Melting Pot

Five for John Holt…R.I.P.

October 22nd, 2014

Holt

Of late I’ve been remiss in paying tribute to dearly departed musicians here on the blog, but when word of John Holt’s passing came through earlier in the week, I knew I’d be writing a bit about this man, his amazing voice and some of my favorite tracks. What I always appreciated about Holt was his smooth delivery. So cool, just effortlessly breezy, in the way the words flow. Without a doubt I’m sure Holt was a major influence on maybe my favorite singer from Jamaica, Gregory Isaacs, and his songs have been a delight to all who’ve heard them. While most people know Holt’s “The Tide Is High,” because mega pop stars Blondie covered it in the 1980s, the man cut a number of fantastic sides, originally with his group the Paragons and just by himself. These five are the ones I’ll remember him most for.

The Paragons – Wear You To The Ball

“The Tide Is High” and “On The Beach” got more acclaim, “Wear You To The Ball” is as good if not better. Maybe it’s just because of the story in the song, where the singer is taking a date to the Ball, that other people wouldn’t. As Holt croons, “Though you don’t suit those other guys, you suit me fine.” I’m a sucker for underdog/ugly duckling stories. Additionally, “Ball” has one of the most distinctive openings for a rock steady song. Just great all around.

The Paragons – I Want To Go Back

Along with all the other songs on the Paragons’ album On The Beach, I discovered this one on my first trip to the Bay Area as an adult back in 1997. I don’t know exactly how long it took, but I was convinced for years that the Beatles covered Holt and the gang, not the other way around. This version was just so good, so thoroughly soulful that it couldn’t have originated from anyone else. To this day I can’t even listen the Beatles version…for me there’s just no comparison.

John Holt – A Love I Can Feel

Another cover that I didn’t know was a cover until years later, in this case the Temptations, “I Want A Love I Can See.” Might be a little up-tempo to fully qualify as Lover’s Rock, but that sentiment and Holt’s phrasing make it just about perfect.

John Holt – Let’s Build Our Dreams

“Let’s Build Our Dreams” is without a doubt one of the most soulful reggae I’ve ever heard. Some of that comes through in the just ever so slightly slower riddim and those notes on the organ. But it’s Holt’s singing, the style and the sentiment that kills me every time. The interplay between John Holt and Slim Smith also is deeply soulful. A classic amongst classics.

John Holt – Ali Baba

One of my all-time favorites. Not a week goes by where for one reason or another either the first line, “I dreamed last night about Ali Babe, with the 40 thieves…” or “I rode through the valley with the princess by my side…” pops into my mind. My response is almost always the same, whether I’m walking down the street, sitting in my office or in my car, in the shower, wherever…I start singing it and dance a very particular reggae step. The riddim just by itself would have made this one a classic. Holt’s cooler than cool delivery makes it legendary, just like the man himself.

AlloDarlin1

One of my favorite indie-pop outfits from outside of the States, Allo Darlin’, is gracing us with a rare show this Thursday over at the Echo! Featuring Aussie Elizabeth Morris on the lead vocals, guitar and electric ukulele, the band released one of my absolute favorite late Summer songs a few years ago and are just about to release (like tomorrow!) their latest record, We Come From The Same Place, once again for Oakland’s Slumberland label. If you want to see them courtesy of Melting Pot, drop me a line to michael[at]meltingpotblog.com before 5pm, Wednesday October 22nd.

Here’s the first single from their new record, “Bright Eyes,” a vocal duet, back and forth kind of song that is beyond infectious:

I’d hoped to bring the band in to record a session at KPFK, especially since they’re not likely to be around again for several years, but instead, we’ll have to make do with this session at KEXP from 2012:

I’ve posted it before, but there’s no reason not to post it again, here’s one of the greatest end of summer songs I’ve ever heard, “Tallulah,” featuring Elizabeth Morris’ lovely voice and unique accent (Australian with a little British and something else mixed together) along with a bit uke strumming along:

SheridanHouse

Something Unique – This Feeling Between Us

Still on hiatus from the radio show for at least another week, but at least this week, we’ll have a fair amount of music and other goodies for y’all folks…starting the week of right is this new collection put out by Ubiquity records and compiled by DJ Sureshot. There probably isn’t a city that is more associated with the modern soul/boogie renaissance of the last several years than Los Angeles, and aside from all the fine work of Dam Funk and his Funkmosphere crew, Boogie music has a very 1980s LA feel. Sheridan House was one of a number of local labels that put out the funky stuff toward the end of the 1970s and early 1980s. At 27 tracks, there’s a ton of music to digest, some of which repurposes beats from other songs, but even those “versions” are enjoyable on their own merits. While I love the “sophisticated boogie,” I particularly dig the slower tracks on this album. Something Unique’s “This Feeling Between Us,” is just a shade reminiscent of the classic “You Can’t Turn Me Away” and since it was released a year later in 1981, it’s quite possible that that’s deliberate. If you dig this sound (and I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t love this sound) I’m sure you’ll dig on this collection.

foto © Valerio Berdini

foto © Valerio Berdini

This one is a bit last minute as a extra pair opened up…Mark Kozelek/Sun Kil Moon will be performing here in LA on Thursday, October 9th at the Fonda Theatre. Most people know Kozelek, by name or by sound, as the main force behind the much beloved Red House Painters. For more than a few years now he’s recorded music under the moniker Sun Kil Moon that remains connected to his past work, but also presents elements that were only hinted at with his prior band. Of late he’s especially grown fond of playing an Acoustic nylon string guitar and the results have been beautiful, particularly on 2010′s Admiral Fell Promises. Benji, his most recent release, includes some of the most personal songwriting of his career, and it’s likely that this show will feature mostly songs from that album, but who knows. With a body of work as rich and varied as Kozelek’s there’s no telling which songs he’ll perform or what mood he’ll be in. I’m sure it will be a night to remember, and if you’d like to go courtesy of Melting Pot, send me an e-mail at michael[at]meltingpotblog.com by 5pm today for a chance to win!

Not sure if tomorrow’s show will be a solo one or he’ll have a band backing him up, but either way the results are extraordinary. Here’s Sun Kil Moon with a full band back Kozelek, for the song “Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes,” from the most recent album Benji:

I very rarely will feature a cellphone video on this site, but I highlight this one, because “Church Of The Pines” is one of my favorite recent songs from Sun Kil Moon, and also to showcase just how extraordinary Kozelek sounds when he performs solo:

Connor

Chris Connor – Where Are You
Chris Connor – Ev’rytime
Chris Connor – Get Out Of Town

As I’ve mentioned here and on the radio show, I’ve been on a major jazz record kick here in 2014. Quite a lot of that started earlier in the year when I ran across a couple records from vocalist Chris Connor while at Groove Merchant in San Francisco. While I was familiar with the name, I couldn’t recall here voice, but from the moment I dropped the needle to this album while at the store, I was in love.

Chris Connor was associated with the “cool” school of vocalists coming out of the 1940s and early 1950s, including Anita O’Day and June Christy. She actually got her big break when Christy recommended her as a replacement with Stan Kenton’s band. While I love a lot of the vocalists associated with this period of jazz, what I feel like sets Connor apart is not only how cool and effortless her singing sounds, but also the hint of vulnerability in her phrasing.

This album was her debut on Atlantic, after recorded some splendid sides on the Bethlehem record label. It’s actually a historic record, as this album was the first from a white jazz vocalist to have been released on the label, which by the mid-1950s was especially associated with Rhythm & Blues. This album, and several of the ones that followed for the label, have a mix of jazz and pop stylings. Most of the pop stuff with the strings and background vocals I can do without, it seems a waste of Connor’s talents, but when she’s with a smaller group (that on this album features John Lewis, Connie Kay, Oscar Pettiford and Barry Galbraith), as she is on “Where Are You” and “Ev’rytime,” the results are simply stunning.

On a more sociological note, I find artists like Connor fascinating, singing heterosexual love songs and never publicly being able to acknowledge the woman you love, at least not while your career is in full swing. I wish she were still alive or there were more interviews with her or her partner to detail what that life was like. Thankfully we have the music and in that music there are many layers of wonder to consider.

Cheers,

Michael

KhanBBQ

I’d heard they’d broken up, that we’d seen the last of King Khan & the BBQ show, but clearly those accounts were greatly exaggerated cause they’ll be playing here in Los Angeles on Tuesday October 7th at the El Rey. In contrast to the expansive sonic fury when he’s backed by his 10 piece (at least) band the Shrines, Khan’s work with BBQ show is stripped down and bone raw. BBQ Show would be a draw just by himself, with his one-man band percussion set-up, jangly guitars and vocals, but you add in King Khan and it ups the intensity and insanity levels far past 11. If you’d like to see them courtesy of Melting Pot, make sure to send me an e-mail to michael[at]meltingpotblog.com before 5pm on Monday, October 6th!

Just as an introduction to the sound of King Khan & the BBQ Show, here’s their video for the song “Fish Fry”:

And for a better idea of what’s in store for you if you go to the show, I think this video just about sums it up:

JFIRE

Jungle Fire – Tropicoso

First heard about Jungle Fire a couple years ago, when Oliver Wang of Soul-Sides.com was raving about their first single, “Comencemos,” a cover of Phirpo y Sus Caribes (covering Fela Kuti). I’d recently heard the original and while they two shared a number of sensibilities and style, that new version seemed tougher and tighter rhythmically. A couple of 45s for the Colemine label followed and whet our appetites for the main course, their debut album, just released by Latin-Alt label Nacional. Like a number of funky groups in the LA area, Jungle Fire shares a few members with other bands, but together their style is all their own. The band’s stock and trade is a muscular, heavy Afro Latin Funk sound. Tropicoso features the previous singles as well as a number of other originals that showcase the varied talents and inspirations of the group. “Tropicoso” starts off with a bit of a cumbia feel to it, until the drums and horns kick in and suddenly it’s become the all-star recording session that you always wished Fruko y Sus Tesos and Eddie Palmieri’s Harlem River Drive had recorded in the early 1970s. That sound never really existed, at least not until now with Jungle Fire and that’s part of the beauty of the band in this post-Hip-Hop musical landscape, the ability to mix styles and sounds in a way that pays homage to the past, but keeps things moving forward.

BroAli

On Thursday, October 2nd, one of the most respected underground rappers in the game right now will be here in LA performing at the Troubadour. Brother Ali returns to our city to perform here at the start of 30+ date tour of the US and Canada…if you’d like to see him courtesy of Melting Pot, send an e-mail to michael[at]meltingpotblog.com by 5pm, Wednesday October 1st!

Here’s an example of what’s potentially in store for you, from a live performance that Ali did on the radio station KEXP with a full band:

Here’s the video for one of my favorite songs from Brother Ali…2012′s “Mourning In America”:

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It was our great pleasure to welcome Jungle Fire into the KPFK studios for a suitably fiery set of live tunes plus an interview. We did things a little different than we normally do, deciding to not break up the songs and instead just let Jungle Fire get fully into the groove and play for the people. The band played five songs, “Tropicoso,” “Culebro,” a medley of “Firewalker” and “Village Hustle,” Fela/Phirpo’s “Comencemos” and a mini-medley featuring a bit of Ray Barretto’s “Together” mixed with Jungle Fire’s version of the Luis Santi song “Los Feligreses.” During the interview that follows we talk about how the band got together, how they describe the unique blend of styles that is the Jungle Fire sound, recording their debut album, Tropicoso and their plans for the future. We’d been trying to bring the band in for a while, but as we discuss in the interview, it was probably for the best that this was the moment they were able to come in, now that they have a really fully realized sound, combined with the release of their new album. Enjoy!

Jungle Fire Recorded Live on KPFK’s Melting Pot: 09-24-2014

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Last show of September and that means we’re all on vinyl. Since we just changed seasons to Autumn, the show begins with our traditional choice for this time of the year, Lee Hazlewood’s “My Autumn’s Done Come,” before moving to a variety of places including music from Chris Connor, Jon Lucien, Gal Costa, Cut Chemist and Edan and more. Just about the whole second hour belongs to Jungle Fire, who came into the studio and recorded a fantastic live set and interview at KPFK (separate post to follow). This will be the last Melting Pot in a little while as I’m taking a hiatus to focus on grading at CSU-Long Beach. We’ll be back in a few weeks with LOADS of new music, in the meantime, enjoy the show and keep checking here for more music and also some giveaways!

Melting Pot on KPFK #179: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #179: Second Hour

Playlist: 09-28-2014
{opening theme} Boris Gardiner – Melting Pot – Is What’s Happening (Dynamic)

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Lee Hazlewood – My Autumn’s Done Come – The Very Special World Of Lee Hazlewood (MGM)
Chris Connor – Everytime – Chris Connor (Atlantic)
Tim Buckley – Drifitn’ – Lorca (Elektra)

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Gal Costa – Namorinho De Portao – Gal Costa (1969) (Philips)
Cut Chemist – The Lesson Pt. 6: The Lecture – J5 12” (Rumble/Pickininny)
Edan – Echo Party – 12” (Traffic Ent.)

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Jon Lucien – Would You Believe In Me – Rashida (RCA)
The Advancement – Stone Folk – The Advancement (Philips)
Andrew White – Who Got De Fonk? – Fonk Update (Andrew’s Music)

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Jungle Fire – Performance & Interview – Recorded Live At KPFK (KPFK Archives)

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Jungle Fire – Snake Pit – Tropicoso (Nacional)
Juan Pablo Torres y Algo Nuevo – Son A Propulsion – Super Son (Arieto)

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{closing theme} Dungen – C. Visar Vagen – Tio Bitar (Kemado)

Albert

The Albert – Pity The Child
The Albert – Misery
The Albert – Been So Good (For So Long)

As best I can gather, the Albert were a rock & soul group out of New York. They released a couple of records for the Perception label, which both appear to have come out in 1970. The debut record is even rarer than this one, their second album, even though many of the same songs are on both records (though apparently in different arrangements). To my ears they remind me of a smoother, less psychedelic version of Demon Fuzz. This was another record that I got at the September 2014 Beat Swap Meet, also from Andy of the Record Jungle. When I arrived there were already at least 10 people going through the records in Andy’s spot. Directly in front of me, a guy was browsing through the records and picked out this one to take a look. A buddy of his shared the news that it was a good record and that it had breaks on it, but for whatever reason, the guy didn’t decide to hold on to the record…as soon as he left that box, I swooped in and grabbed it quickly. I’d been aware of this record for years, but had never actually run into a copy of it. With the more than affordable price of $10, there was no way I could let it slip by.

When I got a chance to listen to the break-laden early parts of “Pity The Child” and “Been So Good,” I was very pleased with my decision to pick this one up. A full listen to “Pity” caused me to realize that I’d heard the song sampled before, as it reminded me immediately of Gonjasufi and Gaslamp Killer’s song “Made.” Interestingly enough the sample for the song is listed online as belonging to Wanda Robertson, who also recorded for Perception. Many many moons ago I used to own a copy of that record, but couldn’t remember any of the sounds on it. Turns out the Robinson track is essentially an instrumental version of “Pity The Child” just with Robinson’s spoken word layered on top of it. I think the bad loses a bit of their verve the more upbeat they get, but when they keep it slow and low, it’s a special mix of sounds.

Cheers,

Michael

SOMAY

Souls Of Mischief w/ Adrian Younge – All You Got Is Your Word

Word hit late last year that Adrian Younge, fresh off of collaborations with Ghostface Killah and William Hart of the Delfonics, was working with Oakland’s Souls Of Mischief in a musical match made in heaven. All year long we got bits and pieces of information but finally here in September the fruits of that partnership were released. There Is Only Now is a concept record that takes initial inspiration from an actual event that occurred to the members of the band in 1994 where someone came up to them outside a club and began shooting. The first real track (not including the Warriors styled interlude featuring Ali Shaheed Muhammad that begins the album), “Time Stopped” is the closest to a “real” account of that incident, but the rest of the album unfolds like a thriller with Busta Rhymes showing up as the villian “Womack” and an assortment of other characters being added into the story. “All You Got Is Your Word,” is one of the few tracks that could stand on it’s own, in some ways as the perfect statement for the Souls Of Mischief and the greater Hieroglyphics crew. 20+ years in the game and still breaking the boundaries of the genre and exceeding expectations, Souls Of Mischief does not disappoint. Nor does Adrian Younge, whose legend continues to grow with each record. One of the finest releases of 2014.

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It was truly an honor to interview Souls of Mischief at KPFK. Having spent 8 years in Oakland, I know how much the Hieroglyphics crew means to the city and to the Bay Area’s Hip-Hop scene. Like so many, I first became a fan of the group some 20 years ago, when their indelible classic “93 Til Infinity” was released. Unlike many groups that emerged in the early 1990s, but haven’t been able to stay relevant, Souls Of Mischief have always managed to balance their creativity and integrity in bringing new sounds to their fans. Their latest release is a collaboration with LA’s Adrian Younge, who is making quite a name for himself after providing sounds for Ghostface Killah and being sampled by Jay-Z. Originally, we had hoped to have Adrian’s band come into the studio and play with the group, but things didn’t quite work out the way we planned. We were able to spend time with all 4 MCs from Souls Of Mischief and we spent close to an hour discussing this new album, going in deep on a few of the songs (the discussion connected to time that bridges “93 Til Infinity” with “There Is Only Now” is one of my favorite exchanges in my entire career) and talking about their views on the current state of Hip-Hop. Enjoy this one, it’s one of the best we’ve done on the show thus far.

The Souls Of Mischief Interview on KPFK’s Melting Pot: 9-05-2014

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With the Souls Of Mischief interview (separate post to follow) taking up the entire second hour, we only had one hour to work with, but made the most of it with new music from Los Hacheros, Moses Sumney and Jungle Fire, plus some classic material from DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist, Mark Hollis, Caetano Veloso. As mentioned, the second hour features music from the new Souls Of Mischief collaboration with Adrian Younge, There Is Only Now, and also an interview with the group. We’d hoped to have the group perform along with Adrian’s group Venice Dawn, but weren’t able to make it happen (at least not this time), but I think if you’re a fan of Souls Of Mischief and the Hieroglyphics crew out of Oakland, I think you’ll appreciate the chance to hear them talk about their art.

Melting Pot on KPFK #178: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #178: Second Hour

Playlist: 09-21-2014
{opening theme} Booker T & The MGs – Melting Pot – 7” (Stax)

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Eddie Bo & the Soul Finders – We’re Doing It (The Thang) Pt. 2 – 7” (Bo Sound)
London Experimental Jazz Quartet – Destroy The Nihilist Picnic – Spiritual Jazz 5: The World (Jazzman)
Caetano Veloso – Tropicalia – Caetano Veloso (1968) (Philips)
Petch Asia Band – Lam Plearn Tua Yaang – The Sound Of Siam Vol. 2 (Soundway)

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Jungle Fire – Firewalker – Tropicoso (Nacional)
Cut Chemist & DJ Shadow – Product Placement (Excerpt) – Product Placement (Self-Release)
Electric Wire Hustle – Look In The Sky – Love Can Prevail (Okay Player)

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Lewis – Summer’s Moon – L’amour (Light In The Attic)
Mark Hollis – Westward Bound – Mark Hollis (Polydor)
Moses Sumney – Alchemy – Single (Self-Release)
Los Hacheros – Tintorera – Pilon (Daptone)

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Souls Of Mischief – Interview – Recorded Live At KPFK (KPFK Archives)

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{closing theme} Dungen – C. Visar Vagen – Tio Bitar (Kemado)

ScottSource

Jimmy Scott – Exodus
Jimmy Scott – (Sometimes I Feel Like A) Motherless Child
Jimmy Scott – Our Day Will Come
Jimmy Scott – This Love Of Mine

When Jimmy Scott passed earlier in the year, I know only felt a great deal of sadness, but also deep regret. I had a chance to see him perform in both the Bay Area and in LA and didn’t take advantage of it. As I’ve started to pick up more of his music on vinyl, I’m struck by how listening to his vocals makes you feel like he is right there, singing near you. I’d been trying to pick up a solid copy of this album for a very long time, never running into it in the field. At the most recent Beat Swap Meet, I managed to score this copy (in addition to some other choice LPs) from Andy at the Record Jungle. The Source finds Scott’s voice matched with a number of pop hits and a few standards. There are quite a lot of albums like this from singers who’s best days were already past them by the time the 1960s were closing. The unique beauty of Jimmy Scott’s voice allows him to rise above and soar through these tunes. Few artists can stop me dead in my tracks with a single note. Hearing Scott’s voice on this album certainly has that power.

Cheeres,

Michael

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