OFEGE + MONOMONO: LOUNGIN’ IN LAGOS



Monomono: Give a Beggar a Chance
Ofege: Whizzy Ilabo
Both from EMI Super Hits 2 (EMI, 197?)

Like many, I know about Fela Kuti but beyond that, my Nigerian music knowledge is wafer-thin. As I’ve been introduced to other material, I can easily see why Afro-rock/funk music has such a cult following. To make a completely obvious observation, they blend up the familiar with “the exotic” insofar as it’s clear that many Afro-pop groups took their inspiration from American R&B and rock traveling across the Atlantic back in the ’60s and ’70s. At the same time, their approach, borrowing from traditions within the African musical aesthetic, sounds like very little within the American canon, especially in their differences in keys and scales.

These two cuts come off a fantastic 1970s compilation that EMI – home to many important Nigerian groups of this era – put out. As it turns out, Josh Bea aka DJ B.Cause already put two songs off this comp onto his “summer songs” post back in June: I learned about the album from him (via the Groove Merchant, as it were) and had spent months trying to track down a copy of my own. This whole comp makes for a great sampler of the Nigerian sound of the early ’70s and I’m very curious to know what Vol 1 sounds like.

Monomono’s roots trace back to Fela Kuti’s band: the leader of Monomono (which means “dawn of awareness” in Yoruba), Friday Jumbo, was originally a congeuro for Fela and left the band to join forces with vocalist Joni Haastrup (who would blossom into a legend) and bassist Kenneth Okulolo. From best I can tell, they put out several albums in the early/mid-1970s and this track was almost certainly taken from their EMI Nigeria LP Give a Beggar a Chance.

Ofege seems to be a grand story: they were a high school band who followed in the footsteps of groups like Monomono, BLO as well as Santana and Robert Plant. For a bunch of teenagers, they certainly had solid musical chops as heard on this song and other cuts off their debut, Try and Love. You can hear on “Whizzy Illabo” that fusion between psych, funk, soul, and rock, filtered through an Afro-pop sound that’s able to embrace these various styles without sounding forced or contrived.


By the way, our respected comrades over at Captain’s Crates has up another one of our Top 10 favorite Latin dance tunes. Get with the “Royal Marcha” while the gettin’s good.

JOHN DANKWORTH: BLAISE IT UP



John Dankworth: Modesty Blaise + Return From the Ashes
From Movies N’ Me (RCA, 1974)

This is possibly the first LP I ever bought at the Groove Merchant (if not the first). Here’s what I had to say about this album when I first wrote about it back in 2000:

    “This whole LP is full of great breaks and melodies. One of which, “Return of the Ashes” has been sampled…I know by Rob Swift and I seem to think that it might have been on one of the Dusty Fingers comps? In fact, it almost sounds Axelrod-esque in its disonant, electronic vibe. Either way, this LP is stoopid nice – if it’s not funk bumpin’, it’s got some nice, easy listening fare on it too. The choice cuts begin with “Modesty Blaise” which kicks off with some swinging horn blares but after a short bridge, the open two-bar drum break drops, accented by some horn choruses that sound downright blazing. Trust me, the song is incredible sounding.”

Please note, I rarely use the phrase “stoopid nice” these days nor am really that focused on “two-bar drum break drops.” My rather painful use of descriptive phrases aside, it’s still a great album for those who like funky scores and soundtrack songs. I used to be a bigger fan of the big, brash sound of “Modesty Blaise” but I now find “Return From the Ashes” more enticing, perhaps b/c I’m into more laid-back grooves in my old(er) age. Good stuff, either way.

AFTERNOONS AT THE GROOVE MERCHANT

I published a column in this past Friday’s Oakland Tribune where I have a monthly pop music column. It was written just a few days after leaving the Bay Area after 16 years and one of the things I’ll miss the most (besides friends and family) is my weekly visits to the Groove Merchant, aka the greatest record store in the world.

I decided to write my August column in tribute to the Merchant and in doing so, I realized how deeply my visits there have influenced my relationship to music and as I note in the column, I don’t think it’s a coincidence, at all, that I started blogging about soul, jazz, funk, etc. records soon after I started shopping at the GM (this was before people called it blogging but if you’re curious to see this nascent, pre-MP3 version of Soul Sides, go here.

The thing is this: there are good record stores – places where, if you get lucky, you might find some fantastic albums on the cheap. These are the lifeblood for most collectors – places that you walk into with a quiet prayer that you’ll turn up some unexpectedly sick sh– for next to nothing. I, of course, have a great appreciation for these stores – places like Village Music in Mill Valley or 2nd Hand Tunes in Chicago or that rinky dink, hole in the wall store in Dayton (if ya’ll know, ya’ll know).

But what marks a great record store isn’t just good records (this does help however) but rather the knowledge you attain from merely visiting. People who visit this site are incredibly gracious about what they learn about music through it. I’m very happy it’s able to achieve that. But for me, my musical education from the GM is how others may see Soul Sides. I’ve learned more about different kinds of music and artists and genres, etc. through Cool Chris – the GM’s proprietor – in the last seven years or so than I did in the 28 that proceeded it. I can say, almost definitively, that this site would not exist if not for my afternoons spent at that store every week. It’s not that everything I post here came out of the GM but the aesthetic that I try to establish in the music I post is undeniably shaped through what I’ve learned there.

The credit is due not just to the store itself but to Chris Veltri. People who don’t spend a lot of time in record stores don’t really understand this simple social fact: 90% of record store owners are complete a–holes. Imagine the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons in real life and that’s certainly one segment: know-it-alls who sniff their nose at having to share their knowledge with such obvious peons as ourselves. Then there’s the know-nothings who run stores, log into eBay to check prices, and either grossly overcharge some albums and neglectfully undercharge others but shopping from them is an ordeal. Chris, on the other hand, is incredibly cordial and helpful and social in a way that makes you wonder what charm school other record store folk should be attending to get their consumer relations game up. He’s just “That Dude” if you know what I mean. (I’m not the only person who feels this way – his fans are legion and international).

I feel so indebted and so enriched by my time rapping with Chris, checking out records he gets in, trading/buying from him that when Zealous Records asked me what my second Soul Sides CD would be, my first pitch was an Afternoons at the Groove Merchant theme which would include records I learned about through the store. For a variety of reasons, Zealous and I deaded that (you’ll like the actual concept we ran with, believe that), not the least of which is because my favorites songs I’ve learned through the store haven’t necessarily been jaw-dropping musical gems but rather, records that just have fascinating back stories.

I also note this in the column but people forget that even in the name itself – record – these pieces of vinyl exist to record things, both literally – like music – and figuratively, like people’s life stories, whether intentionally or not. Every record tells a story, not just in the songs, but in who made it, when they made it, why they made it, etc. My personal interest in records is definitely fueled by what those backstories are and it’s not hard to see how Soul Sides was an outgrowth of that interest.

In any case, this is all a long-winded intro in what should be a fun, recurring set of posts on Soul Sides – Afternoons at the GM – that discusses some of my favorite records that I learned about while at the store. Hope you guys enjoy. Let’s start it off…


Aposento Alto: Rejoice
From Goodbye Old Friends (Windeco, 1978)

The Moon People: Happy Soul
From Land of Love (Speed, 1969)

The Moon People: Hippy Skippy Moon Strut
From 7″ (Roulette, 1969)

The Aposento Alto LP was one of the last albums I ever picked up from the Groove Merchant before leaving the Bay. It’s a crazy obscure, private press, Latin gospel soul funk album out of Modesto, CA. Yeah, Latin gospel soul funk…there’s no better way to describe it and if you listen to “Rejoice” you’ll see what I mean. I’ve never heard Latin gospel but now that I have…if it all sounds like this, I’m down like the ground. Besides “Rejoice,” it has some slower soul tunes and this epic, eight minute cut “Te Amo” that features a ridiculous 2-3 minute drum solo complete with a steady, back-breaking, breakbeat (complete with all kinds of fills and rolls) that’s over a minute long. Mind-boggling.

I copped the Moon People LP sometime last year – another great, funky set of Latin tunes (though no gospel). However, I hadn’t really listened to it that closely until Christina Aguilera and DJ Premier dropped “Ain’t No Other Man” and realized: oh yeah, this is a Moon People song even though it was erroneously reported online that it was a Luis Alvarez song that Primo flipped. Nope – it’s pretty obvious it’s the Moon People. The trick though: which version of this song?

My speculation is that “Hippy Skippy Moon Strut” came out first on 45 and then the Moon People used the same backing track, dumped the vocals, and laid down keys instead, then called it “Happy Soul.” The instrumentals are identical – it’s just the diff b/t the vocals or not. Personally, I like both versions equally though I suppose “Moon Strut” plays out better because of the vocals.

What I like about both “Happy Soul” and “Rejoice” is how each briefly interpolates other songs – on “Rejoice” the horn lines at the beginning sound like “I’ll Never Go Back to Georgia” by Joe Cuba while “Happy Soul” pretty obviously takes up riffs from “Tighten Up” by Archie Bell and the Drells.

SUMMER SONGS 06: DJ B.CAUSE



(Editor’s Note: Our latest summer songs post is from Josh Bea, aka DJ B.Cause, one of the Bay Area’s finest behind the wheels o’ steel. Josh is what I call a “shadow collector” – his crates run deep and his taste is exquisite but he’s almost one of the most down to earth and humble dudes you’ll meet. Apart from working part-time at the Groove Merchant, aka the best record store ever, he churns out some of the best mixtapes I know of, including the recently plugged-here-on-Soul-Sides, Soul Boulders (cop that!). His summer songs post includes many tracks I had never heard before…but of course, now desperately want. Seriously – the music here is fantastic. –O.W.)

It’s pretty tough to define what a summer song means to me, and even more difficult is the task of choosing a small handful of songs that transcend accurately that feeling of adventure, youth, heat, nightlife, outdoors, love and the occasional deep pain of loss. Instead I’ve decided to pick the first few seemingly appropriate jams that pop up out of the nearest stack of worn lp piles, those of which seem to grow in the spring months of vinyl aquisition through flea markets and garage sales.

The Coasters: Love Potion # 9
From The Coasters On Broadway (King 196?)

I’ve loved this tune since I was a kid, so when I stumbled across this dynamic version about a decade ago I was more than thrilled. The song title reminds me (for some odd reason) of the sweet nocturnal smell of blooming jasmine, something I remember vividly from running around after dark as a teen in Los Angeles where the blossoms are abundant. About a year ago I DJed an evening wedding reception in a barn near Modesto, CA…one of those cool wedding parties that actually ends up being genuinely fun. The music was quite good rather than the usual reception jukebox flip-flop: getting riddled with endless requests for 80’s pop music despite the fact that they initially hired you to play funk, jazz and soul. Here were some really good and open-minded folks having the time of their lives. At the peak moment of the celebration this tune played feverishly while everbody including myself smiled, shouted, laughed and danced…the moon was bright, the air warm, and you could just make out the faint smell of jasmine in the valley night.

Quicksilver Messenger Service: Fire Brothers
From S/T (Capitol 196?)

Recent re-discovery on the mystical mountain-man volcano worship tip. This track pretty much speaks for itself, smoldering but folky flange.

Sydney Barnes: Summer Sunshine
From Foot Stompin’ Music (Parachute 1978)

This is a perfect steppers-style soul tune for the occasion, everything from the title and lyrics to the somewhat mystical & modern feel of the arrangements scream ‘summer mix tape’! Love it.

Wrinkers Experience: Fuel For Love
Strangers: Love Rock
From EMI Super Hits (EMI Nigeria 197?)

Two great tunes from an excellent early 70’s Nigerian EMI lp that I listened to one too many times and ended up having to purchase despite a dwindling pocketbook. It was hard to choose just two tracks from this record, if I had the time I would have posted them all.

Bonus round 45: Was about to wrap this post up when I noticed this forgotten lil’ ditty poking out of one of my 45 bins, and with a a title like that it just had to be included.

The Reflections: She’s My Summer Breeze
From 7″ (Capitol, 1975)

Honorable mention but out of time & space:

Ray Charles: America The Beautiful
Ted Hawkins: What Do You Want From The Liquor Store?
E-40: Hope I Don’t Go Back

–DJ B.Cause

JUNIOR PARKER + PETER HERBOLZHEIMER: FABBED OUT



Junior Parker: Taxman
From Love Ain’t Nothin’ But A Business Goin’ On (Groove Merchant, 1971)

Peter Herbolzheimer Rhythm Combination & Brass: A Day In the Life
From Touchdown (Polydor GER, 1977)

I felt out of it today. Slightly blue. I don’t know what’s going on – it’s just been a weird (though actually quite ordinary day). Oh my f—-ing god, I’m turning into one of those people who blog about their life but aren’t actually saying anything of import. Stop me.

Random stuff, just for the hell of it:

    1) Photoethnography.com. What my site is to old records, her site is to vintage cameras. So dense and thorough, it’s scary. I am now desirous of one of these.
    2) My friend Hua’s blog. He’s starting to post more MP3s, including that ridiculously hot Juelz Santana song I mention in my Six Picks –>. Plus, he told me he’s been getting a lot of hits off of Catchdubs site and I want to see if I can out-refer. (It’s nothing personal Nick, your site rocks).
    3) I want these shoes. But they’re sold out in my size. Alas.
    4) Gourmet hot chocolate is my new s—.
    5) Isaac Hayes is an amazing musical force but his religious beliefs are suspect.

So yeah, Beatles covers. To be honest, I could do a whole month on just Beatles covers and as much as I adore the Fab Four’s output, I think that might be a bit much. That said, one of my favorite all-Beatles covers albums is Ramsey Lewis’ homage to the White Album, Mother Nature’s Son. (And yeah, I know about George Benson’s The Other Side of Abbey Road but I never liked it that much).

Junior Parker straight up owns his version of “Taxman.” No disrespect to George Harrison but Parker’s funky blues take on the song cannot be f—ed with. That’s all there is to say.

The Peter Herbolzheimer version of “A Day In the Life” is a strange cover of a strange enough song to begin with. I begins innocuously enough with Don Adams on vocals doing a super-slowed down, ballad-y version. Then the RC&B creep in a bit…it’s still pretty mellow, nothing to write home about. Then they hit the second bridge and the song goes bat-sh– on some funked-up fusion tip only to slow back down after a few minutes. I can’t say I love the overall effect but it is, uh, different. (Just to make it clear, I like RC&B stuff – I own three of their best albums and there is some scorching material on there).

LINDA HOPKINS + ROGER: WALK TO FREEDOM



Linda Hopkins: Walk On In
From S/T (RCA, 1972)

Roger and the Human Body: Freedom
From The Vinyl Days (Circe Communications, 1976). Also on We Can Make You Dance

I’m cleaning out my closet of old sound files that I’ve been stacking but never got around to posting. Sorry folks, no real deep themes here but at least the music’s good (I hope).

The Linda Hopkins album I found a while back – her bio is so deep, I can’t even begin to try to summarize it but I’ll say this much about the music on the LP: you can definitely hear her gospel roots in both the singing and arrangement. The production is good – quite diverse actually since some of it shows off Hopkins’ Broadway skills too. “Walk On In” drew me in for its blend of gospel and soul sensibilities (I’m a sucker for background singing too). I’d be curious to know who her rhythm section is too – they got nice chops here.

This Roger and the Human Body was a hand-me-down from Cool Chris at the Groove Merchant in S.F. It comes off of a compilation by Cincinnati’s WEBN (part of a series of comps the station put out) designed to highlight the city’s local talent. Along side a smattering of disco-influenced soul, folksy light rock ballads, and a dab of country is this early, early song by Roger Troutman and his first group, the Human Body. 45 copies of this song go over $150 and the LP it appears on can price well over $500(!!!) Chris thought this might have been the first place “Freedom” appeared though upon further research, the 7″ was released in ’75 so this is probably after the single came out. What I think it most interesting is how Roger was already playing with the vocoder that would become such a signature part of the late funkateer’s sound.

GIMME THE LOOT

Loot OST (CBS 1970)

I was turned onto this album a few years back by Cool Chris at the Groove Merchant. It’s a soundtrack to what I can only assume to be some wacky British heist film (something the English seem to excel at making). What’s noteworthy is who cuts the soundtrack: Keith Mansfield of KPM/Mohawks fame. Not having heard most of the KPM LPs that the Mohawks played on (you got $500 for me to catch up?), I can’t compare this but I can say it’s been one of my favorite LPs that I’ve been listening to lately.

A lot of this soundtrack isn’t very notable – the vocals are particularly bad and most of the songs aren’t ’60s pop riffs. But “Loot’s the Root” is a surprise since it starts off with the aforementioned forgettable vocals and then midway swings into a jamming mod-groover (not unlike the Nilsmen joint I mention elsewhere on this blog) full of darting organs and slammin’ percussion. What’s strange is that, if you look at the LP, where you think the song is about to end just ends up being a transition where the track strips down and brings in a female vocal to close the song out. There’s also some cool clunky jazz bits on the short but sweet “Where It’s At.” The jam is “Stealth in the Night” which is one of those slow builders…the song kicks off with some dialogue from the film and ramps up two times until it really gets going. When it does, Mansfield just laces you with this zinger of a track – mid-tempo and superfly, bringing back his zingy organ and a fantastic rhythm riff.

The last butter track is “The Undertaker Song” (even the song titles are wicked) which is a return to the “Loot’s the Root” motif but this time, he whips it up with a conga break and the track is even fiercer than before as Mansfield goes nuts on the organ. Wild hot.