Melting Pot

Versus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Michael

BetaClub

The Beat Club – Brassa Nova

Brand new music from a fairly new collective of musicians with roots in the UK, Paris and the USA. The Beta Club most notably features Shawn Lee, doing what he does, but also features at least 9 or 10 other musicians and DJs, including Steve Haney of LA’s Jungle Fire. Headed up by UK DJ Sten La’ Ren and repped by the Paris DJs crew, the Beta Club produces a sound that might be best described as “Sinister Library Afro-Latin Psych Funk.” That might seem like a mouthful, but as soon as you hear “Brassa Nova,” and especially the flipside “Freak Beat,” from their recently released debut 45, you’ll see how it perfectly encapsulates the group. Not sure if this group will ever perform live or tour or even record any more music, but this one’s a keeper and well worth tracking down.

Zara

Our 5th year at KPFK has gotten off to a rather stunning start and it continued this past week when we welcomed UK vocalist Zara McFarlane into our studios. Earlier in the year McFarlane released her second album, If You Knew Her, on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood record label, and she’s garnered just about every accolade you gain get since then. The album is a collection of songs inspired by the women in McFarlane’s life, as well as a call to dig deeper and move beyond the stereotypes for Black women in particular. At KPFK she performed three songs from this album, accompanied by pianist Lincoln Cleary, “Open Heart,” “Her Eyes” and “You’ll Get Me In Trouble.” With just the piano backing her, there’s a much stronger emphasis on McFarlane’s voice and her songwriting, both of which are simply fantastic. In the interview we talked about her background, how she found her way into Gilles Peterson’s ears and on his label, a bit about the differences between her debut and this follow-up as well as some discussion about several of the standouts from the record, “Open Heart” and two covers of Jamaican songs, “Angie La La” and “Police and Thieves.” Big thanks to Stan Misraje for his production work on the sound and to Jessica Weber and Yolanda Martinez for helping set things up. Most of all, thanks to Zara McFarlane for spending this time with us.

Zara McFarlane on KPFK’s Melting Pot: 06-16-2014

BSM1

On a absolutely perfect summer’s day in LA, the most recent edition of the Beat Swap Meet was held in Downtown LA’s Chinatown. As we talked about during our interview with DJ 671, one of the organizers of the event, Beat Swap Meet is unlike any other record show I’ve ever been to, it’s more like a community block party. Yes there are tons of dealers with tons of records, but there are also 6 or 7 different spots with DJs and producers sharing music, a space for B-boys and B-girls to get down and many other vendors of every kind of variety all around. BSM2Virtually every time I’ve been there I’ve run into great records. This time was no different, picking up several records that I used to own and haven’t seen since, including Andrew White’s Fonk Update, Larry Young’s Heaven On Earth and a Keno Duke record on Strata East. This time around I also got a chance to spin some records. With so many DJs on the bill, we all only had 30 minutes to work with, which is a really short amount of time for someone like me who doesn’t really have a lot of skill and enjoys playing long songs. All week long I was debating how I’d make good use of that time, should I have a theme, focus on a particular genre, the possibilities were endless. Ultimately I just decided to focus on some personal favorites, most of which I’ve featured here in one form or another, hope you enjoy it! Beat Swap Meet won’t be back in LA until the Fall, but be sure to check their website for dates in other cities throughout the Summer.

DJ Set at Beat Swap Meet: 06-22-2014

Beat Swap Meet: 06-22-2014
BSM3Rotary Connection – Life Could – Aladdin (Cadet Concept)
Leigh Stephens – Another Dose Of Life – Red Weather (Philips)
Toni Tornado – Me Libertei – BR3 (Odeon)
Harlem River Drive – If We Had Peace Today – Harlem River Drive (Roulette)
Lenny White – Sweet Dreamer – Bug City (Nemporer)
Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Ain’t No Sunshine – Blacknuss (Atlantic)
24-Carat Black – I’ll Never Let You Go – Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday (Numero)
The Emotions – Boss Love Maker – Untouched (Volt)
The Ohio Players – Ecstasy (Matthew Africa Edit) – 7″ (Dubplate)
Tim Maia – Hadock Lobo Esquina Com Matoso – Nuvens (Seroma)

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So much going on in so many different places, but this show really helped me bringing everything together and it turned out into one of my single favorite shows I’ve done at KPFK. First there’s the music, which includes a bevy of tributes, to recently passed away Gerry Goffin and Horace Silver, to the season of Summer and the end of Spring with Love and Dungen, giveaways and new music from Lee Fields, Foreign Exchange, Miles Tackett, The Beta Club and others…highlight of the show is certainly the interview and performance from Zara McFarlane (separate post coming). Back to back weeks of some of the best interviews in our short time on the air and we’re just getting started here in Year 5 on KPFK. Next week it’s the end of the month, so we’re all on vinyl and should have a guest DJ set from Nick Waterhouse!

Melting Pot on KPFK #168: First Hour
Melting Pot On KPFK #168: Second Hour

Playlist: 06-22-2014
{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – 7” (Stax)

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The Monkees – Somewhere In The Morning – More Of The Monkees (Rhino)
Love – The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This – Forever Changes (Elektra)
Dungen – Soda – Skit I Allt (Kemado)
Eric Dolphy – Tenderly – Far Cry (Prestige)
Rodrigo Amarante – The Ribbon – Recorded Live At KPFK (KPFK Archives)

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Lee Fields & the Expressions – Still Gets Me Down – Emma Jean (Truth & Soul)
Nick Waterhouse – Let It Come Down – Holly (Innovative Leisure)
King Khan & the Shrines – Tell Me – The Supreme Genius Of King Khan & the Shrines (Vice)
Captain Beefheart – Tropical Hot Dog Night – Shiny Beast (Virgin)
The Beta Club – Brassa Nova – 7” (Cartel Records)

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Foreign Exchange – Right After Midnight – Love In Flying Colors (Foreign Exchange Music)
King – In The Meantime – Recordedd Live At KPFK (KPFK Archives)
Ned Doheny – Get It Up For Love – Separate Oceans (Numero)
Blu – The Return – Good To Be Home (Nature Sounds)
Quantic feat. Anibal Velasquez – La Callejera – Magnetica (Tru Thoughts)

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Zara McFarlane – Interview & Performance – Recorded Live At KPFK (KPFK Archives)

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Zara McFarlane feat. Leron Thomas – Angie La La – If You Knew Her (Brownswood)
BadBadNotGood – Triangle – III (Innovative Leisure)
Miles Tackett & the 3 Times – Everything – The Fool Who Wonders (Self-Released)
Horace Silver – Senor Blues – Senor Blues (Blue Note)

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

Quantic

Will Holland aka Quantic is a true artist, a master DJ and master musician. His explorations through his many recordings (with the Quantic Soul Orchestra, Flowering Infero and Ondatropica, to name just a few) and as a compiler (The Panama collections on Soundway are required material) have almost single-handedly shifted many DJs, collectors and listeners to dig deeper into the sounds of Latin America. He’ll be here in Los Angeles bringing his unique blend of funk, cumbia, reggae and so much more to the Roxy on June 25th! If you want a chance to go courtesy of Melting Pot, e-mail at michael[at]meltingpotblog.com by 5pm on Tuesday June 24th!

 

Here’s Quantic performing with a relatively small combo earlier in the year:

And here’s some older footage of Quantic with a larger group perforiming “Descarga”:

Here’s also the video for one of the newer songs, “Duvido” from Holland’s latest release, Magnetica on long time label Tru Thoughts:

bsmla

All kinds of good things are going to be going down at the Beat Swap Meet Los Angeles Summer Solstice Gathering this Sunday, June 22nd from 12-6pm in Downtown LA’s Chinatown. First and foremost there will be records…many many many records. Every time I go to the BSM I come away with something special, from the first time getting this Byron Lee record, to the most recent one where I found this Gabor Szabo record.

In addition to all of the record vendors, there are a number of other local vendors plying their trade, turntable doctors ready to fix any broken turntables and this year they’re will be some B-Boy/B-Girl crews on hand because of the B-Boy Summit as well as a performance from San Diego’s Sure Fire Soul Ensemble! Beat Swap Meet is free with a canned good, donated to local homeless, and has a community spirit unlike any other record fair in the country. By not being fixed in a single location, but being spread out all over the plaza in Chinatown to the interior of the Grand Star, it gives the event a really community feeling and spirit. Just to give a sense of what the event is like, check this video from September 2013:

I’ll actually be spinning this Sunday around 2ish (but I won’t be sticking around after the set, since I got to get to KPFK to do my show!) in the outside front parking lot, one of the many spots where you can hear DJs share the sounds and skills. I don’t have much in the way of skills, but I do have big ears, and if you listened to the radio show or checked these posts long enough, you have a sense of what I might play. Haven’t picked out the records I’m bringing just yet, but they’ll probably lean on the heavy and psychedelic side of things.  I’ll likely add the set on Monday, as long as my records don’t melt from the heat.

If you caught the interview and guest DJ set we did with DJ 671, who organizes the Beat Swap Meet, he mentioned how he became a fan of little B-girl by the name of Goldi-Rocks from seeing her at the Beat Swap Meet. Here’s a video of her in action at the BSM, something that you’ll likely get to witness in person this Sunday!

JacarandaBloom

Jacaranda in Bloom – foto © David McNew

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

Jean Kassapian - The Snake - Kassap

Jean Kassapian – The Snake – Kassap

Jean Kassapian – The Snake

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

The Peppos and Jones Straightjacket Band - Humanity - Straightjacket

The Peppos and Jones Straightjacket Band – Humanity – Straightjacket

The Peppos and Jones Straightjacket Band – Humanity

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

Puzzle - Lady - Motown

Puzzle – Lady – Motown

Puzzle – Lady

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

Richard Menezes - Nova Jersey - Fono Press

Richard Menezes – Nova Jersey – Fono Press

Richard Menezes – Nova Jersey

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

Cheers,

Michael

FieldsEmma

Lee Fields & the Expressions – Still Gets Me Down

{Lee Fields and the Expressions perform at the Troubadour on June 28th here in Los Angeles!}

Lee Fields’ 2009 record My World is one of my favorite “retro-soul” records of the last 10 years. Faithful Man was a decent follow-up, but it probably wasn’t possible for me to fully appreciate that record coming after all the highs of My World. With the newly released Emma Jean, Lee Fields keeps the fires burning with a mostly mid/slower tempo record backed by the Expressions with a sound that sounds to my ears to be fuller and richer than with Faithful Man. Gone are many of the 70s sweet soul flourishes from the previous album, and we have a return to a more “southern soul” style of production, that better fits all the “Little JB” qualities of Fields voice, many of which are fully on display here on “Still Gets Me Down.” Stately work from a true soul survivor.

AmaranteKPFK

I’m still in disbelief that this session actually happened. It all seems like a dream, too beautiful to have occurred in real life. I’ve been a fan of Rodrigo Amarante’s music since 2008, when I first heard his song “Evaporar” from the Little Joy record. His music is deeply affecting and moving, particularly when it is performed as it was for our session, acoustically with just guitar and Amarante’s vocals. When music is this intimate, it almost feels like you’re experiencing something that you shouldn’t, as if you’re trespassing in someone’s back yard as they play their music on their back porch for the ones they love. Thankfully that is not actually the case, Amarante writes songs and performs to be heard by all who care to listen.

For us, Amarante plays 4 songs, “I’m Ready,” “O Cometa,” “Mon Nom” and “The Ribbon,” all of which are on his new album, Cavalo. However, on record there are added elements, and while all of the songs on record are very nicely put together, this session presents a stark contrast with them. Here in this performance you are left with Amarante stripped down to his essence, and the effect is stunningly beautiful. While the songs are certainly a treasure to behold, I’m also appreciative of Amarante’s openness in discussing the themes of the album, how they relate to his personal life and his personal beliefs about the nature of songwriting, performance and the role of the artist in society.

I still don’t have the proper words to describe how exceptionally powerful this music is. Every bit of praise I come up with still seems unable to full capture how I feel about Amarante’s songs. I’ve been blessed to have been involved with some remarkable artists over my 20+ years in radio, but I’m not sure if there’s a better session that I’ve done than this one. It was truly an honor and I feel profoundly privileged to have taken part in it. I hope those of you who listen to this session will share it with your friends and loved ones, and that you all appreciate it as much as I do. These songs and these sentiments are works of a rare and profound beauty, brought to life vividly by a remarkable musician, a true artist, Rodrigo Amarante.

Rodrigo Amarante on KPFK’s Melting Pot: Recorded 06-13-2014

DJ 671 KPFK

Beat Swap Meet is quite possibly the best record fair I’ve ever been lucky enough to attend. Certainly, there are plenty of records, but you can find quality records anywhere. What the Beat Swap Meet has that other record shows do not is personality and a culture. DJ 671, one of the organizers of the Beat Swap Meet joined us for a short chat about the event and also dropped a very “Melting Pot” kind of Guest DJ set, with a variety of styles, all mixed together expertly (and with some subtle politics and Father’s day tuneage thrown in). Due to time constraints we weren’t able to bring the entire set to you yesterday on-air, but here it is in its entirety. I’ll see you at the next Beat Swap Meet, (I should be spinning some tunes around 2-ish) coming this Sunday, June 22nd…just in time for the official start of Summer!

DJ 671 of the Beat Swap Meet Interview and Guest DJ Set on KPFK’s Melting Pot: 06-13-2014

Playlist:
1. Intro – The Musical Story of the Streets of Laredo (Aim)
2. Zero 7 – When it Falls (Elektra)
3. Bill Cosby – Section 9 (Capitol)
4. A Bird On a Poire – Mirabelle Mirabeau (Labels)
5. V/A – Papa Was A Rolling Stone (Analog Burners)
6. The Cool on Notes – You’re Never Too Young (Abstract Dance)
7. Pedro & Capricious – Superstition (Atlantic)
8. Break: Veterans Administration Public Service Announcements – Rehabilitation Qualification
9. Latimore – Yes We Can (Glades)
10. Jimmy McGriff – Sky Hawk (Lester Radio Corporation)
11. Brian Ellis feat. Egyptian Lover – Love Is (7″) (Voltaire)
12. The X-Man – That Body (Peoples Potential Unlimited)
13. Frank Zappa – I Come From Nowhere (Barking Pumpkin Records)

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Haven’t had too many shows like this, where we have two guests, but I’ve learned over the years to take the opportunities as they come and so for Father’s Day we had an interview and guest DJ set with DJ 671 of the Beat Swap Meet AND a interview & performance from Rodrigo Amarante! (separate posts to follow for both) Both are fantastic and are great representations of what I hope makes this show so special and are only possible because of the grand freedom I have to produce this program at KPFK. With 90+ minutes devoted to those two guests, my direct contribution is minimal, but very potent. The show begins with a tribute to one of the most unique male vocalists of all-time, the recently departed Little Jimmy Scott, a non-traditional Father’s Day tune from Tim Buckley perfectly complimented by Zara McFarlane at the end of that first set. I end with a track from guest Rodrigo Amarante’s debut solo record Cavalo, along with a song from Containe that popped into my mind after not hearing it for 15 years, and closes up with a George Jones song for my own Father, who’s love of Country music I refected when I was young, but appreciate now that I’m an adult. There are also some subtle Father’s Day elements in both the guest DJ set from DJ 671 and the performance from Amarante…all in all, one of my best shows since coming to KPFK, hope you enjoy it as much as I did putting it together!

Melting Pot on KPFK #167: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #167: Second Hour

Playlist: 06-15-2014
{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – 7” (Stax)

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Little Jimmy Scott – This Love Of Mine – The Source (Atlantic)
Tim Buckley – Dream Letter – Happy Sad (Elektra)
Zara McFarlane – You’ll Get Me In Trouble – If You Knew Her (Brownswood)

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DJ 671 – Interview & Guest DJ Set – Recorded Live At KPFK (KPFK Archives)
The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble – I.B. Struttin’ – 7” (Self-released)

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Rodrigo Amarante – Interview & Performance

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Rodrigo Amarante – Nada Em Vao – Cavalo (Easy Sound)
Containe – Only Cowards Walk Like Cowards – Only Cowards Walk Like Cowards (Enchante)
George Jones – Sometimes You Just Can’t Win – Trouble In Mind (United Artists)

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

ErasmoCover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Michael

zara

Zara McFarlane – Angie La La

{Zara McFarlane will be making her LA debut next week, Monday June 16th at the Blue Whale, along with DJs Jeremy Sole and Wiseacre of the Lift, not a show to be missed!!!}

I’ve been featuring quite a lot of the jazz releases that have come out here in 2014, in some cases redefining and expanding the drama, in other cases just showcasing the talent that remains within this artform. In the case of UK singer Zara McFarlane that extraordinary talent is evident within one second of hearing her voice. McFarlane seamlessly blends together several generations of jazz into a style that is wholly contemporary and also thoroughly timeless. If You Knew Her is Zara’s second release for Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood record label. The title of the record and the songs written and chosen for it are a tribute of sorts to the various women in Zara’s life and to the diversity of experience often overlooked in portrayals of Black women. Like the stylized artwork for the album, every song is a strong and memorable statement on that theme. It’s truly a blessing to be able to bear witness to such talent here at that start of what should be an exceptional career as a vocalist. I’ve listened to “Angie La La” dozens of times and I’m still not sure exactly what she does with her voice a couple minutes into the song, some kind of mix of Leon Thomas yodeling mixed with birdcalls. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a human being create those sounds, and hearing something legitimately novel, in a jazz record, here in 2014…that is really something else indeed, just like Zara McFarlane herself.

As a bonus, here’s Zara’s video for her version of the Junior Murvin reggae classic, “Police & Thieves”:

EilonKPFK

For the past three years I’ve been trying to set up an interview with Eilon Paz, the creative force behind one of my favorite websites, Dust and Grooves, only to strike out at the last minute. After years of unsuccessful attempts, I was finally able to bring him in for an interview to talk about his project and especially the recently released and absolutely fabulous book, Dust & Grooves: Adventures In Record Collecting, which features photos and stories Paz has accumulated over the past 6+ years. As you’ll hear in the interview, though we only had 30 minutes, we discussed a broad range of issues, including the origins of the project, how he chooses collectors, the gender dynamics and politics involved in collecting, the experience of bringing together communities of collectors in ways that they never had been before and his plans for the future.

One of the more interesting aspects of this project we discuss, and something that I really only fully realized once I got a look at this book, is how ultimately what is most interesting about a collection isn’t it’s size or the rarity of the records, it’s how that collection often connects to the individual’s life in unexpected ways. DustGroovesMix Some of the pictures really act as windows into the soul of these indivdiuals, as Paz gains access to perhaps their most personal space, the room where they keep and listen to their vinyl. Talking about these collections and getting a chance to view enlarged versions of the photos at an exhibit/book launch/vinyl party that took place after our interview inspired me to think about some of the stories behind some of the records I own. We’d originally planned on having Paz put together a guest DJ set, but ran out of time (next time for sure!) and during Sunday’s show my thoughts had only started to form around this set, so I decided to add the 45-minute mix (titled Collected Memories) to this post, and also share the stories behind these 10 records, how they came into my collection and what they mean to me.

Eilon Paz of Dust & Grooves Interview on KPFK’s Melting Pot: 06-05-2014
Collected Memories: An All Vinyl Mix Inspired By Dust And Grooves

Collected Memories: Tracklist and Notes

Mtume Umoja Ensemble – Alke-bulan: Land Of The Blacks

{I was first exposed to the music of the artist controlled label Strata East while I was hosting Stompin’ Grounds on WORT Madison. The station had something like 20 albums from the label and every single one of them was amazing. This copy came into my hands while looking through records at a store in Oakland called House Of Soul. I noticed that in addition to the records in the bins, there were 45s and LPs stacked haphazardly underneath the bins. Didn’t take long to dig up this rare double LP of spiritual jazz. The cover was in poor shape, with some severe water damage, but the LPs looked decent. I asked about buying it and the clerk said he didn’t know since it didn’t have a price tage and he’d have to call the owner. The first response from the Boss (who I later found out used to own one of favorite stores in Atlanta, Red, Beans & Rice) was something to the effect of “That records not supposed to be there,” but after a bit of sweet talk from me he decided to sell it and it’s been a prized possession in my collection every since.}

Jorge Ben – From Brazil (O Bidu Silencio No Brooklin) & Wilson Simonal – Wilson Simonal

{These two don’t follow each other in the mix, but they’re very much linked together as I’ve detailed before on this blog, here and here. Short version of those longer stories is that I picked up the Jorge Ben album at Amoeba in Berkeley, loved it dearly, but it was one of many records I sold in 2004. It was years and years before I broke down and decided to by another copy of it, opting to get the Brazilian version. I was shocked to discover that the music was completely different than what I remembered, I then bought the US version of the same album and the music was the same as the Brazilian copy, but still different than what I remembered. Listening to dubs of the original songs I finally put two and two together and realized that I had a mis-press which featured a collection of music from Wilson Simonal on the album instead of Jorge Ben. My guess is that these two records were pressed up at around the same time and so maybe there are a few mis-presses out there, or maybe that copy was unique. Both albums are stellar and I’m thankful to have solved the mystery}

Jean Kassapian – The Snake

{This one slithers it’s way into the mix between Jorge Ben and Wilson Simonal. Earlier this year I bought a 45 from an Ebay dealer who happened to be local and willing to hand off the 45 in person instead of sending it in the mail. When I arrived I noticed that there were boxes and boxes of 45s just lying around the place. He told me that the 45 I had bought had come from this collection and I convinced him to allow me to look through them to see if there was anything else I’d be interested in buying. Took a couple of days but I pulled out a few nice 45s, including this private press belly-dance shaker (I’ll actually be featuring this and a few others from this dig in a post in a couple weeks). When I showed the guy the ones I was interested in, he immediately took them to the back room and returned with prices based off of quick internet searches. Some of the prices must have been based on what some of these would have gone for in 2001, but were way inflated for today (for example, he wanted $100 for a Shadows Of Knight 45 that you can find for $10 or less), but through some intervention of the record gods, he wasn’t able to find information on this 45 and a couple others. It’s not that the information isn’t there, he just missed it. So, this one is one of my best digs, a super rare 45 that I got for $5, though it’s probably worth over $200.}

Booker Little – Booker Little

{If the Jean Kassapian is maybe my most recent steal, this record from Booker Little was the very first one. I started really seriously collecting vinyl in 1994/1995. One of my favorite dealers was a guy out in Brookhaven by the name of Bill Wolfe. He always had amazing records, stuff no one else ever had and they were almost always in perfect condition. His store was the one that nobody told anyone else about and you’d give a sideways glance if you ran into someone you knew when you were there. One Saturday morning he had a $1 record sale outside his store, with records that he clearly didn’t think were worth much and wouldn’t mix in with the gems he kept inside. Digging through those brought me this album from an artist who now is one of my all-time favorites. The cover had a major seam split and some other damage, but for the most part looked really good. The record itself looked beautiful. There’s just no reason this record should have been $1, even in this condition these days it would likely fetch $100-200. This Time record is the second rarest record in Little’s catalog and features work from the legendary Scott La Faro on bass, both artists tragically dying in the same year 1961, about a year after this was released. I don’t have a lot of stories digging up steals, nothing else as rare as this record and Kassapian mentioned above, these were definitely moments where good record Karma came through.}

Arnold Bean – Cosmic Bean

{This is a record I’ve featured here before, and one of the few records I’ve just gotten for free. I was expecting some crazy price, given that the store where I found it, Action Records (aka As The Record Turns aka A-1 Records), has some serious heavyweight pieces. Every time I’ve gone in there though, the owner has just thrown in one of the records I brought up to the counter. It’s not something he generally does when you see him at the PCC record swap, so I wasn’t expecting it at all, though I’m really thankful for it. “I Can See Through You” is one my favorite songs from this period of time.}

Cactus – Cactus

{As I’ve mentioned, “Can’t Judge A Book” was a song that I originally heard on WREK’s Stonehenge over 20 years ago, which was one of many shows I used to record on cassette while in High School. The tape ran out before the hosts mentioned what it was, so in those pre-Google days I was just left to wonder what the song was. I stepped up my efforts after getting to KALX Berkeley, playing it for other DJs (one of the rare times I stumped Matthew Africa) and even playing it on the air and asking listeners if they knew what the song was. Eventually I figured out two or three candidates based off of a industry book that listed song titles and the artist who had recorded them. The mystery was finally solved at The Record Man, which had all of the albums on the list and with a listening station allowed me to figure out which one it was. Remains one of my all-time favorite slices of brash and bloozy Rock’n’Roll…I especially love that the back cover suggests playing the album at a “high” level.}

Ohio Players – Ecstasy (Matthew Africa Edit)

{Probably the single most personal record in my collection is this dub plate that I made as a tribute to my friend Matthew Africa. Close to his death, Matthew was doing some of his best work as DJ, in terms of mixes and edits. This perfectly edited version of the far too short “Ecstasy” retains all of the charm of the original while expanding it into a 4 minute epic dance floor burner. One of the best moments of my entire DJ career was playing this at Funky Sole earlier in the year and having the response be just as ecstatic as the song itself.  Through another moment of good record karma, I actually ended up with two copies of this due to an imperceptible pressing issue on one. No other record in my collection means as much to me as this one.}

Leigh Stephens – Red Weather

{It doesn’t happen too often, but every know and again I’ll walk into a store and walk into a fantastic record that I’ve never heard before but immediately desire. One of the places this happened several times was at the “old” Records LA (The owner Scott Craig has essentially moved everything to the Last Bookstore in DTLA) but my favorite was walking into the store and about 30 seconds later Scott dropping the needle on a reissue of this album from former Blue Cheer member Leigh Stephens. I really dig psychedelic rock, have since growing up listening to Hendrix and making cassettes of 96 Rock’s Psychedelic Saturday. When all of those washes of feedback and those heavy drums came through the speakers, I couldn’t even concentrate on looking at the other records, I had to know what the album was. When I found out it was a reissue, I immediately went about tracking down an original. I trip out that if I had left home later, or gotten stuck in traffic and arrived at the store 15 or 20 minutes later, or hadn’t even bothered to have gone that day, I would have never known about what now is one of my favorite psych records of all-time.}

Billy Harper – Capra Black

{Another record I’ve talked about here and how this is one of many records that reminds me of Matthew Africa, since Harper was one of our favorite Saxophonists and we discussed him at length and saw him perform in the Bay Area. What I didn’t mention is that this was actually the very first album I ever bought off of the internet. At the time Ubiquity/Luv’n’Haight records had an online storefront that not only featured their music, but also rarer things. Having heard this album through the aforementioned WORT Library, when I saw it listed online I snatched it up immediately. What I didn’t realize is that I had bought the album from Cool Chris of Groove Merchant, until he mentioned it during a conversation we were having years after that. This record symbolizes not only the friendship I had with Matthew, but it also highlights just how important this music and these records have been in shaping my life. When I was admitted to Berkeley, the #1 thing I was excited about was being able to go to Groove Merchant. Chris was actually the first person I knew in California, even before I moved there for Graduate School. As mentioned above, when I started to think of the records I have as not only music that I enjoy but as a source of collected memory, memories of finding the albums, memories of conversations about music, of friendships built around shared passions for music, it is really true that our collections tell stories about our life, big thanks to Eilon Paz for digging up those stories and thank you all for listening to mine.}

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