(image by the (literally) illustrious John Jennings)
I’ll leave it to my betters to properly eulogize him but my man Joe Schloss reminded me about one of King’s best lines ever (executed here to funky perfection by Johnny Holiday):
Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Raven: How Long Before I’m Gone
Stay With Me
From Brief Replies (Polydor, 1970)
The Highlighters: You’re Time Is Gonna Come
From 7″ (Chess, 1970)
I save a slew of songs with the intention of “eventually posting them up” and what inevitably happens is that they just end up “hanging around” and go nowhere fast. Right now, I have at least 1.5 years worth of stuff and decided to get off the proverbial pot by finally posting some up.
The Ten Wheel Drive’s “How Long” came to my attention after hearing this Black Moon cut (arguably the last good one they ever put out), “Way of the Walk.” This combines at least two pet loves: 1) funky rock bands fronted by 2) female singers (in this case, Genya Raven who has a huge voice – very post-Joplin. I don’t think her version of Lorraine Ellison’s “Stay With Me blows the OG out of the water but it was an interesting take.
Th Highlighters were an Indiana group probably best known for their uber-rare “Funky 16 Corners” funk 45. “You’re Time Is Gonna Come” (not to be confused with the Led Zep song of similar title) is a taste of the group’s penchant for crafting a great little, doo-wop influenced power ballad that showcases lead singer James Bell’s pipes. I also really dig the organ here – unexpected but quite welcome.
Jan Jankeje: Elsa Marie
From Sokol (Jazzpoint, 1974)
Roger Saunders: Darkness
From The Roger Saunders Rush Album (Warner Bros, 1972)
I previously posted (anonymously) another song from Jan Jankeje’s funky fusion LP, Sokol back in the “Breaks and Basslines” post. I’m not remotely as big on fusion stuff as I was about 10 years back but I still have a soft spot for this album by the Slovakian Jankeje which is one solid footing in funk-influenced rhythms but also healthy touches of avant garde jazz as this composition, in particular, seems to capture. File under “I can’t believe I never posted this”: Preston Love’s Omaha BBQ was one of the earliest funky blues albums I ever became acquainted with and I still find it to be one of the most consistent efforts in the genre. “Kool Ade” especially is killer – as gritty a groove you can imagine. The drummer gets some special attention here on the two bridges where band members rap with each other over a chattering like series of breaks and fills.
Speaking of breaks, you’d be hard pressed to find too many songs with a better 8 bar opening break than this. The actual song itself is a decent, mid-tempo country-rock ballad which isn’t quite what you’d expect with an intro like that but it’s definitely a step up from “Put Your Hand in the Hand.”
Prisoners of Watts (POW): Language of Funk
From 12″ (No Busters Allowed, 1990)
Da Lench Mob: Ain’t Got No Class (T-Bone Remix)
Ain’t Got No Class (Beatnuts Remix)
From 12″ (Street Knowledge, 1992)
King Tee: The Great (Distorted Alcoholism Mix)
From 12″ (“Bust Dat Ass”) (Capitol, 1992)
I picked up this 12″ by L.A.’s P.O.W. (Prisoners of Watts) on a whim and while it’s not exactly the unsung NWA or anything, I do digthe early ’90s L.A. hip-hop production steez on here. Bonus points for having Battle Cat (back when he was mostly known as a DJ) on the cut.
Less obscure (but still staying in the Southland), we have two mixes from Da Lench Mob’s “Ain’t Got No Class” 12″. Again, I don’t really ride that hard for the song itself (there are better Lench Mob cuts out there) but I do like the contrast in production style you can here between the Beatnuts and
T-Ray. Especially because T-Ray was doing stuff for Cypress Hill and his style and Muggs’ seemed so compatible, I always associate it with a Left Coast thing even though neither Muggs nor T-Ray were originally from California. T-Bone’s remix (which I, embarrassingly, confused for a T-Ray remix for, uh, years now) is some classic West Coast, post-Sir Jinx/Muggs ruggedness while
The Beatnuts mix is classically ‘Nuts with the filtered bassline and use of horns.
One more from the West (actually, now that I think about it, these three songs were probably from a long-forgotten “early 90s West Coast hip-hop post”) – a remix of King Tee’s “The Great” found on the “Bust Dat Ass” 12″. King Tee = unsung and then some. I always like going back and listening again to his catalog (especially anything connected to The Triflin’ Album – such a good voice and such a damn shame his Aftermath album never got official release.
Los Pakines: Hojas Verdes
From S/T (Sono Radio, 197?)
I don’t know much about Peruvian chicha but this fusion of Colombian cumbia with American surf rock makes for style that’s hard to forget once you hear it. I got turned onto this Los Pakines album when I was looking for stuff by Los Diablos Rojo, another group in a similar vein. The Pakines, in particular, seemed to love that reverb and just drench every song on this album with it. “Hojas Verdes” is a slinky cumbia piece with some funk undertones while “Oh! Cherie” sounds like a cover of a ’60s tune I should recognize (but don’t).
A few weeks ago I posted about Numero 25 being a book and 2LP set. Well, plans have changed as there has been a reshuffling of catalog numbers, and the results are even better than you can imagine.
The book and 2LP release has now been given a new catalog number as Numero 33. You can view a promo of it here with Ricky Allen’s “No Better Time Than Now” as a musical backdrop. The coffee table book features a photo collection as shot by Michael Abramson of Chicago nightlife in the mid-70s. The exciting thing is that with a pre-order you can get a download of the music now (yes, NOW!) and your book will ship in September (the street date is in November). Also, the first 250 pre-orders from Numero’s site get a signed and hand-numbered print from the photographer as well as a bonus 45 (only 1000 pressed).
So where does that leave Numero 25? Oh, all they did was rescue 6 tracks that were crumbling from the reels of the sophomore 24 Carat Black album that has never seen the light of day. Stay tuned as we’ll be doing coverage closer to its release date (July 28).
The year 2008 found me actually buying less music than in years past, although I’m sure my wife would disagree. While 2K8 wasn’t a stellar year for me musically speaking, it did have some standout moments, with some coming unexpectedly.
For instance, I was sure I was going to hate the 808s & Heartbreak album. That damn autotone has been played out this year. I had heard the lead single on the MTV awards show when Kanye premiered the song and liked it, but I wondered how he would pull off an entire album of it. The guy isn’t exactly Percy Sledge; for that matter, he’s not even Chris Brown. Then I heard the album and was blown away. For an artist to give a middle finger to what convention says they have to release, those are the moments that people remember. The minimalism of the 808s album gave the music room to breathe. I’m not sure another “hip hop star” could have pulled off an album like this.
James Pants: Cosmic Rapp
From Welcome (Stones Throw, 2008)
The second album I thought I was going to hate but ended up being one of my favorites of the year was the James Pants debut. When I saw the initial press release about Mr. Pants and heard the lead single, if I’d had a remote control, the channel up button would have been pressed right away. Electro hip hop isn’t typically my bag. But Egon was kind enough to sneak in a promo of the album, and I couldn’t just throw it away. So one day on my drive to work, I popped it in. Had I not been driving, I’d have busted out some cardboard and cut some moves – even if I can’t really breakdance. Something about this album makes me wanna pop and lock.
Then there were the albums I never would have given a chance had it not been for more surprises in the mailbox. Both came courtesy of World’s Fair, the distribution group that releases Daptone material.
Curumin: Misterio Stereo
From Japanpopshow (Quannum, 2008)
This gem is a hypnotizing little number. Brazilian native Curumin serenades his objet du coeur. I’d never heard of Curumin previously, although this was his sophomore effort. Chief Xcel and Gift Of Gab liked him so much after meeting him during a tour stop that they were able to help him get signed. This song goes to show they knew what they were talking about. Such a beautiful song.
Postmarks: One Note Samba
From By The Numbers (Unfiltered, 2008)
When I saw last month’s femme pop post, I immediately thought of this album. Lead singer Tim Yehezkely and her ethereal voice took me somewhere I hadn’t been since Goldfrapp’s “Pilots (On A Star).”
Q-Tip ft. Norah Jones: Life Is Better
From The Renaissance (Motown, 2008)
On the hip hop front, Q-Tip roared back from the majors ostracizing his previous efforts. Some of the material was combed from shelved projects Live At The Renaissance and Open and either used as-is or re-recorded. However, one of the standout cuts was his shout out to hip hop history with the haven’t-heard-her-this-funky-since-maybe-ever Norah Jones. Tip shouts out Dilla, Busy Bee, Rakim, Nikki D, and Lauryn Hill to name a few over a slinky keys and plucky bass guitar.
People Under The Stairs: Anotha BBQ
From Fun-DMC (Gold Dust Media, 2008)
Perhaps one of the most criminally underrated and consistent hip hop acts, Thes One and Double K released another funky outing. “Anotha BBQ” is the perfect way to describe their music. It truly feels like the soundtrack to a Saturday barbecue. You can always expect PUTS to cook up something funky. While word wizardry might necessarily be their strong suit, the lyrics perfectly marry the music.
And although this artist normally wouldn’t get categorized for this blog, John Mayer has really been doing some great bluesy styled work over the last couple of years getting nods from legends such as B.B. King and Albert King. If you were fortunate enough to catch one of his shows this summer, you got to hear him perform a sweet blues version of the Duffy hit “Mercy” with the backing band doing some nice brass work.
John Mayer: Mercy
Unreleased (but recorded with the artist’s permission for archive.org)
Top Albums (in no particular order):
1. Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It
2. The Final Solution – Brotherman OST
3. Q-Tip – The Renaissance
4. Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band – Take your pick of their reissues on Warner UK or the live set and jams albums that Rhino Handmade issued
5. Kanye West – 808s and Heartbreaks
6. People Under The Stairs – Fun DMC (honorable mention to their Om Years 2-disc set)
7. James Pants – Welcome
Bo Diddley: Go For Broke
Bo Diddley: Bad Side of the Moon
From Another Dimension (Chess, 1971).
Bo Diddley: I’ve Had It Hard
From Where It All Began (Chess, 1972)
All three also on Drive By Bo Diddley, Tales From the Funk Dimension, 1970-1973.
I was cleaning out one of my folders and realized that I had digitized a few Bo Diddley songs for a post meant to commemorate his life after his passing this year…but then forgot to put them up. Oops. Please file under “better late than never.”
The first two come off of DIddley’s Another Dimension, an album he recorded for Chess in the early ’70s. I have no idea how these went over with Diddley’s older fans but for funk heads, it’s always been one of his best albums, largely thanks to the drum work by John Birganti who just nails a few ace breaks on this album. Birganti (I’ve also seen his name spelled Briganti) is a curious figure; he only appears on a few albums, including a Ben E. King LP, but he actually helped write “Go For Broke” and certainly adds a defining touch to many of the songs on this album.
“Bad Side of the Moon,” I was surprised to learn, was originally an Elton John song; you would have sworn it was some Dr. John tune given that its swamp funk feel. Once again, Birganti laces this song with a beaut of an opening break, especially as it drops in from that echo effect at the intro.
“I’ve Had It Hard” is one of the many Bo songs to use his much vaunted, clave-influenced “Bo Diddley beat.” It’s so much a part of his musical signature that once you hear that little “bam-bam-bam…bam-bam” shuffle come in, you instantly think of Diddley. This one’s from Where It All Began (always loved the cover art for it), another one in his early ’70s catalog, though this one leans back towards his blues material compared to Another Dimension.
Taj Mahal :Cakewalk Into Town
taken from the album “Recycling The Blues & Other Related Stuff”
on Columbia (1972)
Taj Mahal :Farther On Down The Road
taken from the album “Giant Step” on Columbia (1969)
Taj Mahal :Queen Bee & Salsa de Laventille
taken from the album “Evolution” on Warner Bros (1978)
Taj Mahal :Why Did You Have To Desert Me?
& Clara (St. Kitts Woman)
taken from the album “Mo’ Roots” on Columbia (1974)
Taj Mahal :Satisfied ‘N Tickled Too, Easy To Love &Misty Morning Ride
taken from the album “Satisfied ‘N Tickled Too” on Columbia (1976)
When you fall in love with a song, you mark yourself for life. You can forget about the song, but you won’t forget the song. You’ll hear it again and experience the type of space-time warping that string theory scientists are still struggling to define. And when you really need a particular piece of music from your past, when a hungry hole of nostalgia or pain rings in your chest like an empty hallway, you have the innate ability to diagnose yourself with the perfect musical prescription. Turning up the volume and traveling on memories is a magic luxury that has carried our ancestors through struggle since the dawn of the lullaby. This week I was in need of comfort, and from some unknown inner dimension, my memory played a melody that collapsed the past into the present and future. I felt my 16 year-old self hearing “Cakewalk Into Town” for the very first time (endless thanks to Chattanooga Hammy Hamilton for that introduction), I could feel the me now, lying on the floor with a little ball of fur named Rosco purring between my fingertips, and I could also see the brightness yet to come. After playing that first Taj LP, I pulled out one after another and continued tripping through past loves. There’s so many good tunes, and somehow I’d gone all these years without a single one on MP3!?! Now I’ve been listening to Taj almost exclusively for a week and I figured I should share my little personal “best of” collection – even though there’s lots more to check for.
The music of Taj Mahal is roots and soul. Part Cymande, part Muddy Waters, part (dare I say it) Grateful Dead- entirely it’s own entity which fits within no genre. Call me cheesy, call me a hippy, your words will fall flat against the might of what I feel when I listen to his songs. Where else does steel drum and harmonica mix with banjo and flute so naturally? And his voice alone carries some songs- raw and warm like milk out the utter. It hath been taken there. I’m still a country boy at heart and every once in a while I have to let it show. Truth be told, my lil baby brother was even named “Taj” after senor blues himself.
Etta James: Something’s Got A Hold On Me + Baby What You Want Me To Do
From Rocks The House (Argo, 1964)
Jimmy Reed: Baby What You Want Me To Do
From 7” (VJ, 1960). Also on The Very Best Of
If sound could create fire, then this is the album to have handy during a cold night’s camping trip. Part blues, part soul and all in your face, Etta James tapped another dimension in late September 1963 in Nashville. Chess producer/A&R man Ralph Bass, frustrated with trying to reach the soul summit with Etta in the studio, wanted to tap into her fiery side and decided to record a live album at the legendary New Era Club. What he got was unadulterated and unfiltered feeling.
Much like a James Brown live show, the MC announced it was Star Time. After a short intro, Etta growls, “Ohhhhhh sometimes I get a feeling, yeah!!!” and launches into her 1962 hit, “Something’s Got A Hold On Me.” Two-and-a-half wrenching minutes later, the jam begins. With vocals that knock you on your ass, it’s the band’s duty to keep the groove movin’ and get you on your feet. To hear her talk in between songs makes you do a double take as her speaking voice is thin and almost aw-shucks quiet. During song, she morphs into a beast in command of its territory. The crowd is obviously in a zone with Etta as evidenced by their frantic whoopin’, hollerin’, and whistling. Call and response is the theme of the night as virtually each and every song has the audience singing along with her.
The only 45 to be released from this set (Argo 5459) was the Jimmy Reed cover “Baby What You Want Me To Do” with the flipside being Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say.” Guitarist David Walker leads the band into a slow blues burner on the Reed cover while Marion Wright keeps it true on the low end on bass. To hear what a matchstick she was, just listen to the original Jimmy Reed version.
No artist was too big to cover during this two-night extravaganza as she flipped B.B. King, Chess labelmate Muddy Waters, Barrett Strong, and even Brother Ray. While only three songs on this set weren’t covers (per the CD – the original LP was only eight cuts deep), she made every song her own – just check out the scatting in “Woke Up This Morning.”
If you want to get a glimpse of what it would have been like to see Etta tow the line of the devil’s blues and raising the Holy Spirit, then pick up Bear Family’s The !!!! Beat, Vol. 1 on DVD. Episode #2 features her performing “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” while Episode #3 shows her singing with numerous others on Ray Charles “What’d I Say.” If all you need are a few audible embers to light your fire, Rock The House can certainly do the trick.
It makes little sense to me, how after years of tirelessly searching the used bins at hundreds of music stores, religiously reading the record reviews in all types of periodicals, and more recently, scouring the vast savannas of the blogosphere for great sounds, somehow, I still have managed to miss some of the most fundamental things. Enter Muddy and Wolf.
I found these 3 records together at the same small local shop that I picked up those Super Blues & Bo Diddley LPs at a while back, and I have a hunch that they all came from the same collection. While I shamefully recognized back then that I had blindly slept on the funky rawness of the Super Blues trio (Diddley, Muddy & Wolf), I now feel like a total imbecile for not realizing the depth of these cats greatness. Shredding and pounding this hard back in ’68, these dudes almost make Hendrix seem less badass – almost. Now Wynder K Frog may not stand up to the monumental gangster that these guys represent, but at least he had the decent sense back then to recognize a good thing when it was going on and try to join the party. Some might recognize his tribute to Wolf, “A Howl In Wolf’s Clothing” (which is pretty clearly ripped from “Smokestack”), as the basis for a Handsome Boy Modelling School cut. Also nice to hear a raucous 30-second cowbell drumbreak at the top of side-A.
William Bell + Mavis Staples: Strung Out
From 7″ + Boy Meets Girl (Stax, 1969)
James Brown + Marva Whitney: Sunny
From Gettin’ Down To It (King, 1969)
Arlean Brown + Lee Williams: Impeach Me Baby
From 7″ (LaNoRmAyA, 197?)
First of all, no one’s gonna make a run at the David Axelrod contest? Really? C’mon, just give it a shot.
Onto the real post:
I’m not an automatic fan of duet songs – it’s always risky trying to put two people together on a song and still make it work; not everyone’s lucky enough to be Roberta and Donny or Marvin and Tammi. When this William Bell and Mavis Staples song crossed my path though, it had it, whatever that elusive quality is to make two singers find the right vibe together.
On a separate note, I realize, more and more, that I seriously need to beef up my ’70s Stax knowledge. I’ve had, for many years, their first boxset that covers up through the late ’60s but I’m constantly being surprised and pleased by what lay into the ’70s. This track, in particular, is fantastic (just ask Kanye!), especially the musical arrangement. Plus William and Mavis together? On point.
Same goes for James Brown and Marva Whitney in their duet for Gettin’ Down To It, one of my favorite Brown LPs, even though it’s off the beaten path compared to his funkier fare. They just sound good singing “Sunny” together and it reminds one that Brown’s first hits were as a vocalist, with that distinctive, rich and impassioned delivery of his.
Last, but not least, one of my favorite funky blues cuts – “Impeach Me Baby” by Arlean Brown, featuring an uncredited Lee Williams, playing Otis to Arlean’s Carla except that this is far dirtier and grimier than “Tramp.” This song is one of those where I forget it’s one of my favorites until I hear it again and remember, “oh yeah, this sh– rocks!”