HOLY GHOST POSTS: APOCRYPHAL HYMNS

Numero’s latest in the Good God! series of gospel soul/funk albums might be my favorite yet. I’m, of course, slightly biased by the fact that they ended up using a song from an album that, years ago, I had suggested they reissue and I ended up helping them with the album scan that’s in the comp (Religious Souls). But really, this is absolutely up my alley in terms of gospel’s dip into deep soul. The fact that I even owned one (let alone three) of the albums/singles featured on here is partial evidence of that (on the last two Good God! comps, I’m not sure I had any prior to hearing them). Here’s some of the highlights on their latest.

Songs from Good God! Apocryphal Hymns (Numero Group, 2013).

The Religious Souls: Sinner Man
From Sinner Man (Artist’s Recording, 197?)

I’m still convinced there’s gotta be a way for someone to devote an entire comp to the Kingcannon family. There’s no shortage of material out there, for certain. “Sinner Man” was never my go-to track for them but listening to this again? Perhaps it should have been. So damn good, especially the harmonies.

Shelton Kirby: Poor Wayfaring Stranger
From Yield Not (Bee Gee, 1973)

So, uh, I’ve owned this LP for years and I’m not sure how I never connected the fact that it’s a gospel album. Gorgeous electric piano work; makes you want to melt into the song.

The Gospel Clouds: Let Us Pray
From 7″ (Spectrum, 197?)

This is one of my #1 wants in any genre. It’s just an amazing cut on so many levels, but especially all that analog synth work. Pity this thing is insanely rare though. The fact that it’s a Bay Area record only makes me love it more.


I should also note that Numero also took this comp as an opportunity to pay tribute to the private press labels out there. The CD label, for example, is a flip on the old Century custom label logo and apparently, the album has different covers, all taken from stock images that you’ll see on dozens, if not hundreds, of gospel LPs from this era.

As it is, I recently wrote about custom labels for KCET’s ArtBound, on the occasion of the release of this new book, Enjoy the Experience, put out by Sinecure Books. For the piece, I ended up interviewing Eothen “Egon” Alapatt, Sinecure co-founder and creator of Now-Again as well as Thes One since both of them are heavy private press collectors. Fun story to work on but also poignant in challenging how we think about the “official” musical record. Read my story, cop the book.

THE MOP HAS LANDED

box-set.jpeg

The Mop began life as a post on Soulstrut, written by Alan Simpson, who used to work at a porn shop in Sydney. It was nothing more than some message board posts, relying some hilariously funny stories about what happens in, well, a porn shop in Sydney. You don’t want to know the details except that you actually do want to know the details. Because they’re disgusting. And insanely comical. And comically disgusting. You get the idea.

Over the years, this evolved into an actual book: a memoir by Simpson named after a lowly mop tasked to do unmentionable things. Piecelock 70 just put it out, complete with a promo 7″ featuring the voices of, I assume, Simpson himself and PL’s Thes One, playing a cranky porn shop owner (will his talents never cease?).

Cop the book.

And peep the promo 7″:

Alan Simpson: The Mop
From 7″ (Piecelock 70, 2012)

DUST AND GROOVES PHOTO BOOK CAMPAIGN

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Y’all know Dust and Grooves, right? AKA the most beautifullest photography/interview blog dedicated to vinyl junkies.

Seriously, I’ve always thought of record collecting as something only intrinsically interesting to other record collectors (speaking as one) but D&G has done a marvelous job of really getting at the aesthetic beauty of not just records, but the spaces dedicated to them. I mean, if we can big up book store design and mock modernist architecture, surely there’s a space in between there to fiends like us.

D&G has a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a honest-to-god photo book (remember those? It’s printed on this medium called paper that’s tangible. They’re over halfway towards the goal but need that final push to put ’em over the top.

Wouldn’t you want a full glossy book with this pic? (I’m not joking, it’s a frickin’ amazing visual):

D&G is coming west this summer; would love to have Elian come through for a podcast. Hint hint.

LA REVIEW OF BOOKS PODCAST WITH SIMON REYNOLDS AND ANDY ZAX


One of the side projects I’ve taken on has been helping working on the podcasts for the Los Angeles Review of Books, both in terms of recording and engineering.

I’m very proud to direct people to this podcast between two good friends, Andy Zax and Simon Reynolds, talking about Simon’s Retromania, which has gotten praise for being one of the best music/culture books of the past year. I didn’t conduct the interview but I did all the post-production editing (and believe me, this one was a challenge) but all in all, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and I think many of my Soul Sides readers will get something out of the convo.

Check out both parts of the podcast, here.

2010 REVIEW (NEW)

ALBUMS. Major caveat: over the last few years, I’ve really relinquished any claim to being a “pop critic” in the broad sense of the term. I don’t make a living nor pursue a hobby in staying on top of pop music trends (and truly, even at the height of my freelance career, I was always writing about specific genres, never “pop” at large). That’s not to say I’ve abandoned pop at all; I love pop music but I feel no compunction to be in the mix with every major release. As a result, this list below is highly personal but isn’t meant to be a definitive statement as to “the best albums of 2010.” They’re just my favorites.

  • Erykah Badu: New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of the Anhk) (Motown). The previous installment might be more critically acclaimed but song-for-song, I don’t think I enjoyed any album more than this one. Loved how the album simultaneously nodded to the ’70s and ’90s.
  • Joe Bataan: Singin’ Some Soul (Fania/Codigo). Also available on vinyl. I’m obvious biased here since I wrote the liner notes but this is easily the best pure soul album released during the whole “Latin soul” era and until this year, hadn’t been re-released on vinyl, ever.
  • The Black Keys: Brothers (Nonesuch). My bad – I’m actually annoyed at myself for neglecting to write this up earlier in the year because it was a surprisingly delightful discovery on my end (even though the band isn’t new…just new for me). These two Akron brothers went down to Muscle Shoals to record this and the result might get labeled “blues rock” but it’s a much more impressive chimera between garage, psych, funk and soul.
  • Chicano Batman: Chicano Batman (Unicornio). This EP from a trio of local Angelinos scored the summer of 2010 in all the best ways: dreamily languorous and melancholy.
  • Cut Chemist: Sound of the Police (Stable Sound). Not just a capstone for all the incredible African-themed material released this past year but the fact that Cut put this together so seamlessly with one turntable + a foot pedal is a mindblowing feat of mixing.
  • Syl Johnson: The Complete Mythology (Numero Group). A new gold standard in career anthologies?
  • Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: I Learned the Hard Way (Daptone). Every album has been a step forward for the crew and this fourth outing is no different. Vinyl hounds are highly advised to get with the 7″ boxset version of the album.
  • Tammi Terrell: Come On and See Me (Hip-O Select). For the first time, a complete collection of Tammi Terrell’s solo material. Way overdue and completely revelatory to anyone who only thought of Terrell as “Marvin Gaye’s singing partner.”
  • V/A: Good God! Born Again Funk (Numero Group). The Syl Johnson is the more thorough package but this second installment in Numero’s gospel funk series got far more rewinds from me. More volumes please.
  • V/A: Luk Thung! The Roots Of Thai Funk (Zudranama, 2010). I know The Sound of Siam (which I haven’t spent enough time with) is a more prominent release given the Soundways connection but I can say, without hesitation, that Luk Thung! was a revelation and that, if you like either comp, you should absolutely grab the other. The blend of styles and rhythms with Thai singing is so striking and memorable and the custom packaging may be gimmicky but that doesn’t mean it’s not still good.

    SINGLES

  • Akwid: Esto Es Pa Mis Paisas. La Raza for 2010 w/ banda tuba, ftw! RIP Bobby Espinoza.
  • B.o.B. (feat. Bruno Mars): Nothin’ On You . I didn’t care much for the actual lead artist on this but Bruno Mars’ hook is one helluva earworm.
  • California Swag District: Teach Me How to Dougie. This beat was bubblegum, so I had to chew it.
  • Cee-Lo: Fuck You. Forget “Forget You.” (Don’t sleep on Dennis Coffey’s version!)
  • Fat Joe: Slow Down (Ha Ha). Every few years, Fat Joe will hook up with the right producer and kill. Last time around, it was with Just Blaze. This time, Scoop Deville flips Soul II Soul something lovely for this heater.
  • Mayer Hawthorne: I Need You (Stonesthrow). Slow release year for Mayer given his touring but at least he and Nottz blessed us this lovely little summer slow jam. (Still avail on 12″)
  • Lil Wayne (feat. Cory Gunz): 6’7″. Is it time to retire the 808 clap? Only if this track makes it under the wire.
  • Lord Echo (feat. Lisa Tomlins): Thinking Of You. It’s hard to improve on anything that Niles Rodgers and Bernard Edwards put together but New Zealand’s Mike Fabulous aka Lord Echo makes a pretty good case with his cover.
  • Quantic: Dre En Cumbia. Totally self-serving of me to include this since I’m claiming (partial) credit for its inspiration. C’mon though; it’s pretty frickin’ cool, no?
  • Kanye West (feat. Pete Rock, Jay-Z, Charlie Wilson, Kid Kudi): The Joy. My first reaction when I heard this over the fall was to say, “man, Pete let that Curtis loop go too long. But then I heard Kanye’s album, with its endless codas and I forgave Pete and then some. This sounds so much better after suffering through 8+ minutes of “Runaway.” This would never have fit into the album; another reason to applaud the GOOD Friday series.

    BOOKS

    Dan Charnas: The Big Payback. You already know what’s up.

    Jay-Z: Decoded. More about Jay-Z than you’d thought you’d ever want to know.

    Nasher Museum of Art: The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl [Catalogue]. Makes you want to drive out to Durham, NC to see this incredible show about the art and culture of vinyl records; for those who can’t make it in person, this is the next best thing.

  • THE BIG PAYBACK: REVISITED


    It took me about a week but I finally finished all ~700 pages of Dan Charnas’ The Big Payback. Some (extensive) thoughts…

    First up, I’m not exaggerating when I say I think this isn’t just the most important book on hip-hop that’s come out in years; it’s one of the most important books on pop music, period. After all, hip-hop has been the most powerful musical force – in the world – of the late 30 years and The Big Payback enriches our understanding of the music and its global impact through the vastness of its scope, its insanely meticulous detail, and the richness of its stories.

    Keep in mind: the book doesn’t replace or supplant existing books covering rap’s rise. Rather, it fills in a crucial blank that’s existed; the actual mechanics and wheeling/dealing that made hip-hop’s success and visibility possible. Of course, the talent is key. Hip-hop would be nothing without the artists and music who inspire our interest. But culture doesn’t just sprout magically forth in a vacuum; it requires a complex infrastructure that helps fund, promote, distribute and circulate it. Most of that history hasn’t been well documented, let alone assembled into one comprehensive tome.

    And all this in a package that’s as enjoyable as it is dense. If you know anything about hip-hop at all, you’ll be delighted at how Charnas give detail to stories most of us only heard about in whispered rumors or partially sketched in too-short magazine features. Some personal favorites:
    Continue reading THE BIG PAYBACK: REVISITED

    THE BIG PAYBACK: JUST IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS


    Dan Charnas: The Big Payback

    Just from word of mouth, I knew this book, at the very least, was going to be pretty good. Charnas has been making the book tour rounds, including a great interview on Fresh Air the other week and listening to him run down a few stories I knew about but didn’t have all the details for made me run out to a local bookstore and buy it. That’s right, I wasn’t even patient enough to order it online and save 33% (and I’m usually cheap!)

    And so I started reading it last night and despite the fact that I’m fighting off the flu, I haven’t been able to put it down (and that’s saying a lot because I think I’m pulling a muscle from lugging it around).

    Hands-down, one of the best books ever written about hip-hop. Absolutely up there with The Book of Rap Lists and Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop. For one, the level of reporting is staggering; Charnas is practically interviewing the assistants of assistants as a way to capture the full picture of subjects most of us are vaguely familiar with (for example, the story behind “Rapper’s Delight”) but never with this depth of detail. It’s also exceptionally well-written; the pacing is brisk despite the density of detail and there’s some key “big ideas” underscoring the book, especially around the role of hip-hop in reshaping American society for the last 30 years.

    Right now, I’m reading about all the backstories behind how NYC’s rap radio shows came into being…about how Red Alert got his show on WRKS…but only after it passed through the hands of Jazzy Jay, Afrika Islam and Afrika Bambaataa. And only after the station manager, a professed rap hater was convinced to greenlight a hip-hop show after seeing people go nuts over Run DMC’s “It’s Like That.” Maybe this is just me but I love this kind of shit. And so will you. Promise.

    Look – I don’t usually go out of my way to gush this much about something unless I really mean it and I don’t think I can properly conjure up enough superlatives to properly convey my enthusiasm. Let’s just say that if you think you’re a hip-hop fan, you need this book in your life. Absolutely essential.


    Update: Total geekery but I got to the point where Charnas describes how “I Know You Got Soul” was this huge leap forward in production technique and how Hank Shocklee and Chuck D. each heard it the same day, but in different places, came together, heads all fucked up over it, and basically made “Rebel Without a Pause” in response. I LOVE THIS KIND OF STUFF.

    Actually, if I had another idea for a hip-hop book, it’d be called When I First Heard… and it’d just be testimonials of rappers talking about being inspired by other people’s music. Don’t steal my idea!