Melting Pot

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It was sooooooooo nice to be back on this air this past Sunday! I hadn’t been on the air since January 25th and I was worried I might not remember what to do, but thankfully it is more or less just like riding a bike. As is often the case when I haven’t been on the air for a while, the releases pile up. With only two hours, there’s a lot more music that I could have played, but overall, I think it’s a pretty solid return. Lots of new tunes, but the show starts off with a little tribute to one of my musical heroes, Sly Stone, who celebrated his 72nd birthday on Sunday. I’ll be sure to keep things on track here at the blog (playlist up tomorrow or Friday) and hopefully I’ll be on the air for a good amount of time here throughout the rest of the year. Enjoy!

Melting Pot on KPFK #190: 1st Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #190: 2nd Hour

Playlist: 3-15-2015

{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – Melting Pot (Stax)

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Sly & the Family Stone – Underdog – A Whole New Thing (Epic)
Sly & the Family Stone – Color Me True – Dance To The Music (Epic)
Sly & the Family Stone – Remember Who You Are – Back On The Right Track (WB)
Sly & the Family Stone – Can’t Strain My Brain – Small Talk (Epic)
Sly & the Family Stone – Just Like A Baby – There’s A Riot Going On (Epic)
Sly Stone – Africa – I’m Just Like You: Sly’s Stone Flower 1969-1970 (Light In The Attic)

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Rongetz Foundation feat. Gary Bartz – Marshmellow Throne – Kiss Kiss Double Jab (Heavenly Sweetness)
Zion I feat. 1-Oak – Last Nite – Sun Moon and Stars (Mass Appeal)
Tropics – Hunger – Rapture (Innovative Leisure)
Romare – Jimmy’s Lament – Projections (Ninja Tune)

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Swervedriver – Setting Sun – I Wasn’t Born To Lose You (Cobraside)
The Amazing – Broken – Picture You (Partisan)
Emmy The Great – Swimming Pools – S EP (Bella Union)
Ibeyi – Faithful – Ibeyi (XL)

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Prhyme feat. Jay Electronic – To Me To You – Prhyme (Prhyme Records)
Harvey Mandel – Light’s Out – Cristo Redentor (Phillips)
Dom La Nena – Menino – Soyo (Six Degrees)

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Zomba Prison Project – Women Today Take Care Of Business – Zomba Prison Project (Six Degrees)
Bappi Lahiri & Chorus – Taqdeer Ka Badshah – Bombay Disco 2 (Cultures Of Soul)
Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band – Lam Tang Wai Yook Pattana – 21st Century Molam (Zudrangma Records)

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Nedelle Torrisi – Fool Boy – Advice From Paradise (Ethereal Sequence/Drag City)
Portico feat. Jamie Woon – Memory Of Newness – Living Fields (Ninja Tune)
David Korevaar – Le Tombeau De Couperin II: Fugue – Maurice Ravel: Le Tombeau De Couperin (MSR Classics)
Charles Mingus – Duke’s Choice – A Modern Jazz Symposium Of Music and Poetry (Bethlehem)

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

Mandel

Harvey Mandel – The Snake
Harvey Mandel – Bite The Electric Eel
Harvey Mandel – Peruvian Flake

I wasn’t really planning on posting this record anytime soon, but when Harvey Mandel turned 70 years old on March 11th, there was a beautiful and touching appreciation for the man posted to Aquarium Drunkard that detailed the terrible times that Mandel’s been going through over the last several years. Just calamity after calamity, in recent years Mandel has been diagnosed with Nasal Cancer, lost both his mother and his son, and even his dog has come down with cancer. Josh Rosenthal’s post mentions that if you appreciate Mandel and have the ability to help him during these trying times, you can donate directly to his paypal account via harveysnake[at]comcast.net or via the Help Harvey Mandel website.

Snake1Mandel is one of my favorite guitarists, though he’s been fairly overlooked, his sound is so iconic and so repeatedly fantastic. From his debut along with Charlie Musselwhite, to his many varied and adventurous solo LPs, to stints with Barry Goldberg, Canned Heat and John Mayall, he’s laid down some of the most beautiful guitar lines and gorgeous sustains of any guitarist since the 1960s. This particular album that I’m sharing is the one that carries his nickname, “The Snake.” In contrast to the more psychedelic sound of 1968’s Cristo Redentor (which was one of the first records I shared on this blog back in 2009) The Snake features a more muscular and funky sound, in a slinky groove on the title cut to more upbeat tracks like “Peruvian Flake” and “Bite The Electric Eel.” It’s a sound that’s well known by Hip-Hop and beat heads and one that I can’t imagine never have hearing. Felt the need to post something and maybe direct people, not only to the music, but also to help out this extraordinary musician in his time of need.

Peace,

Michael

TheAmazing

The Amazing – Broken

It’s no secret that one of my all-time favorite contemporary bands is the Swedish neo-psych group Dungen. In the same way that I’m always eager to hear new music from them (which hopefully will be coming sometime soon, since we haven’t had anything since 2010), I love hearing projects from some of the people associated with that sound. Picture You is now the third album from Sweden’s The Amazing, once again featuring Dungen guitarist Reine Fiske and also the magnificent drums of Moussa Fadera (whose style is eerily similar to Dungen’s drummer Johan Holmegrad). While the Amazing shares many qualities with Dungen, it’s frontman Christoffer Gunrup’s breezy vocals that separate the group, giving the band a sound that’s a bit more ethereal than it is psychedelic.

In addition to the lead track “Broken” posted above, here’s a video for the title track, one of the centerpieces for the album:

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Until this past Sunday, this had been the last time I’d been on-air at KPFK, by far my longest hiatus from the show since coming over in 2010. This was the end of the month all-vinyl thang we always do. As the year has begun I haven’t bought nearly as much vinyl, mostly connected to adopting a new dog who now takes up all of my loose change. Pretty soon though I’ll be getting back to my diggin’ ways and I’m looking forward to being back on the air to be able to share it all.

Melting Pot on KPFK #189: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #189: Second Hour

Muddy

Muddy Waters – I Am The Blues
Muddy Waters – Bottom Of The Sea
Muddy Waters – Blues And Trouble

Had originally planned on posting this just after we’d had a spell of multiple days of rainy weather in water starved Los Angeles. But a quickie storm rolling through today gave me a chance to have this record be timed perfectly (after all, who knows when it will rain again out here). After The Rain was the follow-up to the much more well-known and more controversial Electric Mud. In some ways the fact that they crafted a follow-up, with essentially the same group (featuring the other-worldly guitar of Pete Cosey) should have dispelled some of the controversy surrounding Water’s feelings on this sound. It’s clear that after the sonic freakout of Electric Mud, Waters exerted perhaps a bit more control over these proceedings, as the record has a more conventional sound (though “Bottom Of The Sea” sounds like it could have been an out-take from the first session). But dialing it back from the previous effort still gives this album a sound all it’s own. While not as overtly psychedelic, with more slow groovin’ songs, After The Rain has a bit more ooomph to it.

I’d been looking for a copy of this for years and years, and finally ran into one at Gimme Gimme Records new location at 5810 N Figueroa St, essentially down the corner from my other favorite record store (at least in the Record Store heavy Highland Park) Avalon Vintage. If you haven’t been, he’s got more space and more records, and that is a mighty good thing, just like this album.

Cheers,

Michael

SupremeJubilees

The Supreme Jubilees – We’ll Understand

There’s been a recent trend towards tracking down funky and soulful gospel music. Helping a whole lot of people out is this reissue from Light In The Attic of the Supreme Jubilees super rare Gospel Boogie burner, originally released in 1980. Though the overtly funky bits might be the reason people will pay big money for a record like this, it’s the slower songs that I find more appealing to the ears, especially “We’ll Understand.”

swerve

To say that I was overjoyed would be a massive understatement, when word came out that Swervedriver was not only reformed, but here in 2015 would release a brand new album of brand new material AND tour the US! Swervedriver for me was the crown jewel of the “shoegazer” sound out of the UK, with a sterling emphasis on quality of sound perhaps best exemplified in the swirling twin guitars of Adam Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge and the propulsive beat of the many, many drummers associated with the group. This week the band will land here in Los Angeles on March 5th, for one of their earliest shows here in the states at the venerable Roxy. If you’d like to see this band, and get lost in the sound, make sure to e-mail me at michael[at]meltingpotblog.com before 5pm Wednesday, March 4th for a chance to win.

My first experience with the band was watching this video, jaw agape in shock, on a recording of 120 minutes back in the early 1990s. No other song compares to the thrill of driving on a clean stretch of highway to this song:

Here the band performs “Deep Wound,” the song that would eventually be the first single from their latest release, I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, from a recent performance at KEXP. This gives you a sense of what you’ll experience on Thursday if you make it to the show:

While the first single from the new album gave us the impression the band was focused on a tough “Mustang Ford” return, the second single, “Setting Sun” gives a better representation of the sound of the current band. A song that could have easily found it’s way onto any of the other previous albums from the band, representative of the classic sound and many joys of Adam Franklin’s songwriting, singing and playing:

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Getting back on track means that I’m finally getting around to posting the last couple of shows we did in January. Since we’re not currently on the air, due to a fundraiser, in some ways this works out nicely, because by the time I’m caught up, we should be back on the air! This was the show just before MLK Day, and it begins with a tribute to “The Dreamer” featuring a bit of his final speech with music from the recent film Selma, composed by Jason Moran. This show also featured a tribute to Kim Fowley, as well as tunes from Sleater-Kinney, Quadron, Buyepongo,Chain & the Gang, Nedelle Torrisi and a beautiful and long track from Pharoah Sanders. Enjoy this, we’ll be back to business as usual before you know it.

Melting Pot on KPFK #188: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #188: Second Hour

Playlist: 01-18-2014
{opening theme} Booker T & the Mgs – Melting Pot – Melting Pot (Stax)

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Jason Moran – Selections from Selma – Selma: Original Soundtrack (Paramount)
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Excerpts from Memphis April 3, 1968 – Free At Last (Gordy)
Marha Bass – Walk With Me – Selma: Original Soundtrack (Paramount)

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Pharoah Sanders – Healing Song – Live At The East (Impulse)

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Quadron – Herfra Hvor Vi Star – Quadron (Plug Research)
Tropics – Rapture – Rapture (Innovative Leisure)
Nedelle Torrisi – Don’t Play Dumb – Advice From Paradise (Ethereal Sequence/Drag City)

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The Runaways – Cherry Bomb – The Runaways (Mercury)
Kim Fowley – The Trip – 7” (Corby)
The Byrds – Hungry Planet – Untitled (Columbia)
Ariel Pink – Exile on Frog St. – Pom Pom (4ad)

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Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love – No Cities To Love (Sub Pop)
Chain & the Gang – Devitalize – Minimum Rock’n’Roll (Radical Elite)
Hunx & his Punx – Lover’s Lane – Too Young To Be In Love (Hardly Art)
Yvonne Carroll – Mister Loverman – Girl Group Sounds, Lost & Found: One Kiss Can Lead To Another (Rhino)
Joe Hicks – I’m Goin’ Home Pt. 1 – I’m Just Like You: Sly’s Stone Flower 1969-1970 (Light In The Attic)
DJ Lengua – Cumbia Squares – 12” (Unicornio)

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Buyepongo – Mulatu Para Ti – 7” (Soul Fiesta)
Mulatu Astatke – Mulatu – New York – Addis – London –The Story of Ethio Jazz 1965-1975 (Strut)
Jungle Fire – Snake Pit – Tropicoso (Nacional)
Sons & Daughters Of Lite – The Real Thing – Let The Sun Shine In (Ubiquity)

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

LeonMalcolm

Leon Thomas – Malcolm’s Gone
Leon Thomas – The Creator Has A Master Plan
Leon Thomas – One

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X. Malcolm is an important figure in my life, as he is for many others. For me Malcolm’s influence is two-fold, there is the model he provides of Gramsci called an “Organic Intellectual,” the individuals who are the vanguard of social change, who through their lived experience and talents are able to bring together disparate communities to fight against inequality and push towards liberation. Perhaps more than any other figure from the 1960s, though his time in the public was relatively short, Malcolm presented a critical and uncompromising understanding of the nature of racism, oppression and the promise of uplift through self-determination. This is especially true of Malcolm after he split from the Nation of Islam, and broadened his vision of equality.

Malcolm is also deeply important to me because there are few people who so vividly modeled the nature of redemption. From street criminal to prisoner to firebrand to finally, in his final year, visionary. Part of the lesson in the life of Malcolm X is that we always have the possibility of changing our lives, living our lives for the better and effecting change once we start on the righteous path.

So on the 50th anniversary of the moment he was ripped from us, I wanted to commemorate that by sharing one of the many tributes dedicated to Malcolm. This album by Leon Thomas is fairly well known. It marked his debut as a leader, after gaining attention earlier in 1969 as the vocalist on Pharoah Sanders’ legendary Karma album. The album features Sanders on tenor, though strangely he’s listed as “Little Rock,” a reference to his birthplace and I suppose connected to contractual obligations (you would have thought Bob Thiele’s connections to Impulse would have smoothed things over, but guess not). Aside from that, the album is notable for having a much shorter version of “The Creator Has A Master Plan,” a vocal version of Horace Silver’s “Song For My Father” and the anti-war anthem “Damn Nam” and most importantly, “Malcolm’s Gone,” dedicated to the fallen leader.

I know he’s gone,
But he’s not forgotten,
I know he died,
Just to set me free.

Yes Malcolm’s Gone,
But he’s not forgotten,
He died to save me,
Gave me my dignity.

It’s a beautiful sentiment, one that pays tribute to this beautiful man and one that I felt compelled to share on this day…Additionally, here is Malcolm, in the last few months of his life, debating the issue of “extremism” at Oxford in December 1964. On display are so many of the things that many of us loved so much about Malcolm, his exceptional intelligence, his disarming smile and sense of humor and his ability to critically dismantle his opponent’s argument, often using the very same logic his opponent attempted to use against him. Missed dearly, but especially during the last year of his life, a beautiful model of the redemptive power of love and the strength of speaking truth to power:

BrazilianBoogie

Cassiano – Central Do Brasil

{Sooooo…I know I’ve been away for a while. I could excuse it away connected to a lot of things, the start of school, my responsibilities taking care of my new dog, getting divorced, but no matter what, I’ve just been taken away from this blog and from music in general. Well, this Lent I decide to give up procrastination, and thus, I’m back and I plan to keep it regular. I’m not going to pull 40 days, 40 posts, but I do promise, I’ll be back here on the regular and getting everything back to the way it should be, at least until Easter!}

This was a collection that unfortunately slipped through the cracks of 2014, and would have been in my best of list had I gotten time to spend with it last year. Boogie music has broken big in some circles, especially here in LA due to Dam Funk and Funkmosphere, but much of the focus has been on US based artist. Some of the more interesting and funky bigs of Boogie were created elsewhere and maybe the best was made in Brazil. Cultures of Soul has collected some of the best Boogie from some big names, such as Tim Maia, Marcos Valle, Jorge Ben and Banda Black Rio and combined it with deeper cuts from the likes of Sandra Da Sá, Tarántulas (covering MJ’s “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”!) and Cassiano, who is featured above. As I said, it’s a shame I didn’t get a chance to give this one all the spins it deserved in 2014, but I’ll more than make up for it here in 2015.

Morgan3

Longtime listeners of Melting Pot are very familiar with Morgan Rhodes. She’s filled in for me on the show a number of times and she was a regular fixture on my fundraising shows on KPFK. Up until recently Rhodes was the host of KPFK’s Listening Station, but she’s now moved on to bigger and better things. Morgan returned to our studios to talk about her work on Ava DuVernay’s exceptional film Selma. So much of the power of a great movie lies not only in the imagery and performances from the actors, but also in the way the music connects to the narrative. This is the work of the Music Supervisor. During our interview we talked with Morgan her work on the film, how she went about making choices between 1,000s of songs to land on the 15 or so that actually make their way into the film and some of the specific choices made for particular scenes in the film. I hope you enjoy this fascinating look behind the scenes of one of the best feature films on the Civil Rights movement.

Morgan Rhodes Interview on KPFK’s Melting Pot: 01-10-2015

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First show of the new year is sometimes tough, since there isn’t a whole lot of brand new music that’s been released. Over the last several years I’ve worked out this format, where I take a look at some of the upcoming releases, some coming later in January, others later in the year and still others only rumored to be released in the near future. 2015 is looking like a really solid for music, with releases from Belle & Sebastian, Beat Spacek, Sleater-Kinney, Ghostface Killah & BadBadNotGood all coming out in the next month or so. 2015 should FINALLY be the year we get a full-length record from KING and there are rumors that we’ll have new music from Francoiz Breut, Martina Topley Bird and Damon Albarn’s project, The Good, The Bad & the Queen. In our second hour we spend time with Music Suprevisor (and now former KPFK host) Morgan Rhodes, talking about her work on the recently released film Selma. If this is the way 2015 begins, I’d say we’re in for a great year of music on KPFK and Melting Pot!

Melting Pot on KPFK #187: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #187: Second Hour

Playlist: 01-11-2015
{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – Melting Pot (Stax)

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Fink – Yesterday Was Had On All Of Us – Selma: Original Soundtrack (Paramount)
Francoiz Breut – Les Jeunes Pousses – A L’Aveuglette (T-rec)
Belle & Sebastian – The Cat with the Cream – Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance (Matador)
Haitus Kaiyote – Molasses – By Fire (Flying Buddah)

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Sleater-Kinney – Surface Envy – No Cities To Love (Sub Pop)
Swervedriver – Deep Wound – Single (Cobraside)
Beat Spacek – I Wanna Know – Single (Ninja Tune)
Dengue Fever – Durian Dowry – Cannibal Courtship (Concord)
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Sankofa – Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (Honest Jon’s)

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BadBadNotGood & Ghostface Killah feat. Danny Brown – Six Degrees – Soul Soul (Lex)
Ibeyi – River – EP (XL)
The Good, The Bad & the Queen – Behind The Sun – The Good, The Bad & the Queen (Virgin)
Martina Topley Bird – Baby Blue – Some Place Simple (Honest Jon’s)
KING – Mr. Chameleon – Single (Self-Released)
BadBadNotGood – Since You Asked Kindly (J-Rocc Remix) – Single (Self-Released)

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Morgan Rhodes – Interview – Recorded Live At KPFK (KPFK Archives)

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

Breakdown: Top 5 Songs of 2014

January 11th, 2015

Here is our final post of this week-long look back at the best music we heard in 2014. As usual, picking the top songs of the past year was the easiest and most enjoyable part of these “Top 5s.” There were significantly fewer songs in my mind, solely connected to personal matters discussed previously, but as I mentioned with the Top releases, it’s not a reflection on the quality of the music heard over the year. More than just a list of the best songs from last year, several of these tracks are amongst my favorite in recent memory, including the final recording from a true master, an anthem that hits close to home and one of the most beautiful pieces of music from an in-studio performance that I’ve been involved with. Here are my Top 5 Songs of 2014.

***Honorable Mentions: Ana Tijoux – “Somos Sur,” Karol Conka – “Boa Noite,” BadBadNotGood – “Confessions,” Electric Wire Hustle – “Look In The Sky,” Madlib – “Robes (instrumental),” Flying Lotus – “Coronus, The Terminator,” Perfect Pussy “Driver” & “Big Stars”

5. Zara McFarlane – “Open Heart” – If You Only Knew Her (Brownswood)

foto © Andy Sheppard

foto © Andy Sheppard

Zara McFarlane – Open Heart

This one, like the top choice on this list, became more of a favorite based off of the performance Zara did for us at KPFK. The simple arrangement with just piano and her extraordinary voice brought the stark beauty of her songwriting to the fore and since matters of love and heartbreak were all on my mind all year long, I was predictably smitten. That performance had me re-evaluate the album as a whole and the version that leads that album off. That concept of an open heart being both lock and key is worthy of it’s own “What Does It All Mean?” post, but for now, I’ll just say that this was one of my favorite songs of the entire year.

4. Shintaro Sakamoto & the Komome Children’s Choir – You Could Be A Robot, Too – Let’s Dance Raw (Other)

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Shintaro Sakamoto and the Kamome Children’s Choir – You Could Be A Robot, Too

A new record from Shintaro Sakamoto wasn’t even on my radar until a friend shared the video for this song, the original version of which is featured on Sakamoto’s Let’s Dance Raw. This version, released on a 7” and recorded with the Komome Children’s Choir, gives the song a much cheerier feel, even though the music doesn’t change between the two versions. Watching the video (which I highly recommend) also elides the rather dark nature of this song, which actually is a critique of contemporary Japanese and world culture that puts ease, convenience and a need to escape from the very things that make us human above an understanding that we must take the good with the bad, the pleasure with the pain, in order to truly appreciate our lives. The scariest part of this song is how close to reality we might actually be…I’m particularly frightened by the prospect of losing out to Teacher Robot.

3. Spain feat. Charlie Haden – You & I – Sargent Place (Glitterhouse)

Haden

Spain feat. Charlie Haden – You and I

No loss in 2014 hit harder than the passing of legendary musician Charlie Haden. Right up until his passing, Haden never lost his signature sound and by virtue of his son, Josh Haden, we have one final marvel, an unfortunately all too rare collaboration between father and son. While Haden might have had his father in mind when he wrote “You and I,” there were no plans originally to record the song with the elder Haden, those came later at the suggestion of producer Gus Seyffert. From the first note the sound is unmistakable and gorgeous as ever. Given the subject matter and the performance, the song itself is one of Spain’s most touching, one of my favorites of the year, and perhaps my favorite from Josh Haden’s entire career.

2. Bart Davenport – Fuck Fame – Physical World (Love Monk/Burger)

foto © Flucho Wop

foto © Flucho Wop

Bart Davenport – Fuck Fame

I’m very much an anti-fame kind of guy. I’ve had chances to do much more in music and academically and I’ve chosen different paths that allow me to effect change in ways that do not put much of a spot light on me personally. As such, a song like “Fuck Fame,” along with a handful of others (Rotary Connection’s “Life Could,” Dr. John’s “Glowin’” and Erasmo Carlos’ “Minha Gente” are also personal anthems) resonates with me on a deeply personal level. Davenport articulates the dilemma of an artist embedded within the 21st century music industry. While fame may not be important, gaining greater acclaim, the red carpets and the like…it is still important to understand that this is a business and that artists can’t survive on art alone. The idea that artists should create for art’s sake remains a pervasive feeling, even though corporations continue to make billions and billions of dollars off of the art that these artists create. The song is delivered tongue in cheek, but it also speaks to some very real concerns for many, and for many, or at least those that hear it, it might just serve as an anthem for their way of living.

1. Rodrigo Amarante – The Ribbon – Recorded at KPFK (KPFK Archives) [studio version on Cavalo]

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Rodrigo Amarante – The Ribbon (Recorded Live At KPFK)

As I mentioned in the interview, there are few musical pleasures I enjoy more than hearing Rodrigo Amarante playing acoustic guitar and singing. Part of Amarante’s power is in the extraordinary intimacy he conjures up through this simple performances. I was in the room with Amarante, recording the interview and making sure that everything was operating the way that it should, but listening with my eyes closed, and even within that space I felt transported. When you hear Amarante perform this way, it always seems as if you are listening to him perform at his home or on a porch. The song itself is an exceptional one, a companion to another song from his album Cavalo, “I’m Ready,” both dealing with the death of a soldier, one from the perspective of the mother who has lost her son, the other more from the perspective of the soldier looking back on his life after his passing. On the album, the production gives the song a ghostly, otherworldly quality. In this performance, recorded live at KPFK, the otherworldly-ness is wholly connected to the unique qualities of Amarante’s playing (in this case on a guitar he had never played before, a gift from a friend) and his voice. I’ve been blessed to have been involved with a number of fine performances, but this one is by far my favorite in my 20+ year career, which made it an easy selection for song of the year.

TopReleases2014

With so much going on in my personal life in 2014, I’ll be the first one to admit that I wasn’t nearly as focused on newer music over the entire year. 2014’s personal challenges caused quite a bit of introspection and thus a lot of time spent listening to older music. When I did listen to new releases, there were many exceptional releases to bring me out of my funk, these are just five of my favorites from the past year.

***Honorable Mentions: Ana Tijoux – Vengo (Nacional), Electric Wire Hustle – By & Bye (Okay Player), Zara McFarlane – If You Only Knew Her (Brownswood), Karol Conka – Batuk Freak (Mr. Bongo), Spain – Sargent Place (Glitterhouse), Allo Darlin’ – We Come From The Same Place (Slumberland), Willie West & the High Society Brothers – Lost Soul (Timmion)

5. BadBadNotGood – III – Innovative Leisure

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BadBadNotGood – Confessions

As a long-time fan of Jazz music, I always love hearing new generations doing interesting new things with the genre. BadBadNotGood is in many ways as much a jazz ensemble as they are a Hip-Hop one (something that will be even clearer in 2015 when they back up Ghostface Killah), which is reflected in their music, music that retains the improvisatory character of one genre while being imminently pleasing to the ears of those raised on the other. Dark, funky, and definitely one of the best things I heard in 2014.

4. Sun Kil Moon – Benji – Caldo Verde

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Sun Kil Moon – I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love

Mark Kozelek has found his way onto a few of these lists over the years, clearly I’m a big fan. 2014’s Benji might be the most personal album that he’s ever recorded. Every song connected to family members and experiences growing up. It’s a raw listening experience at times, as Kozelek details his earliest sexual experiences, a variety of tragedies, personal, professional and familial, or just the most honest and heartfelt love many of us have known, with “I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love.” Fascinating and beautiful.

3. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata – Madlib Invazion

GibbsMadlib

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib feat. Domo Genesis & Earl Sweatshirt – Robes

Madlib and Freddie Gibbs had been teasing us for damn near a couple of years with a track here, a track there from their collaboration. Finally in 2014 we got the album, and it was worth the wait. Gibbs lyricism, along with that of the many guests, rolls out as the aural equivalent of a gritty gangster drama, but as is often the case with everything he touches, it’s the production work by Madlib that elevates this album to one of the year’s best. If Dilla is recognized as Hip-Hop’s Hendrix, Madlib should be recognized as its Sun Ra, a true iconoclast, with a beat sensibility that is as original as the sources he uses to make these sonic masterpieces. “Robes” primarily uses Lenny White’s “Sweet Dreamer,” but where many would have just used simple loops, Madlib jumps around the rhythm, chops lyrics unexpectedly, shifts from early to late in the song. A masterpiece.

2. Perfect Pussy – Say Yes To Love – Captured Tracks

PerfectPussy

Perfect Pussy – Driver

Not sure there was a band that made more noise in 2014, literally and metaphorically, than Perfect Pussy. The post-hardcore outfit out of Syracuse created major buzz and went places hardcore bands rarely go. So much of the appeal of Perfect Pussy relates to front-woman Meredith Graves. Though she’s been in music for several years with several different bands, at the head of this band, Graves has demanded and deserved attention for her lyrics, which by themselves would mark as a significant poetic voice, her style, stature and swagger on stage and off and perhaps most importantly for her fearlessness at being honest and open about her life and the issues that are most important to her. Say Yes To Love isn’t a record that everyone will love, the style of music isn’t meant to be for all ears. But for those of us who know these sounds and love these sounds, we know exactly what we have in Perfect Pussy. Hopefully their best years will still be ahead of them, but if they turn out to be a candle that burned too bright to last, they’ve created a remarkable fire.

1. Rodrigo Amarante – Cavalo – Easy Sound

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Rodrigo Amarante – Mana

Though he’s had a long career, in Brazil with Los Hermanos and others, and here in the states most notably with Little Joy, Rodrigo Amarante hadn’t released a record under solely his own name until 2014’s Cavalo. With a collaborative artist like Amarante it is difficult to know what you will get when they are finally on their own. How much of the sound you associate with them is truly their own or a result of the collaboration with others? Cavalo presents all of the sides of Amarante and he emerges as an artist clearly touched by his many associations, but able to stand on his own with a diverse sound, in many styles and many languages, while still retaining a unique sound. I’ve been on the record talking about my great affection for Amarante in the most simplest of settings just his voice and a guitar, and the songs that are closest to that are my favorite, but Cavalo as a whole is a rewarding listening experience, from start to finish and like all of the others on this list, it is a record that deserves to be heard in that manner. It’s in giving yourself over, fully, to this album, immersing yourself within it, that it’s great beauty reveals itself.

TopReissues

All this week we’re focusing on the best music we heard in 2014. Today’s post looks at the top reissues from the past year. While admittedly much of my attention was elsewhere throughout the year, I’m still surprised at the depth and breadth of reissued music from year to year. Aside from the now trendy vinyl reissues of well-known records, there were a number of releases that continued to surprise and astound (more than a few being “Vol. 2” in a series). The ones on my list featured sounds I’d never heard before or sounds I never thought I’d hear. Here are my picks for the top reissues of 2014, let me know your favorites in the comments.

***Honorable Mentions: Unwound – Rat Conspiracy & No Energy (Numero), Country Funk Vol. 2: 1967-1974 (Light In The Attic), Spiritual Jazz 5: The World (Jazzman), Local Customs: Cavern Sound (Numero), The Afrosound of Colombia Vol. 2 (Vampi Soul)

5. Sly Stone – I’m Just Like You: Sly’s Stone Flower 1969-1970 – Light In The Attic
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Sly Stone – Africa

Just last year we had a gang of unreleased tracks released on the Sly & the Family Stone retrospective “Higher!” and this year we got this collection, shining a necessary light on the furtive period of time between two landmark LPs, 1969’s Stand and 1971’s There’s A Riot Going On. In that in-between time Sly started the Stone Flower label, released a few 45s from 6ix, Little Sister and Joe Hicks and started to explore new technology and new sounds. This collection includes all of the released music from the label (bringing together songs, like Joe Hick’s “Life & Death in the G&A” that were split in two) but also includes a number of unreleased tracks, demos and early versions of Stone Flower recordings, but the real gold is in the tracks from Sly that show the early stages, such as this track “Africa,” of what would become one of the greatest albums of all-time.

4. Lewis – L’Amour – Light In The Attic
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Lewis – Romance For Two

Light In The Attic had a banner year, in addition to the Sly Stone collection, they also released this private press obscurity. The sound of Lewis is so delicate and so quiet that at times, if you’re not listening through headphones, you’d almost miss that it’s even there. But when you do listen and you do hear it, it’s impossible to deny the beauty of this music.

3. Michael Bloomfield – From His Head, To His Heart, To His Hands: An Audio/Visual Scrapbook – Legacy
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Bob Dylan feat. Michael Bloomfield – Like A Rolling Stone (Instrumental)

Michael Bloomfield is the greatest American guitarist not named Jimi Hendrix. For those that know, it’s really not an overstatement to say that Bloomfield’s influence is nearly equal to Hendrix. Because of his nature, his personality and his troubles, he never got the kind of broad acclaim that others got, but Bloomers was an exceptional player and all of his many talents are on display on this lovingly put together (by longtime friend Al Kooper) collection that features not only some of his best music, with Paul Butterfield, Bob Dylan and many others, but also the voice of Michael Bloomfield. No one sounded quite like Bloomers, and hearing him speak in his unique way is almost as engrossing as the music on this collection. But it’s the music that we’ll remember most, and FINALLY getting an instrumental version of “Like A Rolling Stone,” with those gorgeous iconic guitar lines, is something to be cherished deeply.

2. Underground Vegetables – Melting Pot / Grace Jackson – Gonna Get U – Ximeno

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Underground Vegetables – Melting Pot

It’s always nice, after 20+ years as a collector to hear new old things that you had no idea were around. With a show and blog called “Melting Pot” you’d think I was aware of all of the versions of that classic song, but the legendary Danny Holloway proved me wrong when he released this 7″ on his Ximeno imprint in the Summer. This version is the shortest, but it packs in a heavy punch in that 2 minutes and change. The flip-side, a reggae funk crowd pleaser makes this one a double-sider worthy of every collectors attention. Looking forward to bigger and better things from Ximeno in the future, but for this one I’ll be eternally grateful.

1. The Sound Of Siam Vol. 2: Molam & Luk Thung Isan From North-East Thailand 1970-1982 – Soundway

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Rome Sithammarat – Sao New Look

Back in 2010, I raved and raved about the first volume of this collection. I’d never heard the kind of sounds that were compiled on that set and the effect was somewhat like having a new window of my mind opened up. In 2014 the second volume came out and I felt a somewhat similar sense of bewilderment. Volume 2 surpassed Volume 1 in quality and for that, it more than deserves the top spot here on this list.

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