THREE TIMES FOR YOUR MIND

Ok, to make up for the fact I was gone for almost three weeks, I’ll hit everyone with three songs this time around.

Gary Bartz: Celestial Blues
From Harlem Bush Music – Uhuru (Milestone 1971)

This song is beautiful. BEAUTIFUL, you hear me? Andy Bey on vocals, Bartz on sax…a song that manages to personifies the idea of “soul jazz” to the fullest. Bey also has a super slinky cover of the song on his own solo album but you can’t beat this Bartz’ version for purely sublimity (is that even a word?).

Henry Mancini: Lujon.
From Mr. Lucky Goes Latin (RCA 1961)

“Lujon” has been on at least two soundtracks: Sexy Beast and The Big Lebowski (can you imagine two more different films?) and it’s easy to see why. There’s an intense, dreamy quality to this song, as if you’re floating on those gorgeous, ethereal strings. For some reason, I feel entirely nostalgic listening to this, yearning for an era that probably never existed. Still, I imagine a penthouse with perfect martinis, beautiful women, and a skyline view of the city that will just break your heart.

Brief Encounter: Don’t Let Them Tell You.
From 7″ (Seventy Seven 1972?)

Another soul slicer off of seven-inch for the kiddies. The lead singer doesn’t have a great voice but this Curtis-influenced ballad moves with a nice, understated funky flavor that’s been my prime aesthetic of late.

SWEET THINGS

James Brown: Blind Man Can See It (from “Black Caesar” OST)

I originally wrote about this on my blog entry previous to when I started offering sound samples. Figure I should come on back and link up the song itself so you can see what I was raving about the last time. Here’s the original post: determining the best James Brown album is like arguing over what flavor of milkshake is best – people have their personal preferences but you’re not likely to come up with something crappy in the end. That said, you have think that the “Black Caesar” album is going to be in hot contention, ranking among the best blaxploitation soundtracks of the 1970s and one of the few OSTs Brown ever participated so fully in. This album helped produce numerous future classics from Brown’s catalog such as “Sportin’ Life,” “Mama Feelgood,” and “The Boss” alongside a variety of lesser known (but no less quality) cuts such as “White Lightning,” “Make It Good To You,” and especially the incredible “Down and Out in New York.” However, the super-duper-cream-on-top-whole-milk cut is “Blind Man Can See It,” – a song first introduced in the hip-hop generation by Lord Finesse, then blown the fuck up by Das Efx and most recently recycled by Jin. What makes this cut the jammy jam? It’s just the memorable guitar loop that everybody samples – it initially comes in around :45 but the money hit comes after the first four bars when the theme seems to momentarily float away and then comes back hard with a short drum roll. Pure head nod moment for the rest of the song as you just ride out on James Brown’s smoky groove. Makes you say unnnnnnh without the nah, nah, nah, nah.

Jesse Anderson: Let Me Back In
From 7″ (Thomas, 196?)

Anderson was a Curtom-related (Mayfield’s label) artist who recorded a few sides on the Thomas subsidary, most famously “Mighty Mighty.” I dig on this song though, “Let Me Back In,” for its slinky, soulful, funkiness, especially with that knockin’ cowbell at the intro (you can never have too much cowbell). And then dig on that groovin’ electric piano.

The lyrics too are hilarious. From what I can tell, dude breaks up with his girlfriend/wife in order to join his other girlfriend but she dumps him when she finds out he left his wife. THEN, he comes back, begging his old lady to “let me back in.” Is he crazy? No wonder he’s standing outside in the cold – dude’s a moron.

Rufus feat. Chaka Khan: Sweet Thing
From Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan (MCA, 1975)

If Chaka Khan never, ever did another song in her entire life, this would have been enough. I remember hearing Mary J. Blige cover it on What’s the 411? and ignorant as I was, just assumed it was the original. Then I heard the original and there’s no comparison – the OG is just so sublime in its soulfulness that it’s untouchable (then again, I feel the same way about “At Last” by Etta James and that has stopped countless American Idol contestants from singing that tune). I hope most of you have heard this song before – seems like a shame if you haven’t – but if this is your first-time to the magic that is “Sweet Thing,” hey, that’s just as good too.

Songs I’m appreciating right now…


1) Tom Scott: Today (from “Honeysuckkle Breeze”)

I know a lot of folks think this album sucks majorly and hey, they’re probably right but how can you front on “Today”? It’s beautiful, laid-back and reminds me of picnics out in the country and I ain’t never been on a picnic in the country.


2) Donny Hathaway: Jealous Guy (from “Donny Hathaway Live”)

I played this on my radio show a few weeks back and I just keep going back to it over and over. It reflects both the brilliance of the Beatles’ songwirting but also Hathaway’s incredible, emotive voice. It always makes me sad to remember how devestating his depression was but my god, could he sing.


3) Ray Barretto: Together (from “Together”)

When it comes to late ’60s Latin, Barretto was the MFin’ man. Sometimes, he makes songs like this and “Soul Drummers” that are so fucking good, it seems criminal. This song combines funky, hot boogaloo rhythms with social consciousness lyrics – unstoppable.

4) Arlean Brown: Impeach Me (45)

This combines two genres I love: female funk and funky blues. It’s not hyper-than-a-heart attack energetic but gets by on being sly, slick and wicked. I think I like it better than the Otis Redding/Carla Thomas “Tramp” call-and-response.


5) Lord Finesse w/ Big L: Yes You May Remix (12″ only)

“I bend a rapper like a fender/I’m slender/but from from tender/killing ni99as like a Klan member.” Hot damn it’s the return of the funky men.

FAT FELLOWS

Daniel Janin: Jes Vais T’Aimer (Les Treteaux Int’l: 197?)

Someone who speaks better French than me (which would be probably anybody) can translate this title for me b/c frankly, I have no idea what this is. I found it at Rooky’s in the Lower Haight for a $1 or something and the cover alone looked promising. I thought, from the looks of it, it was the French equivalent to an American pop exploitation record (think the Ventures) given the eclectic song selections which include The Rolling Stones’ “Fool To Cry”, some song called “Superbimbo” and two compositions credited to Janin himself. As it turns out, I think this is more like some weird blend between a K-Tel compilation with two original joints thrown in. The stuff not by Janin is not really worth your time – bad, strange rock and pop. But Janin’s two cuts are worth peeping. “Trip For a Trap” is a so-so funky pop instrumental but the real joint is “Fat Fat Fellow” which was featured on Dusty Fingers 8 if I’m not mistaken. Real smoky funk instrumental with pop influences but mostly just sounds like a dope library cut (dig that sax that blows in later and just the whole brass section in general). I can see why Dusty Fingers comped it – it’s right up their alley of strange but special brews.

NEITHER COUNTRY NOR FUNK


Country Funk: S/T (Polydor 197?)

As a record dealer listed this one: “neither country nor funk”. That’s for sure. Talk about not judging a record by its title – I was hoping for some ill ass breakbeatcountryrare jawns, like Willie Nelson meets Eddie Bo. Instead, I got an album of mostly acoustic rock ballads. Frowny face time 🙁

That said, “Poor Boy” is actually a decent, funky blues cut that made the album a keeper despite the egregiously false advertising.

STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM NOW WE HERE

I began Soul Sides in 2001, when I had scabs of time to write up 30 reviews at a time and post them up every month or so. By last year, this became nearly impossible to maintain and as you can see, I basically haven’t updated my Soul Sides archives since 2002.

The blog is meant to bring back some reviews – even if it’s just one every few days. In the year since my last post, believe me, I’ve got tons of records to share…just not nearly enough time to share ’em all. Consider these a few first steps…

–Oliver