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:

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

posted by O.W.

I had a great time last night. The Boogaloo Assassins killed it, as usual, and impressed the hell out of the folks from Fania who had heard 'em but never seen them perform in action. I am insanely jealous of anyone in the NYC area who gets to see the band fly out to the birthplace of boogaloo and perform for the first time in their history. That's coming up on February 24 - do not sleep!

I was also very blessed to have finally met, in person, Bobby Marin after several years of picking his brain for all things boogaloo-related. It is incredible how many different projects he worked on in the '60s and '70s. I had no idea he helped get the Ghetto Brothers onto Mary Lou to record their album.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

posted by O.W.

I finally got around to catching up on my blog reading and noticed that Super Sonido recently wrote up Mon Rivera's "Lluvia Con Nieve." This salsa classic was introduced to me by Murphy's Law and I consider it one of my Top 3 go-to, never-fail salsa cuts to get an audience moving (Willie Colon holds down the other two with his "La Murga De Panama" and "Che Che Cole"). "Lluvia Con Nieve" fits right between those two - more aggressive and forceful than "Che Che Cole" though, for my money, nothing can ace the horn opening to "La Murga" but that "Lluvia" comes pretty damn close. Trust a trombonist to know how to use some brass to get feet to slide.

Super Sonido included Rivera's original plus a cover by Lucho Macedo on Virrey which I had never heard before (good stuff Frank!) and that made me think of this:

Carlos Pickling: Lluvia Con Nieve-El Molestoso
From Suplemento Dominical (MAG, 1970s)

Can't say I know much about this Peruvian organist except that he's, um, Peruvian and an organist. I picked this Mag LP up a while back, mostly on the strength of this medley/cover of "Lluvia Con Nieve" that segues nicely into "El Molestoso," a pachanga (Eddie Palmieri's?). The use of organ is what sells this cover for me, just adding enough of a touch of difference to stick in the ear.

Meanwhile, over at Philaflava's TROY blog, he's got the latest post in his "Who Flipped It Better" series up, focusing on samplings of Five Stairsteps' "Danger, She's a Stranger." It reminded me that I hadn't done an installment of my own, similar series in well over a year and as it was, in going back over some key Willie Mitchell productions, I forgot how many folks had flipped Al Green's "I Wish You Were Here."

Al Green: I Wish You Were Here
From Al Green Is Love (Hi, 1975)

Nas: Shootouts
From It Was Written (Columbia, 1996)

The Lootpack: Wanna Test
From Soundpieces: Da Antidote (Stones Throw, 1999)

Consequence feat. Kanye West: The Good, The Bad, the Ugly
From Don't Quit Your Day Job (Good, 2007)

Wu-Tang (Ghostface Killah + Tre Williams): I Wish You Were Here
From Chamber Music (E1, 2009)

I find it rather remarkable that this song has been such a popular sample over the years if only because it's just not what I associate with Green's core canon. Doesn't mean it isn't a great song and in particular, such a classic Willie Mitchell sound. On that note, it's rather amazing that no one in the Wu seemed to mess with this until last year given that it sounds pitch-perfect for the Wu's well-known affections for the Hi catalog.

However, it was Nas who seemed to have been the first to flip this (Poke and Tone of the Trackmasters to be more exact), back with "Shootouts" from It Was Written. Call me crazy but listening back to this, some 14 years later, doesn't one get the sense that Poke and Tone were listening to some of Rza's beats and thinking, "yo, we need to get on this steez?" In any case, I admire how they didn't opt for a straight loop but chop it up instead (Jesse "Fiyah!" West style!) Madlib's flip on the same sample for The Lootpack's "Wanna Test" doesn't cut things up as much, opting instead to filter parts of the main, opening loop to add some dissonance. Fast-forward to 2007 and it's an interesting contrast with how Kanye uses more of the original sample in its "pure" sonic form to open, but then chops it up a bit (w/ Green's vocals sped-up and attached) for the main parts of the song. Honestly, I think I gotta give it up to the Trackmasters for the best flip of this sample - it just has the most edge and appealing sound of the bunch.

Continuing my "songs I thought of while reading other people's posts" - Earfuzz has the new Kings Go Forth's single, "One Day" and that reminded me that I'm behind on posting this:

The One & Nines: Something On Your Mind
From The One & Nines EP (2009)

This soul band out of New Jersey (no Jersey Shore jokes, please) contacted me over winter break and I really dug this one song off their new EP. Reminds me of that Noisettes song I posted last year in general sound but sans the rock elements. The arrangement here is done with smart subtly - the song doesn't try to force an overly aggressive crescendo; it's content with maintaining a slow burn that sparks towards the end without ever departing too far from the core, Southern Soul aesthetics that make this such an appealing tune. (Excellent use of back-up singers too - this isn't nearly as acknowledged as it should be.)

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Friday, January 29, 2010

posted by O.W.

Here's a quintet of stuff I've been listening to lately...

Cumbias En Moog: Cumbia Del Sol
From 7" (Peerless, 197/8?)

Cumbia, done in moog. Awesome idea, marvelously executed here by the outfit, appropriately named, Cumbias En Moog. I'm betting there's a lot more of this out there, probably collecting dust somewhere between Colombia and Mexico City. Holler at me with that! This came out of a batch of cumbia 7"s I picked up the other month; money well-spent! Really solid stuff all around (the A-side of this 7", for example, has a surprisingly good, bossa-flavored cumbia). I'll share another one:

Pedro Beltran y Orquesta: Cumbia De Lucy
From 7" (Aries, 1970s)

Killer intro; sounds like a marching band bass drum being pounded there, intercut with chattering percussion and then what sounds like an Indian flute creeps in (I'm assuming it's some Peruvian woodwindaccording to commenter Alejandro, it's a Colombian instrument called a "gaita".). The whole package is an incredibly mesmerizing rhythm. Lyrically, I can only assume the song is a riff on Lucille Ball given that the vocalist (Beltran?) sings "Lucy! Luck!" Ricky Ricardo style.

The Sonics: Have Love Will Travel
From Here Are the Sonics (Etiquette, 1965)

One of my favorite songs to DJ with over the last year or so has been the Lefties Soul Connection's cover of "Have Love Will Travel." The song was originally recorded by Richard Berry in 1959 but like several of Berry's influential compositions ("Louie Louie" being the most obvious), it would actually be later artists who'd record the more definitive version. In the case of "Have Love Will Travel," the version the Lefties are riffing on isn't Berry's original but the 1965 cover by the garage rockers, The Sonics. With the fuzzed out guitar and screaming intro, their version rocks in a way that Berry's never really did and it's easy to see why it's been such a compelling cover to cover since then. Check out Thee Headcoat(ees) cover for the femme makeover.

Chikaramanga feat. Droop Capone: A Life Like This (snippet)
From 12" (Tres, 2010)

Droop Capone aka Dr. Oop is one of my favorite West Coast rappers from the indie hip-hop heyday; he had such a distinctive flow and a knack for choosing good beats to rhyme over. In 2010, he hasn't slipped on that front, teaming with Japan's Chikaramanga for this upcoming single on Tres Records. Call it nostalgist in me but I like any song that a shout out to the Good Life on the chorus. Cop this.

Professor Longhair: Big Chief Pt. 2
From 7" (Watch, 19640). Part 1 + 2 version here.

This is a classic of NOLA music though I didn't get around to grabbing the OG 7" until recently. If you want to understand the roots of funk polyrhythm, you'd do well to just pay attention to what's going on this song in terms of what Smokey Johnson (second line ya'll!) is doing with the drums and how it plays off against the rest of the layers of the song. Longhair's piano work here is sparkling and I went with the lesser played Pt. 2 of the 7" because I like it makes the Royal Dukes of Rhythm horn section more prominent plus you get actual vocals (from Earl King) instead of only whistling. (Home of the Groove has an excellent primer on this single).

In other news...people may also be interested in:

  • Part 3 of my overview of the Latin soul label, Speed, on
  • An essay for about who usually wins the Grammy's R&B Female Performance award.

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  • Friday, January 22, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    Richard's People: Yo Yo (O-Dub's Extended Intro Edit)
    From 7" (Tuba, 1968)

    When Doc Delay came through to spin the other month, he dropped this in the middle of a funk mix and trainspotter as I am, I craned my neck over to ask: "wtf is this?" It sounded like the unruly love child of a Midwestern funkateer backed by an East Harlem band and as I dug around for more info on its background, turned out I was more or less on point.

    While the 7" came out of Detroit (rumor is, the vocalist was a janitor at Tuba Records), the backing track originated in New York which probably explains why the dip into the shing-a-ling has a distinctive Nuyorican sabor on it. Boogaloo fiend as I am, I love where Latin boogaloo comes back to the Midwest (where the booglaoo was born). It's very post-modern before anyone was talking about post-modernity(ok, I'm hella nerding out right now) but all you need to know is that "Yo Yo" rocks. Sure, it's a derivative track in terms of being a "new dance" that also borrows from any number of hit songs from the same era such as the "Cool Jerk" and "Here Comes the Judge." (Again, pastiche! Collage!) Plus, all that and a breakbeat intro? Oh hells yes. (Personally, I'd love to see how the "Yo Yo" is done; sounds like fun.)

    (See also Funky16Corners' excellent exploration of the single's history).

    This is jarring gear shift but I'd be remiss in not taking the time to mourn the passing of Teddy Pendergrass, gone far before this time (which is about 99% of the great ones, no?).

    Teddy Pendergrass: Love TKO
    From TP (Philly Int'l, 1980)

    All-time, end of night, slow jam, red light classic (though I suppose "Close the Door" is the king seduction song even more).

    King Kong: The Love I Lost
    From Funky Reggae (MFP, 1970s)

    Just played this out last night and cotdamn was this Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (feat. Teddy) such an incredible jam, made all the more enticing in this reggae-fied remake.

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    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    7 x 7 + 12
    posted by O.W.

    Johnny Holiday: Nobody Loves Me But My Mama
    From 7" (Bold, 196?)

    The Combinations: Bump Ball
    From 7" (RCA Victor, 196?)

    Fruko: Langaruto
    From 7" (Fuentes, 197?)

    Orquesta Zodiac: Tremendo Problema
    From 7" (Costeño, 1972)

    Jimmy and Eddie: Stop and Think It Over
    From 7" (One Way, 196?)

    Mandells: Now I Know
    From 7" (Hour Glass, 196?)

    Family Affair: I Had a Friend
    From 7" (Authentic, 197?)

    Bonus: Frankie Nieves: True Love (English + Spanish Version)
    From 12" (Disco Int'l, 1979)

    A few 7" single songs to share with ya'll...

    First up, I've been hunting down a copy of this Johnny Holiday single for years now. It could very well be one of the roughest things I've ever heard - sounds like a funk garage band with a flutist sitting in and Holiday just raging on the mic like he's mad at the world. Holiday has cut other singles, including for Bold, but none of them sound like this; I don't know if the studio was having recording problems that day (the flipside is also a monster but the mix is completely f---ed up, burying his vocals over a crushing, blues-influenced funk number) but whatever happened - god bless. I love grimy cuts like this. Thanks to Records L.A. who sold me their last stock copy.

    The Combinations 7" is something I bought on a lark; I was already buying another 45 from the same seller and decided to take a chance on this despite minimal awareness of the group. As I dug deeper, I was surprised to learn that the group originally began as a garage band from Easton PA; mostly white save for a lone Black member. They described their sound as "a blend of white rock under black soul." What's funny is that they somehow managed to record "Bump Ball," a funky R&B boogaloo, in conjunction with the release of Milton-Bradley's Bump Ball. I'm not clear if the 7" I have was the one actually included with the game (as some sites have reported). There was also a Bump Ball album (but it's not clear if the Combinations recorded all the songs on here or just the title track, which was credited to "The Bumpers"). Interesting history but all that aside - I like the track. It, uh, bumps.

    Moving into some Latin, this Fruko cut is a 7" only song as far as I know (w/ "Bang Bang" on the flip but not Joe Cuba's well-known boogaloo hit). "Langaruto" shows off the strong piano work of (I think?) Hernán Gutiérrez who really is the secret weapon for all the best Fruko y sus Tesos tracks. This song, in particular, has that massive salsa dura sound that manages to be distinctly Colombian in a way I still haven't been able to put my finger on - it opens like a guajira before switching things up to a quicker son montuno about half a minute in (again, I think. Corrections welcome!). So fierce.

    Puerto Rico's Orquesta Zodiac drops the other Latin cut in this set, another strong '70s slice of salsa. I really like the use of organ on here; it's subtle but it adds that spritz of sonic lime to flavor up the rest of the track. I'm also feeling the vocal interplay between the lead and background singers - great call and response.

    The Jimmy and Eddie is a strong funky soul cut I nabbed at Big City Records in NYC earlier this year; the mix sounds just a tad off here but in favor of the rhythm section and especially the bassist and drummer. Their team-up really brings this whole tune together - it pushes along nicely and the drums are mic-ed just right to lend that extra oomph.

    Give the rhythm section some love on this Mandells' single too. The group perfectly blend some Chicago-style sweet soul vocals with that deep, deep bass, the chicha-chicha of the hi-hat patterns...with a string arrangement to book? Are you kidding me? Best thing - this 7" is usually found for $10 or less - an incredible value given how good the music is.

    Last on the 7" tip is one of the straight up strangest 45s I've come across of late. I could have sworn I originally heard this on Matthew Africa's blog but I can't seem to find it there again. Nonetheless, it really pays to listen to this beyond just thinking, "ooooh, nice groove." I mean, it's a great groove - so soulful with what I think of as subtle disco edge. And then the sweet, falsetto vocals drop in and you're thinking, "man, this is so butter." But then you start listening and you realize, "uh, ok, this is not setting things up well, with the singer talking about, 'I had a friend who had everything'" since you always know how those stories end. I won't spoil it for you but just wait until you pass the two minute mark. I feel like there should be a sound effect inserted here, just to hammer the point home. An otherwise beautiful tune.

    Bonus cut is the special bilingual disco 12" edit of Frankie Nieves' finest work for Speed, "True Love" (which, as you can figure out in one bar, interpolates "Soulful Strut.") I am super curious to know who ran Disco International; they seemed to specialize in (I'm assuming) unlicensed disco edits of many a great Latin jam, including Al Gonzalez' "El Rumbon" and this one. In the case of "True Love," Disco Int'l took the English A and Spanish B-side of Nieves' Speed 7" (which, by the way, came out 10 years prior) and then edited them together into a single, 6+ minute track (the B-side is a 6+ minute long Spanish-only edit). To be frank(ie), the edit does get a bit repetitive after a while but then again, it is one effective groove (Young Holt Unlimited knew what the f--- they were doing back in the day).

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    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 20, 2009

    posted by O.W.

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

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

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

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

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

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

      – Sonido Franko

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    Monday, October 19, 2009

    posted by O.W.

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

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

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    Tuesday, October 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, October 06, 2009

    posted by O.W.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    --Sonido Franko

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    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    The winners of the Brownout album are Harry from blustery Minnesota, Bao from Washington, and Mark from Maryland.

    You can still download this FREE mixtape of Brownout mixed by DJ Chicken George. And don't forget to check them out on tour. If you like what you hear, give 'em your hard-earned dollars and buy the new album.

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    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    Brownout: Olvidalo
    From Aguilas And Cobras (Six Degrees, 2009)

    Six Degrees has been kind enough to give us THREE copies of a Brownout's latest effort, Aguilas And Cobras, to give away. This is a great precursor to next month's Latin Music PBS special OW mentioned about a month ago.

    The album is musical hot sauce and is sure to set your feet ablaze when you're grooving to their heavy riffs - the guitarist absolutely smokes! You can download this FREE mixtape of Brownout mixed by DJ Chicken George if you aren't familiar with the band.

    Brownout has a few California tour dates left in September before going on a couple week break. But fear not, they start back at it in October hitting up New York, New Orleans, and DC to name a few. Check out their MySpace page for a listing of dates.

    To win a copy, simply e-mail soulsideseric AT and put Brownout in the subject line. I will randomly select 3 names from all entries next Wednesday, September 23, 2009.

    Contest Rules:

    1. Contest ends at midnight on Wednesday, September 23, 2009. Entries that arrive after that time are ineligible.
    2. Only US addresses are eligible. Sorry international readers!
    3. Only 1 entry per person.

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    Monday, August 10, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    The new Wax Poetics #36 is out and it's focused on Brazil's rich musical legacy.

    I have a piece in here about the Ozzie Dasilva LP - Zig Zag With Love - a rather incredible L.A.-recorded Brazilian lounge album (yeah, that's a mouthful but it is what it is) that has one of the sickest examples of Brazilian-funk-meets-proto-rap I can think of. Ok, actually, it might be the ONLY example I can think of. But it's still pretty great.

    Here's a snippet. One of these days, I may get around to posting the whole thing up* but in the meanwhile, do cop the issue and read about the full story behind Ozzie's zig-zagging.

    And very special thanks to Rodney (aka Young Einstein) who was the first to put me up on this album.

    *(Actually, I'll send out the entire song to a few folks (randomly selected) who can tell me who Ozzie Dasilva's announcer was - it's in the piece, so anyone with the issue has that info. Email me).

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    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.

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    Monday, July 27, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Joe Bataan: Sadie
    I Do Love You
    From The Years of Soul (Century, 1992)

    Being the avid Joe Bataan fan I am, when he mentioned that he had recorded an album for a Japanese label in the early '90s, it perked my curiosity since this was during the era that Bataan wasn't recording at all. Best I can tell, Years of Soul is the only album he sat down for between the early '80s and early '00s and given that it came out on a Japanese imprint, it's probably his most obscure album.

    I'd love to say it's this great, unsung masterpiece but truth be told, it's forgettable, especially given a Euro-disco sound that I don't find particularly successful here. That said, two songs still worth checking - "Sadie" is a remake of "Gypsy Woman," one of Bataan's earliest hits and I could pass up sharing his cover of Billy Stewart's classic lowrider jam, "I Do Love You," which, to me, was the strongest track on the album given Bataan's penchant for the slow groover.

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    Thursday, July 23, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Qrquesta Cubana De Música Moderna: Vehicle
    Los Papines: Para Qué Niegas
    Both from Si Para Usted Vol. 2: The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba (Waxing Deep, 2009)

    Can it be already two years since the first volume of this series appeared? The folks at Waxing Deep are at it again, mining the rich - but under-appreciated - catalog of Cuban records from the 1960s and '70s that flourished despite the country's isolation from the U.S.

    It's always stunning to consider how pervasive and influential Cuban music has been on America, all despite the political and economic distance that's been enforced between the two countries and the Si Para Usted series has excelled in showcasing how rich a dialogue was happening despite the official blockades.

    In picking two songs to highlight off the excellent Vol. 2, it was hard to pass up Qrquesta Cubana De Música Moderna's "Vehicle" - maybe it's those opening horns, maybe it's because I've heard the Ides of March's original so many times but you have to admit, it is a damn catchy tune and this Orquesta does a bang up job of keeping its vivacious funkiness front and center.

    With the Los Papines, I wanted to take things in a completely different direction, with a groove that was subtler but no less impressive. I love the layers of sound going on here, from the Brazilian-esque locals popping up in the background, to the smooth main vocals melting in, to the soft brushes of Frank Emilioano's keys and Cachaíto's bass. It's a collision that probably shouldn't work but the more you listen, the deeper you fall in.

    Bonus: Juan Formell and Los Van Van: Llegue, Llegue / Guararey de Pastoria
    From Juan Formell and Los Van Van (Areito, 1974)

    Jesús "Chucho" Valdés y Su Combo: Descarga de Kike/Quique
    From Jazz Nocturno Jazz (Palma, 196?)

    Thank god for this comp - it finally got me to write about a few personal favorites from my very small collection of Cuban records, beginning with one of the biggest bands to come out of the island - Juan Formell and Los Van Van.

    I first "heard" "Llegue, Llegue" in the form of Cut Chemist's "Intro" for The Litmus TestJurassic 5's "This Is" - either Cut Chemist or Numark loops the front part of this song and when I came across this Los Van Van/Juan Formell album years later, I finally knew where they had gotten it from. You gotta love how hypnotic this groove is, especially as it patiently unfurls and builds over its 9 minutes until it transforms into a more conventional Latin dance track. The use of strings in here is just incredible; totally unexpected but most welcome.

    As for the descarga I also included - funky, no. Jazzy? Sí! This comes from the great Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés for a lovely Latin jazz LP he recorded for the Palma imprint. I'm assuming this particular descarga is dedicated to one of Valdés' collaborators named Quique (it's misprinted - though phonetically consistent - as "Kike" on the cover) but I can't tell if that's supposed to be Enrique Plá or another musician nicknamed "Quique." Great, great dance number though.


    Monday, July 20, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Musica del Alma � Blog Archive � Guest Post: O-Dub (

    Pachanga, pachanga, pachanga!


    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Quantic and His Combo Barbaro: Mambo Los Quantic
    I Just Fell In Love Again
    From Tradition in Transition (Tru Thought, 2009)

    It's good to be Will "Quantic" Holland. His soul/funk remixes and productions are some of the best out there but then he went to developed a love affair with Colombian music and that's opened into a whole new, beautiful arena of music to craft.

    This new album finds Holland teaming up with some of the same players who graced the Quantic Soul Orchestra's excellent 2007 album, Tropidélico, including the ever-excellent pianist Alfredo Linares, legendary Brazilian composer and guitarist Arthur Verocai, drumming bad ass Malcolm Catto and the singing talents of Panama's Kabir.

    The album is an intriguing blend of multiple styles; it's not as "Latin" as you might initially expect. Instead, the group finds a way to bring in any number of different elements - a little cumbia here, some Afro-beat there, a dose of shing-a-ling, a whole lotta soul - to each song. "Mambo Los Quantic" is perhaps the closet thing to a set "genre" as you can find here but even then, it's not like you'd confuse it for something that would have rotated through the Palladium back in the day. "I Just Feel In Love Again" showcases the contribution Kabir brings to the Combo and I love the kind of happy energy emanating as the song shifts through sharp solos from the assembled talent.

    Musica Del Alma has another Combo Barbaro song (not on the CD) for you to check out.

    Bonus beat: Nostalgia 77 feat. Alice Russell: Seven Nation Army
    From the forthcoming Tru Thoughts Covers.

    Quantic's long-time label partners at Tru Thoughts are readying a compilation of cover songs and I am, quite predictably, looking forward to what they're bringing. One of the first songs they're circulating is this awesome cover of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" that first came out in 2004. It's incredible how monstrous they've made the signature bassline and when Alice Russell comes tearing in on the vocals, it's enough to make you cry. Hopefully, I can bring you at least one more selection off this comp once it drops later this summer.

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    Monday, July 06, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    Céu: Bubuia
    From Vagarosa (Six Degrees, 2009)

    I'm not quite sure what it is about Brazilian music that makes the sun shine and evokes a sense of summertime. Maybe you've heard of Céu, maybe you haven't – but maybe you should. This chanteuse, who has previously been nominated for a Grammy in 2007, has some serious vibes going on with “Vagarosa,” out this Tuesday. “Bubuia” lightly sways with its jaunty percussion. Meanwhile, the rest of the album features a nice blend of acoustic instrumentation but also blends in some underscored turntable effects to create a modern sound yet still keep its roots deeply planted. She wrote or co-wrote much of the album which was produced by Beto Villares.

    You've read about the Brazilian old school, and now, along with Curumin, you can hear some of the new school, too.

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    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Radio @ Soundway Records

    My man Beto drops a mix of some of the songs off the new Panama 2 comp. Fire!

    Bonus beats: Video trailer + an interview with Beto.


    Thursday, May 28, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Cheo Feliciano: Pa Que Afinquen
    From Cheo (Vaya, 1971). Also on El Señor Sentimiento.

    Al Gonzalez: El Rumbon
    From 12" (Disco International, 1977)

    The Exciters: Ese Muerto No Lo Cargo Yo
    Papi Brandao Y Su Conjunto Aires Tablenos: La Murga De Panama
    From Panama! 2: Latin, Calypso & Funk On The Isthmus 1967-77 (Soundway, 2009)

    It's been way too long since I put together a Latin post for ya'll (strange too, considering how much Latin I've been adding to the library of late). Some great tunes in this batch, including a sneak peek at two songs from the upcoming Panama 2 anthology due out next week in the U.S.

    I had the honor of interviewing Cheo Feliciano the other month for the currently-on-hold Fania Newsletter (the article still hasn't run) and that encouraged me to revisit his absolutely seminal 1971 album, Cheo. It wasn't just one of the best selling salsa albums of all time but the album caps one of the greatest comeback stories in Latin music (or just pop music) history. Cheo was a legend already for his work with the Joe Cuba Sextet, the Palmieris and other Latin luminaries but a severe heroin habit took him out of the game for the latter half of the 1960s. Cheo was a make it/break it album and turned out to revitalize his career, not to mention fill Fania's coffers (Vaya was a Fania subsidiary). This whole album is clásico and I could have pulled out any song (the boleros are especially great) but I find myself continually coming back to "Pa QUe Afinquen," a beautiful little son montuno whose Cuban roots are so lovingly on display in the guitar work. The whole song is the embodiment of "lyrical."

    I first became familiar with "El Rumbon" years ago when my friend Chris and Vinnie released it on their Rejoint label. The original version of this comes from the El Rumbon Jam Session, Guito y su Conjunto album where it was a stunning, 5 minute descarga mixing a dark, infectious blend of Afro-Cuban percussion, bass, piano and flute. The song was eventually remixed into an 8 minute monster - one of the many extended Latin mixes that ended up on the Disco Int'l label towards the latter '70s. It is ridiculously good and a great cut for the Latin beginner and devotee alike.

    The last two songs (streaming only) are from the upcoming Panama 2 anthology. My man Beto wrote the liner notes for this one too and the selections are choice. What I really appreciate about this volume is that they move into new territory from its predecessor. That one was filled with great examples of soul and funk-flavored tunes from Panama's diverse musical community but on this album, they move more into salsa and especially cumbias, no doubt tapping into Panama's close proximity to the equally rich Colombian music scene.

    The Exciters tune is one I've had in the crates for a minute - a slick cumbia with a cavalcade of percussion rumbling beneath those piercing horns and that powerful 2/4 rhythm. And heck, you know I couldn't pass up putting some shine on a cover of Willie Colon's great classic, "La Murga De Panama," especially one that replaces the signature trombone with an accordion. So dope.

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    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    The potential for this site is so proper.

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    Saturday, April 04, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Big City's Jared Boxx puts together a nice little Latin mix for the UK's Jazzman Records. Recommended!

    1. El Green Hornet ~ Mauricio Smith (Mainstream) (Latin Jazz)
    2. Cat Fish Bag ~ Johnny Zamot (Grande) (Latin Jazz)
    3. Mia's Boogaloo ~ Ozzie Torrens (Decca) (Boogaloo)
    4. Going Nowhere ~ Freddie Rodriguez (UA Latino) (Latin Soul)
    5. Drag Sway ~ Jarito y Su Combo (True) (Shing-a-Ling)
    6. Kush ~ Antonio (Chocolate) Diaz Mena (Audio Fidelity) (Latin Jazz)
    7. De'se Mismo Trago ~ Pete Bonet & Louie Ramirez (Fania) (Salsa)
    8. La Banda Llego ~ Orlando Marin (Fiesta) (Mambo)
    9. Echa Pa' Aca ~ Gilberto Sextet (Ansonia) (Descarga)
    10. Oh That's Nice ~ Pete Rodriguez (Alegre) (Boogaloo)
    11. You've Been Talking About Me Baby ~ The Latin Souls (Kapp) (Latin Soul)
    12. La Bruja Negra ~ Joe Torres (World Pacific) (Latin Jazz)
    13. Wild Horses ~ Joe Cain (Time) (Latin Jazz)
    14. Quiere ~ Jack Costanza (Clarion) (Mambo)
    15. Congas Callejeras ~ Conjunto Sensacion (Tropical) (Conga)
    16. Descarga A & J ~ Johnny Rodriguez & Angel Rene Orq. (Mardi Gras) (Descarga)
    17. Cacumen ~ George Guzman (Fania) (Descarga)
    18. Taste of Honey ~ Willie Rosario (Atco) (Boogaloo)

    Also, the folks at Truth and Soul have a special Tribute to Isaac Hayes EP they put together, with the El Michels Affair covering songs such as "Shaft," "Walk on By" and "Hung Up On My Baby." Check for it!

    And just to complete a trio - Matthew Africa has re-uppped his awesome "Twee Funk" mix of children's soul/funk records again. Don't sleep!

    Matthew also links to this killer performance of "Hot Pants" by Jimmy Briscoe and the Beavers which has to be seen to be believed. Straight from Soul! (damn, that show was good).

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    Thursday, April 02, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    (As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on May 2, 2008).

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

    (From the original post:) "Joe Bataan's "Ordinary Guy" is not just a fan favorite - he's recorded it five times (and released it six) - but it's also a song integral to his own sense of self; he may be a star but in his own mind, he's still just a regular Joe (you saw that coming, right?) From the man himself: "While in prison, we did a lot of experimenting with songs. I had first heard the title “Ordinary Guy” in prison in Coxsackie, so I eventually rewrote the words, came back home, put ‘em to music. The song makes me cry sometimes when I see the reaction of people. In New York, it is so popular. People just love that song, and I guess the words mean a lot. “Hey, I’m just an ordinary guy, don’t expect anything else. That’s me” and I’ve always been that way. Having sung the song and how I have endeared a lot of people, how they felt about it, only influenced me more [to] give more of my heart than almost any other song. It describes me.""

    "For reasons not entirely clear, Fania decided to re-record the song to release on single. For the most part, this 7" version isn't wildly different from the LP except that Fania brought in pianist Richard Tee. Tee changes the opening to the song, giving it a stronger presence, especially with a striking arrangement that sounds very much like the beginning of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Precious Love." This is probably my favorite version of the song, precisely for that intro which gives the tune such a rich, soulful feel to it."

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    Monday, March 30, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    So this is a personal plug but I also thought it'd be of interest to folks here. I'm the editor for Fania's new newsletter that goes out every two weeks. Each issue includes:

    *A feature story on Fania-related releases
    *A short CD highlight
    *A DJ playlist (Issue #1 has DJ Cucumber Slice, aka Bobbito)
    *A free download out of Fania's catalog

    Given that Fania/Emusica are making a major push to really tap into the label's insanely huge catalog holdings (which also includes Tico, Alegre, etc.) there's going to be a ton of material coming through.

    You can read Issue 1.

    And more importantly, you can sign up for the newsletter via email.

    P.S. I'm finally back from my East Coast trip with a backlog of posts to get up and some new goodies to share. Stay tuned.

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    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    You know how we do!

    Soul Sides has three pairs of tickets to give away. If you slept on the previous two Timeless wack! Don't make it a hat trick and miss out on Arthur Verocai.

    Emails drawn at random at the end of Friday. Email us with the subject line "Verocai giveaway". Make sure to include your full name.

    I confess, I don't know a ton about Verocai except that I always associate him, rightly or wrongly, with Brazil's Tropicalia movement of the late 1960s which was both an intense period of both cultural and political collisions and musical evolution (check out Brutality Garden if you're really interested).

    Verocai's 1972 album on Continental is a straight up Brazilian holy grail LP and personally, if you listen to how intricate his arrangements are, how brilliant his fusions of Brazilian and American styles come together here, you can understand why people jones for this album so badly.

    And he's going to be playing in LA with a 30 piece orchestra? No brainer.

    Arthur Verocai: Caboclo
    Arthur Verocai: Na Boca Do Sol
    From S/T (Continental, 1972)

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    Monday, March 02, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    (As part of our 5th year anniversary, we're revisiting 20 key songs. This post was originally published on April 30, 2004).

    The Harvey Averne Dozen: You're No Good
    From Viva Soul (Atlantic, 1968)

    ""You're No Good" kicks off the Harvey Averne Dozen's Viva Soul and the song is so good, so sublime in its affect, so remarkably not like anything else on the album that you wish Averne had pressed this up on 45 so you could have the song without the clutter of the rest of the LP to deal with. Don't get me wrong, Viva Soul is a decent Latin album in its own right and had "You're No Good" not appeared on here, I would still have found pleasure in songs like the mid-tempo mambo, "The Micro Mini." But "You're No Good" opens the album on such a stupendous note that the desperate desire for the rest of the LP to sound the same can only be met by consecutive waves of disappointment as you skip tracks to realize that "You're No Good" is some kind of aberration - lucky to exist but still alone in the world, at least the world of Viva Soul.

    Averne himself isn't a great vocalist here - he belts out a passable but unremarkable performance that reminded me of a Tony Bennett knock-off in a Vegas bar. That's not quite as bad as it sounds but Averne isn't about to topple Otis Redding or Al Green off the top of the canon. What makes "You're No Good" so damn good is the chorus of female singers, sounding like the latter-day Ronettes or similar girl group. Averne sings against them in a call and response between himself and what sounds like a bevy of girlfriends he's cheated on. We hear their grievances first as the song opens on a brassy opening of horns and vibes that gives way to a funky, walking bassline and jabbing piano chords. They sing: "I don't trust you when you're out of sight/like you were last night.

    On Averne's reply - "I don't want to hear anymore/enough of that jive/I know the score..." - the song brings the horns back in and the arrangement switches from soul into pop, only to swing back to soul when the women come back: "If you love me/like you say do/then make up your mind". It's a great exchange, not quite as tit-for-tat as, say, Otis Redding and Carla Thomas' "Tramp" but like that classic, "You're No Good," is light and playful in its attitude too.

    It's those moments, when the women are seeking their revenge that every element in this song: the arrangement, production and vocals, all come together beautifully. There is something both incredibly soulful and funky about these women's singing and it creates that moment of pop brilliance that so many songs hope for but few attain. I don't know what Averne was thinking in writing this song, insofar as the rest of the album doesn't sound much like this cut, but whatever inspired him is our blessing as well."

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    Thursday, February 26, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Joe Bataan: Subway Joe
    Joe Bataan: The Bottle (snippet)
    Joe Bataan: Puerto Rico Me Llama (snippet)
    All from King of Latin Soul (Vampisoul, 2009)

    A few months back, Joe mentioned that he was working on some new projects, including an album with the Barcelona band, Los Fulanos. The album is finally here - King of Latin Soul and like Joe's last album, Call My Name, it's coming out on the Spanish label, Vampisoul.

    (Contrary to rumor, this new album was not recorded with the same folks who worked on Call My Name).

    The album are all updated versions of Joe's classic catalog, spanning from his boogaloo years ("Subway Joe", "Gipsy [sic] Woman" and "It's a Good Feeling" to some of his straight up Latin jams ("Puerto Rico Me Llama"), salsoul era material ("The Bottle"), ballads ("The Prayer"), even an update on "Rap-O Clap-O 2008."

    Take a peek and let us know what you think.

    (By the way, I think it should get American distribution in a matter of weeks).

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    Tuesday, February 24, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    My thanks to reader Chris "Zeke" Hand for putting me up on this...

    I learned about the old NY public television show Soul! from my friend and colleague Gayle Wald (she of that great Sister Rosetta Tharpe book). Her new book is focused on the history of Soul! which was broadcast beginning in the late 1960s through the early 1970s, first on NY public TV and it had a brief national run too. It was one of the first African American variety shows of its kind, during, arguably, one of the richest eras for Black culture and politics and amazingly, hosted by Ellis Haizlip, an openly gay television and theatre producer.

    The performances and interviews from Soul! are incredible; their shows are such a profound archive but for many years, they simply languished in the vaults...until now.

    This new site from WNET looks like it's going to start sharing clips and full episodes from the Soul! archive. I can't tell you how incredibly exciting this is (though I did note everything they have up right now is from 1972 and '73...I hope they get permission for stuff from earlier in the show's run. Haizlip has a mind-blowing interview with Louis Farrakhan and asks him, point blank, what the role of gays are in the Black Nationalist movement.

    I'm real happy they put up the November 15, 1972 episode, featuring Tito Puente playing salsa and Felipe Luciano breaking down the evolution of Afro-Cuban music in New York City.

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    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Joe Cuba Sextette: A La Seis
    Joe Cuba Sextette: To Be With You
    From Steppin' Out (Seeco, 1963)

    Joe Cuba Sextette: Siempre Sea
    From Diggin' the Most (Seeco, 1964)

    Joe Cuba Sextette: Chichon (Juan Ramon)
    Joe Cuba Sextette: Tremendo Coco
    From Comin' At You (Seeco, 1965)

    First off, be sure to check out my piece on Joe Cuba's musical legacy since there's five other songs to take a listen to there.

    Joe Cuba will forever - and rightfully - be associated as one of the pioneering forefathers of Latin boogaloo. With the remarkable success of his "Bang Bang" in 1966, Cuba helped usher in the incandescent popularity of the boogaloo style in New York's Latin scene first, then watched it go worldwide as the boogaloo caught on with the greater Afro-Cuban community.

    Notably though, Cuba was unusually modest in his total amount of boogaloo recordings - really just two albums worth between Bang! Bang! Push! Push! Push! and My Man Speedy. This stands in contrast to someone like Pete Rodriguez, another one of the main people in the scene, who recorded at least four-five boogaloo albums during the style's 1966-68 reign in NYC. I don't really know why Cuba wasn't recording more, especially since he could capitalize on the immense success of "Bang Bang" (or perhaps that single's success allowed him to be more laid back than his peers).

    This is all the more significant in noting how Cuba's pre and post-boogaloo careers were far more prolific yet their respective legacies are less recognized. Cuba formed his first band in the mid-1950s, when New York was still in the throes of the mambo era and the slower cha-cha-cha was also coming into vogue. Cuba's albums of the Mardi Gras imprint - which I personally haven't heard - seemingly focused heavily on cha-cha-chas (which may explain his comfort with adapting those rhythms into boogaloo a decade later) but by the time he signed with Seeco in the early 1960s, he was also working with the then-popular pachanga style as well as early Latin soul boleros, the best known being "To Be With You," originally written by former Cuba bandmate Willie Torres but sung on Cuba's Steppin' Out album by one of his two main vocal partners, Jimmy Sabater.

    I actually didn't discover Cuba's Seeco output until the last year or so despite having been quite familiar with his boogaloo albums for many years.
    Those early '60s albums of his were a small revelation in showcasing how deep Cuba's career ran and how capable he was as a Latin bandleader. It certainly helped that Cuba's Sextet was one of the best small bands in the business, blessed with serious songwriting talent in the form of Jose "Cheo" Feliciano, Nick Jiminez, Jimmy Sabater, Willie Torres and others. It also helped that all three of his Seeco album were produced by Joe Cain, one of the best Latin producers in the game.

    This post highlights songs from that period, starting with "A La Seis," a fun, catchy little pachanga from Steppin' Out, Cuba's first album on Seeco. I don't know a ton about pachangas...except that I've yet to find one I didn't like. It was a huge hit in the New York Latin scene in the late 1950s through early '60s; it's hard to find many Latin albums of that era without a few pachangas and on Steppin' Out, Cuba balances the album with an equal number of mambos, pachangas, cha-cha-chas and boleros.

    On that note, I had to also post "To Be With You," which would become Jimmy Sabater's signature song throughout his career (including up through his disco era). You can hear how Latin soul got its origins - the subtle blend of Afro-Cuban instrumentation with vocals that wouldn't have been out of place on a Jimmy Hartman or Sinatra LP.

    "Siempre Sea" is from Cuba's second Seeco album, Diggin' the Most and right with how the song opens with what sounds like a I-IV-V progression, you can already make the linkages between this mambo and the future boogaloo sound. What makes that even more striking is the fantastic use of call-and-response on the song here (another staple of the boogaloo sound).

    Lastly, we come to Comin' At You, the best of Cuba's Seeco albums by far (in my opinion). I'm not sure if it's just luck of the draw or if Cain and Cuba just hit a real stride here but song-for-song, Comin' At You is a monster, with some of Cuba's best guaguancos ("Pancho Foo" and "Tremendo Coco"), mambos ("So What?") and cha chas ("Stuff 'N Things"). I was seriously torn as to what to pick off of here and so I just went with two favorites: another pachanga - "Chichon (Juan Ramon)" - and "Tremendo Coco." As I wrote in my piece, the latter song would get remade nearly 10 years later into "Salsa Ahi Na' Ma'" and since I highlight that song for NPR, I thought I'd give Soul Sides' listeners a taste of the original. It is quite interesting that even at this early point (1964), Cuba is deploying "salsa" in a musical context even though it'd still be at least half a decade before the salsa movement swept over NYC.

    As for "Chicon (Juan Ramon)" there's more of that call-and-response that I can't get enough of plus I'm feeling the piano montuno that anchors the song.

    In the next installment, I'll move into Cuba's years with Tico Records and how the blueprint for boogaloo came together.

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    Sunday, February 15, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Update (2/17): I wrote a short piece for on Cuba's music, including a five song playlist of some of his key recordings. Check it out here.

    Update (2/17): (from Beto) "Joe Cuba will be viewed at the R&G Ortiz Funeral Home.

    Wednesday & Thursday, February 18th & 19th from 2 to 10 p.m.

    A funeral mass service will be held Friday morning at 11 a.m. at St. Paul's
    Church located @ 213 E. 117th Street, between Park & Lexington."

    This one really hurts; Joe Cuba is one of the main reasons I ever developed an interest in Latin boogaloo and now he's gone.

    Cuba had a tremendous career in the New York Latin scene, easily one of the most important figures in the post-mambo era as both one of the pioneers in Latin soul and boogaloo and then transitioning into the salsa era.

    I had been meaning to do a post on the "best of" Joe Cuba and I'll try to get that in gear sometime this week. In the meantime, enjoy this:

    Joe Cuba: Hey Joe
    From My Man Speedy (Tico, 1967)

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    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    My man Beto puts together a small V-Day Latin mix: 8 Canciones Del Amor (songs of love).

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    Monday, February 02, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Wayne Gorbea Y Su Conjunto Salsa: Dejame Un Lado
    Fruko Y Sus Tesos: Fruko A Lo Compadre
    From The Rough Guide to Salsa Gold (World Music Network, 2008)

    Fruko Y Sus Tesos: Fruko Que Banda Tiene Usted
    From Fruko El Bueno (Fuentes, 1975)

    Another We had someone asking for "salsa songs for beginners" and someone else wanted "more Fruko!" and I'm happy to oblige both ways. I should include the disclaimer: given that I've had about one or two salsa lessons, max, in my lifetime, I'm not actually sure what songs are good for beginners but I took my best swing.

    As it happens, I recently received a copy of the Rough Guide to Salsa Gold which is part of the Rough Guide's larger series of salsa-related comps (including decent ones on Salsa Dura and Salsa Colombia)) and the idea behind the Salsa Gold series was songs and artists off the beaten path - in other words, don't expect the Fania All-Stars.

    I picked two cuts to highlight. The first is "Dejame Un Lado" (leave me aside? My Spanish is terrible) by Wayne Gorbea Y Su Conjunto Salsa. Gorbea was one of the many post-war Nuyorican musicians to come of age in New York, coming of age right around the birth of the salsa movement. "Dejame Un Lado" originally came out in 1978 and what I liked about this cut is the dark but slick feel of the piano and horns and a relatively easy rhythm to fall into.

    And since someone wanted to Fruko, this comp actually includes one of this songs, "Fruko A Lo Compadre" (Fruko the Godfather?), which has that classic Fruko/Latin Brothers/Fuentes sound - think prominent piano montunos, a heavy brass section and those shattering timbales. I decided to pair that with another song - coincidentally - off the same original Fuentes LP, Fruko El Bueno - which has an even more infectious piano riff, not to mention those handclaps (which you wish they kept longer into the song). I got to say too - a lot of these Fruko LPs have had songs off of them comped like crazy but strangely, the albums themselves are rarely reissued. Track for track, I'd put El Bueno up there with El Grande in terms of the most consistent of Fruko's 1970s Fuentes albums.


    Friday, January 30, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Soul Children: Move Over
    From S/T (Stax, 1969)

    Bob and Gene: You Gave Me Love
    From If This World Were Mine (Daptone, 2007)

    Chuito and the Latin Uniques: Wish I Could
    From From the Street (Speed, 1968)

    Someone asked for more sweet soul in the vein of Eddie Holman's "This Can't Be True" AND someone else asked for more Soul Children so I figured I'd knock down two requests with one post. I originally was going to do a whole post on the Soul Children but when Isaac Hayes passed, I used that as an excuse to put up a song he penned for them, "The Sweeter He Is" but that left "Move Over," the other song I was going to pair it with, languishing.

    First off, yeah, it's been sampled.

    Second, man, that piano really is great isn't it? Just the drama of the chord and then how it blends into the incoming horns. I'm assuming that Norman West on the vocals, pouring his heart out before one of his brothers come in to take the reigns (listen to how Norman even tells him, "sing it brother!!!!" around 1:18).

    The thing is though: this doesn't really sound like Holman's brand of sweet soul, which is less produced and more haunting - a lonely voice piercing the silence. And if that's the gold standard, then we got to bring back Bob and Gene's "You Gave Me Love," which Daptone Records released in 2007. I mentioned it back then since I wrote about the song for NPR but never did a formal post on Soul Sides for it so...hey, here you go! The backstory of the group is well-worth reading and I won't repeat it at length (it's in that NPR link) but I'll quote this much (from myself): ""You Gave Me Love" conveys all the innocence and yearning of a high-school love letter, and whatever it lacks in gloss, it makes up for in heart."

    Both of these songs are also tunes I'd pick to end a gig with which made me look through my "slow jams" section to see what else I could pull out to complete a trio and I went with the song that I ended this past Boogaloo[la] with: "Wish I Could" by Chuito and the Latin Uniques. I have to write a post on Chuito at some point - it's really one of the best Latin soul albums ever recorded, definitely up there with anything from Joe Bataan or Ralfi Pagan's work (in the meantime, read up on it here). The vocalist on this particular song (the album had several English vocalists, including Tony Middleton) is Danny Agosta, who croons with a longing quaking with teenage innocence and earnestness.

    By the way, you will have noticed that I've switched using direct links to the songs; I'm doing so because I'm anticipating the forthcoming transfer of Soul Sides from one host to another and it made sense to start putting new songs someplace where they will be "safe" during that transition. Hopefully, it's not an inconvenience for ya'll.

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    Tuesday, January 06, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Greenwood Rhythm Collective: Guajira 78
    From 7" (NYC Trust, 200?)

    Greenwood Rhythm Collective: Salsa Verde (snippet)
    From 7" (NYC Trust, 2008)

    Orquesta International: Mucho Control
    From El Barrio: Back on The Streets of Spanish Harlem (Fania, 2008)

    Damn, I need a late pass for not realizing that the great Monk One - NY DJ and Wax Poetics contributor - helps run a label alongside E's E, NYC Trust. It's new become one of my favorite sites to peruse - there's a wealth of good-goodies here, including custom mixes by folks like Jared Boxxx (look for "Big City Soul") and Prince Paul ("6 Yrs. High and Rising") and a slew of free tracks by Monk, E and Oneman (look on the right column, especially Monk One's "Got To Give It Up" reggae remix).

    Monk and E have two different bands (so far) that they've put together on the label - the more downtempo Midnight Lab Band and the Latin-flavored Greenwood Rhythm Coalition. The GRC's last two 7"s have been exceptionally strong - the "Guajira 78" is especially caliente fuego, a fast-paced, charanga style dance track with a darting flute.

    The group's new "Salsa Verde" is equally infectious, built around the distinctive riff that originates with Orquesta International's popular "Mucho Control" hit (also covered by Ismael Quinones). I could be wrong, but I also pick up a distinctive Colombian salsa flavor off this but I'm still a neophyte in the genre. Regardless: it sounds fantastic. I can't wait to play this one out at Boogaloo[la].

    For kicks, I also threw in the aforementioned "Mucho Control" which seems to embody so much of the aggressive, brassy style of '70s salsa that's been recently reborn into the so-called salsa dura movement. This was featured as part of Fania's new El Barrio series which includes excellent compilations on classic salsa, Latin soul, boogaloo and a recent Latin funk edition. (I'll be writing more about these in the weeks to come).

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    Sunday, January 04, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno: Westbound Train
    Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno: Make Dub Not War
    From Death of the Revolution (Tru Thoughts, 2008)

    Should have been on top of this back in the summer when it first dropped but consider the new Flowering Inferno album to be good, warm listening for the chilliness of winter. This is Quantic's latest incarnation, a close kin to the Quantic Soul Orchestra's Tropidelico album from 2007 except here, it's Quantic himself handling all of the musical duties.

    The sound this time is out notably influenced by reggae and dub - the Latin touch still trails in the background but most songs are unmistakably built on dub's viscous rhythmic signature. I was originally thinking this new album would be packed with tracks to play out and there are some more uptempo cumbias, such as the title track, but instead, I was pleased to find that where the album excels is really in the downtempo tracks that Quantic builds around drizzles of melody and druggy rhythms. "Make Dub Not War" for example, is a masterpiece of simplicity in contrasting the bright drops of acoustic piano against the echoing slap of snares. With "Westbound Train," Quantic is working with any number of different samples in here - the most obvious to me was the pygmy flutes from Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man," and a guitar melody borrowed from Al Green's "Love and Happiness." It reminded me of some of the remix/edit tracks from the early '90s (just minus the Fatman Scoop style shout outs)..

    With "Westbound Train," Quantic remakes the Dennis Brown song by the same name (thanks to DRev for schooling me) which, as most should note, picks its guitar line from Al Green's "Love and Happiness". From there, Q throws in a bit of the pygmy flute melody from Herbie Hancock's groundbreaking "Watermelon Man" and builds another winning slow-tempo track for you to get grind on to.

    If you really want to get hardcore, there are three different 7"s available from the album.

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    Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    posted by O.W.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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