Friday, May 30, 2008

posted by Captain Planet

whispers1.jpg whispers2.jpg

The Whispers :Needle in a Haystack & Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong
taken from the album
"Planets Of Life" on Janus (1973)
(originally released on Soul Clock records in 1971)

The Whispers : My Illusions
taken from the album
"Life And Breath" on Janus (1972)

Between having to get my computer fixed and moving (way too many CRATES!!!), I've been seriously neglecting blog duties. Once things get settled down I'm going to go crazy with all the new music I've been acquiring lately, but first, a little quickie of sweet soul.

Let's give it up to the
Scott twins (Scotty and Walter) and crew who share the softer side of Watts while still keeping the message clear- and for sprouting some of the strongest facial hair in the game. While I have no shortage of love for their later hits like "And The Beat Goes On", it's this early material that seems a little more appropriate for their band name.

"Needle In A Haystack" is the easy crowd pleaser, with its punchy hook and driving movements that undoubtedly send dancefloors in Northern England ablaze. However, my favorite cut off this first album is the inquisitive melancholy monster "Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong". More in spirit than sound, the song brings Syl Johnson's "Is It Because I'm Black" to mind.

Penned by master songstress
Sugar Pie DeSanto, "My Illusions", has me curling up into a ball like a little scared kitten with every listen. Is that an oboe in the intro that makes me feel like ghosts are in the room?

posted by O.W.

I'm prepping my first new mixtape in god-knows-how-long (at least a few years): Deep Covers 2: Más Profundo. It's all covers, all from artists outside the U.S. It will be fun - probably around 20 tracks, most of them songs I've never posted on the site.

What I'm trying to gauge is whether people would rather download the finished mix or purchase it as a CD. The download option is less expensive ($9 vs. $12/CD) and arguably more convenient, but I also know that old school cats (like myself) prefer something you can hold and look at. In both cases, I'll make artwork and liner notes info available on the site for download in case you want to print your own materials.

Log in your preference in the poll below, thanks!


posted by Eric Luecking

Etta James: Something's Got A Hold On Me + Baby What You Want Me To Do
From Rocks The House (Argo, 1964)

Jimmy Reed: Baby What You Want Me To Do
From 7” (VJ, 1960). Also on The Very Best Of

If sound could create fire, then this is the album to have handy during a cold night's camping trip. Part blues, part soul and all in your face, Etta James tapped another dimension in late September 1963 in Nashville. Chess producer/A&R man Ralph Bass, frustrated with trying to reach the soul summit with Etta in the studio, wanted to tap into her fiery side and decided to record a live album at the legendary New Era Club. What he got was unadulterated and unfiltered feeling.

Much like a James Brown live show, the MC announced it was Star Time. After a short intro, Etta growls, “Ohhhhhh sometimes I get a feeling, yeah!!!” and launches into her 1962 hit, “Something's Got A Hold On Me.” Two-and-a-half wrenching minutes later, the jam begins. With vocals that knock you on your ass, it's the band's duty to keep the groove movin' and get you on your feet. To hear her talk in between songs makes you do a double take as her speaking voice is thin and almost aw-shucks quiet. During song, she morphs into a beast in command of its territory. The crowd is obviously in a zone with Etta as evidenced by their frantic whoopin', hollerin', and whistling. Call and response is the theme of the night as virtually each and every song has the audience singing along with her.

The only 45 to be released from this set (Argo 5459) was the Jimmy Reed cover “Baby What You Want Me To Do” with the flipside being Ray Charles' “What'd I Say.” Guitarist David Walker leads the band into a slow blues burner on the Reed cover while Marion Wright keeps it true on the low end on bass. To hear what a matchstick she was, just listen to the original Jimmy Reed version.

No artist was too big to cover during this two-night extravaganza as she flipped B.B. King, Chess labelmate Muddy Waters, Barrett Strong, and even Brother Ray. While only three songs on this set weren't covers (per the CD – the original LP was only eight cuts deep), she made every song her own - just check out the scatting in “Woke Up This Morning.”

If you want to get a glimpse of what it would have been like to see Etta tow the line of the devil's blues and raising the Holy Spirit, then pick up Bear Family's The !!!! Beat, Vol. 1 on DVD. Episode #2 features her performing “Something's Got A Hold On Me” while Episode #3 shows her singing with numerous others on Ray Charles “What'd I Say.” If all you need are a few audible embers to light your fire, Rock The House can certainly do the trick.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

posted by O.W.

For this Thursday, it's DJ O-Dub, and Murphy's Law joined by special guest, DJ B-Cause, one of the finest DJs from the Bay Area, ever.Alas, B.Cause ran into travel problems and won't be able to join Murphy's Law and myself tonight. That said, the Boogaloo shall, er, boogie on!

Thursdays, 10pm - 2am
The Short Stop (Echo Park)
1455 Sunset Blvd.
Always Free. 21+


Sunday, May 25, 2008

posted by O.W.'s Summer Songs series: 2008 style.

On this year's invited guest list:

(from l-r: Greg Tate, Murphy's Law, Christine Balance, Adam Mansbach, Karen Tongson, Captain Planet, Daphne Brooks, Jody Rosen, Ann Powers, Robert Fink...

...and more to follow!


Saturday, May 24, 2008

My Kind Of Disco, Part 2
posted by murphyslaw


Sylvia Striplin: Give Me Your Love
Taken from the 12" on 1980

Peekskill Express: Raise Ya Hands
Taken from the 12" on Bee Pee 1981

Johnny Harris: Odyssey
Taken from the 12" on Sunshine Sound (1980)

Don Armando's 2nd Street Rhumba Band: I'm an Indian Too
Taken from the 12" on Buddha (1979)

Sam Sparro: Cling Wrap
Taken from the advance CDR E.P. Black Gold (now available on import) (2008)

Hercules And Love Affair: Raise Me Up
Taken from the self-titled release on DFA (2008)

A follow up to my post from last week, today we explore some classic sounds, some quirky sounds and a few selections from the new frontiers of modern... D.I.S.C.O.

A bit about our little disco adventure...

As for Part One of the series: the Golden Flamingo track (could those drums sound any iller?) and the Wild Sugar song were both new to me. The first ripped from a very well-recommended series brought to us by the heads at Counterpoint, who have done well to piece together a collection of disco, boogie, and disco-rap into a tightly knit two installment comp. The second, a nice little flea market score. (So that's where "Brass Monkey" comes from...).

The other joints (Charanga 76, known for their latin reinterpretations of disco classics and a staple of my DJ sets for the handclapping hell-raiser that it is; Evelyn King, courtesy of 98.1 up in the Bay, where the song held court on a regular basis; and Milton Wright, like, woah) have all been with me for a minute and I thought it long overdue for a bit of sharing and caring.

Part Two--above--includes some recently discovered obscurities such as the Peekskill track which I've been hunting for for a minute. (Wait it out till the five-minute mark and you get an absolutely epic three-minute crescendo...)

Don Armando was a side project of Kid Creole in the early 80's. Already known for his bizarre breed of disco/funk/rap, this kind of track is so curiously pleasing, it takes about fifty listens before you start to wonder how you ever lived without it. Sometime Creole collaborator Fonda Rae absolutely slays the wacky vocals which were originally sung by... Ethel Merman?!? That's right. The writing credit on this track goes to Irving Berlin. Go figure.

The blazing "Odyssey" synth-fest was originally used as scoring for an episode of the 80's TV show, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century--???, prior to my existence--before K.C. and the Sunshine Band brought Harris on to their own label for the 12" release. Listen to that instrumental freak out.

"Give Me Your Love" is the a-side to a banging two-fer which features a certain unforgettable Biggie/Junior Mafia sample and epic jam in its own right on the flip.

Lastly, the new stuff.

Forget that Sam Sparro happens to be a friend of a friend--Dude is mad talented and his new record is apparently blowing the F up in Britain right now. If Jamie Lidell wrote with a sense of humor and Jamiroquai returned from Jupiter, maybe the three of them could form the epickest 3-part pale-skinned Prince cover band ever. Till then, don't sleep on fresh talent.

And for best record of the last 12 months I nominate... Hercules and Love Affair. Run, don't walk, to you local record store where you may happily fork over 20 bucks (sorry, import only) for the most inventive dance record in recent memory. Gorgeously layered disco production + vocals by Antony (yeah, as in, and the Johnsons...) =an absolute frickin' dream. THE ALBUM IS INCREDIBLE.

So there it is. Get your dance on, friends. This is good music to sweat by.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

posted by O.W.

Ceil Miner: Stardust
From This Is For the People (Car-dor, 196?)

Frank Cunimondo feat. Lynn Marino: Beyond the Clouds
From Feelin' Good (Mondo, 196?)

Lorez Alexandria: I'm Wishin'
From Didn't We (Pzazz, 1968).

The last time I was in the Bay Area, I picked up this jazz album by vocalist Ceil Miner from the Groove Merchant and was really mesmerized by her rendition of "Stardust." It's already a "dreamy" tune to begin with but the way the song opens accentuates it even more. I've always liked "Stardust" as a standard and love Miner's take on it. And it got me thinking of other jazz vocals that have left similar impressions on me; songs the evoke a sense of nostalgia for a time I never lived through yet I have this image (no doubt ripped off from countless movies) of a smokey lounge where the songs waft through.

The first song that immediately came to mind was Lynn Marino singing "Beyond the Clouds" from Frank Cunimondo's sought-after Feelin' Good LP. The title cut is the one most people focus on and I'm not going to argue: Marino's rendition of "Feelin' Good" is one of the best I've ever heard. But as time goes by, I've gravitated more to "Beyond the Clouds." It's less fiery than "Feelin' Good" but it's that subtlety to this song that I think leaves me charmed even more (also, peep that dream-like echo effect at the end, similar to how "Stardust" opens).

What's funny is that the first time I heard "Stardust," I thought, "this sounds like a Gilles Peterson song," by which I mean that Peterson has a real penchant for these kind of jazz vocal songs, as evinced on his Digs America series. It's on last year's Vol. 2 where he turned me onto this great Lorez Alexandria song, "I'm Wishin'." I wrote about this before but it was worth bringing back for a second spin, especially in fitting into the post's theme.

Dream on, draem on. (And if you got recommendations for similar tunes, please comment!)


Monday, May 19, 2008

posted by O.W.

You can find more of these "extending album art" creations at It's more miss than hit but there are a few I thought were quite clever:



Sunday, May 18, 2008

posted by O.W.

Ok, finally, we finish.

In case you missed the previous three Watts Week posts:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This last post covers the last two Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band albums and the solo Charles Wright album on Warner Bros. (Wright recorded two more albums after that, but not for WB). These are all taken from the excellent WB/Rhino UK reissues of Wright/Watts CDs, all of them containing a slew of bonus material (for your inner completionist!)


Charles Wright and Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band:
Radio Spot A
Solution For Pollution
From Express Yourself (Warner Bros., 1970)

Let's Make Love, Not War
Nothing To Write Home About
From You're So Beautiful (Warner Bros., 1971)

Charles Wright:
Just Free Your Mind
You Gotta Know Whatcha Doin'
From Rhythm and Poetry (Warner Bros., 1972)

Express Yourself, not surprisingly, was the group's biggest album, thanks to the immense success of the title song (which, if I may add, has achieved a remarkable degree of commercial usage of late). As a result, WB commissioned a few radio spots to help promote it...and wow, this spot was hilarious: "it's such a stone-out gas, I think hepping people to it is in the public interest." You think this was from the early '70s? "Solution For Pollution" is another bonus song from the Express Yourself CD and it was a 45-only release with an environmental message that - sadly - isn't any less relevant today than when Wright and Watts recorded it back in the day. It's also a fascinating example of the kind of creative chances the group was taking at the height of their popularity. Wright had some crazy visions and luckily, he managed to get a lot them realized on reel.

Message to retro-soul groups: one of you should cover this. Seriously.

The group continued along a similar vein with You're So Beautiful, the last Watts album before the group more or less disintegrated (read my liner notes from Puckey Puckey to learn more about that). I've written about this album before and it's also notable for the inclusion of "Express Yourself II," a valiant (but uneven) attempt to extend on the magic of the original. The creative risk-taking was still there however, including with surprisingly doo-wop sound of the anti-war anthem, "Let's Make Love, Not War." I like that throwback feel and the fact that Wright felt like he could throw something like this on here. "Nothing to Write Home About" is an unreleased song that is one of the bonus songs on this CD and it's a catchy little anti-love song with a humorous bent. I think the modern version would be retitled, "Not That Into You."

I have to admit: I'm not that acquainted with Wright's solo career and I haven't sat with Rhythm and Poetry very long. The upside is that I picked my two songs off here based on first impressions and that's why "Just Free Your Mind" stood out. For one thing, it's never a bad thing to begin your song with a shout-out to Clydie King. It's a sweet slow groover and shows Wright's continued interest in socially/spiritually minded material. On the other hand, you can hear with "You Gotta Know Whatcha' Doin'" that Wright was also still trying to remake "Express Yourself" and while the song has a nice groove, it's a pretty blatant recycling. That said, it's interesting how much Wright sans the Watts Band still sounds like the Watts Band, no?

The "Watts Up?!" Giveaway (Preview):
So peep...I have every single one of the WB/Rhino UK CDs, plus the two Rhino Handmade CDs. A total of 10 CDs. And I'm going to give this away to a Soul Sides reader. Here's the deal thought - I want to this to go to a real fan of the group which isn't to exclude Watts Band neophytes but ultimately, this collection is even more meaningful to the completionist but given that you are a completionist, then I figure it's only fair to test that knowledge.

I'm working on questions now - possibly with Andy Zax, who headed this entire reissue process, and will get them up within a week. Start studying!


Saturday, May 17, 2008

posted by O.W.

Gladys Knight: Try to Remember/The Way We Were
From I Feel a Song (Buddah, 1974). Also on The Essential Collection.

Wu-Tang Clan: Can It Be It Was All So Simple?
From Enter the Wu-Tang (Loud, 1993)

Freeway: When We Remember
From Free At Last (Roc-A-Fella, 2007)

Yeah, I know it's been a minute since the last "Who Flipped It" segment. This one came to mind the other week when I was chatting about this Gladys Knight song with my wife and I thought about both the Wu and Freeway songs that use Knight's vocals so effectively. But before we get there, let me just note that it wasn't until that conversation that I realized: duh, this was the same song as Barbra Streisand's hit. Not only that but Knight manages to combine the song with lyrics from The Fantasticks, making this song an impressive proto-mash-up conceit.

Musically, RZA doesn't really much of Knight's song for "Can It Be So Simple" (look to Labi Siffre for that) but the song also wouldn't be the same without the forlorn sounding snippet of Knight ghosting into the chorus. In contrast to that kind of subtlety, Bink decides to set off a bomb in your face when he takes a different part of the song and uses it power Freeway's explosive "When They Remember" (one of my favorite songs of all 2007...the energy here is so palatable). On hypeness, I'd have to give the nod to Bink's flip.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 16, 2008

posted by O.W.

Sam Cooke:
    Lost & Lookin'
    Trouble Blues
    From Night Beat (RCA, 1963)

    It's Got The Whole World Shakin'
    From Shake (RCA, 1965)

(Editor's Note: The following post was written by Eric Luecking who wanted to speak on the remarkable voice of Sam Cooke. Enjoy. --O.W.)

Written by Eric Luecking:
    Where to start? Sam Cooke arguably has the greatest voice on record you have ever heard. Period. But to categorize him as a singer does the man injustice. He was a songwriter, lyrical interpreter, showman, businessman, label owner, and producer. As if that isn't enough, he penned the song that would become the unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.

As a kid listening to oldies radio with my mom in the car, I always thought Sam Cooke sounded too goody-two-shoes. Radio tends to only remember him for about four tunes: “You Send Me,” “Cupid,” “What A Wonderful World,” and “Chain Gang.” After digging deeper into his catalog a couple of years ago, I discovered an artist who poured his being into creating and interpreting an assortment of styles and songs. While history remembers him as the man with the golden voice singing svelte supper club songs and pretty ditties, he had the ability to flip the script and hit you with some of the most soul-wrenching blues and catchy, horn-filled dance floor stormers.

    In February 1963, Sam started to cut Night Beat after his brother, L.C., turned down covering Howlin' Wolf's “Little Red Rooster” during a recording session. Even though RCA had only recently released Mr. Soul, that didn't stop Sam from going in a new direction – a bluesier, more gutsy collection of songs combining the west coast blues of Charles Brown with the midwest gospel fervor of the Soul Stirrers that Sam himself helped to bring to further national prominence.

    With a minimal set of session players including a teenage Billy Preston along with longtime collaborator and arranger René Hall as well as a half-dozen others, they cut an indelible classic soul album at a time when albums were not the format of choice for labels. Amazingly, only one single was released from this set – the previously mentioned “Little Red Rooster” b/w “You Gotta Move” (RCA-8247). As an album, this collection of songs is marred only by the Turner cover. It would have made a much better b-side than album cut for this mood-filled opus.

    The first selection from this release is the haunting plea, “Lost & Lookin',” in which you can practically hear Sam fall to his knees and beg an ex-lover to come back to his arms. Accompanied by only an upright bass and a cymbal, Sam's voice flies over this beautiful piece like a flock of birds soaring through a sunset-filled sky. His intonation and enunciation are immaculate and his ability to go into falsetto and back are unmatched. Close your eyes and prepare to be entranced.

    “Trouble Blues,” a cover of the 1949 Charles Brown Trio tune, finds the arrangement expanding upon the mainly piano-laden Brown version. Sam opens with a solemn hum before being joined by Clifford Hill's upright and Hal Blaine's drum kit for the opening half minute. Preston's organ can later be heard providing a steady back rhythm before opening into a leading solo in the middle.

    The year 1964 saw Sam expanding his sound. The craze of dance songs that instructed you how the dance was performed was kicking into higher gear. To start the ‘60s, Chubby Checker had his cover of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters “The Twist” (of which Sam even had a cover on 1962’s “Twistin’ The Night Away” that included several other twists on the twist) while Bobby Freeman had “C’mon & Swim.” This song, in particular, spurned a keen interest in Sam so much so that he wanted to record his own version of it. He turned that inspiration into “Shake” – a relentless stormer featuring in-your-face drum work by Earl Palmer as well as a more upfront rhythm section. The tempo was the most aggressive Sam had recorded in his career.

    Equally as aggressive was “It’s Got The Whole World Shakin’.” Similar in rhythm, this cut was recorded during the same session as “Shake” in mid-November 1964. The sound is very much Muscle Shoals as it shows Sam putting his velvet voice on the backburner and letting more grit emanate, something we had not heard much of in his studio work although his chitlin circuit shows (see Live At The Harlem Square Club album) certainly revealed this side.

    Unfortunately, Sam would not see the release of these songs as he was killed less than a month after the session. RCA released “Shake” b/w a shortened edit of “A Change Is Gonna Come” just over a week after his death in December 1964. Both shake tunes would be featured on his posthumous final album Shake released in the spring of 1965. Eerily, the classic “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a song that Sam described to prized apprentice Bobby Womack as sounding “like death,” would be his swan song - closing out a career that started by praising the Almighty and ended with condemning the establishment.

    It’s an impossible guessing game as to what would have happened in the long term for Sam musically. He had so many ideas and only so much time. Would he have continued to write and perform more political songs? He was certainly an avid student of African American studies and constantly borrowed books from radio DJ pioneer Magnificent Montague’s huge archival collection on black history. Would he have continued to tweak his sound? We know that in the days leading up to his death he had spoken with longtime friend Lou Rawls and producer Al Schmitt about a downhome blues album, certainly a departure from the frantic “Shake.”

    While many may only remember him for ‘50s high school dance love songs, he should also be remembered for his artistry. It’s a testament to his variegated interest in sound and texture as well as his honest soul in being able to relay so many styles that can make you weak in the knees with a cappella to strengthening you with songs of pride to knee-smackin’ backporch Dixieland with your countrified buddies. Sam walked all those lines while helping to narrow the color barrier in popular music. After all, he was the second highest selling RCA artist eclipsing everyone except Elvis on his label.

    For all these reasons, we can simply remember him as “Mr. Soul” and enjoy the sounds his sweet tenor makes us feel. He truly was… the man.

--written by Eric Luecking for

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My Kind Of Disco, Part 1
posted by murphyslaw


Golden Flamingo Orchestra feat. Margo Williams: The Guardian Angel Is Watching Over Us
Taken from the compilation Disco Juice 2 on Counterpoint (2007)

Zafra Bros: Can I See You Tonight
Taken from the 12" on Eastbourne (1981)

Evelyn "Champagne" King: Love Come Down 
Taken from the 12" on RCA (1982)

Wild Sugar: Bring It Here
Taken from the 12" on TSOB (1980)

Charanga 76: No Nos Parran
Taken from the 12" on TR Records (1979)

Milton Wright: Get No Loving Tonight
Taken from the album Friends and Buddies on Alston 1975

The perfect disco set is a difficult amalgam. It requires just the right proportions beat, cheese, strings, handclaps, obscurity, populist appeal, introspective build-up and anthemic deliverance . The old wedding day maxim could almost be jacked verbatim for application in regards to the necessary elements for a proper disco party-rock: Something old, something new... you get the idea. In this case we'll tweak the 'borrowed' to mean a cover song and 'something blue' in the musical sense. Enjoy.

Labels: ,

Monday, May 12, 2008

posted by Captain Planet

bailando.JPG vaya.JPG exciting.JPG

La Playa Sextet : Hong Kong, Hunca Munca, Olaya & El Chico Boogaloo
taken from the album
Bailando El Boogaloo on Musicor (1967)

La Playa Sextet : Le-Lo-Lai & Sugar's Delight
taken from the album
Vaya Means Go! on United Artists (196?)

La Playa Sextet : Coco Seco/Anabacca & Mambo Inn
taken from the album
The Exciting New La Playa Sound
on United Artists (196?)

I felt inspired to give
La Playa (even THEY have a myspace page!) their due respect for several reasons. The first is selfish: I've been carrying these records in my crate consistently, week-in week-out, for probably a year now, and before I wear out the grooves on my favorite tunes, I wanted to retire the vinyl properly and let the music itself live on forever in digitally-preserved mp3/serato heaven. The second reason is because I'd also like to start doing a regular feature on somewhat overlooked latin groups. "Dura Obscura" or something like that. If I highlight a big name artist like Tito Puente or Eddie Palmieri, I'll pick out something that is a bit lesser-known from their catalogue. La Playa seemed like as good a place as any to start. Chronologically, they rose to popularity on the Latin tidal wave that crashed in 1968 with the death of the Boogaloo and the subsequent birth of "Salsa" superpower Fania. Cha-cha, Charanga, Mambo, Bomba, Bolero all got branded conveniently under one banner, and La Playa somehow didn't make the grade.

Most of what little I know about La Playa I picked up
here and here. But without knowing about all the players and particulars, one of the major aspects of the group's sound that stood out to me from the start, and caused me to seek out other titles, is the killer electric guitar playing by Payo Alicea. Beyond simply taking over the montuno parts traditionally played on piano, Payo really steered the sound of the group in a latin-rock direction (pre-Santana). "Hunca Munca" has that classic bluesy rock progression that sounds pretty dated today (maybe even tacky to some), but back then I imagine this was some pretty progressive stuff. I'm not sure what happened to the group after "Bailando.." was released, but their music is still heating up dancefloors here in Brooklyn on a weekly basis.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

posted by O.W.

Max Roach with the J.C. White Singers: Were You There When They Crucified My Lord
From Lift Every Voice and Sing (Atlantic, 1971)

Gil Scott-Heron/Brian Jackson: Peace Go With You Brother
From Winter In America (Strata-East, 1974)

When I was in Duke the other month, Mark Anthony Neal was telling me about this Max Roach and J.C. White Singers album and how powerful it was, especially the hymnal, "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord." Unfortunately, it's not the easiest album to track down - it's been out of print on CD for a while - so it took some footwork (read: eBay + patience) to track down the LP but *whistle* was it worth the wait.

Let's just first say that the sound of the song runs deep and for good reason: this is a Joel Dorn production, which is perhaps why - even though I had never heard the song before - it sounded familiar, like a lost Headless Heroes song. J.C. White has such a powerful, resonant voice on the song; the music has a slow, measured power to it too, of course, but it's White's vocals that brings the song down upon you. But wait toward the end, when the full chorus comes in and the song's emotional state changes from morose to uplifting - it's stunning.

For whatever reason, listening to this, I kept thinking about Gil Scott-Heron - stylistically, there's some clear similarities - and it motivated me to pull out one of my favorite albums by him, Winter In America (almost certainly the most successful Strata-East title ever). "Peace Go With You My Brother" begins the album and it sets a tone that, like the Roach/White song, tells you, "this is some serious sh--, listen up." Musically, the texture of the song benefits so richly from the use of electric piano (I'm assuming Rhodes here, given the flange effect). The song sounds marshmallow mellow on one hand but when you listen to what Heron is singing about, there's a abiding darkness that seeps into the otherwise soft musical fabric.

This pair of songs is best heard beginning with a deep breath. Then dive in.

Ok, with that said though, I still wanted to bring the energy level up and the perfect fit, especially with the gospel/spiritual-edge of "Were You There" would be to end this post with a little Joubert Singers:

The Joubert Singers: Stand on the Word
From 7" (Next Plateau, 1985)

I first discovered this through Murphy's Law and not having heard a lot of gospel disco, I wasn't sure what to expect but good god (appropriately enough), this song is - no blasphemy intended - f---ing incredible. According to ""Stand On The Word" was first ever recorded live in the First Baptist Church in Crown Heights, NYC, in 1982. Soon after the church pressed up a couple of hundred copies for the congregation," upon which, it was discovered by local DJs at places like Garage, The Loft, etc. and ended up getting a promo-release on Next Plateau (on both 12" and 7"). There's some disagreement over who actually remixed the song - there's a bootleg 12" you can find that credits Larry Levan but the actual record nods to Tony Humphries so go figure. Either way, it's just great.

I played this at Boogaloo[L.A.] and apparently, someone actually knelt to the floor and gave thanks at the song's completion. I kind of get that feeling too with it.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

posted by O.W.

Thanks to DJ Icewater up in Oakland, Soul Sides now has seven of its cataloged mix-CDs online for digital download.

Format: 256 rate, LAME encoded MP3s (sorry, no alternatives available right now but hey, it's the same as

(Click CD image for description of mixtape. Order here).


posted by O.W.

As noted, I went to go see Joe Bataan play the Crazy Horse in West Covina. It was cool insofar as there were a lot of older, hardcore fans of his who rolled through and that's always great to see. But for once, I'd like to see him play a venue where the average age isn't 42 - he deserves a wider audience but so far, promoters out here in Los Angeles seem to only book him in places where things skew considerably older. If someone wants to help me work on this, holler.

A small, unexpected, very pleasant surprise: at the beginning of the show, Joe came into the audience and was handing out photocopies of this. It reminds me: I really should scan the original in since the issue is sold out.

In the meantime, enjoy these:


Labels: , ,

Monday, May 05, 2008

posted by O.W.

This week at Boogaloo[L.A.]:

It's me (O-Dub) with special guest Hua Hsu, all the way from Poughkeepsie.

Last time he was out, we rocked the Redwood Bar; now it's time to turn Boogaloo[L.A.] out.

And, oh yeah, our new flier is finally out - look for it 'round town.

O-Dub and Hua Hsu
The Short Stop
Thursday, 10pm - 2am
Always free!
1455 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles (Echo Park)


posted by Captain Planet

santogold.jpg mgmt.jpg plantlife.jpg

Santogold : Shove It
taken from her
self-titled alum on Downtown (2008)

MGMT : Electric Feel
taken from the album
Oracular Spectacular on Sony (2007)

Plantlife : Rollerskate Jam & Fool For You
taken from the album
Time Traveller on Decon (2008)

As a person who spends perhaps too much time digging into the past, it's important to be reminded that there's still just as much life being lived now as there ever was back in the day. For anyone who finds themselves waxing nostalgia over a lost golden era of greatness, I recommend going out to some live concerts and picking up an album or two by artists, like the ones I'm posting today, who remind us all that music history is happening right now and we still have a very bright future to look forward to. THESE ALBUMS ARE FREAKING UNBELIEVABLY GREAT, so stop asking why you don't like what's on the radio and start spending your loot on the good stuff.

I won't act like I had too much of a role in Santi's recent explosive exposure, but me and my bandmate buddies can at least take credit for
putting her on for her first solo show in NYC, so we're helping the cause. This girl deserves every bit of shine she gets. In addition to being a suuuper mellow, down-to-earth, and incredibly talented person, she has crafted a broad-reaching, unique sound (read- NOT an M.I.A. imitation like some fools may claim) on her new album that warns the villagers of the oncoming flash-flood of more that is sure to come. Her voice slashes through the punchy, punky, electro-funky, reggae-bottomed beats like a blazing light saber. When I listen to her record, I hear the demolition of an invisible wall that separates CBGB's (R.I.P.) from a big bass club like Brooklyn's Studio B, where the mosh pit reaches a new fervor with the introduction of the sub-woofer and the multicolored mohawks get a glitter treatment from the disco ball overhead. I picked "Shove It" just because it's getting hotter each day now as summer draws nigh, and there's a nice little guest appearance from the one MC Spank Rock on here too, and the beat was produced by the late great Disco D (R.I.P.). Now go SUPPORT THIS ARTIST and get yourself the goods.

Now I've spent almost all my precious little writing time on Santi, but you need to check out
MGMT who are more of that next shit out of Brooklyn! Psychedelic, dance-inducing, electro-rock with a catchy factor that is devastating. Don't sleep and then feel bad later when your little brother tells you, "I told you so" - PICK UP THE ALBUM NOW.

And it's the return of
PLANTLIFE! Here's an album that brings more falsetto and funk than all the funky falsetto records of the past few years combined (since the release of the first Plantlife album). Jack Splash gives us 19 tracks worth of casio party beats, quasimoto-styled chipmunk raps, dirty samples, and raw unabashed SOUL. There's so many tracks I could have highlighted on this one to show you a different reason why you need the whole record, but isn't "Fool For U" enough? This is quite possibly the sweetest soul tune I've heard a young man sing since the Chi-Lites stopped recording. Time traveller indeed. Get it while it's hot.

Mark Ronson ft. Santogold : Pretty Green
(originally by The Jam)
taken from the album
Version on Columbia (2007)

Labels: ,

Friday, May 02, 2008

posted by O.W.

First off, for my Angelinos, Joe Bataan is playing at the Crazy Horse in West Covina on Sunday. See you there!

I recently finished up a set of liner notes for an upcoming anthology on Joe's rich recording catalog for the Fania label. As folks probably know, I'm a huge fan of Joe and it's been a genuine honor to be able to interview him over the years and bring attention to his remarkable career.

This post is part of the boogaloo series (and I'll do some more closer to the date the comp drops) but was really inspired by what is Joe's best-known song, "Ordinary Guy." It's not just a fan favorite - he's recorded it five times (and released it six) - but it's also a song integral to his own sense of self; he may be a star but in his own mind, he's still just a regular Joe (you saw that coming, right?) From the man himself: "While in prison, we did a lot of experimenting with songs. I had first heard the title “Ordinary Guy” in prison in Coxsackie, so I eventually rewrote the words, came back home, put ‘em to music. The song makes me cry sometimes when I see the reaction of people. In New York, it is so popular. People just love that song, and I guess the words mean a lot. “Hey, I’m just an ordinary guy, don’t expect anything else. That’s me” and I’ve always been that way. Having sung the song and how I have endeared a lot of people, how they felt about it, only influenced me more [to] give more of my heart than almost any other song. It describes me."


Joe Bataan: Ordinary Guy
From Gypsy Woman (Fania, 1967)

The original version of "Ordinary Guy" was recorded for Gypsy Woman, Joe's debut album for Fania. He and his band, the Latin Swingers, recorded the album in one single studio session, a relatively unusual practice. By the end of the day, Joe had this - his last song - left to record but his voice was starting to give out. Session engineer (and Fania co-founder) Johnny Pacheco asked, "'Don’t you want to come back tomorrow?’ and I said no," said Joe. "Actually, my fear was that they were going to change their mind and not use it." So, even with his voice at the point of breaking, they recorded this and completed the entire album that day.

Ordinary Guy
From 7" (Fania, 1967)

For reasons not entirely clear, Fania decided to re-record the song to release on single. For the most part, this 7" version isn't wildly different from the LP except that Fania brought in pianist Richard Tee. Tee changes the opening to the song, giving it a stronger presence, especially with a striking arrangement that sounds very much like the beginning of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Precious Love." This is probably my favorite version of the song, precisely for that intro which gives the tune such a rich, soulful feel to it. (Thanks to Reynaldo for digitizing).

Interestingly, at the Crazy Horse show, when Joe sang "Ordinary Guy", he opened it with that same Tee melody.
Ordinary Guy
From Riot! (Fania, 1968)

By Joe's third album, the gold-selling Riot!, Fania convinced him to record the song again, but this time with a dramatic makeover as the song was given a new arrangement by Broadway's Harold Wheeler. Joe admits, "I didn't particularly like it...I love it now but at the time, I just thought he was altering my music because he gave it this jazzy feel. It had to grow on me because I thought it was too fast." This new version, in my opinion, is lovely and a great change-up from the original. Wheeler adds in some vibes, speeds up the tempo a bit, and has Joe open with some soaring vocals and well-timed drum hits.

It's worth noting, Fania put this same recording - albeit longer by a few seconds - onto Joe's Singin' Some Soul album. I'm guessing it's because they thought it'd fit well with the concept of that album. That would be the last time Joe recorded "Ordinary Guy" for Fania.

Muchacho Ordinario
From Salsoul (Mericana, 1973)

The next incarnation of the song is perhaps the most unique: a Spanish-language version that appeared on Joe's first post-Fania album, Salsoul. The arrangement is completely different too - here, the song isn't really in the R&B vein, it's much more like a son montuno. Bueno!

Ordinary Guy
From Afrofilipino (Salsoul, 1975)

The final version of the song came on the next album, Afrofilipino. This is a version I know a lot of Soul Sides folks are familiar with - I comped it for Soul Sides Vol. 1. I like to think of it as a bridge version between the Latin-fied flavor of "Muchacho Ordinario" and the more R&B stylings of the earlier versions. The song is more in a soul vein in the beginning but at the end, he yells, "salsa!" and the ballad then transforms into a whirling dance tune.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 01, 2008

posted by O.W.

Unraveling musical mysteries is part of what motivates me as a music journalist. I don't claim to be very good or thorough at it, but the process alone is a way to appreciate the beauty and complexity of music-making that isn't necessarily transparent through listening alone (or, er, the sonic equivalent of "transparency").

This post is one such example and it begins, for me at least, with a song called "Happy Soul" that appears on an album by The Moon People that I picked up at the Groove Merchant a few years back. (Note: ironically, "Happy Soul" is the one song I did NOT include in the Suite but for reasons that will become clear shortly). "Happy Soul" is very striking, especially for a Latin soul song because 1) it's fast and 2) it's funky. Really funky. Funkier than most Latin soul songs one can think of. I would play it out when I could, especially because it's a great "transition" track between Latin and funk sets. It's not surprisingly then that, in 2006, when the DJ Premier-produced Xtina Aguilera single, "Ain't No Other Man" came out, I recognized the sample immediately.

At least I thought I did.


A little while later, I heard "Happy Soul (With a Hook)" by Dave Cortez with the Moon People and it was basically the same instrumental track as "Happy Soul" but with Cortez' trademark organ vamping all over it. Then, last year, I discovered the Latin Blues Band and their album, Take a Trip Pussycat. On there, they have a song called, "I'll Be a Happy Man" and it is basically, the same exact song as "Happy Soul" only with vocals (and without the Cortez organ).

The plot thickened.

The LBB, the Cortez single and the Moon People album are all on Speed, a smaller Latin label of the late '60s that specialized in Latin soul and boogaloo bands, including Frankie Nieves, and one of the rare female Latin groups, Dianne and Carole and the Latin Whatchamacallits. It's one of the great, great Latin boutique labels of that era and the Big Ol' Bag O Boogaloo series comps heavily from their catalog (with some odd omissions but that's for another time). It was on that album that I heard The Moon People's "Hippy Skippy Moon Strut" which sounded like the Cortez' song but minus the organ and with a new piano arrangement.


Around the same time I acquired a copy of the LBB album (thanks Rodney!), I also stumbled across this feature on the great Spectropop website (Latin fans should check out their thorough Tico feature). They finally helped me put many of the details together and I'm trying not to duplicate their already great work but, there was one element yet to add here: the testimony of Bobby Marin.

Marin is a composer and producer and he and his brother Richard were major players in the NY Latin scene in the 1960s and '70s. I spoke to Marin while putting together the liner notes for an upcoming Fania anthology on Joe Bataan and wanting to take advantage of being able to speak to such a storied veteran in the scene, I asked him what some of his favorite compositions were and he named "I'll Be a Happy Man." At that point, I didn't own the album yet so I had no idea he, along with Louie Ramirez and other players, were in the Latin Blues Band and I asked him to trace for me the history of the song. Between the Spectropop site and Marin's own information, here's what I was able to pull together (and to be sure, I really should talk to Marin again to fill in blanks):

Morty Craft - who ran Speed and was the main producer for the label - reassembled the Latin Blues Band into The Moon People. I'm not clear why he did this nor why he would have the group essentially record over their own LBB backing tracks with slight changes (but sans vocals) and then release it as its own album. I guess Craft felt like he could sell consumers the same songs twice. "Happy Soul," from what I can tell, is simply "I'll Be a Happy Man" without vocals. Well, almost without vocals...Marin told me that when he was in the studio, editing the Land of Love album, he insisted that they keep something of his original vocals, which ended up being a "whoooo!" somewhere in there. (In any case, I didn't include "Happy Soul" in the suite since it's a subtraction with no additions, unlike the other songs).

Soon thereafter, Craft sold the mechanical rights to that instrumental to Morris Levy at Roulette. At that point, the song transforms into "Happy Soul With a Hook." The original piano is stripped off and replaced with Cortez' organ playing plus some spacey wah-wah guitar. Speed ends up releasing this "new" song as a single. According to Spectropop, "Hippy Skippy Moon Strut" appears just a few months later and it is basically "Happy Soul With a Hook" minus organs, keeping the wah-wah, and throwing on that new piano arrangement I mentioned plus some vocals yelling, "hippy skippy!" and similar phrases. That single appears on Roulette rather than Speed (possibly because the latter had been purchased by Roulette by this point). Then fast forward nearly 40 years and DJ Premier flips "Hippy Dippy" for Xtina and the story ends.

Well, not quite.

My convo with Marin yielded two more tidbits of information. First of all, RCA apparently didn't clear the sample correctly. My guess is that they cleared the mechanical rights but not the songwriter rights and when Fania (who, by now, owned the Speed catalog) figured this out, they got ready to sue. The problem is: they didn't know who the original composer was either and one day, when Marin was visiting, they asked him, "hey, would you happen to know who the composer is?" upon which Marin replied, "" So as it turns out, Marin is waiting to see if a settlement happens, and if so, he likely stands to make a nice piece of change off this.

The second piece of info I gleaned from him was around who the hell was the drummer on the song. After all, one reason why the song stands out so much, why it probably got remade three times and then sampled, is because of those drum breaks. They're unusual for a Latin soul song - I can't think of many other songs in that era that featured open breakbeats - so I had to ask Marin about it. His reply, "well, that was Bernard Purdie."

Jaw drop.

That explains quite a bit...and it makes total sense (Purdie did a grip of studio work in NY in that era, plus the drumming sounds like something he'd put together) but it's a detail that, as far as I can tell, no one has ever noted before. And that, my friends, is the kind of discovery that motivates me to get up every morning. With all that, thanks for's the "Happy Soul Suite" for your edification: presents...The "Happy Soul Suite"

Created from...

The Latin Blues Band feat. Luis Aviles: (I'll Be A) Happy Man
From Take a Trip Pussycat (Speed, 1968)

Dave Cortez with The Moon People: Happy Soul (With A Hook)
From 7" (Speed, 1968). Also on El Barrio: The Bad Boogaloo.

The Moon People: Hippy, Skippy Moon Strut
From 7" (Roulette, 1969). Also on Big Ol' Bag O' Boogaloo Vol. 1.

Christina Aguilera: Ain't No Other Man
From Back to Basics (RCA, 2006)

Labels: , ,