Friday, January 08, 2010

posted by Soul Sides

(Editor's note: I'm still in the middle of new-house-hell but David Ma - who writes one of my favorite music blogs, Nerdtorious - graciously contributed a guest post. I gave him a simple concept to go with - "what's the last album that really grabbed your attention?" Here's what he had to say. --O.W.)
    Paul Parrish: English Sparrows
    Tiny Alice
    I Can't Help Myself
    From The Forest of My Mind (MFS, 1968)

    I’m honored to contribute to Soul-Sides, an audio blog that’s been influential on my own work and, through the years, still sucker-punches me with quality. I was asked to write about the last record that grabbed me and hopefully it’ll grab Soul-Siders too.

    I’m not a psych expert by any means, but I know what I like. In this case, Paul Parrish’s The Forest of My Mind brings the goods through great arrangements and lush apexes—courtesy of Dennis Coffey no less. Coffey’s influence is obvious as drums and guitars sit high in the mix, second only to the vocals, with all kinds of kitschy touches thrown in. Like his impressive mustache, this record is thick and homegrown, all penned by Parrish besides two covers that round out each side. While Forest… is of the Electric Kool Aid era, it never comes off novelty or too indulgent. Think Donovan on shrooms, cutting an earnest record.

    The first track, “English Sparrows”, best represents it as a whole. It grabs you from the get-go with swooping strings and its mellow groove. Like the entire record, more elements emerge on repeated listens. This track was the impetus for my obsession with this record.

    The next song, “Tiny Alice”, opens side-b. No trippy imagery, just Parrish begging his lady to “come back home tiny Alice.” All the harmonies, drum fills, and tension-building strings precede a melodic, carnival-esque chorus.

    The record’s final cut covers The Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself”. It’s fitting since the record, like Parrish (and Dennis Coffey) are both from Detroit. It’s tepid compared to the original (like Jay-Z once said: “Your voice too light!”) but it rounds the album out in a fun way. This is definitely on a pre-Mayer Hawthorne tip.

    This was the last record to strike me and wouldn’t have been possible without heads hipping me to it (thanks Maurice!). A folky-psych project like this (with a Beatles and Motown cover) could’ve easily fell on its sword but doesn’t. The tight arrangements keep it fresh and Parrish, whose career remained lost in the woods so to speak, never oversteps his place.

    --David Ma

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

posted by O.W.

Hnos. Carrion: Rosa Mi Rosita
Toño Quirazco: Aprieta Arriba
Hielo Ardiente: Mambo La Merced

(Editor's Note: Sonido Franko of Super Sonido blesses us with another guest post, this time tapping into my favorite genre: covers! --O.W.)
    Everything you’ve ever known about copyright laws seems to fall off some huge cliff as soon as you enter a Latin American country. In fact, one has to simply walk over the boarder to Tijuana and find that the entire city is pretty much infringing upon everything. This especially rings true for the Mexican music industry, which has a long history of copped covers in almost every genre. Maybe it’s reparations for all the land we took from them.

    Take Los Hermanos Carrion for example. These two brothers started their career as the Mexican version of the Everly Brothers (see my prior post El Ultimo Adiós). From the pioneers of Mexican rock to the kings of cheesy ballads, they have run the gamut of every genre imaginable. I guess to stay on top you just have to keep reinventing yourself. Or if you run out of ideas you can always rip off Sly & The Family Stone’s Thank You. They actually pen themselves as authors for this pretty banging track.

    On the other hand, Toño Quirazco gives credit where credit is due. The king of Mexican Ska actually doesn’t claim to have written the cover of Stevie’s Uptight. Then again he is guilty of covering a shit piles of other tunes from ska, to rock, to reggae, to just about everything else under the sun.

    And lastly, we have El Salvador’s Hielo Ardiente doing what seems like a lot of Latin American groups do, cover a Perez Prado song. I chose the dope cover of Mambo La Merced, which is about the Merced Market in Mexico City. I was going to us the song Mensaje, which is the cover of Cymande’s The Message. But then I would have only been copying Mr. O-dub.

    I’d like to thank Soul-Sides for having me on their site, it has been a huge honor. I look forward to doing more in the future and I hope everyone likes what they hear! Saludos!!!

    – Sonido Franko

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Monday, October 19, 2009

posted by O.W.

I forgot to mention that I had a guest post up on the Super Sonido site from the other week. I came up with several Latin funk covers songs, none of which I've ever posted here (I don't think).

We have another guest post from Sonido that will end up on our site later this week.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

posted by O.W.

Johnny Rivera and the Tequila Brass: Johnny on the Warpath
Boogaloo Que La Traigo
From S/T (Cotique, 1967)

Johnny Rivera and the Tequila Brass: Run, Run, Run
Light My Fire
From Up, Up and Away (Cotique, 1968)

(Editor's Note: Super Sonido is one of my favorite new blogs to hit the interweb. Excellent, in-depth posts about kick ass Latin music most of you will never hear outside of a plane ticket down south. Me and Sonido Franko decided to swap a pair of posts. Here's his... -O.W.)

It isn’t any wonder that in late 1990’s I started harvesting a deep appreciation for the Latin boogaloo. I already had a good sized soul, jazz, and Latin jazz collection by then. So a cross-over music like the boogaloo, which fused these similar genres together, drove me to a fascination with hybrid music that pretty much lasts to this day.

By the mid-60’s Latin music in the US was losing its popularity that it had garnered from the mambo era onward. Rock, doo-wop, R & B, and The Beatles had pretty much taken over the Anglo youth market. And what emerged was the very short lived boogaloo craze. One the one hand you can almost look at this genre as a really good marketing ploy. However, this association doesn’t stick all the time. Musically, there are no absolute definitions for the boogaloo, since it was drawing for a myriad assortment of sounds. And it is my belief that it was just the younger Latinos of the time who were carving out something unique in 60’s urban US. Like mambo in the swing era to reggaeton in the hip-hop era. Boogaloo in essence was the music as Latin American identity of its brief epoch.

When I purchased Up, Up, and Away on Ebay in the late 90’s I was surprised to actually get an email from Johnny Rivera himself. We corresponded for a while, but I unfortunately lost his email in one of the many computers I have burned through since then. If I remember correctly his boogaloo days lasted as long as the genre itself. He indicated that he spent the rest of his days as the conductor for the Statue of Liberty Army Band or something like that. Why did Johnny Rivera contact me in the first place? He wanted to know why I would have paid so much for his record. I’ll let the music be the answer to that question.

--Sonido Franko

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Friday, May 16, 2008

posted by O.W.

Sam Cooke:
    Lost & Lookin'
    Trouble Blues
    From Night Beat (RCA, 1963)

    It's Got The Whole World Shakin'
    From Shake (RCA, 1965)

(Editor's Note: The following post was written by Eric Luecking who wanted to speak on the remarkable voice of Sam Cooke. Enjoy. --O.W.)

Written by Eric Luecking:
    Where to start? Sam Cooke arguably has the greatest voice on record you have ever heard. Period. But to categorize him as a singer does the man injustice. He was a songwriter, lyrical interpreter, showman, businessman, label owner, and producer. As if that isn't enough, he penned the song that would become the unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.

As a kid listening to oldies radio with my mom in the car, I always thought Sam Cooke sounded too goody-two-shoes. Radio tends to only remember him for about four tunes: “You Send Me,” “Cupid,” “What A Wonderful World,” and “Chain Gang.” After digging deeper into his catalog a couple of years ago, I discovered an artist who poured his being into creating and interpreting an assortment of styles and songs. While history remembers him as the man with the golden voice singing svelte supper club songs and pretty ditties, he had the ability to flip the script and hit you with some of the most soul-wrenching blues and catchy, horn-filled dance floor stormers.

    In February 1963, Sam started to cut Night Beat after his brother, L.C., turned down covering Howlin' Wolf's “Little Red Rooster” during a recording session. Even though RCA had only recently released Mr. Soul, that didn't stop Sam from going in a new direction – a bluesier, more gutsy collection of songs combining the west coast blues of Charles Brown with the midwest gospel fervor of the Soul Stirrers that Sam himself helped to bring to further national prominence.

    With a minimal set of session players including a teenage Billy Preston along with longtime collaborator and arranger René Hall as well as a half-dozen others, they cut an indelible classic soul album at a time when albums were not the format of choice for labels. Amazingly, only one single was released from this set – the previously mentioned “Little Red Rooster” b/w “You Gotta Move” (RCA-8247). As an album, this collection of songs is marred only by the Turner cover. It would have made a much better b-side than album cut for this mood-filled opus.

    The first selection from this release is the haunting plea, “Lost & Lookin',” in which you can practically hear Sam fall to his knees and beg an ex-lover to come back to his arms. Accompanied by only an upright bass and a cymbal, Sam's voice flies over this beautiful piece like a flock of birds soaring through a sunset-filled sky. His intonation and enunciation are immaculate and his ability to go into falsetto and back are unmatched. Close your eyes and prepare to be entranced.

    “Trouble Blues,” a cover of the 1949 Charles Brown Trio tune, finds the arrangement expanding upon the mainly piano-laden Brown version. Sam opens with a solemn hum before being joined by Clifford Hill's upright and Hal Blaine's drum kit for the opening half minute. Preston's organ can later be heard providing a steady back rhythm before opening into a leading solo in the middle.

    The year 1964 saw Sam expanding his sound. The craze of dance songs that instructed you how the dance was performed was kicking into higher gear. To start the ‘60s, Chubby Checker had his cover of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters “The Twist” (of which Sam even had a cover on 1962’s “Twistin’ The Night Away” that included several other twists on the twist) while Bobby Freeman had “C’mon & Swim.” This song, in particular, spurned a keen interest in Sam so much so that he wanted to record his own version of it. He turned that inspiration into “Shake” – a relentless stormer featuring in-your-face drum work by Earl Palmer as well as a more upfront rhythm section. The tempo was the most aggressive Sam had recorded in his career.

    Equally as aggressive was “It’s Got The Whole World Shakin’.” Similar in rhythm, this cut was recorded during the same session as “Shake” in mid-November 1964. The sound is very much Muscle Shoals as it shows Sam putting his velvet voice on the backburner and letting more grit emanate, something we had not heard much of in his studio work although his chitlin circuit shows (see Live At The Harlem Square Club album) certainly revealed this side.

    Unfortunately, Sam would not see the release of these songs as he was killed less than a month after the session. RCA released “Shake” b/w a shortened edit of “A Change Is Gonna Come” just over a week after his death in December 1964. Both shake tunes would be featured on his posthumous final album Shake released in the spring of 1965. Eerily, the classic “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a song that Sam described to prized apprentice Bobby Womack as sounding “like death,” would be his swan song - closing out a career that started by praising the Almighty and ended with condemning the establishment.

    It’s an impossible guessing game as to what would have happened in the long term for Sam musically. He had so many ideas and only so much time. Would he have continued to write and perform more political songs? He was certainly an avid student of African American studies and constantly borrowed books from radio DJ pioneer Magnificent Montague’s huge archival collection on black history. Would he have continued to tweak his sound? We know that in the days leading up to his death he had spoken with longtime friend Lou Rawls and producer Al Schmitt about a downhome blues album, certainly a departure from the frantic “Shake.”

    While many may only remember him for ‘50s high school dance love songs, he should also be remembered for his artistry. It’s a testament to his variegated interest in sound and texture as well as his honest soul in being able to relay so many styles that can make you weak in the knees with a cappella to strengthening you with songs of pride to knee-smackin’ backporch Dixieland with your countrified buddies. Sam walked all those lines while helping to narrow the color barrier in popular music. After all, he was the second highest selling RCA artist eclipsing everyone except Elvis on his label.

    For all these reasons, we can simply remember him as “Mr. Soul” and enjoy the sounds his sweet tenor makes us feel. He truly was… the man.

--written by Eric Luecking for

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Monday, April 28, 2008

posted by O.W.

Editor's Note: This following reflection on funky jazz is by David Jaffe. This should have been posted a long time ago (my bad) but I think people will take away something great from his insights - and excellent tastes. --O.W.

From David Jaffe:
    For a long time I’ve wanted to write about the funky side of free jazz. Like most styles of Black American music of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, jazz in general, and free jazz in particular, served as spiritual, protest and dance music. One might more easily recognize the spiritual side of the genre in meditations of John Coltrane or cry of Albert Ayler. Also evident is the demand for equal rights in the colorations of Archie Shepp or the staccato of Rashied Ali. What is less obvious, unless one is careful, is the music that draws less on the intellectualism of the out-jazz, new-thing scene and more on git-out-the-chair-and-shake-your-thang sound created by many of the musicians associated with the free movement.

    It is likely that most of the African-American musicians commonly classified as out players had at one time or another played in R&B outfits. Many out instrumentalists, particularly those on the rosters of labels like Prestige and Blue Note, had also played in funky soul-jazz bands. For alert listeners the influences of R&B, soul and funk can be found in the recording of the musicians regularly associated with the New Thing in jazz, even so much as the music crosses over into the realm of pure funk. In this out jazz absent is the free improvisation, tonal experimentation and textured playing most familiar to free jazz fans, and present is the in-the-pocket playing with a groove and a break down most commonly associated with the music of James Brown and deep funk.

    Sun Ra was the original Method Man of the out big band scene (“mad different methods to the way he do his shit”). His musical universe covered big band, free jazz, doo wop, R&B, funk, soundtracks, and so much more. Sun Ra had a fair number of funky recordings, the most famous, or at least well known, of which is Lanquidity. The album has been described as lounge jazz, or dance jazz where dance in this case equates to disco. Neither of these descriptions apply, as was true of many of the descriptions of Sun Ra’s work. The closest approximation to a labeled style of the present example might be blaxploitation. On the track included here, the seriously funky Where Pathways Meet, even the lead solo by Eddie Gale brings the stanky stuff. The Disco Kid guitar solo is so Funkadelic, and the multiple percussionists keep the groove in the pocket.

    Sun Ra: Where Pathways Meet
    From Lanquidity (Philly Jazz, 1978)

    Eddie Gale also recorded two lesser known lp’s for Blue Note. As an aside, it is worth noting that all of the tracks included here, like most free jazz, was recorded for smaller independents or self-released for as much as a lack of interest by the public as the lack of understanding by the majors. On this track, Black Rhythm Happening, the traps duty falls to Elvin Jones, one of the greatest jazz drummers ever. While little of Jones’ playing could be considered pure funk, he did play on many funky soul jazz sides. Unlike Jones, Gale did not have enough opportunities to record, possibly because of his militant themes. His playing was very influential, however, and the Black Rhythm Happening lp was a direct influence Archie Shepp’s better known Attica Blues.

    Eddie Gale: Black Rhythm Happening
    From Black Rhythm Happening (Blue Note, 1969)

    One band that did have tremendous opportunities to record was the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Their soundtrack to the French film Les Stances A Sophie is a classic among jazz film soundtracks as well as some of the bands funkiest music. The film was part of the French New Wave, and not the only film of the genre to use funky accompaniment. On the cut "Theme De Yoyo" the ACOE is joined by soul and funk singer Fontella Bass, wife of trumpeter Lester Bowie. Following Bowie’s death three decades later Bass would record "All That You Give" with Cinematic Orchestra for Ninja Tune. Cinematic Orchestra would then cover "Theme De Yoyo" for their ex post facto soundtrack to Man With A Movie Camera, a silent-era Russian propaganda film).

    While both Cinematic Orchestra tracks are very good and worth tracking down for downtempo fans, neither can approach the outright funky of the original "Theme De Yoyo."

    Art Ensemble of Chicago: Theme De Yoyo
    From Les Stances A Sophie (EMI France, 1970)

    Like the ACOE, Joe McPhee had more opportunities to record overseas than at home. Also like the ACOE McPhee made his recording debut on a small, independent domestic label. In the case of the ACOE, their first recording came out as the sophomore release on the Nessa label, still active today, under the name the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble. McPhee’s first release as a leader was the inaugural release on the CjR label, which as far as I know, only released three lp’s, all of which were McPhee’s. On the track "Shakey," Jake McPhee is clearly influenced by both Coltrane and James Brown. The band includes organ, electric piano, electric bass, and two percussionists. This kind of track, recorded live, includes elements of touring soul and R&B groups on which many jazz players cut their teeth, as noted above, and lengthy, free improvisation practiced by the out players. McPhee apparently decided to pursue more free avenues of expression and neither of his other later two lp’s for CjR include the kind of work heard here.

    Joe McPhee: Shakey Jake
    From Nation Time (CJR, 1971)

    One player who frequently played in the funky vein was Phil Ranelin. His early funky sides can be found on the artist-owned Tribe label, such as "Sounds From The Village" on Vibes From The Tribe. The track is equally Funk Brothers’ Motown and electric-era Miles Davis, paying homage to the hard-bop Detroit forefathers of the previous generation (i.e. Yusef Lateef, Donald Byrd, Roy Brooks, etc.) and looking forward to the House and Techno forefathers of two generations later.

    Phil Ranelin: Sounds From The Village
    From Vibes From The Tribe (Tribe, 1976)

    Artist-owned labels were frequently purveyors of out jazz. Another example is the proto-Hip-Hop of Maulawi’s "Street Rap" on Strata East. More of an argument between a couple in the city than a rap, the arrangement of the vocals (!?) over the funky accompaniment is meant to be downright ghetto soul. Similarly, Rudolph Johnson’s Black Jazz recording of Devon Jean comes on like the theme song to Sanford & Son. Interestingly, Johnson’s Second Coming lp, also from Black Jazz, clearly shows the influence of less-funky-but-truly-beautiful A-Love-Supreme-era-Impulse-work of John Coltrane.

    Maulawi: Street Rap
    From S/T (Strata East, 1974)

    Rudolph Johnson: Devon Jean
    From: Spring Rain (Black Jazz, 1971)

    Both Webster Lewis’ Do You Believe and Roy Brooks’ The Free Slave are live recordings that open with funky drums. The funk continues on Believe with Lewis’ organ and the vocals of Judd Watkins. If the track reminds the listener of Barry White, that is because Lewis was at one time White’s band leader. One will also be forgiven for hearing a connection to fellow funky out organist Larry Young for whom Lewis took over in Tony William’s Lifetime. Brooks was more of a soul jazz and post-bop drummer than a free drummer. He will be familiar to Blue Note junkies as the drummer behind Horace Silver’s Song For My Father. Brooks is also well know for helping introduce the world the post-bop styling of Woody Shaw, who played trumpet on The Free Slave. Shaw’s playing here harkens back to Larry Young’s Unity and Shaw’s own In The Beginning. While neither of those two titles is as funky as The Free Slave, which shows the influence of boogaloo, they are both fantastic.

    Webster Lewis: Do You Believe
    From In Norway - The Club 7 Live Tapes (Plastic Strip,
    2007, Originally released Arne Bendiksen Records, 1971)

    Roy Brooks: The Free Slave
    From The Free Slave (Muse, 1972)

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