Saturday, March 06, 2010

posted by O.W.

This one really bums me out. Such a pioneering guy in the history of Chicano rock/jazz/soul. Wish I had gotten the chance to talk to him before he passed at only 60.

Felix Contreras has a great memorial piece up at NPR about him.

Here's a 2009 interview with him by Jesus Velo of Los Illegals.

And here's a killer clip of El Chicano performing their big hit, "Viva Tirado" from 1971:

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

posted by O.W.

  • T.R.O.Y. has Cypress Hill's demo tape. Seriously - this demo tells me that whoever A&R/exec. produced their debut deserves massive credit for improving the band's final product. The demo is cool as a curiosity but more rough than diamonds, if you follow me.

  • Just Matter and Roger Jao team up for a fun and impressively executed mix called Still Diggin' Disco, featuring the best in electro country house. (Ok, actually, it's all disco).

  • Late pass (#1) on my part but Jay Electronica's Victory mix-CD is a must-to-bump. Can I just marvel, for a moment at how good this sounds to me?
    Jay Electronica feat. Talib Kweli, Jay Cole and Mos Def: Just Begun

    I've read elsewhere this is actually a Reflection Eternal cut feat. Jay E, Jay Cole and Mos. That's less relevant than just appreciating how this is a real flash back to the turn of the 90s/00s, when people still presumably carried about a bunch of "dope" MCs "dropping" "hot lines" over a "cool beat." F--- if you can't feel this.

    Weiss still has the mix.

  • Speaking of the Passion of Weiss site, DJ Sach has put together a Winter Mixtape, a concept I've been wanting to create for a long time but thankfully, someone got around to doing it first. Everyone needs a Winter mixtape.

  • Late pass (#2): DJ Numark live at the Do Over. This dude stays mad underrated but is still one of the most party rockin' DJs out there. And not just because he plays mooged out covers of the Mohawks. (It does not hurt though).

  • Funky16corners brings you their Forbidden City Organs. If you can't get enough of a fiery, funky bunch of organ vamps, this is for you. B3 me!

  • Last but not least, I probably should write a full post about this at some point but I'm hella behind on a ton of stuff and I'd hate to overlook at least saying a lil' something...Souljazz Orchestra are a Canadian ensemble who, true to their name, have kept the soul-jazz sound of the '60s and '70s alive and well. The album is heavily Afro-beat influenced but the cut that really stood out to me is more in the vein of Black Jazz than EMI Nigeria:

    Souljazz Orchestra: Lotus Flower
    From Rising Sun (Strut, 2010)

    Loving the smooth, cool flavor here; absolutely takes me back about a dozen years to when I was trying to grip Strata East, Black Jazz and Prestige titles with the quickness. This drops in the next couple; sleep not.

    The group also has a video for another song off the album:

    Labels: , , ,

  • Monday, February 01, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    As my dwindling finances can attest to, snapping up records with cover songs is bad habit sickness passion that I can't/won't shake. I'm sure there will be a Deep Covers 3 in the offering at some point in the near future but in the meanwhile, here's a few highlights from the last few months.

    The Power Pack: I Got You
    From Soul Cure (Polydor, 1969)

    Generation Gap: Family Affair
    From Plays Shaft (RCA, 1972)

    These both come from instrumental exploitation LPs, jacking contemporary hits of the time and giving them makeovers that, in most cases, are laughably weak. Occasionally though, you cross a few tracks that at least can hold your attention (though I would never suggest that either of these two are superior to their inspirations).

    The Power Pack seems to have been a session band overseen by Nick Ingram, one of the better known UK library composers and this very much sounds in the vein of KPM or similar library labels. The UK Polydor version of this album goes for far more money than really makes sense to me but personally, I prefer the Canadian Polydor issue for having the superior cover art. In any case, their cover of James Brown's "I Got You" has some slick, Hammond flavor to it and most of all, a strong drummer holding it down (albeit a bit "squarely").

    Generation Gap were American (presumably) and tackled R&B hits of the early '70s, including a few blaxploitation tracks as the title suggests, but I thought their take on Sly and the Family Stone's "Family Affair" was decent as far as instrumental flips go. Nice opening break and the sax is surprisingly uncheesy.

    Byron Lee and the Dragonaires: Get Out of My Life, Woman
    From People Get Ready, This Is Rock-Steady '67 (Dynamic, 1967)

    Derrick Harriott: Let It Whip
    From Acid Rock (Crystal, 1982)

    On the reggae tip, I pulled one off one of the Byron Lee albums I only recently got around to copping - the quite excellent Rock-Steady '67 which I learned about from my man Michael Barnes. "Soul Ska" (as Michael noted) is the jam on here but it's always fun to come across yet another cover of "Get Out of My Life, Woman," especially one given a ska rhythm makeover.

    Fast-forwarding about 15 years, we arrive at Derrick Harriot doing a surprisingly groovy cover of The Dazz Band's classic "Let It Whip." For real - I don't think I really ever want to hear the actual original again but this reggae remake is totally working for me.

    La Lupe: Bring It On Home to Me
    From The Queen Does Her Thing (Tico, 1969)

    The Exciters: Bring It Home To Me
    From 7" (Loyola, 196?)

    I know La Lupe has quite the posse behind her and I can't say I've listened to a ton of stuff from her outside of a handful of songs but everytime her shrill, cackling voice rings through on an English-language song, I think, "for the so-called Queen of Latin Soul, she mostly sounds like a novelty act." And let me be serious for a sec here - part of why La Lupe can lay claim to the title is because there's so little competition. The Latin soul scene had very very few women singers involved (unfortunately) so I suppose someone like La Lupe had a better shot at the title than, say, Noraida or the enigmatic duo behind Dianne and Carole and the Latin Whatchamacallits.

    In any case, her singing on "Bring It On Home To Me" veers close to cringe-inducement (especially on her higher notes) but the fact that the song still manages to work is a testament to how good the source material is. Not that I'd want to hear it but I bet the Chipmunks could do a version of this and it'd still sound pretty good; the original arrangement and songwriting is so good, it can easily forgive less than stellar attempts at working with it.

    I couldn't close with this though and I decided instead to bust out a cover of the same song that I absolutely, unqualifiably adore - Los Exciters' cover, all the way from Panama. Sure, no one in the group is touching Sam Cooke (and that pretty much applies to everyone in the world not Sam Cooke) but I thought their take on this song was done beautifully, especially the vocal harmonies. I have a few heavyweight pieces from this group but this 7" b-side is easily the favorite thing of theirs I have.

    Labels: , , ,

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    Perhaps not the most appropriate song to be listening to on the date of MLK's birth but I always think of this song on this day.

    Labels: ,

    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).

    Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

    Monday, November 02, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Tullio de Piscopo: Medium Rock
    From Suonando La Batteria Moderna (Vedette, 1974)

    I've said this before but I'm not the most ardent collector of drum breaks since, if you're not producing, it's hard to get all that excited over a one-bar break no matter how dope it sounds once you put it through an SP or MPC. Despite that qualifier, I'm still a sucker for a good beat though and that probably explains why I spent somewhere in the ballpark of 10 or so years trying to track down an "affordable" (and I use the term loosely) copy of this Tullio De Piscopo album after first hearing Egon play it at some long-forgotten party in the Bay Area from the early '00s.

    The "Tullio LP" (he has many but everyone knows which one you mean) just looks like it's bad ass - the cover art could just be a red herring but the album delivers on the promise for the most part. It's not pure funk drummage the whole way through - this is an instructional album after all so there's a variety of styles, especially two samba cuts and a host of other Latin-flavored rhythms alongside "Medium Rock" (boring name, ridiculous cut), and "Rocking Special" (the other funky cut), plus "Drum Fantasy" which doesn't sound so much instructional as it does inspirational.

    Piscopo, who seems to have been a major Italian drummer in the '70s and '80s, includes notations for his tracks though I don't know how actually useful they would be to a beginning drummer. I mean, I have a basic knowledge on how to read music but I don't know if I could easily figure out how to replicate "Dodiciottavi" based on what they have there. However, the album (a gatefold) also comes with a cool history of jazz drumming, tracing it back to NOLA (and then offering the same lesson in Italian).

    As for "Medium Rock," the one thing that keeps nagging me there a second musician playing the tambourine and cow bell? Because unless Tulluio has a third arm, I just can't figure out how they make those elements work in the song (though, there's the more obvious explanation: over-dubbing). But good gawd, talk about a drum solo to end all others - this is three-plus minutes of pure percussive fire that's about as good as anything else I can put it up against (including strong competition from library or dance LPs). "Guns Blazing" indeed.

    I included "Dodiciottavi" just to demonstrate some of the range of Piscopo's stylings; it wasn't all funky-funk stuff. I happen to like the rhythms he's putting together here, especially his use of what sounds like a timpani(?).


    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.

    Labels: , ,

    Tuesday, September 01, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    I've spent the last few days, trying to figure out what it is about the Brazilian music I find myself gravitating towards. I am not, remotely, a hardcore Brazila-phile, though not for lack of I've probably said in the past, Brazilian music is just so insanely massive that to really "get into it" you have be willing to turn over a good part of your life, dedicated to its majesty and complexity. Tempting as that siren's call may be, I have to concede that to my betters.

    To be sure, Brazilian music in all its myriad forms has proven beguiling the world over and I wish I had some genius insight into explaining why but despite using my (remaining) brain cells to articulate what the secret is, I'm still at a loss. In the most general, the Brazilian styles I tend to find most compelling - bossa nova, samba, Tropicalia - all offer this intriguing, intricate balance between subtle but often puissant rhythms and some of the most sophisticated melodies you can imagine. Add to that the incredible "feel" of the music which always inspires metaphors of comfort, layering and "wrapping" from me. Seriously, I really wish I had a less prosaic way to try to nail whatever that vibe is but it's ever elusive. Unlike Afro-Cuban music, the Brazilian I like doesn't make me want to dance. Unlike American soul, Brazilian doesn't necessarily invoke deep emotion. Mostly, it makes me feel good. I'm not quite sure why that is but I'll take it.

    What follows is - at best - a smattering of different songs I've been listening to lately, mostly because they're all recent purchases. They've been a reminder to me that I really should be listening to (and thus enjoying) more Brazilian tunes. Hope you will be similarly inspired...

    Ivan Lins: Madalena
    b/w Hei, Vocé
    From Agora (Forma, 1970)

    This Lins - his debut - is a truly remarkable album, easily one of the most soul-influenced Brazilian albums I've heard yet (not surprisingly Arthur Verocai produced it). One song I didn't include, "Baby Blue" is a straight up soul ballad, very Bill Withers-esque in fact, and Lins switches between Portuguese and English during the tune; really lovely (maybe I'll include it in some future ballads post). Now...if that's the song I left off, you can imagine how good the inclusions are. I start with Lins big early hit, "Madalena," a song probably most connected with Elis Regina.

    What I find interesting about the difference between Lins' version and Regina's (and I'm not clear whose was actually recorded first but I'm going to guess Regina's) is how each interpolates that opening piano riff. It's funny but when I first heard Lins' song, I thought, "ah, this must be where DJ Monk-One" got the melody for "Bossa Biz" from but then realized: no, the notes are different. It wasn't until I heard Regina's that I found the correct source but I was relieved to know that the similarities I thought I heard weren't just a figment of my imagination. That little piano riff alone - regardless if Lins' or Regina's - is just about one of the tastiest single bars I can imagine. Then you throw on that rhythm section Lins is backed by and it's just too perfect.

    (Here's a more recent video of Arthur and Ivan playing this song together).

    "Hei, Vocé," is equally, if not more compelling: it has so many great elements going for it: that opening horn line which sounds very "Crystal Blue Persuasion" to me, the funk-inspired drumming and then those background singers behind Lins, "doo-doo-ing" to their hearts content. All this and drum breaks + horn stabs midway through? Are you kidding me?

    Paulo Diniz: Ninfa Mulata
    b/w Chutando Pedra
    From Quero Voltar Pra' Bahia (Odean, 1969)

    I can't find much on Diniz despite the fact that this album has been, in the past, reissued on CD. It certainly seems to have come out during a time when Brazilian musicians were responding to the explosion in funk music coming out of the States; this Diniz album would compare favorably to, say, Tim Maia's work (in fact, the two sound very similar with their gruff, growling vocals). "Chutando Pedra" puts that voice front and center over a mid-tempo, jangling beat that reminds me of some British mod rock of the era; make sure to listen deeper to catch the excellent piano work being done here.

    The absolute monster on the album though is "Ninfa Mulata" which google-translates into "mulatto nymph" (please correct me if I'm wrong here!) and that fuzzed out guitar/bass(?) at the beginning is possibly one of the hardest sounding things I've heard since I first heard this. The song does shift in tone after that opening and goes a big more pop-y but I'm happy to just loop up the first 12 seconds and hang out there for a while.

    Tamba Trio: Mas Que Nada
    b/w Mania de Maria
    From Avanco (Phillips, 1963)

    Taking a far softer approach is the light and lively sounds of the Tamba Trio, one of the most prolific and important bossa nova groups of the 1960s. This is from their second album and much of it drifts breezily on slick bossa rhythms and melodies. Their version of "Mas Que Nada" is quite good which basically leads me to conclude that this Jorge Ben song is simply impossible to f--- up. I'm sure there are bad versions out there; I just have never heard one. It really bespeaks Ben's genius in constructing a song with much beautiful dynamics going for it - the melodic hook that's so familiar, that soaring vocal bit that - here - is done in harmony. Gorgeous.

    I'm going to end this dip into Brazil with the quietest of the songs I've included - a little bossa ballad "Mania de Maria." I love how this song opens - that solo piano, set adrift in melancholy before taking a spritely but serene turn into a jaunty dance number. Throw it on after dinner and enjoy where it takes you.

    Labels: , ,

    Monday, August 31, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Archie Whitewater: Track 3
    From Unreleased Archie Whitewater album (Cadet Concept, 197?)

    Unknown: It's Hard To Tell(?)
    From unknown (label unknown, 197?)

    Unknown: My Love Ain't No Play Thing(?)
    From unlabeled acetate (label unknown, 196/7?)

    Here's a trio of musical mysteries - unreleased and even completely unknown recordings:

    I had heard rumors of a lost Archie Whitewater album but didn't realize the tapes actually existed. Clearly, someone booted 'em and put them out into the world, for which we're all better off (even if the mixing on these tracks are muddled as hell). Whitewater put together one of the most eclectic (and sought after) albums on the Cadet Concept label, which, true to the imprint's "Concept" part, seemed like a challenging but rewarding collision of jazz, funk, soul, and rock. I'm betting it sounds amazing on weed but I wouldn't really know. I'm not advocating for it either (but do comment about it if you try!) It seems that Whitewater recorded a second album for Cadet Concept but, for whatever reason, it was deaded before release. Nearly 40 years later, someone obviously decided to quit waiting and just put out a rough mix. I can't say it's better than his self-titled album - the submerged fidelity makes it a hard comparison - but I can say that it has enough stylistic similarities to warrant favorable comparison to the original.

    Continuing our "unknown/unreleased" trip is a cut from Muscle Shoals, AL that our friend Andy Zax came upon and offered to share with us. Thanks Andy! An interesting cut to be sure; sounds a bit late '70s to me, only because of certain aesthetic features but it's hard to know since, when Andy found it in the vault archives, he had no info on it besides the Muscle Shoals connection. This isn't a bad tune, especially with those lingering piano stabs but I also could have done without the rock guitar. If this sounds like anyone you can think of, let us know in the comments.

    Lastly, I had to borrow a cut from my friend Justin Torres' excellent The Break Up Letters mix (you better scoop that if you haven't already). Justin's pretty good at finding these unreleased-type tracks; he's the guy responsible for finding the untitled recording by "Joe" that became DJ Shadow's "This Time". This unknown female funk song, from an untitled acetate, is a scorcher; sounds late '60s to me (but could be easily early '70s) and while it's a bit rough from it being an acetate, you can imagine how awesome this would have been as an actual release.

    Labels: ,

    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Please start by reading this first.

    Part of why I solicit people for their summer songs posts is because I have a hard time reinventing the wheel for my own sense of what summer means via music. This year, the one song I knew I wanted to write about was "We're Almost There" by Michael Jackson and in many ways, that song brought me back full circle to my very first summer songs post.

    I had a chance to revisit that theme for a post written for NPR's Summer Songs Series:

    As much as I like classic summer anthems — bright, splashy, exuberant — they rarely capture what I think of as the essence of the season. Summer wants to be immortal and endless, and that beautiful delusion has birthed countless pop songs. But for me, summer is always a tangle of conflicted emotions: hope and disappointment, desire and frustration. It's the season of promises that, at their core, are impossible to realize.

    Summer is more about what we want it to be than what it actually is — what I once described as "drops of reality dissolved into a vat of fantasy." Idealism may make a potent brew, but we know the season inevitably ends. That's why my favorite summer songs are almost always tinged with fragility and marked by melancholy. This is music that admits the painful truth about summer: Even the best times won't last, as long days fade with autumn's encroaching dusk.

    And here were the four songs I picked to illuminate those ideas:

    Michael Jackson: We're Almost There
    From Forever Michael (Motown, 1975)

    Like millions, I've spent the summer of 2009 revisiting the Michael Jackson catalog. The song that continues to haunt me is "We're Almost There," from 1975's overlooked Forever, Michael. I keep getting stuck on the idea of being "almost there." The song aches with the yearning to complete, as Jackson sings, "just one more step," but it's that "almost" that lingers. "Almost" teases and tantalizes, but it's as much a threat as it is a promise. Almost means maybe we won't make it. Almost means maybe "one more step" is, as Aretha Franklin once sang, "a step too far away." That's summer in a nutshell: an ambition within reach, but also one step from being lost.

    William Devaughn: Be Thankful for What You Got
    From Be Thankful For What You Got (Roxbury, 1974)

    Has there ever been a smoother, more sublime summer jam than this? William Devaughn's ability to paint with such vivid lyrical imagery -- "Diamond in the back / Sunroof top / Diggin' in the seam with a gangster lean" -- is perfectly matched by the slick insouciance of the song's bass lines and conga slaps. This is no high-noon groove, though; it's a low-rider sunset, a time for quiet contemplation during the slow cruise home. Be thankful for what you got, Devaughn keeps instructing. Take nothing for granted. But even in the fading light, Devaughn's ultimate message is one of hope: "You may not have / a car at all / but remember / brothers and sisters / you can still stand tall."

    Ice Cube: It Was a Good Day
    From The Predator (Priority, 1993)

    If Devaughn opens solemnly but closes on an up note, Ice Cube goes the other way on this 1993 hit. He ostensibly celebrates a halcyon day of basketball games, lucky dice and a late-night motel romp. But it's the turnaround at the end of each verse that tells the true story: "nobody I knew got killed in South Central L.A." & "I didn't even to have to use my AK." Those sobering afterthoughts carry an unease echoed in the somber mood of the music itself. The sample source is The Isley Brothers' "Foosteps in the Dark," which has all the feel of a classic seduction jam: the slow tempo, the syrupy strings. But there's a sadness that flows through; those "footsteps," after all, are of a sneaking lover. "It Was a Good Day" wisely taps into that implicit discomfort. (For a contrast, listen to the far sunnier remix, which uses a different sample.)

    I should add: "It Was A Good Day" was inescapable in 1993, and even now, 16 years later, it still resonates with the summer.

    The Heath Brothers: Smilin' Billy Suite Part 2
    From Marchin' On (Strata East, 1975)

    If I had to score summer's end, this early Heath Brothers song from 1975 would be an easy choice. It positively drips in melancholy, especially through Stanley Cowell's use of an African mbira (thumb piano) to play the memorable "Smilin' Billy" motif. I imagine the song patiently playing out as September days drift quietly towards the fall equinox. There's one last, rousing gasp of life that unexpectedly sparks at the end, but with one dramatic thump, it’s all over. Summer's gone

    Labels: , , ,

    Sunday, August 02, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    Triorganico: Nana + Tempo De Amor
    From Convivencia (Now Again, 2009)

    Considering the “alternative” label Now Again is, “Convivencia” might be the most “alternative” release in their catalog yet. It's part of the “new” Now Again for lack of a better explanation. Whereas they previously were known primarily for their reissues of regional soul from yesteryear, the label has really reshuffled their image over the last 18 months. New music from the likes of afrofunk musicians Karl Hector and the Malcouns (a side project of Jan Whitefield) and Mr. Chop with his spacey brand of psychedelic funk can be an easily understood extension of the preconceived notion of the Now Again brand. Their latest release from acoustic latin jazz trio Triorganico showcases the label's refusal to be categorized as a one-trick pony.

    Fabiano Do Nascimento gently strums his seven string guitar while Ricardo “Tiki” Pasillas provides the backbeat with syncopated percussion and Pablo Calogero woos you with various flutes and woodwind friends such as soprano sax and bass clarinet. Working like a singing group who could whisk you away with a breezy serenade by any of its members, the bandmates shift gears of lead instruments working as a harmonious conglomerate. No one overpowers their counterparts and instead choose to work cohesively as a unit.

    “Tempo De Amor,” in its seven-and-a-half minutes, builds into a jam frenzy. Starting out lightly with a tantric guitar riff and Tiki's jaunty percussion, Pablo teases you with little flute stabs here and there before coming front and center to lead the pack. Midway through, Tiki starts to pick up the pace, feeding off Pablo's billowy breaths of bliss.

    Aside from the lengua del amor, they also tackle Moacir Santos' “Nanã.” It's one of two Santos numbers they perform on the album, both with a bossa flair. Pablo trades in his flute for a bass clarinet to guide the rhythm that sways your hips. Like dance partners who have been performing together for years, the trio really dance about well with one another on this track, especially between the guitar and clarinet, moving in sync with their proverbial footwork.

    The album, I must say, is an excellent companion to the latest Waxpoetics (issue 36), the Brazil issue. Pop in the Triorganico CD (or vinyl), sit back on the couch or favorite recliner, and get lost in the rhythms from south of the equator – which, when I think about it, is not a bad way to spend the evening after a long day of working for the man.

    Labels: , , ,

    Wednesday, July 08, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Jay-Z: Never Change (Dilla Remix)
    From Jimmy Green's What if J Dilla Produced The Blueprint? (2009)

    It's a bit odd that in 2009, someone would mash-up Jay-Z's 2001 album, Blueprint with a series of J-Dilla beats. Furthermore, let's just answer the question:

    If Dilla had produced The Blueprint, Jay-Z would have taken an L. That's no diss on Jay Dee but c'mon now - it's not like Kanye West and Just Blaze were exactly slacking on what's arguably one of the best produced albums this decade. What's next? "What if J Dilla Produced It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back?" (Note: maybe Def Jam should release the acapellas to that album).

    All this said, I have to admit that I am loving this remix of "Never Change." I'm not saying it's better than the OG, I'm just saying it's good - so laid-back yet slightly sinister.

    And it really brings to mind how Burt Bacharach compositions (in this case, "The Look of Love") make for potentially great sample fodder given that 1) they're familiar enough to catch our attention and 2) they're generally classics in basic, simple but rich songwriting and arrangements. When I was listening to this, I immediately thought of another mash-up from a couple years back:

    Biggie and Lil Wayne: If You See Me Walking
    From Mick Boogie and Terry Urban's Unbelievable: A Tribute to Biggie Smalls (2007)

    This time, it's a flip on a pre-Isaac Hayes version of Burt's "Walk On By."

    And heck, if we're going own the memory lane of "rap songs flipping Burt beats" then we can't forget this twist on Johnny Pate's version of "Look of Love":

    Show and A.G.: You Know Now (Buckwild Remix)
    From Goodfellas (Payday, 1995)

    And just to really blow your mind, here's the Jackson 5 throwing down their take on Isaac Hayes' version of "Walk On By." The LP version of this appeared on their live Goin' Back to Indiana album.

    Labels: , , , , ,

    Monday, May 25, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    No disrespect to Dave Mason and Traffic but to me, "Feelin' Alright" has become one of those rock-era standards where the covers > the original (see also: "Spinning Wheel"). I suppose that's a testament to Mason's songwriting that it drew so many fans amongst fellow artists and I've enjoyed how broad its base of popularity has been.

    I'm only skimming the surface of the total number of possible versions of this song but pulled out a quartet of personal favorites.

    6680 Lexington: Feelin' All Right
    From S/T (MGM, 1971)

    I always assumed, from the sound of the band, that 6680 Lexington were originally from Louisiana or Arkansas but as it turns out, they were Southern...Southern Californian that is (though I've also seen the band referred to as a Bay Area group). Wherever they're from, they bring a distinctly blues-rock approach to their cover. I dig the opening piano especially (courtesy Dave Garland) and I believe Canned Heat's Chris Morgan is on guitar here.

    Rustix: Feelin' Alright
    From Bedlam (Rare Earth, 1969)

    One of the things that's always struck me about covers of the song is that groups bring in a real funk-flavaored element that I don't really hear in the original. That's very obvious with the aggressive brass and drum beginning to Rustix's version. The group apparently was one of the first white bands signed to Motown's Rare Earth subsidiary. (Ok, what's a bit weird to me is that the label was named after the group Rare Earth yet the Rustix were signed to the label first...not sure how that chronology quite works out but ok...) As you can hear, the group is going for a big sound - blaring banks of horns and it sounds like they're recording in a cavern (in a good way). I like the LP cover for this too - it's die-cut on the top.

    West Coast Revival: Feelin' Alright
    From S/T (LA International, 1977)

    Thus far, this is my favorite version (as evidenced by the fact that I put it out on Soul Sides Vol. 2 - it's so funky and slinky. Not surprisingly, the album was produced by Jerry Goldstein of WAR fame but I don't actually know much about the group itself - they only ever put out this LP and maybe one or two 45s.

    Kenny Smith Trio: Feelin' Alright
    From For Bassists Only! (Music Minus One Bass) (Music Minus One, 1970)

    We end with a lively, instrumental version of the song by the Kenny Smith Trio, featured on a "Music Minus One Bass" instructional album. The A-side (what you hear here) has the bass part included; the flipside is the same identical song with - you guessed it - the bass "minused" so you, the aspiring plucker, can practice over it.

    Labels: , , ,

    Thursday, May 14, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Apologies for the long gap in posts - I'm in "end of the semester" crunch time right now and just haven't had a ton of mental energy left.

    Having said that...I was listening (late pass) to the new album by Finale, which has gotten some very strong response amongst the hip-hop blogerati. And I was really struck by the bonus song, "Paid Homage," which is dedicated to the late J-Dilla, produced by Flying Lotus, and interpolating Dilla's "Fall In Love" beat for Slum Village.

    It is incredibly striking to me how "Fall In Love" has this mnemonic power to keep recycling back into our musical world, seemingly without tiring out listeners. I've always found that to be the case - as with many, it's one of my favorite Dilla tracks of all time and just in this past year, we've seen it return thrice!

    But first, start with the sample source:

    Gap Mangione: Diana in the Autumn Wind
    From Diana In the Autumn Wind (Josh Music, 1968)

    One of these days, I'll throw down for this LP - Mangione nails a great vibe on the whole thing, well-exemplified by the above song but hardly limited to it. Producers certainly have felt the same way; a few cuts off the LP have been sampled and "Diana" alone has had different segments clipped.

    So here's that Slum Village cut I was talking about. I'm assuming you all have heard it but for the two in the world who haven't, get ready for a treat:

    Slum Village: Fall In Love
    From Fantastic, Vol. 2 (Goodvibe, 2000)

    Great opening drums, beautiful filtered sample of the Mangione, an instant classic.

    One, two.

    So just how popular has "Fall In Love" gotten? As noted, in just the last year we've had three reworkings. I'll start with the Suite From Ma Dukes version.

    Carlos Nino and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: Fall In Love
    From Suite for Ma Dukes (Mochilla, 2009)

    I've written much about this EP already and this is a lovely interpolation of the Mangione but neither a true cover of either Gap's OG or the SV's tune. It takes those two sources as a starting point and then works from there.

    The Ins vs. Fleur Earth: Fall In Love
    From 7" (MPM, 2008)

    This actually came out last year but I hadn't heard it until more recently - this is more of a direct, instrumental cover of the SV song though vocally, it's just the chorus being repeated over a loungey interpretation of Dilla's beat. And that brings us to:

    Finale: Paid Homage
    From A Pipe Dream and a Promise (Interdependent, 2009)

    True to the song's title, Finale and Fly-Lo do up this homage right on so many levels - Finale's autobiographical tale of meeting and building with Dilla feels real and heartfelt and Fly-Lo recreates the "Fall In Love" beat through his own sonic vision, paying tribute in his own way to a musical mentor. Great way to end the album and a fitting way to close this post.

    Labels: , ,

    Tuesday, May 05, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    I apologize for not posting this sooner. My wife went into labor last week and I have been quite busy taking care of the new mom and baby.

    The 3 winners for the Mulatu Astatke and Heliocentrics album are Jim Champion from Texas and Jay Johnson and John Watson, both from California.


    1Q. Name the Ethiopian label for which Mulatu Astatke recorded many of his classics in the late 60s and 70s.
    1A. Amha

    2Q. Collaborating with Mulatu on the new album are the Heliocentrics who are led by this drummer.
    2A. Malcolm Catto

    3Q. A song on the new album, Inspiration Information Vol. 3, is named after an instrument used by Ethiopian minstrels. Name that instrument.
    3A. Masenqo

    Thank you to K7/Strut for providing a few copies to give away and thank you to the Soul-Sides faithful for your continued support!

    Labels: , ,

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    Mulatu Astatke And The Heliocentrics: Epic + Masenqo

    From Inspiration Information Vol. 3 (K7/Strut, 2009)

    Aside from my Beatles kick I've been on lately as I am eagerly anticipating the recently announced remastered reissues, I've been a bit of a jazz head lately with the recently reviewed P.E. Hewitt Jazz Ensemble and now this Ethio-jazz album from the renowned Mulatu Astatke and his new-found friends in the Heliocentrics.

    Astatke, a vibraphonist and pianist, who has worked and performed with the likes of Duke Ellington and Phil Ranelin, met up with the Heliocentrics early last year. The groups hit it off so well that they decided to record a full album.

    Inspiration Information Vol. 3 follows in the line of releases from Strut that pairs up current artists/producers with their musical influences from a variety of backgrounds – kind of like the Red Hot + series from the last decade. The album is nearly entirely instrumental – allowing the arrangements to do the talking. One stunning example is “An Epic Story.” It has a haunting riff to it and feels almost operatic (not at all surprising since Astatke has been working on one) with its dark undertone and wide assortment of instruments featuring a nice, understated harp.

    It wouldn't be a Heliocentrics release without some semblance of funky psychedelia. “Addis Black Widow” is a rollicking tune that makes you feel like you're trying to tame the lions on a jungle safari... or maybe they're trying to tame you? Elsewhere “Masenqo” features one of the few spots where you hear singing on the album. With its many moods, it goes from jazz-piano beginning to featuring the title instrument, an Ethiopian single-string violin... and then the drums thud their way in. The vocals are just dying to have Timbaland sample them for an off-kilter beat that he's known for.

    Bottom line: if you dig the Heliocentrics, you'll enjoy this release as well. If you've never heard a Heliocentrics-featured album, this is as good of a place as any to start. Mulatu and friends do not disappoint here.

    Labels: , ,

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Didn't mean to barrage people with all those 5th Anniv. posts but since I've been gone the last 10 days, I thought I'd make up for lost time. (I'm also thinking that no one's really complaining either).

    So...I had a great time spinning at Chairman Mao's Grand Groove party in New York City the other night. As noted, it was a "covers night" theme, with DJ Muro as the headlining guest. I wasn't able to catch most of Muro's set because I ducked out to see some old friends but I did make it back in time to hear him play Penny Goodwin's cover of "What's Going On." It's strange but the song, through headphones, doesn't sound that earth-shattering for some reason. But played loud? In a public space? Good God, it is incredible. Absolutely some life-changing stuff. I can't explain it better than that (and it's also why I wouldn't bother posting the song on here but I will add it to my rotation in any club).

    I digress however.

    Towards the end of the evening, around 3am or so, I had a revelation and I think I finally understand why I like covers so much. This whole time, I've said it's because "covers are both familiar and different" and sure, that's true and I do think that's part of the appeal - their quirky blend of something you know yet don't know.

    But I think the real reason I love covers go much deeper. In participating during a six hour set of cover songs, it occurred to me that while this is a challenge in terms of bringing the best cuts to the (turn)table, it's also rather easy because generally speaking, songs that get covered were good enough to even warrant a cover to begin with. In other words, if someone didn't basically like the original source material to begin with, it's unlikely anyone would have bothered to cover the song at all.

    Which, in a sense, means that most of them are, in essence, love songs...not about love, but about the love for songs. Part of the motivation to make a cover song is either 1) a recognition that other people love that song or 2) the artist themselves love that song. Either way, that's a whole lot of love going on.

    And so, in that early morning moment, I realized that I love cover songs because I love songs...and if cover songs are love songs about the love for songs then loving cover songs is about loving the loving of songs. Or something like that.

    You catch my meaning, I hope.

    In any case, in honor of that beautiful revelation, in honor of that great evening, and just because I feel like, here's one cover I did play, one cover I could have played and one cover I may very well start playing.

    Otis Redding: Papa's Got a Brand New Bag
    From In Person at the Whiskey A Go-Go (ATCO, 1968)

    I am straight-up embarrassed that I never heard this song prior to my Funky Sole gig the other month but goddamn, it is so good, I'd say it's better than James Brown's original. Just listen to how Otis and the band punish this cover. It's become an instant favorite and at less than two and a half minutes, packs a punch every second it plays.

    Alice Babs: Been to Canaan
    From Music With a Jazz Flavour (Swedish Society, 1973)

    I don't know why I don't play this cut out more...I first learned about it years ago at the Groove Merchant and it's probably one of the best vocal jazz dance cuts I know, up there with Lynn Marino's "Feeling Good" for example. It's a very striking departure from Carole King's original, taking a slow ballad and giving it an uptempo makeover.

    The Emotions: As Long As I've Got You
    From Songs of Innocence and Experience (Stax, unreleased from 1972)

    Toward the end of the evening (circa 4am), Mao threw on a blank 45 and when those first few piano notes sounded through, I realized, "holy sh--, someone covered the Charmels." The funny thing is, I actually knew about the song from a few weeks back when Hua hepped me to it but at the moment, I totally forgot that I had already heard it and marveled at how completely awesome this cover is.

    As it turns out, Mao had the song custom-burned to 45 since it doesn't exist in any actual original vinyl form; the Emotions' album this was supposed to be from, 1972's Songs of Innocence and Experience was never released for reasons not clear...though later, many songs from it ended up on the group's Sunshine album according to Souled On. However, the group's version of "As Long As I've Got You" was not included on there and only surfaced in 2004 when Ace finally put the album out on CD. All history aside - what an incredible cover of an already incredible song.

    Labels: , ,

    Monday, March 30, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    P.E. Hewitt Jazz Ensemble: I'm Wondering Why
    From Winter Winds (Now Again, 2009)

    The 3 winners of the P.E. Hewitt “Winter Winds” contest are Guillermo Gonzalez of sunny California, Kurt Iveson from the land down under, and Tee Cardaci of Brazil. Congrats to all!

    Thank you to all who participated and continue to read the site as well as to Stones Throw/Now Again for sponsoring the contest. Answers are below.

    Q1: What label, based out of the UK, is Now Again partnering with for the expanded release of the Spritiual Jazz anthology?

    A1: Jazzman Records

    Q2: Now Again released another lost, fuzzed-out jazz album based on children's tunes as one of its pilot releases. Name the group.

    A2: Stark Reality

    Q3: The ever-feared story problem: Egon is digging for records at the local record store. He finds 20 that he likes. On his way to the counter, Egon is so excited about the records he finds that he trips over speaker wire running across the floor causing the stash of records to fly through the air. All but 12 are broken or scratched beyond repair, including a formerly pristine copy of Third Guitar's “Baby Don't Cry.” How many records does Egon have left that he wants to buy?

    A3: The answer is 12. If all but 12 are broken, that means that 8 are broken (of which the Third Guitar is one of them) and the other 12 are still in good condition. So Egon only wants to buy the 12 that are in good condition. I know, tricky tricky.

    Labels: ,

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    P.E. Hewitt Jazz Ensemble: I'm Wondering Why
    From Winter Winds (Now Again, 2009)

    Isn't it just like a telemarketer to bring you back to reality when you're listening to some new sounds that have taken you to another place? While jamming (and I mean REALLY jamming thanks to my new Klipsch Promedia 2.1 Series speakers, which I highly recommend) to the the groovy sounds of the P.E. Hewitt Jazz Ensemble, the latest Now Again release, the phone rings. Thinking that it could be my wife, who is due to deliver in the next month, I dutifully answer. But, no, it's someone wanting information on my grocery shopping habits... or on grocery products I buy... some BS like that.

    But I refuse to let it get me down – not when Stones Throw/Now Again is once again ponying up some serious music to give away for FREE to YOU, the Soul Sides faithful. Recession? What recession? At any rate, don't tell Egon, who is kind enough to be giving the goods away - you don't want him to renege!!!

    And what might these goods be, you ask? How about the CD version of the Japanese-only release of P.E. Hewitt Jazz Ensemble's “Winter Winds” album! Only a limited amount of copies have been secured for release outside of Japan either directly at Stones Throw's web store or through Dusty Groove. Now Again is providing not one, not two, but THREE copies of this CD to give away! (In case you haven't checked the sites above, it retails for $25 in the US of A.)

    So if you can't wait to get your hands on one of these fine specimens and want to secure a physical copy, you can buy from either of the stores mentioned above. Or if the recession is hitting you hard in the pocketbook and you're like me – always having a jonesin' for some new tunes, you could enter in the latest Soul Sides contest. Just answer the three questions below correctly for your chance to enter.

    Also, you can listen to the full first track of this album above. “I'm Wondering Why” is a punchy tune. Rick Hearns hits the kit hard with some possessed drumming reminding you of some great Buddy Rich work with the sticks. With such an upbeat tune, it's hard to imagine it coming from an album called Winter Winds. Those vocalists come through scatting a made-up language like they had just come over from a Gary McFarland session. Absolutely breezy work, this tune.

    It's not all sunshine, however. Other songs on the album, such as Ill Love Song, are of a different ilk with resounding yearning. Then there's the closer “Tuija,” of which you can imagine looking out the window watching the snow melt from the tree branches, perhaps while thinking of a time you wish you could go back to or of a lost loved one.

    Take a listen to the snippets over at the Stones Throw's web store to see why we're so excited that you get a chance to win this great piece of music. It's all leading up to the full P.E. Hewitt anthology release coming out Summer 2009 through Now Again.

    Contest Rules:

    1. Contest ends at midnight on March 30, 2009. Entries that arrive after that time are ineligible.
    2. ALL addresses are eligible!!!
    3. Should there be more than three contestants with all correct answers, three names will be chosen in a drawing of those who answered correctly. Should less than three people answer correctly, then winners with all correct answers will automatically win with the remaining winners to be chosen by a random drawing.
    4. Your first response is your official and final response.
    5. You are only eligible to win one of the three CDs.


    1. What label, based out of the UK, is Now Again partnering with for the expanded release of the Spritiual Jazz anthology?

    2. Now Again released another lost, fuzzed-out jazz album based on children's tunes as one of its pilot releases. Name the group.

    3. The ever-feared story problem: Egon is digging for records at the local record store. He finds 20 that he likes. On his way to the counter, Egon is so excited about the records he finds that he trips over speaker wire running across the floor causing the stash of records to fly through the air. All but 12 are broken or scratched beyond repair, including a formerly pristine copy of Third Guitar's “Baby Don't Cry.” How many records does Egon have left that he wants to buy?

    Even if you don't think you know all the answers, give it a shot. You can't win if you don't enter!

    E-mail your responses to elueckin AT and put Hewitt Jazz Ensemble in the subject line.

    Labels: ,

    Wednesday, March 04, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    (As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on October 23, 2004).

    Pi-R-Square: Fantasy Pts. 1 & 2 (Unity Edit)
    From 7" (Wee, 197?). Available on Jazzman 45.

    "I had a minor epiphany the other day. It began with the general and rather obvious observation that I own a lot of records. Too many. What I have just barely fits into my current apartment and frankly, it's not going to sustain itself much longer if I keep bringing in more LPs without thinning the herd a bit.

    The thing is: it's not at all clear if I even need/want most of what I have. In picking out songs for this site, I don't want to just throw up some half-assed songs just because I think they're "ok". I want to share music that demands to be noticed, tunes that will kick your ass and leave you, broken in an alley, songs that take you someplace that you never want to come back from. Forget the merely passable.

    For example, I own at least half a dozen Brian Auger LPs and 'nuff respect to him but I don't know if there's anything on them that's truly amazing. I own almost every album on Bernard Purdie's Encounter label but seriously, I don't know if there's more than one or two songs on that entire imprint that can even ride the same train as with a descriptor like "sublime" Don't even get me started on CTI (why do I own any Deodato LPs on that label? I mean, really?). The list goes on.

    Basically, I need to clean house and start dumping every mediocre or middle-of-the-road piece of vinyl stacked in my apartment. I need to focus on the music that's left, the indispensable records, the albums and singles that I'd protect with a passion that's normally reserved for childhood pets and letters from your first love. In short, I need to just keep the music that's on par with "Fantasy."

    For a long time, "Fantasy" was one of the Bay Area's Holy Grail 7"s - costing well into the hundreds for an elusive copy. One assumes the group was lead by pianist Lonnie Hewitt (one of Cal Tjader's longtime collaborators) since Wee was his label. The song is not longer such a best-kept secret: it's been reissued and comped several times and a local collector turned up a few boxes worth of stone-cold mint copies that the 7" can no longer be considered all that obscure. But who cares - the point is that this song is really stunning. What I love about it is how slow and patient it builds and when the funk hammer drops, it transforms the song and takes it to that proverbial "next level."

    I never get tired of listening to this song and among my various Bay Area-related records, it's top rankin', no doubt. Now if only all my records packed this much quality. Maybe we'll get there one day.

    At least I can have my Fantasy."

    Labels: ,

    Sunday, March 01, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Today, Soul Sides turns five years old as an audioblog. In internet years, that means we should qualify for a pension soon and I have, of course, all of you to thank for the constant support over that time. Soul Sides has also been graced with very supportive press over the years as well and I'm very humbled by their favorable words.

    In honor of those five years, I plan on commemorating in a few ways. The first is in reposting key songs (in my opinion) that Soul Sides has plugged over the years - I picked 4 per year. At the end, I'm going to create a limited edition CD with all 20. And finally, later in March, I'd like to have an anniversary party at Boogaloo[LA] to commemorate as well.

    And if you have some personal favorites, I'd be curious to know what they are - feel free to discuss in the comments.

    To kick off the 5 year celebrations, here's the very first post (w/ sound) I made for Soul Sides, five years ago today:

    Originally posted Feb. 29, 2004.

      Dizzy Gillespie: Matrix
      From The Real Thing (Perception, 1971)

      This has long been not only one of my favorite Gillespie cuts of all time but one of my favorite soul jazz tunes, period. Based on the original composition of Gillespie's pianist Mike Longo, "Matrix" just grooves with a smooth, smoky beauty. The recurring horn riff is super funky and catchy, the main guitar line is similarly memorable and the bassline breakdown? Sublime. Throw in some snappy drumming and you have one helluva dance floor spin not to mention excellent listening material.

    Labels: ,

    Thursday, February 26, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Ian Carr's Nucleus: Roots
    From Roots (Vertigo, 1973)

    RIP to British prog/jazz/rock pioneer Ian Carr. I never did get that deep into his overall catalog (though I hear Belladonna is a must) but "Roots" has always been a favorite in the "heavy, heavy, heavy" category.

    And I'm also sad to report on the death of Detroit's Lyman Woodard, who apart from a long career as a consummate organist, also put together one of the best hip-hop-album-covers-before-there-was-hip-hop ever:

    Here's one of my favorite songs off that LP:

    Lyman Woodard Organization: Belle Isle Daze
    From Saturday Night Special (Strata, 1975)

    Labels: , ,

    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    SUITE FOR MA DUKES: 2/22/09
    posted by O.W.

    Update (2/19): As promised, we have tickets to give away for the "Suite for Ma Dukes" show, coming up this Sunday night.

    I'll draw three winners at random from those who email me, with the subject line "Ma Dukes Contest". Good luck!

    Next in the Timeless series, following on Mulatu Astake's performance from the other week, is "Suite for Ma Dukes," a four-part suite celebrating the career and life of J-Dilla (whose birthday would have been tomorrow) by Carlos Niño & Miguel Atwood-Ferguson.

    I admit, I was a bit skeptical as to what this would sound like - the idea of having a 36 piece orchestra playing compositions inspired by J-Dilla felt like it could be an aesthetic mish-mash, like when bands try to recreate hip-hop beats. But I was very pleasantly moved by the songs I heard from the EP which, far from trying to work in a hip-hop vein, are fully fleshed out jazz compositions that borrow aspects of Dilla's tracks without being strictly beholden to them (or their original samples).

    Here's some streaming audio of one of the Suite's best songs:

    The EP itself is currently available on iTunes and will be released on LP/CD in April (pre-order here).

    The performance will be on February 22nd (Sunday night) at the Luckman Center (Cal State LA campus). I should have some tickets to give away for it as we get closer to the date.

    Labels: , , ,

    Sunday, February 08, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Blossom Dearie: I Like London In the Rain (edit)
    From That's Just the Way I Want To Be (Fontana, 1970)

    Blossom Dearie: Sunday Afternoon
    From Blossom Dearie Sings (Daffodil, 1973)

    Undoubtedly, one of the most unique voices in jazz history - you wouldn't think something so seemingly delicate and girly could hold a tune but year after year, Dearie proved us otherwise. She'll always form an indelible part of my youth thanks to this classic from the Schoolhouse Rock series:

    Rest in peace, Dearie.

    Labels: ,

    Monday, December 29, 2008

    posted by O.W.

    For every beginning break collector, especially those coming out of the 1990s, it was inevitable that you'd end up with more than a few Freddie Hubbard records. As a trumpeter player, his work - especially for CTI - was such an essential part of the soul-jazz sound of the 1970s that would find renewed resonance two decades later.

    Hubbard died today, only age 70, from a heart attack. Here are a few personnel favorites:

    Red Clay


    Labels: ,

    Tuesday, December 02, 2008

    posted by O.W.

    Jim Friedman: Love Makes It Beautiful
    From Hungry (JF Records, 197?)

    Paul Mitchell Trio: Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
    Paul Mitchell Trio: Now That I Know What Loneliness Is
    From Another Way to Feel(Dantes Down the Hatch, 1973)

    Spirit: The Other Song
    From Son of Spirit (Mercury, 1975)

    It's not like I have stacks of records, littering the floor or anything but I don't always organize my records that well and inevitably, that means rediscovering things from my stacks that I had forgotten about. I stumbled back across these three LPs last night while I was getting stuff ready to sell and it reminded me of how nicely random some records can be.

    Take the Jim Friedman LP for example - a really obscure (perhaps for good reason) private press jazz album that I last wrote about four years ago (damn, I've been doing this site for a minute - peep the old design!) when I was writing about his song "Aubrey." This is what I had to say about Friedman:
      "one of those anomalous albums by an anomalous artist that is partly why I love records. Friedman's not much of a warbler and elsewhere on this private press release, his singing is rather terrible but on "Aubrey," it all comes together. It's not like his voice magically turns from schlock to Sinatra but I just kind of feel him on this one, you know?"
    And indeed, coming back to the album after, well, four years, I dropped the needle on another song, the funky "Love Makes It Beautiful." It's still kind of clunky, he still can't sing but this song has tons of charm and nice musical touches.

    The Paul Mitchell Trio LP is another private press jazz LP - Mitchell was the long, long, long-time resident player at Dantes Down the Hatch in Atlanta (alas, he passed in 2000). He recorded in 1966 for Verve and it's rather remarkable that we was able to do so again (this time for Dantes' own label) seven years later, with the same players: Layman Jackson on bass and Allen Murphy on drums.

    The A-side starts off well with an instrumental cover of James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" (I am not too proud to admit: I dig this tune - go Taylor!) but for whatever reason, I had never bothered to really listen to the flipside where I discovered that Murphy wasn't just the drummer - he was also the band's vocalist and sings on several of the songs including this great Mitchell-original ballad, "Now That I Know What Loneliness Is." (The arrangement reminds of George Jackson's "Aretha, Sing One For Me" for some reason).

    Last but not least, I had this Spirit LP in my "sell" pile only to realize that it wasn't a spare so I put it back in my stacks. "The Other Song" is what you'd want all druggy, psych-influenced rock to sound like - dreamy yet with that hard drum beat anchoring things down. I'm surprised no rappers have flipped this (or have they?) You get a contact high just from listening to it.

    Labels: ,

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    YEARS TO YEARS: 1972/75
    posted by Benge

    The Dells: I'll Never Fall in Love Again
    The Dells: Trains and Boats and Planes
    From The Dells Sing Dionne Warwicke's Greatest Hits (Cadet, 1972)

    David Axelrod: One
    David Axelrod: Go For It
    From Seriously Deep (Polydor 1975)

    1975 was a funky year for music, and not in a good way. It was after the last true r&b records were released, before disco, and in the midst of jazz being lost in fusion. Digging through records from that year, I wonder what happened to the soul. But in this darkness there are some lights, the occasional find that shows there were grooves to be played that could bring someone deep. David Axelrod's Seriously Deep was released on Polydor that year, the only of his albums to come out on that label. It kicks off with open drums in "Miles Away" that let you know there will be some true funk goings on here. Recorded with a full array of Los Angeles studio musicians, it veers away from his early work for Reprise and Capitol, being less orchestral in nature and more straight jazz-funk. There are the tangents that stray a little too far into fusion (I wish that Joe Sample had been asked to lay off the spacy "Odyessy Keyboard" a bit more), but there is a lovely, warm feeling throughout with horns, congas, and guitars keeping a solid groove that would've made for standout blaxploitation-style funk just a couple of years earlier. "One" is lovely and makes me want to go for a drive in L.A. with "Go For It" could've been playing in a particularly sweet dream I had the other night.

    1972 on the other hand seemed to be a year where soul and funk filled the air in a way that artist after artist could grab at it and come up with something good, deep, soulful, and meaningful. That was the year that the vocal quintet The Dells, with the help of Charles Stepney, recorded and released The Dells Sing Dionne Warwicke's Greatest Hits for Chess Records. Featuring a thick roster of great Chicago soul men, including Phil Upchurch and Derf Reklaw, the Dells dived head-first into records -- all written by Burt Bacharach -- that had already been hits in softer and sweeter versions by the to-be host of Solid Gold. However, Stepney and the Dells are able to keep them sweet while also making them gritty. Unfortunately, since we are looking back at this record from today, we have to deal with the fact that a bunch of these Bacharach tunes have gotten stuck in our heads through popular versions by the likes of BJ Thomas and The Carpenters. It's hard to hear even this team try their hands at "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" and "Close to You." But the burners are here, too. The opener "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" and "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself "are so worth the price of admission, that the failures can be overlooked and the other sweet tunes feel like icing on the cake. "I'll Never..." opens the album with a bass/piano/singing moment that will stop you from being able to do whatever you may be doing and drop you right into some deeper part of your being. "I Just Don't..." starts off with a bassline that lets you know something explosive is about to pop and picks up from there, going full-tilt congo wah-wah funk. Stepney throws in strings and all sorts of sweet sounds throughout creating an album that would be suitable for both a late Saturday evening/mid-morning Sunday groove.

    Benge is the urban music director at WRUV-FM in Burlington, Vt. where he's spun every funky thing under the sun on his show, Sex Fly, since 1991. He also happens to be an Archetypal Dream Worker for North of Eden. Somehow the two are connected.

    Labels: , , ,

    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.

    Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

    Thursday, August 14, 2008

    posted by O.W.

    (Editor's Note: This comes from Matt Rogers, one of the contributing editors at Wax Poetics and someone who I thought could do an excellent retrospective on the late Jimmy McGriff (who we lost earlier this year). With his death, alongside that of Jack McDuff and Jimmy Smith, one of the greatest sets of jazz organists to ever come through are now gone. Rogers pays proper tribute to one of those masters. --O.W.)

    Written by Matt Rogers:
      "This is what we call the love instrument," Jimmy McGriff said to me once during an interview for this. At the time, he was sitting at the helm of the 400lb lovechild of pipe organ and furniture-piece, better known as the Hammond B-3 that, along with its Leslie speaker, occupied a significant chunk of the man's living room. "If you love it and play it like you mean it, it will work for you." And work for him "the Beast" (as it's often referred to by many of its devotees), most certainly did, propelling a sixty-year professional music career in which McGriff loved and played the indefatigable instrument in clubs and concert halls the world over, all the while greasing heavyweight grooves onto a plethora of albums for numerous record labels--including Sue, Solid State, Blue Note, Capitol, Groove Merchant and Milestone--that would be sampled by hip-hop heads for years to come. Sadly, on May 24th, 2008, the great Jimmy McGriff died--aged 72--just outside his hometown of Brotherly Love, the cause complications from multiple sclerosis, which he'd battled the last two decades of his life.

      James Harrell McGriff Jr. was humble, reserved, confident; one of the last of his ilk, that is, a "jazz" musician who in the ‘60s and ‘70s took jazz and slapped it silly with funk. Whereas many jazz artists (let alone critics) decried such "debasing" of jazz, Hammond organists—who had a virtual orchestra under their fingertips and heels--seemed a natural fit. Born April 3rd, 1936--not long after the first Hammond organs were being rolled off of Chicago assembly lines--into a family steeped in the thick sacred and secular Philadelphia music scene, McGriff grew up in the Germantown neighborhood known as the Brickyard, where it wasn't uncommon for folks such as Count Basie to be jammin' at the McGriff household and encouraging Jimmy Jr. to take a taste. And he did, sampling piano, violin, drums, and vibes before landing his first gig at 13 playing bass for singer Big Maybelle. Officially bit, McGriff then picked up sax gigs with Hammond organ-based groups, most notably organist Richard "Groove" Holmes's, who insisted Jimmy--now earning his bread as a city police officer (he'd given Miles Davis a parking ticket)--was misfiring his talents and sternly sat him down at the organ bench. Thusly, McGriff became smitten with the Hammond in a town seemingly minting world-class organists daily, including Doc Bagby, Milt Buckner, Bill Doggett, Shirley Scott, Trudy Pitts and, of course, the incomparable Jimmy Smith.

      "Jimmy Smith is the king of the jazz," McGriff would say years later in a radio interview, "but when it comes into the blues thing, we got a little different outlook on things." True enough, throughout his career McGriff routinely insisted he was not a jazz organist but rather a blues organ player, and he found his voice in melding gospel, blues and jazz like no organist before him or after. One could probably attribute part of his claim to his desire (and need) to differentiate himself from the long, thick shadow cast by the Tiger Woods of jazz organ--Jimmy Smith--as well as critics/publicity folk/stores who needed to categorize his efforts. However, one must only look at McGriff's vast record of records to know that the man knew what he was talking about. According to McGriff, his two biggest influences were indeed Ray Charles and Count Basie, and like Basie, McGriff was more concerned not with the speed and number of notes one could play, but where they were placed. His M.O. from the get go was to combine his love for gospel stomp and big band swing into something new, call it jazz, soul jazz, funk, whatever you want. The bottom line: whatever he played, whether original tune or cover, he usually made it groove.

      I've Got A Woman
      From I've Got A Woman (Sue, 1962)

      From Jimmy McGriff at the Organ (Sue 1964)

      Jungle Cat
      7" (Jell, 196?)

      Where It's At
      From Where the Action Is (Veep, 1965ish)

      Motoring Along
      From Step 1 (Solid State, 1968)

      Jimmy Smith: Motoring Along
      From Home Cookin' (Blue Note, 1958)

      [Sidenote: McGriff's first single, "Foxy Do," for the White Rock label in 1960 features a young Charlie Earland on sax. If you've ever heard it, please holla'. McGriff would end up mentoring Earland on organ like "Groove" Holmes had done for him. Probably not a coincidence all three were some of the funkiest of their peers. The tunes covered in this overview lean in that direction.]

      McGriff's first smash single, a cover of Ray Charles' "I've Got a Woman," was recorded first for his manager's record label, Jell Records, in '61, then picked up by Juggy Murray's Sue Records, which was distinctly a very un-jazzy label, focusing more on the likes of Ike and Tina Turner and Baby Washington. A full-length LP, I've Got a Woman followed in '62, as McGriff would proceed to lay down seven LPs for Sue from '62-'64, all heavily soaked with gospel, blues and jazz. "Kiko, " a sped-up kissing cousin of Bill Doggett's smash, "Honkytonk," was another hit for McGriff and became a calling card for his live shows.

      Before Jimmy McGriff moved onto the next phase of his career, in which he was scooped by producer and A&R man Sonny Lester, McGriff recorded "Jungle Cat (pt.1)," a 45-only release on Jell; it's notable as it features his brother Hank McGriff on bongos. Whereas "Jungle Cat" may have been recorded live, "Where It's At" certainly was, in Newark, NJ, itself a hotbed for Hammond organists, featuring the rhythmic guitar wonder Thornell Schwartz, who'd share time between Jimmy Smith's and McGriff's bands. Ironically, McGriff wasn't the first one to record one of his own songs. Jimmy Smith beat him to the punch, recording McGriff's "Motoring Along" in '58, well before McGriff had any record deal, and ten years before McGriff would set his own version to wax.

      From Cherry (Solid State, 1966)

      I Got the Feelin'
      From Honey (Solid State, 1968)

      The Worm
      From The Worm (Solid State, 1968)

      A Thing to Come By, Pt. 2
      From A Thing to Come By (Solid State, 1969)

      Chris Cross & The Bird Wave
      From Electric Funk (Blue Note, 1969)

      Ain't It Funky Now
      From Soul Sugar (Capitol, 1971)

      Jimmy McGriff's association with Sonny Lester lasted fifteen years, as McGriff essentially became Lester's linchpin for two significant record labels he would create, the first being Solid State in '66, the second being Groove Merchant in ‘71. Lester's eye was always trained on the jukebox and he saw McGriff as someone who could place many 45s there. After allowing McGriff to fulfill a lifelong dream of recording an album with Count Basie's band, Tribute to Basie, Lester threw a slew of pop tunes at him, including "Tequila," as well as soul tunes such as "Respect" and "We're a Winner."

      In fact, McGriff told stories about how over the years James Brown, no stranger to the Hammond organ, would harass him for organ lessons anytime he would bump into him at a gig. Maybe the requests had something to do with McGriff's take on the Godfather's work. Regardless, McGriff embraced soul and funk as the decade wore on, and would frequently feature the horn work of Blue Mitchell and Arthur "Fats" Theus. Theus, an astute study of Eddie Harris's Varitone sax technique, would pen McGriff's hit, "The Worm, " the title track from his '68 LP (which also contained the nugget, "Blue Juice"). "A Thing to Come By, Pt. 2" showcases McGriff's simultaneous piano and organ bass work. With '69's Electric Funk, McGriff slathered his Blue Note debut with the assistance of arranger/composer/pianist Horace Ott, Stanley Turrentine and an uncredited Bernard Purdie. With tunes like "Chris Cross" and "The Bird Wave," McGriff's funk bag was cemented.

      Jimmy McGriff & Junior Parker: No One Knows (What Goes On When The Door Is Closed)
      From Jimmy McGriff & Junior Parker (United Artists, 1971)

      Jimmy McGriff & Junior Parker: Drownin' On Dry Land
      From Good Things Don't Happen Every Day (Groove Merchant, 1971)

      From Let's Stay Together (Groove Merchant, 1972)

      Jimmy McGriff & "Groove" Holmes: Beans
      From Giants of the Organ in Concert (Groove Merchant, 1973)

      Jimmy McGriff:The Main Squeeze
      From The Main Squeeze (Groove Merchant, 1974)

      Stump Juice
      From Stump Juice (Groove Merchant, 1975)

      Two of the most interesting collaborations McGriff ever did in his career were with the blues singer Junior Parker and fellow organist Richard "Groove" Holmes. McGriff recorded two albums with Parker before he tragically died of cancer at 38; one, recorded live at McGriff's Newark club, the Golden Slipper, the other recorded in-studio. These albums would be released under varying titles both on Capitol and Sonny Lester's new label, Groove Merchant. Groove Merchant did exactly what it's name implied: sold the groove. McGriff, along with folks like Lonnie Smith, Reuben Wilson, Carmen McRae, as well has his close friend and mentor, "Groove" Holmes, became the label's premier acts. McGriff continued to churn out soul jazz, funk jazz, jazz funk, whatevah, via a host of albums like Fly Dude, Groove Grease and Let's Stay Together. McGriff and Holmes also recorded a pair of albums together, the first in-studio, the other a torrid double LP recorded live at Paul's Mall in Boston. One of McGriff's favorite efforts, you can compare and contrast student and teacher's styles on this jam-laden nugget, as McGriff is panned to your left and Holmes to your right. The shortest cut, "Beans," lends itself to such aural taste tests.

      As synthesizers began elbowing their way onto wax, McGriff held the funk mantle while embracing the new technology, as illustrated on cuts like "Stump Juice, that would serve an eventual death knell for the soon-to-be bankrupt Hammond organ company. At the height of the synth-craze, McGriff's partnership with Sonny Lester sputtered, and he'd forge a new relationship with producer Bob Porter in 1980, moving back to his blues-based roots for the remaining two decades of his recording career. But he never forgot his love for the funk. "Funk had been good to me," McGriff told me once. "And me and that organ had been good to funk."

    Jerry Wexler: 1917 - 2008

    It's been a bad week. More to follow.

    Labels: ,