Melting Pot

Archive for the ‘Dig Deep’ category


Vicente Rojas – Esto No Es Para Bailar
Vicente Rojas – En La Nieve
Vicente Rojas – En La Orbita

September has belonged to records dug up in Havana, and for the last Dig Deep of the month, I thought I’d share this record from bandleader/producer Vicente Rojas. Like most of the music that I grabbed at Seriosha, I hadn’t heard anything about Rojas prior to getting this album. Since there’s no turntable there and I didn’t bring one with me, the music was going to remain a mystery until I got back home. When I went through the stacks, I pulled out way more records than I could afford and thus had to make tough choices about what to keep and what to leave behind.

With so little knowledge of many of these artists, I tried to focus on two things, instrumentation and catalog numbers. Without any recording dates mentioned on records, all I could do was compare this album to albums I already knew their recording dates. Having owned 3 or 4 Juan Pablo Torres albums from the mid-1970s to the 1980s gave me a way to contextualize what the album might sound like. Based on those records I knew this was late 1970s or early 1980s. Looking at the back cover revealed a long list of musicians, including a keyboardist who was listed as playing synthesizer, clavinet AND piano, but no listing for a singer/vocalist. That gave me the impression that this would be an instrumental album. Those two facts were more than enough to keep this record in the pile I eventually bought and brought back.

When I finally did get a chance to put the needle to the record, I was pretty blown away. “Esto No Es Para Bailar” is the first track and it was as if Giorgio Moroder had recorded an album in Havana, as totally spacey organ sounds eventually burst into a disco beat. “En La Orbita” has the feel of a song from a John Carpenter Horror film and “En La Nieve” bridges the gaps between these prior two favorite songs. It might take me a while to find out more about Vicente Rojas, but this was a most welcome introduction.




Eduardo Ramos – Vocacion – Revolucion
Noel Nicola – Examenes y Narajanas
Silvio Rodriguez – Cancion Tema

Like Cuban music from the 1970s, Post revolutionary Cuban Film isn’t particularly easy to come across here in the States. when I went digging at Tienda Seriosha I was hoping I might find some soundtracks knowing that film industry was similarly supported by the government. Admittedly, I knew less about Cuban film than I did Cuban music, but just using the same logic I do when digging in the States, I figured that if there was music associated with films of the 1960s and 1970s, it would have to be as good as the records that were being released regularly. While I was only able to track down one full soundtrack (from a film called, Julito El Pescador, you’ll probably hear more from that later), I was able to grab this collection of film music, released in 1979 to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.

The 15 tracks on the album are culled from six different films and feature some of the more popular Nueva Trova singers, particularly Silvio Rodriguez and Pablo Milanes (11 of the 15 tracks feature one or the other), with “Vocacion – Revolucion” and “Examenes y Narajanas” coming from the same film, a documentary titled La Nueva Escuela, while the Silvio Rodriguez track I’ve highlighted, “Cancion Tema,” comes from a film called El Hombre De Maisinicú. Both films were released in 1973 and have a sound that fits that period. I’d be curious to know how many films were produced during that 20 year period with full soundtrracks, but that is another mystery to look forward to uncovering on future trips back to Havana.




Rafael Somavilla – La Batea
Rafael Somavilla – Dominga
Rafael Somavilla – Mi Guajira No. 2
Rafael Somavilla – Mirando Traves De Un Mundo De Cristal

You can expect to see nothing but Cuban records in this section during this month, after my time spent at Tienda Seriosha in Havana. This LP might be my favorite of all of the ones that I picked up. Rafael Somavilla was a bandleader of some note in Cuba, primarily it seems with the Orquesta Cubana De Musica Moderna. For this album, songs were selected from Tony Taño, Juan Almeida and Raul Gomez. Knowing those names let me know that this would likely be a great record, as did the fact that there was a cover of Jorge Ben’s “Dominga” which I knew was from a record he put out in 1969. One of the other keys for me was the fact that the rhythms for the album were listed along with the songs and five of the songs were labeled as “Fantasía,” which more or less was used to describe psychedelic music in Cuba. With all of that, more than any other record, I couldn’t wait to clean this one up and drop the needle on it.

Once I did, as you can hear form the tracks above, the album did not disappoint. “La Batea” leads off the album and sets the tone, begining with what sounds like someone handwashing on a washboard and takes off from there into some really wild rhythms. The cover of “Dominga” closes up the album and shares quite a bit from the original, but smooths out the wilder edges of Ben’s original arrangement. In between those two stellar songs are eight other ones (“Mi Guajira” and “Mirando” just my two faves) that constantly flow into unexpected places. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more music from this period of time from Somavilla on my next trip.



Sorpresa Musical Vol. 1!!!

September 7th, 2015


Finally, here is my first mix of Cuban music dug up during my recent visit to Havana. In this case, I’ve focused only on the 45s, with 20 songs that cover a wide variety of styles, but heavily favor the 1960s. Stay tuned for Volume 2, focused on the LPs, in the very near future…Dig on it!

Sorpresa Musical: Volume #1

Sopresa Musical Vol 1 – Tracklist:
1. Los Meme – Como Sea
2. Mirta y Raul – Donde El Cielo Va A Encontrarse Con El Mar
3. Orquesta Cubana De Musica Moderna – La Soga
4. Orquesta Cuba Ritmo – Chocolate Sin Menta
5. Martha Justiniani – No Tienen Color
6. Orquesta Sensacion – Shake De Amor
7. Mirta Medina – Donde Va Mi Corazon
8. Conjunto Los Latinos – Quemando
9. Senen Suarez – Ritmo Son Son
10. Farah Maria y Orquesta Egrem – Oh! Cuanto Te Amo
11. Los Van Van – Resuelve
12. Raul Gomez – 6 Son
13. Modo – Nevajag Raudat
14. Grupo Irakere – Baila Mi Ritmo
15. Raul Gomez – Anatomia De Un Problema
16. Puntillita – Olvidate Muchacha
17. Lourdes Gil y Los Galantes – Marty
18. Maggie Carles – Te Vas A Casar
19. Mirta y Raul – El Salvaje Del Amor Pierde La Felicidad
20. Chucho Valdes – Sonidos Siderales

Seriosha 45s

It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to go to Cuba, and this Summer I was finally able to make that dream a reality. Though there are many reasons that I’ve wanted to make this trip, one of the biggest is, unsurprisingly, the music. One of the consequences of the U.S. embargo has been that post-revolutionary music from Cuba is excpetionally difficult to find in the States. Your best chance is to find them online, generally from dealers based in Japan, Russia or Canada. But I’d long wanted to dig at the source and the time has come to share with you all some of the discoveries I made down there.

RafaelSerioshaThis first trip down I focused on one of the few vinyl shops in Havana, a place that Gilles Peterson and Questlove have made famous, Tienda Seriosha in Habana Central. From what I had read before, I thought that the store was just a record store, but it’s shared space with a number of vendors (including someone at the front selling CDs, most of which seemed to be mixes). The records are towards the back, tucked away in the corner and though they don’t take up a lot of space, they’re really packed in. I spent the better part of two days at Seriosha, focusing one day on 12″ and the other on 45s. On both counts, I got through only 1/2 of the records that were there, but had to stop, not only because the store closed at 5pm, but also because the piles of stuff I was pulling out were far to big for the money I had with me. The main man at the store, Rafael (pictured above) was kind enough to set aside the small mountain of records I’d dug up until I finally made full decisions, on the third day.  LPs at Seriosha are $5 and 45s are $2, regardless of the title or the condition, so I was able to take home a tidy haul of records, increasing the Cuban section of my collection by roughly 1500%, with 95% of those records being things that I had never even heard.

45s at SerioshaLike a number of people, the Si, Para Usted collections put out by Waxing Deep were an introduction to the 1960s-1970s revolutionary period of Cuban music.  Prior to that, the only group I’d heard about was Irakere, and even then, only the music they recorded in the 1980s.  I tried to use what I’d learned from those collections and the few records that I had (which I’ve featured here, from Juan Pablo Torres and Mirta y Raul) in making my decisions on what to buy and what to leave behind.  In most cases I looked for particular artists or bands, or particular rhythms that I knew were associated with the kind of music I enjoy the most (thankfully most Cuban records will list the rhythm for many of the individual songs).  As thankful as I am for the experience of being able to dig at Seriosha’s, I’m haunted by those records left behind.  But this is likely only the first trip of what will become a fairly regular experience for me (I’m already planning trip #2, which hopefully will happen next Spring).

When I returned back home, I spent another day cleaning up all of the records.  Aside from dust and smoke, many of the records had heat damage (which is to be expected, since it can get brutally hot in Cuba…I now know this first hand having gone in August when the heat is at its hottest), so not all of them are pristine in terms of their condition, but as you can tell from this blog, I’m not a purist when it comes to the condition, it’s the music that’s most important.  These are just a few of my favorite 45s that I dug up at Seriosha’s.  There was so much quality that I’m going to be posting 2 different mixes, one focused on 45s, the other on LPs, over the next couple of weeks.  Even though I brought back more records than I’ve bought at a single time, there’s still so much to discover from the 1960s-1980s in Cuban music.  This really is just a taste…

Conjunto Los Latinos – Quemando

I know you’re not supposed to judge a record by its cover, but honestly, this cover was so cool, it wouldn’t have mattered what the music sounded like. Turns out, just like the cover (which essentially translates to “Watch Out, You’re Burning!”) each of three songs, from Los Latinos, Son 14 and Roberto Faz, are fire related. Of the bunch, “Quemando” is my favorite, and one of my favorite songs that I tracked down in Cuba. It is also featured on an LP Los Latinos put out, and that was there, but the condition on that one just didn’t seem like it could be salvaged. Given that, I was extremely happy that I found this song here and that it does burn, just as advertised.

Raul Gomez – 6 Son

Raul Gomez’s Instrumental album from the late 1970s was one of the records that was on my list that I had hoped to track down while in Cuba (I also hoped to find that Grupo Los Yoyi album, but not this time). I didn’t find his record, but I did track down a couple of 45s that featured songs from it (one of which features a VERY Barry White inspired tune called “Anatomia De Un Problema”). “6 Son” is emblematic of the late 1970s period of Cuban big band music, taking aspects of disco and psychedelic music into something truly unique.

Mirta y Raul – Salvaje Del Amor Pierde La Felicidad

Almost a decade before “6 Son” Raul Gomez was one half of what might be described as Cuba’s “Sonny & Cher,” along with Mirta Medina…Mirta y Raul. As I’ve previously mentioned here, I love the sound that Mirta y Raul put together, backed up by Los Bucaneros. I found two 45s from that album, including this one that features one of my favorite tunes, “El Sueno Del Andria.” What I didn’t realize until I got home and got a chance to compare these 45s to the album was that there were some non-LP tracks on each. “El Salvaje Del Amor Pierde La Felicidad” is as good as anything that made it onto the LP (“Andria” notwithstanding), psychedelic 60s beat sound that has a nice hard groove. Was looking forward to dropping this into my most recent set at Funky Sole, but couldn’t find the right place…perhaps next time.

Modo – Navajag Raudat

One of the things I was really interested to see was what kinds of records there might be in Cuba from other countries. I had hoped I’d run into some things from other Latin American countries or for the former Soviet Union, and in this case hit pay dirt. From the look of the cover, you’d expect Modo to be a progressive rock group, and the A side confirms this, with a proggy instrumental. But when I flipped the 45 over and dropped the needle on the two tracks there, I was gobsmacked by the sound coming out of the speakers. The band had transformed into a pretty tight 1970s funk outfit, with some vocalists. “Ziedu Karalis” I spun at Funky Sole, where it was received in a most welcome fashion. “Navajag Raudat” isn’t necessarily for the dancefloor, but those drums at the start are super dirty. Nothing spreads joy to the face of a DJ quite like a clean drum break from a source you never would have guessed.

Orquesta Sensacion – Shake De Amor

The #1 area of Cuban music that I realized that I know the least about is the mid-sixties. During this time Cuban bands started to add rock and soul rhythms to their music, in much the same way Latin groups did during the heyday of Boogaloo in NYC. The hand clap intro to Orquesta Sensacion’s “Shake De Amor” gives you the sense that this track would have fit in nicely in that scene, but as is the case with so much Cuban music, the band takes the rhythm in places that few other musicians would. It’s the distinctiveness of this sound, something that seems to be a hallmark of Cuban musicians, to have your own style, that I love and that’s the thing that will keep me coming back to search for more musical surprises in the coming years.




Sarolta Zalatnay – Hadd Mondjam El
Sarolta Zalatnay – Egyszer
Sarolta Zalatnay – Ne Hidd El

I can’t remember exactly how I discovered this album, but at some point I saw that cover and even without hearing the music I wanted to have it just because of how beautiful it is. Turns out the music is quite good, having been dug up previously by Finders Keepers (probably the original source of my discovery) and reissued back in 2007. Sarolta Zalatnay was a Budapest born singer, with a gruff, strong voice, like a Hungarian Janis Joplin. For this album, and a few others collected on the Finders Keeper comp., she’s backed up by the band Skorpió. It only takes one listen to recognize that the real star of the show is the drummer, Fekete Gábor. These three tracks represent some of the cleanest and meanest drum breaks you’ll ever hear, all courtesy of Gábor. “Hadd Mondjam El” serves as the primary break for that Beta Club 45 I was raving about last Summer.

For whatever reason I haven’t really dipped my toes too much into Hungarian rock on this period, though it seems clear that the scene was at least as strong as the Turkish scene. Tracking this one down certainly serves as a major incentive to dig deeper in the near future.




Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Conversation
Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Freaks For The Festival
Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Portrait Of Those Beautiful Ladies
Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Dream/Portrait Of Those Beautiful Ladies
Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Side 4 Secret Conversation

{With this I’ll be formally taking a hiatus from the blog until probably the end of August.  I’m going to be doing some traveling and then getting ready for the beginning of the Fall semester at Long Beach.  When I come back, both here and on the radio, I’ll have stories to tell and (hopefully) some great records to share with you.  I’ll see you (or more accurately you’ll hear me) on August 28th when I return to the KPFK airwaves…until then, Bright Moments!}

Today would have been Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s 80th birthday, and since he IS the patron saint of Melting Pot, we always celebrate this day with a look at one his albums. In this case it’s one of his most distinctive albums, released 40 years ago (just like me!), The Case Of The Three-Sided Dream In Audio Color. This album was the follow up to Bright Moments and much of the energy from that live album finds it’s way here. The album in many ways is a concept album, connected together by interludes that seem to be connected to Rahsaan’s dreams.

Dreams were very important to Rahsaan, it’s said that he came up with the idea to play multiple instruments at once because of his dreams, and his name “Rahsaan,” came to him in a dream. Aside from the opening “Conversation” where Rahsaan is commanded to dream, the dreams themselves are audio collages mixing in a variety of sounds from trains to horses to Billie Holiday’s voice. The fact that many of these sounds repeat again and again throughout the record also connects to a clear theme for Rahsaan, in his music more broadly, but perhaps never more fully explored than on this album, the cyclical though timeless nature of music. Over the three sides of music, Rahsaan & the Vibration Society perform different versions of the same tracks, almost appearing in reverse/mirrored order. There are two versions of “Freaks For The Festival,” “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “Portait of Those Beautiful Ladies,” “The Entertainer” as well as versions of “High Heel Sneakers” and “Echoes Of Primitive Ohio and Chili Dogs.” With so much material you might think the album would get redundant, but the additional versions support and augment the dreamlike quality of the album, reminiscent of the feeling you may have when you awake from a dream and fall back to sleep into the same dream, yet things have shifted in slight ways.

The really distinctive thing about this album is the fourth side. Though the record itself says that grooves were added to the fourth side solely to protect people’s audio equipment who might have forgotten that this was a three sided album, there is something to be heard on that fourth side. It’s not something that is really easy to see when you look at the wax and so I’m sure that a lot of people might have missed Rahsaan’s message. It’s possible that I only would have realized that something was there because I first heard this album on CD, which recreated that fourth side through a hidden track.

“Hey Rahsaan, do you have a message for the people who will be listening to the part of the record that no one will be listening to?”

{Speaking in tongues}…In that, we all know that there will never be peace, I would like to say Bright Moments and joy through the universe to all the very beautiful people that might take time out to paste their ears to this very beautiful spinning piece of material that is in their presence…Bright Moments and joy, because we know that the whole thing of peace has passed us all by, but serenity and joy through the land…Bright Moments {more speaking in tongues}.”

It always makes me smile that Rahsaan and company came up with that idea and I’m sure it must have tripped people out when they discovered it for the first time. I like to think that Rahsaan’s spirit is still smiling every time someone puts needle to that part of the album to this day.

Bright Moments!



Ronie Von – A Maquina Voadora
Ronnie Von – Baby De Tal
Ronnie Von – Imagem

A week ago here in LA, Brasil came to town in the form of Joel Stones and his legendary store Tropicalia In Furs, roughly two years after closing down in NYC. As of yet, Stones hasn’t fully set up shop, only a pop-up store for a weekend, but from the response, he seems like he’ll be back. As a fan of Brazilian music from the 1960s & 1970s, it can be extremely difficult to get these records here in the states. Out in the wild of “regular” stores, you’d be lucky to run into a greatest hits collection. If you go the Ebay/Dicogs route, you’ll be paying shipping costs that are almost as expensive as the records themselves and waiting for a month before they arrive (IF they arrive!). So, a store like Tropicalia In Furs, dedicated to rare, psychedelic and funky Brazilian music is a dream come true. If not for my upcoming trip to Cuba, I would have gotten many more records than I did and spent significantly more money. VonnBackI was able to get a nice little haul, mostly just solid titles, but a couple of rarer ones that I’ll definitely feature here in coming months.

This Ronnie Von record was one that I tried to win from a online auction that Stones did last year. Recorded in 1970, this album walks the tightrope between the rocking MPB sounds of Roberto Carlos and the fuzzy soul of Tim Maia or Erasmo Carlos. “A Maquina Voadora” and “Imagem” both bring the fuzz and have a lovely headnodic sound. I’d heard those tracks and knew what to expect for most of the record. “Baby De Tal” was a surprise, toned down, much more soulful and emerged as my favorite track. My ears and yours are made all the better by having Tropicalia In Furs back on the scene, here’s to hoping that the store opens up full-time in the very near future.




Claire Austin – I’ll Never Be The Same
Claire Austin – My Melancholy Baby
Claire Austin – This House Is Haunted
Claire Austin – Can’t We Talk It Over

As I think I’ve mentioned previously, over the past year I’ve been buying many more vocal albums than normal, seemingly one of the many strange unintended consequences of my separation and soon to be finalized divorce. More so than just getting vocal albums I haven’t owned, I’ve been tracking down vocalists I hadn’t heard before. I found this album on the same trip to Groove Merchant that netted the Ensemble Al-Salaam album. The cover design was absolutely a drawing point, the stark photo, the strange greenish hue to the black and white image, the pensive woman, clearly melancholy and slightly out of focus. But what was most intriguing was the fact that there was no artist information on the cover, a very rare thin indeed. Only “When Your Lover Has Gone.” Without hearing the music or knowing who the artist was, I would have likely bought the album, solely on the strength of that cover, which is one of the most distinctively beautiful ones I’ve ever seen.

Quick flip over, identified the artist as “Clair Austin sings ‘When Your Lover Has Gone’ & other songs of unrequited love, with Bob Scobey, trumpet, Barney Kessel, guitar, Stan Wrightsman, piano, Morty Cobb, bass, Shelly Manne, drums.” I’d certainly heard of Kessel and Manne, Scobey’s name rang a slight bell, but Clair Austin was someone I hadn’t heard of. Part of the reason for that is that she really didn’t record much or for very long. Austin began singing some time in the 1930s, but WWII meant that she was separated from her drummer husband, Chuck Austin, while he was fighting. After the war, the Austin’s became accountants and settled into suburban life in Sacramento. But, at some point in the late 1940s, Austin began singing again and landed a recording gig with Kid Ory, and this one with Bob Scobey, before largely fading away again into obscurity.

Austin has a really distinctive and slightly unsettling style of singing. There’s something about her voice that sounds both wrong and right. Though I’ve seen writers compare her to Peggy Lee, I don’t hear that at all. Her phrasing is straight out of the 20s or 30s, as a strange mix of Bessie Smith & Billie Holiday with just the slightest of Swedish accents. I’m not sure if Scobey chose these songs or Austin chose them, but it’s an interesting mix, and another drawing point for me, since the majority of them are ones that I’d never heard or rarely see on other vocalists albums from this period of time. My copy of the album isn’t pristine, so my favorite songs, “This House Is Haunted,” and “My Melancholy Baby” have some assertive pops and clicks, but I share them nonetheless solely because of how lovely they are.




Ensemble Al-Salaam – Peace
Ensemble Al-Salaam – Optimystical
Ensemble Al Salaam – Circles
Ensemble Al-Salaam – Music Is Nothing But A Prayer

I always like to start the new year with a bang, and this is one I’ve been holding on to for just this moment for a couple of months. Back in April I made the pilgrimage to the Mecca of record stores, Groove Merchant, with the mindset that I was only going to trade records, of which I had quite a few. Cool Chris wasn’t there, but B-Cause (who released the essential Soul Boulders series with the one and only, Matthew Africa) was and he was able to get a hold of Chris on the other side of the country at the WFMU Record Swap. While there were maybe 7 or 8 records that I’d had my mind on, this album, one I’d never seen before, was by far the one that I simply had to have. The trade knocked off $100 from the price, but it still cost me a pretty penny, though as you can tell from the sounds, it’s absolutely worth it.

The Ensemble Al-Salaam was a spiritual jazz septet from the New York area. From the pictures on the back of the album, they all look to be very young, likely no one above 21. The music on this album is so exceptional, so singular, that even though it very easily fits into the “spiritual jazz” genre, it still defies a bit of explanation. Records like this are what I like to call, “Just Listen Records.” You tell someone that you’ve heard something amazing, and they ask, “what does it sound like?” or “what makes it so special?” and the only answer of consequence is “just listen.” This is not a record you play for just anybody, but one that you protect. Not in a snobbish way, but in the way that you protect a friend that is so sensitive and sincere that you know everybody won’t appreciate them or “get them” the way you do. Interestingly, the band themselves seem to be aware of the special vibe created by their sounds, as they discuss on the back cover:

Someone may ask you, or you may ask yourself, “What type of music is this?” Well, it is music played by the Ensemble Al-Salaam. Therefore it is salaam (peace) music. Peaceful, but not weak, firey and yet non-violent. The music is greater than the sum of our collective beings. But then there are the Kafir (non-believers) who will hate this music, those who will lie about it, try to steal it or even deny it’s existence, those who will try to define and label it, thereby limiting its ability to soar, to fly above the minds clouded by pseudo intellectual reference marks. The music will survive all of this because it is truthful. It is dynamic. In fact, our music is God’s purest breath of life – expressed each time we touch the wood and metal of our musical instruments.

As someone who spends an awful lot of time talking about music, describing, categorizing it, I really can’t improve on what the band has to say about their own music. It is a powerful experience hearing these songs, whether you have before, or this is your first listen. Records like this are why I started this blog, why I continue to share music through it and why I continue to keep searching for connections between newer and older sounds. The beauty of “Peace,” “Optimystical,” “Circles” and “Music Is Nothin But A Prayer” is hard to describe fully…just listen.




Forces conspired against me throughout the year to keep me from putting things together quite the way I promised in year five, but nothing these days can stop me from sharing great music. Here’s the “Top 20″ of the past year, curated lovingly and mixed meekly by yours truly. Now, I promise, and this time I REALLY mean it, that for Year #7, we’ll have some truly special things to share. So, until next July, enjoy these tunes and all the rest to come…Dig On It!

Melting Pot’s Deepest Digs Volume 6

1. Jun Mayuzumi – Miracle – Angel Love
2. Nina Simone – Do I Move You? – Nina Sings The Blues
3. Jon Kasandra – Good Whiskey, Bad Women – The True Genius
4. Carl Sherlock Holmes – Black Bag – Investigation No. 1
5. Jon Lucien – Would You Believe In Me – Rashida
6. Luiz Gonzaga Jr. – Galope – Luiz Gonzaga Jr.
7. Los Tainos – Amor Mio – Los Tainos
8. Tami Lynn – Mojo Hanna – Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone
9. DJ Rogers – Celebration – DJ Rogers
10. Sod – Pushie – Face The Music
11. Yao Su Yong – Extremely – Gold Record Album
12. The Main Attraction – Everyday – And Now…
13. Leon Thomas – The Creator Has A Master Plan – Spirits Known and Unknown
14. Light Rain – Beautiful Friend – Dream Dancer
15. Bobby Callendar – Rainbow / Nature – Rainbow
16. Muddy Waters – Bottom Of The Sea – After The Rain
17. Brother Jack McDuff – Come and Carry Me Home – To Seek A New Home
18. The Albert – Pity The Child – The Albert
19. Bo Rhambo – Dream Awhile – Enchanted Evening
20. Little Jimmy Scott – Our Day Will Come – The Source


The Main Attraction – Everyday
The Main Attraction – If I’m Wrong
The Main Attraction – Jonathan

Not sure why I haven’t posted this, I’ve had this record for three or four years and thought I would have by now. The Main Attraction might not have even drawn my attention if not for the all-world sample of their song “Everyday” by the Avalanches on their track “Since I Left You” (which as you can tell, reimagines a love song as a kiss off song). Their sound is very much the norm for this bubblegum pop period of time and aside from the three songs above, there’s nothing much to write home about. But there are moments, in “If I’m Wrong” and “Jonathan” that seem to show that there might have been something special here if the band had been able to branch out a bit more. Hell, I might have liked even a regular cliched kind of 60s “Baby Don’t Leave” kind of lyric instead of “Jonathan” since the arrangement is one that would have made all three Walker Brothers smile. But “Everyday” is brilliant and beautiful and since you probably can find this record for $2 or less, well worth the price of admission on it’s own.




Nina Simone – The Backlash Blues
Nina Simone – Do I Move You?
Nina Simone – Blues For Mama

Though I’ve had a hiatus here and there, this is the first Sunday since 2010, that I don’t have my show on Sunday. Melting Pot has moved to Fridays from 8-10pm and it definitely feels a bit weird, somewhat like the discombobulation that occurs at the beginning of daylight savings time for us in the US. I’ll work it out, and probably end up posting Friday’s shows on Sundays, so it’s almost like it’s still on Sundays. Today thought, during the time I used to be doing my show, I’ll be watching the new documentary on Nina Simone, Liz Garbus’ “What Happened, Miss Simone?” 2015 has been a pretty great year for documentaries, but this one in particular I’ve been waiting for. I’ve been a fan most of my adult life of Miss Simone. When Simone passed away, I was lucky enough to host a tribute show with Oliver Wang on KALX to celebrate her music and life. Hell, even my dog is named Nina, after Simone. Strangely though, until fairly recently, I had a lot of music from Nina Simone, but not actually a lot of records from her.

That all changed when I saw a beautifully rendered dance routine to “Do I Move You?” My admiration for the dancer and her dance was one thing, but part of the effect it all had on me is that it was like I was hearing this song for the first time. The album that “Do I Move You?” is from is one of her biggest. Released in 1967, it was her first album for RCA, and contains several of her signature songs, including House Of The Rising Son, Put A Little Sugar In My Bowl and Backlash Blues. All of those songs I knew well and had digital copies, but for whatever reason, I’d just never bothered to get this record. When I was blown away by that dancer and that song, I knew I had to rectify that situation immediately. The experience caused me to redefine a number of things and led to a couple of months of tracking down classic albums that should be in my collection because of how much I treasure the music, but like this album were not in my possession.

Over the past year, as we’ve seen greater civil unrest, related to police brutality and racism, the music of Simone has remained as relevant as when it was originally recorded in the 1960s. With the week we just had here in the US, I feel it’s a particularly apt time to reflect not just on Simone, but especially her song, “Backlash Blues.” Written by the legendary poet Langston Hughes, “Backlash” takes a very different tact as a protest song. There’s a defiance here, that’s not always present in songs like this, and something that of course really comes through in the performance of Simone:

Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash
Just who do think I am
You raise my taxes, freeze my wages
And send my son to Vietnam

You give me second class houses
And second class schools
Do you think that all colored folks
Are just second class fools

Mr. Backlash
I’m gonna leave you with the backlash blues

When I try to find a job
To earn a little cash
All you got to offer
Is your mean old white backlash

But the world is big
Big and bright and round
And it’s full of folks like me
Who are black, yellow, beige and brown

Mr. Backlash
I’m gonna leave you with the backlash blues

Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash
Just what do you think I got to lose
I’m gonna leave you
With the backlash blues

You’re the one will have the blues, not me
Just wait and see

When you look at the amazing changes that have happened in the last week, the stunning quickness with which Southern states have begun the process of removing the Confederate battle flag from public grounds after the Charleston Church Murders and the Supreme Court’s decision that legalizes gay marriage throughout the country, it can feel like Nina & Hughes song has prophetically come true. But it should also be a reminder, that in moments of change, which was very true of the turbulent 1960s as it is for this moment, what is positive for one group is often viewed negatively by another, and the backlash can sometimes be severe. It’s worth noting that this week we’ve seen at least 5 churches set on fire throughout the South, and this summer has only just now begun. But when you’re on the right side of history, you keep fighting, because you know eventually, we’ll leave the inequality, oppression, discrimination and the backlash in the past. And when we do, we’ll still be marveling at the music and majestic of Nina Simone.



P.S. If you haven’t seen it or heard about it, here is the trailer for “What Happened, Miss Simone?” the new documentary on the life and times of Nina Simone:


John Kasandra – Down Home Ups/Good Whiskey & Bad Women
John Kasandra – The Other Brother / We Gotta Go On
John Kasandra – You Can Go Now

On Sunday, I’ll be doing my 200th show on the KPFK airwaves, and my last on Sundays before moving to Fridays from 8-10pm on June 26th and will spend those two hours highlighting some of the music associated with Dale Ossman Warren. Warren spend a number of years producing, writing and arranging songs for Motown, Shrine, Sidra, Drew and others before finding a home on Stax. At Stax he worked on a number of classic albums, particularly with Isaac Hayes, David Porter, and his own project, The 24-Carat Black.

As I’ve been prepping this tribute (which will feature, from start to finish, the “Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth” album in the second hour Sunday at 5pm), I’ve been digging into a number of projects that Warren was associated with, but that I hadn’t heard before. This album from John Kasandra is an especially interesting one, as it comes a year before the concept album “Ghetto.” It’s clear, since Warren produced, engineered, arranged & conducted the music for the album, that this album carries much of his vision.

What’s interesting to me is how this album fits in his discography, coming just before the 1973 masterpiece. The album doesn’t necessarily sound like the 24-Carat Black project, but there are elements that show that Warren was working through some things that would later on show up on that album. This is clearest on the intro to the monologue “The Other Brother.” As the female singers sing, “We Gotta To Go On, We Gotta Keep On Moving Along” you hear an electric piano playing the same theme that would later show up as a recurrent theme on the “Ghetto” album. The sparse and stark style of the horns and drums also share similarities with the sound of that underground classic.

It is a shame that Warren wasn’t able to keep moving along with his vision and continue to record more during this very furtive period of time, with Stax records folding in just a few years after these records were recorded. But we should be glad that we have all of these examples of quality (and especially glad that Numero was able to save some tracks from the “lost” album from the 24-Carat Black a few years ago). I’m thankful to have found this music and to be able to share it with you here and on the radio.




Jon Lucien – Would You Believe Me
Jon Lucien – Rashida
Jon Lucien – Luella

When you spend a lot of time (and money) on tracking down rare records, you sometimes will skip right over more well-known and easier to find things, precisely because they are well-known and easier to find. That was the case with me and this record for years. At some point in passing I’m sure I had heard “Rashida,” but because I always seemed to see this record around, and rarely for more than $5, I didn’t feel any burning need to add it to my collection. Earlier in the Spring I had a bout of record therapy that largely entailed me tracking down more classic, well known records (mostly Jazz from Mingus, Coltrane and the like) that everyone should have and that are great listening experiences. It was around that time that I picked this record up finally and I’m truly glad that I did.

Lucien’s sound strikes me as a kind of cross between Leon Thomas, Eugene McDaniels and Jorge Ben, with an emphasis on rhythmic wordless singing anchored often by acoustic guitar around soulful backing. “Rashida” is a classic, beautifully constructed and worthy of it’s reputation. It was the other songs that really surprised me, especially “Luella” and “Would You Believe Me,” that have a funkier approach that is right in my wheelhouse. Though this section, especially after 5+ years, is generally reserved for out-of-print and hard-to-find records, I think you’ll see me “Dig Deep” on other perhaps under-appreciated classics like this, just to keep reminding us just how good REALLY good music is.



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