch that they all came from the same collection. While I shamefully recognized back then that I had blindly slept on the funky rawness of the Super Blues trio (Diddley, Muddy & Wolf), I now feel like a total imbecile for not realizing the depth of these cats greatness. Shredding and pounding this hard back in '68, these dudes almost make Hendrix seem less badass - almost. Now Wynder K Frog may not stand up to the monumental gangster that these guys represent, but at least he had the decent sense back then to recognize a good thing when it was going on and try to join the party. Some might recognize his tribute to Wolf, "A Howl In Wolf's Clothing" (which is pretty clearly ripped from "Smokestack"), as the basis for a Handsome Boy Modelling School cut. Also nice to hear a raucous 30-second cowbell drumbreak at the top of side-A.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

posted by O.W.

Lloyd Charmers: Let's Get It On
From Trojan Motor City Reggae (Trojan, 2006)

Little Beaver: Let the Good Times Roll
From Party Down (Cat, 1974)

Betty Wright: Tonight Is the Night
From Danger - High Voltage (Alston, 1974)

My sister-in-law is starting a dance class and is looking for suggestions for suitable music. To be more specific, she's looking for: ""songs that make you feel like getting your groove on. Sexy slow uptempo or mid tempo, it's all good we're just asking for some ideas of what makes you feel sexy." I've thrown some suggestions her way but I figured I could gather a few from the Soul Sides crowd.

Here are two songs that came to mind for me:

"Let's Get It On" is practically de rigeur under these conditions but I thought I'd offer up the song with a twist - a really nice reggae cover by Lloyd Charmers that does a nice job of working off the original without straying too far. It's not better than Gaye's original - nothing ever could be - but it's a cool twist on a familiar classic.

The Little Beaver song is something I've been meaning to post for a long time but as part of a Little Beaver post...I still haven't gotten around to that (obviously) but this seemed like a good opportunity to pull out this, one of my favorite songs by one of Miami's finest. I love how the song hits this perfect balance as a soulful funk tune (or funky soul tune) with an irresistible rhythm that, for me at least, always seems to inspire a scrunched scowl that says, "oh yeah baby." You know what I mean.

Last song is the original version of Betty Wright's hit "Tonight Is the Night." Most folks are familiar with her live version and strangely, it's very hard to find her first version on CD. I can see why the live version is more celebrated but I've always liked this studio take too - it's more mellow, a bit more slick (vs. the rawness of the live one) but still has that familiar melody and hook that people know so well. That plus, c'mon - it's just about the best song ever written about losing one's virginity (albeit, no one's first time likely goes this groovy).

What sexy jams would you suggest for my sister-in-law's class?

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

posted by O.W.

I promised I'd bring back some old mix-CDs once I cleared out the remaining stock. Just because it's hard to gauge interest, I only did limited stock (30 copies) on all these but after a few weeks, I'll make all four available through the digital site.

Right now, what we have left is:
Headwarmers: 19
Auditory Assault: 19 
Groove Thing: 15
Adventures in Rhythm: 18

I also got free copies of Scion's Daptone Records Remixed CDs back in stock. While supplies last, any CD order from us will come with the Scion double-CD as a free bonus.

Here are the four new CDs we have available:

1) Headwarmers (O's Dub, Vol. 6)

I originally recorded this mixtape back in 1997. As you might guess, it was the sixth tape in my hip-hop mix series, and for some reason, it became the one I have gotten the most props for. DJ Shadow even has it as one of the mixtapes shown in the liner notes for Private Press.

Over the years, folks have nudged me to make more of my old tapes available on CD and while I've resisted, I decided if any single one of them was going to get "reissued," it might as well be the fan favorite.

As it is, I was given added incentive by the folks at Staple Design in NYC who had originally asked me to submit a CD of some sort for a project that eventually got iced. However, it gave me an excuse to digitize the tape - yes, this was from when mixtapes actually meant tapes and not CDs - as well as make some tweaks. Note: The CD version is a little shorter than the original. Partly it's because my tapes were always 90 minutes and I can't fit that on a typical CD. More importantly though, some songs just ran on too long to my liking on the old tape and I decided to edit the songs to make them shorter and keep the pacing brisk. All the original songs still appear though: an intriguing mix of indie and major label hip-hop that's a snapshot of the underground, circa 1996 and '97. (Cue nostalgic sigh: "ah, the good ol' days.")

Here's the tracklist.

Here's a lo-fi, 10 min sampler from the tape.

I don't plan to bring back very many of my hip-hop mixtapes - there's this one, Auditory Assault (see below) and of the rest (I had 10, in all), I'd consider Vol. 8: Polyrhythmatic and Vol 9: Double Flip and leave it at that.

Speaking of which:

2) Auditory Assault (O's Dub, Vol. 9.5) the 9.5 thing was mostly because I had grand designs of doing a Vol. 10, Anniversary edition that'd cover ten years of hip-hop...but then grad school intervened. Then I had a kid. get the idea. In any case, this was the last hip-hop tape I ended up making - and the first one to actually be on CD. The songs on here are all drawn from circa 2000 (which now seems like an era or two ago) and even though there's a few tracks I wouldn't have included in hindsight, I do like how it comes together as a mix.

Here's a 11 min, lo-fi sampler.

Tracklisting and liner notes here.

3 + 4) A Groove Thing + Adventures in Rhythm

A Groove Thing wasn't technically the first soul/funk mix I put together. That'd be Soul Symphony, but this was the first real dance mix I ever assembled, back around 2002, then followed it up with Adventures in Rhythm in 2003. To be honest, I've been dying to get to a new one (I can't believe it's been five years since the last) but in going back to these two, I'm actually still pleased with how they turned out, especially in figuring out how to transition between funk, Latin and hip-hop. Song-wise, there's still stuff on here that I'd put out again though, in all honesty, some stuff I wouldn't touch again (but isn't that always the case)?

Adventures has been avail on digital download for a minute but I haven't repressed either it or A Groove Thing to CD in years and after this run, I'll likely permanently retire both to digital pastures.

Here's a Groove Thing sampler, and here's the Adventures sampler.

TO ORDER: I've updated the Orders page. There's a discount for multiple CD orders and as noted, all orders come with a copy of the Scion/Daptone Remixed CD (while supplies last).

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

posted by O.W.

Thursday, February 21st @ Boogaloo L.A.

I'll be holding it down solo for the entire night while Murphy's Law gets a much deserved break. This is my first time in a looooong time DJing for an entire evening so come out and lend me moral support. (That plus, the music will be niiiiiiice).

I'll also tote some CD giveaways - be one of the first five to sign up on our mailing list and I'll break you off.


posted by O.W.

Manu Dibango: African Pop Session + Aphrodite Shake
From African Voodoo (PSI, 1972)

Ok - so people were asking about more top shelf records; here's probably one of the first ones I got my hands-on. I copped this - I kid you not - from a record store in the United Arab Emirates. Not in person but even for an interweb find, it was still rather remarkable, especially since it cost me $20, including shipping. (It typically goes for a little bit more).

African Voodoo is basically a library-style record of instrumentals done by Manu Dibango of "Soul Makossa" fame and it is, I'd say with some confidence, his funkiest work, by far. "African Pop Session" is some dark, blaxploitation score for midnight stalkers while "Aphrodite Shake" drops a nice, smoky Afro-Latin groove - dig how they pan the congas and drum kit in separate channels.

So why not post this earlier? I actually had planned to at one point but then noticed it had shown up, in full album form, on other blogs. That took the proverbial wind out of the sails, not just because I've been beaten from the punch (which I could care less about) but rather, once a $400 record becomes just another download, part of its unique magic dissipates. Under those circumstances, I'd rather post up something more meaningful to me, personally, than "check out this rare record I have" (especially when it's not so rare once it becomes more mass available). Ah, but such is the reality of music going online. Hope folks (who haven't already downloaded the whole album[1]) enjoy this still.

[1] That sound you hear are a thousand hands searching Google Blogs.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Que Es El Bonche?
posted by Captain Planet

cortijo1.JPG cortijo2.JPG cortijo3.JPG

Cortijo Y Su Bonche : Sorongo & Tiempo De Amor
taken from the album
"Sorongo" on TICO (1968)

Cortijo Y Su Bonche : Agua Que Va A Caer & Ublabadu
taken from the album
"Ahi Na Ma! Put It There!" on TICO (196?)

Cortijo Y Su Bonche : Pa' Los Caserios & Pa Guayama
taken from the album
"Pa' Los Caserios" on Actuality (197?)

Sorry for lack of posts. Between the 102 degree fever that had me stuck in bed and doing several shows last week (being groggy on stage is where it's at), I was short on quality record listening time.

Rafael Cortijo is a legendary figure in Puerto Rican music, being one of the first to bring the Bomba and Plena rhythms out of the slums and into the ears of the vast record buying public - in PR and elsewhere. He's perhaps most famous for his early recordings with vocalist Ismael Rivera and his later more straight ahead salsa records, but for a brief stint while Rivera was in jail on drug charges, Cortijo put together this highly original group "El Bonche". Before "salsa" was a widely recognized term (or musical concept), Cortijo used El Bonche to mix various Latin styles in new ways. Little bit of boogaloo, little bit of bomba, whole lot of descarga. These are the only three records I've seen with "El Bonche", and they lead the way up to Cortijo's one-of-a-kind foray into funk which was captured on 1974's "Maquina Del Tiempo" LP (also highly recommended). While these songs lack the wah-wah and fuzz guitar prevalent on that album, they make up for it with their highly danceable swing and playful, catchy hooks (see: "Ublabadu"). You can credit Cortijo's daughter, Fe, with the uncommon addition of female vocals - not sure why more Latin groups didn't do this at the time, it sounds pretty cool on cuts like "Tiempo De Amor" and "Pa' Los Caserios".

The man's output was such that I could easily do several more posts covering different periods of his carreer and have no difficulty coming up with hot tracks, but for now at least, that's all you get.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

posted by O.W.

The Four Mints: Too Far Gone (alt. take)
From Gently Down Your Stream (Capsoul, 1973/Asterisk, 2007)

Boscoe: If I Had My Way
From S/T (Kingdom of Chad, 1973/Asterisk, 2007)

The Rollers: Knockin' At The Wrong Door
Previously unreleased (Deep City, 1970)

Lynn Williams: Don't Be Surprise [sic]
From 7" (Suncut, 1969)

Both from The Outskirts of Deep City (Numero Group, 2008)

I never fail to be blown away by both the consistency and quantity of material that Ken Shipley and Rob Sevier, aka the duo behind Numero Group - and now, they're new subsidiary reissue label, Asterisk. Seriously - it's not enough that they're now the finest soul reissue/compilation label in the game but it's like they have to rub it in by creating new labels, putting out albums as appendixes and composing liner notes that put most to shame.

To start with, Asterisk is a new venture that's basically a way for NG to reissue whole albums, package it slightly more austerely, but still offer excellent liners and more importantly, the opportunity to listen to albums that, previously, had been rare as hen's teeth or rooster dentures. Whatever.

The Boscoe, for example, has become a running joke over at Soulstrut - it's like a default holy grail. You don't need to have heard the album...or even like the just want your Boscoe. A product of the same Chicago Black cultural movements that inspired Sun Ra and Phil Cochran, Boscoe has the same kind of liberation/spiritual vibe as those other albums, only filtered through some viscous funk that leaves you feeling dirty and uplifted in the same moment. Note: Numero Group has also released the album on vinyl.

The Four Mints' project dates back to Numero's very first anthology on the Capsoul label. The Four Mints were some of the more prolific artists on that Columbus, OH imprint and their LP was the only album Capsoul ever released before folding. As the liners warn you: the original wasn't an "album" in the Sgt. Pepper meaning of the term; it really just puts together all the group's 45s onto a single disc plus a bonus song (the studio version of "Too Far Gone"). Beautiful stuff all around - their output was gorgeous (peep "Do You Really Love Me"). I was especially taken with this "alternative take" of "Too Far Gone," which, in my opinion, is better than the official take - it's more sparse, has stronger drums but still has the great harmonies.

Their new Outskirts of Deep City CD follows up on their previous Deep City anthology which highlighted this powerfully influential Miami label where folks like Betty Wright got their starts and Clarence Reid made a home for himself for a spell. Keep in mind - the Outskirts album contains tracks left off the first comp (plus many songs that turned up after, including a slew of never-before-released songs) and despite being the follow-up, the album is smoking. "Deep" indeed.

The Rollers' "Knockin' At the Wrong Door" is one of the songs NG discovered on reel to reel and this is the first time the song has ever seen a release. If it sounds kind of familiar, that's probably because it's clearly "borrowing" from the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" but despite being derivative on the rhythm track, the group's hook is a fine creation on their own and really sells the song.

The Lynn Williams is something I put on SS about 3 years ago but when I saw it show up here, I figured it was time for a re-up. What I said about it last time still holds: "That's not a typo with the Lynn Williams' song. For some reason, the label for the 45 says "Don't Be Surprise" not "Don't Be Surprised". Go figure. Whatever the mistake, the song isn't: it's a fantastically moody and sulty soul cut out of Miami. Reminds me a little of Isaac Hayes' "Walk On By" - not nearly as well-produced, but just the feel of it: dark and dramatic. (And yes, before anyone says it, Jurassic 5 sampled it. Ok?)"

I should also add that this song is more than just dark - Williams sounds fatalistic at times. The one line that stands out to me: "don't be surprised/if you see me/laying on the railroads tracks/don't be surprised/if I let a train run/up and down my back." Damn girl, he's just a man - it's not worth it!

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posted by O.W.

Ray Charles: Come Rain or Come Shine

Doris Troy: Just One Look

The Sweet Inspirations: A Brand New Lover, Part 1

Howard Tate: She's a Burgler

Daryl Hall and John Oates: She's Gone

All from Atlantic Soul (Rhino Handmade, 2007)

When I first saw this boxset, my initial thought was, "isn't 'Atlantic Soul' redundant"? It's just that I've always associated Atlantic with soul and certainly, the history of the house that Ahmet built is very much tied into the history of soul itself, especially as Jerry Wexler shrewdly traveled from NYC down to cities like Memphis, Macon and Muscle Shoals to record Atlantic-signed artists.

The idea behind the boxset however is a foray into some of Atlantic's lesser-known - but still important - songs that helped develop its rep as the other major soul label of the 1960s. People may note: "how lesser-known is a song like, say, 'Just One Look' or Aretha's 'I Say A Little Prayer' (which appears on disc 3)"? Fair enough and to be candid, that was my first reaction too...but then I looked at the playlist and realized I wasn't familiar with most of the songs (or even artists) on here.

Blue-eyed soulster Billy Vera wrote the liner notes (he recorded for Atlantic in the '60s) and as you'd expect from Rhino Handmade, the packaging is ace (photos especially). Personally, while Vera takes a breezy, insiders' approach to the liners, I did find it a bit light, at least compared to something as in-depth as Rob Bowman's damn-near-encyclopedic notes for the Stax boxset. Then again, I'm into the minutiae and other readers may just want some quick context.

The five songs I plucked off this 4-CD set are not equally distributed; for whatever reason, I ended up gravitating to disc 1 and 4 much more than 2 and 3 (and here I thought, I really like the late '60s!).

The Ray Charles begins the entire set, a lovely little ballad from 1959 (The Genius of Ray Charles album) that accentuates Charles' gift for delivering a feeling that's not always easy to name but once he gets you there, you want to hold onto it as long as possible.

The Doris Troy has long, long been a favorite of mine; one of the first 45s I ever bought, back around 1993 or '94, was "Just One Look" and strangely, I hadn't listened to it for a long time until recently and was reminded, "goddamn, this is a great song." It's astounding that this 1963 song was Troy's only hit, despite a long, rich career as a back-up singer for everyone from the Warwick sisters to Rolling Stones. A stone-cold classic, even as a one hit wonder, "Just One Look" has the shine and groove that makes it one of the best songs Motown never recorded. Actually, forget that: it's simply one of the best songs ever recorded.

When I picked the Sweet Inspirations' song, I had no idea that Troy had actually been a member of the group's previous incarnation: the Drinkard Singers, arguably one of the most storied set of back-up sessioners in soul history. Not only had Troy been a member, but so had Judy Clay, Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick, Estelle Brown and Cissy Houston. In fact, "Gotta Find Myself a Brand New Lover" was the last Sweet Inspirations song (from 1969) that featured Houston before she left for her own solo career. The electric piano is what grabbed me on this initially (I'm a sucker for it) but the way the song builds quickly with some powerful harmonies and the string arrangement was mesmerizing. The chorus on here is amazing.

At some point, I'll have to get around to posting up this great Howard Tate 7" I recently brought in but for now, just enjoy one of his solid hits in the '70s, the Southern-flavored "She's A Burglar." I like how he says, "she broke into my mind" even though the actual imagery is some what perturbing. All in all, a very cool, slinky funk tune.

Lastly, we end with....well...Hall and Oates and maybe this is just nostalgia from my youth (though I never grew up with '70s era Hall and Oates; it was all about the '80s) but I also thought it'd be interesting to hear what Atlantic, in the mid 70s sounded like, especially with a group a lot of folks are familiar with but not necessarily this tune (though it was the group's first major break-out hit).


Monday, February 11, 2008

posted by O.W.

Thursday, February 14th
Our Valentine's Day Slow Jam Special!

People may have noticed, on the right-hand sidebar, that myself and Murphy's Law from Captain's Crate have started a new weekly. It's called "Boogaloo" and it will be every Thursday night at the Short Stop in Echo Park.

We've already done two nights there but the actual "weekly" had its "soft launch" this month. ML and I don't have our marketing ducks in a row yet but we're trying to get things ready for an official launch party in early March.

The music at Boogaloo will resemble much at what you find here and at Captain's Crate: Latin will be in full effect, as well as soul, funk and disco and occasional excursions into the eclectic. It will not be a hip-hop night (though we may throw on old school jam every now and then). We're already up against any number of very good nights around town, especially Root Down and Afro Funke and we're trying to carve out our own space against some very respectable competition.

The Boogaloo crew is turning on the red light all night for Valentine's Day. From 10 to 2am, it's all slow jams to get your groove (or grind) on.

Murphy's Law and O-Dub are creating a special one hour slow jam mix available for download to anyone to comes out to this.

Remember - it's free! Impress your date AND save money!


Sunday, February 10, 2008

posted by O.W.

The Exciters: Yo, Que Nada Tengo + Let Your Self Go
From S/T (Tamayo, late '60s?)

Margie Joseph: I Can't Move No Mountains + The Same Love That Made Me Laugh
From Margie (Atlantic, 1975)

I was thinking of something Murphy's Law wrote a few weeks back: "THE DEEPER YOU GET, THE DEEPER THE MUSIC GET. There is more ill music out there than you and I can wrap our sorry little heads around."

To me, the second statement actually refutes the former because really, there's an incredibly, unfathomable amount of "ill music out there" on the surface that you don't always need to "go deep" in order to find it.

That isn't to say that "going deep" doesn't have its own rewards. But rarity and quality are not commensurate. The relative quality of my best $10 albums probably kick the ass of other records I own that go from 10-20 times that. The main difference is that Al Green and James Brown albums were pressed in the millions. West Coast Revival...not so much.

Ultimately, it's about searching for the sublime and to a certain extent, whether that manifests in the form of a $1 bin cut-out record or a $300 private press LP off Atomic's wall, if you have the means, either is worth acquiring. Of course, rarity is a quality in and of itself...not because it's better but often it is...quirkier. I'm generalizing of course but for those who don't believe that popularity is determined by marketing alone, songs/albums that catch fire usually do so because they appeal to a wide swath of people. The albums that end up with runs smaller than batting averages - those are the ones that never caught on with anyone. Maybe they were ahead of their time. Maybe they were just too weird. Maybe someone was broke. Regardless, the higher up the record chain (or deeper if you prefer), it's more likely you're going to find something that's just a bit "off." And that may not always equate to sublime in the way, say, Willie Mitchell's production is sublime. But it can equal "something you haven't heard before." (Secret translation: "interesting enough that you just mortgaged your daughter's college fund for it.")[1]

This post mixes it up both ways. I start with The Exciters' self-titled album on the Panamaian imprint Tamayo. Like most, I learned about the group through the excellent Panama comp that my man Beto worked on and luckily, when he had a copy for sale, I decided to take the plunge on it. It is, to be sure, a very quirky album, which befits the unique Panamanian geography of sound.

You can literally throw a dart at the tracklisting (preferably not however) and each song will come from a vastly different genre. My favorite song is actually the "Exciters Theme" (but you'll have to cop the CD to enjoy it in full) but there's also a nice merengue tipico track, "Ese Muerto No Lo Cargo Yo," for the dancefloor. There's also several American covers, none more mesmerizing than the Spanish language cover of "I, Who Have Nothing", "Yo, Que Nada Tengo." I don't know how they're processing those guitars at the beginning, but it almost sounds like a steel guitar...played underwater.

No less surprising is the cover of James Brown's "Let Yourself Go" - a modest 1967 hit. The version doesn't hold up against the original (though the Exciters' guitarist should do Jimmy Nolen proud) but I do always love hearing Brown covered outside of the U.S.

Ok - so that's the money record. Here's the bargain bin gem: I first heard "I Can't Move No Mountains" when Hua and I did our Redwood gig and he dropped this Joseph track on 45. It sounded amazing played out loud - the kind of disco cut you wish people would think of when they hear of the word "disco" instead of crap like this. (For starters, it all but annihilates the original. I seriously can't get enough of this song and best of all - it's off an album that rarely goes for very much at all (at least on vinyl. The only CD version that's been readily avail was on Japanese import but it looks like it's finally getting a domestic release next month). It's a proverbial steal.

Plus, besides that song, you also get a very nice cover of Bill Withers' "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh." Sweet.

The moral is that there's so much great music out there to discover and whether it costs you $1 or $100 or even $1000, the experience of hearing a great song for the first time is [wait for it]...priceless.

[1] Here's a little secret: I almost never share songs from the latter, "top shelf" albums or 45s. This is likely a generational thing - I'm young enough to enjoy - really enjoy - blogging about music but I'm still part of an older school of collecting that keeps certain cards close to the chest. I know other bloggers/collectors don't feel the same way (hence the rash of album-oriented audioblogs that post up stuff like, well, like that West Coast Revival album that I spent a pretty penny on only to see it posted up two weeks later. %*#)@!) and I respect their generosity, especially since it helps expose me to other records. That said, my holy grails and white whales tend only to get shared at the club or on a mixtape but I never felt Soul Sides suffered for it since, as noted, the amount of great - common - records out there is unbelievably deep that it's not like anyone's lacking because they haven't heard that Filipino version of "Tango Goo Bonk" I keep squirreled away.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

posted by O.W.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Original Gumbo Funk
posted by murphyslaw

Bob Azzam: Rain, Rain, Go Away, Berimbau and The Last Time
Taken from the album New Sounds on Columbia (1968)

Query: Where in pop music does a bespectacled Lebanese-born Egyptian-Jew who, on a single album, records covers of Alan Toussaint, The Rolling Stones and classic Brazilian standards fit in... Is there a home on the charts for a guy who sings in six languages, borrowing sonic textures from Kalamazoo to Timbuktu and everything in between?

Answer: Yeah. He's got a home alright. And I'll tell you exactly where he fits in: right at the damn top.

By the time Bob Azzam recorded these songs, he was already a household name. Kids across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia Minor had been hip to the avuncular Azzam for nearly a decade. He had crashed the musical scene in the late 50's with his sincerely off-beat hit "Mustapha"--sung in French, Arabic and Italian--about meeting a girl in an Egyptian night club. At one point in the course of that song he claims (in Italian) to adore her like "salsa pommodore" (tomato sauce), which to the fledgling Azzam-o-phile may sound wierd. But considering that other of his hits include a song called "Fais-mois du couscous, cheri", which translates to "Make Me Couscous, Darling", the sauce simile might seem so bizarre.

(Imagine Justin Timberlake comparing his broken love with Britney to a crumbled Pop Tart [Ouch. No pun intended.] Damn. Music done changed.)

Azzam would spent most of his adult years living in and touring around Europe preaching his pan-global gospel to legions of multi-ethnic diaspora, European-minded Europeans, and generally curious passers-by. And, to my mind, he must have left his mark on them all: music for the masses; something for everyone.

Anyhow... These selections come from a superb album which reflects in its 30-odd minutes all the wonderfully diverse music stylings of a guy clearly unperturbed by the idea of mixing flavors from around the world into a pungent, zesty stew where bongo meets sitar and fuzz meets flute... Maybe that's what he meant by "salsa pommodore"--a sauce of his own peculiar and delicious blend. A kind of Azzam-esque Gumbo Funk. Hm.

(As a side note, I think that this music could be categorized as "Exotica", though I think that would be a bit of a misnomer. The founding principle of Exotica--correct me if I'm wrong--is white man's (read: colonizer's) take on foreign (read: colonized) music. So while the Azzam's stuff bears some sonic resemblance to the iller strains of Exotica, I think he kind of transcends the genre because he is all that he represents.)

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

posted by O.W.

Strictly on the geek tip...

for those of you with iPhones or an iPod Touch, Soul Sides now has a custom webclip icon if you want to subscribe to the site as a bookmark on your homepage. It will appear automatically.

Don't forget - you can listen to our songs via many PDA/phones (assuming you also have a wifi connect unless you really like waiting for stuff to download via 2G and 3G connections).

Monday, February 04, 2008

posted by O.W.

If there are any Soul Sides folks out there with a particular love for/knowledge in Northern Soul, I'd like to get in touch, especially for any recommendations on comps, albums, singles, artists, etc. Turn the tables and school me a for a change. Gimme a holler.

Land Of 1000 Remixes
posted by Captain Planet


Erykah Badu : Honey (Capt. Planet Remix)
exclusive freshness

Red Astaire : Love To Angie (Remix of Angie Stone's "Wish I Didn't Miss You")
taken from the album "Nuggets For The Needy" on Homegrown

The Doors : Break On Through (Bossarocker Remix)
taken from the whitelable 12" available here

Gang Starr ft. Nice & Smooth : DWYCK (Little Kids Remix)
taken from the whitelable 12" available here

Pretty much fell in love instantly with the new Erykah single (and accompanying video), so when I got my hands on the acapella, I went to work right away. It's no secret that I have a serious talkbox fetish, and as you can hear, this has been manifesting itself overwhelmingly in my work lately. But who's complaining? All vocoder and instrumentation by yours truly.

I'm also posting some of my crate staple whitelables that never fail to stir a crowd in motion. In the era of iPod DJs and Serato tricknology, I find that it's just as much about how you present a song as it is about the actual song itself that you're playing. Tasteful, creative remixes like these bring a whole new life to tracks that otherwise might be a little too played out or were never really dancer friendly to begin with.

Starting with my homie Red Astaire's masterpiece (this has become one of my signature tunes that I've played perhaps every single gig since first copping it from him a year ago), Angie Stone gives a little something back to the B-Boys and B-Girls. My theory is, this track will 100% GUARANTEE that someone in the house will start uprocking- test it for yourself! Also, be a champ and pick up the whole album, which is jampacked with other remix hotness (funky Latin reworkings of hip hop classics, a bossa version of D'Angelo, and another 12" favorite of mine "Tito"), and get your money's worth on an album for once. Murphy posted the reggae remix to this one a while back, and while that one certainly has it's appeal, this one's better suited for the dancefloor methinks.

The Bossarocker Remix first cracked my head open when I was getting loose to one of Gilles Peterson's notoriously glorious DJ sets at the packed and sweaty Canal Room here in NYC. By the time the second "is everybody in?" dropped, people all around me were buggin' out. Been out for a while now, but this is another one of those 12"s that I just haven't been able to take out of my crate (since I jacked it from young Murphy! haha - you can have it back now). Get a copy for yourself (with a funky B-side rework of "Fever") right here.

Another bossa remix that easily works into the same set is this Little Kids version of DWYCK. Who are the Little Kids? I don't know, but I'm waiting to hear something else from them. This one is a perfect mid-tempo bridge that can help you cross over from a hip hop set into some Latin or Brazilian- or just bounce while stuck in traffic. COP IT HERE.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

posted by O.W.

Editor's Note: Here is part 2 of John Cameron Mitchell's "Soulful Distractions Sampler." My thanks again to JCM for the contribution (you're welcome to guest-post any time).
    Strange Man - Dorothy Love Coates
    from Testify! - the Gospel Box (1999) [recorded 1967]

    Probably my favorite traditional gospel performance of all time. This was on an old cassette that the girl who played Wendy to my Peter Pan gave me in Denver in the late mid 80's when I was in my early late 20's.
    Dorothy is so tough when she sings the line: "...the very ACT of adultery..."

    Lyin' on the Truth - Rance Allen Group
    from Wattstax (Box Set) (2007) [recorded live 1972]

    Probably my favorite modern gospel performance. If you see the (genius) film you'll discover that Rance had an ass as high, wide and low to the ground as a hobbit's.

    You Got the Love - Rufus
    from Rags to Rufus (1974)

    God I love this song.

    Tell Me What It Is - Graham Central Station
    from Graham Central Station (1974)


    Slippery When Wet - The Commodores
    from Caught in the Act (1975)

    Remember when Lionel was black?

    Boogie Child - Bee Gees
    from the Children of the World (1976)

    White guys had soul too. And the Bee Gees were white.

    Kiss and Say Goodbye - The Manhattans
    from The Manhattans (1976). Also on Best Of.

    Yvonne and I used to lock braces to this one. Later I heard she fought in the first Gulf War. Around the turn of the century, I sang this karaoke-style in a West Village bar to a crowd of gay black men. It was out of my range but I got props.

    I love you, Yvonne.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

posted by O.W.

(Editor's Note: So...the other day, I get an email, out of the blue, from someone who wanted to share an Irma Thoams song with me. I look at the sender and it's John Cameron Mitchell, aka actor/filmmaker/writer/et. al., best known for his 2001 film, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which, amongst its finer qualities, introduced me to the German way of pronouncing "Gummi Bears" (like goo-may, instead of gummy) which I have since adopted, much to the amusement and/or annoyance of my friends.

It stands to reason that someone who made a film about a fallen glam rock star would actually, you know, be into music but I also assume that actor/filmmaker/writer types usually have enough on their hands (unlike, I suppose, professor/writer/blogger types) to get that into it but lo and behold, JCM is a music nut. So much so that when I casually asked if he'd want to do a guest post, he not only jumped at the opportunity but turned around a post in about 24 hours, which is probably the fastest I've ever gotten writing in from anyone, including my students. He racked up over a dozen songs so I decided to split things in half and post half today, half later but I am very flattered and honored to share with you some of John's fave songs for all the Soul Siders out there. --O.W.
    JCM's Note: I was so excited when Oliver asked me to do a guest post (which i've never done!) that i spent all day looking through all my damn music (i finally got the 1500 cds on hard drive, forget the vinyl). I was getting carried away so i thought i'd limit it to an album-sized sampler. Call it "Soulful Distractions Vol. 1". - jcm

    High School Dance - The Sylvers
    from their album New Horizons (1977). Also on Best Of.

    This was one of the 45's I spun at my 14th birthday party in 1977 at Fort Riley, KS. My first girlfriend, a gorgeous black cheerleader named Yvonne Quinton, turned me on to it. I was very interested in her hair ("Blow it out for me, Yvonne!") but I was really more interested in Steve DePew. I still dj with this song and usually follow it with a slow jam that Yvonne and I used to grind to like Teddy Pendergrass' Turn off the Lights or Close the Door or Pour Some Hot Oil On Me. (By the way, the rumors about him were true. I met his chauffeur.)

    Theme From 'Which Way Is Up' - Stargard
    from Stargard (1978)

    I used to love to dance to this one too. It made my mangina itch. It's from a 1977 film starring Richard Pryor which I think I saw back then. Stargard had crazy space-age headgear. They had another fun song called What You Waitin' For?

    Your Kiss Is Sweet - Syreeta (featuring Stevie Wonder)
    from Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta (1974)

    They were married then and you can still feel the love. Thanks to Luis for playing it for me last year on our road trip to see Stevie in Baltimore. What a show! He's funny as shit. Like Dean-Martin-Roast funny.

    I Gave You Everything - Irma Thomas
    from her album Something Good - Muscle Shoals (1990)

    Irma recorded this at Muscle Shoals studios for Chess in 1967 after a long tour. She said she was tired and the tracks were judged unreleasable til 1990. This is my favorite one cuz she gave it everything.

    He Called Me Baby - Candi Staton
    from Candi Staton (2004) [originally from Stand By Your Man (1970)]

    Another supercreamy song recorded at Muscle Shoals. Sounds like some of the same players.

    Shaggy Daddy - Lightnin' Hopkins
    from King of the Texas Blues (2003) [recorded 1965]

    This song makes me think proto-Muscle Shoals plus trombone. My favorite lyric from another of his songs: "Give me back that wig I bought you, black woman. Let your doggone head go bald."

    Something You Got - Alvin Robinson
    from The Daisy/Tiger Records Story: Everybody Come Clap Your Hands! (2003) [recorded 1965]

    This is a great cover. I had it on an unlabelled cassette someone gave me in 1989. Couldn't find the artist or the recording til the internet. I love the internet sometimes. I also love the Chuck Jackson/Maxine Brown version.

    You're Gonna Make Me Cry - Staple Singers
    from Staple Swingers (1971)

    Probably my favorite soul group of all time. Mavis Staples was going to cover our song Wig in a Box as the title song of our Hedwig charity album but then she didn't have time! Then Dolly Parton was gonna do it but then...didn't have time! So Polyphonic Spree did it...real good, but still....

    (Part 2 coming soon!)

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Friday, February 01, 2008

posted by O.W.

Lou Donaldson: It's Your Thing
From Hot Dog (Blue Note, 1969)

Ronnie Foster: Mystic Brew
From Two-Headed Freap (Blue Note, 1972)

Both on Droppin' Science (Blue Note, 2008)

Back in the mid-1990s, Blue Note Records, astutely noting how popular their catalog was becoming amongst hip-hop producers, began to release a series of anthologies in 1993 called Blue Break Breaks. Each featured about a dozen or so songs that had gotten the sample treatment - the first two or three sets included songs directly from Blue Note but by Vol. 4, they had moved to subsidiary catalogs purchased by Blue Note's parent company.

Almost nine years after the release of the last in the series, Blue Note has resurrected the concept in the form of Droppin' Science: Greatest Samples from the Blue Note Label, and more than ever, they shine the light on how these particular songs have been sampled. (I'm almost certain thanks would have to go out to for some of that info). 

Here's the tracklisting:
1. Lou Donaldson - "It's Your Thing"
2. Ronnie Foster - "Mystic Brew"
3. Donald Byrd - "Think Twice"
4. David Axelrod/David McCullum - "The Edge"
5. Jack McDuff - "Oblighetto"
6. Joe Williams - "Get Out Of My Life Woman"
7. Grant Green - "Down Here On The Ground"
8. Lonnie Smith - "Spinnin Wheel"
9. Jeremy Steig - "Howling For Judy"
10. Lou Donaldson - "Who's Makin Love (To Your Old Lady)" 
BONUS TRACKS (Digital album and LP version)
11. Ronnie Laws - "Tidal Wave" 
12. Monk Higgins - "Little Green Apples"
13. Donald Byrd - "Wind Parade"

A few thoughts about this...

1) I'm curious as to who the main audience for this ends up being. Most of the songs it features were sampled as early as 20 years ago and the most recent is "The Edge," flipped by Dr. Dre ten years ago. I would think that many people who'd have a relationship to the songs that sampled these originals have been around long enough to have already copped most of these songs on an earlier release. Then again, maybe there's a new wave of nostalgia that's sweeping through, especially by all those, "I can't believe 'Crank Dat' is a hit" curmudgeons.Also, while about half of these songs appeared on one of the (out of print) Blue Break Beats series, the other half have not, including "The Edge," and surprisingly, both Donald Byrd songs. 

2) For a "best of" collection, this is solid but there are a few inclusions I found surprising: "Oblighetto"? I love me some Jack McDuff but if Tribe had never touched this for "Scenario," I'm not sure we'd be seeing it here. Same goes for "Howling For Judy." I like flute funk as much as the next guy but it's nowhere as big as a sample as some of the other songs here, especially the Donaldson cuts.

3) And if we're tackling Blue Note artists: no love for Bobbi Humphrey? Blue Mitchell? Reuben Wilson? Really? I would have gladly swapped out songs by artists whose work appears twice (Byrd and Donaldson) to broaden the artist representation. 

4) Of the songs off there, "Mystic Brew" still holds up the best (though "It's Your Thing" is still a fun listen). That bassline was a work of beauty...

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