Thursday, March 31, 2005

posted by O.W.

Rosa Batiste: Hit & Run
from 7" (Revilot, 196?). Also available on The Golden Torch Story.

Jimmy James & the Vagabonds: Ain't No Big Thing
From New Religion (Piccadilly, 1966). Also available on A Treasury of Northern Soul Vol.2

The Mylestones: The Joker
From 7" (Andre, 196?). Also available on Soul Function.

*Editor's Note: A few weeks ago, I created a suggestion box for Soul Sides. One of the first people to reply was Ian, who threw out the idea of a post on Northern Soul. I know a little about the scene but not nearly enough to write something of substance so I asked Ian if he'd be gracious enough to pen a post for us. Here then is Ian's reflections on Northern Soul for Soul Sides. We "Wigan" out - ha ha ha, I'll shut up now. - O.W.

Being just too young to ever attend one of the legendary homes of the Northern Soul scene my fascination for The Torch was initially born out of my Father's warnings that the place was best avoided. Each Saturday we would shop in Tunstall, one of the Five Towns that make up the City of Stoke on Trent or Soul-on-Trent as the stickers on the Mod scooters would have it. My Grandma lived just around the corner from Hose street where the Torch was situated and it seemed every time we walked past my Dad would warn me that bad things happened there.

My initiation into Soul music was still a couple of years away. My early teens saw my Friday nights spent at the youth club disco at just about the time the Torch was closing for the last time. Still, the legacy of Soul Music had been laid in the city. It was all a very brief part of my musical education but one that would return a few years later, after my school days' flirtation with Rock had worked its way through my system.

The records are so numerous that it hardly seems right to name just a few. Just where do you start? Classic after classic - there was always the Motown hits that everyone knew, but interspersed in between were wondrous 2 or 3 minute gems that set the dancefloor spinning, literally. They were sounds not only of lesser known Motown artists but singers and groups that recorded on smaller labels that dreamt of following Motown's success.

Alas, most of these records ended up in American bargain bins - that is, until a handful of DJs and collectors arrived from an Underground movement to rescue them and turn them into dancefloor hits and valued collectors items. They came from the North West of the country, in towns and cities like Manchester, Wigan, Blackpool and Stoke on Trent. Clubs like The Torch, Twisted Wheel, and Wigan Casino. The movement was very much about dancing, dancing in a manner that pre-dates break dancing and incorporates Jazz style moves and even signs of influence that can be attributed to the cult of Kung Fu movies of the time.

The tracks I have chosen are best listened to on the Dancefloor. I have been shamefully selfish and picked three personal favourites.

Interesting Links

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

posted by O.W.

I look at who links to Soul Sides from time to time. I came upon this post at Professor Amardeep Singh's blog:
    "Funk You, 20 Jazz Funk Greats, and Soul Sides tend to put up MP3s that are copyright protected, and then take them down very quickly.

    I'm enjoying the music, though I'm not sure how I feel about the strategy. This class of podcaster isn't really harming anyone, since the majority of what they offer is either out of print or quite difficult to find. No CDs are being not being bought that would have been bought otherwise. (In Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture taxonomy, they are "Category D" [see chapter 4 of Lessig's book])

    Still, it would be better if these sites were able to pay a licensing fee to a centralized location, and then keep their offerings up permanently, without fear of attracting a lawsuit. Here's to hoping Lessig's manifesto for a saner licensing system comes to pass. (Without it, I don't see how the above sites, as excellent as they are, can continue for very long)"

In respectful response to Prof. Singh's points:

1) Actually, I leave the Podcasts up permanently but I take down sound files. In a day and age where RIAA is trigger-happy, there's no reason NOT to be more careful.

2) More to the point, audioblogging - to me - is closer to a new variation on pirate radio than it is to an audio archive. The issue here isn't just one of licensing - though obviously, that's a large part of it. I think Prof. Singh forgets to take into account that an ever-growing archive of sound files taxes storage space and more importantly bandwidth.

The latter is actually far, far bigger of a concern for the average audioblogger than licensing. It's one thing to have 10 songs available on any given time, but after two months, that could conceivably grow to 80 songs. Multiply that by how many downloads you're likely to receive per day, plus anywhere from 2-4MB per song and you get the idea. It's not a surprise that smaller audioblogs - suddenly inundated by a rush of traffic - get shutdown by their hosts for exceeding bandwidths.

I can appreciate that people want audioblogs to keep content up longer but the idea of content-on-demand, while it works for pay-per-view cable, iTunes, and other corporate media companies, isn't remotely within reach of hobbyists like myself and practically every independent audioblog out there. Even Music-For-Robots and - the two biggest ones out there, sites that actually license the songs they carry - don't archive. I don't know this for a fact, but I think bandwidth - along with philosophical stances - has much to do with it.

I do agree with Prof. Singh - it would be a boon to have a central licensing clearinghouse but music publishing is such an incredibly byzantine system that such an entity for older music would be pragmatically impossible. I could see it for newer music, but it'd require ASCAP and BMI and other publishing companies to collaborate. Again, unlikely.

Most of all, I don't know what to make of the comment, "I don't see how the above sites, as excellent as they are, can continue for very long." The ability of these sites to continue is largely dependent on human interest (ours) more than legal concerns - at least at this point.

Obviously, the current case before the Supreme Court around P2P networks shows that the issue of file-sharing is at the forefront of both industry and legal concerns but I don't see this touching the audioblog sphere in the immediate future.

In the meantime: listen on.

posted by O.W.

Jeremy Steig: Waves
From Wayfaring Stranger (Blue Note, 1970)

Freddy Robinson: River's Invitation
From Off the Cuff (Enterprise, 1973)

*The Boogaloo Podcast Pt. 3 is forthcoming, most likely by the end of the week

Three things (at least) these two songs have in common:

1) Water themes.
2) Sampled by Hieroglyphics' members (Del and Casual respectively).
3) (most importantly) Basslines that rawk.

The first two are coincidental, the third purposeful. A good bassline is the best of both worlds - melody + rhythm, a hook that hits you deep in the gut, pulling on you to move with its groove. These two are among my favorites (though by no means, the only ones I'll be highlighting in the future).

As a general rule, I don't find the flute to be a particularly funky instrument (and yes, I know about Harold Alexander. And Bjorn Lindh) but occassionally, you find a few tracks that will make you change your mind. "Waves," fits the bill - it's not one of the Blue Note soul jazz canon that typically gets comped but the bassline, the drums, Steig's darting flute (pause) all combine to make for a enjoyably slick slice of flute funkiness.

That said, it seems a bit like piffle compared to the monster roll of blues guitarist Freddy Robinson and his "River's Invitation." That opening bassline has such an incredibly wide sound, threatning to swallow all in its path. Robinson's pluckings and earthy vocals complete the package. (By the way, Monk Higgins, one of the most underrated soul jazz producers out there, is behind this Robinson album. Be assured, the Monk with the funk deserves his own series of posts and that's something I'll be putting together).

Friday, March 25, 2005

posted by O.W.

Soul Sides Podcast - Boogaloo Special (Part 2 of 3)

Included songs:
    Tito Puente: Fat Mama
    From 20th Anniversary (Tico, 1967)

    Celia Cruz: Tumbaloflesicodelicomicoso
    From Serenata Guajira (Tico, 1968)

    Ray Barretto: Deeper Shade of Soul
    From Acid (Fania, 1968)

    Bobby Valentin: Batman's Boogaloo
    From Young Man With a Horn (LP/CD) (Fania, 1965)

    Gilberto Sextet: Good Lovin'
    From The Groovy Sounds of the Gilberto Sextet (Cotique, 196?)

    All above songs available on The Rough Guide to Boogaloo (2005)
Part 2 of the Soul Sides Boogaloo Podcasts looks at the spread of boogaloos from the mid-to-late 1960s, especially how it took off amongst more established Latin artists (many of whom initially dismissed the boogaloo as a passing fad).

*There's one factual error on this Podcast that I wasn't able to correct since I caught it while I'm currently out of town...Barretto's Acid was from 1968, not 1972.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

posted by O.W.

Soul Sides Podcast - Boogaloo Special (Part 1 of 3)

Included songs:
I initially discovered boogaloo about five years ago when a DJ friend of mine played me some songs by Monguito Santamaria. From there, I was hooked on the genre and have spent the last few years patiently collecting boogaloo albums and compilations when possible.

It's a genre that, for long time, didn't get much respect. Latin purists treated it as a pop fad - beneath the majesty of the mambo and older, more classic Laitn dances. Certainly, the boogaloo was a fad-driven music - blazing hot in 1966 and then tapering into oblivion by the late '60s. However, that doesn't automatically make it bad. The reason why boogaloos were so popular was because dancers loved the easy accessibility of the boogaloo rhythm - usually a simple 4/4 dressed up with tasty piano and brass riffs.

I recently reviewed the new Rough Guide to Boogaloo for NPR and wanted to expand on it vis a vis a few podcasts that call attention to the genre and its legacy. Today's podcast is an introduction to the boogaloo, its history and sound. Next time, I'll discuss the evolution of the boogaloo and its phenomenal growth in the mid-1960s. My third podcast will examine the lingering influence of the boogaloo as was as showcase a few of my favorites.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

posted by O.W.

Blender Magazine (thanks Doug) was kind enough to list Soul Sides as one of its audioblogs to check out (tied for #2, behind Tofuhut. We ain't mad at that).

Just to clear up a few things for those coming here for the first time:

1) Despite our name, we don't really specialize in '60s and '70s soul, though certainly, soul serves as an inspiration and blueprint behind much of the music we do deal in here. I've never done, for example, a Chi-Lites post. Or hell, even an Al Green post (the latter is coming sometime soon though). On the flipside, I have a boogaloo podcast coming down the way and of course, you'll always find an assortment of funk, jazz, hip-hop and other musical curiosities.

2) I don't own every soul record ever released. But I wouldn't mind to.

3) I politely ask that strangers NOT email me to either ask for sonsg requests or information on how to find obscure 12"s and LPs.

4) However, if you have suggestions for themes, I'm open to that. I've created a suggestions box for theme ideas and equally important: if you're interested in doing a guest post for Soul Sides, leave a comment with your idea and contact info on that page. Please don't email me with it though.



posted by O.W.

Mix Master Spade and Compton Posse: Genius Is Back
From 12" (LA Posse, 1988)

First, Mixmaster Spade was reported to have died in a motorcycle accident.
Then it was corrected: he had been injured, but hadn't died.
Now, it seems, he really has passed.
Real, rumor? At this point, we're still reeling over Lyn Collins.

Spade is one of those unsung, behind-the-scenes players in the L.A. rap scene. Not a household name (outside of LA) but if you trace the history of hip-hop in the Southland, his influence has been undeniable. Jeff Chang talks a good deal about Spade in Can't Stop, Won't Stop and there's also this 2004 interview by the Poetess with the Mixmaster.

Spade released a few 12"s back in the late '80s on the LA Posse imprint (lime green = noice). "Genius is Back" features a few of Spade's protoges, including King Tee and DJ Pooh (the latter who helped produce this single). The beat is "Genius of Love" by the Tom Tom Club and it's funny that Spade shouts out Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, the East Coast rap duo who also cut a song set to "Genius of Love" the year prior. I just wish they had kept that "Rocksteady" intro break throughout the song - hot way to kick shit off, especially with that 808 kick.

*sigh* One of these weeks, I'd love to NOT have to do a tribute post.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

posted by O.W.

Pleasure: Reality
From Dust Yourself Off (Fantasy, 1975)

Coke Escovedo: I Wouldn't Change a Thing
From Comin At Ya (Mercury, 1976). Also on Ultimate Beats and Breaks Vol. 13

First of all, as has widely been reported now, the rumors were true. Lyn Collins did pass away over the weekend, apparently having choked to death during a meal. Truly tragic but if there's anything good to be said here, it's that Collins was still performing, doing what she loved to do.

For today's post, I decided to dip into the mid-70s. Some conventional "diggin" wisdom says that there's no good funk music after 1975 but frankly, that's patent nonsense. It's just that the sound evolved from the sparser funk of the late '60s and into more sophisticated productions. Take "Reality," by Pleasure - you can hear a lot of Earth, Wind and Fire influence as the group balances a full brass section, rock guitars, percussion, etc. The package comes together beautifully - dense but not overly fussy.

I've owned this Coke Escovedo album for years but I never really listened to it and I could have kicked myself for not realizing that "I Wouldn't Change a Thing" comes from it. I've known the song since it's a breakbeat classic (not to mention a gorgeous proto-disco jam) but I forgot where it came from. What I enjoy about "Change" is the feel-good vibe that powers it - it's the musical distillation of a sunny day, cool breeze and some swaying palm trees.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

posted by O.W.

Lyn Collins: Think (About It)
From Think (About It) (People, 1972)

Lyn Collins: Mama Feelgood
From Black Caesar (Polygram, 1973)

Lyn Collins: Put It On the Line
From Check Me Out If You Don't Know Me By Now (People, 1975)

I received some troubling news through the Soul Sides grapevine (thanks to Matt R.) that Lyn Collins had passed away over the weekend. This is one of those "I heard it from someone who heard it from someone" rumors so I'm hoping it's not actually true, especially since Collins was only 57 years old. So, therefore, let's not consider this post an homage to the passed, but rather a tribute to the living memory of Collins - whom we hope is alive and healthy.

Of the various female voices who helped front for Brown over the years, Collins was part of the most important triumvirate that includes Marva Whitney and Vicki Anderson. Collins hails from Abeline, TX which is where she first met up with JB, having sent the star a demo tape in the late '60s. At the time, Whitney was still Brown's main divbut when she left the group (supposedly for both personal and career reasons), Collins was brought into the fold but couldn't step up as the first lady in the crew until Anderson, in 1971, also took leave of the group.

It's arguable who among the three was the best singer but Collins was the indisputable hit-maker among them. She only released two albums (plus a string of 7"s) but they were enough to cement Collins as one of the top female funkateers of the '70s. Her biggest hit - for today's audiences - was from 1972, the ultra-super-duper-funky "Think." Let's just put aside the fact that it became the (initially uncleared) sample behind Rob Base and DJ E.Z. Rock's huuuuuuge 1988 smash, "It Takes Two." "Think" is as definitive a funk bomb as you could hope to engineer - from the opening monologue, to the righteous rhythm the JBs lay down, to that sublime chorus and subsequent bridge - there's just no way this song wasn't going to blow people's heads in 1972, 1992, or 2052.

"Mama Feelgood," an apt description for Collins herself, came off the Black Caeser soundtrack and it's another uptempo cooker - check how the horns go one-on-one with Collins' own blaring vocals. However, Collins could do more than just screech on cue - "Put It On the Line" showcases her more sultry side (is it me or does this song sound a lot like Moses Dillard's "I've Got to Find a Way").

In any case, Soul Sides sends their best to Collins and her family, hoping that rumors are just...rumors.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

posted by O.W.

Apart from being one of America's leading scholars and pundits on Black public culture, Mark Anthony Neal is also a music junkie at the core. I had approached him a few months ago to collabo on some Soul Sides post but with his busy schedule, writing about a book a month (or so it seems), he couldn't commit to anything right away. Then I saw this posting from last month - part of his Critical Noir columns for AOL's Black Voices site: Revolutionary Mixtape -- Songs That Made the Movement. It was great column about the intersection beteween the Black Civil Rights and Power Movements and the music of those eras. However, for a mixtape, there wasn't any, you know, actual music to go along with the column.

That's where we come in. So here it is, the Revolutionary Mixtape Revisted (done with M.A.N.'s permission):
    Originally written by Mark Anthony Neal, Feb. 2005

    "The spirits do not descend without music" -- Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones), 'Blues People'

    Does the movement make the music or does the music make movement? It is a classic chicken-before-the-egg question that has challenged scholars of history and critics of popular music for some time. There's little doubt though, that for the descendents of formerly enslaved Africans in the United States, music has been a vital aspect of their experience. More so than the literature or visual art and dance that have captured our experience, music has been the primary repository for our anger, fears, desires, pleasures, hope and spiritual beliefs. If you want to get a sense of where the black community at large is at any given time, just listen to our music. This was never more the case during the era of the civil rights and Black Power movements when songs like 'We Shall Overcome' and 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' were the only armor that marchers wore. Below is a mixtape of the songs that made the movement.

    '(I Wish I Knew How) It Would Feel to Be Free' -- Nina Simone
    From Heart and Soul (RCA, 1972). Also available on Anthology.

    Many of the hard-core activists from the period, including the late Kwame Toure (Stokley Carmichael), considered Nina Simone the "voice" of the civil rights movement. While a track like 'Mississippi Goddamn' captures the anger that often surfaced in Simone's personality, it is the more restrained '(I Wish I Knew How) It Would Feel to Be Free' (written by Dr. Billy Taylor) that really captures the emotions of the period.

    'We're a Winner' -- The Impressions
    From We're a Winner (ABC, 1968)

    With classic recordings like 'Keep on Pushin',' 'Amen' and 'People Get Ready,' Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions helped to mainstream the ideas of the civil rights movement with non-threatening pop anthems. Perhaps this is why so many folk were in a tizzy when Mayfield's music became more concretely political beginning with 'We're a Winner' -- some stations refused to play the song. It was no longer about a "piece of the pie"; Mayfield was talking about a "takeover."

    'Young, Gifted and Black' -- Aretha Franklin
    From Young, Gifted and Black (Atlantic, 1972)

    When you are arguably the most important black female vocalist of the 20th century (Billie Holiday notwithstanding) and you were literally raised in the bosom of the movement (courtesy of your daddy The Rev. C.L. Franklin), every note you sing is gonna take on an enhanced significance. And indeed, throughout the 1960s Aretha's voice was used in the service of the movement many times. But her most political recording didn't come until 1972 with the release of 'Young, Gifted and Black.' It was Franklin's rendition of the title track -- a song written and initially performed by Simone in tribute to her friend, the late playwright Lorraine Hansberry -- that lit a fire in the still emerging post-civil rights generation as witnessed by John Singleton's use of the song in the film 'Higher Learning.'

    'A Change Is Gonna Come' -- Sam Cooke
    From Ain't That Good News (RCA, 1964)

    With the exception of Ms. Billie's 'Strange Fruit' or Coltrane's 'Alabama,' there is perhaps no other song recorded by an African American in the 20th century that makes you stop dead in your tracks the way Sam Cooke's 'A Change Is Gonna Come' does. Mournful, sullen and majestic, the song was Cooke's final gift to a movement that was losing dreamers to shotgun blasts by the day.

    'I Don't Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door, I'll Get It Myself)' -- James Brown
    From Sex Machine (Polydor, 1970)

    JB's 'Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)' seems like a more obvious choice, even with the little Asian-American and Caucasian kids who sang background on the tune. Whereas 'Say It Loud' was a popular "feel good" anthem, JB's more pronounced Black Nationalist do-for-self politics was on display with 'I Don't Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door, I'll Get It Myself).'

    'Express Yourself' -- Charles Wright and the 103rd Street Rhythm Band
    From Express Yourself (Warner Bros, 1969)

    Throughout the 1970s Gamble and Huff revolutionized the concept of politics on the dance floor. But years earlier it was a slice of West Coast funk from Charles Wright that captured the style politics of the generation that emerged in the aftermath of the marches, sit-ins and murders. This "free to be black and me" anthem would be recovered nearly two decades later when Dr. Dre paid tribute to Wright with N.W.A.'s version of the song.

    'Walk Tall (live)' -- Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
    From Country Preacher (Capitol, 1969)

    Back when our man Jesse Jackson Sr. was lovingly known as the "Country Preacher" he often opened up Operation Breadbasket offices to the popular musicians of the day. In October 1969 it was Cannonball Adderley's funky soul-jazz that was in the house. Rev. Jackson's introduction to 'Walk Tall' is worth the price of admission alone.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

LAST NITE (3 of 3)
posted by O.W.

The Nite-Liters: Valdez in the Country
From Analysis (RCA, 1973)

New Birth: Honeybee
From Ain't No Big Thing But It's Growing (RCA, 1971)

To get the background on The Nite-Liters, start here.

Like most of the Nite-Liters LPs, it's hard to pick just one song to highlight off of Analysis. The really bombastic cut is "Damn" but I'm not going to pass up the opportunity to show love for a Nite-Liters song that covers Donny Hathaway. "Valdez in the Country" is such a great composition - I've yet to hear a bad version of the song. Seriously, how great is this track? So soulful...

Speaking of which, I'd describe "Valdez in the Country" "soulful funk," and the inverse (funky soul) applies to "Honeybee," a song from the New Birth's 1971 album. As noted before, Harvey Fuqua created the New Birth using members of the Nite-Liters but their sound was closer to conventional soul music of the era (not that this is a bad thing). The song is incredible, especially with how it opens with the bee buzzes and that deep, dark bassline (Rza, holla).

Hope everyone enjoyed this taste of the Nite-Liters - luckily, all of their albums (and most of the New Birth LPs) are all available on reissue these days. Start your collection today.

Monday, March 07, 2005

MORE NITE (2 of 3)
posted by O.W.

The Nite-Liters: Bakers Instant
From Instrumental Directions (RCA, 1972)

The Nite-Liters: Do the Granny
From Different Strokes (RCA, 1972)

To get the background on The Nite-Liters, start here.

Originally, I was going to post the best known hit from the Nite-Liters' Instrumental Directions LP - "Afro Strut" but then I remembered, I actually had it up back in August of last year. Still, I was torn because "Afro Strut" is so kick ass, it's hard to deny it simply out of concern for being redundant. On the other hand, as one of the group's biggest singles, it's not that hard to track down the song other places and in the interests of keeping things new, I went with one of the Nite-Liters' slept-on (IMO) songs - "Bakers Instant," a sly, mid-tempo groover that reminds me of "Down and Dirty" but it's deceptively more frenetic in its own way. Plus it boasts a superb drum solo at the end.

"Do the Granny" is probably my favorite song by the Nite-Liters: I love how it builds with the guitars patiently but then drops in that massive drum fill and those thunderous basslines. Put this in your car, crank the volume as high as you can and just wait for that moment to come. Gets me. Every. Time. BLOWE!

By the way, one of my favorite audioblogs, Evigan Funk, is no more. The good news is that Evigan's poster, Junior, has now migrated over to Ear Fuzz.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

posted by O.W.

The Nite-Liters: Down and Dirty
From S/T (RCA, 1970)

The Nite-Liters: K-Jee
From Morning, Noon and Nite-Liters (RCA, 1971)

I had been meaning to do a Nite-Liters series of posts for the longest - ever since I posted up a song by Harvey Fuqua's Moonglows back in October. However, when our good friend over at Moistworks recently posted up the Nite-Liters' "Tanga Goo Bonk" (as part of a Brand Nubian inspired series), it got me off my ass and into the crates.

In general, I don't recommend that aspiring collectors become completionists - to track down every single album/record associated with an artist is seriously some anal-retentive, nerded-out habit. Believe me, I can understand and appreciate the impulse, but all it's really guaranteed to do is deplete your wallet in search for ephemera you don't really need except for the sake of having it.

That said, if you're going to be a completionist for any particular funk group, may I recommend the Nite-Liters? Actually, I'd first recommend the three Meters albums on Josie but technically speaking, if you were a real completionist, you'd also have to pick up the Meters albums on Island and I don't know if I can recommend that in good conscience. However, the Nite-Liters makes it easy for you: just five albums, all on RCA, all good, at times, bordering on straight up great.

While there are some Nite-Liters albums with vocals, they were primarily an instrumental outfit, produced by the aforementioned Harvey Fuqua who would go onto to bigger fame by splicing off members of the Nite-Liters and plugging them into a group called New Birth that would have a string of R&B hits in the mid-to-late '70s. The Nite-Liters are not what you'd call obscure - they were on RCA after all, no tiny indie label in the '70s - but they're not dollar bin common either and though they had a few hits along the way, I hardly think they're overexposed and I definitely think they're underappreciated.

Basically, on every single Nite-Liters album, you were guaranteed at least one really, really great funk song and on most of their albums, you might actually get two, three or even more. That kind of consistency over five albums may not seem as impressive compared to the massiveness of James Brown's output but apart from big guns like Brown, Sly Stone, EW&F, P-Funk, etc. it's pretty hard to find that many groups that 1) even had the opportunity to release more than one or two albums and 2) managed to make all of them worth owning.

Fuqua has one of the truly storied careers in R&B history and I don't think I can do it proper justice except to say that he's had over five decades of experience in the industry and has worked with giants in the field, most famously Marvin Gaye. You can read up more at his own homepage. In regards to the Nite-Liters (aka Nightlighters), I don't think it's an insult to suggest that Fuqua's sound - as a producer and arranger - is JB-influenced. You can hear it in his short, snappy arrangements, in his extensive use of brass, in the thick, rolling rhythms he lays on many of his songs. However, "influenced" doesn't mean "cloned" and Fuqua had a very distinctive sound for the Nite-Liters that carries across the 50+ songs they recorded between 1970-73. In fact, it bespeaks how far and wide Fuqua's influence would become that I've seen Nite-Liters songs covered by groups in Peru, the Philippines, and Chile (seriously. It's crazy), not to mention sampled by Brand Nubian, Positive K, Dr. Dre, etc.

Start with "Down and Dirty," from their debut, self-titled album. Slick and smoky, it kicks off beautifully with that guitar line and then lays down some chattering drums. Altogether, a great dancefloor cut. Even better is "K-Jee," arguably the group's biggest single (from their 2nd LP). This time, the Nite-Liters put the horns up first with a signature melodic line that powers the song throughout. It's uptempo and boasts some sparkling flair and pizzaz.

Next post: two more songs from the Nite-Liters third and fourth LPs respectively, including that classic of geriatic-inspired funkitude: "Do the Granny."


Friday, March 04, 2005

posted by O.W.

J.J. Johnson: Parade Strut
From Willie Dynamiate (MCA, 1974)

Isaac Hayes: Breakthrough
From Truck Turner (Stax, 1974)

Mystery Track
From LP (?: 197?)

The Willie Dynamite soundtrack isn't the best blaxploitation album ever recorded but it's far from the worse and more to the point, it boasts "Parade Strut." The blend of military march with the funk syncopation is fantastic - it's like the prototype for what Destiny's Child's "Lose My Breath" tries to attain.

Listening to it spurred a memory of how good Isaac Hayes' "Breakthrough" is, a wicked breakbeat laden song from the Truck Turner soundtrack. Aren't the drums incredible? Their sharpness, crispness, how they just chill in the pocket like it ain't no thing. I wonder if Bob Powers grew up listening to stuff like this.

The last song is a mystery cut I pulled from (if I recall correctly) a Canadian record. Not a soundtrack technically but the songs off of it have the same kind of random-yet-not-random quality that I associate with soundtracks. This is a snippet taken from one of the longer songs on the LP and I like its twitchy quality - super-funky and amped up, like a good chase scene down an alley, ending in some smoked-filled bar. Or something like that.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

posted by O.W.

In doing some long-awaited house cleaning, I updated my blog roll and wanted to draw attention to new blogs from the last month or so:
  • The Ten Thousand Things is from Blake Leyh, who, among many other things, also happens to be the music supervisor for The Wire, aka "the best goddamn show on television." Basically, you know if this guy is going through the trouble of creating an audioblog, he's going to post up some good music.
  • Club Lonely is a group music blog (ala Music-For-Robots) brought in super-sparse style by some of the same cats who run I'm So Sincurr and other sites.
  • Steady Bootleggin comes from the same mind who brought us A Tribute To Ignorance (so necessary). Every post is tied to a theme - right now, he's got great songs from bad movies. Hot.
  • Monkeyfunk. As the name suggests, they're coming with funky material. Right now, they have one of my favorite female soul songs: Ann Sexton's "You're Gonna Miss Me".
  • Playhouse Down mixes up jazz, rock, soul, etc.
  • Low End Theory. Devoted to, the art of moving butts.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

posted by O.W.

Alice Babs: Been to Canaan
From Music With a Jazz Flavor (Swedish Society, 1973)

Edna Wright: Oops, Here I Go Again
From Oops, Here I Go Again (RCA, 1976). Also available on Vibe 2.

I've been hoarding dozens of LPs and singles to put together a future "sister soul" mix but I wanted to let a few tracks out the bag in the meantime.

"Been to Canaan" falls into the category of "awesome jazz dance songs" (remember Lyn Marino's "Feelin' Good"? Yeah, like that). Alice Babs' career began early - she was recording in the late '30s as a teenager and over time, became one of the first ladies of song throughout Europe, especially in her home country of Sweden. This cut is - surprise, surprise - the only real uptempo song off the Music with Jazz Flavor LP (why is it always like that?) - a real burner. The horns that drop in after the first chorus are a nice bonus.

The most distinctive part to Edna Wright's "Oops, Here I Go Again," isn't Wright so much as those guitars that begin the song (De La alert!) Mezmerizing. Rest of the song is just fine too - Wright's best known for her days leading the Honey Cones so you know she's got her soul chops down. By the way, is it me or does this song sound like it could have been a prototype for so-called "modern soul" from the early '80s? First time I heard it, I would've sworn it was from '81, not '76.