Sunday, January 31, 2010

posted by O.W.

I finally got around to catching up on my blog reading and noticed that Super Sonido recently wrote up Mon Rivera's "Lluvia Con Nieve." This salsa classic was introduced to me by Murphy's Law and I consider it one of my Top 3 go-to, never-fail salsa cuts to get an audience moving (Willie Colon holds down the other two with his "La Murga De Panama" and "Che Che Cole"). "Lluvia Con Nieve" fits right between those two - more aggressive and forceful than "Che Che Cole" though, for my money, nothing can ace the horn opening to "La Murga" but that "Lluvia" comes pretty damn close. Trust a trombonist to know how to use some brass to get feet to slide.

Super Sonido included Rivera's original plus a cover by Lucho Macedo on Virrey which I had never heard before (good stuff Frank!) and that made me think of this:

Carlos Pickling: Lluvia Con Nieve-El Molestoso
From Suplemento Dominical (MAG, 1970s)

Can't say I know much about this Peruvian organist except that he's, um, Peruvian and an organist. I picked this Mag LP up a while back, mostly on the strength of this medley/cover of "Lluvia Con Nieve" that segues nicely into "El Molestoso," a pachanga (Eddie Palmieri's?). The use of organ is what sells this cover for me, just adding enough of a touch of difference to stick in the ear.

Meanwhile, over at Philaflava's TROY blog, he's got the latest post in his "Who Flipped It Better" series up, focusing on samplings of Five Stairsteps' "Danger, She's a Stranger." It reminded me that I hadn't done an installment of my own, similar series in well over a year and as it was, in going back over some key Willie Mitchell productions, I forgot how many folks had flipped Al Green's "I Wish You Were Here."

Al Green: I Wish You Were Here
From Al Green Is Love (Hi, 1975)

Nas: Shootouts
From It Was Written (Columbia, 1996)

The Lootpack: Wanna Test
From Soundpieces: Da Antidote (Stones Throw, 1999)

Consequence feat. Kanye West: The Good, The Bad, the Ugly
From Don't Quit Your Day Job (Good, 2007)

Wu-Tang (Ghostface Killah + Tre Williams): I Wish You Were Here
From Chamber Music (E1, 2009)

I find it rather remarkable that this song has been such a popular sample over the years if only because it's just not what I associate with Green's core canon. Doesn't mean it isn't a great song and in particular, such a classic Willie Mitchell sound. On that note, it's rather amazing that no one in the Wu seemed to mess with this until last year given that it sounds pitch-perfect for the Wu's well-known affections for the Hi catalog.

However, it was Nas who seemed to have been the first to flip this (Poke and Tone of the Trackmasters to be more exact), back with "Shootouts" from It Was Written. Call me crazy but listening back to this, some 14 years later, doesn't one get the sense that Poke and Tone were listening to some of Rza's beats and thinking, "yo, we need to get on this steez?" In any case, I admire how they didn't opt for a straight loop but chop it up instead (Jesse "Fiyah!" West style!) Madlib's flip on the same sample for The Lootpack's "Wanna Test" doesn't cut things up as much, opting instead to filter parts of the main, opening loop to add some dissonance. Fast-forward to 2007 and it's an interesting contrast with how Kanye uses more of the original sample in its "pure" sonic form to open, but then chops it up a bit (w/ Green's vocals sped-up and attached) for the main parts of the song. Honestly, I think I gotta give it up to the Trackmasters for the best flip of this sample - it just has the most edge and appealing sound of the bunch.

Continuing my "songs I thought of while reading other people's posts" - Earfuzz has the new Kings Go Forth's single, "One Day" and that reminded me that I'm behind on posting this:

The One & Nines: Something On Your Mind
From The One & Nines EP (2009)

This soul band out of New Jersey (no Jersey Shore jokes, please) contacted me over winter break and I really dug this one song off their new EP. Reminds me of that Noisettes song I posted last year in general sound but sans the rock elements. The arrangement here is done with smart subtly - the song doesn't try to force an overly aggressive crescendo; it's content with maintaining a slow burn that sparks towards the end without ever departing too far from the core, Southern Soul aesthetics that make this such an appealing tune. (Excellent use of back-up singers too - this isn't nearly as acknowledged as it should be.)

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

posted by O.W.

Because I was in the middle of moving/unpacking/new house hell, I really missed out on being able to say something meaningful about the passing of Memphis legend Willie Mitchell or slow jam king Teddy Pendergrass.

As it turns out though, Matthew Africa said everything I could/would have about Mitchell AND followed that up with an essential mix of Mitchell's greatest moments. And Breath of Life came through with an equally great post about the life and times of Teddy.

Fabulous posts and absolutely a recommended reads/listens.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

posted by O.W.

Here's a quintet of stuff I've been listening to lately...

Cumbias En Moog: Cumbia Del Sol
From 7" (Peerless, 197/8?)

Cumbia, done in moog. Awesome idea, marvelously executed here by the outfit, appropriately named, Cumbias En Moog. I'm betting there's a lot more of this out there, probably collecting dust somewhere between Colombia and Mexico City. Holler at me with that! This came out of a batch of cumbia 7"s I picked up the other month; money well-spent! Really solid stuff all around (the A-side of this 7", for example, has a surprisingly good, bossa-flavored cumbia). I'll share another one:

Pedro Beltran y Orquesta: Cumbia De Lucy
From 7" (Aries, 1970s)

Killer intro; sounds like a marching band bass drum being pounded there, intercut with chattering percussion and then what sounds like an Indian flute creeps in (I'm assuming it's some Peruvian woodwindaccording to commenter Alejandro, it's a Colombian instrument called a "gaita".). The whole package is an incredibly mesmerizing rhythm. Lyrically, I can only assume the song is a riff on Lucille Ball given that the vocalist (Beltran?) sings "Lucy! Luck!" Ricky Ricardo style.

The Sonics: Have Love Will Travel
From Here Are the Sonics (Etiquette, 1965)

One of my favorite songs to DJ with over the last year or so has been the Lefties Soul Connection's cover of "Have Love Will Travel." The song was originally recorded by Richard Berry in 1959 but like several of Berry's influential compositions ("Louie Louie" being the most obvious), it would actually be later artists who'd record the more definitive version. In the case of "Have Love Will Travel," the version the Lefties are riffing on isn't Berry's original but the 1965 cover by the garage rockers, The Sonics. With the fuzzed out guitar and screaming intro, their version rocks in a way that Berry's never really did and it's easy to see why it's been such a compelling cover to cover since then. Check out Thee Headcoat(ees) cover for the femme makeover.

Chikaramanga feat. Droop Capone: A Life Like This (snippet)
From 12" (Tres, 2010)

Droop Capone aka Dr. Oop is one of my favorite West Coast rappers from the indie hip-hop heyday; he had such a distinctive flow and a knack for choosing good beats to rhyme over. In 2010, he hasn't slipped on that front, teaming with Japan's Chikaramanga for this upcoming single on Tres Records. Call it nostalgist in me but I like any song that a shout out to the Good Life on the chorus. Cop this.

Professor Longhair: Big Chief Pt. 2
From 7" (Watch, 19640). Part 1 + 2 version here.

This is a classic of NOLA music though I didn't get around to grabbing the OG 7" until recently. If you want to understand the roots of funk polyrhythm, you'd do well to just pay attention to what's going on this song in terms of what Smokey Johnson (second line ya'll!) is doing with the drums and how it plays off against the rest of the layers of the song. Longhair's piano work here is sparkling and I went with the lesser played Pt. 2 of the 7" because I like it makes the Royal Dukes of Rhythm horn section more prominent plus you get actual vocals (from Earl King) instead of only whistling. (Home of the Groove has an excellent primer on this single).

In other news...people may also be interested in:

  • Part 3 of my overview of the Latin soul label, Speed, on
  • An essay for about who usually wins the Grammy's R&B Female Performance award.

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    posted by O.W.

    As has become far too common, I need to apologize for the delay between posts. You'll be happy to know (at least, I hope you will) that part of why I haven't been posting as frequently is that I've been working on liner notes projects instead. I've already put to bed notes on the Joe Cuba Sextet's We Must Be Doing Something Right, am about to start notes on Kako's Live It Up and perhaps of most interest to folks here, track-by-track liners for Rhino's upcoming What It Is Vol. 2, the sequel to their massively well-regarded What It Is boxset.

    As penance for my absence, I pulled this out of the archives - the full ¡Boogaloo! set from March 19, 2009. I think I might have made this available to a few folks last spring since it's probably one of my favorite overall sets of the last year (our incredible MJ tribute night notwithstanding). At nearly 4 hours (and 200MB, so just be forewarned), hopefully this'll tide ya'll over until I can compose my next regular post.


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    Wednesday, January 27, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    Kiddie raps + MSB tracks = a winning combo? You tell me.


    Monday, January 25, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    I love how, even all these years after the original magazine decided to shut down, ego trip continues to stay in the conversation of culture and always in surprising ways. Their latest has been a new documentary movie series in New York:

    They kick off with a film I still need to see - 80 Blocks From Tiffany's.

    Get your tickets here.


    Friday, January 22, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    Apache: Gangsta Bitch
    From Apache Ain't Shit (Tommy Boy, 1992)

    This one bums me out.

    Apache may not have been a major rapper - his career came and went within a few short years in the early/mid-90s - but if he's destined to be known as a one-hit wonder, I'd argue that "Gangsta Bitch" was one of the more influential of its era. Lyrically, the song roiled many, not the least of which was putting the word "bitch" out so prominently and, if I recall, it fed into concerns (read: paranoia) about girl violence in that era; Apache was accused of encouraging female delinquency and violence, blah blah blah. From what I can remember, while there were certainly female rappers boasting about their bad ass-ness (B.O.S.S. anyone?), Apache was one of the first male rappers I could remember, besides perhaps Ice Cube, to pen an anthem to hip-hop's gangstresses. Biggie hadn't come out with "Me and My Bitch" yet, let alone the Lox's Ride or Die Bitch" or any of the subsequent songs you can think of. So there's that.

    But for me, Apache's verses weren't nearly as memorable as the beat - put together by Q-TIp in one of the first non-Tribe tracks I ever remember Tip's credit appearing on (this was before he gave tracks to Mobb Deep or Nas) and it was a beauty - total classic of its era. The drums come from Lonnie Smith's excellent soul-jazz-organ-puffer "Spinning Wheel" and four bars in, Tip hits you with a loop lifted from Monty Alexander's "Love and Happiness."


    This track stays as one of my all time favorites and that's kept Apache alive in my memory for all these years. I suppose it's what will continue to even after his death.

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    posted by O.W.

    Richard's People: Yo Yo (O-Dub's Extended Intro Edit)
    From 7" (Tuba, 1968)

    When Doc Delay came through to spin the other month, he dropped this in the middle of a funk mix and trainspotter as I am, I craned my neck over to ask: "wtf is this?" It sounded like the unruly love child of a Midwestern funkateer backed by an East Harlem band and as I dug around for more info on its background, turned out I was more or less on point.

    While the 7" came out of Detroit (rumor is, the vocalist was a janitor at Tuba Records), the backing track originated in New York which probably explains why the dip into the shing-a-ling has a distinctive Nuyorican sabor on it. Boogaloo fiend as I am, I love where Latin boogaloo comes back to the Midwest (where the booglaoo was born). It's very post-modern before anyone was talking about post-modernity(ok, I'm hella nerding out right now) but all you need to know is that "Yo Yo" rocks. Sure, it's a derivative track in terms of being a "new dance" that also borrows from any number of hit songs from the same era such as the "Cool Jerk" and "Here Comes the Judge." (Again, pastiche! Collage!) Plus, all that and a breakbeat intro? Oh hells yes. (Personally, I'd love to see how the "Yo Yo" is done; sounds like fun.)

    (See also Funky16Corners' excellent exploration of the single's history).

    This is jarring gear shift but I'd be remiss in not taking the time to mourn the passing of Teddy Pendergrass, gone far before this time (which is about 99% of the great ones, no?).

    Teddy Pendergrass: Love TKO
    From TP (Philly Int'l, 1980)

    All-time, end of night, slow jam, red light classic (though I suppose "Close the Door" is the king seduction song even more).

    King Kong: The Love I Lost
    From Funky Reggae (MFP, 1970s)

    Just played this out last night and cotdamn was this Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (feat. Teddy) such an incredible jam, made all the more enticing in this reggae-fied remake.

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    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    Shining A 'Light' On Chicago's South Side Soul : NPR

    This review of Numero Group's astounding Light On the Southside release (#33.3!) should have come out a few weeks back but better late than never.

    Same adage applies to those of you who haven't bought the book/compilation yet. The NPR review has three streaming songs to check out, including a personal favorite: Arlean Brown's slinky "I'm a Streaker."

    posted by O.W.


    posted by O.W.

    Donnie and Joe Emerson: Good Time
    Give Me the Chance
    From Dreamin' Wild (Enterprise and Co, 1979)

    This is one of those LPs that helps one understand why people bother to even look for records to begin with.

    The cover screams bargain bin. Actually, it screams "so bad it's good" that even bloggers show it love for being so bad.

    But here's the crazy thing...the actual album sounds nothing like you'd expect it to. Had the album had two loner, folk rock types, you could better understand how the Emerson brothers put together such a heady mix of psych and soul on here but you'd be forgiven if you assumed it was some schlocky power pop instead.

    "Good Time" opens the album and already you realize: "oh wait, this is going to be some crazy sh--, isn't it?" The mix of fuzzed out guitars with a unmistakably bright melody is already worth noting but then the vocals come in and everything hits some next level you would never have guessed possible.

    I don't mean to overstate it; his is not an amazing voice. Donnie (I think it's Donnie?) has a tendency to swallow his lines rather than pushing them out but still, there's something simple and innocent about the performance and you can imagine the young Emersons, with their big hair, jamming this one out in the basement, visions of arena tours dancing in their heads.

    Those into funky psych will no doubt gravitate to the dark, smoky "Give Me the Chance." In listening to this, I'm reminded of any number of '70s rock bands who had a similar vocal style but a little before the 1:30 mark, the song falls deep off into a crevice of crazy synthesizer effects (I imagine Edan going nuts over this kind of stuff).

    But seriously: it is all about "Baby." This is easily one of the best things I've heard in a long time (I'd easily put it ahead of anything on that Sly, Slick and Wicked LP and that's a great album). I'm not even entirely sure what he's singing besides "Baby" but it doesn't matter; just the way he croons, "oooh ooooh baby/yes, oh, baby" melts me like hot butter on (what?) the popcorn. Someone on Soulstrut described this song, "as if Shuggie Otis and Roy Orbison had a baby together" and that exactly nails it. I want to get lost inside this shaggy beanbag of a song, slipping into its cushy folds and dream wild like Donnie and Joe.

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    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    I was meeting with Rhino's Mason Williams today and he was gracious enough to donate a copy of the brand spanking new Wilson Pickett, 6 CD boxset, Funky Midnight Mover, The Studio Records, the most comprehensive anthology of Pickett's Atlantic recordings to date. This doesn't even come out for another week or so. Here's what it comes with:
    • 1st comprehensive compilation of Pickett's Atlantic material
      Includes all originally issued recordings for the label, early pre-Atlantic sides, his 1978 album for the Atlantic-distributed Big Tree imprint plus a CD of rare and previously unreleased recordings
    • Elaborate 92-page, linen-wrapped book with rare and unseen photos
    • 154 tracks
    I'm holding it in my hand and it is gorgeous (as is all Rhino Handmade material).

    I'm going to auction this as part of the Heatrocks for Haiti campaign that I've been trying to get people to be aware of.

    How it works is: you bid on this boxset in the comments. Highest price at the end of the bidding (Sunday night) wins. You donate to a charity of my choosing (most likely either UNICEF or Doctors Without Borders) and put down my email for confirmation (that way, I know you actually donated) and after confirmation, I mail you the boxset. Voila!

    Also, as a reminder, I have three other items up for auction:

    1) The Dereliks: A Turn of the Wheel Is Worth More Than a Record Deal EP
    2) Blackalicious: Melodica 2xEP
    3) The Wire Season 4 promo poster.

    While the auctions are being hosted on Soulstrut, if you don't feel like signing up to be a member, you can send your bids to me or post them in the comments.

    Bidding on the Pickett boxset begins at $100 (which is what Rhino Handmade is charging for it) and moves up from there. Remember: I'm hoping most of you would have planned to donate anyway. This way, you donate AND get a killer boxset in return.
    (Note: If none of my readers bid on this, I will be very very very disappointed in you).


    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    A week ago today, a friend came over, armed with power tools, to help me assemble the record shelves at my new spot. By "help me" I mean "did most of the power work while I stood around and glued vertical supports". That's not out of laziness on my part; it's more that I've never had particularly good hand skills when it comes to home improvement tasks and given that our nail gun could fire holes through solid pine without using a nail, I figured it'd be best to have the master handle the tools that might otherwise lead to one of us with a missing finger or nail in the forehead. To make a long story short, I am very grateful to Thes for this time, expertise and general generosity. He really wanted to help me with these; dude likes these construction projects so I was the beneficiary of his enthusiasm and largesse.

    In the end, we built two intersecting shelves, one 8x8, the other 8x12. Put it all together and it should be enough, give or take, to house somewhere in the ballpark of 9000 records, more than enough to handle my Latin, jazz, soul and rock collection.

    Alas, the sad (and astounding) thing is that even with at least 60% of these cubits still vacant, I've run the math and it's still not going to be enough to absorb my hip-hop collection.

    You have to understand: when Jeff posted this the other month, I felt it like braille make from cactus spines dipped in bhut jolokia extract. I have boxes upon boxes of "essential useless" records weighing me (and my subfloor) down (45 under the loft, another 15-20 above). Back when we moved from SF to LA in 2006, I had to keep almost all of my hip-hop records boxed, in the garage because our new spot simply didn't have the room to shelve all of them. The fact that the vast majority of those boxes remained completely sealed for the last 3.5 years tells me that, well, perhaps not everything in there is very essential. And much of it is quite possibly useless (not for the world, just for me).

    Now, I know many of you are no doubt thinking, "this is a good problem to have" and I don't mean to sound disingenuous in complaining about this but anyone who collects anything knows that, at a certain point, the line between "passion" and "burden" can be razor thin. My rap records, amassed mostly between 1993 - 2006, are a challenge to literally fit into one's life. Back in S.F., our two BD apartment turned into a BD because I used one of the rooms to house my records; that's a fairly significant sacrifice. Luckily, at our new place, we had an extra room big enough to accommodate all the records but currently, only because they're boxed and stacked. The reality is that I need to purge like mad, turning "essential useless" records into non-essential ones so I can let 'em go. It is, however, a daunting task and one that I've put off from doing for years now.

    What much of this makes me think about is this notion of an audiobiography, a term I first heard used by friend and mentor Josh Kun. As the neologism suggests, an audiobiography is a way to think about one's autobiography via music and that can, of course, take on many different forms. For me, I think of it in terms of how different records or genres have ebbed and flowed in import during the course of my life. For a long time, my rap library was a source of pride so it is strange to think that I know view it as a burden. It's not that I've ceased to love or appreciate hip-hop but the material objects - the white label Abstract Rude 12"s I own or countless Rawkus promos for example - have ceased to be as meaningful as possessions. Like Mao's promo-only copy of the Jazzmatazz Vol. 2 instrumentals that he'll grip until the end of days, there are some records that I may never ever listen to but I'll keep out of some inexplicable sentimentality. But I sense that for many other records, I'll look at them and wonder why they've hung around with me for the better part of a decade.

    This isn't a bad thing. It may not necessarily be a sad thing even. But for someone with a pack rat mentality, it is a jarring gear shift.

    But enough of this handwringing over "owning too many records." I got an email from someone who runs a very well respected reissue label who was feeling my pain but only because he had 500 boxes of records to move. That put my dilemma in some perspective.

    Now...someone asked for the basic design of the shelves and I'd be happy to share what we did since it's really quite simple.

    STEP ONE: The way this design works depends, first and foremost, on having each shelf be a single board of wood. This isn't so much a structural thing as it is aesthetic. A single board eliminates any horizontal seams and more important, it eliminates any doubling of the vertical supports where side-by-side boards meet (imagine two boxes next to one another - the center verts where they meet are doubled up compared to each end. We wanted to avoid that).

    Thes recommended unfinished, #2 pine boards and while they don't have to be pine, it's a good wood for a few reasons. First, pine boards usually come 3/4" thick (which is sufficient for load-bearing purposes) and 11 1/4" deep, which a bit short of the 12.5" you'd need to completely fit a standard LP but if you don't mind some overhang or don't mind having an open back on your bookcase (i.e. not flush with the back wall), it's not a big deal. Second, pine boards come in a variety of standard lengths from 6' up to 16' if you're looking for the single, unbroken board method, then you need to have that flexibility. For example, my shelves were 8' and 12' wide, respectively, which was perfect for the dimensions of the space (which was 9 x 12.5) and it was easy enough to find both 8' and 12' pine boards at Home Depot and other places.

    Second, pine is relatively affordable as far as wood goes. Home Depot is convenient but not always as affordable as going to be dedicated lumber yard. For example, a 12' board at Home Depot runs about $1.66/foot. At the lumber yard, it was more like $1/foot and that extra 66% markup at HD is huge when you're buying 300+ feet of lumber. On the other hand, Home Depot had a sale on 8' long, #3 pine at more like .60/foot which was a great bargain. However, #3 pine is priced down because it tends to have bigger knots or cracks or rotted wood so you have to look through a lot of them to find wood that may be aesthetically marred but isn't structurally compromised.

    Third, pine is easy to finish or stain and because it's naturally light in color, there's flexibility in what color it ultimately ends up being. I was in a hurry so I just did a clear, gloss wood finish using water-based acrylic but I could have done some poly stain/varnish if I wanted to get fancy.

    It doesn't *need* to be pine. You could go with other wood choices, including plywood but the problem with plywood is that it's cut as a sheet, not as a board and therefore, you'd need to cut it at least twice and with each cut, you raise the risk of unevenness which is a problem since these cases are dependent on having identical pieces of wood to make everything line up right.

    STEP TWO: Calculate how much wood you'll need. I admit, I totally messed up on the math so we had to make several repeat trips to HD. But just remember that you need to cut your vertical supports from the same boards. So calculate how many horizontal boards you'll need and set that number aside. The math comes in when you start to figure out, 1) how tall you want each shelf, 2) how wide you want to space your verts, 3) how many verts you can get out of a board based on those dimensions.

    My verts and horizontal spacing were identical: 13". Because of that, it meant that all I needed was one extra board per shelf and that should be able to be cut into as many verts as I would need for the shelf. In other words, if I had six shelves, I'd need six extra boards for all the verts (plus one more extra board to put on top), for a total of 13 boards total.

    This should have been easy math but I messed up because I was overbuying the less expensive 8' boards and using them to create verts for both walls but I lost track of how much I actually needed. It was a dumb mistake and most people likely wouldn't repeat it. The most important math is figuring out how much vertical space you actually have and then dividing that by how many shelves you want. Remember to include the stickness of the board itself (3/4").

    The algebra would be like this: Shelf height (including board height itself) x # of shelves + 3/4" (for the crowning shelf) = Total record case height.

    In our case, with an 8' high wall, we had just barely enough space to sneak in 7 shelves, five of which were at 13" high, the last two at 12.5". This next part is very important: don't build a shelf for records that's any less than 12 3/4"s high. Ideally, just do 'em at 13" if you can but if you need to shave off a bit, don't go under 12 3/4"s. The reason is that while a rap record with a relatively thin cover and no plastic cover sleeve will just fit in 12.5, any kind of thicker cover LP, especially a gatefold, that's also poly-bagged, will fit into 12.5 without risking dishing your vinyl.

    So again, the magic minimum here is 12 3/4".

    Back on wood choices: you could find something else to use as verts like a different wood, something premanufactured in the dimensions you require. Hell, you could use cinder blocks (we've all been there). We went with the same pine for aesthetic reasons but structurally, it's not required. This could become really pertinent if you don't have access to a good saw (see below) and therefore, using pre-manufactured vertical supports of whatever material might be more advisable. Just remember that you want to cut down on any kind of horizontal shearing (i.e. the verts moving laterally) and that means finding a way to secure the verst to each shelf, ideally with nail or screws.

    Spacing is the other issue. Pine boards are more flexible than other woods but my old shelves - Ikea Ivars, also made from pine - were 33" across, could take the weight of 200 LPs (appx. 100lbs) and never sagged in the middle. I don't know if we could have replicated the same thing here (i.e. had verts spaced 26" apart instead of 13") but Thes had structural and aesthetic issues with anything less than a cube-design and I agreed. I'd consult a carpenter about it if you want to move off a cube design.

    STEP THREE: Assemble the tools.

    The three most important are 1) a saw to cut the boards into verts. We used the best possible saw for the task - a 12" sliding miter. The blade was big enough to cut the wood in a single pull and the sliding mechanism allowed for a more even and consistent cut which is crucial since you need your verts to all be identical. A non-sliding miter can also work but if the blade comes up too short, you may have to flip it to complete the cut which not only takes more time, but also increases the chance of an uneven cut. A table saw could also do the same thing but it too lacks the consistency of sliding miter. You could also hack saw it if you want to go real old school but...

    2) Nail gun. This is for the sake of expediency since we wanted to attach the verts to the shelf in a way that was quick but secure. You could do the same thing with a hammer and nails but that'd take much longer and if you're going to go that route, I'd suggest, instead, that you use wood screws and not nails. That way, if you ever needed to, you could break down the bookcase and rebuild it elsewhere. Since I'm not planning to move in the long term, having everything nailed together was fine by me.

    3) Cordless screwdriver/bit driver. This is more for the finishing stage, when you want to secure the case to the wall via l-brackets.

    And that's really it. We also used wood glue on the verts to help prevent shearing and a pair of pliers is useful for the nails that miss and you need to yank out. Also useful - a stud finder.

    STEP THREE.5: Mark your studs. Before you start filling up the wall space, use a stud finder to find where your studs are so you can easily find them later when it comes time to secure the case to the wall.

    STEP FOUR: Cut your verts. Just remember, each vert has to come out the same so you want to rig your saw to produce identical cuts each time.

    STEP FIVE: Begin assembling your case, shelf by shelf. What you'll need on the front end is a piece of board cut into the exact width you want your verts spaced by. This becomes your "template" which you'll lay down between each vert, ensuring consistent spacing.

    Thes' approach, which sounds like the sensible one, was to build the bottom shelf first in its entirety (meaning you had two boards connected by verts, forming a box). You could do this on its side so it's easier to nail the verts to the board and then stand it up right and move it into position. I already had a subfloor of plywood and 2/4s underneath so we just screwed the bottom board into the floor but depending on what's there, you might need an extra board to put underneath.

    Once that bottom shelf is in place and secured, you build each subsequent shelf by first laying down the verts (via that template) and then nailing them in from below. This is why the staggered/honeycomb design doesn't just look good, it also makes assembly so much easier. Think about it - you can't nail in a vert from below if the vert is lined up with the vert on the shelf below. The only way to do that would either by 1) using l-brackets to secure the bottom of the vert to the board or 2) drilling out spaces for wooden dowels (Ikea-style!) but BOTH would be very time consuming. A staggered design is no less stable (so long as you're consistent from shelf to shelf) but it makes assembly with a nail gun so much easier.

    Once the verts are in place, you lay a new board on top and then just nail gun that into place (which goes super fast since you're gunning down).

    The crowning shelf can be tricky. If you have enough ceiling clearance to still nail down, then it's not a big deal. But if you're going all the way to the top, what you need to do is construct the last shelf like you did the first one - in a box shape - then lift the box on top, then secure it from below.

    STEP SIX: Secure the shelves to existing studs. This is where you'd bust out your l-brackets, long stud screws, and cordless bit driver. Ideally, would have support at the base, in the middle and at top. Extra bonus if you have a corner where you can also secure them to the side or on top, to a roof beam. Keep in mind that the main load-bearing is straight down. You don't want there to be excessive lateral pull put on your wall studs; you're securing them simply for the sake of stability but not to be load-bearing.

    And that's about it!

    I know I wrote a lot but the actual prep and assembly is ultimately very straightforward. So long as you have the optimal tools, the whole thing can move efficiently along and while it took us about 14 hours to get everything up from start to finish, that included 1) the run to the lumber yard, 2) three trips to Home Depot for things we forgot, 3) meals, etc. The lumber is something you can get ahead of time and store. If you went with pre-manufactured verts of some kind, that could also be bought ahead of time.

    EXTRA STUFF: We were able to create a clean corner between the two shelves because the dimensions of the space were ideal. The two shelves practically met at that corner, with just a few inches of overlap so Thes made sure to line up the verts to create a flush, 90 degree angle from bottom to top. This isn't only aesthetically good; it also meant we could secure the two cases together, thus providing extra stability.

    Thes' finest problem-solving moment came with figuring out how to compensate for a rafter on the roof that prevented us from putting in that crowning shelf. At first he thought he'd saw off part of the rafter to make room but then realized it'd be easier to cut a notch out of the crowning shelf that the rafter then could slide into. Brilliant.


    Monday, January 18, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    Perhaps not the most appropriate song to be listening to on the date of MLK's birth but I always think of this song on this day.

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    posted by O.W.

    The original "heatrocks for charity" campaign came about after Katrina. The folks at, a record collecting/hip-hop/whateverelse message board I spend way too much time on got together and auctioned off all kinds of rare records, the proceeds of which went to charities doing work around the disaster.

    With the Haitian earthquake, Strut has gotten together once again to help out, auctioning off what will likely be dozens of very cool, very rare pieces, all in the name of benefiting those in Haiti.

    This list of LPs will surely grow over the next few days so keep it bookmarked and please bid, bid, bid.

    Update: I have two records up for auction (so far), both rare Bay Area hip-hop pieces from the 1990s.

    1) The Dereliks: A Turn of the Wheel Is Worth More Than a Record Deal EP
    2) Blackalicious: Melodica 2xEP

    While the auctions are being hosted on Soulstrut, if you don't feel like signing up to be a member, you can send your bids to me instead and I'll record them in the forum threads. Upon winning, you'll be directed to donate the money to charity (most likely either UNICEF or Doctors WIthout Borders) and once I receive confirmation, I'll ship you the record.


    posted by O.W.

    Sly, Slick and Wicked: You Got to Funkafize
    Confessin' a Feeling
    The World Is a Ghetto
    From Get Down Live (Bad Boys, 197?)

    This is my first official post-move post (finally!). Me and the fam just relocated from the Westside of L.A. to the San Gabriel Valley. I grew up out here in the 1980s but I haven't lived her in nearly 20 years. Coming back has been weirdly comfortable (or is that comfortably weird?) now that I'm an adult with my own family.

    It only seems proper then that the very first album that I've found since moving out here was actually recorded in the SGV, almost 7 miles due south of where I am, at 800 Garfield, in Montebello.

    It's easy to be confused when you talk about the Sly, Slick and Wicked. This local L.A. outfit is often confused with the Young Generation who had a decent sized hit in the same '60s/'70s era as SSW called "Sly, Slick and Wicked" and then there's the Ohio group also called the Sly, Slick and Wicked who recorded with James Brown (and ended up, I believe, in a bit of a copyright tussle with the L.A. group over their shared name). The original SSW (as they describe themselves) got their start out of the fertile East L.A. rock scene of the '60s (think Thee Midniters, El Chicano, etc.)

    They're best known for their single "Confessin' a Feeling" b/w a personal favorite - a cover of the Persuaders' "Love's Gonna Pack Up."

    The single was a local release (on the Bad Boys imprint) and evidently sold well enough that it's not a pricey single to come by (though it's not overly common either). However, as I learned from Cool Chris a few years back, the group's live album, Get Down is a far more obscure release but no less well-regarded. I've been looking for a copy of this since then but wasn't ready to pull the trigger to buy it at market-rate.

    As it turns out, a local seller for mostly A/V equipment got in a stock of records that they were selling in lots and while I missed their eBay auction, I saw that the LP was included in one of the lots and no one had bid on it. On a whim, I tried calling their warehouse and to make a long story short, I drove out 10 miles to Glendale and after a few anxious minutes just assuming that someone had beat me to it, left with a stack of 10 LPs, most of them dollar bin material, but including one very well-kept copy of Get Down Live, all for $20.

    These days, it's not often that I have great come-ups since I don't do enough digging in physical stores so I felt extremely fortunate to have come by this local LP having just moved back to the locale. It all seemed quite serendipitous.

    But enough of "O-Dub's dusty fingers tales"... Get Down Live has everything you'd want out of a great live album - it's not only about the music, it's also about the small nuances that come through on a live recording, such as when someone accidentally bumps into a mic during one of the quieter parts of a song or listening to the band and audience interaction. The actual fidelity of the recording is quite impressive; it does have "big room" acoustics but it's not remotely lo-fi.

    I decided to open "big" by starting with "You Got to Funkafize," a classically '70s funk jam which comes halfway through the A-side. That slides into the live version of "Confessin' A Feeling", offered here to provide some contrast with the original. I've been so enamored with "Love's Gonna Pack Up" that I never gave this song it's proper due but now that I'm listening to it in both versions, I can appreciate why it's such a lowrider classic for folks in So Cal. Lastly, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to include the group's cover of another Southern Californian classic - "The World is a Ghetto" by Long Beach's WAR. I like how stripped down SSW's take is on the song, distilling it down to a strong vocal performance ever-so-lightly dressed in the familiar melodic strains of the original. SSW manage to make the song sound even more melancholy than War's version.

    So there it is, the first post for 2010, coming to you live from the brand-spanking new Soul Sides Central. Here's a belated shout out to the new year and hopefully more good music (and posts!) to come.

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    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    Again, I'm really bummed I'm not fully moved in yet because between Teddy and Willie, there's so much to say about how important these soul men are. I'm sure Mark Anthony Neal will be drop something brilliant very soon.

    Meanwhile, I'm THIS close to unboxing my records. Here are my new shelves with the guy who helped me build them.

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    Friday, January 08, 2010

    posted by Soul Sides

    (Editor's note: I'm still in the middle of new-house-hell but David Ma - who writes one of my favorite music blogs, Nerdtorious - graciously contributed a guest post. I gave him a simple concept to go with - "what's the last album that really grabbed your attention?" Here's what he had to say. --O.W.)
      Paul Parrish: English Sparrows
      Tiny Alice
      I Can't Help Myself
      From The Forest of My Mind (MFS, 1968)

      I’m honored to contribute to Soul-Sides, an audio blog that’s been influential on my own work and, through the years, still sucker-punches me with quality. I was asked to write about the last record that grabbed me and hopefully it’ll grab Soul-Siders too.

      I’m not a psych expert by any means, but I know what I like. In this case, Paul Parrish’s The Forest of My Mind brings the goods through great arrangements and lush apexes—courtesy of Dennis Coffey no less. Coffey’s influence is obvious as drums and guitars sit high in the mix, second only to the vocals, with all kinds of kitschy touches thrown in. Like his impressive mustache, this record is thick and homegrown, all penned by Parrish besides two covers that round out each side. While Forest… is of the Electric Kool Aid era, it never comes off novelty or too indulgent. Think Donovan on shrooms, cutting an earnest record.

      The first track, “English Sparrows”, best represents it as a whole. It grabs you from the get-go with swooping strings and its mellow groove. Like the entire record, more elements emerge on repeated listens. This track was the impetus for my obsession with this record.

      The next song, “Tiny Alice”, opens side-b. No trippy imagery, just Parrish begging his lady to “come back home tiny Alice.” All the harmonies, drum fills, and tension-building strings precede a melodic, carnival-esque chorus.

      The record’s final cut covers The Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself”. It’s fitting since the record, like Parrish (and Dennis Coffey) are both from Detroit. It’s tepid compared to the original (like Jay-Z once said: “Your voice too light!”) but it rounds the album out in a fun way. This is definitely on a pre-Mayer Hawthorne tip.

      This was the last record to strike me and wouldn’t have been possible without heads hipping me to it (thanks Maurice!). A folky-psych project like this (with a Beatles and Motown cover) could’ve easily fell on its sword but doesn’t. The tight arrangements keep it fresh and Parrish, whose career remained lost in the woods so to speak, never oversteps his place.

      --David Ma

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    Tuesday, January 05, 2010

    posted by Soul Sides

    It bums me out that all my soul LPs (including everything I have by Willie or produced by him) is still boxed up and not readily accessible. To be sure, we just lost one of the most important architects of American soul. Respect due. More later.

    Update: Eric Luecking does a great tribute on his site, as does Funky 16 corners.


    Monday, January 04, 2010

    posted by Soul Sides

    I've been busy with moving (3 tons of records are figuratively and literally like a millstone) and haven't had time to post for the new year. Finished the move yesterday and relaxed to this oldie but goodie:

    Be back soon!