Melting Pot

CliftonFunkySole

Beautiful night at Funky Sole last night…it’s almost always a beautiful night at Funky Sole, mind you, but last night was especially beautiful. Part of it was some new lights that bathed the entire club in Blue (which is my favorite color), but also it was beautiful to be with a crowd of dancers as Clifton paid tribute to Prince to close out the last hour of the night, with the shades of Blue replaced by Purple.

For my part, I put together a solid set, no Prince involved in it, since I knew that’s how we would close (and also, quite frankly, I don’t have a lot of Prince on vinyl, though it was nice to play my copy of “Take Me With U” as the “Last Call” song of the night). FunkySole42316 The set features a mix of deep cuts and classic breaks, with a couple of tracks inspired by “Soul Makossa,” before playing one of my favorite club cuts from the Makossa man himself. Also kicked things up a notch tempo-wise late in the set, with some extra upbeat songs that really tested the dancers. At some point I’m going to clear this dance floor, but as of yet all of my attempts have failed, the Funky Sole faithful are a stalwart bunch. I was especially impressed with those who got down while James Black was letting loose on the Mary Jane Hooper song near the end. That is just one of the many things I love about Funky Sole and why it’s the space I feel most comfortable dancing myself. Great crowd, great space, great sound and great DJs. Big thanks as always to Miles, Clifton, Nancy, Yenny and everyone else. Enjoy the sounds and check our Facebook page for a little bit of video from the Prince tribute.

Guest DJ Set at Funky Sole: 04-23-2016

Funky Sole: 04-23-2016
1. The Nite-Liters – Con-Funk-Shun – The Nite-Liters (RCA)
2. Marília Pêra- Shirley Sexy – O Cafona: Original Soundtrack (Som Livre)
3. Armando Travioli – Sessomatto – How Can Sex Be Funny: Original Soundtrack (West End)
4. Mandingo – The Headhunter – III (EMI)
5. Manu Dibango – New Bell – Soul Makossa (Atlantic)
6. Gary Bartz & the NTU Troop – Dr. Follow’s Dance – Follow, The Medicine Man (Prestige)
7. James Brown – Sayin’ It & Doin’ It – Hell (Polydor)
8. Myra Barnes – Super Good Pt. 1 – 7″ (King)
9. The Unemployed – They Won’t Let Me – 7″ (Cotillion)
10. Lonette McKee – Stop (Don’t Worry About It) – 7″ (M-S)
11. Billy Garner – I Got Some Pt. 1 – 7″ (BGP)
12. The People’s Choice – Big Ladies Man – 7″ (Phil L.A. of Soul)
13. John Ellison – You’ve Got To Have Rhythm – 7″ (Phil L.A. of Soul)
14. Marva Whitney – Unwind Yourself – It’s My Thing (Famous Flame)
15. The Chevelles – The Gallop – 7″ (Flaming Arrow)
16. Franciene Thomas – I’ll Be There – 7″ (Tragar)
17. Mr. Pitiful & the Ghettos – Ghetto Stroll – 7″ (Equator)
18. Mary Jane Hooper – I’ve Got What You Need – James Black: (I Need) Altitude (Night Train International)
19. The Sandpebbles – Forget It – 7″ (Calla)

foto  © Richard E. Aaron

Prince & the Revolution – Raspberry Beret

Yesterday was a fairly normal Thursday. Here at the end of the semester I was busy trying to finish up grading papers in between teaching. As I came back to my office, with about an hour of grading to squeeze into my office hours, I quickly checked Facebook and was thrown into shock at the passing of Prince.

Over 24 hours later, it’s still difficult to process the fact that Prince is no longer in this world. He seemed beyond age. Immortal. Eternally beautiful. That he could be gone so suddenly and without any warning doesn’t seem real. I don’t even know how to fully gauge the influence of Prince in my life. There are loads of memories connected to his songs and performances (though I regret never being able to see him live, something that I was sure I would be able to do soon, with his performances in Oakland and Atlanta seemingly setting the stage for Los Angeles). When Denise Matthews aka Vanity passed away around Valentine’s Day I mused on the fact that Prince’s taste in women, especially Apollonia, Shiela E., Sheena Easton, Sinead O’Connor and Jill Jones, had a major influence on my own (though when I’ve thought of my “dream girl” throughout most my life, she’s been closest to looking like Vanity). When MTV showed Purple Rain late last night I thought about how the very first “home video” my family got and played on our very first brand new VCR was Purple Rain, and I can still remember the big white shell case, taking the plastic off, popping the VCR in and being mesmerized once the movie started on our own TV…So many memories.

But more than anything else, when I think of Prince I think of my mother. There’s no other song that makes me think of my mother in the way “Raspberry Beret” does…back in the days before CDs and a “repeat” button, she actually had me record and re-record the song on both sides of a cassette so that she could endlessly listen to it as she drove around. In the years since her death, whenever the song would come on, the radio, in some store, on tv, wherever, I’d immediately think of her.

Along with “Take Me With U” it’s my favorite song from Prince, it finds him at his most whimsical (and both songs taken together might be his most romantic work). Though the original video had more of a Sgt. Pepper’s feel to it, I’ve always felt that the sound and structure of the song was the one that most showed Jimi’s influence on Prince’s songwriting. After Vanity’s passing, I read that she was supposed to originally have played the lead in Purple Rain, and that when she left the project, aspects of the story changed, including a love scene in a barn, that clearly relates to this song. Given that “Beret” was written in 1982, it’s entirely possible that the song may in part be inspired by Prince and Vanity’s love affair. I’ve long felt that Vanity was the love of Prince’s life, and after losing her, many of the women he found himself with were attempts at replacing her. Though there is so much to still learn about his passing, the romantic in me wonders how her passing, also at 57, may have affected him…Prince was such a private man, it’s possible we’ll never really know. What we do know is what he left behind, the effect that he had on so many of us, simply by being his utterly unique self. May he forever rest in peace…

FunkySole

As always, it will be my pleasure to spin a Guest DJ at LA’s finest soul and deep funk weekly get down, Funky Sole at the Echo, this Saturday night, April 23rd. While I can’t promise that I’ll be spinning much Prince, I can promise a great night of music and dancing. It’s been a long minute since I’ve gotten a chance to spin for folks, so I’m really looking forward to sharing the stage with Clifton and the boys in the Funk Yard, as well as the Funky Sole faithful…and hopefully you too!

Modulos

Modulos – Realidad
Modulos – Todo Tiene Su Fin
Modulos – Dulces Palabras

As I’ll mention in more detail, eventually (I promise), when I put together a mix of the music I bought during my recent jaunt overseas, I hadn’t originally planned on spending enough time in Granada to be able to go to any stores, let alone three. But misfortune and misdirection led me to change my original plans and cause me to stay an additional day in a city that I now have quite a lot of affection for. Some of that certainly relates to the fact that they have a first class record store there in Discos Bora Bora.

In fact, after visits to Barcelona, Madrid (back in 2008) and now Granada, of the 8 or 9 stores I’ve been to in two trips to the country, Bora Bora is my second favorite store (next to Wah Wah in Barcelona). 03 (0) IMG_9387

Part of it relates to the selection, which is split between the usual genres we expect in US stores combined with an extensive 45 and LP collection of music produced in Spain. Part of it connects to the vibe of the store, which includes an adorable white boxer, requisite shaggy bearded employee, signed drum heads from musicians, vintage guitars and a mellotron in one corner and an upstairs oddball boutique.

In my first trip to Spain, I didn’t actually buy a whole lot of vinyl, and aside from a Canarios record I shared in Melting Pot’s early days, I didn’t buy much music recorded in Spain. I was keen to rectify that this time around and Bora Bora did not disappoint, particularly in terms of being able to check out some Spanish new wave, electro and post-punk from the early 1980s. But the record that I enjoyed most, perhaps my favorite single record from the entire trip was this one from Modulos.

As has often been the case, picking up this record was a matter of good timing. It wasn’t on the floor when I arrived, but was something that the guy behind the counter began to play maybe 45 minutes into my stay. The very first thing I heard was that kick drum, followed by the bass and then the guitar on the lead track, “Realidad,” which reminded me of Love’s version of “My Little Red Book.” While that piqued my curiosity, as that first minute rolled out I wasn’t really giving the song my full attention. But once it really started with the rolling drums, rolling guitar, rolling organ, I was definitely hooked but still cautious. My days of buying “one-tracker” albums are long behind me, and when I have a chance to hear a record I like to know that the album really is worth adding to my collection. Nothing else on the first side grabbed me the way “Realidad” did, so I was thinking I was going to pass. When Side 2 started with “Todo Tiene Su Fin,” I was back on board and finally asked what was playing and got a chance to see the band. Modulos2

At first I miss read the back on the LP, thinking that this had been recorded in 1981, though later I was able to figure out that album was released in 1970, the debut for the group, regarded as one of the better “progressive” groups from Spain. By the time “Dulces Palabras” came shimmering through the speakers, there was no way I was going to be leaving without this record. Again, time was on my side, because I got to process the whole album with very few people in the store. The album must have been a favorite of the employee cause he played it three times while I was there, and as the day progressed other people came up to him to ask about it, or chat about the sounds, but thankfully I had reserved it during that first spin, which allows me to share it now with you.

Cheers,

Michael

BlueEffectBack

Modrý Efekt & Radim Hladík – Cajovna

So…it seems it’s taken me a bit longer than I originally thought it would to get through all of that vinyl I picked up on my recent trip, but now that I’ve been through all of it, there definitely are a few records and tracks that stand out (most of which will end up in a mix I’ll post in the next couple of days), but probably the single track I’ve come back to the most in the two weeks I’ve been back home has been this one from the Czech band Modrý Efekt (Blue Effect), led by guitarist Radim Hladík. Part of why I was so excited to return to Spain, and especially to Discos Wah Wah in Barcelona, was access to not only Spanish, but other European music that we rarely see here in the States. Yes, most of these records can be found on the web somewhere, but nothing beats being able to browse the physical records, hold them, gaze at the artwork and ponder the sounds. “Cajovna” is perhaps the group’s most famous song, and deservedly so as you’ll hear, with it’s breezy proggish feel. It’s a song that sounds VERY familiar to me, and something that though I can’t confirm it online, must have been sampled previously by someone (a buddy of mine thought perhaps an Oddisee instrumental, something in me leans towards Madlib though), perhaps hearing it will cause one of you to recognize who has used it before, if so, let me know, so I can stop losing sleep over it…

Discos…Discos…Discos!!!

April 8th, 2016

IMG_9967

I know 2016 hasn’t exactly been the year of consistency for the blog, but things are on the upswing, I promise…I just got back from an exceptional trip to Spain, with brief stops in Philly and London, where I picked up a crates worth of vinyl. I’ll be spending most of the weekend going through all of these records and you can expect a mix of the different sounds soon, as well as some posts dedicated to the trip and the stores (especially Discos Wah Wah, pictured above)!

Phife2016

Last night I went to sleep early after a long day teaching classes, grading and watching some election coverage…I woke into a world without one of the most iconic MC’s of the Golden Era of Hip-Hop, Malik Taylor, affectionately known as Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest. At 45 years old, it seems unbelievable that Phife is gone. I’m sure a lot of people hoped, as we moved closer to 25th anniversaries for “Low End Theory” (later in September) and “Midnight Marauders” (in November 2018), that the members of Tribe would be able to put aside their differences and bless us with a proper reunion tour performing these albums, but that now will never happen. Q-tip dominated the first Tribe record, not just on the mic, but also on production, with Phife doing some guess work, but soon Phife became an integral part of the group and the talents that we got a glimpse of on that first record shone through brightly on the albums that followed. All day long on social media there have been many many many many many many tributes to Phife, a real tribute to how important he was to those of us who had the privilege of growing up with Hip-Hop in the 1990s. These five tracks feature my favorite moments from his work with Tribe…

“Buggin’ Out”

“Yo, microphone check one, two, what is this?
The five foot assassin with the roughneck business,
I float like gravity, never had a cavity,
Got more rhymes than the Winans got family,
No need to sweat Arsenio to gain some type of fame,
No shame in my game cause I’ll always be the same,
Styles upon styles upon styles is what I have,
You wanna diss the Phifer but you still don’t know the half…”

Like a lot of people, I first heard “Buggin’ Out” at the tail-end of the “Jazz (We Got The)” video, and when I finally bought a copy of Low End Theory, I was surprised that the two songs weren’t back to back on the album. It’s really hard for me to separate the song from the video and how the visual performance of Phife works so perfectly with the vibe of the song and of the group. While I can’t entirely remember where I was when I first saw/heard this, I can guarantee that my response to it was pretty similar to a lot of other people’s, “WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!!!!” Those moments of complete and utter shock and surprise are a rare thing indeed.

“Scenario”

“Heyo, Bo knows this, (What?) and Bo knows that (What?),
But Bo don’t know jack, cause Bo can’t rap,
Well what do you know, the Di-Dawg, is first up to bat,
No batteries included, and no strings attached,
No holds barred, no time for move fakin’,
Gots to get the loot so I can bring home the bacon,
Brothers front, they say the Tribe can’t flow,
But we’ve been known to do the impossible like Broadway Joe, so,
Sleep if you want, NyQuil will help you get your Z’s, troop,
But here’s the real scoop,
I’m all that and then some, short, dark, and handsome,
Bust a nut inside your eye to show you where I come from,
I’m vexed, fuming, I’ve had it up to here,
My days of paying dues are over, acknowledge me as in there (Yeah!),
Head for the border, go get a taco,
Watch me wreck it from the jump street, meaning from the get-go,
Sit back relax and let yourself go,
Don’t sweat what you heard, but act like you know.”

“Scenario” might be the best posse cut of the 1990s and Phife is the one who bats lead-off and just like Rickey Henderson did back in the day, leads it off with a home run.

“Check The Rhime”

“[Q-tip] Yo, Phife, you remember that routine,
That we used to make spiffy like Mr. Clean?
[Phife] Um um, a tidbit, um, a smidgen,
I don’t get the message so you gots to run the pigeon.
[Q-tip] You on point Phife?
[Phife] All the time, Tip.
[Q-tip] You on point Phife?
[Phife] All the time, Tip.
[Q-tip] You on point Phife?
[Phife] All the time, Tip.
[Q-tip] Well, then grab the microphone and let your words rip.

[Phife]Now here’s a funky introduction of how nice I am,
Tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram,
I’m like an energizer cause, you see, I last long,
My crew is never ever wack because we stand strong,
Now if you say my style is wack that’s where you’re dead wrong,
I slayed that buddy in El Segundo then Push it Along,
You’d be a fool to reply that Phife is not the man,
Cause you know and I know that you know who I am,
A special shout of peace goes out to all my pals, you see,
And a middle finger goes for all you punk MC’s,
Cause I love it when you wack MC’s despise me,
They get vexed, I roll next, can’t none contest me,
I’m just a fly MC who’s five foot three and very brave,
On job remaining, no home training cause I misbehave…”

“Can I Kick It”

“Boy this track really has a lot of flavor,
When it comes to rhythms, Quest is your savior,
Follow us for the funky behavior,
Make a note on the rhythm we gave ya,
Feel free, drop your pants, check your hair,
Do you like the garments that we wear?
I instruct you to be the obeyer,
A rhythm recipe that you’ll savor,
Doesn’t matter if you’re minor or major,
Yes, the Tribe of the game we’re a player,
As you inhale like a breath of fresh air.”

I can’t improve on what I wrote to friends this morning when I first heard the news, so I’ll just quote myself on this one…”I hope I never fully understand the magic and mystery of why certain songs, sounds and musical moments move us more than others…every time I hear this song I’m transported back to my 15 year old self listening to this for the first time and having my mind blown at how fresh it all sounded…the wordplay and flow, that Lonnie Smith break mixed with Lou Reed and especially Phife’s closing rhymes on his verse, one of the few he had in that first record. For whatever reason it always gives me chills in the way that last line is said, right before the scratching and Lonnie Smith’s organ grinds out “Spinning Wheel,” EVERY.SINGLE.TIME!”

“Electric Relaxation”

“I like ’em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitian
Name is Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation…”

Hip-Hop has always had some salacious moments, “Sex rhymes” have been a major part of the genre at least since the Fantastic Freaks got on the mic, but I’m not sure there’s a better moment of wordplay in “Sex rhyme” history than Phife’s closing verse in “Electric Relaxation,” with it’s legendary Double Entendre that’s I’m sure boosted sales for Seaman’s Furniture for a couple of years, at least on the east coast.

“If my mom don’t approve, then I’ll just elope,
Let me save the little man from inside the boat,
Let me hit it from the back, girl I won’t catch a hernia,
Bust off on your couch, now you got Semen’s Furniture.”

Whatever place there is for “Beyond Classic,” that rhyme belongs there along with Phife…truly, there will never be another. Rest In Power…

DaliCLock

I’m generally a pretty mellow dude, and definitely don’t consider myself a hateful person. But, if there is one thing in this world that I truly hate, it is Daylight Savings Time, the completely arbitrary movement of time forward that happens just as Spring approaches. There should be a special place in Hell for whoever came up with this idea (preferably one where they perpetually wake up and find that they are an hour late for every important thing that they could experience). To try and make up for the lunacy of DST, and the ill-mood that it puts me in, I decided to share a few things that I’ve picked up here in 2016. I haven’t bought too many records thus far, mostly because I’m saving up for a couple of trips in the Spring, but I did have a little spell where I bought a couple handfuls of 45s, and these are the best of the bunch.

Trippin

Dwight Houston and the Ghettos – Trippin

Don’t know much of anything about Dwight Houston, or his group “The Ghettos,” except that they put out this funky instrumental double sider on the Equator label. The flipside is an upbeat number labeled “Ghetto Stroll,” but something about the way this song struts it’s stuff in mid-tempo that gives me the feeling that the other song was meant to be called “Trippin'” and this is actually “Ghetto Stroll.” I know when I hear this, I immediately want it to be my soundtrack music for when I’m strolling through LA.

Marrero

Ricardo Marrero & the Group – My Friend

Ricardo Marrero’s A Taste is a true Holy Grail album, something that when it is sold, fetches prices more than twice my rent here in LA. It’s not likely to be a record that I ever own, but I’m happy to at least have this 45 featuring a couple cuts from the same group. The thing about this 45 is that there 4 different versions of it out there! Marrero and his group cut the first one as music for a soundtrack. Not entirely happy with the results, they went back into the studio to cut a second version of both “Babalonia” and “My Friend.” They then, much to the consternation of record collectors everywhere, promptly released the second version on their own Yu Qui Yu record label, with the exact same catalog number as the first. This version was later released on Don King’s Don record label and then there is apparently a fourth version, which features music from this second session, but in unedited form. Whichever one you find, if you find it, hold on to it. As you can tell from the breezy “My Friend,” featuring vocals by Angela Bofill, this one is a record that absolutely lives up to it’s reputation.

Owens

The Calvin Owens Show – The Cat

Also don’t know a whole lot about Calvin Owens, though I suspect he’s from the Texas area. “The Cat,” is an extra super greasy instrumental with a long break that would make folks in New Orleans happy.

Adams

Betty Adams – Make It Real (Ride On)

Speaking of New Orleans sounding records that turn out to not be from New Orleans, there’s this cut from Betty Adams. “Make It Real” has all the feel of NOLA Soul, but is actually an Ohio record. I’ll probably look for a mintier version of this one, because the song is just straight up Party-Startin’ Extra Sassy Sister Funk. Ride On indeed…

Odyssey

Odyssey – No One Else Pt. 1

Finally we come to Odyssey. Like a couple of the other records in this post, there’s not a lot of information I have about this group. They sound like George Clinton and Funkadelic stopped off in Memphis to hang with Willie Mitchell for a hot second. “No One Else,” sounds like no one else on the Hi Record label, just an epic slice of Psychedelic funk with a keyboard/piano line that you’ll likely have in your head for days and days after hearing this. The first time I heard this song I must have played 20 times back to back. According to Mr. Funk, Rickey Vincent, Donald Burnside of Chicago’s Captain Sky. What’s less clear (though someone I know said that Dante Carfagna confirmed it) is whether this is the same Odyssey that recorded for MoWest in the 1970s (Odyssey was apparently a popular name, as there are four or five other groups with the name that put out solid music around this time). The groups sound wholly different to my ears, so hopefully one day someone will not only clear this up, but also find the full session with the full take of “No One Else.” It’s the kind of thing that I spend hours thinking about, but since I lost that whole hour due to Daylight Savings Time, I’ll just use the time I got to keep dropping the needle, over and over again, on this gem.

Cheers,

Michael

April2

Adrian Younge feat. Loren Oden – Sandrine

While it’s been four years since Adrian Younge released the first volume of “Something About April,” you can forgive the man for taking that long on a sequel, because he has been a truly busy fellow. Multiple collaborations with Ghostface Killah, Bilal, Laetitia Sadier and others have graced our ears in the ensuing years between these albums, and in that time Younge’s music has taken on a very specific retro-funk sound, very specifically read through a Hip-Hop mindset. This has led to Younge being one of the few contemporary artists who music is routinely sampled in Hip-Hop. But you could make a case that Younge’s music is best when it is completely his own vision. Something About April II certainly seems to provide ample evidence to that assertion, with more than a few songs that sound nothing like anything that Younge has produced thus far. The particularities of his sound are all there, but when you hear “Sandrine,” or “La Ballade” you could be easily convinced that it is another artist’s work, that’s how new and fresh some of this music sounds. I don’t know if we’ll have to wait another four years for Part 3 (lately Younge has been busy getting ready to open up a new Artform Studio in Highland Park, which now I think will now bring the total to six of LA’s finest record stores being within 5 minutes of each other), but I sincerely hope he doesn’t wait that long to immerse us within his own personal musical world. This album is definitely a strong early contender for my “Best of 2016.”

CastorTreats

So, lately, since leaving the regularity of a weekly radio show (or semi-regularity as was often the case at KPFK), I’ve had some difficulty getting motivated enough to put together a show from home. For a period of time, it felt like I was in existential swamp, not sure what to do, where to go, feeling a bit stuck. During a bit of re-organization ’round my place, I knocked over some older mini-disks, which way back in the day I used as an archive means before the days of MP3’s and WAV’s. On a few of those, I remembered there were a few mixes that I had put together after I had moved to the Bay Area and had begun to spend a little more time on mixing and DJ-ing. These mixes were original for cassettes (it was after all back in the day when “mixtapes” were actually put onto tapes), so they end up being about 45 minutes a piece, and coming out of radio and a being a Southerner, it’s hard for me to just chop things up, so there’s only about ten songs on each. I’m thinking that there were more of these, but seems that I only archived these three sides, perhaps because I didn’t really think the others were up to snuff.

Even looking at these 16-17 years later, they ain’t half bad. I kinda wish I’d spent more time developing my mixing skills, to be able to beat juggle and match, instead of the somewhat jarring jump cuts that I employed at this time or the simple cross fade I do nowadays. Some of the songs are familiar, some a bit deeper, but there’s quality on the them all. Most importantly, I feel like listening to these snapped me out of my funk (pun intended) and helped me to get myself back on track so that I can regularly post new mixes and “Melting Pot Radio Hours” in the weeks to come. So, here you go, Funky Treats For Funky Peeps, volumes 1-3. The title now strikes me as being a little hokey, but I might resurrect it in the future…Enjoy!

Funky Treats For Funky Peeps Vol. 1
Tracklist:

1. Jimmy Castor Bunch – It’s Just Begun
2. Harlem Underground Band – Smokin’ Cheeba Cheeba
3. The Fatback Band – Mr. Bassman
4. Lee Dorsey – Occapella
5. The Chubuckos – House Of Rising Funk
6. Jimmy Smith – I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More Babe
7. Cymande – The Message
8. Blue Mitchell – The Message
9. Rusty Bryant – The Fire Eater
10. Albert Ayler – New Generation
11. Ernie Hines – Our Generation

Funky Treats For Funky Peeps Vol. 2
Tracklist:

1. King Curtis – Memphis Soul Stew
2. S.O.U.L. – Soul
3. Sir Joe Quarterman & Free Soul – I’ve Got So Much Trouble In My Mind
4. Detroit Emeralds – You’re Getting A Little Too Smart
5. Jimmy Smith – Root Down (And Get It!)
6. Herbie Hancock – Watermelon Man
7. Leon Thomas – China Doll
8. Cymande – Fug

Funky Treats For Funky Peeps Vol. 3
Tracklist:

1. Archie Shepp – Attica Blues
2. Buddy Rich – Big Mac
3. Mandingo – The Headhunter
4. Manu DiBango – New Bell
5. Gary Bartz – Follow The Medicine Man
6. The Black Byrds – Rock Creek Park
7. James Brown – A Blind Man Can See It
8. Larry Coryell – Morning Sickness
9. Miles Davis – Black Satin
10. Earth Wind & Fire – Bad Tune

WeldonSinbad

Weldon Irvine – I Love You
Weldon Irvine – Do Something For Yourself
Weldon Irvine – Music Is The Key

Because of some (fingers-crossed) big-ish plans for the 7th anniversary of this blog in July, I’ve recently tried to map out and plan some of my posts a bit more than I really ever do. As I was running through records that I wanted to share here I almost missed this album, thinking that I’d already posted something about it. What must have been in my mind was the though to post this up shortly after Don Blackman passed in 2013. Given that at the time my marriage was falling apart, it’s highly likely that that played a part in my decision at that time not to post this record. The reason for that is fairly simply. “I Love You” is perhaps my single favorite song from the 1970s. It’s an absolutely perfect, unabashedly romantic song and something that I’ve always wanted to sing to the woman I love. To date, I still haven’t had a chance to, but I’m posting this up on Valentine’s Day as a pledge to that woman, whoever she may be, that she’ll know when she hears this song exactly what it means.

In addition to the perfection of “I Love You,” Sinbad presents a cross-section of Irvine’s talents as a performer, bandleader and songwriter, with a large group including Blackman, Cornell Dupree, Eric Gale, Steve Gadd and Randy & Michael Brecker. There are crowd pleasing covers of Stevie and Marvin, funk/disco vamps like the title cut, pensive pieces like “Here’s Where I Cam In,” and Spiritual funk with “Do Something For Yourself,” and “Music Is The Key” that are representative of what I appreciate most from the career of Weldon Irvine. But ultimately it all comes back to “I Love You,” which is just one of the most absolutely perfect listening experiences from the decade of my birth. Valentine’s Day is every day with music this lovely.

Cheers,

Michael

KING

KING – The Right One

When KING debuted their self-released video and music for “The Story,” they started a legitimate phenomena. At that time, all the way back in 2011, it seemed that all of the best new indie/future soul music was being made by Europeans like Quadron and Little Dragon. KING’s music and their vocal harmonies set thousands of people’s hearts aflame, and they garnered quick and deep appreciation from heavy-hitters like Phonte Coleman, Erykah Badu and even his purple highness Prince. One of my absolute finest and most cherished moments was bringing in the trio to record a session on KPFK, and of all of the sessions we did, there is no doubt that that particular one was the most downloaded and most shared on the web. The world had to wait a seemingly endless four years after “The Story” dropped for the full-length debut to finally be released, but that wait is now finally over with the release of We Are King. It’s fitting that the release came just ahead of Valentine’s Day, since virtually every song covers matters of love. The band has re-recorded new versions of most of the songs we knew already, adding new elements to “The Story,” “Hey” and “Supernatural” and introducing us to other songs that fans had only previously heard in their live performances in LA and elsewhere. Sometimes I find it hard to describe exactly why a certain son or artist moves me in a particular way…that is not the case with KING. Musically there are definitely elements in Paris Strother’s production that recall the late 1980s/early 1990s, but the way she weaves layer upon layer upon layer of sound is distinctive and a wonder in it’s own right. The vocal harmonies produced by Amber, Anita & Paris are some of the absolute sweetest I’ve ever heard…EVER! The result is a music that envelops the listener completely, into silky pillows of sound, softly soothing but never allowing you to drift away. The music of KING holds you in it’s lovely embrace and now that we’ve finally gotten our first release, the only question is when we’ll get more, because that ultimately is the feeling you get when the debut has finished, please let there be more…and please, Paris, Amber and Anita, don’t make us wait quite so long for what comes next.

DillaPeanuts

{I know I’ve been away for a month, been going through some personal things, but I think I’ve got everything sorted out and should get back to regular posting, including a couple of mixes each month and a couple of “radio” shows here on the blog…promise.}

The past couple of months have been devastating for music fans the world over.  I can’t recall a period of time during my life where so many iconic figures have passed away so close to each other.  Every time I thought I might get together a tribute post, someone else passed away, and so it seemed best to pay tribute to them all at once.

Clarence Reid aka Blowfly – Masterpiece

Clarence Reid is perhaps best known by his alter-ego, Proto-sex rap innovator Blowfly, but for fans of 1960s/1970s soul, the influence of Reid is almost impossible to fully grasp. Like his contemporaries elsewhere, such as Allen Toussaint, Willie Mitchell, Reid was a prolific song writer and arranger, who lent his talents to an extraordinary amount of songs. “Masterpiece” is maybe my favorite song of his, sampled to great effect by the Jurassic 5, and one of the best crowd pleasing mid-tempo dance floor fillers I’ve ever had the pleasure to drop the needle on.

Lemmy with Motorhead – Ace Of Spades

Like Keith Richards, you kind of had the feeling that Lemmy might be beyond death. He certainly seemed larger than life during his time here. The first time I came into contact with Lemmy, his persona and his sound, was while watching the UK comedy series “The Young Ones” on MTV in the 1980s. It’s an iconic moment from the best single episode of the show’s run, “Bambi” and one of my favorite media moments from my childhood, something that likely had a major effect on my Rock tastes as I grew older.

David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust (Isolated Vocal)

I really had planned to do several posts connected to Bowie when he passed, but it was such a huge loss I couldn’t fully wrap my head around the work necessary to write them up. Instead I just listened to Bowie. One of the things that I discovered in those early days after his passing was this track. Hearing this reminded me of being young in Georgia and making tapes of music from 96 Rock’s “Psychedelic Saturday,” when I first heard this track. I never considered that it could be the same guy who sang “Let’s Dance” and “Ashes To Ashes.” Instead I was sure it was a band, not a single vocalist. My little brain back then couldn’t comprehend the different ways that Bowie was using and manipulating his voice to give it such different sounds as if it were different people singing about “Ziggy” instead of just that one lovely man.

Maurice White with Earth, Wind & Fire – Bad Tune

So much of my childhood was shaped by the music and message of Earth, Wind & Fire. Funky and fiercely uplifting, their hits crossed across all boundaries and much of their sound was directly connected to Maurice White. While I love the albums from the group in the mid and late 1970s, it’s that first full-length record as a group (not counting the soundtrack to Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song) and shows their unique blend of Kool & the Gang, Sly Stone and Jimmy Castor’s psychedelic soul. “Bad Tune” features White on one of the instruments that would give EWF a distinctive Afro-centric sound, the Kalimba. I don’t know where/when he picked up the instrument, though I imagine it was during his early years in Chicago, given the Africanist element of many Chicago groups, including those associated with Sun Ra and Phil Cohran. “Bad Tune” is truly that, hard and funky, with a sound that literally transports you away from wherever you are.

J Dilla – Anti-American Grafitti from Donuts

All of the icons above passed away recently, but today marks the tenth anniversary of the passing of another legendary iconic figure, James DeWitt Yancey aka J Dilla aka JayDee aka Dilla Dawg or just simply Dilla. IN the time since his passing, it’s become clear that Dilla is the Hip-Hop generation’s Hendrix, perhaps even it’s Coltrane, a true revolutionary, whose approach to beatmaking will likely influence many generations to come. This year also marks the 10th anniversary of Dilla’s magnum opus, Donuts. An album that continues to amaze and astound. My favorite song from that album continues to be “Anti-American Grafitti,” which floats some Wolfman Jack over a more complex than it seems sample from Tin Tin’s “Family Tree.” The basis of the beat occurs at the very end of the song, and isn’t full enough to exist as a loop all by itself, so Dilla chopped parts of it, extended it and gave it a song structure and logic that like so many of his samples, you’re surprised when you hear the original and realize how much care was put into creating the finished product. I’m not sure if we’ll ever get another Dilla, just like all of the other icons on this list, but I do feel thankful that I lived during their times.

At the end of 2014 I chopped things up with two of my favorite people, Anthony Valadez and Novena Carmel and earlier in the week I returned for more on their recently started “Champion City” podcast, which has already featured Chico Mann, Jeremy Sole, Dexter Story and Poetess Mayda De Valle. We talk about Cuba, the 2016 Election, some of my experiences teaching at Long Beach and the sad sad story of KPFK. You can subscribe to their podcast on Itunes or keep track of it on the Champion City soundcloud page.

Breakdown: Top 5 Songs of 2015

January 8th, 2016

Final post of this week long look back last year’s music always belongs to the best songs I heard over the past year. As with 2014, with a lot of personal matters going on, it seemed like there was less new music rolling around in my mind. But what was in there was stellar, and that’s what you’ll find here in my Top 5 Songs of 2015!

***Honorable Mentions: Hiatus Kaiyote – “Building A Ladder,” Annabel (Lee) –“Suki Desu” (Live Version Recorded Live At KPFK), Ibeyi – “River,” Vieux Fakra Toure & Julia Easterlin – “Masters Of War,” Kamasi Washington – “Henrietta Our Hero,” Kendrick Lamarr – “How Much Does A Dollar Cost?”

5. Dungen – En Gang Om Aret – Allas Sak (Mexican Summer)

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Dungen – En Gång Om Året

Allas Sak is such a good record that I almost think of it as a full document instead of a collection of songs. But from the very first time I heard the record “En Gång Om Året,” stood out. Perhaps more than any other song on this album, the individual pieces of Dungen’s sound come together fully as the song unfolds. But I think it’s Reine Fiske’s soaring guitar that is most responsible for why I love this song more than any of the others on the album and more than most every song I heard in 2015.

4. Oddisee – I Belong To The World – The Good Fight (Mello Music)

Oddisee

Oddisee – I Belong To The World

As I mentioned during the 2015 rundown, while enjoyed this song at earlier parts of the year, it really didn’t become one of my favorites until well into the Fall. I think that some of that might be related to my trip to Cuba and the kind of contemplation that comes from turning 40. The sentiment that is in the song, one of feeling both out of place and feeling that you belong to something much broader than yourself is one that resonates with me, deeply. The more I thought about that feeling in my own life the more I found myself seeing this song as one that might not only be a favorite for the year, but one that might a personal anthem for a long time to come.

3. NxWorries – Suede – Single (Stones Throw)

foto © Maxwell Schiano

foto © Maxwell Schiano

NxWorries – Suede

Few people (except perhaps the artist who is #1 on this list) had a better year than Anderson.Paak, who gained both widespread acclaim for being featured frequently on Dr. Dre’s surprise album Compton and set the indie world on fire with this collaboration with production guru Knxwledge. This song was so good that I pushed aside my usual requirement that a “Top” song is featured on a full-length album during that same year. But “Suede” is such an amazing song, with so many amazing lines and such an amazing sound that I had to include it here. I even quoted one of the lines in a class during a discussion of the many possible uses of the word “Bitch,” which rarely happens with contemporary music. More music from Anderson.Paak should be quickly approaching in 2016 and perhaps even a full-length album from NxWorries, but even if there isn’t, I’ll probably be listening to “Suede” through most of this year too.

2. The Sandwitches – Play It Again Dick – Our Toast (Empty Cellar)
Sandwitches

The Sandwitches – Play It Again Dick

It’s a bit of a tragedy that the single best thing the Sandwitches created is on their final recording as a band. Back in June I prophesized that this would be on this list and in the months that have passed, there isn’t a single part of what I said originally about this song that isn’t still true: ““Play It Again Dick” might stand as a signature tune from the group, featuring all the elements that endeared them to all who heard them and listened, slight country feel to Roxanne’s drumming, the twin harmonies where, in this case, Heidi sings in a lower register in between Grace’s lines and those mountains of lovely reverb on those twin guitars. Every time Grace belts out that “Honey aren’t you glad like me,” at the end it sends shivers up and down my spine.”

Even after hearing this song, now for hundreds of times, it still gives me chills during those final lines every single time. I will truly miss this band and the power Grace and Heidi were able to marshal through their voices.

1. Kamasi Washington – Malcolm’s Theme – The Epic (Brainfeeder)

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foto © Mike Park

Kamasi Washington – Malcolm’s Theme

With 17 tracks spread out over nearly 3 hours, all of it incredible, you might think it would be hard to chose just one favorite from The Epic. Pretty much from the moment I heard “Malcolm’s Theme” I knew there was no chance any other song was going to be at the top of this list. Malcolm X is a cherished hero, not only for his political beliefs and criticism of the American racial system, but particularly as a model of redemption and an example of possibilities of having a second chance. Kamasi and his band offer a rhythm worthy of the man, as vocalists Patrice Quinn and Dwight Trible sing the eulogy, delivered by Ossie Davis at Brother Malcolm’s funeral, with great spirit. The choice to include Malcolm’s voice, and to use an excerpt where Malcolm discusses his worldview, acting as a counter point to negativity often directed towards him and particular these days to Muslims more generally, is part of what gives the song a timeless quality. 50 years from now, it’s likely people will still turn to this song as a tribute to Malcolm. Truly a remarkable achievement…

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