Thursday, April 30, 2009

posted by O.W.

I was at the Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champain this past Tuesday and met Invincible, a Detroit rapper/activist whose awareness-raising around gentrification and urban (un)planning highlights one of the most pressing social issues of our era. (Peep out the "Locusts" video included on her Shapeshifters CD).

We shared a flight from Champaign back to Chicago (turbulence-free, thankfully) as she was putting me up on the Detroit hip-hop scene, she asked, "do you know Mayer Hawthorne?" I replied "sure," and the moment seemed apropos since I had just been listening to his new sampler the night before (thanks Eric).

Invincible chuckled affectionately, sharing that the two of them grew up in Ann Arbor, having met through Jewish summer camps, and as we were talking about some of his new songs, she described how "Mayer Hawthorne" (the artist, not the man) was a persona developed in the wake of the unexpected success of his first 7", "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out." We both marveled at how one song can help shape a career, or least the start of one.

(By the way, there's a new video for "Just Ain't" that prominently features the heart-shaped 7" that it was released on).

The sampler I've heard has two songs from the single - "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out" and "When I Said Goodbye" - plus a remix of "Just Ain't" and two new songs: "Maybe So, Maybe No" and "I Wish It Would Rain."

That first new song had caught my attention months ago when Mayer first shared it with me; "Maybe So, Maybe No" has become one of my favorite songs ever in the last two years since I was first put up on it by my man Hua. Originally recorded by Detroit's New Holidays and enough of a success that Westbound picked it up from the local Soulhawk imprint, "Maybe So, Maybe No" exemplifies the kind of composition that is so incredibly fragile that it's a miracle it even works at all yet the very fact that it does come together (what Hua likes to call a "lightning in a bottle song") is what makes it so extraordinary.

New Holidays: Maybe So, Maybe No
From 7" (Soulhawk, 1969)

I'm tempted to enumerate all the parts of this song that shouldn't work but it's easier for you to just listen to it, soak in all the small touches that balance precariously together here, all the unexpected layers of music and vocals and how, despite it teetering on the edge of collapse, comes together beautifully.

It's those qualities that make this song pretty much impossible to cover - you can't catch lightning in a bottle twice - and Mayer, as admirable an effort he makes, isn't immune to this either. His isn't a bad cover by any means - it's just not the OG and in this case, it's hard to settle for anything less.[1] I'll let you decide:

However, another song on Mayer's sampler really caught my ear: "I Wish It Would Rain" (this is apparently the B-side to the next single).

This is not a cover of the Temptations' song by the same name though, lyrically, the two do share a resemblance (namely around the idea of raindrops masking tears). But that similarity aside, this really sounds like a "Mayer Hawthorne song" which I suppose is strange to say given that he's only had two songs before this. But the aesthetic he created on "Just Ain't" is evident here - the purity and simplicity of the arrangement, the plaintive tone of his falsetto, the way in which the song invokes a mood more than just a style. (The use of back-up singing on this track is what really makes this work as well as it does. Brilliant choice).

Philaflava has yet another song (not on this sampler) available to peep: "Green Eyed Love." I first heard it when Mayer came to DJ at Boogaloo[LA] in January and I thought it sounded great then and I still do now.

[1] I will make one exception for the "you can't cover this song" rule but it's for purely selfish and personal reasons. "Maybe So, Maybe No" also happens to be one of my daughter's favorite songs; one she learned at age 3 and still continues to spontaneously break out into. Sure, she only knows the chorus and sure, she kind of gets it wrong (it should be "could it be that your love, is meant for me?" instead of "could it be that my love, is meant for me?") but I see it as an act of self-affirmation. Or something like that.

Ms. Mizang: Maybe So, Maybe No (acapella)
From: Back of the car, driving home from daycare, 2009

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

posted by O.W.

(originally written for Side Dishes)

Don't say I'm not romantic or anything but as we're about to get buried underneath an avalanche of saccharin lovey-dovey-ness because of Valentine's Day, I thought it was fair to point out that, really, the best love songs are about falling out of love, not into it. New love is great and blah blah blah but nothing says passion and desperation like heartache does. That's why, for V-Day, I threw together a special Tears On Your Pillow set of songs for those who know that no love is so sweet as that which you no longer have.

William Bell: I Forgot To Be Your Lover
From Bound to Happen (Stax, 1968).

I don't know if you can properly call this single "unsung" considering that it appeared on two different William Bell albums and was covered by Jaheim a few years back but to me, it's always a bit of a sleeper song, certainly nowhere near as well-known as Bell's early hit, "You Don't Miss Your Water." Regardless, it has one of the most memorable opening guitar lines I've ever heard, ringing with a melancholy that suffuses the entire song as Bell bemoans his lack of attention and affection.

Darondo: Didn't I
From Let My People Go (Ubiquity, 2006)

An erstwhile singer turned pimp turned talk show host, the Bay Area's Darondo was an enigma until recently, when aficionados of his early '70s sweet soul and funk singles rediscovered him living in Sacramento and helped to resurrect his career. "Didn't I" is the crown jewel of the handful of singles he recorded back in the day, a super-stripped down yet incredibly powerful ballad of wistfulness with just a hint of desperation. Makes you wonder how anyone could have left someone who could sing with that kind of intimacy and intensity.

Lezli Valentine: Love on a Two Way Street
From 7" single (All Platinum, 1968).

Long before Sylvia Robinson put together "Rapper's Delight" in the late 1970s, she was a successful singer and songwriter in the '60s, creating a massive R&B empire in New Jersey. She helped pen "Love on a Two Way Street," a memorable ballad which makes good use of its transportation metaphors (how often does one get to say that?). It was a decent hit for the Moments but originally recorded by Lezli Valentine, a little-known singer signed to Robinson's All Platinum imprint. The two versions are very similar, musically, but while the Moments' falsetto approach works well enough, it's different hearing an actual woman's voice tackle it, especially one as rich and nuanced as Valentine's.

Binky Griptite: You're Gonna Cry
From 7" single (Daptone, 2008)

Just to show you that soul artists today can still knock out a good tearjerker in the tradition of the classic R&B troubadours, the Dap-Kings' guitarist, announcer and emerging vocalist Binky Griptite turns in a beautiful, slow burner of a break-up tune. Make sure to listen to the end as Griptite delivers a coup de grace of a line.'s chilly!

The Kaldirons: To Love Someone (That Don't Love You)
From Twinight's Lunar Rotation (Numero Group, 2007)

One of the rarest singles ever released on Chicago's incredible R&B label Twinight, "To Love Someone" is one of those songs that deserved to have gotten much more shine that it did in its day. It's a masterful, midtempo arrangement of strings and hints of piano, meshing perfectly with the soaring, falsetto voices of the Kaldirons who lament the impossibility of unrequited love. I have to admit - the song feels surprisingly uplifting despite its dour subject matter and it's one of the few "love lost" songs that I can honestly describe as "feel good."

Nancy Holloway: Hurts So Bad
From Hello Dolly (Concert Hall, 1967)

To close out, I went with the hammer blow that French singer Nancy Holloway delivers on her cover of Little Anthony and the Imperials' 1965 hit, "Hurts So Bad." Producer Daniel Janin gives the tune a slight funk makeover with those dramatic basslines and brass section but it's Holloway who is the undeniable force of nature here, pouring what feels like a lifetime of desperation into a little less than four minutes.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

posted by murphyslaw


Johnny Johnson: Love Is Blue
Taken from the album Soul Survivor on Bell (1970)

Third Guitar: Lovin' Lies
Taken from the 7" on Rojac

The Parliaments: Your Goodies Are Gone
Taken from the 7" on Revilot

Eddie Holman: Four Walls
Taken from the album I Love You on ABC (1969)

O, wracked wail of heartache. O, plaintive moan of sorrow. How the heart strains!

The selections today are born of the kind anguish that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. The kind where the knees buckle and the heart cramps. The kind that can reduce a grown man to pathetic teary desperation. The kind of abject grief that can drive a guy to the loony bin... or, if fortune prevails, to the recording booth.

Here, we get lucky with the latter.

Leading off with the Johnny Johnson track: um, I mean, WOW. How about this joint. Forget about the folk guitar that gives way to the meanest orchestral onslaught since Beethoven's Fifth. Forget about the Ghostface sample. Forget that this track has been recorded by a bunch of heads. THIS IS THE VERSION. Listen to ol' boy holding that note in the last bar of the song. That, my friends, is suffering.

Third Guitar are best known for making a highly noteworthy appearance on Shadow & Chemist's Brainfreeze, but listen to these cats digging deep on "Lovin' Lies". When was the last time heard such ballistic hand drums, breaks and heavy emoting crammed into a track that clocks in at under two minutes?

Then there's George Clinton in his pre-Funkadelic days cranking out a hard-hitting soul number with the Parliaments (drop the "s", add acid, and you've got one loked out 70 year old with technicolor dreadlocks). A recent flea market find that I can't seem to get enough of.

And lastly, a repeat of one of the first posts put up on this blog. A song that I have ADORED since the moment it entered my life and will likely continue to adore until the day I die. What a shame that Eddie Holman will only ever be remembered for "Hey, There Lonely Girl" because, as far as I'm concerned this is as good as it gets. Wail on, brother man. Wail on.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My Kind Of Disco, Part 1
posted by murphyslaw


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, May 12, 2008

posted by Captain Planet

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La Playa Sextet : Hong Kong, Hunca Munca, Olaya & El Chico Boogaloo
taken from the album
Bailando El Boogaloo on Musicor (1967)

La Playa Sextet : Le-Lo-Lai & Sugar's Delight
taken from the album
Vaya Means Go! on United Artists (196?)

La Playa Sextet : Coco Seco/Anabacca & Mambo Inn
taken from the album
The Exciting New La Playa Sound
on United Artists (196?)

I felt inspired to give
La Playa (even THEY have a myspace page!) their due respect for several reasons. The first is selfish: I've been carrying these records in my crate consistently, week-in week-out, for probably a year now, and before I wear out the grooves on my favorite tunes, I wanted to retire the vinyl properly and let the music itself live on forever in digitally-preserved mp3/serato heaven. The second reason is because I'd also like to start doing a regular feature on somewhat overlooked latin groups. "Dura Obscura" or something like that. If I highlight a big name artist like Tito Puente or Eddie Palmieri, I'll pick out something that is a bit lesser-known from their catalogue. La Playa seemed like as good a place as any to start. Chronologically, they rose to popularity on the Latin tidal wave that crashed in 1968 with the death of the Boogaloo and the subsequent birth of "Salsa" superpower Fania. Cha-cha, Charanga, Mambo, Bomba, Bolero all got branded conveniently under one banner, and La Playa somehow didn't make the grade.

Most of what little I know about La Playa I picked up
here and here. But without knowing about all the players and particulars, one of the major aspects of the group's sound that stood out to me from the start, and caused me to seek out other titles, is the killer electric guitar playing by Payo Alicea. Beyond simply taking over the montuno parts traditionally played on piano, Payo really steered the sound of the group in a latin-rock direction (pre-Santana). "Hunca Munca" has that classic bluesy rock progression that sounds pretty dated today (maybe even tacky to some), but back then I imagine this was some pretty progressive stuff. I'm not sure what happened to the group after "Bailando.." was released, but their music is still heating up dancefloors here in Brooklyn on a weekly basis.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

posted by Captain Planet

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Santogold : Shove It
taken from her
self-titled alum on Downtown (2008)

MGMT : Electric Feel
taken from the album
Oracular Spectacular on Sony (2007)

Plantlife : Rollerskate Jam & Fool For You
taken from the album
Time Traveller on Decon (2008)

As a person who spends perhaps too much time digging into the past, it's important to be reminded that there's still just as much life being lived now as there ever was back in the day. For anyone who finds themselves waxing nostalgia over a lost golden era of greatness, I recommend going out to some live concerts and picking up an album or two by artists, like the ones I'm posting today, who remind us all that music history is happening right now and we still have a very bright future to look forward to. THESE ALBUMS ARE FREAKING UNBELIEVABLY GREAT, so stop asking why you don't like what's on the radio and start spending your loot on the good stuff.

I won't act like I had too much of a role in Santi's recent explosive exposure, but me and my bandmate buddies can at least take credit for
putting her on for her first solo show in NYC, so we're helping the cause. This girl deserves every bit of shine she gets. In addition to being a suuuper mellow, down-to-earth, and incredibly talented person, she has crafted a broad-reaching, unique sound (read- NOT an M.I.A. imitation like some fools may claim) on her new album that warns the villagers of the oncoming flash-flood of more that is sure to come. Her voice slashes through the punchy, punky, electro-funky, reggae-bottomed beats like a blazing light saber. When I listen to her record, I hear the demolition of an invisible wall that separates CBGB's (R.I.P.) from a big bass club like Brooklyn's Studio B, where the mosh pit reaches a new fervor with the introduction of the sub-woofer and the multicolored mohawks get a glitter treatment from the disco ball overhead. I picked "Shove It" just because it's getting hotter each day now as summer draws nigh, and there's a nice little guest appearance from the one MC Spank Rock on here too, and the beat was produced by the late great Disco D (R.I.P.). Now go SUPPORT THIS ARTIST and get yourself the goods.

Now I've spent almost all my precious little writing time on Santi, but you need to check out
MGMT who are more of that next shit out of Brooklyn! Psychedelic, dance-inducing, electro-rock with a catchy factor that is devastating. Don't sleep and then feel bad later when your little brother tells you, "I told you so" - PICK UP THE ALBUM NOW.

And it's the return of
PLANTLIFE! Here's an album that brings more falsetto and funk than all the funky falsetto records of the past few years combined (since the release of the first Plantlife album). Jack Splash gives us 19 tracks worth of casio party beats, quasimoto-styled chipmunk raps, dirty samples, and raw unabashed SOUL. There's so many tracks I could have highlighted on this one to show you a different reason why you need the whole record, but isn't "Fool For U" enough? This is quite possibly the sweetest soul tune I've heard a young man sing since the Chi-Lites stopped recording. Time traveller indeed. Get it while it's hot.

Mark Ronson ft. Santogold : Pretty Green
(originally by The Jam)
taken from the album
Version on Columbia (2007)

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

posted by Captain Planet

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Etoile De Dakar : Tolou Badou Ndiaye
taken from their self-titled album on SACEM (1980)

Elias Rahbani : From The Moon
taken from the 12" single on EMI (1978)

Formula 7 : Trouble
taken from their self-titled album on Castelinho (1970)

Erick Cosaque Et Les Voltages 8 : Decere Nou De Maye
taken from the album
"Chene A Kunta Kinte" on SACEM (197?)

In case you didn't already know by now, I get more geeked off vinyl than your average DJ. Moreso even than your run-of-the-mill skinny-necked record nerd. I even have nightmares that I will oneday join the ranks of those golem-esque record-fiending freaks who stop bathing and lose all social skills in the sole pursuit of posessing the holy plastic grail. If you see me start to get like that, please intervene.

However, in the meantime what that means for you all is that I've been hoarding some serious monsters for a special occaision. As a frequenter of the forums, I found my occaision in the form of what we strutters call an "ISH". This ISH business provides a place for similarly crazed crate-diggers to show off some of their favorite obscurities to fellow record nerds. Being the geek that I am, I went for it. Today's tunes are culled from the same stash that made it into my ISH. For those that are new to this website, I highly recommend hanging out for a little while. Amid the flurry of non-record-related bullshwank, there's the occaisional nuggets of real-world knowledge- not to mention a whole lot of music sharing. Without further ado, onto the music...



Wednesday, April 23, 2008

posted by Captain Planet


Paul Simon : Late... (Edit De DJ Spun)
taken from
the 12" on Editions Disco

LTJ Xperience Ft. Joe Bataan : Ordinary Guy (Latin Club Edit)
taken from the 12" on Irma (also available on
this CD)

Oreja vs. Plenafro : Julieta
taken from
the 12" on Candela

Schoolly D : Skool's Out (Les Rythmes Digitales Remix)
taken from
the 12" on Wall Of Sound

Last week Spring burst into the city with a palpable gush of long-dormant virility. The mere site of magnolia blossoms stirring in the sun evoked more artistic appreciation and divine wellness in the collective heart of New York City than all it's art museums, galleries and theaters combined throughout the entire rest of the year. In every direction you could find someone smiling and taking a long-deserved deep breath of rebirth. Looking out on the dancefloor, the stink of fermented pheromones was spilling out in bucketloads as party people remembered why they live in the land of Gotham. This music is as close as I can get right now to expressing the communal kinetic release I see in my neighbors and friends and feel in the warmest part of myself. Enjoy these true treasures of bombasticism and use them to shake loose whatever cantankerous crust you created over winter.


Monday, April 14, 2008

posted by murphyslaw


Estelle: Come Over
Taken from the forthcoming album Shine on Homeschool (2008)

Here's the deal: I'm only going to post one song from this album because you need to buy the whole damn thing when it comes out on domestic release in two weeks. (If you know what's good for you you'll cough up the extra few bucks for an import and get the jump on all the cats who are gonna be on Estelle's jock come May.) Seriously. It's not terribly often that I'm introduced to a new record and can almost immediately forget about the other 35 gazillion songs on my Ipod and 46 bazillion LP's cluttering up my house... but this one did it for me.

This is an album that bears well its title. Tight production, well-selected and executed guest appearances, pop value and heady appeal, all anchored by the voice of a truly talented vocalist... If I sound gushy, it's because I am. I could have pulled virtually any one of these meticulously crafted twelve songs and felt pretty good about sharing it. But as it happens this particular tune has carried me on its lover's-rock-anthemic wings through an LA weekend that, in part because of the temperature outside (blazing) and in part because of the tone and quality of this track (blazing), seemed to usher Summer into the City one fell swoop. I had this song bumping at the beach, on the Los Feliz 3 Par, cruising late night on the balmy deserted freeways, at more than a couple BBQ's... and everywhere I went cats seemed to fall into lock step with the loping shimmering summery bounce. Oo-oh, oo-oh, oo-oh. So so sweet.

Check out tour dates and artist information here. Estelle's coming. Don't say I didn't warn ya'.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Loving Planet Earth
posted by murphyslaw

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Demon Fuzz: Hymn To Mother Earth
Taken from the album Afreaka on Janus (1972)

The Great White Cane: Mother Earth
Taken from the self-titled LP on Lion (1973)

Gil Scott Heron: We Almost Lost Detroit
Taken from the album Bridges on (1977)

Wayne McGhie: I Can See Mother Nature
Taken from the album Wayne McGhie and The Sounds of Joy on Birchmount (1970)

Okay. So I know I'm a bit early on the Earth Day love, but why not get a jump. Start spreading the good word a few weeks early and maybe by the time April 22nd rolls around you'll already have installed your new energy-efficient fridge and traded your H3 (heinous!) for a snazzy new Prius... or one of these. Bottom line is it's never too soon to celebrate GAIA!

Here are a few tracks from the vanguard of geo-social consciousness.

The Demon Fuzz record is pretty well-known on the nerd-circuit, but always a joy to introduce to people who may not yet have heard the bounty of this U.K.-based Cymande-esque outfit... A truly wonderful song with bass lines, organs and funky changes for days. To say nothing of the album art. Zinger!

Where did Rick James cultivate his inner super freak? Why, with The Great White Cane, of course, where he fronted the band for their mostly unmemorable sole record. This meandering 8-minute anthem, however, stands as a salient exception to the mediocrity of the rest of the record. Redeem me Rick!

G.S.H. surely needs no introduction, though this selection comes off an oft slept on record of his, and one of his first great collabo's with Brian Jackson in a synthier late-70's vein. This song along with the devastating "Delta Man" off the same album have been late night driving staples for me for years... A discerning listener might also notice a very tasty Blackstar sample tucked in there...

Lastly, Mr. McGhie, a West-Indian bywayof Canada, who made an appearance on this blog a few years back and returns now with this delicately loping sweetness. Drive on Earth Mother. Drive on.


Monday, March 24, 2008

posted by Captain Planet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, March 17, 2008

posted by Captain Planet

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Delta 5 : Mind Your Own Business
taken from the compilation
Disco Not Disco on Strut (2008)

Set The Tone : Dance SUcker (Francois K Mix)
taken from the compilation
Funky Nassau on Strut (2008)

Sonora Casino : Astronautas A Mercurio
taken from the compilation
Obsession on Bully (2008)

The Funkees : Akula Owu Onyeara
taken from the compilation
Nigeria Special on Soundway (2007)

Juan Bautista : Estoy Aqui Pero No Soy Yo
taken from the compilation
Bachata Roja on iASO (2007)

Is it just me, or are there a higher percentage of compilations to new releases nowadays? It feels like the market for re-issued recordings is catching up with the market for brand new material- could just be my twisted, old-timer perspective though. Whatever the case may be statistics-wise, I'm certainly happy that there are so many other people devoting themselves to putting together great collections like these.

STRUT RECORDS IS BACK! And I'm gonna shout about it. These guys put out some really enlightening comps when I was first getting into DJ-ing, and then in '03 they closed up shop. This latest enstallment of the Disco Not Disco series brings us more hard to find indie 12" cuts from an era when lenghty dubbed-out, electro dance music could be considered punk. On Funky Nassau, Strut pulled together a wide range of work from Chris Blackwell's Compass Point Studios in The Bahamas to shed some light on a scene that I have always had a soft spot for. From big names like The Talking Heads and Grace Jones to lesser-knowns like Guy Cuevas, this record captures some of the best fusions of dub and new wave that came out in the early 80's. It's the sound of of NYC's greatest party acts chilling out on the beach in a cloud of weed smoke with some of reggae's MVP's (Blackwell & Sly Dunbar).

Obsession comp was tastefully pulled together by Mike at Academy Records, which has long been one of my favorite places to get schooled on cool records- and often take them home at reasonable rates. Wild psych monsters from the far reaching corners of obscurity is the bill here, and there's really nothing short of behemoth in the line-up. Track by track liner notes with cool pics help too. This track from Sonora Casino is one that I'd heard about as a mythological anomaly for quite some time now, and finally can listen to on repeat!

Soundway really don't need much introduction or explanation on this site. Everytime they put something out you can guarantee that you'll be getting more than your money's worth. These dudes are some of the heaviest collectors out there. While the set this time is less focussed on funk and dancefloor material, the overall vibe and richness of sounds is top quality.

And finally, something that is long overdue: a collection of old school acoustic bachata! Some readers might remember my discovery of
Luis Segura a few years back on a trip to the Dominican Republic. And while I do not intend in anyway to detract from that man's genius, I also have always had the nagging suspicion that his sound was part of a bigger scene that I needed to dive into. The soulful, pleading falsetto. The bouncing bongo taps and staccato guitar plucks. THIS IS THAT SCENE! The music that was banned under Trujillo, that survived in the campos and made it to the city and finally onto records in the 60's. And to my knowledge, this is the first time that any of these songs have been available outside the DR. Thank you iASO.


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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Synthetic Fonk Across The Ages
posted by murphyslaw

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Edwin Starr: Get Up Whirlpool
Taken from the 12" on 20th Century (1980)

Ripple: I Don't Know What It Is (But It Sure Is Funky)
Taken from the self-titled LP on GRC (1973)

Sun: Fall Out On the Dancefloor
Taken from the album Eclipse on Air City Records (1984)

Jim: I'm a Baller + How Do You Like It
Taken from the album Long Time Comin' (2007)

Today we indulge in some guilty pleasures of synthesizer-imbued fonkery. A few notes on the selections:

The Edwinn Starr joint I recently came upon and fell in love with instantly. Though the song never really blossoms beyond the riff and the tranced-out vocal, I can make certain allowances. You can't get too mad at the guy who wrote "War".

Doesn't really fall into the "synthetic" realm per se, but the Ripple jam is an absolute classic. You should own this record. Oh-la oh-la-ay, suckas.

"Fallout" is taken off the last record that Sun recorded before sadly biting the dust. After repeated attempts with various labels and even despite having enlisted the support of the Ohio Players, who are credited on the back of this LP, the Daytonians called it quits in the year of my birth... but not before leaving us with this gem. This LP also boasts one of my current favorite record covers. Take a look at that magic.

Lastly, and certainly not leastly, Jim. A random find and a truly guilty pleasure (listen to the lyrics on "How Do U Want It" and you'll see what I mean). But I get gushy like an girlscout at the first intimation of voice-box-ery and these songs go no-holds-barred in that department. (Don't know the difference between a Voice Box, a Vocoder and Pitch Correction? Ask the Captain. He explained it all to me.) . Plus, I love the idea of the guy (JIM! What a name!) sitting in his basement, not in 1982 but last year, finally getting around to paying homage to Roger Troutman. Been a long time comin', indeed.

And don't forget: TONIGHT IS BOOGALOO! Holla!

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

posted by O.W.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Original Gumbo Funk
posted by murphyslaw

Bob Azzam: Rain, Rain, Go Away, Berimbau and The Last Time
Taken from the album New Sounds on Columbia (1968)

Query: Where in pop music does a bespectacled Lebanese-born Egyptian-Jew who, on a single album, records covers of Alan Toussaint, The Rolling Stones and classic Brazilian standards fit in... Is there a home on the charts for a guy who sings in six languages, borrowing sonic textures from Kalamazoo to Timbuktu and everything in between?

Answer: Yeah. He's got a home alright. And I'll tell you exactly where he fits in: right at the damn top.

By the time Bob Azzam recorded these songs, he was already a household name. Kids across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia Minor had been hip to the avuncular Azzam for nearly a decade. He had crashed the musical scene in the late 50's with his sincerely off-beat hit "Mustapha"--sung in French, Arabic and Italian--about meeting a girl in an Egyptian night club. At one point in the course of that song he claims (in Italian) to adore her like "salsa pommodore" (tomato sauce), which to the fledgling Azzam-o-phile may sound wierd. But considering that other of his hits include a song called "Fais-mois du couscous, cheri", which translates to "Make Me Couscous, Darling", the sauce simile might seem so bizarre.

(Imagine Justin Timberlake comparing his broken love with Britney to a crumbled Pop Tart [Ouch. No pun intended.] Damn. Music done changed.)

Azzam would spent most of his adult years living in and touring around Europe preaching his pan-global gospel to legions of multi-ethnic diaspora, European-minded Europeans, and generally curious passers-by. And, to my mind, he must have left his mark on them all: music for the masses; something for everyone.

Anyhow... These selections come from a superb album which reflects in its 30-odd minutes all the wonderfully diverse music stylings of a guy clearly unperturbed by the idea of mixing flavors from around the world into a pungent, zesty stew where bongo meets sitar and fuzz meets flute... Maybe that's what he meant by "salsa pommodore"--a sauce of his own peculiar and delicious blend. A kind of Azzam-esque Gumbo Funk. Hm.

(As a side note, I think that this music could be categorized as "Exotica", though I think that would be a bit of a misnomer. The founding principle of Exotica--correct me if I'm wrong--is white man's (read: colonizer's) take on foreign (read: colonized) music. So while the Azzam's stuff bears some sonic resemblance to the iller strains of Exotica, I think he kind of transcends the genre because he is all that he represents.)

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Land Of 1000 Remixes
posted by Captain Planet


Erykah Badu : Honey (Capt. Planet Remix)
exclusive freshness

Red Astaire : Love To Angie (Remix of Angie Stone's "Wish I Didn't Miss You")
taken from the album "Nuggets For The Needy" on Homegrown

The Doors : Break On Through (Bossarocker Remix)
taken from the whitelable 12" available here

Gang Starr ft. Nice & Smooth : DWYCK (Little Kids Remix)
taken from the whitelable 12" available here

Pretty much fell in love instantly with the new Erykah single (and accompanying video), so when I got my hands on the acapella, I went to work right away. It's no secret that I have a serious talkbox fetish, and as you can hear, this has been manifesting itself overwhelmingly in my work lately. But who's complaining? All vocoder and instrumentation by yours truly.

I'm also posting some of my crate staple whitelables that never fail to stir a crowd in motion. In the era of iPod DJs and Serato tricknology, I find that it's just as much about how you present a song as it is about the actual song itself that you're playing. Tasteful, creative remixes like these bring a whole new life to tracks that otherwise might be a little too played out or were never really dancer friendly to begin with.

Starting with my homie Red Astaire's masterpiece (this has become one of my signature tunes that I've played perhaps every single gig since first copping it from him a year ago), Angie Stone gives a little something back to the B-Boys and B-Girls. My theory is, this track will 100% GUARANTEE that someone in the house will start uprocking- test it for yourself! Also, be a champ and pick up the whole album, which is jampacked with other remix hotness (funky Latin reworkings of hip hop classics, a bossa version of D'Angelo, and another 12" favorite of mine "Tito"), and get your money's worth on an album for once. Murphy posted the reggae remix to this one a while back, and while that one certainly has it's appeal, this one's better suited for the dancefloor methinks.

The Bossarocker Remix first cracked my head open when I was getting loose to one of Gilles Peterson's notoriously glorious DJ sets at the packed and sweaty Canal Room here in NYC. By the time the second "is everybody in?" dropped, people all around me were buggin' out. Been out for a while now, but this is another one of those 12"s that I just haven't been able to take out of my crate (since I jacked it from young Murphy! haha - you can have it back now). Get a copy for yourself (with a funky B-side rework of "Fever") right here.

Another bossa remix that easily works into the same set is this Little Kids version of DWYCK. Who are the Little Kids? I don't know, but I'm waiting to hear something else from them. This one is a perfect mid-tempo bridge that can help you cross over from a hip hop set into some Latin or Brazilian- or just bounce while stuck in traffic. COP IT HERE.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

posted by O.W.

Thursday, January 31
The Short Stop
1455 Sunset Blvd (Echo Park)
10pm - 2am: FREE

DJs O-Dub (Soul Sides) and Murphy's Law (Captain's Crates)
Spinning: Soul, Latin, Funk and more

Murphy's Law from Captain's Crates and O-Dub (Soul-Sides) are once again joining forces at the Short Stop in Echo Park. We just rocked the spot three weeks back and promise to knock it out the park again this Thursday.

Given our mutual interests, expect a lot of Latin this evening, but also a nice dose of soul, funk, disco, etc.

As with our last gig, anyone who shows up and signs our mailing list gets an edited copy of our sets for download later.

See you all there!

Speaking of gigs...just found out that one of my favorite DJs will be at Funky Sole on Saturday: Chairman Mao of Ego Trip (not to mention Bumpshop NYC) fame. Act like you know and roll through.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Welcome to the World of Krontjong
posted by Captain Planet

kron1.JPG kron2.JPG
Keronchong Salina : Bubuj Bulan & Modjang Priangan
taken from the album
"Vol. 2" on Philips (197?)

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

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

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

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

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

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