Melting Pot

Archive for the ‘Tributes’ category

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It was a blessing in disguise to not have been on the air last week when word hit that Lou Reed had passed away. All week long I’ve been listening to music from Reed’s long and rich career. While I felt like I knew his work with the Velvet Underground fairly well, I was surprised at how much of his solo material I’d either never heard before or had only given a cursory listen previously. What I tried to do in this tribute was focus on the songs that moved me most from Lou Reed, and that ended up being these twenty tracks recorded from 1967 to 1992. With such a prolific career, with some many albums and such high quality all over the place, I really wish I’d had a few days to pay tribute to Reed’s legacy and fully do it justice, but I’m happy with the show and whether you’ve only recently heard Reed’s music or if you’re a long time fan, I hope you enjoy it.

Melting Pot on KPFK #144: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #144: Second Hour

Playlist: Lou Reed Tribute 11-3-2013
{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – 7” (Stax)

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Lou Reed – Walk On The Wild Side – Walk On The Wild Side: The Best Of Lou Reed (RCA)
The Velvet Underground – Some Kinda Love – The Velvet Underground (MGM)
The Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane [Full Length Version] – Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition (Rhino)

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Lou Reed – Vicious – Transformer (RCA)
The Velvet Underground – Sister Ray – White Light/White Heat (Verve)

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The Velvet Underground – Pale Blue Eyes – The Velvet Underground (MGM)
Lou Reed – Perfect Day – Transformer (RCA)
Lou Reed – Berlin – Lou Reed (RCA)
The Velvet Underground – Beginning To See The Light – The Velvet Underground (MGM)

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The Velvet Underground – Rock’N’Roll [Full Length Version] – Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition (Rhino)
The Velvet Underground & Nico – I’m Waiting For The Man [Stereo Edition] – The Velvet Underground & Nico: Deluxe Edition (Polydor)
Lou Reed – Make Up – Transformer (RCA)

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The Velvet Underground – I’m Set Free – The Velvet Underground (MGM)
The Velvet Underground with John Cale – Ocean [Demo] – Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition (Rhino)
The Velvet Underground – Jesus – The Velvet Underground (MGM)

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Lou Reed – Magician (Internally) – Magic and Loss (Sire)
The Velvet Underground & Nico – Sunday Morning [Single A Side Mono Version] – The Velvet Underground & Nico: Deluxe Edition (Polydor)
The Velvet Underground – Candy Says – The Velvet Underground (MGM)
Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby – Coney Island Baby (RCA)

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

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All week long I’ve been planning a tribute to Lou Reed (which will broadcast today from 4-6pm on KPFK), who passed away at the age of 71 exactly one week ago. As I’ve been listening to music from Reed. I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to figure out exactly when I heard music from his seminal group the Velvet Underground. I have a very vague memory of hearing “Walk On The Wild Side” sometime in middle school on the radio and even then realizing that there were things going on in that song that were far beyond my 9 or 10-year old understanding of the world. But for the life of me I can’t recall the moment I actually heard the Velvet Underground. By the time I’d gotten to college and began working at Album 88, it seems like I’d already heard of the group. Mo Tucker lived in Atlanta and would always come down to the station asking to be interviewed about some new project and people would complain that, “just cause she was in the Velvet Underground doesn’t mean we ‘should’ interview her now.” It’s a strange feeling with a band so iconic and with such a distinct sound, to not be sure when you heard it first. What I’ve basically figured out is that part of the reason that it seemed like I’d just always heard much of Lou Reed’s music was that it was all over the place, in terms of the massive influence his work had on musicians since the 1960s to the massive amount of covers that had been done of VU and Reed songs. Here are 5 of the ones that I’m sure I heard before I truly became a fan of the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed.

Tribe Called Quest – Can I Kick It

Now, I know this isn’t technically a cover or Lou Reed song, but it samples “Walk On The Wild Side,” (before Marky Mark’s version, which I wish I can actually unhear from my mind) and was probably one of the first Hip-Hop songs where I absolutely knew the sample and then could recognize that other aspects of the song weren’t from that sample, thus sending me out to find those other elements. So, there you have it, Lou Reed is partially responsible for much of the crate diggin’ I’ve done in my life.

Swervedriver – Jesus

Shortly after hearing the Tribe song above I feel in love with this shoegazey band from the UK. As remains the case when I fall head over heels for a group I try to get my ahnds and ears on every single bit of music I can from them and this cover of what now is one of my favorite VU songs was on a single release that included “Sandblasted,” called “Reel to Real.” I have the vaguest recollections of thinking to myself, “maybe I should check out the original version,” but I still don’t think that was what actually led me to discover the music of the Velvet Underground.

Jane’s Addiction – Rock’n'Roll

Around the same time I heard Swervedriver covering the VU, Jane’s Addiction was all the rage. It took me a little while to work backwards to their live recording, essentially their debut, from 1987. For sometime I just had this on a cassette, so it wasn’t until years later that I realized it was a cover. By that time I’m pretty sure I’d already heard the earlier stuff from the Velvets, but hadn’t really heard anything from Loaded. It was probably a few years later until I realized what a profound effect Lou Reed must have had on this band and so many others.

Cowboy Junkies – Sweet Jane

This was something that I didn’t hear until I made my way into college radio at Album 88, where the Cowboy Junkies and “Sweet Jane” were already staples of programming by the time I arrived in 1993. In a similar fashion to Jane’s Addiction above, there was a bit of ignorance on my part for quite a while before I realized that this was a cover and actually fully heard the original version, which also came from the album Loaded, which was both the last album from the group that I heard any music from, but strangely also THE album that finally made everything click for me and made a massive fan of the Velvet Underground.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – All Tomorrow’s Parties

Final cover of note comes from an artist who I now realize must have been profoundly influenced by Reed, Nick Cave. Around 1994, I heard “Do You Love Me” from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and was floored. Seeing them live at Lollapalooza later that year completely sealed the deal and I’ve been a major fan ever since. Over the course of a couple of months I got nearly every record Nick Cave and the boys had recorded, and eventually found my way to the collection of covers, Kicking Against The Pricks. “All Tomorrow’s Parties” wasn’t my favorite song on that album, turns out it also isn’t one of my favorite VU tracks, but knowing that this was a record of covers of people who influenced an artist that I was completely smitten with was likely the thing that got me to formally listen to the Velvet Underground’s first two records. That wild sound was what I associated with the group until years later picking up a copy of Loaded at Amoeba in Berkeley and hearing “Pale Blue Eyes” shortly after that and finally fully and completely understanding the power and the glory that was Lou Reed.

…for the Dreamer

August 28th, 2013

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Martin Luther King, Jr. – “I Have A Dream” – August 28, 1963

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Yesterday’s show featured some new music, but it was really all about the tribute to Jason Molina in the second hour. As I’ve mentioned here, I’ve been a big fan of Molina’s music ever since I first heard him in 1997. His music has been a constant companion on many a road trip and more than perhaps any other musician from the “heroic years” of indie-music the songs Molina crafted stick in your mind and find their way deep down. The hour of music I put together isn’t meant to be a full retrospective or an attempt at a comprehensive look at his career. As fitting the deeply personal nature of the man’s music, it’s simply the songs of Molina’s that I loved the most, heavily tilted towards those early years of Songs: Ohia, but also featuring a few songs that I’ve recently discovered in the time since his passing. Currently virtually of Molina’s music is available on the Magnolia Electric Co. website. He will be truly missed…

Melting Pot on KPFK #119: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #119: Second Hour

Playlist: 03-24-2013
{opening theme} Booker T & the Mgs – Melting Pot – 7” (Stax)

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Shuggie Otis – Wings Of Love – Inspiration Information/Wings of Love (Legacy)
Toure Kunda – Amadou Tilo – Change The Beat: The Celluloid Records Story 1980-1987 (Strut)
The Heliocentrics – Collateral Damage – 13 Degrees of Reality (Now-Again)

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Billy Bragg – Handyman Blues – Tooth & Nail (Cooking Vinyl)
Lady – Habit – Lady (Truth & Soul)
Philip Owusu – Goodnight – Subs (Self-Released)

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Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge feat. William Hart – Enemies – 12 Reasons To Die (Soul Temple)
Jose James – Bird of Space – No Beginning, No End (Blue Note)
Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators – On The East Side – Tortured Soul (Timmion)

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Songs: Ohia – Cabwaylingo – Songs: Ohia (Secretly Canadian)
Songs: Ohia – Love & Work – Axxess & Ace (Secretly Canadian)
Songs: Ohia – Crab Orchard – Songs: Ohia (Secretly Canadian)
Songs: Ohia – Baby Take A Look – The Lioness (Secretly Canadian)
Songs: Ohia – Our Republic – Songs: Ohia (Secretly Canadian)

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Amalgamated Sons of Rest – I Will Be Good – Amalgamated Sons of Rest EP (Galaxia)
Songs: Ohia – How To Be Perfect Men – Axxess & Ace (Secretly Canadian)
Magnolia Electric Co. – Farewell Transmission – Magnolia Electric Co. (Secretly Canadian)
Songs: Ohia – Gauley Bridge – Songs: Ohia (Secretly Canadian)
Songs: Ohia – Soul – Nor Cease Thou Never Now 7” (Palace Records)

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Jason Molina – The Harvest Law – Autumn Bird Songs EP (Graveface)
Songs: Ohia – Blue Factory Flame – Didn’t It Rain (Secretly Canadian)
Songs: Ohia – Goodnight Lover – Axxess & Ace (Secretly Canadian)

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

5 for Jason Molina…R.I.P.

March 24th, 2013

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{Molina’s Label, Secretly Canadian, has chosen to honor his memory by streaming all of his recorded works, take the time to dig in and get lost…}

Word came out and hit like a punch in the gut for a lot of people who care about good music, Jason Molina passed away this past Saturday at the far too young age of 39. For just about the past 20 years Molina has produced some of the most fascinating, frustrating, inscrutable, passionate and soulful music in virtual obscurity. I first came to hear of Molina in 1996 or 1997 when his debut release as Songs: Ohia was released. I wasn’t able to get the record added to our playlist at Album 88, but I sure played the hell out of it when I could and kept on playing Molina’s music wherever else I could on the radio. Songs from that first record were required listening on many a road trip over the years. More than anyone other recent singer/songwriter, besides perhaps Elliot Smith, the music of Jason Molina has a haunting quality that sticks with you. It’s not a sound for everyone, but if it is for you, well I’m sure you’re like me and deeply mourning the loss of a talented though troubled man. I’ll be playing an hour of Molina’s music this Sunday on Melting Pot, here are 5 songs that will definitely be in the playlist.

 

Songs: Ohia – Our Republic

More than any other song “Our Republic” is the one that keeps finding it’s way into my mind. Part of it is in the lyrics, which for the most part are as inscrutable as much of the other songs on the debut, but in what passes for a chorus there is this lovely line that’s always stuck with me, “you should know, trouble comes from a passionate word, you should know passion comes from a troublesome word.” Musically the song is marvel for a particular reason. After all these years of listening to it I still can’t tell if the instrument at the end is a saxophone or violin/viola. Charles Mingus talked about how if he had a group of bass players as talented as him they could mimic a horn section. To my ears it sounds like this might be one of those rare instances. I never heard anything quite like it, so it makes sense that it would pop up here in one of the first songs I’d hear from such a distinctive musician.

Songs: Ohia – How To Be The Perfect Man

Whereas the debut record seemed to be built out of esoteric lyrics put together in ways that didn’t even seem like they were from the 20th century, many later albums mined much more clearly personal territory while retaining Molina’s distinctive sense of phrasing. “Perfect Man” is less a tutorial than a plea from Molina. He knows he’s not the perfect man, he knows he’s never going to be a perfect man, but he’s still hopeful that the woman he loves will “Be mine, til you’re reminded of something better, be mine, til it comes along.”

Songs: Ohia – Baby Take A Look

It wasn’t until Molina’s death that I reaquainted myself with this stunner from the Lionness. In contrast to the pain of love lost that was often in a number of songs from this period of Molina’s writing, “Baby Take A Look” is awfully tender. It strikes me as the kind of thing that might have been written in reply to an argument and as a reminder of the love he had to share.

Songs: Ohia – Goodnight Lover

In a career of fine and distinctive songwriting, in my opinion, this is the best song Molina ever wrote. Such a personal appeal to a former lover that I always felt the performance was almost too intimate for anyone else’s ears than the person it was written for. A true heartbreaker for sure.

Songs: Ohia – Blue Factory Flame

It’s truly astounding looking at the full career output of Jason Molina. Prolific doesn’t even seem like it fits the body of work. I was amazed at how many recordings I’d never even heard and while I can’t say every single song speaks to me in the way his earliest recordings did, “Blue Factory Flame” was one of the tracks that stopped me in my tracks. It’s hard to listen to these lyrics, so focused on his own end of days, a little over a week after his death. While I feel “Goodnight Lover” is the best thing Molina ever wrote, I’m not sure there’s any thing he ever more deeply sung than this track.

5 for Shadow Morton…R.I.P.

February 24th, 2013
Foto © George Schowerer

Foto © George Schowerer

Heard the news that Shadow Morton passed away on Valentine’s Day, as I was driving home from my show on KPFK this past week.  Shadow Morton is perhaps best known as the driving force behind one of the greatest girl groups ever, The Shangri-Las.  As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, the Shangri-Las are one of my all-time favorite bands and “Remember” is one of the most amazing songs I’ve ever heard.  When I set up a “Pound For Pound” between the Shangri-Las and Ronettes, I acknowledged that the Shangri-Las had a more lasting influence and strangely enough it seems Shadow Morton himself took notice.

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I don’t know if that was really Shadow Morton or not, but I’d like to hold on to the idea that it was. Morton wrote songs, produced and recorded a number of bands in the 1960s and 1970s.  According to his NY Times obituary, Morton wrote over 300 songs, most of which were never recorded.  I sincerely hope his family finds a way to get those songs into the hands of gifted musicians so that we will be able to get an even fuller appreciation of Morton’s considerable talent.  With the fundraiser ongoing at KPFK (including an Oscar special this week, we’ll be back on the air next week), I won’t be able to pay proper tribute to Morton, but I wanted to definitely take a bit of time to mention a few of my favorite Shadow Morton songs/productions.

 

The Shangri-Las – “Remember (Walking In The Sand)”

While “Be My Baby” is still my favorite girl group song of all-time, “Remember” as a song is so much more stunning. Nothing else really sounds like this song. Yes, it has elements of the style of the time, but the way everything comes together is so distinctive and fascinating sonically that again there’s really no comparison to this song and any other from this period of time. The fact that Morton essentially put this together in a matter of hours, all of it, writing the song, finding the band and a space to record the demo, is absolutely astounding.

The Shangri-Las – “Give Him A Great Big Kiss”

I know “Leader Of The Pack” is the big song from the Shangri-Las, another track that Shadow Morton wrote for the group. But to me, there’s nothing better than Mary Weiss’ introduction to this song, “When I say I’m in love, you best believe I’m in Love…L.U.V.”! and later on when the girls ask Mary about her new man and she says “He’s a Good Bad, but he’s not Evil”…pure bad girl perfection.

Vanilla Fudge – “You Keep Me Hanging On”

For some time I was a really big fan of the Box Tops version of this track, until I realized that Vanilla Fudge were the first group to employ this over-the-top rocked out treatment of the Supreme’s hit. As much as I love Alex Chilton, there’s really no comparison, particularly in those drums from Carmine Appice, who later on would feature in one my favorite 1970s LPs, from Cactus. The fact that this was “directed” by Shadow Morton (as described on the 45), just makes it even more special.

Iron Butterfly – “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”

This one might be more legend than reality. But even though he is uncredited, it appears that Shadow Morton played a major part in this classic bit of psychedelic music. Apparently the band had a hard time recording this song, so Morton convinced them that there was some kind of malfunction but that they should keep playing to work out the kinks, while secretly recording the unsuspecting band. Morton himself at times confirmed the story and at other times mentioned how he was so drunk that he didn’t really remember too much, so it might have all been because of engineer Don Casale. No matter what, it’s such a great story and it is clear that Morton was in the studio, even if he never receivetd a formal credit.

New York Dolls – “Human Being”

It was pretty clear that the New York Dolls were fans of the Shangri-Las, after appropriating the opening lines of “Great Big Kiss” for their song “Looking For A Kiss” on their debut. It must have been a dream come true for the band to work with Morton on their second album Too Much Too Soon, one of the best examples of Rock’n'Roll America has ever produced. “Human Being” might just be my favorite song from the Dolls, and it’s something that wouldn’t sound quite the same without production from Shadow Morton.

5 for Donald Byrd…

February 8th, 2013

We learned this week that another giant has left us.  Donald Byrd has passsed away at the age of 80. As is the case with a lot of people from my generation, my love affair with Donald Byrd was largely connected to the use of several of his songs as samples in Hip-Hop. Having been into jazz even before I got deep into sample lore, I appreciated the depth and breadth of his playing from the late 1950s into the 1970s. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Byrd’s sound seemed to fit perfectly wherever it found itself. Whether he was playing blistering hard bop, the most soulful soul jazz, serene and pretty ballads or sweaty dancefloor jazz-funk, Byrd always sounded like he was just where he was supposed to be, comfortably at home. We’ll pay tribute to the many moods of Donald Byrd during the first hour of Sunday’s Melting Pot, for now here are 5 of my favorite songs from a legendary musician and great teacher, peace be with you Donald Byrd.

Donald Byrd – Blackjack

Likely the first track that I recognized as a being from Donald Byrd, even before I fully discovered Byrd’s playing with the Mizell Bros., was this deeply soulful number from a 1967 album of the same title. Pianist Cedar Walton lays it down hard and heavy, Smilin’ Billy keeps things soulful and breezy with the drums and Byrd, as usual soars through his solo. To this day, still on my all-time favorite soul-jazz numbers.

Horace Silver feat. Donald Byrd – Senor Blues

While Byrd had an amazing career as a leader, he also had a part in the recording of a number of exceptional recordings as a sideman. Perhaps my favorite is the vocal version of “Senor Blues” which unfortunately is not online, but the instrumental version also showcases Byrd’s playing very nicely.

Donald Byrd – Lansana’s Priestess

“Lansana’s Priestess” was the song that started my love affair with the Mizell Bros. style of production. More so than any other artist they recorded with during the 1970s, the Mizell Bros. sound blossomed with Donald Byrd. Though I’ve never had the guts to throw this on while DJ-ing in a club, as soon as the song begins I immediately want to dance. One of the most uplifting grooves of all time.

Donald Byrd – (Fallin’ Like) Dominoes

Simply put, my single favorite song recorded in the 1970s. Nothing fills my heart with joy quite like this song. “Dominoes” truly is the sound of summer. Trips me out that I was exactly 4 days old when this song was recorded.

Donald Byrd – Quiet Temple

I’ll saying quite a bit more about this one in a moment, but for now, I’ll just say that this is also one of my all-time favorite songs. “Quiet Temple” is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard and more than any other song it’s the one that’s been in my mind since hearing of Donald Byrd’s passing. A fitting elegy for a true giant.

Photo © Brian Searcy

It was my great pleasure to use the occasion of our 100th show on KPFK to pay tribute to one of my all-time favorite bands, the incomprable Dirty Three. I’ve been a fan of the band since 1996, when their album Horse Stories was released. At the time, quite frankly, I just wasn’t prepared for the unique sound of the Dirty Three, and this led to one of my greatest regrets. As a Co-Music Director at college radio heavyweight WRAS Atlanta, Album 88, we passed on the album and didn’t add it to our influential playlist. No music related decision has haunted me more before or since and I’ve tried to atone for that mistake by playing the band liberally while at KALX Berkeley, KCRW Santa Monica and now at KPFK Los Angeles. For this tribute show I chose my 3 favorite tracks from the their past 6 albums, Horse Stories (1996), Ocean Songs (1998), She Has No Strings Apollo (2000), Whatever You Love You Are (2003), Cinder (2005) and Toward The Low Sun (2012).

As good as the band is on record, they are an absolute revelation live. In addition to recording their first album in 7 years, the band is currently on a US tour, which concludes here in Los Angeles on October 8th at the Bootleg Theater. Dirty Three’s performance in Atlanta, all the way back in September 1996, was one of the most singular and unique musical experiences I’ve ever had, with many of the details still indeliably marked in my mind. If you’ve never seen them perform, here is a taste, some recent video of the band, performing two songs from “Towards The Low Sun” while at the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona.

Who knows when they’ll be back, could be next year, could be never…don’t take the chance they’ll be coming back, see them now and thank me later:

Melting Pot on KPFK #100: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #100: Second Hour

Playlist: 09-30-2012
{opening theme} Booker T & The MGs – Melting Pot –7” (Stax)

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Dirty Three – 1,000 Miles – Horse Stories (Touch and Go)
Dirty Three – No Stranger Than That – She Has No Strings Apollo (Bella Union)
Dirty Three – I Offered It Up To The Stars and The Night Sky – Whatever You Love, You Are (Anchor & Hope)
Dirty Three – Rising Below – Toward The Low Sun (Drag City)

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Dirty Three – Flutter – Cinder (Touch and Go)
Dirty Three – I Knew It Would Come To This – Horse Stories (Bella Union)
Dirty Three – Black Tide – Ocean Songs (Anchor & Hope)
Dirty Three – Lullaby For Christie – Whatever You Love, You Are (Touch and Go)
Dirty Three – Long Way To Go With No Punch – She Has No Strings Apollo (Bella Union)

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Dirty Three – Great Waves – Cinder (Touch and Go)
Dirty Three – Restless Waves – Ocean Songs (Anchor & Hope)
Dirty Three – Sue’s Last Ride – Horse Stories (Bella Union)
Dirty Three – Some Summers They Drop Like Flies – Whatever You Love, You Are (Touch and Go)
Dirty Three – Rain Song – Toward The Low Sun (Drag City)

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Dirty Three – Ashen Snow – Toward The Low Sun (Drag City)
Dirty Three – Sister, Let Them Try And Follow – She Has No Strings Apollo (Anchor & Hope)
Dirty Three – Deep Waters – Ocean Songs (Touch and Go)

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{closing theme} Dirty Three – Ever Since – Cinder (Bella Union)

Ohio Players – Ecstasy (Matthew Africa Edit)

Of all the tracks that have been rolling around in my mind since Matthew’s passing, I keep coming back to this stunning and so necessary edit of the Ohio Players’ track “Ecstasy,” posted on his blog back in July. Seriously, I’ve been listening to this in the car, at the gym, in my office between classes, washing dishes, cleaning the house, walking the dog, in the shower, basically everywhere I’ve been in the last week I’ve been listening to “Ecstasy,” either literally through some headphones or just playing it on repeat in my mind.  The way he perfectly extends a 2:30 song into 4 minutes of pure aural pleasure continually leaves me speechless. I’ve been promising myself that at some point in the near future I’m gonna get a dub plate of this pressed just so I can play it out on vinyl. 

The way the edit comes together reminds me of a conversation we had at KALX back in 2002 when the I Love Serge collection came out.  By far the best remix on that album was essentially a re-edit of “Ballade De Melody Nelson” by Howie B.  He didn’t add much of anything to it, he just used original elements to take a song that always felt far too short and create a 7 minute epic.  With all the bells and whistles attached to the other remixes, Matthew and I really appreciated the simplicity of that style.  On this edit, Matthew achieved something very similar, also without adding anything “foreign” into the mix:

“I added no extra drums, no quantizing and not even a mixable intro. As a DJ, all of those things can be nice conveniences, but in my view there are some classics you can only fuck up and “Ecstasy” is one of them. Instead, I just made it a little longer and tried to do so in the least obtrusive way possible.”

The brilliance on display here makes me miss Matthew all the more as well as all of the fantastic edits he would have created. But, as has been the case as I pour over all of this music he left us to remember him by, I’m just thankful that we had him as long as we did…couldn’t never do without you. Rest In Peace, Matthew.

It’s been almost a week since Matthew left this world, 4 days since I heard the news and still I’m having a hard time believing he’s really gone. Maybe part of the reason for that is that so much of the music I listen to and even HOW I listen to music was influenced in one way or another by Matthew. It is as if he’s always present. It doesn’t take away the pain of loss, but there is some comfort in the fact that I know I’ll likely be spending the rest of my life running into “Matthew Africa Records.” On Sunday’s show I paid tribute to Matthew Africa, playing music that reminded me of him.

In some cases they were songs that he turned me onto (“Fire Eater,” “No. 1 Lady”), others were artists and songs that I know were some of Matthew’s favorites, (I can remember having conversations about Love’s Forever Changes, his love of Damo Suzuki era Can and how It Takes A Nation Of Millions to Hold Us Back from PE was his favorite rap record). I also included excerpts from several of his mixes, especially the all 7 inch mix he just recently completed that might have been his last (separate post on that below). Finally there are a few moments where you hear Matthew’s voice, talking with Oliver Wang (who stopped by and talks with me at length in the first hour about what made Matthew so special) about how he started collecting records and revealing the mystery of how “Africa” became his family’s name as well as attempting to enlighten his mates on the Stay Hatin’ podcast on Jamaican music. There’s also a short snippet from an interview I did with Matthew for my research on DJs in the second hour. I tried to get him to divulge what the most money he’d spent on a record was, but he wouldn’t budge and just as he predicted, we’re all left to wonder.

I wanted to do a tribute that would give at least a small sense of why Matthew was so important to me and so important to many others, to share some stories and music but also to share a little of his personality. I’m thankful that I was able to express to him how grateful I was while he was still here with us, but more than anything I feel truly blessed to have known him and have been his friend.

Matthew Africa Tribute on KPFK's Melting Pot 09-09-2012: First Hour
Matthew Africa Tribute on KPFK's Melting Pot 09-09-2012: Second Hour

Playlist: 09-09-2012
{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – 7” (Stax)

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Rusty Bryant – Fire Eater – Fire Eater (Prestige)
Love – You Set The Scene – Forever Changes (Elektra)
Billy Harper – Priestess – In Europe (Soul Note)

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Jimi Hendrix – Crosstown Traffic – Electric Ladyland (Elektra)
Matthew Africa On How He started Collecting Records –Excerpt From An Interview With Oliver Wang
Buddy Miles – Down By The River – Them Changes (Mercury)
Sly & the Family Stone – Can’t Strain My Brain – Small Talk (Epic)
Excerpt from A Tribute To The Mizell Brothers: A Mix By Matthew Africa (blog.djmatthewafrica.com)

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Can – Halleluhwah – Tago Mago (UA)
James Brown – You Mother You – SHo Is Funky Down Here (King)

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Jackson 5 – Walk On – Goin’ Back To Indiana (Motown)
Public Enemy – Caught, Can We Get A Witness – It Takes A Nation OF Millions To Hold Us Back (Def Jam)
Excerpt from Stay Hatin’ #24 (matthewafrica.podomatic.com)
Excerpt from Yay Game: The E-40 Mix by Matthew Africa (blog.djmatthewafrica.com)
Melvin Bliss – Synthetic Substitution – 7” (Sunburst)

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Ohio Players – Ecstasy (Matthew Africa Extended Edit) – Ecstasy (Westbound)
Hunt’s Determination Band – No. 1 Lady – Get Your Act Together (Earwax)
Matthew Africa on the most he paid for a record – Excerpt From An Interview with Michael Barnes
Darling Dears and Funky Heavy Prod. – I Don’t Think I’ll Ever Love Another – 7” (Flower City)
Toni Tornado – Me Libertei – B.R.3 (Odeon)

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Excerpt from Matthew Africa Plays Seven Inches (blog.djmatthewafrica.com)

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{closing theme} Dungen – C. Visar Vagen – Tio Batar (Kemado)
Matthew Africa On The Origins Of His Name – Excerpt From An Interview With Oliver Wang
The Trinikas – Remember Me – 7” (Pearce)

Matthew Africa Plays 7 Inches

{I never asked Matthew to do a guest post or come on to Melting Pot for a guest DJ set. I very much wanted him to, but figured at some point he’d be in LA for a spell and he’d come on down. Now that will never happen. So instead, I’m going to share this mix, perhaps the last one Matthew worked on, so that he can be the first guest poster here on Melting Pot. The mix brings up a lot of good memories for me, as Matthew mentions below, connected to Wednesday nights at the Ruby Room in Oakland. The Ruby was my regular haunt for a couple years before I just got too busy with PhD research and falling in love with my wife. Strangely enough, the mix was posted on our wedding anniversary and my reaction to it ended up being one my final communications with Matthew, via facebook (the final one being his compliments on my choices of first songs when we moved into our new house, “Like A Ship” from TL Barrett and “A Love Supreme” from John Coltrane).

Aside from the memories, this is just a fantastic mix, all on original vinyl, some very deep tunes you don’t hear often, flashes of rather deft mixing style from Matthew and an interesting choice at the very close. The mix ends with a very scratchy version of Otis Brown’s “Who’s Gonna Take Me Home,” and Matthew chose to let the record end and just let it spin in the dead wax for much longer than you’d expect. I don’t know why he did it, if it was on purpose, or if it was just a moment of pure chance. But given all that’s happened it just about brought me to tears hearing that sound at the end of this mix. There’s something so deeply personal about it, maybe because I can just see Matthew, after having completed a full take on this mix, going to get a drink and just nonchalantly stopping the record. I’m so glad he left that there, so glad that he shared all this music with us and blessed to have known him as a friend.}

Originally Posted on “I Wish You Would” August 14, 2012

This Friday (August 17th, 2012) I’m playing at the 45 Sessions, an all-45 monthly hosted by some friends from the Oakland Faders crew, DJ Platurn, E Da Boss & DJ Enki. (Also playing with us, the homie stromie Joe Quixx!)

These days I really never play 45 sets except when I’m out in NYC and drop in on friends who do vinyl parties like Mr. Finewine or JBX. The last time I remember doing that on the west coast was for an all-45 45th birthday party for my friend DJ Stef (an idea I may be biting sooner than I wish).

As a warm-up for the 45 Sessions, I made a little mix, pulling out about 100 records and sort of going from there. It’s mostly 70s era funk and soul– lots of classics, some recent favorites, some oddities. Hopefully there’s some “oh shit, it’s great to hear that”, some “wait, what the hell is that?” and maybe an “ooh, he’s got that?” or “wait, that’s on 45?!?” or two.

1. New Birth – You Are What I’m All About
2. The Blowflys – Funky
3. Van Grack and Company – NT
4. Ronnie Keaton & the Ocean-Liners – Going Down for the Last Time
5. The Notations – Super People
6. The Trinikas – Remember Me
7. The Quickest Way Out – Tick Tock Baby (It’s a Quarter to Love)
8. Dee Edwards – Why Can’t There Be Love
9. Matata – I Want You
10. House Guest Rated X – What So Never the Dance Pt. 1
11. Myra Barnes – Super Good Pt. 1
12. C. Fortune & J. Brinson – The Hipster
13. Tony Alvon & the Bel-Airs – Boom Boom Boom
14. Leroy & the Drivers – Sad Chicken
15. Nancy Sinatra – Bang Bang
16. Betty Chung – Bang Bang
17. Heart – Give Me a Happy Day
18. Dionne Warwick – You’re Gonna Need Me
19. The Sisters Love – Now Is the Time
20. Popcorn Wylie – Funky Rubber Band
21. Apple & the 3 Oranges – Free & Easy Pt. 1
22. Hank Ballard – I’m a Junkie for My Baby’s Love
23. Robert Jay – Alcohol Pt. 1
24. Sugar Billy Garner – I Got Some
25. Junior & the Classics – Kill the Pain
26. The Fabulous Souls – Take Me
27. Sir Guy & the Speller Bros. Band – Let Home Cross Your Mind
28. 6 Pak feat. Larry Berney – There Was a Time
29. Harvey Scales & the Seven Sounds – The Yolk
30. Dynamic Corvettes – Funky Music Is the Thing Pt. 2
31. The Jackson Sisters – I Believe in Miracles
32. Chuck Colbert & Viewpoint – Stay
33. The Isley Brothers – Keep On Doin’
34. Graham Central Station – The Jam
35. Bobby Franklin’s Insanity – Bring It On Down To Me Pt. 1
36. The Soul Company – Hump the Bump Pt. 1
37. Creations Unlimited – Chrystal Illusion
38. Joey Irving – Don’t Throw Our Love Away
39. Pearly Queen – Quit Jive’in
40. Marvin Gaye – ‘T’ Plays It Cool
41. Billy Young – Suffering With a Hangover Pt. 1
42. Lenny Williams – Feelin’ Blue
43. MFQ – Every Minute of Every Day
44. Nolan Porter – If I Could Only Be Sure
45. The New Establishment – Ridin’ High
46. Otis Brown – Who’s Gonna Take Me Home

This mix started off as a practice run playing 45s and then got more involved when I realized how shitty at it I’d become. It’s a lot less like riding a bicycle than I’d hoped.

I used to play 45s all the time. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Wednesday nights I would often grab a box of them and head down to my friend DJ Kitty’s funk party to play a set on what is to this day maybe the shittiest sound system I’ve ever played. (The Ruby Room’s system was pretty awful to begin with but after some noise complaints from a neighbor the management disabled the mixer by gluing caps over the volume and bass knobs.)

But it was good practice. I remember being invited by DJ Shadow to open for him and Cut Chemist when they did their Product Placement show back in 2001– which was a super-big deal to me– and putting together an hour-long routine in a day or so and nailing it on the first take. That didn’t happen this time. When I rolled the tape I found that I blew almost every mix and it took a lot of work to tighten things up.

Playing 45s is tough. The main thing is that a lot of the music I played doesn’t lend itself to mixing. Arrangements are dense and arbitrary (an unfrustrated person would say “creative” or “inspired”) and tempos wander all over the place, so mixing is tricky.

Then there are all the technical issues Serato has freed me from remembering how to deal with: that there are no cue points, that speeding up or slowing down a record too quickly can mess up the pitch, that records often skip when you’re cueing or cutting them and that you can easily destroy a record through normal use. This is particularly true of records that happen to be pressed not from vinyl but from styrene, a substance that often seems to cue burn at a mere glance. (Case in point, the Leroy & the Drivers 45 heard in the mix: that persistent shhhh sound and loss of high end is textbook styrene. Ugh.)

About the title of this mix: all of the records I played were 7″s, but not all were 45s– a handful were made to play at 33 rpm, so I named it accordingly. For those who care about this sort of thing, I didn’t use any reissues.

Oh lastly, if (to borrow a phrase from the Martorialist) you’re one of those poncey bastards who’ll only listen to a mix if it’s on Soundcloud then we can do that, too:

(Oh wait, I spoke too soon. Soundcloud tells me that my cover image is infringing someone’s copyright (?!) and that therefore they won’t host it. Ugh. Dispute filed.)

Rest In Peace…Matthew Africa

September 6th, 2012

{I’ll be paying tribute to Matthew Africa on today’s Melting Pot, on KPFK, 90.7 FM in Los Angeles, KPFK.ORG worldwide, from 4-6pm. I’ll be including some of his mixes, a few of the many artists that I know he loved, things he turned me on to personally, things he turned us all on to via his show and blog and sharing some of my memories. Oliver Wang of Soul-Sides.com will also be a guest to remember one of the best DJs and all around human beings we’ve known.}

I’m still in a complete state of shock after learning that my friend Matthew Africa has died in a car accident. I don’t even know where to begin or how to quantify the impact that Matthew had on me as a DJ and Music Lover. I always liked to joke with him that he had ever single record anyone should have. His knowledge and appreciation of music was as deep as any person I’ve ever known. In 1994 or 1995 I got a copy of Jazz Dance Classics Vol. 1 from Luv’n'Haight which Africa helped compile and wrote the liner notes. The collection had an instant effect on me and was one of the prime catalysts for me to really start digging. It changed how I listened to music. When I came to Berkeley and eventually started working at KALX, I came to know Matthew and we became friends. More than a few times our shifts followed each other and almost every week Matthew turned me and all of his listeners onto things we’d never heard. It seems like just a minute ago that we were reminiscing on facebook about times spent DJ-ing together at the Ruby Room in Oakland. Some of my fondest memories as a DJ involve Matthew. It was an honor to spin just before him at his 30th Birthday party, to talk music, politics and culture, which we could do endlessly. I don’t know what else to say except that I can’t believe he’s gone. I’ll likely have a tribute this Sunday on Melting Pot for Matthew. For now, here’s just a few things that remind me of him.

Gary Bartz – Celestial Blues

This is the first track off of the Jazz Dance Classic comp. that Matthew helped compile. At the time he was an employee of Groove Merchant, with was the headquarters of Ubiquity and Luv’n'Haight records. Few songs seem more fiting than this one as a testament to Matthew, who many will remember for his taste in music, but was so much more than just a DJ. He was one of the most intelligent men I’ve ever known.

Rusty Bryant – The Fire Eater

Monster track also on Jazz Dance Classics Vol. 1. It wasn’t my introduction to the world of Jazz-Funk, but almost 20 years later since the first time I heard this, I don’t think my ears have ever recovered. Demolishes all other tracks with those massive drums from Idris Muhammad and the organ solo from Bill Mason is just legendary. As with all the other tracks on this collection, hearing this completely blew me away and started me down the path of digging for much more obscure music than I was up on at the time.

U.S. 69 – I’m On My Way

This is one of many tracks that I got turned on to because of Matthew’s radio show. KALX constantly shifted the DJs around, you had to be approved for your time slot based off of the judgement of a small programming council. Several times we’d follow each other, his show before mine for a time, my show before his. I still remember the first time I heard this one, as I was putting away my music in the KALX library the sitar and the beat from this song hit and I literally ran back to the studio to find out what this amazing bit of music was.

Gal Costa – De Um Role

Another discovery because of Matthew’s radio show, and another track that he once led off his show with and I just had to run back into the studio to find out what it was. Part of me always wished that Gal Costa had recorded a studio version of this song, a cover of Novos Baianos. I’m glad she didn’t, it makes this version, from her live album Fatal A Todo Vapor even more special, especially now.

Pearly Queen – Quit Jivin’

My fondest memories of Matthew center around time spent on Wednesday nights at the Ruby Room in Oakland. DJ Kitty’s “Soulvation” night was one of the first places in the Bay Area where I really felt at home. Hanging out and dancing with my fellow DJs, Kitty, Sean Sullivan, Joe Quixx and Matthew made it all the more special. I don’t know if I ever asked him, but “Quit Jivin’” struck me as one of Matthew’s favorite songs. I say that because anytime anyone played he’d immediately hit the dance floor to do his signature dance. Everytime I hear it I can immediately see Matthew putting down his beer and hitting the floor.

Lee Dorsey – A Lover Was Born

Back in 2001, when DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist followed up their legendary Brain Freeze mix with Product Placement, Matthew was one of the DJs they asked to spin ahead of them that evening. He was on early, but his set was as good as any of the others that night. At the end of the night they brought all of the DJs on stage to play an additional song. Matthew’s choice was “A Lover Was Born” from Lee Dorsey, and if I close my eyes I can still see him on stage, doing his dance just overjoyed to be playing the music he loved.

Dee Edwards – Why Can’t There Be Love

Matthew just recently had posted a mix of music from 45s, kind of prep for special night of dj-ing in the Bay Area. As was always the case, there were many many songs that I’d never heard before and that I’ll obssess over until my days are gone. Dee Edwards’ “Why Can’t There Be Love” is the one that has stayed in my mind and it’s hard to believe that this is the last thing that Matthew turned me onto. You will be sorely missed.

On yesterday’s Melting Pot, Guest host Oliver Wang of Soul-Sides.com broadcast this 48 minute tribute to MCA and the Beastie Boys, with a mix of classics and rarities from their entire career.

Tribute to Adam “MCA” Yauch of the Beastie Boys: Mixed by O-Dub of Soul-Sides.com

Shocking news in the music world today that Adam Yauch, better known as MCA of the Beastie Boys, passed away at the age of 47. Yauch had been battling cancer for the last several years, but the news still came as a shock to me. Growing up in the 1980s, the Beastie Boys were a favorite band of mine, both in their party-hard early days and their conscious prankster later years. Tracking down samples from Beastie Boys records broadened my tastes and my appreciation of Hip-Hop production as much as any other groups, save the Native Tounges. MCA’s conversion to Buddhism expanded my curiosity into a variety of philosophies and helped me to find greater calm and patience at times when I was dangerously close to losing both. Here are 5 of my favorite tracks that MCA cut with the Beastie Boys, and the 5 I’ll remember him most for.

Beastie Boys – Brass Monkey

My first experience with the Beastie Boys, I can still remember a crew of four of five black kids at my elementary school in the halls singing the lyrics to this song, at a time where Hip-Hop was still thought of as purely “Black Music.” I’m not sure if they even knew the Beastie Boys were white, or if the fact they made Hip-Hop was enough for them to claim them as their own, but that moment is forever etched in my brain, as well as  MCA’s classic line that was probably the first time I’d even ever heard of Brooklyn.

“I drink Brass Monkey and I rock well
I got a Castle in Brooklyn – that’s where I dwell”

Beastie Boy – Sabotage

Quite possibly the single most entertaining music video of all time, “Sabotage” marked the emergence of Spike Jonze and got me to appreciate 1970s genre cinema. Even though you don’t really hear MCA’s voice in this track, that fuzz bass is so important to the sound, especially when everything breaks down in the second half, that it’s impossible to imagine this song being a success without that rumbling sound.

Beastie Boys – Jimmy James

A tribute of sorts to Jimi Hendrix, featuring 5 or 6 separate Hendrix samples, I’d never known until today that this was originally just an instrumental track and that all the cuts were by Adam Yauch himself.

Beastie Boys – Sure Shot

Aside from the blistering Jeremy Steig sample and one of my favorite lines, “I Strap On My Ear Goggles And I’m Ready To Go,” which caused me to refer to headphones as “ear goggles” for about a year, “Sure Shot” was also the song where MCA publicly denounced the misogynistic lyrics and behavior of his past and called for other artists to follow suit.

“I Want To Say a Little Something That’s Long Overdue
The Disrespect To Women Has Got To Be Through
To All The Mothers And Sisters And the Wives And Friends
I Want To Offer My Love And Respect To The End”

That kind of mea culpa and statement of solidarity, affected my own thinking on issues of gender, and likely helped to put me on the path where today I educate other men and women on the influence of popular culture on our ideas of gender, race and class.

Beastie Boys – Bodhisattva Vow

There are so many songs the MCA had great lines and rhymes, but this track from Ill Communication remains what I think is his signature song. A deeply personal and sincere take on his Buddhist faith and who his beliefs have affected his character.

“If Others Disrespect Me Or Give Me Flack
I’ll Stop And Think Before I React
Knowing That They’re Going Through Insecure Stages
I’ll Take The Opportunity To Exercise Patience
I’ll See It As A Chance To Help The Other Person
Nip It In The Bud Before It Can Worsen
A Change For Me To Be Strong And Sure”

The backing track was also stunning, with its use of Buddhist chant, drums from “Kissing My Love” and what sounds like the doors of a monastery crashing and closing. Hearing it the first time was like a revelation, one only made possible because of Adam Yauch, Rest In Peace.

David Jones of the Monkees passed away earlier in the week at the age of 65. Growing up as a suburban latch key kid in the 1980s, I was lucky enough to have gotten into the Monkees TV show when it started to re-air during that time in the afternoon. This was far before I knew anything about music history, or cared about issues of authenticity, or made judgements about the value or relative worth of music. The Monkees introduced me to a world of 1960s pop music, and most of my current pop sensibilities come from being a fan of their extraordinary music. I have to admit that Davy was never my favorite in the group. I always gravitated towards Michael & Mickey’s tunes more than any other. I even liked Peter’s quirkiness over the smoother charms of Mr. Jones. But as I reflect back on things, I really appreciate Davy’s vocals, how perfectly phrased ever thing is, and I recognize that Davy was likely the most talented of the bunch. I also have to admit that that Davy Jones’ shuffle is a move that I still occasionally break out into when listening to 60s music. Here are a few of my favorite Monkees’ moments featuring Davy Jones, may he rest in peace.

This doesn’t come from the show, but instead from the film Head, which is exhibit A for me in why the Monkees should be more highly regarded than they were. The film is a 60s psychedelic trip and not at all the kind of thing you’d expect from a “pre-fab” pop group. I could never imagine any of today’s stars producing something so incredibly bizarre and self-deprecating as this film. It does contain a moment of pure entertainment courtesy of Davy Jones and Mickey Basil (Yes, THAT Mickey!) with this dance sequence for “Daddy’s Song,” which also proves that Davy could do a lot more than his signature shuffle.

“Valleri” is one of my faves from the tail end of the TV show. I’ve always thought this must have been one of the final videos that the group cut together because there just seems to be a lot of tension between them, but Davy shines, as usual, with a very cool bit of TV magic that allows him to float away from the group as he starts to go into the second verse.

Bar-none this was my favorite Monkees song and moment from the original TV show, until I found out what the song actually was about in my adult years…Despite being “potentially” inspired by a Hell’s Angels train, the song is a pure pop gem, with a little bit of bite courtesy of Harry Nilsson’s lyrics. Every thing just melts away though when you watch Davy dance and goof around with a dancer whose name I’ve never been able to track down.

In some ways this is the quintessential Davy song from the series, since EVERY episode found him falling in love with some new girl, generally being the problem that the other boys in the band had to solve. It’s also a really fantastic vocal performance, I’ve always loved his phrasing in the chorus and the whispery “Darling…I Love You” at the end.

For most people THIS is the quintessential song from Davy, and perhaps from the group too (though “I’m A Believer” might be as big), It’s not a song that I’ll be playing in my mini tribute to Davy Jones this weekend as Melting Pot returns, but it’s certainly the song that he’ll be remembered by most of all. Plus it gives us some of the best examples of that signature little finger popping shuffle that Davy Jones. That pure joy in performance is how I’ll always remember him.

Michael Davis, bassist for one of my all-time favorite bands, The MC5, passed away last week from liver disease.  Given the fact that so much of the attention on the Motor City boys was on guitarists Wayne Kramer and Sonic Smith, or on vocalist Rob Tyner, it might be easy to forget just how important the rhythm section was to one of the most influential Rock’n'Roll outfits of all time…Here are just a few reminders.  Expect to hear several of these when Melting Pot returns to the KPFK airwaves on March 4th.

“Future/Now”

One of the few times where Davis’ bass leads off the tune, and it really sets the tone for one of the MC5′s toughest grooves:

“Over & Over”

Another track from the band’s final record High Times, and another song where Davis’ bass features prominently in the mix and the sound:

“I Believe To My Soul”

Recorded live at the Grande Ballroom in 1968, with Davis’ fuzzed out bass much more prominently featured in the mix than on the Elektra album…this is probably how the band should have sounded on their debut.

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