Monday, October 31, 2005

posted by O.W.

Diamond and the Psychotic Neurotics: Best Kept Secret (45 King Remix)
From 12" (Chemistry/Mercury, 1993)

YZ: Maflobi Pimp Strut
From 12" (Tuff City, 1994)

The 45 King remix of Diamond D's "Best Kept Secret" is one of those cuts that seem to exist only to mock people with its rarity. I mean, if the remix was wacktacular, then the fact that it only appears on promo copies of the "Sally Got a One Track Mind" 12" wouldn't be such a big deal. Unfortunately, the remix is rather awesome and for fans of both Diamond and the 45 King, it's worth the hunt (I can't say the same about the expense. Hip-hop prices are reeeeediculous these days. (On that note, I have an extra copy of this 12" for anyone who wants to trade me their copy of 45 King/Latee's "Brainstorm").

I can't tell if YZ's "Maflobi Pimp Strut" is a remix or not. It's not listed as such on the 12" but the beginning of the song (cut off here) has YZ saying, "it's the's the remix" so go figure. I like the production on this cut - very early '90s NYC with its jazzy loop...though not really YZ's best lyrical material. Still, it was a random 12" that I had never really gotten into and I find it worth a listen (even if I have no idea what "Maflobi" is supposed to be..."my flow be" perhaps?)

Friday, October 28, 2005

posted by O.W.

Johnny Frigo/Gus Giordano: Apollo + Black Sound
From Afro-American Jazz Dance (Orion, 197?). "Apollo" also available on Collected Works.

For rare groove collectors, jazz dance albums fall into a similar category as so-called "sound library" records: highly specialized, off-the-beaten path, and at times, a revealing and compelling listen. The thing about both kinds of albums is that the studio bands hired for them are not under any kind of commercial pressure to make "hits" that follow any formulaic impression. On the other hand, given their purpose, they're not trying to go all avant garde either. You'll find interesting, even inventive grooves that balance a loose, creative spark with a nod towards accessibility.

In any case, there are a few staple jazz dance labels and artists, including Hoctor, Statler, and Orion - the latter being the home for many albums by band leader Johnny Frigo and constant collaborator, dance instructor Gus Giordano. Ubiquity Records released a solid anthology that collected about a dozen Frigo/Giordano songs. Their work was impressively diverse in sound, ranging from the funky chatter of "Scorpio" to Afro-Latin jazz of "The Arabian" to the included cut above, "Apollo." It's a lovely, easy-tempo tune built of some slick guitar work reminiscent of Wes Montgomery. Same goes for "Black Sound," which is on the B-side of the Afro-American Jazz Dance LP. Super-mellow and I like all the subtle conga work layered underneath.

Two trivia points: First of all, there is a song on the A-side called "White Sound." I don't know if the color-coding is meant to reflect some kind of racial sensibility (not that I could tell from listening to both). Second, I've had a different version of this album for over a's entitled "Afro-American Jazz Rhythms," has a different cover and the A-side is the same as the above album but the B-side is totally different (and thus, does not include "Black Sound").

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

posted by O.W.

Dionne Warwick: You're Gonna Need Me
From Just Being Myself (Warner Bros, 1973)

Dee Dee Warwick: I'm Glad I'm a Woman
From 7" (B-side of "Suspicious Minds") (Atco, 1971)

This Dionne Warwick is one of the most amazing songs I've heard in a long, long, long time. I put it on repeat and literally was listening to it over and over for hours. I was trying to figure out how to articulate just what makes it so perfect - Holland-Dozier's amazing arrangement, Dionne's piercing vocals - but really, you just know it's that good when you listen to it. It's catapulted to the very top of my "favorite soul songs of all time." I just can't believe I never heard it until recently (thanks HHH for putting me up on it).

As for the Dee Dee Warwick - on any other day, Dionne's younger sister wouldn't be forced to play the second fiddle role: I like a lot of her songs and this one is no exception: a very well-down soul blaster by the undersung vocalist. However, like the Dee Edwards, the songwriting is a bit too fawning over the male species; it's like a cheesier version of Aretha's "Feel Like a Natural Woman": I mean, you should never have a line about bringing someone coffee in bed and then rhyming that with "run my fingers through his head." That said, it's still a nice song. But Dee Dee ain't no Dionne today!

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Monday, October 24, 2005

posted by O.W.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five: Superappin'
From 12" (Enjoy, 1979). Also on The Best of Enjoy.

Afrika Bambaataa and the Jazzy 5: Jazzy Sensation (Bronx Mix)
From 12" (Tommy Boy, 1981). Also on Tommy Boy's Greatest Beats Vol. 2.

Both songs taken from Genius of Rap (Island UK, 1982)

I came upon Genius of Rap, an early hip-hop compilation (reviewed back in '82 by Robert Christgau), at the Groove Merchant. Besides including two of my favorite old school rap songs (above), it also comes with a "do it yourself" second disc of instrumental beats (alas, not particularly good ones) for you to channel your inner DJ Hollywood over.

When I was still in my old school infancy, coming upon a song like "Superappin'" was a small revelation, especially compared to something like "Rapper's Delight." Seriously, if your world view of what old school sounds like is filtered through Chic's "Good Times" and a bunch of random Jersey dudes that Sylvia Robinson threw together, then something like "Superappin'" or Spoonie Gee's "Spoonin' Rap" or the Treacherous Three's "New Rap Language" (not coincidentally, all on Enjoy) were far more compelling.

As for "Jazzy Sensation:" hands-down, one of the best songs of its era with Arthur Baker's funkalicious track which also doubled as Tina B's "Jazzy Sensation" (Manhattan Mix) which graced the other side of this early, orange-label Tommy Boy 12". This was, if I have it right, Afrika Bambaataa's first credited appearance on wax though it'd be upstaged a year later when Baker and Bam collaborated again to cut "Planet Rock." Regardless, as a party jam track, it's hard to beat "Jazzy Sensation"? Can you feel it?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

posted by O.W.

Jake Wade and the Soul Searchers: Searching For Soul Pt. 1
Dee Edwards: Deal With That
From Searching For Soul (Luv N' Haight, 2005)

Following in the line of other excellent regional soul/funk comps like Luv N' Haight's Bay Area Funk and California Soul or Jazzman's Texas Funk, the Wolverine State gets combed over for Searching For Soul: Rare and Classic Soul, Funk and Jazz From Michigan 1968-1980.

As always, there's some downright awesome stuff on here. I actually had the Jake Wade up last year with only one comment about how friggin' baaaaaaad ass this song is. Seriously, this is one of the illest 45s I know...are people just not into deep, dark grooves like this anymore? Ok then, more for me.

I love this Dee Edwards cut - it just leaped off the CD and grabbed me by my ear. For one thing, it has that blues+funk soul sound I can never get enough of. Moreover, when you actually listen to what Edwards is saying, you realize how completely f---ed up of a message she's sending here, basically, "you can cheat on me, but as long as it's on a 'don't ask, don't tell' tip, I don't really mind."

Girl, do like Eddie Kendricks and get thee a change of mind! Soul power = yes! Cuckold empowerment = not so much.


Monday, October 17, 2005

posted by O.W.

Ben Sidran: Feel Your Groove
From Feel Your Groove (Capitol, 1971)

We All Together: Los Mas Grande Que Existe
From 7" (MaG, 1974)

I don't know...maybe I'm just getting more soft n' sentimental as I get older but these days, I'm not really as much moved by mega-hype funk tunes or even boombastic hip-hop tracks as I have in the past. These days, I've really been tuning into more mellow fare be it in soul, rock, jazz, etc.

Take this Ben Sidran cut for example, the title track from what I'm assuming is his first album. It's a recent discovery...I've had two of Sidran's Blue Thumb albums from just a few years later but I was never really blown away by either. Some decent funky/rock/jazz fusion tunes but "Feel Your Groove" is, by and far, the best thing I've heard from him. His singing, admittedly, not the greatest but the symphonic elements in the arrangement? Awesome. Pun intended: I'm feeling this groove.

The We All Together comes off a compilation of Peruvian rock I picked up not too long ago. I had a post about these guys a year back and I'm definitely a fan of their sound. Maybe I'm just geeked off the fact that a Peruvian band could nail the Beatles' style so well but seriously, they do the Fab Four better than most British bands I know. Sure, this particular song is in Spanish but you can still hear the influence ring through.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

posted by O.W.

Shades of Brown: The Soil I Tilled For You
From S/T (Cadet, 1973)

The Brady Bunch: Drummer Man
From The Kids From the Brady Bunch (Paramount, 1972)

I've always been wary of "drum" records. Since I'm not a producer, it doesn't often make sense for me to drop loot on a record that happens to have bad ass drums on it...but nothing else. Still, I like a neck-breakin' breakbeat as much as the next guy so I've tried to limit myself to records with drums plus something else to actually hang your ear on (note: "Put Your Hand In The Hand" is not one of those songs. "Get Out Of My Life, Woman" is).

Shades of Brown are a bit of an enigma to me...they appeared on Cadet in the early '70s and even there, were kind of anomaly, which is saying a lot considering how out there Cadet was in that era. For example, their sole album, a self-titled affair known as the "SOB" album was sandwiched between Dorothy Ashby's funky-harp-jazz LP Rubaiyat and Lou Donaldson's Fried Buzzard on one side and big band jazzist Woody Herman's Herman and pianist's Ramsey Lewis' excellent Them Changes on the other. Actually, if you're a fan of Cadet (and I am), this whole era, from 1969-1971 was pretty much ace for the label, including awesome releases by Ray Bryant, Eddie Fisher, Ramsey Lewis and Marlena Shaw. I digress.

What makes SOB unusual is that they were a soul band in the midst of mostly jazz colleagues on Cadet (though the Dells and Shaw were also releasing albums at the same time). And not just any garden-variety soul group from the early '70s...just listen to "In the Soil I Tliled For You," it's obviously got a lot of sweet soul, doo-wop, blues and jazz influences winding their way through it. And oh yeah, that intro drum break is like pretty dope, short as it is (but ah, the magic of samplers!) and not surprisingly, a lot of key hip-hop sides from early '90s all flipped it.

By the way, you gotta respect that this group was made up of all early 20-somethings, bunch o' youngun's from Chicago South and West sides.

As for "Drummer Man," it's a novelty song off a novelty album (unless you can take The Brady Bunch seriously as a band...which we can't. I mean, they're not the Partridges or anything) but all things considered, it's pretty cool in my book. Nice drumming (duh) and that guitar sounds straight off a blaxploitation record (though, um, the singing does not). And peep the lyrics: "Make me feel it, drummer man. Tear it up, drummer man. Lay it on me, drummer man. Don't stop playing, drummer man." Oooh baby, the Bradys gettin' funky!


Thursday, October 13, 2005

posted by O.W.

Charles Kynard: Soul Reggae
From Reelin' With the Feelin' (Prestige, 1969)

Wonderland Space Shuttle: 2001
From Theme From Star Wars (Wonderland, 197?)

It's back to closet cleaning time 'round here with all these dustball MP3 files lying around. First up is a lone track that was supposed to be part of Carol Kaye post but frankly, I'm still looking for a few better tracks to go with it but it's been months now and I wanted to finally get "Soul Reggae" out there before more time went by. Kaye, by the way, is one of the greatest studio bassists since the 1960s (though she harbors this rather bizarre insistence that she played on certain Motown songs that James Jamerson clearly was responsible for) and her sound is so signature that once you listen to a few songs, you can start picking up on her style from that point on. On this song, she's playing with one of my favorite organists (though perhaps this isn't saying much since, in truth, I've never been a huge B3 fan. Yeah, blasphemous but whatever), Charles Kynard. I will definitely have to do a Kynard post in the future (if I remember). Anyways, Kynard. Awesome player and arranger, did a bunch of great albums on Prestige in the late '60s then moved over to Mainstream in the early '70s. I took this song off his Reelin' With the Feelin' album since you can really get a sense of Kaye's bass pluckings that add such a nice, warm and funky dynamic.

As for "2001," this oft-covered movie theme appears on a strange pop instrumental album by the Wonderland Space Shuttle, part of a larger trend of '60s and '70s albums that were all covers of TV and movie themes. Seems weird now but this was kind of hot shit back in the day. Anyways, I don't know much about the group though I can only assume they have something in common with the Jeff Wayne Space Shuttle of "Apes Shuffle" fame (not that it's all that famous). I'm not really a huge fan of the 2001 theme (though Deodato's is pretty essential) but this one holds up fairly well, especially in the beginning with those Afro-influenced drums and the keys.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

posted by O.W.

Chuck Womack and the Sweet Souls: Ham Hocks and Beans Pt. 1 (edit)
From 7" (Re-Joint, 1971/2005)

Jerome and His Band: Ghetto (edit)
From 7" (Re-Joint, early 70s/2005)

My friends Cool Chris and Vinnie Esparza who run Re-Joint/Dis-Joint just put out these two slices of 7" funkiness that I wanted to share. The Re-Joint releases don't come in droves but when one appears, you can be sure it's going to be some good stuff. In this case, both of these 45s were originally discovered by another friend, Justin Torres, who's working on a Bay Area soul history and series of compilations to follow.

The Chuck Womack is fantastic, a solid piece of funky soul if ever there were one. Those drums are simply lovely (for those, like me, who care about such things). The lyrics are not exactly deep but what more do you need than someone shouting out soul food for 3 minutes? My point exactly.

As for Jerome and His Band...this is a Tagalog-language version of Donny Hathaway's "The Ghetto" which isn't the best cover of the song I've ever heard but's in Tagalog (that's a Filipino language for those not in the know). I love stuff like this on concept alone (though the Latin-fied funky execution doesn't hurt either).

I'm only doing edit snippets on these two since they're new in stores now and I'm nudging folks to buy 'em.

Monday, October 10, 2005

posted by O.W.


Ghostface and Raekwon: Kilos
From Fish Scale (Def Jam, 2005 upcoming)

Ok, we're back from 10 days on vacation, refreshed and ready to put some work in (at least until we get burnt out). While on break, we admit, we checked in to see what was poppin' off and last week, this new Ghostface and Raekwon track, "Kilos" hit the internet, fresh off a recent Kayslay mix-CD.

Ghost and Rae rappin' about drugs is nothing new and in general, crack nostalgia seems to be at an all-time high (check my man HHH's analysis when he drops it) but what really caught my ear with "Kilos" is the fact that the producer, Moss, flips this crazy children's album that's all about metrics. I picked it up a few months ago and was planning on dropping a song off of it (not this one above in any case) for a mix-CD at some point but looks like Ghost beat me to it. The whole album is pretty funny: blaxploitation-type funk licks used to educate kids on the metric system vis a vis a cartoon character. Suffice to say, I doubt this LP really caught much fire in the U.S. (But it's never too late. C'mon dudes, metric is not evil. It's simpler than what we use now, word!)


posted by O.W.

Jackson 5: I Want You Back (Z-Trip Remix) (edit)

Marvin Gaye: Let's Get It On (Da Producers MPG Groove Mix) (edit)

Rare Earth: I Just Want to Celebrate (Mocean Worker Remix) (edit)
All above from Motown Remixed (Motown, 2005)

(Editor's Note: I'm bringing this back into rotation because my NPR Morning Edition review of the CD just appeared last week. Sorry, but the song files are long deleted but you can hear two of three songs mentioned below in the review itself. - O.W.)

I was originally going to podcast this up but frankly: I'm hella short on time right now so this gets the text treatment instead: I've been looking forward to writing on this comp ever since it crossed my doorstep about six weeks back. I normally am rather skeptical of label remix projects. The recent Atlantiquity comp was surprisingly mediocre and while the Verve Remix Project has some solid tunes on it, it can feel stretched thin at times. So far, the Motown Remixed album is the most consistent and well-balanced of is peers.

It does help that Motown has some of the best songs ever written in American musical history but one could make the same claim of Atlantic - that doesn't mean the remix is going to be good just because the original material is. However, what partially distinguishes this comp is how each remixer gained access (I'm assuming) to multitrack versions of the orignal songs, allowing them to isolate the elements they want and then build up from there.

Take Z-Trip's remix of "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5 for example: he begins with th guitar line - the melodic hook to the song that's instantly recognizable. Then he brings in the bassline...and eight bars later, he drops in the drums. It all sounds increadibly clean and more importantly, it's not a radical revamp of the original, but rather, strips it down to its best parts.

With the remix for Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," the challenge here is how to touch up one of the biggest hits in soul history without coming off like a tool. Let's be straight up: you can't improve on this song - no way, no how - but what Da Producers do with it is reinterpolate the song's famous melodies, make 'em a bit more airy, drop a flute in, and give the song a nice new feel that should play well in an early evening club gig or just on a lazy Sunday afternoon car ride.

Lastly, I wanted to drop something a bit funkier and energetic so I went with the Mocean Worker remix of Rare Earth's classic "I Just Want to Celebrate." The remix doesn't tweek too much but makes a smart move in juicing up the breakbeat - the drums crack like thunder now.

While not everything on this comp is as strong as the three selections I pulled, overall, this was a very enjoyable listen (especially the first half, I didn't fast-forward once). If you're too young to remember The Big Chill this might as well be your introduction to Motown (actually, scratch that - listen to the OG stuff first but then use this to supplement).