Friday, January 30, 2009

posted by O.W.

Soul Children: Move Over
From S/T (Stax, 1969)

Bob and Gene: You Gave Me Love
From If This World Were Mine (Daptone, 2007)

Chuito and the Latin Uniques: Wish I Could
From From the Street (Speed, 1968)

Someone asked for more sweet soul in the vein of Eddie Holman's "This Can't Be True" AND someone else asked for more Soul Children so I figured I'd knock down two requests with one post. I originally was going to do a whole post on the Soul Children but when Isaac Hayes passed, I used that as an excuse to put up a song he penned for them, "The Sweeter He Is" but that left "Move Over," the other song I was going to pair it with, languishing.

First off, yeah, it's been sampled.

Second, man, that piano really is great isn't it? Just the drama of the chord and then how it blends into the incoming horns. I'm assuming that Norman West on the vocals, pouring his heart out before one of his brothers come in to take the reigns (listen to how Norman even tells him, "sing it brother!!!!" around 1:18).

The thing is though: this doesn't really sound like Holman's brand of sweet soul, which is less produced and more haunting - a lonely voice piercing the silence. And if that's the gold standard, then we got to bring back Bob and Gene's "You Gave Me Love," which Daptone Records released in 2007. I mentioned it back then since I wrote about the song for NPR but never did a formal post on Soul Sides for it so...hey, here you go! The backstory of the group is well-worth reading and I won't repeat it at length (it's in that NPR link) but I'll quote this much (from myself): ""You Gave Me Love" conveys all the innocence and yearning of a high-school love letter, and whatever it lacks in gloss, it makes up for in heart."

Both of these songs are also tunes I'd pick to end a gig with which made me look through my "slow jams" section to see what else I could pull out to complete a trio and I went with the song that I ended this past Boogaloo[la] with: "Wish I Could" by Chuito and the Latin Uniques. I have to write a post on Chuito at some point - it's really one of the best Latin soul albums ever recorded, definitely up there with anything from Joe Bataan or Ralfi Pagan's work (in the meantime, read up on it here). The vocalist on this particular song (the album had several English vocalists, including Tony Middleton) is Danny Agosta, who croons with a longing quaking with teenage innocence and earnestness.

By the way, you will have noticed that I've switched using direct links to the songs; I'm doing so because I'm anticipating the forthcoming transfer of Soul Sides from one host to another and it made sense to start putting new songs someplace where they will be "safe" during that transition. Hopefully, it's not an inconvenience for ya'll.

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posted by O.W.

Jay's Soul Connection: Frank's Party Life
From Amsterdam Gangster (MPM, 2009)

Jay-Z: 99 Problems (Prince of Ballard Remix)
From (Sep. 2007)

(Originally written for Side Dishes)

I like Jay-Z as much as the next dude but even I was surprised that Netherlands' producer Umatic took it upon himself to remix the six songs off the American Gangster album (now over a year old) with tracks by the Lefties Soul Connection, a deep funk/retro soul band (also Dutch). The result: Amsterdam Gangster by Jay's Soul Connection. I gotta say, I wasn't the biggest fan of American Gangster originally; a lot of the songs felt underinspired but the beauty of these remix projects is that they sometimes encourage you to listen to the songs with new ears. Case in point - I didn't pay "Party Life" too much attention the first time around - it was a cool enough tune but just didn't leave a major impression. Yet, I found myself appreciating the word play better with this flip - something about the change in production put the lyrics in a new light.

There's also something serendipitous about the idea of mashing these groups together. After all, Jay-Z's "Roc Boys" was built around a retro-soul song, the Menahan Street Band's "Make the Road by Walking," while "Success" (another song that Umatic remixes for the Amsterdam Gangster project) is pretty much built straight from Larry Ellis and the Black Hammer's obscure funk 45, "Funky Thing". Coming from the other side, one of the Lefties Soul Connection's first songs that came to my attention was their remake of DJ Shadow's "Organ Donor."

Given the mesh between funky band tracks and Jay-Z acapellas, I also thought about another mash-up project - a blog-only remix of "99 Problems" done by The Prince of Ballard (a Seattle neighborhood) back in 9/07. He took a loop from a Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings studio performance and threw Jay-Z's verses on top and it totally works. Interestingly enough, that same loop got worked over by Mark Ronson for Solange Knowles' song, "6 O'Clock Blues."

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posted by O.W.

The Spinners: It's a Shame
The Spinners: I've Got To Find Myself a Brand New Baby
From 2nd Time Around (V.I.P., 1971)

(Originally written for Side Dishes)

I've been thinking of the Spinners a lot lately, especially since writing about the Philly Int'l boxset which includes a few of the group's big hits with Thom Bell such as "I'll Be Around" and "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love." The group, originally formed in Detroit all the way back in the mid-1950s, charted an interesting course through the R&B world. Considering that their first #1 hit ("I'll Be Around") didn't come until 18 years (and 3 personnel changes) later, you have to admire their perseverance - one that, unlike other groups who never succeeded despite years of struggle, paid off handsomely for the group by the mid-1970s when they rattled off a string of major chart-toppers, especially their duet with Dionne Warwick, "Then Came You."

However, my first introduction to the Spinners came right before their "golden era." They found their biggest success with Atlantic Records (home to Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway and many other soul legends at the time) but previous to that, were part of the Motown family. True, they didn't flourish as much during their stint with Motown (signed to the subsidiary V.I.P. label) but they did produce one magnificent hit which remains, by far, my favorite Spinners song of all time: "It's a Shame."

To be honest, I first heard "It's a Shame" thanks to the Monie Love rap song by the same name which samples it. And once you hear the original, you can see why it was such an enticing thing to sample - that guitar melody is so indelible but beyond such a powerful hook, the complete composition is bursting with all kinds of musical magic, including the multi-part harmonies and sophisticated arrangement. I didn't know this at the time - but looking back, shouldn't have been surprised - that Stevie Wonder wrote the song, which perhaps explains part of what made it so damn good. (Note: Stevie's contributions to other artists' is just one of the many things that make him one of the greatest talents of the last 50 years).

"It's a Shame" appeared on the Spinners' very last album for V.I.P. before jumping ship to Atlantic: 2nd Time Around. It's interesting to think what might have happened had they stayed with the Motown family (not that Atlantic gave them a massively different sound) since the direction the group was moving in on this album could have put them in line with other groups like the Four Tops or Temptations who were also evolving at a rapid pace in the early '70s with Motown. One could imagine what a producer like Norman Whitfield might have done with the group or the sweet sound of The Corporation who helped make the Jackson 5 so successful.

Just to give listeners a sense of how Motown was shaping the group in that moment, I also included "I've Got To Find Myself a Brand New Baby" from the same album; it wasn't one of their better known songs off the LP but I've always liked its snap and you can definitely hear the Motown influence resounding through this particular song.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

posted by O.W.

...and you're NOT going to one of these, you need to ask yourself: what's wrong with me?

More info here.

UPDATE: As it turns out, we have three pairs of tickets to giveaway for this Sunday. Short notice but better late than never!

To win a pair of tickets:

Listen to this song:

...and answer this question: Which Mulatu Astatke song is being sampled and what album is it from?

Send your answers in an email, subject titled "Mulatu contest", to me. Three random winners will be chosen from all correct answers by noontime tomorrow.

Good luck!


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

posted by O.W.

(Pure) Essence: Third Rock
From WEBN Album Project #2 (Circle Communications, 1977). Also on the Pure Essence 12".

Four Tops: Still Water (Love)
From Still Waters Run Deep (Motown, 1970)

Los Fabulosos Festivals: Can I Change My Mind?
From 7" (?, 1970)

Hot off on the tail of the Pure Essence post, I just got in the only other song that Cincinnati group ever recorded: "Third Rock." You can hear how similar the vibe is between the two songs; pity they never recorded more given how great their funk sound was. This appears on the second volume in WEBN's very successful Album Project series - a charity LP project that brought together many then-unknown Cincinnati acts together on each compilation. Back in 2005, I actually posted up a song by Roger Troutman (then in the band Roger and the Human Body) that appeared on the inaugural WEBN album.

And Tim Wallen, aka the Bay Area's DJ Tim, recently hepped me to the Four Tops' "Still Water (Love)" which I probably should have been up on years ago but upon hearing it, I suddenly realized why it sounded so familiar: Raphael Saadiq uses the song's rhythm track behind his bonus song, "Seven." While I applaud Saadiq's excellent taste in early '70s Motown, I was a bit surprised "Seven" wasn't an original composition. Either way, listening to "Still Water" makes me appreciate just how interesting Motown was getting in those transition years between the decades. I slept and am still awakening to those new styles.

Last but not least, Beto let me know that Los Fabulosos Festivals' cover of "Can I Change My Mind?" is not, in fact, coming out on the next Panama! comp and he gave me his blessing to share it. I have to say, I really love how this cover manages to stay true to the original but is different enough to grab your attention. For example, the opening is fantastic, with the two bar guitar line plucking its way into the wall of horns that come bursting force. And the Festivals' singer, Ernie King, is great on vocals here (Beto reminded me that King, now named Kabir, appears on the Quantic Soul Orchestra's Tropidelico, singing a cover of Marion Black's "Who Knows?"

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Monday, January 26, 2009

posted by O.W.

Just got back from seeing Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings at Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles. Decent crowd for a Sunday night - about 2000 in attendance - including ?uestlove who was down in the main bar area, eating Rice Krispies treats.

This is the third time I've seen them perform in a little over a year (last two times were at the El Rey and Hollywood Bowl) and even though their stage show is fairly consistent, tonight was especially cool because they debuted at least three new songs from whenever their upcoming new album (not sure on when that's dropping but one would assume later this year). Sharon also added "A Change Is Gonna Come" to her set list which I thought was awesome given 1) the obvious timing of it and 2) the fact that she pulls it off competently[1].

Speaking of which, I have to say that the single best song in her live repertoire is "Let Them Knock." I don't know why I never paid that much attention to it on the album itself, but in concert, the song is amazing. See/hear for yourself:

After this LA gig, she's headed up to the Warfield in S.F., then Portland, Seattle and back home to New York for two shows at the Nokia in Manhattan. After that, it looks like they're probably hunkering down to finish the album since they don't have any more tour dates (aside festivals) listed.

By the way, I was just thinking about this tonight but for all the built-up drama of Amy vs. Sharon back in 2007, that all has more or less petered out to be nada given that Amy is now milkbox material while Sharon's still out there, doing her thing, and paving a way that, in 2008, saw artists like Raphael Saadiq, Solange Knowles and several others following closely behind. Notch a few wins there for the Dap-Kings.

Before I forget - new Daptone's 45 (on their Ever-Soul subsidiary) is available soon: Eddie and Ernie's "Bullets Don't Have Eyes." I'll blog about this eventually but you can sample it here in the meantime.

Also, while I have your attention. If you're into hip-hop, in the LA area and are looking for something to do on a Monday night, come out to Claremont McKenna tonight for a panel discussion that includes my friend Jeff Chang and colleague Ebony Utley.

And while we're on the topic of upcoming shows, if you're not already up on the Timeless Series (which kicks off next weekend), don't waste time, getting tickets. Mulatu! J-Dilla tribute! Verocai! Axelrod! All backed by orchestras! Holy sh--!

[1] I regret to inform that I was excited to see that Lorraine Ellison does the song on her Heart and Soul LP (which is where "Stay With Me debuted) but it's a pretty terrible version - the arrangement is ill-fitting which forces Ellison to sound somewhat shrill in the process.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

posted by O.W.

Tyrone Davis: Can I Change My Mind?
From Can I Change My Mind? (Dakar, 1969)

Alton Ellis: Can I Change My Mind
From 7" (Studio One, 1970). Also on I'm Still In Love With You

Tyrone Davis: Let Me Back In
From Turn Back the Hands of Time (Dakar, 1970)

Jesse Anderson: Let Me Back In
From 7" (Curtom, 1970). Also on The Curtom Story.

Tyrone Davis: A Woman Needs To Be Loved
From Can I Change My Mind? (Dakar, 1969)

I'm definitely not that well-versed in Tyrone Davis' career - most of what I knew about him for a long time was what he recorded in the mid to late 1970s rather than - as requested - his Brunswick/Dakar output. On paper, I would have thought I'd really be into that era of his career; I've generally found Brunswick very reliable in the early 1970s, especially when you have producers like Carl Davis and Willie Henderson in the mix. But overall, Davis' years at Brunswick didn't knock me off my feet - he was certainly a good enough singer but song-for-song, there's a lot there I never really got into.

I would certainly make an exception for one of his first big hits for Brunswick: "Can I Change My Mind" which is, by far, my favorite Davis song (thus far): the horns are fantastic here and there's such a great "boogie on down" swing to both the vocal and musical arrangements. One way in which you can see how far Davis got with it is by looking at the number of covers that followed. One of the best I've probably heard is out of Panama and should be coming out on a forthcoming compilation (props to Beto for sharing) but on the reggae soul tip, you could do a lot worse than Alton Ellis' cover, once again proving that Ellis wasn't only a brilliant songwriter and musician in his own right...he had impeccable taste in music writ-large.

What's interesting about Davis' original, thematically, is how similar it is to one of his other songs from the same era: "Let Me Back In." Of course, there's probably a billion songs about boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-wants-girl-back, etc. but given that these singles came very close to one another and even sound alike, you do have to wonder a bit.

Hope I'm not blasphemous in saying this too but I think Jesse Anderson's version pretty much destroys Tyrone's original - a better arrangement, stronger rhythm section and Anderson manages to out-Davis in a Davis-esque singing style. I may simply be biased because I heard Anderson's version before I heard the original but I still think Jesse's got the jam with this one.

I'll end with Davis' deep soul single "A Woman Needs To Be Loved." Doesn't this one have "power ballad" written all over it? Davis is swinging for the fences with that growling, shouting performance and the music keeps in step with its dramatic force and bluesy intensity. Mercy!

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posted by O.W.

(Tweeted by SFJ)


Saturday, January 24, 2009

posted by O.W.

Even though it's my normal policy not to take requests, I'm changing that for at least a couple of posts. I'm willing to entertain requests for specific posts on artists, labels, songs, genres, etc.

The only exception: no requests for reposts of previous songs. Other than that, suggest away!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

posted by O.W.

Since Murphy's Law has been gone this month, I've been holding down our weekly Boogaloo[la] party with special guests artists every week.

This week, it's Mayer Hawthorne from Stonesthrow Records, who'll be putting together some tasty soul sets.

Next Thursday, it's my old friend my KALX in Berkeley: Michael Barnes, now one of the rising stars at KCRW.

For those in LA, come through - Boogaloo[la] has been poppin' and we're nearing our one year anniversary!

Thursday, 10pm - 2am
The Shortstop
1455 Sunset Blvd. (Echo Park)


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

posted by O.W.

Jay-Z: My President Is Black (Remix)


Friday, January 16, 2009

Overpriced... but pretty!
posted by Eric Luecking

For the high-end consumer, Angelis Labor is offering a 4-armed turntable for $64,000. It was displayed at last week's Consumer Electronics Show. The arms are made at the same factory as some Ferrari parts.

How well it actually plays is the true $64,000 question. 
You can read more here.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

posted by O.W.

Pure Essence: Wake Up (Edit)
From 7" (Mantra, 1976). Also available on 12".

Long before L.A. Reid became, well, L.A. Reid, he was one of the countless aspiring musicians to come out of Cincinnati, arguably one of the most talent-rich cities in America. Back then, he was a drummer and ended up claiming one of his first recordings with the band Pure Essence, lead by Steve Tucker. Short-lived (they only ever recorded two songs), Pure Essence still has made quite the splash when their "Wake Up" 7" was "discovered" a couple years back and for quite a while, the single held down holy grail status, with only a literal handful in circulation.[1]

Stonesthrow decided that this song - a masterful example of mid-70s funk with a modern soul touch - was worth reissuing and they went the extra distance, first by combining parts 1 and 2 into one single mix (my edit does the same thing but cuts it off much sooner). They also add the group's other recording, "Third Rock" on the B-side, basically giving you the group's entire output on a single 12".

I don't have much in my collection in this same vein but I can see why this style of funk has become so big amongst DJs - that bubbling bassline, Reid's chattering drums, and (Tucker's?) sweetly smooth vocals, plus that change-up towards the end of Part 1 where the song goes into that infectious chorus: perfection.

[1] I'd like to say I found this after spending 13 hours in a basement outside of Toledo but the truth is...I got it off eBay. Bless you, Buy-It-Now!

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

posted by Eric Luecking

The year 2008 found me actually buying less music than in years past, although I'm sure my wife would disagree. While 2K8 wasn't a stellar year for me musically speaking, it did have some standout moments, with some coming unexpectedly.

For instance, I was sure I was going to hate the 808s & Heartbreak album. That damn autotone has been played out this year. I had heard the lead single on the MTV awards show when Kanye premiered the song and liked it, but I wondered how he would pull off an entire album of it. The guy isn't exactly Percy Sledge; for that matter, he's not even Chris Brown. Then I heard the album and was blown away. For an artist to give a middle finger to what convention says they have to release, those are the moments that people remember. The minimalism of the 808s album gave the music room to breathe. I'm not sure another “hip hop star” could have pulled off an album like this.

James Pants: Cosmic Rapp
From Welcome (Stones Throw, 2008)

The second album I thought I was going to hate but ended up being one of my favorites of the year was the James Pants debut. When I saw the initial press release about Mr. Pants and heard the lead single, if I'd had a remote control, the channel up button would have been pressed right away. Electro hip hop isn't typically my bag. But Egon was kind enough to sneak in a promo of the album, and I couldn't just throw it away. So one day on my drive to work, I popped it in. Had I not been driving, I'd have busted out some cardboard and cut some moves – even if I can't really breakdance. Something about this album makes me wanna pop and lock.

Then there were the albums I never would have given a chance had it not been for more surprises in the mailbox. Both came courtesy of World's Fair, the distribution group that releases Daptone material.

Curumin: Misterio Stereo
From Japanpopshow (Quannum, 2008)

This gem is a hypnotizing little number. Brazilian native Curumin serenades his objet du coeur. I'd never heard of Curumin previously, although this was his sophomore effort. Chief Xcel and Gift Of Gab liked him so much after meeting him during a tour stop that they were able to help him get signed. This song goes to show they knew what they were talking about. Such a beautiful song.

Postmarks: One Note Samba
From By The Numbers (Unfiltered, 2008)

When I saw last month's femme pop post, I immediately thought of this album. Lead singer Tim Yehezkely and her ethereal voice took me somewhere I hadn't been since Goldfrapp's “Pilots (On A Star).”

Q-Tip ft. Norah Jones: Life Is Better
From The Renaissance (Motown, 2008)

On the hip hop front, Q-Tip roared back from the majors ostracizing his previous efforts. Some of the material was combed from shelved projects Live At The Renaissance and Open and either used as-is or re-recorded. However, one of the standout cuts was his shout out to hip hop history with the haven't-heard-her-this-funky-since-maybe-ever Norah Jones. Tip shouts out Dilla, Busy Bee, Rakim, Nikki D, and Lauryn Hill to name a few over a slinky keys and plucky bass guitar.

People Under The Stairs: Anotha BBQ
From Fun-DMC (Gold Dust Media, 2008)

Perhaps one of the most criminally underrated and consistent hip hop acts, Thes One and Double K released another funky outing. “Anotha BBQ” is the perfect way to describe their music. It truly feels like the soundtrack to a Saturday barbecue. You can always expect PUTS to cook up something funky. While word wizardry might necessarily be their strong suit, the lyrics perfectly marry the music.

And although this artist normally wouldn't get categorized for this blog, John Mayer has really been doing some great bluesy styled work over the last couple of years getting nods from legends such as B.B. King and Albert King. If you were fortunate enough to catch one of his shows this summer, you got to hear him perform a sweet blues version of the Duffy hit “Mercy” with the backing band doing some nice brass work.

John Mayer: Mercy
Unreleased (but recorded with the artist's permission for

Top Albums (in no particular order):

1. Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It
2. The Final Solution – Brotherman OST
3. Q-Tip – The Renaissance
4. Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band – Take your pick of their reissues on Warner UK or the live set and jams albums that Rhino Handmade issued
5. Kanye West – 808s and Heartbreaks
6. People Under The Stairs – Fun DMC (honorable mention to their Om Years 2-disc set)
7. James Pants – Welcome

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

posted by O.W.

Kool G Rap and DJ Polo: I Declare War
Craig G: Drop a Bomb On 'Em
From The Juice Crew EP (DWG, 2008)

(Originally posted to Side Dishes)

There's many layers of face-melting madness involved in this project. Let us count the ways:

1) Unreleased Juice Crew tracks from the vaults of Marley Marl? Say what? How have these not seen the light in 20 years?

2) And not just any unreleased tracks. We're talking about legitimately smokin' hot tracks, especially the two Kool G Rap songs on here, not to mention a Big Daddy Kane exclusive, a song from Tragedy, back in his pre-pubescent Super Kids days, and another great cut from the wildly underrated Craig G.

3) Despite what you would expect to be incredible demand for these songs, the EP was pressed up at 350 units. Never to be repressed. Whoa.

4) And did we mention it will cost $80? And is vinyl only?

Give DWG (Diggers With Gratitude) credit - like Kane, ain't no half steppin' here. They designed a product that would blow minds on several levels. I suspect many hip-hop fans will go from, "holy sh--, unreleased Juice Crew joints" to "but wait...$80?" and get stuck somewhere in between.

Full disclosure: I plunked down the $80. I wasn't the happiest dude doing it but I have zero regrets (especially after hearing the full songs). This thing sold out before it was even really publicized so clearly, the price point didn't hurt the EP one bit. Folks may grumble at the exclusivity (though you can bet this will get ripped and put online within days) of it but limited edition items have been a part of hip-hop (and pop music) history for ages. I do feel bad for genuine fans who simply don't have the ends to spend on a project like this though. Maybe Marley will drop these on CD in the future, who knows? (Here's another well-reasoned defense).

But enough with the politics - peep the music.

"I Declare War" is classic Kool G Rap, by which I mean he's still just slicing up MCs lyrically vs. coming with the gangsta/murder raps his later career was known for. It can easy to forget that even though Kane was supposed to be Cold Chillin's most dexterous MC, G Rap was a close-second, flow-wise. This song ranks amongst some of the best I've ever heard from him in terms of presence and lyrical wit. Sick track too - rough and rugged like so many of Marley Marl's late '80s fare.

I also had to roll with the Craig G song here - how could I possibly pass up a song featuring one of my favorite in the Crew, rapping over a track sampling the Jackson Sisters' "I Believe In Miracles" with a little "Blow Your Head" mixed in? Ridiculous.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

posted by O.W.

Greenwood Rhythm Collective: Guajira 78
From 7" (NYC Trust, 200?)

Greenwood Rhythm Collective: Salsa Verde (snippet)
From 7" (NYC Trust, 2008)

Orquesta International: Mucho Control
From El Barrio: Back on The Streets of Spanish Harlem (Fania, 2008)

Damn, I need a late pass for not realizing that the great Monk One - NY DJ and Wax Poetics contributor - helps run a label alongside E's E, NYC Trust. It's new become one of my favorite sites to peruse - there's a wealth of good-goodies here, including custom mixes by folks like Jared Boxxx (look for "Big City Soul") and Prince Paul ("6 Yrs. High and Rising") and a slew of free tracks by Monk, E and Oneman (look on the right column, especially Monk One's "Got To Give It Up" reggae remix).

Monk and E have two different bands (so far) that they've put together on the label - the more downtempo Midnight Lab Band and the Latin-flavored Greenwood Rhythm Coalition. The GRC's last two 7"s have been exceptionally strong - the "Guajira 78" is especially caliente fuego, a fast-paced, charanga style dance track with a darting flute.

The group's new "Salsa Verde" is equally infectious, built around the distinctive riff that originates with Orquesta International's popular "Mucho Control" hit (also covered by Ismael Quinones). I could be wrong, but I also pick up a distinctive Colombian salsa flavor off this but I'm still a neophyte in the genre. Regardless: it sounds fantastic. I can't wait to play this one out at Boogaloo[la].

For kicks, I also threw in the aforementioned "Mucho Control" which seems to embody so much of the aggressive, brassy style of '70s salsa that's been recently reborn into the so-called salsa dura movement. This was featured as part of Fania's new El Barrio series which includes excellent compilations on classic salsa, Latin soul, boogaloo and a recent Latin funk edition. (I'll be writing more about these in the weeks to come).

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posted by O.W.

I really love D-Nice's second act as an artist-turned-documentarian. Gives you hope that there's life after the stage and one can still contribute meaningfully. Respect due.

HIs "True Hip Hop Stories" series are great; they're like video versions of (Robbie, holla!)

Masta Ace on "The Symphony."

YZ on his career and deafness.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

posted by O.W.

Mophono: The Shuffle
From 7" ("Tighten Up") (CB, 2007)

Mophono: The Edge Remix
From 7" (CB, 2008)

Mophono, aka DJ Centipede, is a Bay Area DJ and producer whose put out three very cool 7" projects on CB Records so far. His first was more of a downtempo experiment from 2005, the I Cry EP but his last two have both been remix projects. My favorite has been his reworking of Bob and Earl's 1963 hit, "Harlem Shuffle" which strips down the song's basic parts and reassembles them with a funk (and psych) edge that gives the song a completely new feel - far more raucous and dark than its original inspiration. I liked it even more than the A-side, a remix of Archie Bell's classic "Tighten Up."

On his latest 7", Mophono tackles two hip-hop classic sample sources - including "Groovin" by Allen ToussaintWillie Mitchell which should be familiar to Wu Tang fans the world over. On the A-side, he plays with "The Edge," by David McCallum (but produced by David Axelrod) but first begins with an impressive chop job of Sly Stone's pre-Family Stone single "Rock Dirge" and its glorious drums.

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posted by O.W.

Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno: Westbound Train
Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno: Make Dub Not War
From Death of the Revolution (Tru Thoughts, 2008)

Should have been on top of this back in the summer when it first dropped but consider the new Flowering Inferno album to be good, warm listening for the chilliness of winter. This is Quantic's latest incarnation, a close kin to the Quantic Soul Orchestra's Tropidelico album from 2007 except here, it's Quantic himself handling all of the musical duties.

The sound this time is out notably influenced by reggae and dub - the Latin touch still trails in the background but most songs are unmistakably built on dub's viscous rhythmic signature. I was originally thinking this new album would be packed with tracks to play out and there are some more uptempo cumbias, such as the title track, but instead, I was pleased to find that where the album excels is really in the downtempo tracks that Quantic builds around drizzles of melody and druggy rhythms. "Make Dub Not War" for example, is a masterpiece of simplicity in contrasting the bright drops of acoustic piano against the echoing slap of snares. With "Westbound Train," Quantic is working with any number of different samples in here - the most obvious to me was the pygmy flutes from Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man," and a guitar melody borrowed from Al Green's "Love and Happiness." It reminded me of some of the remix/edit tracks from the early '90s (just minus the Fatman Scoop style shout outs)..

With "Westbound Train," Quantic remakes the Dennis Brown song by the same name (thanks to DRev for schooling me) which, as most should note, picks its guitar line from Al Green's "Love and Happiness". From there, Q throws in a bit of the pygmy flute melody from Herbie Hancock's groundbreaking "Watermelon Man" and builds another winning slow-tempo track for you to get grind on to.

If you really want to get hardcore, there are three different 7"s available from the album.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

posted by O.W.

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires: Slow Run
From S/T (JAD, 1968). Also on Very Best of the Reggae Superstars.

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires: My Sweet Lord
From Reggay Splashdown (Dynamic, 1971). Also on Hot Reggae Splashdown.

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires: Live and Let Die
From Reggae Fever (Dynamic, 1972). Also on Trojan Beatles Tribute.

I am really derelict for not getting to this sooner. Byron Lee, one of most prolific artists in Jamaican history, died on November 4th, 2008 (alas, not long after one of his contemporaries, Alton Ellis, also passed away). I should have had a dedication post up weeks ago but it slipped my mind until recently.

Lee's always had a special place in my heart since he was one of the first reggae-artists-not-named-Bob that I ever discovered and his album, Reggae Splashdown was probably one of my early introductions to reggae soul (it doesn't hurt that he was also half-Chinese). It's one reason why I wanted to put Lee's cover of "Express Yourself" on Soul Sides Vol. 2.

"Slow Run" comes from Lee and the Dragonaires' self-titled album from the late '60s - long after the band had become legendary in the Caribbean but before the founding of Lee's own Dynamic label where most of the albums in the '70s and beyond would appear. It captures well the burgeoning "funky reggae" sound sweeping through Jamaica in the era; a real slick instrumental.

"My Sweet Lord" is one of my favorite of Lee's covers - a beautifully rendered version of an already classic song. And heck, since we were already on a Beatles tip, I figured I'd throw in another cover - this of "Live and Let Die" (best James Bond song ever?). First time I heard this, I figured it'd be kind of cheesy but the reggae-reworking of the main melody is surprisingly effective.

One of the upsides to Lee's prolificness was that his albums are still easily found in any record stores with a half-decent reggae section. Find your own and celebrate this late great's catalog.

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