Monday, March 08, 2010

posted by O.W.

I've had a few individual songs that I've been meaning to post up and usually, I wait for some kind of thematic opportunity but I realize this is an inefficient way to go about things and instead, I just took ten of these stragglers, whipped up a quick sequence for them and if you download them in order, you'll have yourself a half-hour mix.

Paul Kelly: Only Your Love
From 7" (Dial, 1965)

This single (backed with "Chills & Fevers") originally came out on Lloyd but turned out to be enough of a hit that Dial picked it up for distribution and, strangely, Atlantic UK also issued it (but not until the late '70s). My man Brendan first played this for me and while "Chills and Fevers" was the big hit, it was always the flipside ballad that captured my attention. I could be crazy but this definitely sounds influenced by Sam Cooke's "Change Gonna Come" - the arrangements seem remarkably similar though not a copy. But like Cooke, you have this impassioned delivery and the kind of deep, deep soul track I simply can't get enough of.

Marvin Gaye: It's Love I Need
From I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Tamla, 1968)

Confession: much as I recognize the greatness that was Marvin, I actually own very few of his albums besides a few anthologies. I basically missed out on buying a lot of classic Motown-era LPs (I'm starting to make up for it though) and it wasn't until the other month that I finally picked up one of his biggest selling albums of the '60s, I Heard It Through the Grapevine. Besides the now-ubiquitous title track though, I really liked listening to what some might call the "filler", LP-only songs because you will always find little gems tucked away. Motown knew what the f--- they were doing in that era and even the non-hits sound like potential hits. This track in particular has a nice, funky twang to it, anchored by fatback drums. Reminds me a little of this, an absolute favorite of mine from Tammi Terrell's catalog.

Great Pride: She's a Lady
From 7" (MGM, 1974)

I originally heard this back in 2003 when I got booted on a strange, one-off 12". Even then, I remember it being some really crazy stuff but I had forgotten about it for years until recently, when I grabbed an OG copy of the 7". It's such a fantastically quirky song that mashes up some funky white dude rock, lush orchestral production and crazy psychedelic vocals. Call me crazy but didn't the moment where the strings and beat come together at :15 remind you of this? Far as I can tell, this was the only release this 7-man band ever put out; pity - I would have loved to hear what an entire LP's worth of material sounded like from these guys.

The Victors: Magnificent Sanctuary Band
From 7" (Clarion, 197?)

This cover of Donny Hathaway's tune retains the opening drum break and a mostly loyal arrangement that isn't necessarily superior to the OG but it's a fun listen and nice to have on 7".

The Detroit City Limits: 98 Cents Plus Tax
From Play 98 Cents Plus Tax and Other Hits (Okeh, 1968)

Ironically, even though this album was mostly covering other people's hits, as one of the sole original compositions by this short-lived group, "98 Cents Plus Tax" was the group's biggest hit: a squawking monster of an instrumental cooker that's been a favorite of DJs for years.

Big City: Love Dance
From 7" (20th Century, 1974)

This excellent, mid-70s proto-disco jam is a real enigma. If you've ever heard "Mud Wind" by the South Side Movement, you'll notice that "Love Dance" = "Mud Wind" - a minute + vocals. Does that mean Big City is actually South Side Movement? That's my assumption only because I've never seen another Big City single but apparently, this isn't the first time a tune on Wand ended up being re-released on 20th Century (see The Groove: "Love, It's Getting Better").

Juan Diaz: Hit and Run
From Thematic Music (New World, 197?)

This comes from one of the many NY-based New World library music records. New World isn't anywhere near the level of KPM/DeWolfe library respectability but like most library series, there's good tracks to be found if you're willing to sift through. This is one of the better cuts I've found on a New World LP - a slick, disco-y instrumental that rides a nice little groove.

Willie West and High Society Brothers: The Devil Gives Me Everything
From 7" (Timmion, 2009)

Finland's finest teamed up with legendary NOLA soul man for this single that sort of flew under people's radars from last year. Whether intentional or not, there's just something slightly "off" about this deep soul recording but whatever that element is, it works for me.

Myron and E: It's a Shame
From 7" (Timmion, 2010)

And staying on the Timmion tip is the latest single from Oakland's Myron and E who made a strong splash with "Cold Game." This is their follow-up 7" and hopefully paves the way for the duo's long-awaited debut LP with the Soul Investigators. This one's real catchy (but it's not a cover of the Spinners' song in case you were wondering).

Bitty McClean: Tell Me (remix)
From 7" (Sir Peckings, 2007)

Straight up, McClean's "Tell Me" and "Walk Away From Love" are two of my favorite reggae songs that I've discovered in years. I didn't even realize "Tell Me" got a remix 7" treatment but had to cop. This doesn't change the song dramatically; it basically keeps the original rocksteady arrangement but then remakes it over with some heavy dub elements, basically stripping it down and letting McClean's vocals echo out.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

posted by O.W.

Pazazz: So Hard To Find
From 7" reissue (Soulplex, 2009)

Twilight: You're In Love
From Pains of Love (Ross, 1986)

The folks at Soulflex in Germany were kind enough to hep me to this new reissue they put out of a killer Florida disco single by Pazazz called "So Hard To Find" (an apt name considering how insanely obscure it is). This is the kind of disco I never tire of: a simple but infectious groove, upbeat vocals and a general air of happiness that's like a mood-enhancing substance minus the substance. I'm sure those who hate disco would hold this up as everything wrong with the genre - its repetitiveness for example - but they're missing how amazingly awesome a song like this feels on a dancefloor where you want that repetition to keep that feel good vibe going as long as possible. The single also includes a remix by Samurai 7 though personally, I prefer the OG.

As for Twilight, this Vallejo-recorded LP was pushed on me by the Groove Merchant's Cool Chris and while I'm nowhere near someone who knows much about boogie or even bore the genre any mind until very recently, I was glad Chris encouraged me to open my ears enough to enjoy this. I'll be honest - I'm bewildered by how boogie (funk/R&B records from the early through mid '80s) have staged such an intriguing comeback as the latest style hipsters have glommed to. That's not a diss (well, not exactly) since I believe that people who like boogie actually really do like it. It's just that this used to be the kind of syrupy, fonky tunes that hip-hop heads would clown as they were getting their fingers dusty but this is all the rage with some of the elders from that crowd. Go figure.

But yeah...Twilight...of all the songs on the album, "You're In Love" grabbed my attention the most, probably because I love that little squeegee synth that runs throughout (plus that intro bassline is pretty slick).

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

posted by Eric Luecking

Last week, we posted about the Horse Meat Disco compilation recently released on Strut. They sent me a 30-minute promo mix to share with all of you. Download away!!! Only the Empire Projecting Penny track is on the actual album.

Hot Chocolate - Disco Queen
Queen - Dancer
World Premier - Share The Night
Empire Projecting Penny - Freakman
Cerrone - Hooked On You
Charanga 76 - Music Trance
Fonda Rae - Heobha
Melba Moore - Standing Right Here

Additionally, another 30-minute promo mix encompassing tracks from the Black Rio 2 Samba Soul comp that they sent me is now available to download. My apologies as I meant to post this a few weeks ago.

Sonia Santos – Poema Ritmico Do Malandro
Emilio Santiago – Bananeira
Pete Dunaway – Supermarket
Os Diagonais – Nao Vou Chorar
Avan Samba – Ibere
Zeca Do Trombone E Roberta Sax – Coluna Do Meio
Balanca Pova – Novo Dia
Renata Lu – Faz Tanta Tempo
Bebeto – Princesa Negra De Angola
Cry Babies – It’s My Thing
Guimaraes E O Grupo Som Sagrado – Our Sound

No guarantees as to when these links may die, so grab them while they're available!

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

posted by Eric Luecking

Karen Young: Deetour (Party Mix edit)
From Horse Meat Disco (Strut, 2009)

Disco is such a tricky genre. People love to hate it. After its supposed death, though, artists still trod forward trying to find that nice dance groove. It was a cash cow, after all. 1982 saw Atlantic still trying to push out the disco hits, even though, for the most part, the genre was on its way out. This Karen Young track has a catchy, although relatively meaningless, hook. Then again, it's disco – what can you expect? No one listens to disco for it's lyrical content; it's like saying you watch porn for the plot. With its light keys that border on kitsch (but fit in well with the melody), and of course those early '80s synthesizers, it definitely sounds dated. However, it still has a bit of bump to it, especially with that grooving bass, the glue to the entire song.

Was (Not Was): Tell Me That I'm Dreaming (12” Remix)
From Ze 30: Ze Records 1979-2009 (Strut, 2009)

Before Don Was was an in-demand producer and winning Producer Of The Year awards, he was making synthy, off the wall R&B songs in the '80s. Prior to their biggest hit ”Walk The Dinosaur”, Was (Not Was) had a 1981 hit on Ze Records featuring none other than President Reagan! The “Out Of Control” Reagan sample is reminiscent of (although it predates) The Information Society's sample of Leonard Nimoy's part in “What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy).” Like the song above, the bass really carries this jam. Then again, guess who plays bass? Mr. Producer Of The Year himself.

Aside: Is there a music statistician somewhere who can verify other presidents who were featured on a hit song during their tenure (this doesn't count presidents who won Grammys for spoken word books. Sorry Bill, Barack, and Jimmy.)? The biggest I can think of is Kennedy in Living Colour's “Cult Of Personality.” Although not a big mainstream hit, George W. Bush was featured at the end of People Under The Stairs “Hang Loose,” one of my all time favorite songs. Surely, Nixon has been sampled. “I'm not a crook” is just too good of a line to not have been used SOMEWHERE...


Friday, May 22, 2009

posted by O.W.

Ernie Story: Chain Gang/Disco City
From Meditation Blue (Legend, 1977)

This strange, private press album out of Minnesota came via the Groove Merchant earlier in the year. It was one of those cases where I had credit to burn so I took a chance on an eclectic LP and once I really sat with it, I'm glad I did.

From the title and look of the album, you'd think Ernie Story was some kind of Christian/New Age folk singer but on the LP, it boasts that Story was a songwriter for mostly R&B groups such as The Impressions and Chi-Lites and this seems true - he wrote "Simple Message" for the Impressions' Preacher Man album though I can't seem to find which Chi-Lites song he did.

For his own album however, Story's styles are varied, to say the least, a contrast best captured on these two songs which close out Side A. "Chain Gang" reminds me of Rodriguez's soulful, folksy rock in one moment, but then it drops into a funkier, fuzzed out sound just a few beats later and then there's that unexpected transition into "Disco City" as Story puts together what you might call a "garage disco" joint.

It must be said - Story might have skills as a songwriter but he's not really a very good singer but given that this is a private press album, I suppose that fact is more endearing than annoying (that said, if you don't like his singing on "Disco City," you'll much prefer the B-side's "The E Groove" which is a fantastic little disco instrumental.

I'm curious what Story is doing these days - he doesn't seem to have had an extensive musical career after '77...

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

posted by Eric Luecking

Brothers Johnson: Stomp
From Light Up The Night (A&M, 1980)

Frankie Smith: Double Dutch Bus
From Double Dutch Bus (Unidisc, 1994)

Gil Scott-Heron: Johannesburg
From From South Africa To South Carolina (TVT, 1976)

Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels: Shake A Tail Feather
From Rev Up: The Best Of Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels (Rhino/WEA, 1989)

Mothers don't get their due when it comes to passing along the gift of music. So many times I've read articles where an interviewer asks an artist or producer about their influences only to get a response like, “Pops played in a local funk band,” or “My dad gave me a bunch of his LPs that we used to listen to at the house when I was growing up.” This isn't THAT story. I'm no artist or producer, although I can play a little bit of piano and a carry a beat on drums. What I am is a guy who LOVES music of all kinds, and it all started with my mother.

I couldn't tell you a lot about my dad's musical tastes other than he liked Neil Diamond according to my mom. He died when I was only a few months old. My stepdad wasn't much into music either. But my mom? She loves her some music, especially something that makes her want to dance or just flat out makes her feel good.

As a kid, I didn't care for “her” music much. There were a few songs that were okay, but given the chance I would have much rather listened to 96 WSTO, the local pop station. My older brother and I went nuts when Janet Jackson's “Nasty” or Prince's “Kiss” came on. We liked our MJ, too. When I was in my teens and we'd visit the big city, I couldn't wait to turn on the hip hop station, and did my mom ever hate it! She was a good sport, though, as she put up with as much as she could before saying she couldn't take it anymore. It was just “cool” to hear the latest jams – and to like something my mom didn't, in part to have my own identity. My mom's old fuddy-duddy music? Not so cool, or at least I didn't think so at the time.

My mom never has been much of an albums kind of lady. The songs she likes aren't all that obscure. Most of the cassettes/CDs/LPs she has are greatest hits or compilations. It was only a couple months ago she wanted to upgrade to CD versions of the 70s Preservation Society's “Disco Fever” 2-CD comp she had on cassette, which she can no longer play in her car since it only has a CD player. The only problem was that the comp was out of print. So after a few minutes of scouring eBay, I scored a good price and she was happy as could be. I mean seriously elated. You should have seen the smile on her face. Priceless.

In our house, it was always a party when we heard some Brothers Johnson “Stomp” (a song that was not uncommon to rewind and do it all again) or do some rock-soul growling with Mitch Ryder's version of the Purify's “Shake A Tail Feather.” We used to promenade through the living room to “Double Dutch Bus” and do “The Hustle” right along with Van McCoy. We played air guitar to Ray Parker, Jr.'s, “The Other Woman.” We even got a little righteous with it to Gil Scott-Heron's “Johannesburg” - pretty hip stuff for a white family in Small Town, USA.

One of my favorite pictures of our family is a picture that was taken from the balcony above the living room of my mom, with her lovely early '80s coif, and brother each with an air-mic (it may even have been a salt and pepper shaker set) singing – no, make that SANGin' – while the stereo was bumping. And did it ever bump in that house. My friend used to tell me how she could hear the music at her house... 2 houses up the road!

Today, it's hard to turn my mom on to new-to-her old school music. When I hear something today that I think she'd like, it's a hard sell. “I just like the ones I used to play and know,” she tells me. It can be a hard concept to wrap my head around since, to me, the songs may have the same vibe. A good friend of mine, Apollo, who is a club and mobile DJ, told me several years ago it all has to do with nostalgia. For her, it may not have anything to do with the sound of the actual music; it may only be where that music takes her – back to the Victory, a local dance club she went to as a young adult that had a lighted dancefloor that I can only imagine was similar to Saturday Night Fever, or back to an unforgettable New Year's Dance, or a song that got her in the mood. The music was just the soundtrack to her life. With each listen, she can time travel back.

That musical tradition carried forth when my brother, who has run his own mobile DJ business for nearly 20 years, and I threw a surprise 60th birthday party for her a few years ago. With a few drinks and a few friends in attendance at the local Elks Lodge, we had a blast. Those friends didn't just include those couples with whom my mom always hung out. Also in attendance were friends such as Roy Orbison, Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger, and Vicki Sue Robinson, who made their way via CDs and speakers. Had we ever met those folks? Absolutely not, but we certainly spent a lot of time with them at our house, and they meant a lot to us, even if it was in a more indirect, but no less important, relationship than with our actual family friends.

As I got older, I started to appreciate how much work goes into music and started to piece together of how the “science” of music (how it is constructed), how it makes me feel, and how those interrelate. Nostalgia is a funny creature. Much of the music I love now I wasn't alive to hear when it was made, but it takes me back to a fun time growing up in a household where music, dancing, and expression were almost as important as eating dinner together. But this story isn't about me. It's about a mother – my mother – who wasn't trying to teach us anything about music; she was just trying to have a good time, and in the process she passed along something that I'll certainly always cherish. Just like my mom.

Happy Mother's Day.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

posted by Eric Luecking

Poets Of Rhythm: Practice What You Preach
From Practice What You Preach (Daptone, 2006)

Bus People Express: Augusta, Georgia
From Original Raw Soul (Instinct, 1996)

Syrup: Chocolate
From Different Flavours (Compost, 2000)

With all the press that Daptone's Dap Kings get for their funky soul roots revival (and deservedly so), many seem to forget the groundwork that Jan and Max Weissenfeldt (aka Whitefield) and their band of funky brothers from another mother laid down in the early to mid 1990s. Much of the time they were known as the Poets of Rhythm, but they had more monikers than Prince has had backup bands.

The three tracks above give you a sense of versatility the band has. “Practice What You Preach” is one of my favorite funk workout jams of all time. It features a bassline that rides like a rollercoaster and the syncopated chorus is a real sweat. Then you get a killer sax/drums duet followed up by a nice organ solo. And if you think these guys couldn't have held their own with the J.B.s, check out their alterego's tribute to James Brown's hometown with its frenetic pace and nice touch of congas. Finally, the oft-forgotten Syrup side project finds the band still utilizing more synths. With its steady rhythm guitar riff and still keeping true to their ever-present top-notch hornwork, it could easily blend in with late 70s/early 80s sets.

Recently I had the chance to talk with Jan about his thoughts on the resurgence of funk, where he's been, and where he's going with music.

EL: With all the press that The Dap Kings get as being the “in” nu-funk band, people tend to forget you and your bandmates. Talk about some of the groundwork you and your bandmates help to lay with this renaissance of funk in early/mid-90s - struggles to get labels to believe in your music, issues with getting heard, etc.

JW: We self produced and released a 7" in 1992. I gave a copy to a friend who went to Hamburg and passed it on to the DJ at a small club called Soul Kitchen. Two weeks later I got a call from the guys from the newly founded label Soulciety asking if we want to record an album for them. Of course we agreed as we never even thought that could happen. Before that we just jammed in the basement and had a couple of shows where we covered meters songs.

EL: How many alteregos did the Poets Of Rhythm have? To name a few there was the Bus People Express, The Mighty Continentals, The Pan Atlantics, and The New Process. It's hard to keep up with your catalog! Why so many?

JW: I lost count myself but the reason is easy to explain: two of our biggest influences in the early days were George Clinton and James Brown. Both gave many of their musicians their own records which had their unique sound but still were part of the whole concept. We just imagined different projects with different sounds or styles and made records for them.

EL: Last we talked, you had mentioned that you were working on a follow-up Whitefield Brothers album to the now-reissued In The Raw LP. Are those sessions finished? Did you stick with the Ethiopian sound you talked about last time?

JW: The album is nearly done. It has some Ethiopian stuff but also compositions based on japanese and turkish scales and all kinds of exotic rhythms. Ethnic or world funk would be good description, I guess.

EL: From your Hotpie & Candy Records days, Poets Of Rhythm really had a lock on that JB's style with the syncopated rhythms and just a nasty horn section. Then the follow-up Discern/Define went in a different direction, overall a more toned down sound. You really don't like to stay too much in one musical element, do you?

JW: When we started making music together, Bo Baral and I were only 16 years old so you start with the basic stuff. After a while when more records are bought and you keep studying the works of previous generations, first you look at the classics from the different eras then you start looking behind the icons that everybody knows. You learn there are different approaches to music and there is loads of stuff that got lost because it didn´t meet the current tastes. So you add up and change influences all the time and as we don´t do albums every year the difference in sound can be quite big but still it contains a big part of what we grew up on.

EL: Do you have any desire to start up another label? If so, what would you do differently?

JW: I have a new label I started a couple of years ago – Field Records. So far I only did reissues of Whitefied Brothers and Pan-Atlantics as I don´t really have the time to put too much effort into label work. It´s all 7"s anyways and is more of a fun thing. Hotpie & Candy Records was a fun thing as well. We pressed up own 45s because that´s what our inspirations did. It was never handled as a serious business and in the end we probably gave more copies away for free than we sold.

EL: I read in Waxpoetics that at your live shows you don't do much (if any) of your older Poets Of Rhythm material. Is that still true?

JW: As I tried to explain with the changing influences, it´s kind of boring to stick to the same formula too long. It´s even harder to keep the music fresh if you have to perform many shows in a row. We try to incorporate as much improvisation as possible so every concert is different and you never know where it´s gonna take you. That keeps it interesting for us and for the audience.

EL: Some in the media have speculated that several years from now that CDs may not exist; they also note that it's one of the only times in history where the replacement technology is actually of inferior quality. Given the choice of a new album coming out, would you rather get a digital download or own a physical copy? Talk about your thoughts of the digital revolution.

JW: Soundwise digital definitely has a disadvantage compared to analog. They try to tell you you can't hear the difference and in high resolution that might be true, but I´m sure I can feel it and digital has a cleaner, colder appearance. On the other hand, it freed the music from the industry as the access is almost unlimited. Nowadays you can listen to countless hours of music for free on the web and you can choose what you want to listen to. Just 15 years ago you only could copy music in realtime with decreasing quality. You had to wait till the program on the radio met your taste or you had to buy countless records. On the production side it gives you more freedom as well cause you are not dependent on expensive studio time to do recordings or editing. So summed up it it´s like: more quantity, less quality – more freedom, less money. Like with all things there is the good side and the bad side. Yin and yang will always be relevant.

EL: Are you sour on the music industry these days? I know you had a falling out with Soulciety. Have you had to up your music biz game?

JW: Not sour at all. The only way to do it is to find people who care about music more than money (but still make you some) and work with them. Hard to find.

EL: What other flavors of sound would you like to try? Not necessarily that you're currently working on, but “someday I'd like to go for a _____________ sound.”

JW: Ambient soundscapes, tone poems.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

posted by O.W.

(from l-r, Alton Ellis, Edwin Starr, Labi Siffre, The Impressions
Joe Bataan, Stevie Wonder, the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band
Bobby Matos, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Skye 7")

(This post began life on Side Dishes and has "evolved" since).

I had a strange realization the other week: 2008 might be the first year where I spent more time listening to older music than new music. This hasn't been out of nowhere - it's been a long-term shift but it hit me, when I was trying to come up with the standard "Top 10" list that I'm not even sure if I actually listened to 10 new albums in '08.

Not just that: even the new music I did like tended to overwhelmingly be music that sounded like it was from another era - Raphael Saadiq, Solange Knowles, Mayer Hawthorne, etc. For real - if there was one big presence in my 2008 year-in-review, it was Motown! Not only do quite a few Motown artists fill up my "old music I discovered this year list," amongst the new artists, several of them ride off the Motown sound and one of them (Q-Tip) is actually signed to Motown.
I turned 36 this year but why do I feel like my tastes are that of a 66 year old?


On one hand, your tastes are your tastes and if that's the direction I'm leaning, maybe I should just shrug and enjoy it. I don't have the professional pressure to have to stay as current as my colleagues do but as I said last year, I also don't want to be a born-again baby boomer (even though my fascinating with the 1960s has only grown this past year).

So here's my New Year's Resolution For 2009: I shall listen to more new music and ideally, not new music that sounds like old music. (We'll check back a year from now and see where I'm at).

This all said, here's Part 1 of my year-in-review, beginning with old music I (re)discovered.

Edwin Starr: Running Back and Forth
From War & Peace (Gordy, 1970)

I get music recommendations from all sorts but no one is more influential than my friend Hua who has probably put me up on more of my more recent "new favorite songs" than any other single source I know. It helps that he has kick ass taste as well as a circle of friends in NY who have equally good taste and so I get some of these recommendation second, even third hand but heck - I ain't too proud!

Case in point: this lesser known single off Starr's big selling War and Peace album. It's easy enough to forget that there was any other songs from that LP given how successful and iconic the "War" single became but when I first heard "Running Back and Forth," I had a proverbial jaw-drop over how good it was and that it'd be from the same album. This song oozes with classic Motown production strengths of its era (RIP Norman Whitfield!), especially in its brass and the driving push of the sound bed. Seriously, try to piece apart all the little bits of the music; it is dense yet comes off sounding clean and simple. In contrast to Starr's forceful polemicizing on "War," here, he's in classic love man mode, trying to kick some game. (Bonus points for the Sam Cooke nod on the bridge).

Labi Siffre: A Little More Line
From S/T (Pye, 1970)

This British singer, songwriter and poet has a voice you can't soon forget - it's not the most powerful, nor the most dynamic - but it is so distinctive and soothing, it stays with you long after the song's end. I especially love how this song builds from an almost hymnal opening only to swell in size and sound with the string orchestration and some killer work on the drums. Siffre's entire catalog from the '70s is classic material (even if many of you probably have never heard of him). This was from his debut album and it's just as good of a place to start as any to enjoy his gifts.

Alton Ellis: What Does It Take To Win Your Love
From Sunday Coming (Coxsone, 1971)

There is something humbling discovering this song the year of Ellis' death. My awareness of him preceded his passing but I had been giving Ellis' cover of Jr. Walker's hit much spin in the first part of the year that when Ellis passed away in October, I found myself coming back to his catalog again and again. Ellis was arguably reggae's finest soul man, not just with his covers but also original compositions.

The Impressions: I'm Loving Nothing
From This Is My Country (Curtom, 1968)

In a year of Obama's ascendency, there are no doubt more apropos songs from the Impressions' catalog but the song of theirs that will haunt me is "I'm Loving Nothing." Its beauty seems almost profane given that this is all about the death of love. Not something you'd want as a first dance at your wedding but doesn't it sound like an embrace rather than slow turn away?

Bonnie and Shelia: You Keep Me Hanging On
From 7" (King, 1971). Also on New Orleans Funk Vol. 2.

King is best known as the home of James Brown for many of his pivotal funk productions of the late 60s but at least for this single, the Cincinnati-based label picked up a slice of NOLA funk thanks to this excellently produced tune from Wardell Quezerque. One of my new favorite femme funk tracks, "You Keep Me Hanging On" reminds me a lot of the snap and sass of Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff." Hang with it.

Ray Barretto: Pastime Paradise (Good Parts Edit)
From La Cuna (CTI, 1981)

Gotta thank my man Rani D for hepping me to this Barretto song. As big of a fan I am of the late master's work, I had never listened to anything he did past the early '70s and I was mightily drawn to how good this cover of Stevie Wonder's song is. The sound of this song is just so gorgeous, especially the first few minutes but I did have to admit I wasn't quite as enamored with the vocals...and cheesy sex...and bad, Santana-wannabe rock guitar. So I just cut all that out and left you with a 1/3rd length "best of" edit from the song. Like Bobby B. - it's my prerogative.

Joe Bataan: Ordinary Guy (7" version)
From 7" (Fania, 1967)

"Ordinary Guy" has been Joe Bataan's enduring hit for over 40 years but this version, which only appeared on 7" single, isn't well known and when I first heard it, I was instantly enamored. It's not entirely clear what Fania's thinking was but they brought in pianist Richard Tee to give the song a a subtle new dynamic, most obviously heard in how different the new intro is. Tee's piano has a strong presence, especially with an arrangement that sounds very much like the beginning of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Precious Love." This is probably my favorite version of the song, precisely for that intro which gives the tune such a rich, soulful feel to it.

Bobby Matos: Nadie Baila Como Yo
From My Latin Soul (Phillips, 1968)

I've owned Bobby Matos and Combo Conquistadores' incredible My Latin Soul album for years, but I had somehow totally overlooked the incredible charm of "Nadie Baila Como Yo" (nobody dances like me). It wasn't until I heard the Boogaloo Assassins play it at their shows that I was reminded of how damn good it is; it's since become, easily, one of my favorite Latin songs ever. Love how it changes up from a guanguanco into a son montuno and has those beautiful keyboard chords anchoring.

Skye: Ain't No Need (Unity Mix)
From 7" (Ananda, 1976)

When I was out in New York earlier this year, Jared at Big City Records slipped a reissue of this 45 into my hand and I was hooked (and then later, managed to procure an original from the Groove Merchant). Sometimes all you need is a good groove and this obscure disco single from the mid-70s delivers a one helluva great groove that just goes on and on and on. Under other circumstances, I'd find the whole thing repetitious but somehow, I don't tire of it. Ever. (I created this "Unity Mix" which combines the original mix and disco mix in a simple edit).

Stevie Wonder: Send Me Some Lovin'
From I Was Made to Love Her (Motown, 1967)

Heck, I could have filled this list with Stevie Wonder songs I've been rediscovering but "Send Me Some Lovin'" has stood in front of that line. I love the small touches of funk to the arrangement, especially those pianos at the very beginning. This has a fantastic groove to it and you put Stevie's distinctive vocals on top of that and you have an unbeatable combination.

Songs that are technically new (i.e. that just came out) but are based on older recordings:

Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band: Express Yourself (alternate version)
From Puckey Puckey: Jams and Outtakes, 1970-71 (Rhino Handmade, 2008)

This was a real gem from the Puckey Puckey anthology that I wrote the liner notes for. It's a completely alternate recording of the Watts 103rd's big hit, "Express Yourself." Compared to the original, this one is far more languid, like the group was nearing the end of their recording day and just wanted to something to chill out to, maybe smoke a bowl to (as they were known to).

Final Solution: I Don't Care
From Brotherman (Numero Group, 2008)

Provided - their name was terrible. No one wants to think of the Holocaust while groovin' to sweet soul - but even if the Chicago band formerly known as the Kaldirons probably could have chosen a better name for themselves, at least the music speaks for itself. The album - a soundtrack for a blaxploitation film never made - has an interesting backstory all its own but for now, all you need to know is how damn good "I Don't Care" is. Especially when paired with that melancholy but heavy guitar melody by newcomer Carl Wolfolk, there's something sublime about how the group's falsetto voices come coasting in on top of the track. It's a mix of slow-building drama with an angelic set of voices, lending a gospel-like quality to the music's otherwise dark undertones.

Marvin Gaye: What's Going On (DJ Day Edit)
From 7" single (MPM, 2008)

This single just came out a week or so ago and it finds California's DJ Day reworking an alternative version of Marvin Gaye's classic "What's Going On" in a way so clean and organic that even Motown fanatics would swear it was a lost tape from the label's vaults. I don't know why it sounds so perfect with the season but there's something warm and comforting about this that makes you want to wrap yourself in it.

Nina Simone: Gimme Some (Mike Mangini Remix)
V/A: Verve Remixed 4 (Verve, 2008)

Frankly, this song had three killer remixes that I found almost equally commendable including Diplo's remix of Marlena Shaw's "California Soul" and the smoky Chris Shaw remix of Sarah Vaughn's "Tea For Two". But if I had to pick amongst that trio, this Nina Simone reworking took the slimmest of leads, possibly because it's so damn happy (which is not an adjective I often associate with Her High Priestess. Seriously though, this whole album is nice.

Honorable Mentions:
1. Patti Drew: Stop and Listen
2. Joubert Singers: Stand On the Word
3. Ceil Miner: Stardust
4. Aaron Neville: She Took You For a Ride
5. New Holidays: Maybe So, Maybe No
6. Nick and Valerie: I'll Find You
7. Pedrito Ramirez y su Combo: Micaela
8. Bobby Reed: The Time is Right
9. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles: If You Can Want
10. Tammi Terrell: What a Good Man He Is

PART 2: NEW(ISH) MUSIC (to follow soon!)

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Monday, November 03, 2008

posted by O.W.

Skye: Ain't No Need (Unity Mix)
Original version from 7" (Ananda, 1976)

I posted the "Dance mix" of Skye's rare disco 45 "Ain't No Need" back in September but more recently, I finally got my hands on an original copy (thanks Cool Chris!) and had a chance to hear the original version of the song. That's how I learned that the "Dance mix" is basically a long, five minute looping of the last two minutes of the original version and while it certainly is an incredible part of the song, I still like how the rest of the song sounds too so I did a simple edit that combined the two sides into one long, six minute song that includes both "halves."

Enjoy - seriously, this is one of my favorite songs ever.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

posted by O.W.

I recorded this mix for back in June and is now available on their website archive. I originally created it as a promo mix for Deep Covers 2 (though the timing was off since Dublab was back-logged over the summer). Still, I put in a nice selection of different cover songs here - some you've heard, some you haven't. Here's the tracklisting:
    Simply Red - I Know You Got Soul - You’ve Got It - WEA

    James Brown: Your Cheatin’ Heart - Soul On Top - King

    Jimmy McGriff - Ain’t It Funky Now - SOul Sugar - Groove Merchant

    Bo Diddley - Bad Side of the Moon - Another Dimension - Chess

    The Gimmicks - California Soul - Em Las Brisas - Swedisc

    Klaus Wunderlich - Summertime - Hammond Fur Millionen - Telefunken

    The Professionals - Theme From Godfather - On Tour - CES

    Dutch Rhythm Steel and Show Band - Down By the River - Soul, Steel and Show - Negram

    Byron Lee and the Dragonaires - Express Yourself - Reggay Splashdown! - Dynamic

    Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band - Movin’ On Up - Live at the Haunted House - Rhino Handmade

    Hielo Ardiente - Mensaje (The Message) - Ritmo Ardiente - Dicesa

    Al Escobar - Tighten Up - The Modern SOunds of Al Escobar - Tico

    El Freddy Flaco - K-Jee - La Fiesta Vol. 2 - FTA

    Manny Bolone and His Latin Boys - Micaela - Boogaloo - Boogaloo

    Conjunto Universal - Que Se Sepa - Que Se Sepa - Velvet

    Enrique Lynch - Viva Tirado - Sexympacto - Sono Radio

    Wganda Kenya - El Abanico - COmo Se Hace Ah - Fuentes

    Alton Ellis - What Does It Take To Win Your Love - Sunday Coming - Coxsone

    Sparrow’s Troubadours - Soulful Strut - Hot and Sweet - Hilary

    Joe Bataan - More Love - Singin’ Some Soul - Fania

    Margie Joseph - Let’s Stay Together - S/T - Atlantic

    Rhetta Hughes - Light My Fire - Re-Light My Fire - Tetragammon

    West Coast Revival - Feelin’ Alright - S/T - LAX

    Hodges, James, Smith and Crawford - Nobody - 7″ - Mpingo

    El Alamo - Candy - Malos Pensamientos - Decibel

    Donovan Carless - Be Thankful FOr What You Got - 7″ - Impact

    Nancy Holloway - Never Can Say GOodbye - 7″ - N/A

    Mark Holder - Sweet Caroline - Where THere’s a Will, There’s a Way - Deriva
And just because I wanted to be a good egg - I created a downloadable version of the mix, split into individual tracks (but no IDs written; I'm lazy - deal).

Enjoy! Hopefully I'll be rolling back to Dublab to do another mix soon.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

My Kind Of Disco, Part 2
posted by murphyslaw


Sylvia Striplin: Give Me Your Love
Taken from the 12" on 1980

Peekskill Express: Raise Ya Hands
Taken from the 12" on Bee Pee 1981

Johnny Harris: Odyssey
Taken from the 12" on Sunshine Sound (1980)

Don Armando's 2nd Street Rhumba Band: I'm an Indian Too
Taken from the 12" on Buddha (1979)

Sam Sparro: Cling Wrap
Taken from the advance CDR E.P. Black Gold (now available on import) (2008)

Hercules And Love Affair: Raise Me Up
Taken from the self-titled release on DFA (2008)

A follow up to my post from last week, today we explore some classic sounds, some quirky sounds and a few selections from the new frontiers of modern... D.I.S.C.O.

A bit about our little disco adventure...

As for Part One of the series: the Golden Flamingo track (could those drums sound any iller?) and the Wild Sugar song were both new to me. The first ripped from a very well-recommended series brought to us by the heads at Counterpoint, who have done well to piece together a collection of disco, boogie, and disco-rap into a tightly knit two installment comp. The second, a nice little flea market score. (So that's where "Brass Monkey" comes from...).

The other joints (Charanga 76, known for their latin reinterpretations of disco classics and a staple of my DJ sets for the handclapping hell-raiser that it is; Evelyn King, courtesy of 98.1 up in the Bay, where the song held court on a regular basis; and Milton Wright, like, woah) have all been with me for a minute and I thought it long overdue for a bit of sharing and caring.

Part Two--above--includes some recently discovered obscurities such as the Peekskill track which I've been hunting for for a minute. (Wait it out till the five-minute mark and you get an absolutely epic three-minute crescendo...)

Don Armando was a side project of Kid Creole in the early 80's. Already known for his bizarre breed of disco/funk/rap, this kind of track is so curiously pleasing, it takes about fifty listens before you start to wonder how you ever lived without it. Sometime Creole collaborator Fonda Rae absolutely slays the wacky vocals which were originally sung by... Ethel Merman?!? That's right. The writing credit on this track goes to Irving Berlin. Go figure.

The blazing "Odyssey" synth-fest was originally used as scoring for an episode of the 80's TV show, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century--???, prior to my existence--before K.C. and the Sunshine Band brought Harris on to their own label for the 12" release. Listen to that instrumental freak out.

"Give Me Your Love" is the a-side to a banging two-fer which features a certain unforgettable Biggie/Junior Mafia sample and epic jam in its own right on the flip.

Lastly, the new stuff.

Forget that Sam Sparro happens to be a friend of a friend--Dude is mad talented and his new record is apparently blowing the F up in Britain right now. If Jamie Lidell wrote with a sense of humor and Jamiroquai returned from Jupiter, maybe the three of them could form the epickest 3-part pale-skinned Prince cover band ever. Till then, don't sleep on fresh talent.

And for best record of the last 12 months I nominate... Hercules and Love Affair. Run, don't walk, to you local record store where you may happily fork over 20 bucks (sorry, import only) for the most inventive dance record in recent memory. Gorgeously layered disco production + vocals by Antony (yeah, as in, and the Johnsons...) =an absolute frickin' dream. THE ALBUM IS INCREDIBLE.

So there it is. Get your dance on, friends. This is good music to sweat by.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My Kind Of Disco, Part 1
posted by murphyslaw


Golden Flamingo Orchestra feat. Margo Williams: The Guardian Angel Is Watching Over Us
Taken from the compilation Disco Juice 2 on Counterpoint (2007)

Zafra Bros: Can I See You Tonight
Taken from the 12" on Eastbourne (1981)

Evelyn "Champagne" King: Love Come Down 
Taken from the 12" on RCA (1982)

Wild Sugar: Bring It Here
Taken from the 12" on TSOB (1980)

Charanga 76: No Nos Parran
Taken from the 12" on TR Records (1979)

Milton Wright: Get No Loving Tonight
Taken from the album Friends and Buddies on Alston 1975

The perfect disco set is a difficult amalgam. It requires just the right proportions beat, cheese, strings, handclaps, obscurity, populist appeal, introspective build-up and anthemic deliverance . The old wedding day maxim could almost be jacked verbatim for application in regards to the necessary elements for a proper disco party-rock: Something old, something new... you get the idea. In this case we'll tweak the 'borrowed' to mean a cover song and 'something blue' in the musical sense. Enjoy.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

posted by O.W.

Max Roach with the J.C. White Singers: Were You There When They Crucified My Lord
From Lift Every Voice and Sing (Atlantic, 1971)

Gil Scott-Heron/Brian Jackson: Peace Go With You Brother
From Winter In America (Strata-East, 1974)

When I was in Duke the other month, Mark Anthony Neal was telling me about this Max Roach and J.C. White Singers album and how powerful it was, especially the hymnal, "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord." Unfortunately, it's not the easiest album to track down - it's been out of print on CD for a while - so it took some footwork (read: eBay + patience) to track down the LP but *whistle* was it worth the wait.

Let's just first say that the sound of the song runs deep and for good reason: this is a Joel Dorn production, which is perhaps why - even though I had never heard the song before - it sounded familiar, like a lost Headless Heroes song. J.C. White has such a powerful, resonant voice on the song; the music has a slow, measured power to it too, of course, but it's White's vocals that brings the song down upon you. But wait toward the end, when the full chorus comes in and the song's emotional state changes from morose to uplifting - it's stunning.

For whatever reason, listening to this, I kept thinking about Gil Scott-Heron - stylistically, there's some clear similarities - and it motivated me to pull out one of my favorite albums by him, Winter In America (almost certainly the most successful Strata-East title ever). "Peace Go With You My Brother" begins the album and it sets a tone that, like the Roach/White song, tells you, "this is some serious sh--, listen up." Musically, the texture of the song benefits so richly from the use of electric piano (I'm assuming Rhodes here, given the flange effect). The song sounds marshmallow mellow on one hand but when you listen to what Heron is singing about, there's a abiding darkness that seeps into the otherwise soft musical fabric.

This pair of songs is best heard beginning with a deep breath. Then dive in.

Ok, with that said though, I still wanted to bring the energy level up and the perfect fit, especially with the gospel/spiritual-edge of "Were You There" would be to end this post with a little Joubert Singers:

The Joubert Singers: Stand on the Word
From 7" (Next Plateau, 1985)

I first discovered this through Murphy's Law and not having heard a lot of gospel disco, I wasn't sure what to expect but good god (appropriately enough), this song is - no blasphemy intended - f---ing incredible. According to ""Stand On The Word" was first ever recorded live in the First Baptist Church in Crown Heights, NYC, in 1982. Soon after the church pressed up a couple of hundred copies for the congregation," upon which, it was discovered by local DJs at places like Garage, The Loft, etc. and ended up getting a promo-release on Next Plateau (on both 12" and 7"). There's some disagreement over who actually remixed the song - there's a bootleg 12" you can find that credits Larry Levan but the actual record nods to Tony Humphries so go figure. Either way, it's just great.

I played this at Boogaloo[L.A.] and apparently, someone actually knelt to the floor and gave thanks at the song's completion. I kind of get that feeling too with it.

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