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 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?).
And peep the promo 7″:
Alan Simpson: The Mop
From 7″ (Piecelock 70, 2012)
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.
This is written by a good friend of mine in L.A. who researched it for years. The reviews have been superlative and I’m very much looking forward to finally reading this myself after having heard about the ongoing process for ages. Don’t sleep!
(I’ll also be interviewing RJ for a future podcast!)
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
Light: On the South Side.