Melting Pot

Archive for the ‘Dig Deep’ category

DeepestDigs5

Year number five boiled down to the best twenty tracks from the past twelve months of our Dig Deep section…Later this year I hope to have a special 5th anniversary mix put together by one of the best DJ’s here in LA, but until then, Dig On It!

Melting Pot’s Deepest Digs Volume 5

1.  Phil Upchurch – Adam and Charlene – Upchurch
2.  The Emotions – Take Me Back – Untouched
3.  Johnny Frigo Sextet – Gardens On The Moon – The Electric Jazz Of Gus Giordano
4.  The Peppos and Jones Straightjacket Band – Humanity – 7″
5.  Clifford Coulter – Yodelin In A Whatchamaname Thang – Do It Now…Worry About It Later
6.  Miguel De Deus – Fabrica De Papeis – Black Soul Brothers
7.  Lenny White – Sweet Dreamer – Big City
8.  Gabor Szabo – Galatea’s Guitar – Dreams
9.  Ame Son – Eclosion – Catalyse
10. Joe Henderson – Earth – The Elements
11. Richard Menezes – Nova Jersey – 7″
12. Marcia Griffiths – Here I Am Baby – Sweet Bitter Love
13. Little Richard – The Rill Thing – The Rill Thing
14. Jean Kassapian – The Snake – 7″
15. The Latinaires – Camel Walk – Camel Walk
16. Horace Silver – Won’t You Open Up Your Senses – Total Response
17. Billy Harper – Soulfully, I Love You – Capra Black
18. Jerry Butler – Ain’t Understanding Mellow – The Sagittarius Movement
19. John Mayall – Looking At Tomorrow – Back To The Roots
20. Erasmo Carlos – Minha Gente – Sonhos e Memorias 1941-1972

Jun1

Jun Mayuzumi – Black Room
Jun Mayuzumi – Miracle
Jun Mayuzumi – Answer To Me
Jun Mayuzumi – Yagi-Bushi

I’m not entirely sure where or how I first heard the sounds of Jun Mayuzumi. I thought it might have been from the Nippon Girls collection, but that wasn’t put out until 2009 and I’m pretty sure I must have at least heard this while I was still living in the Bay Area on KALX Berkeley (probably due to Mathew Africa…R.I.P.).

Jun accepting her trophy for the most breaktastic Japanese song of all-time!

Jun accepting her trophy for the most breaktastic Japanese song of all-time!

I do know for sure the moment I freaked out for the song and had to get a copy. I’ve actually mentioned it here already, back in 2010, thanks to Scott Craig at the old Records LA spot. “Black Room” is quite possibly the greatest dancefloor filler, break-beat champion sound to have ever been released out of Japan and its one of my top five favorite songs to dance too (which I was reminded of this past weekend when Soul Marcosa dropped it in his set, followed by Los Kifers “El Sol Es Una Droga,” almost resulting in murder on the Funky Sole dance floor at the Echo). It’s got the great drums courtesy of Akira Ishikawa, big heavy bass lines, snappy horns and this fantastic long call “Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww” from Jun with the drums only behind her at the start of most verses. Just a brilliant, brilliant tune.

A couple years ago, I found out that in addition to the 45, the song, along with 13 other tracks, was featured on this album from Mayuzumi, released in 1968 (I think, since I don’t read, speak or write Japanese). Most of these songs are also featured on 45s from Mayuzumi, and so instead of spending a small fortune tracking all of them down individually, I got this one as a birthday gift to myself. From what I can tell the cover of the record depicts Mayuzumi winning the Japan Record Award in 1968, sort of the equivalent of the Grammy’s here in the States. The same group that backs her on “Black Room” is featured on every track and while half of the songs are slower pop ballads, things still get soulful and funky just about everywhere else. There isn’t a lot of information on Jun in English on the interwebs, I know she also did a fair amount of acting, but not much more than that. One day hopefully I’ll be able to add her story here, but until then let’s just be thankful for the tunes.

Cheers,

Michael

DJRogers

DJ Rogers – Listen To The Message
DJ Rogers – Celebration
DJ Rogers – Bail Out
DJ Rogers – March On

{This record is one of several that I currently have up on Ebay, solid titles and you know the money goes to a good cause, namely this blog and my ongoing vinyl addiction!}

Picked this up at a recent dig at one of my favorite LA spots. As I was going through all of the bins, turning up a few pieces but nothing spectacular I happened upon this plain blue jacket with no information at all. Intrigued, I took the album out, which felt like it was made from something other than vinyl, metal perhaps, and saw that this was clearly a test pressing. The album turns out to be D.J. Rogers debut album, released on Shelter records in 1973. DeWayne Julius Rogers was a homegrown talent who got his start singing in local church choirs, most notably the Watts Community Choir and the Los Angeles Community Choir. That gospel influence is clear from pretty much the start of the album, in his vocals and in the way the vocals from the chorus (which features Maxayn Lewis) are arranged. It’s also pretty clear that Rogers was a major fan of Sly Stone, because this album could have been mistaken for a Sly side-project. Though the funk here has clear nods to Sly, it doesn’t retain any of the murky sonic character of Sly’s There’s A Riot Going On or Fresh. Instead the funk only adds to the uplifting messages in the songs.

I thought I would be able to find more information about this test pressing, but struck out in every online search I could find. In some cases test pressings like this were made as the last step before sending the record out, sometimes as a kind of personal promo. Artisan Sound Recorders was a fairly well know pressing operation, and there are more than a few test pressings from that company, but I could find anything on this one. Might just be a one-of-a-kind find.

Cheers,

Michael

Haden1

Charlie Haden & the Liberation Music Orchestra – Song For Che
Charlie Haden & the Liberation Music Orchestra – The Introduction/Song Of The United Front/El Quinto Regimento/Los Cuatro Generales/Viva La Quince Brigada/The Ending To The First Side

A great and glorious light in this world has gone out…on Friday, July 11th, we learned of the passing of Charlie Haden. I’m not sure it’s possible to fully understand the impact Haden’s music and style have had on musicians the world over. I’ll leave that for others. Instead here I’ll just tell of the effect his music has had on me, a subject I’ll return to next week when I host an hour long tribute to Haden on my radio show. I have no memory of the first time I heard Haden on bass. I’m sure it must have been at some point in high school, when I was starting to take baby steps into jazz, but I don’t remember it. I’m sure I had heard his music, particularly from the years he spent with Ornette Coleman, by the time I arrive at college. Surely by the time we (myself, James Diggs and Daryl “G-Wiz” Felker) brought jazz back to Album 88 I must have been familiar with his name and his work. By the time James and Daryl had left the show and it was all my own I’m certain I must have owned several records with Haden playing on them. At that time, shortly after my mother’s death, I engaged in quite a lot of record therapy and with the jazz show, much of what I dug up was out of print jazz on vinyl. At the time I had pretty extreme tastes, either funky soul-jazz that often got sampled by Hip-Hop producers or the fiery free and spiritual jazz that was rarely ever heard on the radio.

At some point in that period of time I bought a copy of this album, the first by Charlie Haden’s collective of musicians known as the Liberation Music Orchestra, originally released on Impulse records in 1970. In those days my ears were not as patient as they are now, I’d buy 10-15 records in a week and generally listen to the ones with breaks (or that I thought had breaks) and leave the others for some later day, often Sunday when the “Blue Note” aired. I may have listened to this album once or twice, I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but I do remember vividly when I finally HEARD the music on this album. I was going about my business with the album on the turntable, probably alphabetizing other records, and the moment on the first side where everything falls away and you hear, a chorus of voices rise up, almost like voices from beyond the grave, to sing a few lines of Spanish Civil War Song “El QUinto Regimento” before a blistering flamenco style solo arrives from Sam Brown that closes with a solo from Haden himself with these lightly cascading cymbals in the background. When I heard those voices and then the music that followed I stared at my turntable from across the room for a good long while. In all honesty I wasn’t sure if the voices actually came from the record, which didn’t make sense, why would these Spanish voices be coming out of this avant-grade jazz record, or there was some kind of ghostly happenings afoot.

The album finally reached another passage where the old Spanish Republican songs were super-imposed again (which, incidentally, last for longer periods of time on this version only, the 1973 repress of this album, in some cases a full second or two longer than the original from 1970 and all of the post-1990s reissues) and I finally was able to move and went over to the turntable to begin the side over again, now with my full attention on the piece. I spent the next 26 minutes listening to this extraordinary piece of music, brought together by Carla Bley and inspired by the music of Spanish Civil War. Haden2From the opening notes of “The Introduction” through all that followed after I was completely mesmerized. I just sat there in front my stereo with my hand on my chin trying to process all of that beauty. When the piece arrived at “Viva La Quince Brigada” with it’s deep swells of emotion from the entire ensemble and especially the screaming saxophone of Leandro Barbieri and the chorus now singing “Ay Carmela” I was completely overwhelmed by this music and began to openly and uncontrollably weep. I’ve shed tears over music before and since, but I’ve never had that experience again. The experience fundamentally changed aspects of my character, beginning with an obsessive look into the Spanish Civil War, deeper investigations into political music and leftist political theory from outside the US and also forever shifted my listening habits so that whenever I buy music that is new to me, I always make sure to set aside time to hear it fully.

When I finally flipped the record over and played “Song For Che” I was just as deeply moved. After years of now listening intently to the music of Charlie Haden, in all his many groups and all the many styles he played in, there’s still not a more perfect song than this one that expresses everything that was so beautiful about him. About three minutes in there is a stretch where he plays the central melody in an almost flamenco style on his double bass as a short passage of Carlos Puebla’s “Hasta Siempre” makes a brief appearance before all manner of glorious sounds erupt with the parts of the orchestra coming in led by Dewey Redman’s plaintive tenor saxophone. Every time the full group returns to the central melody near the end of this song, with Dewey’s Saxophone on one side and Don Cherry’s trumpet on the other, my heart swells. To this day it remains one of the most beautiful and deeply affecting pieces of music I’ve ever heard.

Haden3A few years ago, at the 75th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War, I did a tribute to the music of that conflict, including tracks from this album and other Liberation Music Orchestra releases (as well as the original tracks they interspersed in this album, which were released in 1963 on a 78 and reissued on CD in 1996 with notes in English, Spanish and French). At one point during the broadcast a caller called in saying that he was Charlie Haden and thanking me for doing the show and for playing his music. I honestly didn’t believe it was him until he called up again at the end of the show to give me his post office box address to send a copy of the show to, which I promptly and inexcusably lost. I thought I might have dreamed the whole thing until Maggie Lepique, the Music Director at KPFK, told me that Charlie had called her and wanted a copy of the show. In the last several years I’ve had an opportunity to interview Charlie’s son, Josh Haden and his group Spain, and have had short conversations with one of his daughters Rachel Haden who sometimes works in a local record store (in fact I bought this particular copy of this album, replacing an older one, at that store and she was at the counter when I brought my records and she beamed and proudly showed it to her co-worker). Though they play different styles of music than their father, his light shines in them and thankfully will be carried on in their music and their lives.

I feel incredibly lucky to share music like this, here online and on the various radio stations I’ve been at. Even people who don’t like Avant-Garde music recognize the incredible majesty of these songs. I’m also thankful that I got to see Charlie Haden perform late last year, perhaps one of his last public performances, as he led a CalArts edition of the Liberation Music Orchestra, performing a variety of songs, including a tribute to the then recently departed Nelson Mandela. It was sadly clear just what ill health Haden was in at that time, so frail and especially at the beginning of the night seemingly unable to stand or talk for stretches of time. But as the music played and he got excited by what the young musicians were doing, he kept coming to the microphone and telling stories, most of them centered of love in one form or another. That night closed with one of my most cherished memories, as Haden took up his bass and played some of the sweetest and saddest notes I’ve ever heard in a blissfully long rendition of “Blue In Green.” As with the first moment I really heard his playing on this album, I’ll never forget hearing Haden play on that evening. We all should feel blessed to have spent time with and been able to hear such lovely music from a truly lovely human being.

Peace be with you Charlie Haden, thank you for all you shared with us…

AmeSon

Ame Son – Eclosion
Ame Son – Reborn This Morning On The Way Of…
Ame Son – Hein Quant A Toi

This post marks the last post of our fifth year, with our anniversary being July 7th. I first heard of Ame Son from a collection Finders Keepers put out a few years ago called the BYG Deal, covering some of the more proggy & psychedelic recordings from BYG/Actuel Record label in France. On that compilation was a edited version of “Eclosion” that blew my mind. It remains one of my all time favorite psychedelic songs because of the way the drums tumble out of the speakers and for the searing electric guitar work. Needless to say, that wee taste was all I need to put the album from the group on my radar.

A couple of years ago I finally tracked down a decent copy of the album Catalyse from Ame Son. I really dug all the tracks and must have listened to the album if not daily, certainly weekly for several months. Something bugged me about the album though, it seemed like there was either a problem with the track listing or I had the feeling like one of the songs on the second side was edited. Eventually that nagging feeling sent me to the Internets and specifically to Discogs, where I discovered that my feelings were true. I learned that for whatever insane reason, the folks at BYG had significantly truncated “Reborn This Morning On The Way Of…” essentially cropping off 90% of the song and attempting to seamlessly blend it into the next track.

I then learned that on the German pressing the song was presented in it’s full version. So, then I had to find the German version, released on the Metronome record label. When I finally did, I was able to appreciate “Reborn” in all it’s glory, but I ended up with another problem. I liked the packaging and the sequencing of the French version better! Even the lyrics to the songs, sung in English and French, were written in German on the Metronome release. I thought about keeping them both, but since I’m not a club DJ or producer with great turntable skills, having doubles has always seemed a bit greedy. So ultimately I ended up trading the French version with Cool Chris of Groove Merchant for a few other records. I suppose that’s the definition of a win-win situation…now, if only I could find a German version mispress that has the songs sequenced in the way they are on the French version. Not likely to happen, but a boy can dream can’t he?

One final thing about this record, when I first played “Hein Quant A Toi,” and it got to the part where the flute is amplified and distorted, my dog couldn’t figure out what was going on and why the speakers were making such a weird sound, she just kept turning her head, giving the speakers a sideways glance that I’ve only seen dogs give when they find something strange and peculiar…if you have a dog, you should play it for them and see how they respond.

Cheers,

Michael

Versus

Versus – Lose That Dress/Yeah You
Versus – Jealous
Versus – A Heart Is A Diamond

Baring any further postponements, sometime this week GPB will take over daytime programming at Album 88. Over the past month there have been many tributes, like mine and the one just recently orchestrated by college and community stations all over the country, pleas from indie artists and even a counter proposal that actually includes more tangible internships and media access to GSU students than GPB has promised. We’ll see how this ultimately plays out, but what is clear is how important Album 88 is to the thousands of people who have listened to it over the past 43 years and to the hundreds of us who had the privilege to work there.

My time at Album 88 was during the mid-1990s, a period of rapid change in the popular culture landscape. I arrived in 1993, at a period of time where “Alternative” was the new buzz word for the kind of music Album 88 had championed for 20 years, “college/indie rock.” At that time we had commercial stations essentially take our playlist, streamline it (the 88 playlist in those days had over 70+ different artists and 200+ songs, changed on a weekly basis, with additional input from the live DJs. Commercial stations, as they still do, chopped that down to 25-40 different songs, repeated again and again and again) and then sell it to the masses. This was the period of time when regulations changed and suddenly it seemed like Clear Channel owned every other station and you’d hear the same song, sometimes at the exact same time, on multiple stations in the same market. By the end of my time at Album 88, Hip-Hop had also branched out into commercial mainstream radio. Despite, or perhaps because of these changes, Album 88 emerged out of this period focused more than ever before on truly independent artists and local talent.

I worked as a music director from 1996-1997and the experience taught me more about music and the music industry, good and bad, than I’d probably bargained for. For me, it was really all about the music and that remains the case, which is the easiest explanation why I’ve spent 20 years in non-commercial college/community radio. When I look back at those years, there are many great records that remind me of my time there, some tied to specific memories or specific people. But if I have to be completely honest, there isn’t a record from that period of time that I love more than this one from Versus. I firmly believe that if Secret Swingers had come out at anytime over the last couple of decades it would have been hailed as the exceptional record that it was. Far too few took notice of the album in 1996, though the people of Atlanta got a healthy dose of it, we must have played virtually every song from this album at one point on Album 88, I certainly know that I did on my regular rotation shows during that time. Though I bought a copy at that time, it was one of the many casualities in 2004. This copy is one that I happily ran into several months back at Gimme Gimme records, which is really something else since only 2,000 of these were even pressed.

I’ve always thought that this record had the feel of a soundtrack, without ever being associated with a film or designed as such. It’s not because there’s a particular theme that runs through the record, it’s because the images the lyrics and music evoke are so vivid that when I listen to virtually every song on this record, it’s easy to visualize them as images and as if there’s a film going on. The album begins with “Lose That Dress,” a song that you’d think might have be a sexual reference, but it seems more like a plea from the singer to a friend that just simply needs to grow up, act her age, and stop dressing like she used to as a teenager so she can figure out who she really is for herself.

She’s that girl that doesn’t want to act her age,
We’ve been friends for years and that’s why it’s ok,
I don’t know who she thinks she needs to impress,
Girl I know you’re special but you gotta…
Lose that dress, Lose that dress

On the album “Lose That Dress” goes right into “Yeah You,” as Fontaine Toups attempts to hold out the final note as long as she can, fails mightily, but picks it back up as Richard Baluyut screams “Yes!” and claps his hands. “Yeah You” is even more direct in its critique of bad behavior by a friend, in this case someone who is addicted to Heroin, which has put a major strain on the relationship. From there we move to “Glitter Of Love” which has a reference to Jennifer Jason Leigh that should feel dated, but instead feels timeless just because of the kind of actress she has been throughout her career.

You look real to me,
You’re Jennifer Jason Leigh,
but you’re taller than me,
and you carry a gun,
you look like so much fun,
I’m really stuck on you,
and that’s more than the truth,
Give me the chance to prove my star-crossed love

That “I’m really stuck on you, and that’s more than the truth” kills me every single time…Now, I could go on and on and on about every single track on this record, they’re all written so vividly, but given how long this post already is (and what’s waiting below) I thought I spent the rest of my time talking about the two tracks that have most kept this record in my mind for almost the entire 18 years since I heard it first.

“Jealous” remains my favorite song, it’s a song that I played during my final show at WRAS in May 1998, at the literal half-way point of the show. The song seems to detail a tumultuous relationship, it seems like one party is likely cheating on the other, or at least is suspected of it and the song deals with the effect jealousy has on the relationship with lyrics that seem to play out through a confrontation, a split and an attempt at reconciliation. Like a number of the songs on this album, there’s this great point/counter-point between the two vocalists that perfectly illustrates the conflicting emotions and feelings that come with an intense love affair that simply can’t last, As Baluyut sings “I’m not really asking you to stay, in fact I’m really wishing you were far away,” Fontaine coolly follows with, “I didn’t mean any harm, Don’t want to let you get far away.”

“Jealous” is also such a quintessentially end of the 20th century kind of a song. I feel proud to have grown up in an era where we could disconnect the phone whenever we wanted no one to find us or bother us. “Jealous” marks that time in its chorus, which is just about the coolest thing that’s ever been written:

Jealous…again,
Jealous like a good American,
Yeah we know,
Better to deny and never know,
How scare you are,
Baby please come home,
Come on baby, disconnect the phone,
Don’t keep pushing me away,
Come on baby, promise that you’ll stay

Though “Jealous” is my favorite song, it’s not the best song on the record (I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I think you know what I mean), the best song is “A Heart Is A Diamond.” This is the closing credits song, the song that plays after everything has been put in its place, all the loose ends have been wrapped up and the whole story has been told. I think it’s the best thing that the band ever recorded and lyrically it’s sheer gold, so even though this post is already longer than almost everything else on this blog, I just had to print them all here, with one caveat, I’ve never been able to figure out what they say in that line in the chorus, “we can make it work, with a little ____.” So, I’ve included the two words that seem to fit best from all my years singing along to this song in the car:

Every time you try to run away,
Someone’s there convincing you to stay,
You’re just gonna bury your heart in the ground ike a diamond,

Everyone is looking for answers to,
Questions they forgot to ask you,
You’re your just gonna bury your heart in the ground like a diamond,

Dig it up and then come back to me
We can make it work, with a little amnesty,
don’t forget, don’t regret the secret you told me,
A heart is a diamond til you set it free

Everyone is looking at you for a sign,
It’s hard enough to walk in a straight line,
And you’re just gonna bury your heart in the ground like a diamond

Do you ever feel like you’re too old,
To replace the memories that you sold,
Tell me all the stories that you never told, told anyone

Dig it up and then come back to me,
We can make it work, with a little empathy,
Don’t forget, don’t regret the secret you told me,
A heart is a diamond til you set it free

This memory could last a lifetime,
You can just sit there by yourself, silently,
A heart is a diamond until you set it free.

Play that song over and over again,
Don’t pretend you didn’t like it back then,
You’re just gonna bury your heart in the ground like a diamond

When you know your heart is breaking up,
Will you just let it come to a stop,
Or are you gonna bury your heart in the ground,
until it’s found

There’s no way at 21 I could have appreciated that verse, “Do you ever feel like you’re too old, to replace the memories that you sold, tell me all the stories that you never told, told anyone.” I certainly felt old, less than a year removed from my mother’s unexpected passing, but there’s a difference between feeling old and feeling that you are too old to live the kind of life that you wanted for yourself when you were younger. I’m happy that at (almost) 39 those lyrics aren’t directed to me, but they still feel like they’re for me, that they’re the kind of thing I need to say, and often do, to the people I love when it’s clear that they’re lost there way.

After listening to this record off and on and on and off again over the past 18 years I still marvel at how clearly personal these songs feel, written for specific people, specific relationships and how they still fit into some of the movies of my own life. One day, maybe I’ll write a story, or a novel, or a screenplay about those Heroic years at Album 88. If I do, this will certainly be the soundtrack.

Cheers,

Michael

JacarandaBloom

Jacaranda in Bloom – foto © David McNew

2014 has been a year of change and discovery, following my separation and move to an apartment in Glendale. I’ve been blessed to make a solid enough living to have the ability to engage in a little record therapy and keep searching for records. This Spring turned out to be an especially fruitful period of time in that regard. Here on the last full day of Spring, I thought I’d share a few of the records that I’ve picked up in recent months, and since I so rarely post 45s on the blog, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to focus on some of the better ones I’ve bought recently. 3 of the 4 records posted here came from the same collection. I bought a fairly rare 45 from a local dealer and arranged to pick it up in person and not have to worry about shipping costs or postal mishaps. While setting up the meeting he mentioned that this was from a somewhat large collection he had just purchased and I was welcome to go through it too. These are essentially the most lovely words a collector can hope to hear and so I was pretty excited to see what the collection might have to offer (even though he also mentioned that some “Northern Soul” guy had already gone through it). Because of the size of the collection, a bout of the cold, and some bad scheduling, what I thought would be a single trip turned into four separate trips. I actually never got a chance to go through all of the 45s as the dealer sold what remained of the collection for a set price, but thankfully I did grab about 10 pieces from it, and a nice 45 box, including most of these below.

Jean Kassapian - The Snake - Kassap

Jean Kassapian – The Snake – Kassap

Jean Kassapian – The Snake

As with any large collection of 45s, the vast majority generally are crappy pop tunes, but this collection had a fair amount of quality, well known songs too. After about an hour or two the first day I went through it I came upon this private press picture sleeve. With a song titled, “The Snake” and a mention of music for belly dancers, I really wasn’t expecting much when I put it on my portable and dropped the needle about half way into “Snake.” As soon as I heard those drums and the handclaps, my eyes just about popped out of their sockets. A quick search of popsike and the like pointed to the rarity of this one, which has been comped by Finders Keepers and goes for $100-200 on the open market. I was all pleased with myself until the dealer said that he had been called away and I’d have to come back the next day. When I returned, I didn’t get much time to look at more of the records (which required a third and fourth visit), but he had priced the records. From the prices he quoted me for the other things I had picked out, it was clear that he’d done some online sleuthing of his own and was pricing the known quantities in a slightly inflated manner. However, for whatever reason, he wasn’t able to find any information on this particular 45 and so I got it for $5…score!

The Peppos and Jones Straightjacket Band - Humanity - Straightjacket

The Peppos and Jones Straightjacket Band – Humanity – Straightjacket

The Peppos and Jones Straightjacket Band – Humanity

This one wasn’t found on the same day as “The Snake” but it was from the same collection and roughly had the same story in terms of pricing. At the time I had found only one listing placing it around $50, but he never saw it, couldn’t find any info on the band and so I got this one for $5 too. It’s also a private press, I’m pretty sure from the DC area. “High School Years” is nothing to write home about, straight ahead rocker…but “Humanity” on the other hand, as you can hear this one has all kinds of weird effects and a really nice instrumental bridge. It’s got the kind of sound you’d expect to find in a early DJ Shadow production.

Puzzle - Lady - Motown

Puzzle – Lady – Motown

Puzzle – Lady

This one was from that same collection, found pretty early on, maybe the same day I found “The Snake.” This isn’t a particularly difficult to find 45, it was priced at $2 and sells for no more than $5. I’d never heard of the group Puzzle, even though they were on Motown, so that was intriguing to me by itself. Puzzle, originally based out of Chicago, was one of the few white bands signed to the venerable Detroit label, and headed up by John Valenti. The song “Lady” is a bit too adventurous with its song structure for it to have ever been a hit, but I was amazed I’d never heard it before as it’s a fantastic piece of music, from the production down to the great singing from Valenti. Every brilliant you record you dig up doesn’t have to be super rare, it just has to be something that you enjoy listening to and want to share with others.

Richard Menezes - Nova Jersey - Fono Press

Richard Menezes – Nova Jersey – Fono Press

Richard Menezes – Nova Jersey

This final selection was actually an Ebay buy. It came from one of my favorite sellers on there, who always has amazing Latin and Brazilian records. More than a few times I’ve been caught without nearly enough money to compete with the auctions, but this Spring I was able to grab a few nice pieces, which I’ll likely highlight here later on. Generally this seller only does auctions, but for some reason he put up a few things with the “buy-it-now” option. Most of the pieces he did this for appeared to be records that had some defect or something that was missing, such as a cover or a record that was in solid condition except for two songs that were scratched. I have no idea why he chose to do it for this 45, may be because of the condition of the picture sleeve which is taped together, maybe because he didn’t know the artist. I’d never heard of Richard Menezes and there was absolutely no info online about him. However, he’d attached an audio file to the listing for this 45, and within 15 seconds of hearing those drums, that guitar and that flute, I immediately snatched it up. I don’t need more information to know that “Nova Jersey” is one of the cooler, bluesy, slow and psychedelic songs I’ve heard out of Brazil. Hopefully I’ll track down more music or info about Menezes in the future, but for now, these sounds will more than do.

Cheers,

Michael

ErasmoCover

Erasmo Carlos – Minha Gente
Erasmo Carlos – Sorrisa Dela
Erasmo Carlos – Vida Antiga
Erasmo Carlos – Mundo Cao

As the eyes of the entire world turn towards Brazil for the World Cup, I realized that I haven’t shared what is my single favorite album produced out of Brazil, Erasmo Carlos’ Sonhos e Memorias. CarlosGenteI don’t have nearly the amount of background information I should have about Erasmo Carlos and the recording of this album. Many assume that Roberto Carlos and Erasmo Carlos are brothers, but they are not, at least not in the blood relative sense. The two of them cast a long shadow over the Jovem Guarda in the 1960s, with sounds that mostly mined from American rock’n’roll, with a little Brazilian flavor. By the 1970s, it’s clear that the influence of Tropicalia and post-Summer Of Love hippie culture made a major impression on Erasmo’s music. The result is this album, which contains one of my all-time favorite songs in any language, in any genre, from any age, “Minha Gente.”

“Minha Gente” translates to “My People.” The song is likely a tribute to a specific circle of friends and family, but could just as easily be extended to people who live life with the spirit that the song expresses. Lyrically, though the song appears to be sung to a “Brother,” it also acts a critique of the outside society, the old guard, and the people, young and old, who do not understand the way of life that Carlos and his cohorts have chosen. I’m not sure there’s a song that more fully encapsulates the way I feel in this world and the way I feel about the people I love, than this song (though “Life Could” from Rotary Connection comes very close). This is a song that I have literally listened to on repeat for hours on end. The mood that the music evokes is absolutely perfect.

Erasmo Carlos – My People
Brother, they keep asking me
Who are my people, what do they feel
What is my full name …MinhaGente

Brother, I lack the will
To give so much explanation
To those who do not understand anything
To those who do not understand anything

That’s why I sing, speaking of my weeping
Crying my grief
That although no one believed
It is clear as water
That although no one believed, it is clear …

Who thinks I’m so different
Who always asks what my chest feels
It’s because they do not read and do not see my heart
To these people my brother
I answer with a single word …

My people are open people
United people, True people
We are kings, We are prophets
We are sages and poets …

“Minha Gente” by itself would be enough to make this one of my favorite albums, but there are at least six other songs on the album that are also exemplary and have their own distinctive place amongst the best music to come out of one of the most creative and inspiring periods of time. It’s not a perfect record, there are some songs that fall flat with my ears, they seem to be just average Brazilian rock songs. But when Carlos gets in the groove, as he does with “Grilos,” “Mundo Cão,” “Sábado Morto,” “Meu Mar,” “Sorrisa Dela” and “Vida Antiga” it is pure magic. Nothing comes close to comparing to it.

Cheers,

Michael

JoeElements

Joe Henderson – Earth
Joe Henderson – Fire (Excerpt)
Joe Henderson – Water

I’ve written previously of my love for this period of time in the storied career of Joe Henderson. I’m not entirely sure of it, but I’ve often thought that Henderson’s work with Alice Coltrane on her 1970 album, Ptah, the El Dahoud, shifted his playing into new directions. This was around the same time that he moved to the Bay Area which also must have had an influence on his style. Without question, there is a difference between Henderson’s early material on Milestone (not to mention his previous work for Blue Note and others) and the records he started to cut after 1971.

This album’s concept seems relatively simple. The album includes four songs, each named for the classical elements, Fire, Air, Water and Earth. From all appearances these tracks were largely improvised by the players in studio with little written out. These kind of projects didn’t always have stellar results, but when the players include Alice Coltrane, Charlie Haden and Michael White you’re guaranteed that something special is going to occur. All four tracks are lovely to behold, incorporating so many different influences (since there are only 4 tracks on the album, I’ve only included an excerpt of “Fire” which picks up at the midway point after White’s solo and just before Coltrane’s on harp), but the standout is the otherworldly “Earth.” After some blistering tabla work, the song unexpectedly locks into one of the deepest, slowest, spiritual jazz grooves I’ve ever heard, with Coltrane on Tamboura and Leon Chancler on the drums. I’ve always wanted to play this on a big sound system in front of a crowd to see how they would respond to the hypnotic quality of the music, but haven’t gotten the chance to try it (though I might here in the summer…stay tuned).

Charlie Haden isn’t featured on too many tracks that have this heavy of a groove, but his bass is a standout, both in anchoring the rhythm and for the way his unaccompanied solo signals the shift that occurs half-way in the song, where Coltrane shifts back to Harp and Kenneth Nash adds some poetry, before the groove comes back slower and heavier than before. “Earth” is simply one of the most engrossing musical performances I’ve ever known.

Cheers,

Michael

Phil Upchurch – Black Gold
Phil Upchurch – Adam and Charlene
Phil Upchurch – More and More
Phil Upchurch – Midnight Chile

Like a good friend you hadn’t seen in years that you didn’t even know how much missed them until you reunited, I was filled with overwhelming joy when I ran into this record a couple of months ago at Gimme Gimme Records in Highland Park. Like a number of the records I cherished before the big sell off in 2004, I figured it would be fairly easy to find another copy. The years have shown me the folly of that thinking and how truly privileged I was to have started collecting in the 1990s. I’d been on the lookout for this one for almost ten years and had only seen one other beat-up copy in all those years.

It’s pretty understandable what makes this one so hard to find. It’s recorded in the sweet spot period of Chicago psychedelic soul, late 1960s, and orchestrated by the under-appreciated genius Charles Stepney. Though Phil Upchurch by this time had been recording for quite some time, there’s not another one of his records that has this style. Even though there are other productions, notably with Rotary Connection, that have the hallmarks of Stepney’s style, this one has always been my favorite and the one that sounds most unique and special to my ears.

Cheers,

Michael

Collegiate Neophonic Orchestra of Southern California – Neophonic Funk
Collegiate Neophonic Orchestra of Southern California – Orange Grease
Collegiate Neophonic Orchestra of Southern California – Tribute To A Poltergeist

Ran into this over at Atomic during a break from grading earlier in the month. Hadn’t heard anything about this group and I’m generally not big on buying college band/orchestra records, but the cover art, odd band member photos (yes that Sax player is naked with a little gold star for his naughty bits) and the descriptions of the songs inside swayed me to give it a shot. When you have tracks titled “Neophonic Funk” and “Orange Grease” you think there’s a really solid chance for some big band funk, and the Neophonic boys do not disappoint. This band was made up of a gang of Musicians from local area Community Colleges and Cal-States, and while there aren’t any notable names that I could tell, they play with great verve. The aforementioned “Neophonic Funk” is a long piece in three parts, with some fuzz guitar, funky drums and way-out improvising towards the end. Once “Orange Grease” gets started it’s a pretty standard funky tune, with a solid clean drum break. “Tribute To A Poltergeist” has some breaktastic horns and I love the interesting tempo changes and sudden bursts of avant-garde skronking. I’ve never seen a “private press” like this, where the album seems to have been cut by Capitol Records, but as a “Custom Press” instead of on any legit label. No matter, the Neophonic boys found a way to get this pressed and thankfully I had the good sense to pick up to share with you.

Cheers,

Michael

Marcia Griffiths – Here I Am Baby
Marcia Griffiths – Green Grasshopper
Marcia Griffiths – Gypsy Man

Ran into this one at Avalon Vintage in Highland Park, which more or less has taken the place of the store Strictly Grooves which I was raving about last year, only now with lots of 60s/70s clothing and memorabilia. Rodney is still in charge of the records and there’s still tons of seriously deep gems to be had. My collection has been lacking on the Jamaican front since the big sell-off in 2004, so when I saw this record from Marcia Griffiths, released in 1974 on the UK Trojan label, I didn’t need much convincing to pick it up. Price for this and a few other things wasn’t an issue because of some trades I brought in and so I left the store to check the sounds at home. Without thinking about it I put on Side 2 first instead of Side 1 and immediately got floored.

The introduction of “Here I Am Baby” is soooooooo heavy and was instantly recognizable to my ears for a couple of reasons. Back in the early 2000s, the song was one of the many highlights of DJ Sureshot’s Super Status Soundbwoy Reggae Breaks and Beats that got major play on KALX. More recently elements of the song were sampled by Geoff Barrows’ Quakers project on a song called “Soul Power” featuring Dead Prez. My mind hasn’t been quite right for most of the past year, otherwise I’m sure I would have remembered it as soon as I saw the album. Even without my usually sharp sample memory the record gods smiled on me when I got the chance to pick this up, which includes some solid reggae tunes, but it’s the more soulful numbers, like her cover of “Gypsy Woman,” flipped into “Gypsy Man” and “Green Grasshopper, that are the true standouts. Though I won’t be playing a lot of it on the radio show, since Chuck Foster’s Reggae Central is maybe the best Jamaican music show in the country, you’ll see quite a lot more Jamaican music here on the blog this year, though few will be as stunningly funky as this one.

Cheers,

Michael

LennyWhite

Lenny White – Sweet Dreamer
Lenny White – Enchanted Pool (Excerpt)
Lenny White – Big City

There are many things that I appreciate about being a child of the 1970s, coming of age during the Golden Era of Hip-Hop. It’s given me a perspective on life, music and politics that I appreciate more and more. But, I have to admit, one of the things that is nice about this digital age is that when you obsess about a certain sample, nine times out of ten, you can figure it out in seconds just by doing a search on the internets. Yes, for someone who became a DJ and a collector prior to the internet even publicly existing, there is a part of me that feels a little “lazy” doing this. In the past, this kind of cultural capital was something you discovered through your talents as a collector, or learned by virtue of your connections to other DJs who had that knowledge.

But when I hear a track like Madlib & Freddie Gibbs’ “Robes,” that just completely bowls me over with it’s stunning beauty, I don’t much care about principles, I just need to find out what that sample is so that I can sleep at night. Marveling at the instrumental version of “Robes” last week on my show, led to one of those searches and fairly quickly to this album from Lenny White featuring the song “Sweer Dreamer.” A short trip to Amoeba and just like that, the album was mine.

Virtually the entirety of “Robes” is built off of “Dremaer,” but it’s a fascinating display of what makes Madlib one of the most talented and idiosyncratic producers of all-time. Instead of a simple, conventional loop, which surely would have been nice enough, Madlib reimagines the song, cuts pieces from a variety of places moves things up, moves things back, allows some parts to play longer, and the use of the vocal samples retains some of the original’s feeling, while altering it enough to give the song a different emphasis.

Because of my own prejudices around music produced after 1975, I likely never would have picked this one up. There’s just so little “fusion” music that I find interesting or even listenable. This entire album isn’t necessarily an exception, but the strong moments here are REALLY strong moments. A look at the notes on the back makes clear why, because the players on this record are outrageous. “Sweet Dreamer” features lyrics by Weldon Irvine (Linda Tillery provides the silky smooth vocals of Irvine’s lyrics), piano from Herbie Hancock, Paul Jackson from the Headhunters on bass. “Big City” features the Tower Of Power horn section AND Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. Elsewhere Neal Schon of Santana, Jan Hammer, Miroslave Vitous, Bennie Maupin, and Verdine White of Earth Wind and Fire (playing was is credited as “Very funky bass”) also make appearances.

“Sweet Dreamer” has been part of a running theme in changes to how I listen to and evaluate music. Without Madlib sampling this would have never been on my radar. You’d think at this age and with all the genres I listen to I wouldn’t still be so stubborn with some of my tastes. But as I’ve been told a fair amount, I am a very stubborn man. I doubt that’s really ever going to change, but “Sweet Dreamer” gives me a great reason to take even more chances than I generally do with sounds I don’t generally mess around with.

Cheers,

Michael

Silvinha – Banho De Sorvete
Silvinha – Professor Particular
Silvinha – A Mais Linda Flor

To be perfectly honest, I’ve thought about selling this Silvinha record half a dozen times.
Every time I listen to “Banho De Sorvete” though I immediately decide against it. On paper, this album should be amazing. Silvinha has a kind of natural “bad girl” vibe to her singing that often gives it lots of spunk and with rock backing and the fuzzy guitars of Lanny Gordin (best known for his work with Gal Costa) you’d think it was a can’t miss proposition. Unfortunately most of the record is pretty run of the mill 1960s international rock sounds. “Banho De Sorvete” is a monster track though, extra fuzzy Brazilian Ye-Ye. I still hope that the song ends up on a 45, though I haven’t seen it and doubt that the same people who chose the majority of these songs would recognize just how amazing “Banho” actually is. Oh well, maybe I shouldn’t be so greedy.

Cheers,

Michael

Harlem Underground Band – Smokin’ Cheeba Cheeba
Harlem Underground Band – Fed Up
Harlem Underground Band – Ain’t No Sunshine

I’ve now owned this record three times. I know that the first copy was a bootleg. I think the second copy was a legit original. Ran into this copy at Amoeba for something like $4 and the sleeve made me think it was a reissue. The thing about reissue vinyl is that it has a certain look, perhaps because newer records are pressed differently than OGs, and the tell-tale signs are normally on the label. When I took a look at the label of this record, it didn’t look like a reissue, it looked like the real deal. For whatever reason it seems like this record got bootlegged more than just about any record I know. It’s a strange record in some ways. The record is a real anomaly in the career of George Benson, “Baby” Cortez and Willis Jackson, (though I’ve never been sure if Benson is the singer on “Cheeba Cheeba,”) because this is a real down and dirty album, not just in terms of it being “funky,” this is literally a pretty dirty record. In some ways it’s a funk concept record, or something that could have easily have been a blaxploitation soundtrack. From the “highs” of Smokin’ Cheeba Cheeba, things get low down as Ann Winley sings “Fed Up” and tells her man in no uncertain terms that she ain’t putting up with his s**t any more. How are we to view the lascivious nature of “Finger In It?” Is this the no-good man of the prior song, up to his old ways, or has the woman decided to go and get hers? I lean towards the latter since the next song is “Ain’t No Sunshine” and even as an instrumental with a reggae feel and big ole drum break, we all know how that goes. “Fed Up” shows up again as an instrumental to close the album and close the interesting little story that is going here. You very rarely heard so many profanities in songs from this period unless the album was explicitly a comedy record, so that makes it notable all on its own, regardless who was playing on it.

Cheers,

Michael

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