Sunday, November 08, 2009

posted by O.W.

Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Raven: How Long Before I'm Gone
Stay With Me
From Brief Replies (Polydor, 1970)

The Highlighters: You're Time Is Gonna Come
From 7" (Chess, 1970)

I save a slew of songs with the intention of "eventually posting them up" and what inevitably happens is that they just end up "hanging around" and go nowhere fast. Right now, I have at least 1.5 years worth of stuff and decided to get off the proverbial pot by finally posting some up.

The Ten Wheel Drive's "How Long" came to my attention after hearing this Black Moon cut (arguably the last good one they ever put out), "Way of the Walk." This combines at least two pet loves: 1) funky rock bands fronted by 2) female singers (in this case, Genya Raven who has a huge voice - very post-Joplin. I don't think her version of Lorraine Ellison's "Stay With Me blows the OG out of the water but it was an interesting take.

Th Highlighters were an Indiana group probably best known for their uber-rare "Funky 16 Corners" funk 45. "You're Time Is Gonna Come" (not to be confused with the Led Zep song of similar title) is a taste of the group's penchant for crafting a great little, doo-wop influenced power ballad that showcases lead singer James Bell's pipes. I also really dig the organ here - unexpected but quite welcome.

Jan Jankeje: Elsa Marie
From Sokol (Jazzpoint, 1974)

Preston Love: Kool Ade
From Omaha BBQ (Also on LP) (Kent, 1969)

Roger Saunders: Darkness
From The Roger Saunders Rush Album (Warner Bros, 1972)

I previously posted (anonymously) another song from Jan Jankeje's funky fusion LP, Sokol back in the "Breaks and Basslines" post. I'm not remotely as big on fusion stuff as I was about 10 years back but I still have a soft spot for this album by the Slovakian Jankeje which is one solid footing in funk-influenced rhythms but also healthy touches of avant garde jazz as this composition, in particular, seems to capture. File under "I can't believe I never posted this": Preston Love's Omaha BBQ was one of the earliest funky blues albums I ever became acquainted with and I still find it to be one of the most consistent efforts in the genre. "Kool Ade" especially is killer - as gritty a groove you can imagine. The drummer gets some special attention here on the two bridges where band members rap with each other over a chattering like series of breaks and fills.

Speaking of breaks, you'd be hard pressed to find too many songs with a better 8 bar opening break than this. The actual song itself is a decent, mid-tempo country-rock ballad which isn't quite what you'd expect with an intro like that but it's definitely a step up from "Put Your Hand in the Hand."

Prisoners of Watts (POW): Language of Funk
From 12" (No Busters Allowed, 1990)

Da Lench Mob: Ain't Got No Class (T-Bone Remix)
Ain't Got No Class (Beatnuts Remix)
From 12" (Street Knowledge, 1992)

King Tee: The Great (Distorted Alcoholism Mix)
From 12" ("Bust Dat Ass") (Capitol, 1992)

I picked up this 12" by L.A.'s P.O.W. (Prisoners of Watts) on a whim and while it's not exactly the unsung NWA or anything, I do digthe early '90s L.A. hip-hop production steez on here. Bonus points for having Battle Cat (back when he was mostly known as a DJ) on the cut.

Less obscure (but still staying in the Southland), we have two mixes from Da Lench Mob's "Ain't Got No Class" 12". Again, I don't really ride that hard for the song itself (there are better Lench Mob cuts out there) but I do like the contrast in production style you can here between the Beatnuts and T-Ray. Especially because T-Ray was doing stuff for Cypress Hill and his style and Muggs' seemed so compatible, I always associate it with a Left Coast thing even though neither Muggs nor T-Ray were originally from California. T-Bone's remix (which I, embarrassingly, confused for a T-Ray remix for, uh, years now) is some classic West Coast, post-Sir Jinx/Muggs ruggedness while
The Beatnuts mix is classically 'Nuts with the filtered bassline and use of horns.

One more from the West (actually, now that I think about it, these three songs were probably from a long-forgotten "early 90s West Coast hip-hop post") - a remix of King Tee's "The Great" found on the "Bust Dat Ass" 12". King Tee = unsung and then some. I always like going back and listening again to his catalog (especially anything connected to The Triflin' Album - such a good voice and such a damn shame his Aftermath album never got official release.

Los Pakines: Hojas Verdes
Oh! Cherie
From S/T (Sono Radio, 197?)

I don't know much about Peruvian chicha but this fusion of Colombian cumbia with American surf rock makes for style that's hard to forget once you hear it. I got turned onto this Los Pakines album when I was looking for stuff by Los Diablos Rojo, another group in a similar vein. The Pakines, in particular, seemed to love that reverb and just drench every song on this album with it. "Hojas Verdes" is a slinky cumbia piece with some funk undertones while "Oh! Cherie" sounds like a cover of a '60s tune I should recognize (but don't).

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

posted by O.W.

Mulatu Astatke: Mulatu
I Frama Gami I Faram (w/ the Ethiopian Quartet)
From New York - Addis - London: The Story of Ethio Jazz 1965-76 (Strut, 2009)

Once you hear Mulatu's music, you don't readily forget it. And while I don't want to credit him with singlehandedly inventing Ethiojazz, he has been its main ambassador and along the way, become its most heralded apostle. Technically, most of the albums that introduced Mulatu to the rest of the world were "best ofs" - including the venerable Ethiopiques Vol. 4 and more recent Ethio Jazz Vol. 1 but this new anthology really captures a diversity in his sound in a way I hadn't heard before. Mulatu's incredible experiments ran the gamut of incorporating all kinds of funk and soul elements but blended with the unique "exotic" (notice the scare quotes) sound of Ethiopian music with its non-Western scales and you get to hear those different styles all circulating on here.

Some of this material I was familiar with but much of it I wasn't and I was marveling at how incredibly diverse the styles represented are here - I was amazed at the Latin influenced tunes here, there's some beautiful, straight ahead-style vibe-heavy jazz, and other times, some dark, slinky funky stuff. It's impossible to just pick out a few sounds to "represent" it; it's not divisible by anything less than its whole.

That said, I pulled out these two songs as a small taste of the contrast available on the whole disc. "Mulatu" is perhaps one of the most sparse, obviously funk-influenced tunes in his catalog - there's so the notes here, with the drone of the sax filling the air between. I love the minimalism here, how this song is built with all these slim but layered textures.

As for "I Frama Gami I Faram" - I always forget that Mulatu recorded several Afro-Latin albums but it's another thing to really listen to how the Afro-Cuban styles of the Caribbean carries across the Atlantic and African continent. Except for the lyrics, if you had told me this was recorded in Havana, I would have easily believed that.

If you're feeling all this, don't forget the recent new album he put out with the Heliocentrics.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

posted by O.W.

The Impossibles: Easy to Be Hard b/w
From Hot Pepper (Phillips, 1975)

The Impossibles: Satin Soul
From Stage Show (SSP, 197?)

It's been over two years since I last posted about the Impossibles but that's partially because it's taken over two years for me to finally add another album of theirs to the collection. The Impossibles are pretty much the only Thai funk band that anyone outside of Thailand is familiar with and that's in large part due to the fact that they toured Europe and the U.S. and released an album on Phillips, recorded in Sweden.

However, more than just being a curiosity of 1970s cross-cultural/musical fusion, the Impossibles also cut some damn good sides. The Hot Pepper album can regularly fetch in the ballpark of $200 and up and I have to say, I think it's totally worth it in terms of the overall caliber of the album and its inclusions.

The standout is their cover of Kool and the Gang's "Give It Up"; it'd be the obvious one to post...which is precisely why I'm not posting it (you can find it on Chairman Mao and DJ Muro's excellent Run For Cover II mix-CD). I'd rather put up two other songs that I find even more intriguing. The first really blew my mind when I started listening; a cover of "Easy to Be Hard," a song from the Hair but one I associate more with Three Dog Night's version. It's clear The Impossibles do too; their cover is riffing off TDN's but they really funk it up in ways the rock band didn't - check the reverb on the guitar and the way the horns creep in. When the vocals come in, it just takes you there - so soulful, so melancholy. The ramp up to Tony Bennett-land halfway through is a bit jarring but overall, I find the song exceptionally well-executed in terms of how it builds tension and release and the interplay between the dreaminess of the vocals and the music.

As for "California" it's a more conventional funk song, opening with a basic breakbeat stomp and then sliding into a groove that wouldn't be out of place from an Average White Band album. Personally, I'm feeling how this is an ode to California and San Diego, in particular. I can't figure out if this is a cover or not - it's not exactly easy to google "California". My guess is that this is one of the few original songs on the album and based off the group's experience touring the U.S. California, represent...'sent.

I also pulled another song off the group's recorded-in-Thailand Stage Show LP. This is a cover of the Barry White production, "Satin Soul" (originally a Love Unlimited Orchestra tune). Once again, a strong breakbeat opener that then slides into some screechy guitar and a heavily vamped up organ that deliver the song's signature riff. Because this was apparently recorded live, the audio quality could stand to be better but overall, I think this bumps quite nicely.

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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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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

posted by O.W.

I'm proud to announce the official CD launch of Deep Covers 2: Mas Profundo. It's already been available as a digital download from the good folks at East Bay Digital* but is now finally available on CD.


Orders taken now!

Description: Deep Covers 2: Mas Profundo follows up on two previous covers-related projects: Deep Covers and Soul Sides Vol. 2: The Covers. This time though, I take it international, with 20 songs, all recorded overseas. I tried to balance things by region (otherwise, hell, I could have done an entire CD of reggae covers) but still kept the vibe oriented around soul and funk covers. It's really astounding what one can find out there - this merely scratches the surface! Overall, I was pleased with how this mix turned out, both in terms of song selection as well as sequencing. There will definitely be a DC3 somewhere down the road but for now, enjoy this in all its global glory.

Tracklisting: (by song title, original artist and country of cover)

1. How Deep? Intro/The Message (Cymande, El Salvador)

2. Rainmaker (Sweden, Nilsson)

3. Use Me (Poland, Bill Withers)

4. Breakthrough (Nigeria, Atomic Rooster)

5. Slipping Into Darkness (Sweden, WAR)

6. Tanga Goo Bonk (Philippines, Niteliters)
7. I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More (Jamaica, Barry White)

8. Be My Baby (Jamaica, The Ronettes)

9. Pick Up The Pieces (Brazil, Average White Band)

10. Wicky Wacky (Colombia, The Fatback Band)

11. Different Strokes (Argentina, Syl Johnson)

12. Buzzsaw/In Gadda Da Vida (Malaysia, The Turtles/Iron Butterfly)

13. Found a Child (Peru, Ballinjack)

14. Cardova (Trinidad, The Meters)

15. Never Can Say Goodbye (France, Jackson 5)

16. Groovy Situation (Jamaica, Gene Chandler)

17. Cold Sweat (Brazil, James Brown)

18. Angel of the Morning (Mexico, Evie Sands)

19. I Who Have Nothing (Panama, Ben E. King)

20. Sweet Caroline (Guyana, Neil Diamond)


21. Signed, Sealed, Delivered

22. Hit Or Miss

23. September Song

Order now!

*LAME encoded at 320.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

posted by O.W.

This is too good for a mere Soul Sights inclusion:

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou Dahomey: Gbeti Madjro
Edited together by Mario Stahn

First seen at Analog Africa.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

posted by O.W.

Ananda Shankar: Streets of Calcutta + Dancing Drums
From Ananda Shankar and His Music (EMI India, 1975)

Manteca: Afro-Funky + Gozando Tropical
From Ritmo + Sabor (GRC/Sound Triangle, 197?)

The thing about funk's entry in pop music in the late 1960s and forward was how artists would find ways to work in its rhythmic signature when you least expected it. (See this for a great example). Hearing the Ananda Shankar for the first time just blew my mind, probably because I assume Ananda's sound would be more like his uncle Ravi's but clearly, Ananda was on some experimental, world fusion tip by blending his training in classical Indian music with some Moog and a killer trap set drummer. Both of these cuts above are well-comped at this point but they still don't fail to impress. Sitar funk for real.

Manteca is the nickname for master bongosero Lazaro Pla, a Cuban legend who used to play with Ernesto Lecuona and the Cuban Boys. His Ritmo + Sabor is one of the holy grail Latin funk LPs given its ridiculously funky percussion. It's an interesting album for Manteca since he didn't record out of Cuba much as a solo artist yet this album has been pressed up three times: GRC (Miami), Sound Triangle (Colombia) and Desca(?). And despite that, you'll still end up forking over a few Franklins, unless you're my man Adam M. who managed to cop one for $3 from Amoeba in Berkeley (that story still kills me). "Afro-Funky" is the outstanding cut here: the interplay between the basslines (which some opine might have been Cachao) and the percussion section is ridiculously funky not to mention pure rhythm - notice, there's no melodic composition in the song at all. "Gozando Tropical" is more in a conventional Cuban dance style with its piano montuno riff but even here, the hard timbales (alas, uncredited) still put percussion first...sometimes I feel like the song is mis-engineered and should have cooled down the timbales a bit but then I shrug and figure if the drummer wants to get some, who am I to deny? This has been out of print on CD for a while but luckily, they're about to bring it back later this month.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

posted by Captain Planet

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yaki.JPG bluecaps.JPG
Mikis Theodorakis : Cafe Rock
taken from the soundtrack album "Z" on Columbia (1969)

Sum Sum : Mountain Beauty
taken from the album "Midnight Guitar" on Regal/EMI (196?)

Los Yaki : Las Estatuas De Marfil
taken from the album "Vol. II" on Pickwick/33 (196?)

Los Blue Caps : Tu Mujer, Yo Yaron & Solo Vivo Por Tu Amor
taken from the album "Cuando Te Miro" on Parnaso (1970)

Imagine the immense awe that must have splintered into the core of the first fuzz guitarist when, upon strumming his coiled strings, he heard not the sweet melodious ring of a clean plucked note, but instead was met with the scream of electrical feedback that will forever voice the raw agitation of youthful rebellion. Did this forgotten string-strummer catch any glimpse at the vast impact of his forever raging bastard child? Was it done on purpose? Did he finally achieve the sound of his burning inner torment after exhaustive hours of experimentation, or was it an accidental buzz that stabbed him in the back when he innocently left the volume knob turned up too high? Whatever the case may be, today I'd like to celebrate a few obscure shrapnel nuggets that were flung in different directions across our planet in the aftermath of this explosive auditory revelation.

Mikis Theodorakis is perhaps one of the all-time greatest and most widely recognized Greek composers. I addition to scoring virtually all the major Greek theater productions of the 60's, he achieved international renown for his film score to "Zorba The Greek" and then, "Z" (looks like he also did Serpico, which is such a badass film). Mikis has always had a serious lean to the left, and for this he was imprisoned and then exiled (before making Z). Included on the soundtrack (I still haven't seen the film, but it looks like a winner) are several bootleg-sounding recordings of just Mikis singing and playing piano "in secret circumstances" (according to the liner notes). A true rebel indeed, and this short little fuzz bomb stands as proof.
Sum Sum is a mystery to me, but I really dig this record she made. Found it in a bargain bin recently and have put it on whenever I felt the need for a bit of Austin Power groovy-kitch.

Los Yaki are also pretty far off my radar, but they appear to be from Mexico. This album features them covering "Yellow Submarine", "Good Love", "secret Agent Man", & "Sunny" (which they turned into "Sonia") among others. The whole album isn't the best listen, but I'll ride for "Estatuas" any day. Hand claps, screechy vocals, B3 organ, and yes... gritty guitar full of fuzz.
Los Blue Caps (not to be confused with Renato E Seus Blue Caps) are another Mexican garage group that I know nil about. But this record is chock-full of pounding drums (yes breaks) and fuzz, fuzz, fuzzzzz. The vocals are a bit hit or miss (lil more on the miss side) but this is the birth of punk we're talking about, so just roll with it.

*Last note: it happens to be my birthday today, so if anyone feels like sending a record my way (hint hint), hit me up with an e-mail. hehe.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

posted by O.W.

Manu Dibango: African Pop Session + Aphrodite Shake
From African Voodoo (PSI, 1972)

Ok - so people were asking about more top shelf records; here's probably one of the first ones I got my hands-on. I copped this - I kid you not - from a record store in the United Arab Emirates. Not in person but even for an interweb find, it was still rather remarkable, especially since it cost me $20, including shipping. (It typically goes for a little bit more).

African Voodoo is basically a library-style record of instrumentals done by Manu Dibango of "Soul Makossa" fame and it is, I'd say with some confidence, his funkiest work, by far. "African Pop Session" is some dark, blaxploitation score for midnight stalkers while "Aphrodite Shake" drops a nice, smoky Afro-Latin groove - dig how they pan the congas and drum kit in separate channels.

So why not post this earlier? I actually had planned to at one point but then noticed it had shown up, in full album form, on other blogs. That took the proverbial wind out of the sails, not just because I've been beaten from the punch (which I could care less about) but rather, once a $400 record becomes just another download, part of its unique magic dissipates. Under those circumstances, I'd rather post up something more meaningful to me, personally, than "check out this rare record I have" (especially when it's not so rare once it becomes more mass available). Ah, but such is the reality of music going online. Hope folks (who haven't already downloaded the whole album[1]) enjoy this still.

[1] That sound you hear are a thousand hands searching Google Blogs.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

posted by O.W.

The Exciters: Yo, Que Nada Tengo + Let Your Self Go
From S/T (Tamayo, late '60s?)

Margie Joseph: I Can't Move No Mountains + The Same Love That Made Me Laugh
From Margie (Atlantic, 1975)

I was thinking of something Murphy's Law wrote a few weeks back: "THE DEEPER YOU GET, THE DEEPER THE MUSIC GET. There is more ill music out there than you and I can wrap our sorry little heads around."

To me, the second statement actually refutes the former because really, there's an incredibly, unfathomable amount of "ill music out there" on the surface that you don't always need to "go deep" in order to find it.

That isn't to say that "going deep" doesn't have its own rewards. But rarity and quality are not commensurate. The relative quality of my best $10 albums probably kick the ass of other records I own that go from 10-20 times that. The main difference is that Al Green and James Brown albums were pressed in the millions. West Coast Revival...not so much.

Ultimately, it's about searching for the sublime and to a certain extent, whether that manifests in the form of a $1 bin cut-out record or a $300 private press LP off Atomic's wall, if you have the means, either is worth acquiring. Of course, rarity is a quality in and of itself...not because it's better but often it is...quirkier. I'm generalizing of course but for those who don't believe that popularity is determined by marketing alone, songs/albums that catch fire usually do so because they appeal to a wide swath of people. The albums that end up with runs smaller than batting averages - those are the ones that never caught on with anyone. Maybe they were ahead of their time. Maybe they were just too weird. Maybe someone was broke. Regardless, the higher up the record chain (or deeper if you prefer), it's more likely you're going to find something that's just a bit "off." And that may not always equate to sublime in the way, say, Willie Mitchell's production is sublime. But it can equal "something you haven't heard before." (Secret translation: "interesting enough that you just mortgaged your daughter's college fund for it.")[1]

This post mixes it up both ways. I start with The Exciters' self-titled album on the Panamaian imprint Tamayo. Like most, I learned about the group through the excellent Panama comp that my man Beto worked on and luckily, when he had a copy for sale, I decided to take the plunge on it. It is, to be sure, a very quirky album, which befits the unique Panamanian geography of sound.

You can literally throw a dart at the tracklisting (preferably not however) and each song will come from a vastly different genre. My favorite song is actually the "Exciters Theme" (but you'll have to cop the CD to enjoy it in full) but there's also a nice merengue tipico track, "Ese Muerto No Lo Cargo Yo," for the dancefloor. There's also several American covers, none more mesmerizing than the Spanish language cover of "I, Who Have Nothing", "Yo, Que Nada Tengo." I don't know how they're processing those guitars at the beginning, but it almost sounds like a steel guitar...played underwater.

No less surprising is the cover of James Brown's "Let Yourself Go" - a modest 1967 hit. The version doesn't hold up against the original (though the Exciters' guitarist should do Jimmy Nolen proud) but I do always love hearing Brown covered outside of the U.S.

Ok - so that's the money record. Here's the bargain bin gem: I first heard "I Can't Move No Mountains" when Hua and I did our Redwood gig and he dropped this Joseph track on 45. It sounded amazing played out loud - the kind of disco cut you wish people would think of when they hear of the word "disco" instead of crap like this. (For starters, it all but annihilates the original. I seriously can't get enough of this song and best of all - it's off an album that rarely goes for very much at all (at least on vinyl. The only CD version that's been readily avail was on Japanese import but it looks like it's finally getting a domestic release next month). It's a proverbial steal.

Plus, besides that song, you also get a very nice cover of Bill Withers' "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh." Sweet.

The moral is that there's so much great music out there to discover and whether it costs you $1 or $100 or even $1000, the experience of hearing a great song for the first time is [wait for it]...priceless.

[1] Here's a little secret: I almost never share songs from the latter, "top shelf" albums or 45s. This is likely a generational thing - I'm young enough to enjoy - really enjoy - blogging about music but I'm still part of an older school of collecting that keeps certain cards close to the chest. I know other bloggers/collectors don't feel the same way (hence the rash of album-oriented audioblogs that post up stuff like, well, like that West Coast Revival album that I spent a pretty penny on only to see it posted up two weeks later. %*#)@!) and I respect their generosity, especially since it helps expose me to other records. That said, my holy grails and white whales tend only to get shared at the club or on a mixtape but I never felt Soul Sides suffered for it since, as noted, the amount of great - common - records out there is unbelievably deep that it's not like anyone's lacking because they haven't heard that Filipino version of "Tango Goo Bonk" I keep squirreled away.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Welcome to the World of Krontjong
posted by Captain Planet

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Keronchong Salina : Bubuj Bulan & Modjang Priangan
taken from the album
"Vol. 2" on Philips (197?)

Maroeti and his Krontjong Boys : Onde-Onde ("Sweet Cake")
taken from the album
"Ballads In Batik Vol. 2" on RCA (1974)

Kontjong, Kronchong, Kroncong, Keronchong... as mysterious in spelling as it is in melody. Moody, brooding, beautiful. I have several cassette tapes of similar music that I picked up in Indonesia back in 2000, but digitizing those would require pulling out (and dusting off) a tape player, which seems a little daunting right now. What limited info I have about this style of sound comes from the back of these LP's (and can we just take a nice moment of appreciation for the killer COVER ART here?). Apparently, these melodies:

"Originate from the early Portugese settlers in Indonesia and when the Portugese left and the Dutch settlers came, it was inherited by the Portugese/Dutch Eurasians from grand-grand fathers to grand-grand sons and so on."

Here's another informative link that I dug up about this Indonesian musical evolution.

Other than that, just let the tunes speak for themselves.
"Bubuj Bulan" sounds like a ready-made RZA beat. Some serious Mulatu vibes around 1:40. I want more...

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Holy Grails Of Bizzarro
posted by murphyslaw


Yamasuki: Yama Yama, Kono Samurai, Yamasuki, Yokomo and Aieda
Taken from the album Le Monde Fabuleux des Yamasuki on Biram (1970)

This post stands as a warning to the fledgeling record head, a couple hundred LP's into the game and feeling pretty good about himself and his collection of sample-heavy CTI dollar-bin'ers and lesser known funk-rock gems on Westbound and Cotillion... You don't know how far the rabbit hole goes.

Hear me loud and clear on this one, friends: THE DEEPER YOU GET, THE DEEPER THE MUSIC GETS. There is more ill music out there than you and I can wrap our sorry little heads around and we're suckers to think otherwise.

I'll put it another way... the more stones you turn, the rockier the underbelly. Take for example


I have very little doubt that 90-some percent of the non-Japanese, non-LSD-loving populace that might lay ears on this record would be entirely perplexed by it. Even hate it. "What," they might ask, "Could have possessed somebody to combine twangy Morricone-esque guitars with Axelrod beats and Far Eastern choral arrangements?" And they would be right to ask the question.

But the answer, simply, for now and for always, is Yamasuki. Yamasuki. Yamasuki.

I will further endorse this record by saying that the five tracks posted here could have been arbitrarily selected. The whole album is start to finish sonic mayhem that gets better with each go-round. Not for the weak of heart, to be sure, but a record of such originality and--dare I say--grace, that if the first hundred listens don't make sense, you'd better hope that the hundred-and-first does because Yamasuki is like that patronizing dog from Duck Hunt: they always get the last laugh.

You're either with 'em or against 'em, friends... You know where I stand.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Greetings Soul-Sides!
posted by Captain Planet


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Ernesto Djedje : Zadie Bobo & Zibote
taken from the album
"Le Roi Du Ziglibithy" on Badmos (1977)

The Fatback Band : Wicki Wacky
taken from the album
"Keep On Steppin'" on Event (1974)

Coke: Na Na & Te Amos Mas
taken from their self-titled album on Sound Triangle (1972)

Usha Uthup : Chhupke Kaun Aya
taken from the album
"24 Carats" on Inreco (1981)

Captain Planet here, from Captain's Crate. As O-Dub mentioned, we're trying out some cross-posting techniques to help increase the music flow for your listening pleasure. Today I'm initiating the cossover with a somewhat random assortment of funky music from around the globe. For those that have never seen my own blog, take a peek to get an idea of what we're all about. The "we" i refer to is myself + my younger and scruffier brother, Murphy's Law. Funky and soulful music, past and present, from wherever in the world it may have been born. Must there always be cohesion? Order? Reason? I think not. Especially when you're dealing with something as intangible as music. There's free mixes to download in the "Loose Tape" section as well (although I really should update that with some fresh ones).

Starting off with a record that I've loved for years now-
ERNESTO! Why I hadn't taken the time to digitize this earlier is a damn good question. I've been sneaking "Zadie Bobo" into DJ sets since '02 when I first discovered this gem, always to a positive crowd response. In the Ivory Coast, where Djedje made his name, "Zibote" was the bigger hit, and can still be found popping up on compilations of today's Ivoirian music. "The King of Ziglibithy", need I say more?

*One note of warning for fans of Ernesto: DON'T BUY
THIS CD VERSION OF HIS ALBUM. I made this mistake, only to realize that the CD is a bootleg recorded off a record being played at the WRONG SPEED! So, unless you want Ernesto chopped and screwed, steer clear.

The Fatback Band need little introduction for fans of funk, but I've been needing to put this classic bump on repeat for a while now and it's so much easier to do that in MP3 format. This is one of those instances where a simple bass groove is enough for me.

Recently got my hands on this semi-rarity from Florida's
Coke (later re-named "Opus"). Don't know anything about the group, but I'm feeling the record a lot. The album has a nice cover version of the early boogaloo hit "Bang Bang" (Joe Cuba? or was it Pete Rodriguez?) as well as some ballads and several more dirty, dirty drumbreaks. The LP I have from them as "Opus" is nice too, but "Na Na" is hard to top. Looks like you can cop it on CD too.

Finally, a real monster for you, the legendary HINDI version of
"Don't Stop Til You Get Enough". Of course the production quality isn't going to be quite as tight, but considering the sound quality of your average bollywood record, I'd say the uncredited studio musicians (Bappi Lahiri?) on this one are doing a pretty good job. Usha was one of the biggest Indian soundtrack singers in the 70's and 80's - Shalimar, Shaan, & Disco Dancer, to name a few, all feature her silky vocal stylings. I always get a kick out of playing this one and then watching the initial look of bewilderment spread. "Chhupke" ranks right up there alongside Arzu's "Amor" in the world's most-precisely-covered-in-another-language category. Well done Usha.

Hope you all enjoy the latest gumbo funk offering. And cheers to any new readers just finding out about the crate now through
Soul-Sides! Stay tuned for more, as always.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

posted by O.W.

Proof that there is some greater cosmic wisdom in the universe...there are videos to the songs off of Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson.

Thanks to DJ Sheep.

BTW, I'm still on holiday break but I'll be back around soon enough and expecting the true heads to roll through the Redwood Bar, ya heard?

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cissies Unite!: Covering The Meters Pt. 1
posted by O.W.

Trinidad Steel Band: Sissy Strut
From Super Album (Cherry Hill, 197?)

Pete Eye Trio: Sissy Strut
From S/T (Cavern, 197?)

Big Band Katowice: Madrox
From Music For My Friends (Muza, 1977)

One of the recurring songs that I'm always finding covers of is "Cissy Strut," by the Meters. Arguably the first big hit, coming on their debut Josie album, the song has found incredible resonance with artists - not just across America but across the globe. Dare I say, outside of James Brown's catalog, "Cissy Strut" might be up there with "It's Your Thing" as a funk tune from the late '60s that seemingly ends up on albums from Toronto to Tokyo; it's really quite remarkable. Just input "Cissy Strut" in iTunes and see how many covers pop up.

I've thought that part of the appeal is that The Meters really stripped funk down to its bare essence: their sound is gritty as hell, but also stark and clean - there's nothing wasted, nothing frilly about how the four group members executed their songs.

With "Cissy Strut" in particular, you have a series of great, simple riffs, beginning with George Porter's signature bass riff and then answered back by Leo Nocentelli's guitar. Underneath it all, Zigaboo Modeliste dredges those heavy drums. It's not a hard song to cover (though it's very hard to do anything that approaches the intensity of the original).

As I said - there are literally dozens upon dozens of "Cissy Strut" covers. I'm merely pulling out a few samples but this only scratches the surface. To begin with, the Trinidad Steel Band cover was probably one of the first "int'l" covers I ever heard. What's remarkable here is that steel drum bands often lack a conventional drum kit but it's clear that this group had someone on the sticks to accompany and that makes a huge difference in giving the song a more solid percussive ground to stand on. The fidelity is lo-fo but I'm patient with that, especially given how much fun this cover is to listen to as an island-funk take on the Meters.

The Pete Eye Trio version comes from a private press album out of Kansas City (there's also a fairly good cover of "Dem Changes" on there too). This time, the Trio replaces the bassline with the same riff played on on electric piano which is a slick little touch. I also like the liberties they take with the arrangement, especially in playing with that core riff. The song does get a bit noodly at times (hey, it's a private press jazz album) but I like the bass solo in the middle. But what? No drum solo? Booo.

Lastly, we have "Madrox," a late '70s jazz-funk tune out of Poland (purveyors of many a good jazz-funk tune). Even though its not credited as such, it's very clear that the first part of the song (which returns at the end) is bitten straight from "Cissy Strut." But first, sit through those wicked Latin drums, playing at double-speed. In contrast to the previous song, this song isn't lacking for drums at all - they're bleeding out the ears in percussion.

By the way, one of my favorite, favorite "Cissy Strut" covers is on a Hoctor 45 (see my previous "Jazz Instruction Records" posts). Sizzlin'!

In the second installment, we'll look at some other Meters covers (besides "Cissy Strut!)"

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Funky Freeport b/w Funk Con Cubano Sabor
posted by O.W.

Jay Mitchell: Mustang Sally
Dry Bread: Words to My Song

Both from Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay (Numero Group, 2007)

Groupo Irakere: Bacalao Con Pan
Orquesta Riverside: En Casa Del Trompo No Bailes

Both from Si, Para Usted (Waxing Deep, 2007)

I've been far overdue writing about Grand Bahama Goombay, the latest edition in Numero Group's "Cult Cargo" series (you might recall my March post on their Belize Boil-Up CD). As it happened though, on PRI's The World the other day, they reviewed both that CD and Si, Para Usted (which I had just gotten in the mail) together and I figured if public radio was ahead of me, I needed to catch up.

The Goombay comp looks at the funk/soul music coming out of Grand Bahama Island, and specifically, the city of Freeport which (from what I can tell) was an alternative center to the better known Nassau. If your main impressions of Bahamanian music is "Yellow Bird" played on steel drums, Goombay destroys that notion in an instant, showcasing a far more diverse fusion of musical styles reflection of the Bahamas location at the center of tourist and shipping trade throughout the Caribbean.

Of those various talents, Jay Mitchell is arguably the best known given his prolific output and high profile. His cover of "Mustang Sally" (also reissued onto 12") takes the Wilson Pickett classic and strips it down even sparser - the signature bassline isn't really even present - and throws in some organ and an enthused drummer. This is easily the best cover of the song I've heard in ages, if not ever. (Mitchell apparently also does a pretty kick ass version of "Ain't No Sunshine" but alas, that cover is far harder to come by).

The other song that really stood out to me on this comp was "Words To My Song" by Dry Bread, aka Cyril Fergunson, a rising talent in the Freeport scene who joined with Frank Penn's GBI (Grand Bahama Island) Recordings and cut this B-Side with the label around 1974. It's a great funky soul song on its own but you can also listen to it and pick up on the subtle blend of different sounds and influences that just barely give away its Caribbean roots (for me, it's the guitar arrangement).

The Si, Para Usted comp is filled with similarly obscure pieces of funk from Cuba, recording post-revolution and thus, not often heard outside the island given trade embargos and anti-Castro bias. As the liner notes, put together by the folks at Waxing Deep, note however, Cuban musicians were exceptionally well-trained (for a time at least) in Cuba given the socialist makeover and this helped fuel inventive styles and blends of music.

The Grupo Irakere track is something I, coincidentally, just got in recently myself - a raucous club track that sounds, at times, like a Cuban funk makeover of a Santana song given its heavy rock influences but undeniable Afro-Cuban rhythms. The song is especially ear-catching given the various shifts it takes in the arrangement, just to drop in a little different flavor, but still comes back to the main rhythm.

The Orquesta Riverside is arguably the least obscure song on this comp given that it was also featured on the Rough Guide volume devoted to Cuba (it also appears of one of my favorite mix-CDs, Gypsy Bogdan's Hot Breath (which, I just remembered, also has that Irakere song. Go figure!). The opening drum break is a thing of beauty and the way the singer chatters over it only makes it funkier. Like the Irakere song, this one takes one a few transformations along the way, speeding up into a quick-tempo dance midway through before slowing back down...then speeding up again (man, I need this on vinyl, bad).

It's good to see all this soul/funk from overseas finally getting some shine in the U.S. In a way, it's like the music comes full circle - many of these artists were heavily inspired by music they heard arriving by radio and ship and plane and in turn, their contributions to the genre, long obscure here, are now traveling back to us after too long a time away.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Fruko + Wganda Kenya: Uncut Colombian
posted by O.W.

Fruko Y Sus Tesos: Salsa Na Ma
From El Violento (Discos Fuentes, 1973).

Wganda Kenya:Tifit Hayed
From Africa 5000 (Discos Fuentes, 197?)

Both available on: Colombia: The Golden Age of Discos Fuentes. The Powerhouse of Colombian Music 1960-1976.

Finally back in L.A. after a nice 10 day trip up in the Bay. One of the folks I wasn't expecting to run into up there was my man Beto, aka Roberto Ernesto Gyemant. For those not familiar with him, he's turning out to be one of the most accomplished young Latin music scholars I've seen on the scene. He was responsible for researching the liner notes for that excellent Panama comp I wrote about for and NPR. More recently, Beto was behind the liners for the latest Latin music anthology from the Soundways folks: Colombia: The Golden Age of Disco Fuentes.

I've really ramped up my interest in Latin music the last few months and this new comp couldn't have arrived at a better time. I was aware that there was a big Latin scene in Peru thanks to my earlier discovery of Enrique Lynch but I didn't realize, until now, that Colombia's Latin scene, especially around salsa, was massive. Beto's liners help shed light on the birth and evolution of that scene, focusing on Discos Fuentes, which seems to have filled in the role in Colombia that a label like Fania or Tico held in the U.S. Latin scene. Informative and engaging - especially with all the label scans and photos - liner notes like this should push other labels to match or exceed that bar.

Let me put this simpler: anything Beto cosigns on? Pay attention to that. On to the music.

Of the various songs off Colombia, the ones that grabbed me the most were by Fruko y sus Tesos. I was first introduced to Fruko by DJ Murphy's Law from Captain's Crates who dropped a cut on our Mandrake night a few months back. Fruko Y Sus Tesos translates into "Fruko and the Tough Guys" and are described by Beto as comparable to the Colombian equivalent of New York's Willie Colon in terms of projecting this kind of bad boy image except that while Colon did it with a sense of mafioso flair, Fruko looked like he was straight thuggin' it out. Compare:

(Fruko is the guy standing on the right side of the Tesura, wearing revolver bling).

Saying - Colon is slicked out but Fruko looks like he could kill you with a stare. (I love that Colon cover to death though).

In any case though, both men shared a real talent for salsa tunes and to me, Fruko's "Salsa Na Ma" is my favorite track off the comp. For starters, it just opens so dramatically - not what you'd expect from a typical salsa song; it's far more jazz. But then the piano riff kicks in, then the percussion, and the salsa groove just kicks off. I just got a copy of El Violento (big up, Justin T!) and can't wait to drop this and see what happens.

I was debating what to flip for the second cut and I was tempted to roll with "Cumbiamba" by El Sexteto Miramar (great slow cumbia/mambo) but I wanted something that would showcase some of the musical diversity of the comp and that meant going with the Afro-funk groove of "Tifit Hayed" by Wganda Kenya (which features Fruko on bass). Not sure what year this is (yo Beto, let us know!) but it sounds more on the mid-70s tip with its seemingly disco-influenced percussion and synthesizers. Bump bump.

By the way, I had the chance to listen to the new Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings album, 100 Days, 100 Nights. Can't post tunes yet (but once I get the greenlight, you know how we do) but *whistle* it's good. Really good. October can't come soon enough.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

The Professionals + Lord Rhaburn Combo: Belize Reconnection
posted by O.W.

The Professionals: Theme From The Godfather
Lord Rhaburn: Disco Connection

Lord Rhaburn: Disco Reconnection (snippet)
From 12" (Numero Group, 2007)

Belize? Yeah, Belize.

I need a late pass - Numero Group (aka the best reissue label out there) put out their compilation of Belizean (Belizoid? Belizer?) soul, funk and Latin last year but I didn't really become aware of it until much more recently. Just like that excellent anthology of Panamanian sounds from the same era, Belize City Boil Up introduces listeners to the heretofore unknown sounds of American soul and Latin exported to Central America and then reinvented. The diversity of styles and sounds is amazing and it makes you wonder how deep the soul crates run throughout Central and Southern America (hint: pretty damn deep we think).

Of the various songs off the comp, the Professionals fuzzed out, funked up take on the theme from The Godfather is probably the best known - the group had decent distribution in the U.S. and the album this comes off of, The Professionals On Tour is in the low three digit range - not cheap but not crazy either. Their take on it is pretty bugged out; it's like Nino Rota scored a blaxploitation flick (or maybe the other way around).

As for "Disco Connection," talk about a fusion of styles. The Latin + Disco element isn't anything that folks in the States didn't also play with but there's something distinctly south of the border with Rhaburn's take (not the least of which is that it reminds me a lot of some of the disco era material by Peru's Enrique Lynch). Call it discoxotic.

Numero Group has also begun to release 12"s on their label and in the first batch includes a single with that "Disco Reconnection" edit (plus the original) on one side, plus a nice Latin burner called "Guajida" by Jesus Acosta and the Professionals on the b-side (which has its own remix of sorts too). DJs looking for that next flavor - here it is.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Soul Purge Pt. 1: Eurojazz
posted by O.W.

Ted Atking and His Orchestra: The Man From Nowhere
From Pop Music For Dancing (Concert Hall, 1970)

The Alyn Ainsworth Orchestra: Cast Your Fate to the Wind
From Big City Soul (Pye, 1975)

Rogier Van Otterloo: My Dearest Fluffie
From On the Move (Polydor, 1976)

Jacques Loussier: Ballet Photo Rogue
From You Only Love Once Soundtrack (London, 1968)

As noted in an earlier post, I realized that I had a long set of songs I've been meaning to post about but haven't gotten to yet. This first batch are all '60s/'70s funk-influenced jazz tunes, movie scores and other instrumentals that wouldn't be out of place on a library record. All are also European in origin; not exactly a coincidence given that you can find a whole range of funky jazz tunes emerging across Europe in this era and though some examples - Peter Herbolzheimer's lauded Rhythm Combination and Brass comes to mind - were directly under the sway of fusion jazz's emergence, most of these are actually more like funk-influenced big band tunes (namely the Atking and Ainsworth tunes).

Speaking of Atking...he didn't really exist; the name was a pseudonym though there are differing stories on who the Atking nom de plume was supposed to stand in for. One source claims the original composer was from the UK's Jack Arel (of Chapell Library fame). Another pairs the name with French composer Pierre Dutour (given that Concert Hall was a French label, I'm inclined to nod towards Dutour). Regardless, "The Man From Nowhere" definitely has a "library record" feel - moody, well-arranged, with layers of sound stacked, most prominently the melancholy guitar at center plus the rich string section that accompanies.

In contrast, the Ainsworth song (I presume he was a real person) is more contemporary in sound, largely thanks to the electric piano at the front end though, like Atking, the string accompaniment gives the song a more expansive feel. Ainsworth was British and at least in this phase in his career, had recorded a series of theme-ploitation albums (i.e. instrumental covers of t.v., movie and chart-topping hits).

Rogier Von Otterloo comes to us from the Netherlands - a Dutch composer of some renown who recorded this funky big band album in the mid-70s for the powerhouse Polydor imprint. This is definitely the most "big band-y" of the bunch, largely due to that prominent brass section but the rhythm section is what makes this groove work with its dark, smoky cool.

Lastly, we return to France and composer Jacques Loussier with a song off of the soundtrack for the movie, You Only Live Once. I really dig the drunk-happy vibe "Ballet Photo Rogue" gives it slips and trips around but never sloppily. The short breakbeat sections are also an unexpected surprise - love that crisp syncopation.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Frank Cardona + The Impossibles: Quirky Covers
posted by O.W.

Frank Cardona y sus Alegres Tejanos: Funky Nassau
From S/T (Diamante, 197?)

The Impossibles: Do It ('Til You're Satisfied)
From Stage Show (SSP, 197?)

In honor of the forthcoming Soul Sides Vol 2: The Covers CD, I've been pulling out some of the quirkier cover songs I've come upon in the last few. I wish I could brag about putting the Cardona out there first but the guys at Waxidermy got me beat by a few months. As they note, the Cardona is this random Tex Mex album that's mostly a bunch of Tejano songs (few of them very remarkable) but then they drop in "Funky Nassau" (by Beginning of the End) out of nowhere. It's a cool, almost-garage-y version of the tune, especially with that tinny organ wheezing throughout. Like Nassau though, it got soul.

The Impossibles cover of B.T. Express' classic '70s jam, "Do It ('Til You're Satisfied)" is even stranger. They were a Thai band (though they recorded their best known album, Hot Pepper in GermanySweden) that specialized in playing Western pop songs (along with native language tunes) and though they may seem uber-obscure, the band actually had quite the following, especially given that they toured Europe. Even The Nation knows the deal.[1]

This album sounds clearly recorded live since you can hear the audience that the Impossibles interacting with them (plus the fidelity is hardly studio quality). It's not a remarkable cover...except that it's by a bunch of English-speaking Thai guys and sometimes, that kind of backstory alone is enough (see Please's cover of "Sing a Simple Song" too, for example).

[1] Albeit, we're talking about The Nation in Thailand, not the American publication as a friend pointed out to me.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Jerry Butler + Duke of Burlington: 2nd Set
posted by O.W.

Jerry Butler: Never Give You Up
From The Iceman Cometh (Mercury, 1968). Also on The Philadelphia Sessions.

Duke of Burlington: Hammer Strokes
From A Revolution in Sound (Joker, 197?)

This post follows up on two previous, revisiting the work of Jerry Butler as well as the Duke of Burlington.

Thanks again for all the suggestions people had in regards to Butler's larger catalog - I'm still trying to move through it. I had forgotten about one of his biggest hits - "Never Give You Up" and it was a real pleasure getting reacquainted with it. I have to say: my favorite part of the song is simply how it opens - that melody is fantastic and I wish the entire song had been built around it through I am at least glad they bring it back at the bridge.

I also am always amused by soul songs where the basic moral is: "you can treat me like sh--, but I'm still gonna love you," which is either incredibly romantic or rather desperate depending on your level of cynicism. I mean, Jerry, she's cheating on you. Keeping the candle lit just doesn't sound so wise but hey.

As for the Duke of Burlington, this is another one of those uncredited covers: "Hammer Strokes" is obviously "Groove Me" by King Floyd. If you liked that last track by them, I suspect you'll dig this too. If you thought it was a bit clunky, you'll probably think the same here.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Duke of Burlington, Enrique Lynch, Paul Guma: On the Sneak Tip
posted by O.W.

The Duke of Burlington: Slot Machine
From S/T (Joker, 1970)

Enrique Lynch: Al Ritmo Del Bump Bump
From Bailemos Bump Bump (Sono Radio, 197?)

Paul Guma Quartet: Black Fox
From New Sounds Over New Orleans (Top of the Mart, 197?)

When is a cover not a cover? In the case of these three songs, it's when they're uncredited covers, i.e. songs that clearly *cough cough* borrow from better known tunes but don't go out of their way to actually acknowledge this. In some cases, especially the second and third songs, there's an argument to be made that they're not outright cover versions but they're close enough for most to ID. Note: none of this is meant as a critique - I actually like surprises like this since you can't always tell what's on an album simply by reading a tracklisting.

The Duke of Burlington was an Italian outfit that specialized in instrumental tunes - I can't recall if they recorded any library albums but their music is along those lines. They had two LPs that I know of and this, their self-titled, has the better songs (though their second album wasn't bad) including "Slot Machine" which is a cover of "Look-a-py-py" by The Meters. I think the organ works better here than the acoustic piano but the song's not a bad flip on the original.

The Enrique Lynch is an interesting song - I assume it was a minor hit in Peru since I know of at least one other Peruvian artist, Otto De Rojas, who's recorded the same tune. Either way, the song isn't quite a note-for-note cover of "Soulful Strut" by Young Holt-Unlimited but it's too to be a coincidence either. It's a fun track - I like the festive spirit.

Last up: NOLA guitarist Paul Guma and his quartet from a private press jazz album recorded for the (now defunct) Top of the Mark restaurant in New Orleans. "Black Fox" is my favorite of this trio - a riff on Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" that manages to stray far enough away at times to be its own song though still incorporating some of the chord changes we associated with Withers' classic. It's just really well executed, especially with putting Guma's guitar forward and letting the rest of the quartet create an interesting bed of sound behind him.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

posted by DJ Little Danny

Elias Rahbani: Dance of Maria
From Mosaic of the Orient (EMI Lebanon, 1972)

Some really far-flung, disparate regions have seen the rare groove reissue treatment in recent years. Scandinavia, the former Eastern Bloc, North Africa, the Far East, South America: they all seemed to have their pioneering clusters of mad musical geniuses and jazz iconoclasts in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and it’s been fabulous to have their respective musical riches brought again to the surface like so many Concepción ducats. Soul Sides readers might remember O-Dub’s September 2006 feature on the Turkish dancer Ozel Turkbas, and Turkey, too, has seen some attention recently (see the insane, insane Mustafa Ozkent and Selda reissues on Finders Keepers, for example). Which finally brings us around to nearby Lebanon and this loopy bit of Levant pop.

In 1972 you’d still come across references to Beirut as “The Paris of the Middle East“ in current issues of National Geographic; the city was, after all, the region’s nerve center of television, cinema, and radio. And Lebanese pop wunderkind Elias Rahbani was squarely in the middle of it all. His “Song of Maria” works precisely because of its cosmopolitan soul: it’s Eastern melody with Western circuitry, experimentalism with a sense of pop humor, and it’s crammed with flowing Farfisa organ lines, electric bass, keyboards that aren’t mizmars but sound exactly like them, bouzoukis, guitars, and even a few choice moments for you breakbeat aficionados. But, then again, this was 1972, a ravaging decade and a half of civil war was still a few years away, and, as far as Rahbani was concerned, there was room for all of it inside the pleasure dome.

The Lebanese Civil War sent the city’s artistic, intellectual, and musical life fleeing in droves to cities like Cairo and Paris. As of at least 2005, however, Elias Rahbani was still residing in Lebanon; with a prodigious career as a pianist, lyricist, producer, arranger, and pop and classical composer, Rahbani now does what any aging Lebanese hipster would do - he hosts SuperStar
(سوبر ستار), the Arabic version of American Idol. It’s a show that, personally, I’d give my eye teeth to see. We wish him the best of luck.

--Little Danny (
Office Naps)

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

posted by O.W.

Mark Holder: Sweet Caroline
From Where There's a Will, There's a Way (Deriva, 1973)

Alas, despite having been indoctrinated into the Red Sox Nation since a wee lad, growing up outside of Boston, I've never been to a game at Fenway (had a shot in 2004 but had to pass it up for family business). That said, thanks to friends and, uh, Fever Pitch, I know a lil something about the park traditions. This version of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" comes from Guyanese artist Mark Holder (who also does a surprisingly good version of Clyde McPhatter's "Mixed Up Cup" of all songs).

This post is dedicated to HH, JM, JP, AM, SKH and most of all...Jeff Chang ;)

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

posted by O.W.

Asha Bhosle & Chorus: Dum Maro Dum
From Hare Rama Hare Krishna (Odeon, 1971)

(Ed. note: I've invited Daniel Shiman of Office Naps to become a guest contributor to Soul Sides. Hopefully, time allowed, we'll be seeing something from him every couple of weeks. Here's his inaugural post. --O.W.)

The soundtrack music of India's Bollywood cinema has only recently started to garner much attention in the West. If you've heard it, though, it's likely that you've also heard the playback singer Asha Bhosle; hers is the spellbinding wail heard in literally thousands of Indian movies. "Dum Maro Dum" first appeared in 1970's Hare Rama Hare Krishna , a Dev Anand production featuring Zeenat Aman as the Westernized hippie girl, and a movie whose subject matter must have afforded R.D. Burman, one of Bollywood's more experimental composers, a refreshing amount of latitude. Constrained only by the clichés of Western hippie culture that he could dream up, Burman makes the most of his charge with "Dum Maro Dum" (which apparently translates as "Take Another Toke"). It's a montage of creaking synthesizers, psychedelic guitars, and, of course, vocals nailed by Asha Bhosle in an ear-piercing exposition of sound.
--Daniel Shiman

Bonus video footage (thanks Souther)

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

posted by O.W.

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.

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