Melting Pot

Archive for the ‘Tributes’ category

Rest In Peace Allen Toussaint…

November 20th, 2015
foto © Michael Wilson

foto © Michael Wilson

A truly epic second line laid rest today to one of New Orleans’ most favored sons, the legendary Allen Toussaint. Toussaint passed away on November 10th, perhaps fittingly after performing earlier in the night in Spain. I don’t know if there is any way possible to fully quantify the effect Allen Toussaint had on the music of New Orleans. In all honesty, it’s quite possible that the only other figure that even comes close to rivaling Toussaint’s influence is Louis Armstrong. If you’re a fan of New Orleans soul and funk, chances are your favorite songs have Toussaint’s fingerprints all over them, whether directly as a musician, songwriter or arranger, or just in the influence he had on virtually all of the musicians, songwriters and arrangers of the 1960s and 1970s when he was truly in the pocket and recording with essentially everyone, Lee Dorsey, Ernie K. Doe, The Meters, The Neville Bros., Betty Harris, Irma Thomas and on and on and on and on. You could have successful soul/northern soul nights just based off of tracks from Toussaint’s catalog and no one would ever tire of hearing them. The ones below are just my personal favorites.

Lee Dorsey – A Lover Was Born

Without a doubt, one of my absolute favorite songs of all-time and absolutely my single favorite thing to dance to. If you ever want to see me completely lost my shit…drop the needle on this record. Lee Dorsey, backed up by the Meters, with Allen Toussaint at the controls…it does not get any better than this right here!

Lee Dorsey & Betty Harris – Take Care Of Our Love

As big fan of Southern deep soul, there had to be one of those slow burning songs on this list. This duet between Dorsey and Betty Harris, where each pledges to remain true to the other while they are physically apart, hits me deep deep down in my heart. As with so much music out of New Orleans, much of the appeal is in the delivery of choice lines like “And don’t let no sweet talking joker, come and confuse what’s going on between you and I.”

Betty Harris – I’m Gonna Get You

One of the things I found myself appreciating at a recent Allen Toussaint tribute put on by Miles and Clifton of Funky Sole, was the great diversity of sounds in the catalog of tracks. Though Toussaint’s hands were all over many tracks in the 60s, there wasn’t a single signature sound or rhythm that is associated with the tracks. They all sound distinctive and have a special sound of their own, even as the elements they’re drawn from are so clearly recognizable as being from New Orleans. “I’m Gonna Get You” starts off as if it might be a version of Toussaint’s “Get Out My Life Woman,” (and when you compare the two, it’s possible that the songs were related, though they don’t quite seem to an answer/response kind of thing), but the use of the horns, the background vocals and Harris’ impassioned phrasing might make you forget that “Woman” even exists. Such is the power of Mr. Toussaint.

The Pointer Sisters – Yes We Can, Can

This was originally recorded with Lee Dorsey, and that version is fine and dandy, but I’ve always favored the Pointer Sisters version of the “Yes We Can, Can.” Something about the mix of all those women’s vocals just gives the song and even greater sense of uplift than the original, and elevates this song above other inspirational soul songs of the period.

Lee Dorsey – Four Corners

As much as I love dancing to “A Lover Was Born” the pure insanity of “Four Corners” comes a close second. As I get older, I have a suspicion that one day someone will play these songs back-to-back and I’ll have a heart attack right there on the dance floor from the excitement. I don’t know who is ultimately responsible for that “Now give me that shaker-maker” line that Dorsey throws out just before the drum break, but I like to think that it came about as this thing was being recorded. I would have loved to have been in the studio when this song was cut, because it sounds like one of the best parties ever committed to vinyl and LORD those drums…thank you Allen Toussaint for bringing this band together and blessing us with one of the most dynamic songs of all time, in addition to all the other gifts you gave us. For this and all of those, we are so very thankful you were in our world and we’ll make sure that future generations know your name and know your songs.


For several months I’ve been planning this show, knowing that for #200 I wanted to highlight a favorite artist, as with the Dirty Three for show #100, and though this time I’d take a look back and feature an artist that I love but might be a bit unsung or under-appreciated. Ultimately I settled on highlighting the music of Dale Ossman Warren, perhaps best known as the mind behind the 24-Carat Black. Warren should be seen as a musical genius and one of the great talents of the era, but there is relatively little publicly known about the man and his methods. What we do have are a wealth of recordings that feature Warren as a writer, arranger, producer, engineer or musician.

With the 24 Carat Black recordings as a guide, in the first hour of the program I tried to choose songs that seemed to have been clearly touched by Warren’s hand. Some of them are well known, such as his first Stax related collaboration with Isaac Hayes, “Walk On By,” others are less well-known but just as amazing, such as the Precisions “What I Want,” which has been on repeat since I tracked it down recently. I also highlight several tracks from the “lost” album that the Numero group issued in 2009. With the few tracks that they were able to salvage, the mind boggles at the music Dale Warren might have been able to create given a full budget or perhaps a different period of time.

In the second hour we have the best statement of Warren’s vision, the 1973 album Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth, played from start to finish. I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought to play that whole album on the air until now, but I’m glad that I got to do it this past Sunday, on our last show on Sunday’s before we move to Fridays at 8pm this week. Big thanks to Rob Sevier of Numero Group and Oliver Wang of for help tracking down a few of the tracks, eternal thanks to Matthew Africa (RIP) for turning me and others onto this music, and of course to the maestro himself Dale Warren, for leaving such a rich musical legacy.

Melting Pot on KPFK #200: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #200: Second Hour

Playlist: 06-21-2015
{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – 7” (Stax)

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Isaac Hayes – Walk On By – 7” (Stax)
The 24 Carat Black – Best of Good Love Gone – Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday (Numero)
David Porter – I’m Afraid The Masquerade Is Over – Victim Of The Joke?: An Opera (Enterprise)
Isaac Hayes – Ike’s Mood I – …To Be Continued (Enterprise)

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The 24 Carat Black – I Began To Weep – Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday (Numero)
John Kasandra – The Other Brother/We Gotta Go On – The True Genius (Respect)
The Mad Lads – Gone, The Promises Of Yesterday – A New Beginning (Volt)
Strings’n’Things – Charge! – 7” (Jet Set)

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The Embraceables – Here I Go – 7” (Sidra)
Gloria Ann Taylor – World That’s Not Real – 7” (Selector Sound)
The Precisions – What I Want – 7” (Drew)
The 24 Carat Black – I’ll Never Let You Go – Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday (Numero)

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The 24 Carat Black – Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth (Enterprise)

Five for John Holt…R.I.P.

October 22nd, 2014


Of late I’ve been remiss in paying tribute to dearly departed musicians here on the blog, but when word of John Holt’s passing came through earlier in the week, I knew I’d be writing a bit about this man, his amazing voice and some of my favorite tracks. What I always appreciated about Holt was his smooth delivery. So cool, just effortlessly breezy, in the way the words flow. Without a doubt I’m sure Holt was a major influence on maybe my favorite singer from Jamaica, Gregory Isaacs, and his songs have been a delight to all who’ve heard them. While most people know Holt’s “The Tide Is High,” because mega pop stars Blondie covered it in the 1980s, the man cut a number of fantastic sides, originally with his group the Paragons and just by himself. These five are the ones I’ll remember him most for.

The Paragons – Wear You To The Ball

“The Tide Is High” and “On The Beach” got more acclaim, “Wear You To The Ball” is as good if not better. Maybe it’s just because of the story in the song, where the singer is taking a date to the Ball, that other people wouldn’t. As Holt croons, “Though you don’t suit those other guys, you suit me fine.” I’m a sucker for underdog/ugly duckling stories. Additionally, “Ball” has one of the most distinctive openings for a rock steady song. Just great all around.

The Paragons – I Want To Go Back

Along with all the other songs on the Paragons’ album On The Beach, I discovered this one on my first trip to the Bay Area as an adult back in 1997. I don’t know exactly how long it took, but I was convinced for years that the Beatles covered Holt and the gang, not the other way around. This version was just so good, so thoroughly soulful that it couldn’t have originated from anyone else. To this day I can’t even listen the Beatles version…for me there’s just no comparison.

John Holt – A Love I Can Feel

Another cover that I didn’t know was a cover until years later, in this case the Temptations, “I Want A Love I Can See.” Might be a little up-tempo to fully qualify as Lover’s Rock, but that sentiment and Holt’s phrasing make it just about perfect.

John Holt – Let’s Build Our Dreams

“Let’s Build Our Dreams” is without a doubt one of the most soulful reggae I’ve ever heard. Some of that comes through in the just ever so slightly slower riddim and those notes on the organ. But it’s Holt’s singing, the style and the sentiment that kills me every time. The interplay between John Holt and Slim Smith also is deeply soulful. A classic amongst classics.

John Holt – Ali Baba

One of my all-time favorites. Not a week goes by where for one reason or another either the first line, “I dreamed last night about Ali Babe, with the 40 thieves…” or “I rode through the valley with the princess by my side…” pops into my mind. My response is almost always the same, whether I’m walking down the street, sitting in my office or in my car, in the shower, wherever…I start singing it and dance a very particular reggae step. The riddim just by itself would have made this one a classic. Holt’s cooler than cool delivery makes it legendary, just like the man himself.


Earlier this Summer, Double Nickels On The Dime, the classic album from the Minutemen, celebrated it’s 30th anniversary. Double Nickels is one of my favorite albums, something I’ve listened to hundreds of times over the years. It’s an album that has deep personal meaning for me, along with a handful of others, because it’s something that really changed the way I hear music and informed my personal and political sensibilities. When the idea for a tribute show came to mind, I knew I wanted to play the entire record, from start to finish. I wanted to include some information about the Minutemen and the recording of this album and considered using clips from the documentary We Jam Econo. Thankfully I was able to get a hold of Mike Watt and he was extremely gracious with his time, driving up from Pedro on a traffic filled hot summer weekday and spending almost two hours with me about the band and this album. Given the constraints of time, I had to edit down that conversation for the on-air program, but you can find our full conversation right here. All together this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. One of the shows that I’m most proud of in my 20+ year radio career. Enjoy this one to the fullest.

Melting Pot on KPFK #175: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #175: Second Hour

Playlist: 08-31-2014

{opening theme} Booker T & The MGs – Melting Pot – 7″ (Stax)

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Mike Watt – Interview – Recorded Live At KPFK: 07-31-2014

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The Minutemen – Side D. – Double Nickels On The Dime (SST)

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The Minutemen – Side Mike (Part 1) – Double Nickels On The Dime (SST)

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The Minutemen – Side Mike (Part 2) – Double Nickels On The Dime (SST)

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The Minutemen – Side George – Double Nickels On The Dime (SST)

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The Minutemen – Side Chaff – Double Nickels On The Dime (SST)

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


This was a very special show. I wasn’t on the air last week, so I wasn’t able to share the Charnett Moffett interview or pay tribute to Charlie Haden. With Haden’s passing, Moffett is without a doubt the best bass player walking the earth. We recorded the interview on Thursday, the day before we found out about Haden’s passing and so we don’t discuss him, and instead focus solely on Moffett’s exceptional career. It’s truly an honor to be able to pair this interview and performance with a tribute to Haden, as these two players (along with Mingus) are my favorite bassist/composers in Jazz History.

In the week since we learned of his passing, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on Haden’s legacy and listening to all of the fantastic tributes on KPFK. I’d pretty much known what songs I was going to play featuring Haden within a couple of hours of hearing of his passing. I’m struck that with an entire week of programming, from 5 or 6 different shows on our station, there was very little overlap in the songs people played. Charlie Haden’s career was so long and so stellar that we likely could have dedicated the entire week to him, 24/7, and never once repeated ourselves. In my case, I focused on songs that I had deep personal connection to. 10 years ago, I had a much more extensive collection of music that featured Haden. Over the last decade as I’ve started to rebuild my collection, I’ve often had to focus on the music that I knew I loved most. That is certainly the case with the majority of tracks I’ve played here, many of them recorded from around 1970 to 1973, a period of time where Haden was particularly associated with two large ensembles, his Liberation Music Orchestra and the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra. The sound of these pieces is certainly within the avant-garde, but it is marked by an extraordinary soulfulness and depth of emotion that isn’t always found within this particular branch of the creative music we call Jazz, but was always found in the music of Charlie Haden, regardless of what ensemble or style of music he played.

Each of these songs, as well as the recent collaboration with his son, Josh Haden and his band Spain, “You and I,” testify to the extraordinary beauty of Haden’s playing. As I’ve mentioned before, truly hearing Haden’s music affected me in profound ways, not just in terms of how I approach music, but also politically, emotionally and spiritually. I am a better man and more capable of recognizing the wonders of life and playing my part to increase beauty and love in this world because of the work of Charlie Haden. I will be eternally grateful to him for the many gifts he gave us all.

Melting Pot on KPFK #171: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #171: Second Hour

Playlist: 07-20-2014

{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – 7″ (Stax)

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Charnett Moffett – Interview and Performance – Recorded Live at KPFK (KPFK Archives)

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Charlie Haden Tribute:
The Liberation Music Orchestra feat. Charlie Haden – Song For Che – Liberation Music Orchestra (Impulse)
The Liberation Music Orchestra feat. Charlie Haden – Els Segadors – Ballad Of The Fallen (ECM)

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The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra feat. Charlie Haden – Trans-Love Airways – The Relativity Suite (JCOA)
Joe Henderson feat. Charlie Haden – Earth – The Elements (Milestone)

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The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra feat. Charlie Haden – Hotel Overture – Escalator Over The Hill (JCOA)
Spain feat. Charlie Haden – You and I – Sargent Place (Glitterhouse)

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{closing theme} The Liberation Music Orchestra feat. Charlie Haden – We Shall Overcome – Liberation Music Orchestra (Impulse)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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)


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


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


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


{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.


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.

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