Tuesday, March 31, 2009

posted by O.W.

Didn't mean to barrage people with all those 5th Anniv. posts but since I've been gone the last 10 days, I thought I'd make up for lost time. (I'm also thinking that no one's really complaining either).

So...I had a great time spinning at Chairman Mao's Grand Groove party in New York City the other night. As noted, it was a "covers night" theme, with DJ Muro as the headlining guest. I wasn't able to catch most of Muro's set because I ducked out to see some old friends but I did make it back in time to hear him play Penny Goodwin's cover of "What's Going On." It's strange but the song, through headphones, doesn't sound that earth-shattering for some reason. But played loud? In a public space? Good God, it is incredible. Absolutely some life-changing stuff. I can't explain it better than that (and it's also why I wouldn't bother posting the song on here but I will add it to my rotation in any club).

I digress however.

Towards the end of the evening, around 3am or so, I had a revelation and I think I finally understand why I like covers so much. This whole time, I've said it's because "covers are both familiar and different" and sure, that's true and I do think that's part of the appeal - their quirky blend of something you know yet don't know.

But I think the real reason I love covers go much deeper. In participating during a six hour set of cover songs, it occurred to me that while this is a challenge in terms of bringing the best cuts to the (turn)table, it's also rather easy because generally speaking, songs that get covered were good enough to even warrant a cover to begin with. In other words, if someone didn't basically like the original source material to begin with, it's unlikely anyone would have bothered to cover the song at all.

Which, in a sense, means that most of them are, in essence, love songs...not about love, but about the love for songs. Part of the motivation to make a cover song is either 1) a recognition that other people love that song or 2) the artist themselves love that song. Either way, that's a whole lot of love going on.

And so, in that early morning moment, I realized that I love cover songs because I love songs...and if cover songs are love songs about the love for songs then loving cover songs is about loving the loving of songs. Or something like that.

You catch my meaning, I hope.

In any case, in honor of that beautiful revelation, in honor of that great evening, and just because I feel like, here's one cover I did play, one cover I could have played and one cover I may very well start playing.

Otis Redding: Papa's Got a Brand New Bag
From In Person at the Whiskey A Go-Go (ATCO, 1968)

I am straight-up embarrassed that I never heard this song prior to my Funky Sole gig the other month but goddamn, it is so good, I'd say it's better than James Brown's original. Just listen to how Otis and the band punish this cover. It's become an instant favorite and at less than two and a half minutes, packs a punch every second it plays.

Alice Babs: Been to Canaan
From Music With a Jazz Flavour (Swedish Society, 1973)

I don't know why I don't play this cut out more...I first learned about it years ago at the Groove Merchant and it's probably one of the best vocal jazz dance cuts I know, up there with Lynn Marino's "Feeling Good" for example. It's a very striking departure from Carole King's original, taking a slow ballad and giving it an uptempo makeover.

The Emotions: As Long As I've Got You
From Songs of Innocence and Experience (Stax, unreleased from 1972)

Toward the end of the evening (circa 4am), Mao threw on a blank 45 and when those first few piano notes sounded through, I realized, "holy sh--, someone covered the Charmels." The funny thing is, I actually knew about the song from a few weeks back when Hua hepped me to it but at the moment, I totally forgot that I had already heard it and marveled at how completely awesome this cover is.

As it turns out, Mao had the song custom-burned to 45 since it doesn't exist in any actual original vinyl form; the Emotions' album this was supposed to be from, 1972's Songs of Innocence and Experience was never released for reasons not clear...though later, many songs from it ended up on the group's Sunshine album according to Souled On. However, the group's version of "As Long As I've Got You" was not included on there and only surfaced in 2004 when Ace finally put the album out on CD. All history aside - what an incredible cover of an already incredible song.

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posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on April 16, 2007).

The Intruders: Together
From The Intruders Are Together (Gamble, 1967). Also on Cowboys to Girls: The Best Of.

(Original notes:) "Had a grand time at Bumpshop over last weekend. Here's the thing you have to understand: Bumpshop might start up around the same time (10pm) but they go until 4am. As routine as this might be for any NYer, it's damn near incredible for folks like me, stuck in cities like SF and LA where most nights begin winding down around 1:30am since the bar staff doesn't want to stay there a minute past 2am if they help it.

Better yet, the last 30-40 minutes of Bumpshop winds down all the uptempo funk and just rides out on sweet soul and hand-clapping goodness; some tracks just leave you, head bowed, in reverent contemplation. As you'd expect, resident DJs Chairman Mao and Jared kilt it (you have to respect DJs hardcore enough to put a song - not otherwise available on vinyl - onto acetate, just so they can spin it out. CD lovers will no doubt shake their head at such things).

In any case, there's nothing like listening to four straight hours of soul/funk/jazz/Latin to really 1) bring out the trainspotter in one (, I have no shame in admitting that I was giraffing over the DJ booth more than few times) and 2) make you realize how much insanely good music there is out there. Thus inspires today's post.


I had more or less forgotten the Intruders' classic "Together" until Jared played it last night (backed with a cover version that's now parked at the top of my want (nay, need) list) and good god, what an insanely great song. The chorus, especially played loud, is incredible. On a related side note: for many years, I pushed this kind of soul to the background but in the last year or so, it's all I really crave. Musical tastes are strange that way, no?"

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posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on April 5, 2007).

UGK feat. Outkast: International Players Anthem
From Underground Kingz (2007)

(New notes:) Hands-down, one of the best hip-hop songs of the decade.

Andre 3000 kick off verse? Check.
Pimp C still here and kickin' verses? Check.
Willie Hutch's "I Choose You" loop? Check. [1]
Slick video? Check.

[1] When I was waiting for a delayed flight at JFK's Terminal 7 on Sunday night, "I Choose You" came on over the terminal loudspeakers. So proper.

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posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on February 7, 2007).

Brothers of Soul: A Lifetime
From 7" (Boo, 1968). Also on I Guess That Don't Make Me a Loser.

(Original post): "I don't use the word "perfect" very often (well, actually, ok, I probably do) but if ever there were a song that should inspire such an honorific - here it is.

I discovered this 45 a few weeks ago, along with my friend Hua - it was some crappy lo-digi-fi copy of the tune but it was still promising enough that we both went out and hunted out the original that evening. Hua got his earlier, digitized that sucker and sent it over. Suffice to say, within minutes, the song quickly became an instant classic in my personal catalog.

Every single part of this song just works: that anchoring piano melody, the background vocals, the rich voice of Fred Bridges singing, "...but I have no regrets" to begin his verses and the changes in the arrangement. The first minute of the song alone makes me want to crawl inside it and live there forever but make sure you get to the end where the sweet soul harmonies of Ben Knight and Robert Eaton come flying in unexpectedly. I tend to throw around terms like "sublime" a bit loosely at times but this song resets the bar and then some. I can't say enough about it.

Soul Sides' readers have heard the group before - in a manner of speaking - on my Ruby Andrews post from October. The BKE collaboration of Bridges, Knight and Eaton were discovered by Zodiac Records' Ric Williams and they ended up one of Andrews' main producers/composers/arrangers for her first album (Everybody Saw You) while Eaton and Williams produced most of her Black Ruby LP. Unfortunately, though the BoS had a few decent hits on 45, they never became major stars on their own and instead, were more successful working with other artists (a pity). That I Guess That Don't Make Me a Loser is the definitive (by virtue of being the only) anthology of their 7"s and is well worth checking out just to hear their slim but grand catalog of music. (It includes their $200+ Northern Soul track, "I'd Be Grateful" which is also amazing). Also, please see Soulful Detroit's long profile of Fred Bridges and the Brothers of Soul, a fantastic resource of information on BKE and their work."

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posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on February 22, 2007).

Aretha Franklin: I Can't Wait (Until I See My Baby's Face)
From Runnin Out of Fools (Columbia, 1964)

I was originally introduced to this tune by my friend Hua, who put me up on the Sonji Clay version of it. I didn't realize until this year however that the songwriter was actually Jerry Ragavoy (and yeah, I know I just reposted this very same song not that long ago but damnit, it's so nice, I'm gonna post it thrice!).

Not only is the musical arrangement here a thing of beauty but just listen to the songwriting and how Ragavoy flipped the title phrase to go from defiance, to uncertainty, to desperation. Brilliant.

Best of all? There's a music video for the song. Yeah, for real.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

posted by Eric Luecking

P.E. Hewitt Jazz Ensemble: I'm Wondering Why
From Winter Winds (Now Again, 2009)

The 3 winners of the P.E. Hewitt “Winter Winds” contest are Guillermo Gonzalez of sunny California, Kurt Iveson from the land down under, and Tee Cardaci of Brazil. Congrats to all!

Thank you to all who participated and continue to read the site as well as to Stones Throw/Now Again for sponsoring the contest. Answers are below.

Q1: What label, based out of the UK, is Now Again partnering with for the expanded release of the Spritiual Jazz anthology?

A1: Jazzman Records

Q2: Now Again released another lost, fuzzed-out jazz album based on children's tunes as one of its pilot releases. Name the group.

A2: Stark Reality

Q3: The ever-feared story problem: Egon is digging for records at the local record store. He finds 20 that he likes. On his way to the counter, Egon is so excited about the records he finds that he trips over speaker wire running across the floor causing the stash of records to fly through the air. All but 12 are broken or scratched beyond repair, including a formerly pristine copy of Third Guitar's “Baby Don't Cry.” How many records does Egon have left that he wants to buy?

A3: The answer is 12. If all but 12 are broken, that means that 8 are broken (of which the Third Guitar is one of them) and the other 12 are still in good condition. So Egon only wants to buy the 12 that are in good condition. I know, tricky tricky.

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posted by O.W.

So this is a personal plug but I also thought it'd be of interest to folks here. I'm the editor for Fania's new newsletter that goes out every two weeks. Each issue includes:

*A feature story on Fania-related releases
*A short CD highlight
*A DJ playlist (Issue #1 has DJ Cucumber Slice, aka Bobbito)
*A free download out of Fania's catalog

Given that Fania/Emusica are making a major push to really tap into the label's insanely huge catalog holdings (which also includes Tico, Alegre, etc.) there's going to be a ton of material coming through.

You can read Issue 1.

And more importantly, you can sign up for the newsletter via email.

P.S. I'm finally back from my East Coast trip with a backlog of posts to get up and some new goodies to share. Stay tuned.

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posted by Captain Planet

Betty Wright : Where Is The Love
from "Danger High Voltage" on Alston (1974)

McDonald & Gilles : Tomorrow's People - The Children of Today
from their self-titled album on Cotillion (1971)

Letta Mbulu : Mahlalela (Lazy Bones)
from "Letta" on Chisa (1970)

Milton Nascimento : Para Lennon e McCartney
from "Milton" on Odeon (1970)

The TNT Band : Cool Clave
from "The Meditation" on Cotique (1968)

Merlene Webber : No Happiness
from 7" on Studio One (197?)

Happy belated b-day to one of the best blogs in the game! It's been a little while since I've had a chance to put together a post, but that doesn't mean I'm any less crazy about good records (or less of a zealot when it comes to sharing them). When I first stumbled on Soul-Sides, I'm pretty sure it was the
Roberto Roena "Que Se Sepa" post, I was madly inspired and knew I wanted to do pretty much the same exact thing. It took a while to get my own blog up and running, but Captain's Crate never would have been if it weren't for this site. While the Crate is no longer going, I'm still doing what I do at my new improved blog Mixtape Riot, throwing regular events in NYC, and diggin for records with money that I should be saving for the rent. And yes, I will still be posting forgotten gems up here for as long as O-Dub allows me to!

There's no connecting thread to today's selections. Just new records I got and LOVE. And since I find it harder and harder to make time to record vinyl, once I'm doing it I try to digitize as many cuts as possible.

I'm sure
Betty Wright is known to most Soul-Sides readers (whose music library could be complete without "Clean Up Woman"?), but this proto-disco bomb is a recent discovery for me. The bridge harmonies and horn breakdown will undoubtedly ignite any sensible dancefloor. There's a great Danny Krivit re-edit of this track out there somewhere that's worth tracking down as well.

McDonald & Gilles were original members of the King Crimson band but left after their '69 North American tour. I guess they wanted to focus on making their own music- and I'm glad they did! This record had been suggested to me a handful of times, but finally finding it in a dollar-bin is what it took for me to actually listen to it. God bless funky Brits who know how to craft trippy harmonies and leave room for the drums to break.

South Africa's
Letta Mbulu is another artist who I'd heard about, but never managed to track down on record until recently. The fact that she was discovered by David Axelrod and signed to Capitol because of him says a lot. She was making power moves alongside Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba in the late 60's and managed to work with some of the TOP session players of the time. This record finds her backed by the Crusaders band and cuban percussionist Francisco Aguabella- find it!

Out of Brazil, I bring you a 2-min wah-wah fuzz bomb from Milton Nascimento (you thought he was soft, right?). Dedicating this first song on the LP to The Beatles, Milton goes on to deliver a jaw-droppingly beautiful record which has all the delicate moments you'd expect from this folky crooner, but also brings the raucous energy and experimentation of the Tropicalia movement. Don't sleep on Milton, check
Club da Esquina for more of the good stuff.

I know O-Dub has been building up his Latin stacks for a while now, but hopefully this rowdy mambo workout from The TNT Band is new to him. Simple and effective, TNT must have used this song to please the old school dancers at their shows in the late 60's when just about every other song they did was a boogaloo or doo-wop number.

Finally, I leave you all with a skankified
Studio One heart crusher from Merlene Webber. This song has helped me in desperate times of need. Next time you find yourself home alone with a bottle of whiskey and a hole in your chest, put this one on and turn up the volume!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

posted by Eric Luecking

Poets Of Rhythm: Practice What You Preach
From Practice What You Preach (Daptone, 2006)

Bus People Express: Augusta, Georgia
From Original Raw Soul (Instinct, 1996)

Syrup: Chocolate
From Different Flavours (Compost, 2000)

With all the press that Daptone's Dap Kings get for their funky soul roots revival (and deservedly so), many seem to forget the groundwork that Jan and Max Weissenfeldt (aka Whitefield) and their band of funky brothers from another mother laid down in the early to mid 1990s. Much of the time they were known as the Poets of Rhythm, but they had more monikers than Prince has had backup bands.

The three tracks above give you a sense of versatility the band has. “Practice What You Preach” is one of my favorite funk workout jams of all time. It features a bassline that rides like a rollercoaster and the syncopated chorus is a real sweat. Then you get a killer sax/drums duet followed up by a nice organ solo. And if you think these guys couldn't have held their own with the J.B.s, check out their alterego's tribute to James Brown's hometown with its frenetic pace and nice touch of congas. Finally, the oft-forgotten Syrup side project finds the band still utilizing more synths. With its steady rhythm guitar riff and still keeping true to their ever-present top-notch hornwork, it could easily blend in with late 70s/early 80s sets.

Recently I had the chance to talk with Jan about his thoughts on the resurgence of funk, where he's been, and where he's going with music.

EL: With all the press that The Dap Kings get as being the “in” nu-funk band, people tend to forget you and your bandmates. Talk about some of the groundwork you and your bandmates help to lay with this renaissance of funk in early/mid-90s - struggles to get labels to believe in your music, issues with getting heard, etc.

JW: We self produced and released a 7" in 1992. I gave a copy to a friend who went to Hamburg and passed it on to the DJ at a small club called Soul Kitchen. Two weeks later I got a call from the guys from the newly founded label Soulciety asking if we want to record an album for them. Of course we agreed as we never even thought that could happen. Before that we just jammed in the basement and had a couple of shows where we covered meters songs.

EL: How many alteregos did the Poets Of Rhythm have? To name a few there was the Bus People Express, The Mighty Continentals, The Pan Atlantics, and The New Process. It's hard to keep up with your catalog! Why so many?

JW: I lost count myself but the reason is easy to explain: two of our biggest influences in the early days were George Clinton and James Brown. Both gave many of their musicians their own records which had their unique sound but still were part of the whole concept. We just imagined different projects with different sounds or styles and made records for them.

EL: Last we talked, you had mentioned that you were working on a follow-up Whitefield Brothers album to the now-reissued In The Raw LP. Are those sessions finished? Did you stick with the Ethiopian sound you talked about last time?

JW: The album is nearly done. It has some Ethiopian stuff but also compositions based on japanese and turkish scales and all kinds of exotic rhythms. Ethnic or world funk would be good description, I guess.

EL: From your Hotpie & Candy Records days, Poets Of Rhythm really had a lock on that JB's style with the syncopated rhythms and just a nasty horn section. Then the follow-up Discern/Define went in a different direction, overall a more toned down sound. You really don't like to stay too much in one musical element, do you?

JW: When we started making music together, Bo Baral and I were only 16 years old so you start with the basic stuff. After a while when more records are bought and you keep studying the works of previous generations, first you look at the classics from the different eras then you start looking behind the icons that everybody knows. You learn there are different approaches to music and there is loads of stuff that got lost because it didn´t meet the current tastes. So you add up and change influences all the time and as we don´t do albums every year the difference in sound can be quite big but still it contains a big part of what we grew up on.

EL: Do you have any desire to start up another label? If so, what would you do differently?

JW: I have a new label I started a couple of years ago – Field Records. So far I only did reissues of Whitefied Brothers and Pan-Atlantics as I don´t really have the time to put too much effort into label work. It´s all 7"s anyways and is more of a fun thing. Hotpie & Candy Records was a fun thing as well. We pressed up own 45s because that´s what our inspirations did. It was never handled as a serious business and in the end we probably gave more copies away for free than we sold.

EL: I read in Waxpoetics that at your live shows you don't do much (if any) of your older Poets Of Rhythm material. Is that still true?

JW: As I tried to explain with the changing influences, it´s kind of boring to stick to the same formula too long. It´s even harder to keep the music fresh if you have to perform many shows in a row. We try to incorporate as much improvisation as possible so every concert is different and you never know where it´s gonna take you. That keeps it interesting for us and for the audience.

EL: Some in the media have speculated that several years from now that CDs may not exist; they also note that it's one of the only times in history where the replacement technology is actually of inferior quality. Given the choice of a new album coming out, would you rather get a digital download or own a physical copy? Talk about your thoughts of the digital revolution.

JW: Soundwise digital definitely has a disadvantage compared to analog. They try to tell you you can't hear the difference and in high resolution that might be true, but I´m sure I can feel it and digital has a cleaner, colder appearance. On the other hand, it freed the music from the industry as the access is almost unlimited. Nowadays you can listen to countless hours of music for free on the web and you can choose what you want to listen to. Just 15 years ago you only could copy music in realtime with decreasing quality. You had to wait till the program on the radio met your taste or you had to buy countless records. On the production side it gives you more freedom as well cause you are not dependent on expensive studio time to do recordings or editing. So summed up it it´s like: more quantity, less quality – more freedom, less money. Like with all things there is the good side and the bad side. Yin and yang will always be relevant.

EL: Are you sour on the music industry these days? I know you had a falling out with Soulciety. Have you had to up your music biz game?

JW: Not sour at all. The only way to do it is to find people who care about music more than money (but still make you some) and work with them. Hard to find.

EL: What other flavors of sound would you like to try? Not necessarily that you're currently working on, but “someday I'd like to go for a _____________ sound.”

JW: Ambient soundscapes, tone poems.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

posted by Eric Luecking

Bobby Cook & The Explosions: Untitled Jam
From Local Customs: Downriver Revival (Numero, 2009)

Shirley Ann Lee: How Can I Lose
From Local Customs: Downriver Revival (Numero, 2009)

The Numero Group has several offshoots within their canon of releases ranging from Eccentric Soul and Cult Cargo to Wayfaring Strangers. Their latest, Local Customs, focuses on custom studios from small areas. This set comprises songs from Ecorse, Michigan, a factory suburb of Detroit.

Many of the songs on the release are gospel recordings featuring members of the Church Of The Living God. These aren't always your grandma's songs of grace, though. While gospel has a long history of organ-based choral compositions, some of those recorded by Double U founder Felton Williams had an almost funky quality to them. If you take out the vocals on tracks such as Shirley Ann Lee's “How Can I Lose,” you have a very groove-based jam. Still, others such as the Pilgrim Wonders' “He Never Failed” vocally sound like R.H. Harris' Soul Stirrers pleas of redemption.

It's not all about the Lord on this set, though, as shown by the Organics very danceable “Foot Stumping” instrumental. With its steady backbeat, it's a guitar-driven track with traces of organ throughout. Elsewhere “Untitled Jam” has a bassline with a slick drumbreak midway through leading its way into some nice organ work and a funky little saxophone.

The really cool thing about Downriver Revival is the companion DVD. Ever wonder what it's like to go on an interview session with the Numero crew? Well you can digitally tag along with them while they interview Felton Williams. You also get to tour his studio, much of which he pieced together himself from various electronics parts! Instead of just seeing the finish product, you get to see a part of the Numero process unfold before your eyes. It's like going to a family reunion and hearing the stories firsthand instead of just reading about them. The second part of the DVD features numerous songs that did not make the CD – everything from completed songs to rough demos and other tinkering – giving you a further look into the breadth of the Ecorse sound.

This is by far the most complete packaging that Numero has put into a release yet, which is saying something considering their penchant for quality assurance. We can only hope that they continue to surprise us with extra goodies, not that the music selections haven't been enough, but adding in some of the best liner notes they've compiled yet along with the visuals in the DVD really put this one over the top.

Oliver adds: In case you missed it from the other week, I reviewed this comp for NPR's "All Things Considered." I also can't recommend it enough: an excellent anthology of the highest order.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

posted by Eric Luecking

P.E. Hewitt Jazz Ensemble: I'm Wondering Why
From Winter Winds (Now Again, 2009)

Isn't it just like a telemarketer to bring you back to reality when you're listening to some new sounds that have taken you to another place? While jamming (and I mean REALLY jamming thanks to my new Klipsch Promedia 2.1 Series speakers, which I highly recommend) to the the groovy sounds of the P.E. Hewitt Jazz Ensemble, the latest Now Again release, the phone rings. Thinking that it could be my wife, who is due to deliver in the next month, I dutifully answer. But, no, it's someone wanting information on my grocery shopping habits... or on grocery products I buy... some BS like that.

But I refuse to let it get me down – not when Stones Throw/Now Again is once again ponying up some serious music to give away for FREE to YOU, the Soul Sides faithful. Recession? What recession? At any rate, don't tell Egon, who is kind enough to be giving the goods away - you don't want him to renege!!!

And what might these goods be, you ask? How about the CD version of the Japanese-only release of P.E. Hewitt Jazz Ensemble's “Winter Winds” album! Only a limited amount of copies have been secured for release outside of Japan either directly at Stones Throw's web store or through Dusty Groove. Now Again is providing not one, not two, but THREE copies of this CD to give away! (In case you haven't checked the sites above, it retails for $25 in the US of A.)

So if you can't wait to get your hands on one of these fine specimens and want to secure a physical copy, you can buy from either of the stores mentioned above. Or if the recession is hitting you hard in the pocketbook and you're like me – always having a jonesin' for some new tunes, you could enter in the latest Soul Sides contest. Just answer the three questions below correctly for your chance to enter.

Also, you can listen to the full first track of this album above. “I'm Wondering Why” is a punchy tune. Rick Hearns hits the kit hard with some possessed drumming reminding you of some great Buddy Rich work with the sticks. With such an upbeat tune, it's hard to imagine it coming from an album called Winter Winds. Those vocalists come through scatting a made-up language like they had just come over from a Gary McFarland session. Absolutely breezy work, this tune.

It's not all sunshine, however. Other songs on the album, such as Ill Love Song, are of a different ilk with resounding yearning. Then there's the closer “Tuija,” of which you can imagine looking out the window watching the snow melt from the tree branches, perhaps while thinking of a time you wish you could go back to or of a lost loved one.

Take a listen to the snippets over at the Stones Throw's web store to see why we're so excited that you get a chance to win this great piece of music. It's all leading up to the full P.E. Hewitt anthology release coming out Summer 2009 through Now Again.

Contest Rules:

1. Contest ends at midnight on March 30, 2009. Entries that arrive after that time are ineligible.
2. ALL addresses are eligible!!!
3. Should there be more than three contestants with all correct answers, three names will be chosen in a drawing of those who answered correctly. Should less than three people answer correctly, then winners with all correct answers will automatically win with the remaining winners to be chosen by a random drawing.
4. Your first response is your official and final response.
5. You are only eligible to win one of the three CDs.


1. What label, based out of the UK, is Now Again partnering with for the expanded release of the Spritiual Jazz anthology?

2. Now Again released another lost, fuzzed-out jazz album based on children's tunes as one of its pilot releases. Name the group.

3. The ever-feared story problem: Egon is digging for records at the local record store. He finds 20 that he likes. On his way to the counter, Egon is so excited about the records he finds that he trips over speaker wire running across the floor causing the stash of records to fly through the air. All but 12 are broken or scratched beyond repair, including a formerly pristine copy of Third Guitar's “Baby Don't Cry.” How many records does Egon have left that he wants to buy?

Even if you don't think you know all the answers, give it a shot. You can't win if you don't enter!

E-mail your responses to elueckin AT hotmail.com and put Hewitt Jazz Ensemble in the subject line.

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posted by O.W.

Bummer news - the Axelrod anchor leg of the incredible Timeless series has been called off.


Friday, March 20, 2009

posted by O.W.

(Originally written for Side Dishes)
And another master passes...

Sad news out of New Orleans today - Eddie Bo, the great singer, songwriter and producer/composer died today of a heart attack; he was age 79.

Born Edwin Bocage, Bo was one of New Orleans' most prolific musicians, with over 50 singles to his credit and a vast number of productions as well. HIs career spanned over 50 years and it's hard to imagine a more stalwart and influential musical figure out of NOLA than Bo - he's certainly up there with the Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Fats Domino, etc. (The UK's Soul Generation has a great, visual discography of all the different labels Bo recorded for, many of them of his own creation such as Big 9, Bo-Sound and Scram.)

For my generation of Bo fans, we got into his style and sound thanks to the incredible funk sides he produced in the 1960s through early 1970s. Bo shared - in the most general sense - similarities with the sparse funk style of Allen Toussaint and the Meters since both made heavy use of the famed NOLA second line backbeat syncopation and polyrhythm. However, while the Meters' best-known songs have a density and gravity all their own, Bo's approach was more kinetic and lively - I always associate a subtle swing to this rhythms and especially thanks to constant collaborator James Black on drums, Bo always knew how to engineer a killer drumbreak to keep the crowd's feet in motion.

The songs I chose barely make a dent in his massive catalog but it seems only right to begin with his best known song, "Hook and Sling," a 1969 single that's become commonplace enough to end up in t.v. ads. (Strangely, it's very hard to find on CD though).

Eddie Bo: Hook and Sling Pt. 1
From 7" (Scram, 1969)

"From This Day On" is a strikingly distinctive song - a slick, uptempo NOLA soul song with a Spanish flourish thanks to the horn and guitar. To me, it's one of the best overall songs he ever created (and hey, Pete Rock probably agrees with me so I'm in good company).

Eddie Bo: From This Day On
From 7" (Seven B, 1966)
. Also on Selected Favorites.

As noted, Bo also produced for many other artists, especially female singers, including Mary Jane Hooper and Inell Young. For my money, one of the best sides in this vein was a duet he produced for himself and Inez Cheathem called "Lover and a Friend." Not only does it feature a great exchange of scorching vocals by Bo and Cheatham but the song opens with an incredible, blistering breakbeat, courtesy Bobby Williams. This track, in particular, was picked up for release by Capitol Records and briefly had some national exposure.

Eddie Bo and Inez Cheathem: A Lover and a Friend
From 7" (Seven B, 1967)
. Also on In the Pocket With Eddie Bo.

Seems oddly appropriate to end with a 1963 song by Bo called "Fare Thee Well," which he recorded for Arrow (then picked up by Chess up in Chicago). Rest in peace Eddie.

Eddie Bo: Fare Thee Well
From 7" (Arrow, 1963)

(Thanks to Soulstrut for posting this one.)

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posted by O.W.

Update 3/20: I have a few guest list spots open - email me and I'll confirm with folks by tomorrow morning.

People keep asking me, "when are you going to DJ in New York City?"

You can stop asking. It'll be this Saturday night, with DJs Mao and Muro, at APT.

The theme - properly enough - is all covers. Mao and Muro collaborated on the excellent Run For Cover II mix-CD and I've been touting Deep Covers 2 myself. It'll be the West Coast/East Coast/US/Japan team-up for all things cover song related.

(BTW, I'm out there for a week or so, if anyone's got a radio show or what have you, I'd love to do a cameo. Holler.)


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

posted by Eric Luecking

Whitefield Brothers: Sol Walk
From In The Raw (Reissue) (Now Again, 2009)

Congratulations to Phil Namoc who won the CD of the Whitefield Brothers reissue of In The Raw. We had many entrants and most people had all the correct answers, which you can see below. Thanks to all who participated and continue to read the site!

As an added bonus, take a listen to Sol Walk, above, from the album.


1. Jan Whitefield and other Poets Of Rhythm members played on this group's Afrofunk album last year released by Now Again. Name the group.

ANSWER: Karl Hector and the Malcouns

2. Name the country and city where the Whitefield Brothers formed.

ANSWER: Munich, Germany

3. Name the Bay Area MC who the Poets Of Rhythm backed for a track on Quannum's collective album Quannum Spectrum.

ANSWER: Lyrics Born

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posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on Jan 7th, 2006).

Nas + AZ: Life's a Bitch (DJ Delay Remix)
From Medium: Rare II Mix-CD (Funk Weapons Int'l, 2005)

My original comments on this were kind of thin so I'll just write up some new ones...

Personally, "Life's A Bitch" was always my least favorite song off of Illmatic, music-wise. I just thought it was too soft and syrupy and even though I've tried to give it new listens in hindsight, it still doesn't really do it for me.

So when I heard DJ Delay flip a new beat under it, to me, it improved my personal experience of really listening to everything about it - not just the new beats, but the old verses as well. You'd be surprised how much you can pick up when your ear is more fully engaged with a song rather than trying to listen past a track you're not that into.

For many, I suppose anything but the OG is blasphemous but f--- it. I ride for the diggy-diggy Doc Delay on this one.

Pity the mix-CD this came out on (as a bonus track) is out of stock though!

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posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on July 8, 2006).

Donny Hathaway: What a Woman Really Means
From Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Brothers (Atlantic, 2006)

"I'm wholly enamored with the Donny Hathaway song. I'm always discovering and appreciating new songs by him and marveling at how me manages to announce his presence with just a two-note hum. You just KNOW a Donny Hathaway song by its sound and feel - it really speaks to the amazing personality he infused into his songs. This track is no exception and that chorus is killing me something wonderful with its chord changes and background vocals. So good. This is one of few songs on the comp that's never been heard before and god bless 'em for that. (It was originally recorded during the Extension of a Man sessions but wasn't released for whatever reason."

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

posted by Eric Luecking

O'Jays: When The World's At Peace
From Backstabbers (Sony/BMG, 2008)

Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes: Tell The World How I Feel About Cha Baby
From Wake Up Everybody (Sony BMG, 2008)

Willie Mitchell: Sunny
From Ooh Baby You Turn Me On/Live At The Royal (Hi Records, 1993)

A few weeks ago I stopped by Circuit City to check out their deals on CDs where I found a couple of Philadelphia International Records classics for under $6 each! As O.W. says, I was CD'iggin'.

O'Jays: Backstabbers

Remember when popular mainstream groups didn't pussyfoot around the charts? 1972 saw the release of another album rooted in social commentary. While not as politically charged from beginning to end like Marvin Gaye's “What's Goin' On” from the previous year, Eddie Levert confidently preaches about learning to love like we've learned to kill and how that will lead to peace in the land, a sentiment echoed with the album's closer, “Love Train.”

Where the arrangement for “Love Train” has a much more hold-hands-with-your-brothers vibe, Bobby Martin arranges a much more aggressive and funky tone with a riveting bass line and almost rock-like guitar background groove which flows in perfect harmony with its message. And who can deny a call of “Do it to me now,” followed by a killer breakdown by the full band?

As such, the way the album is sequenced, it's perfect that the lead track is “When The World's At Peace,” as it's like the beginning of a rally for social movement and the final track, “Love Train,” is a we're-all-in-this-together moment with the group leading the march to victory.

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes: Wake Up Everybody

While primarily known for its social anthem title track, it has other gems such as “Tell The World How I Feel About Cha Baby,” another foray for the group into disco. It was a sound they had delved into earlier in 1975 with “Bad Luck.” Before Teddy Pendergrass was dodging lacy garments while singing slow jams about closed-door knockout lovemaking sessions, he was singing uptempo numbers like the original version of “Don't Leave Me This Way.”

The highlight for me in “Tell The World How I Feel About Cha Baby” is the drum breakdown with the congas 4:30 minutes in following the horn stab. If only all disco could sound this sweet.

Willie Mitchell: Ooh Baby You Turn Me On/Live At The Royal

Later that week I stopped by FYE to look in the clearance bin and found a Willie Mitchell double set for under $4! Before he was churning out hits for Al Green, Willie Mitchell was an accomplished band leader and trumpeter. In 1968, Mitchell released Ooh Baby You Turn Me On (aka Soul Serenade) featuring some of his own hits as well as covers such as the Bar-Kays “Soul Finger” and Bobby Hebb's “Sunny.”

On “Sunny” you get a little organ and a lot of horns. You don't get any long solos on the album, just a tight-knit sound with each member chipping in making the sum of its parts greater than the whole. Some have questioned whether the Live At The Royal was an actual live album and not just overdubbed crowd noise and clapping. Regardless, it's still a pleasant listen all the way through


posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on August 9, 2006).

Fela Ransome Kuti and Afrika 70: Water No Get Enemy
From Expensive Shit (Editions Makossa, 1975)

"I've listened to a decent amount of Fela's stuff over the years but I either just let this slide past my radar or missed it completely but now I'm completely obsessed with it. I was instantly infatuated with it and here's why: like most of Fela's biggest Afro-funk songs, this track unfolds with a steady and sublime patience that reveals depths to the rhythm that might go otherwise missed unless you have the advantage of a longer view. But like "La Murga" what also makes the song such a pleasurable listen is how Fela brings in an electric keyboard...a softer, gentler sound for a song writhing in such thick rhythms and (once again) a monster brass section. The main riff are the horns (just like in "La Murga") but it's the piano that deepens the song's personality and elevates it towards the sublime. Even though the song is nearly 11 minutes, I've put it on repeat over and over and simply lounge into its folds. Heavenly."

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on May 20, 2006).

The Dells: I Can Sing a Rainbow/Love Is Blue
From Love Is Blue (Cadet, 1969).

"What's so great about this song? Three things. 1) The shift from the mellow, almost folksy "I Can Sing a Rainbow" and then the out-of-nowhere dip into the funky soul blast of "Love Is Blue". 2) The call and response between the lead vocalist and the rhythm/brass sections, i.e. "Blue!" BLARE! Blue! BLARE! BLARE!" There's that moment where you know the hammer is about to drop between voice and instruments and you just know it's going to be incredible. 3) Check out the string arrangement that's subtly slipped underneath following that call-and-response. It adds this extra musical layer which turns a really good song into a wholly awesome one."

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on October 26, 2005).

Dionne Warwick: You're Gonna Need Me
From Just Being Myself (Warner Bros, 1973)

"This Dionne Warwick is one of the most amazing songs I've heard in a long, long, long time. I put it on repeat and literally was listening to it over and over for hours. I was trying to figure out how to articulate just what makes it so perfect - Holland-Dozier's amazing arrangement, Dionne's piercing vocals - but really, you just know it's that good when you listen to it. It's catapulted to the very top of my "favorite soul songs of all time." I just can't believe I never heard it until recently (thanks HHH for putting me up on it)."

(2009 update + preemptive comment - yes, I know Dilla and Just Blaze and others have sampled it.)

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

posted by O.W.

You know how we do!

Soul Sides has three pairs of tickets to give away. If you slept on the previous two Timeless shows...you wack! Don't make it a hat trick and miss out on Arthur Verocai.

Emails drawn at random at the end of Friday. Email us with the subject line "Verocai giveaway". Make sure to include your full name.

I confess, I don't know a ton about Verocai except that I always associate him, rightly or wrongly, with Brazil's Tropicalia movement of the late 1960s which was both an intense period of both cultural and political collisions and musical evolution (check out Brutality Garden if you're really interested).

Verocai's 1972 album on Continental is a straight up Brazilian holy grail LP and personally, if you listen to how intricate his arrangements are, how brilliant his fusions of Brazilian and American styles come together here, you can understand why people jones for this album so badly.

And he's going to be playing in LA with a 30 piece orchestra? No brainer.

Arthur Verocai: Caboclo
Arthur Verocai: Na Boca Do Sol
From S/T (Continental, 1972)

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Monday, March 09, 2009

posted by O.W.

(originally written for Side Dishes)

Few American pop figures were as complete as Curtis Mayfield; not only was he an oft-imitated singer, gifted songwriter and visionary producer, but Mayfield also understood the importance of creative ownership. Through his label Curtom and its subsidiaries, Mayfield created a home for not just his and the Impressions music, but for dozens of other artists who came seeking a chance to make their mark too. I recently came upon a compilation, Curtom Funk which looks at - as you might guess - the funkier side of the label. I picked a few choices cuts from the anthology and sprinkled in a few of my Curtom favorites too.

Donny Hathaway and June Conquest: I Thank You
From 7" (Curtom, 1969). Also available on Curtom Funk.

I'm so used to thinking of Donny as an Atlantic artist that I forget before he ended up there, he was a singer and songwriter for Curtom for several yars. One of the products of his time there was this duet with June Conquest; a snappy, slow soul stomper that showcases Hathaway's beautiful voice and a rousing track with a full bank of horns and strings.

Jesse Anderson: Mighty Mighty
From 7" (Thomas, 1970). Also on The Curtom Story.

Anderson was a local Chicago artist whose career never quite took fire on a national level despite no shortage of raw talent. His version of "Mighty Mighty," a cover of Baby Huey's song (another Curtom artist) gives it an instrumental makeover, with a heavy hand for both the drums and the funky wah-wah guitar, yet it's all balanced by that sweet touch of the flute which provides the song with its melodic zip.

Bobby Franklin's Insanity: Bring It On Down To Me
From 7" (Thomas, 1969). Also available on Curtom Funk.

Arguably the hardest funk single to appear in the Curtom family (this one was on the Thomas subsidiary), "Bring It On Down" is all guitar rips and handclaps plus Franklin's rough, bluesy vocals. Not sure where Franklin's original roots were but given that he also recorded for the Detroit-based Eastbound, one assumes he came out of the dense Midwest musical community.

Curtis Mayfield: Move On Up
From Curtis (Curtom, 1971). Also available on Curtom Funk.

Seems only right to have some actual Mayfield in the mix and it's hard to go wrong with the bright, shiny, inspiration energy of "Move On Up" with those glorious horns and propulsive rhythm. Plus, what better anthem to go with the ascension of another Chicago fast-riser, Barack Obama?

Moses Dillard and the Tex-Town Display: I've Got to Find a Way (Part 2)
From 7" (Curtom, 1970). Also on Curtom Soul Trippin' II.

I had always assumed Dillard was from Texas but the "Tex-Town" part of his band's name stands for "Textile Town, an allusion to his native city of Greenville, South Carolina (which ran a large textile factory). Dillard originally put the single out of an different label (I'm assuming his own, Textown) but its success in the South encouraged Curtom to acquire it in 1980 and re-release it nationally. For some reason, this song always reminds me of native Chicagoan Syl Johnson and his "Is It Because I'm Black?" - both have a heavy, heavy sound, their funk elements kept dark and moody. I've often called this song the best single Rza never sampled.

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posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on July 1, 2005).

>Amerie: One Thing (Siik Remix)
From Siik.org (Siik, 2005)

"Given that the 4th of July is already upon us, I'm trying to kick off a mini-meme by asking folks the simple(?) question: What does a summer song sound like to you?

I don't mean songs that happen to become popular during summer, though I respect the institution of the summer hit. I'm talking about songs that invoke summer - the type of song where you could be neck-deep in snow, in the middle of February, with the heat broken but once you hear it, you can almost see the sunset or smell the scent of backyard BBQs or feel the hot, humid air of nights where it's 2am and no one's ready to go home yet.

My favorite memories of summer are droplets of reality dissolved into a vat of fantasy. After all, what else is summer if not a delicious swirl of nostalgia and idealism, a lemonade cup filled with what we want summer to be rather than what it is. The perfect summer songs are the ones that invoke a sensation of innocence, optimism, and beauty yet also tinged with the slightest daub of melancholy. For what else is summer if not the feeling of sadness from knowing that summer will eventually pass, consigned into the darkening days of autumn? I guess that's why my favorite summer songs are rarely brash, loud anthems. I prefer tunes with a hint of fragility in their melody, a vulnerability in their sensibility.

With Siik's remix of Amerie's "One Thing" - I know ya'll are probably sick of the original already but I swear to God/Jah/Allah that hearing this made me think it was a completely new song. Especially compared to the forceful funkiness of Rich Harrison's original, Siik takes it in the other direction with that sublime guitar melody. I can't stop listening to this remix - it is so perfect to me and most definitely on a summer vibe. Makes me want to go trade my Prius in for a drop top just so I can play it out (but alas, foggy as hell right now in S.F.)."

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

posted by Eric Luecking

Soul Sides, in conjunction with Stones Throw/Now Again, is excited to present to you – the loyal Soul Sides readers – an opportunity to win the reissue of the Whitefield Brothers “In The Raw” album. The album retails this Tuesday, March 10, in physical and digital formats.

In addition to the 9 tracks that were on the initial Soul Fire release, 3 tracks that were not on the previous release appear: Rampage, Chokin, and Buster (aka The Bastard).

Now onto the contest.

Contest rules:

1. Contest ends at midnight on March 16, 2009. Entries that arrive after that time are ineligible.
2. Only US addresses are eligible due to high shipping costs. (Sorry international readers!)
3. Should there be more than one contestant with all 3 correct answers, a name will be chosen in a drawing from all the contestants with 3 correct responses. Should no one answer all 3 correctly then a winner will be chosen by a random drawing.
4. Your first response is your official and final response.


1. Jan Whitefield and other Poets Of Rhythm members played on this group's Afrofunk album last year released by Now Again. Name the group.

2. Name the country and city where the Whitefield Brothers formed.

3. Name the Bay Area MC who the Poets Of Rhythm backed for a track on Quannum's collective album Quannum Spectrum.

E-mail your responses to elueckin AT hotmail.com and put Whitefield Brothers Contest in the subject line.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on June 28, 2005).

Patrice Rushen: This Is All I Really Know
From Posh (Elektra, 1980)

"I'm definitely no modern soul expert but I've been turning up more songs of late (cleaning out my record stacks helps) that are part of that late '70s, early '80s vibe and I've been loving some of the tunes in that vein.

When I was combing through my jazz stacks, looking for LPs to cut, I gave my Patrice Rushen section a quick review and rediscovered her 1980 album Posh which features this great ballad, "This Is All I Really Know."

(2009 update: jeez, I didn't really have much to say here, did I? Well, let me amend that error - this is an incredible song, especially how it opens with that piano melody and Rushen and her back-up singers give the song and an appealing set of vocal layers and the icing on the cake is the bridge chorus around 2:47 which adds an even richer drizzle of soulfulness. Considering that you can find Posh for super-cheap, it's well worth copping for this alone).

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

posted by Eric Luecking

While surfing the web today, I found this great article on the Complete Motown Singles collections including the author's 2005 interview with Harry Weinger, VP of A&R for Universal Music.

This provides a great insight into Weinger's efforts to get these and other great reissues out to the public.

You can read it here.

posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on June 13, 2005).

Bill Withers: Can We Pretend
From +'Justments (Sussex, 1974)

For some reason, Bill Withers has the reputation as someone whose songwriting was better than his singing. I always found this a strange accusation - Withers was certainly a genius writer ("Ain't No Sunshine" anyone?) but it's hardly as if he had a terrible voice. It's true - he didn't have the range or purity of tone like Marvin Gaye or Sam Cooke but Withers was comforting and familiar - like a good friend to share an afternoon with. For some reason, he reminds me of what a happier Chet Baker might have sounded like singing soul.

Anyways, most soul/funk heads I know own two Withers' albums - maybe three, but that's about it: Still Bill, Just As I Am and Menagerie (for "Lovely Day"). But I admit, I've always passed by +'Justments and never thought twice about it. Until I listened to it.

The more uptempo, funkier stuff is ok - definitely not as good as what's on Still Bill but it's ok. However, it's the ballads that really shine. "Can We Pretend" is simply sublime, especially Withers' vocal arrangement. Damn, how did I sleep on this for so long?

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

posted by Eric Luecking

David Ruffin: Heaven Help Us All
From David (1971 Previously Unreleased Album) (Hip-O-Select, 2004)


This is one of those purchases you just make. Don't think, just buy it. Originally released in 2004 and limited to 3500 numbered copies, this quickly sold out. Subsequently it went for hundreds of dollars on eBay (although you can buy a digital copy of it on iTunes).

However, Hip-O-Select recently switched fulfillment houses. Lo and behold, they found 80 copies of this previously thought-to-be-sold-out album. Note: This is not a repress but is part of the original 3500 allotment which will not be repressed.

The album was intended to be released in 1971 but for reasons unknown was held back. It was given a release number and even had a couple of singles released from it. The material recorded never even appeared on future releases.

Click here to get to the order page. Only 1 per customer.


posted by O.W.


Update: dude is blowing up. Peep and peep.


posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on October 23, 2004).

Pi-R-Square: Fantasy Pts. 1 & 2 (Unity Edit)
From 7" (Wee, 197?). Available on Jazzman 45.

"I had a minor epiphany the other day. It began with the general and rather obvious observation that I own a lot of records. Too many. What I have just barely fits into my current apartment and frankly, it's not going to sustain itself much longer if I keep bringing in more LPs without thinning the herd a bit.

The thing is: it's not at all clear if I even need/want most of what I have. In picking out songs for this site, I don't want to just throw up some half-assed songs just because I think they're "ok". I want to share music that demands to be noticed, tunes that will kick your ass and leave you, broken in an alley, songs that take you someplace that you never want to come back from. Forget the merely passable.

For example, I own at least half a dozen Brian Auger LPs and 'nuff respect to him but I don't know if there's anything on them that's truly amazing. I own almost every album on Bernard Purdie's Encounter label but seriously, I don't know if there's more than one or two songs on that entire imprint that can even ride the same train as with a descriptor like "sublime" Don't even get me started on CTI (why do I own any Deodato LPs on that label? I mean, really?). The list goes on.

Basically, I need to clean house and start dumping every mediocre or middle-of-the-road piece of vinyl stacked in my apartment. I need to focus on the music that's left, the indispensable records, the albums and singles that I'd protect with a passion that's normally reserved for childhood pets and letters from your first love. In short, I need to just keep the music that's on par with "Fantasy."

For a long time, "Fantasy" was one of the Bay Area's Holy Grail 7"s - costing well into the hundreds for an elusive copy. One assumes the group was lead by pianist Lonnie Hewitt (one of Cal Tjader's longtime collaborators) since Wee was his label. The song is not longer such a best-kept secret: it's been reissued and comped several times and a local collector turned up a few boxes worth of stone-cold mint copies that the 7" can no longer be considered all that obscure. But who cares - the point is that this song is really stunning. What I love about it is how slow and patient it builds and when the funk hammer drops, it transforms the song and takes it to that proverbial "next level."

I never get tired of listening to this song and among my various Bay Area-related records, it's top rankin', no doubt. Now if only all my records packed this much quality. Maybe we'll get there one day.

At least I can have my Fantasy."

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on April 11, 2004).

Kanye West: All Falls Down (original mix)
Deleted from College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella, 2004)

"Imagine you're Lauryn Hill. You've gone from one being one of hip-hop's greatest artists ever to landing somewhere between an enigma and a joke. Your career is so far gone that kids think "Doo Wop" is old school now. One day, Kanye West, one of the hottest producers in the game, calls you up and says, "hey, I've made this conscious song about the contradictions about being black and having class aspirations, blah blah blah and I really want to sample your song from the Unplugged album - you know, that double-LP that effectively destroyed your career? Anyways, I want to redeem it by making this really dope song using your voice, is that ok with you?" Somehow, you decide "no," thereby forcing Kanye to hire a sound-alike in the form of Syleena Johnson, a perfectly good Hill knock-off but the point is that she's a knock-off, not the real deal.

The song above is the original mix, using the Lauryn Hill sample, as it appeared on the early promos for Kanye's album. In the opinion of most, includes yours truly, it is the considerably superior version simply because Lauryn just sounds better. You decide."

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Monday, March 02, 2009

posted by O.W.

A dozen T&S songs for free download. Nice.


posted by O.W.

(As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on April 30, 2004).

The Harvey Averne Dozen: You're No Good
From Viva Soul (Atlantic, 1968)

""You're No Good" kicks off the Harvey Averne Dozen's Viva Soul and the song is so good, so sublime in its affect, so remarkably not like anything else on the album that you wish Averne had pressed this up on 45 so you could have the song without the clutter of the rest of the LP to deal with. Don't get me wrong, Viva Soul is a decent Latin album in its own right and had "You're No Good" not appeared on here, I would still have found pleasure in songs like the mid-tempo mambo, "The Micro Mini." But "You're No Good" opens the album on such a stupendous note that the desperate desire for the rest of the LP to sound the same can only be met by consecutive waves of disappointment as you skip tracks to realize that "You're No Good" is some kind of aberration - lucky to exist but still alone in the world, at least the world of Viva Soul.

Averne himself isn't a great vocalist here - he belts out a passable but unremarkable performance that reminded me of a Tony Bennett knock-off in a Vegas bar. That's not quite as bad as it sounds but Averne isn't about to topple Otis Redding or Al Green off the top of the canon. What makes "You're No Good" so damn good is the chorus of female singers, sounding like the latter-day Ronettes or similar girl group. Averne sings against them in a call and response between himself and what sounds like a bevy of girlfriends he's cheated on. We hear their grievances first as the song opens on a brassy opening of horns and vibes that gives way to a funky, walking bassline and jabbing piano chords. They sing: "I don't trust you when you're out of sight/like you were last night.

On Averne's reply - "I don't want to hear anymore/enough of that jive/I know the score..." - the song brings the horns back in and the arrangement switches from soul into pop, only to swing back to soul when the women come back: "If you love me/like you say do/then make up your mind". It's a great exchange, not quite as tit-for-tat as, say, Otis Redding and Carla Thomas' "Tramp" but like that classic, "You're No Good," is light and playful in its attitude too.

It's those moments, when the women are seeking their revenge that every element in this song: the arrangement, production and vocals, all come together beautifully. There is something both incredibly soulful and funky about these women's singing and it creates that moment of pop brilliance that so many songs hope for but few attain. I don't know what Averne was thinking in writing this song, insofar as the rest of the album doesn't sound much like this cut, but whatever inspired him is our blessing as well."

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

posted by O.W.

Today, Soul Sides turns five years old as an audioblog. In internet years, that means we should qualify for a pension soon and I have, of course, all of you to thank for the constant support over that time. Soul Sides has also been graced with very supportive press over the years as well and I'm very humbled by their favorable words.

In honor of those five years, I plan on commemorating in a few ways. The first is in reposting key songs (in my opinion) that Soul Sides has plugged over the years - I picked 4 per year. At the end, I'm going to create a limited edition CD with all 20. And finally, later in March, I'd like to have an anniversary party at Boogaloo[LA] to commemorate as well.

And if you have some personal favorites, I'd be curious to know what they are - feel free to discuss in the comments.

To kick off the 5 year celebrations, here's the very first post (w/ sound) I made for Soul Sides, five years ago today:

Originally posted Feb. 29, 2004.

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

    This has long been not only one of my favorite Gillespie cuts of all time but one of my favorite soul jazz tunes, period. Based on the original composition of Gillespie's pianist Mike Longo, "Matrix" just grooves with a smooth, smoky beauty. The recurring horn riff is super funky and catchy, the main guitar line is similarly memorable and the bassline breakdown? Sublime. Throw in some snappy drumming and you have one helluva dance floor spin not to mention excellent listening material.

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