Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rewind Selector: 20 Earworms From The Last Decade

I don't do a traditional year end top 10 or 20 anymore. I just don't gather round the internet water cooler every Tuesday chatting up new releases like I used to, so I don't think my list for 2010 would mean a whole lot. That is not to say that I don't listen to new music, I just don't do it with the kind of urgency I used to. It is also not to say that I don't look for new (or,especially, new to me) sounds.
(OK,OK here's my 2010 Top 10, and yes, some of these are reissues and yes, some may have been released in '09)
  1. Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here
  2. Syl Johnson-The Complete Mythology
  3. Various Artists- Next Stop...Soweto
  4. Mulatu Astatke- Mochilla Presents Timeless
  5. Various- Black Man's Cry:The Inspiration Of Fela Kuti
  6. T.P. Orchestre Poly Rhythmo- Echos Hypnotique
  7. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings- I Learned The Hard Way
  8. Kings Go Forth- The Outsiders Are Back
  9. Lee Fields & The Expressions- My World
  10. Staff Benda Bilili- Tres Tres Fort
In the last ten years I've probably listened to more new and new-to-me music than any ten year period of my 30+ years of music junkiehood. I also listen differently than I used to. Because of the staggering volume of music that is available, I'm just not able to spend as much time with a new record as I used to, because there is so much at my fingertips. I still buy albums, but they just aren't the same to me..not because they are any better or worse than they used to be, but because after I spin an LP once, that's usually it. I may playlist a few songs or include a track on a mix tape or two, but rarely do I return to an entire album. I'm more likely to give certain playlists or mix CD multiple spins, than I am to listen to an album repeatedly (as was my MO in previous years).

So, what I have here are songs that really grabbed me over the last ten years. These are tunes that caused me to back off the internet fueled music gorging I've been doing and hit the rewind button...again and again. Some are relatively new, some are ancient. I'm not saying these are the best songs I heard in the last ten years, but, at least for me, these tunes rose above digital din and reminded me why I keep looking for new records.

You can skip around the tracks in this divshare list (you can also hear them in order) or check out the mix at 8tracks (below). If the track has a link, that means I wrote about it on MOG and you can click through to those words if you like.

         1.Inell Young- What Do You See In Her 
                Rumored to be a kiss off tune aimed at Eddie Bo, who produced 4 of the 6 sides she waxed A cool slice of NOLA Soul.
         2. On Verra Ça - Orchestra Baobob
                Everybody told me Pirates Choice was the Baobob record to get, but this track from their American debut, Specialist in All Styles, was the keeper for me.
         3. I Got Loaded - Lil Bob & The Lollipops
                 I came to this NOLA classic very late via the Los Lobos version. Soundmen may wince when they hear the squeaky hi hat, but that's just one of the many endearing things about his tune..another being that I've got my 9 year old singing it.
          4. Gary Song -Alice Smith
                  I worked as a distributor for this record in 2006. After listening to it once (like I do), I passed it on to my wife. She flipped a gasket over Ms. Smith and reintroduced it to me. Alice can sing, whisper, and belt, often in the same tune and with great authority. Her only album to date, For Lovers, Dreamers, and Me, got caught up in music biz hell and Alice has not gotten the recognition she deserves. A singing specialist in all styles.
           5. Hey Ya!- Outkast (Andre 3000)
                   Nope, I wasn't immune to the charms of this tune. It kept me from driving off the road on the long trip I used to make from Albany to Brooklyn and back, which I did every couple of weeks for a year or so back in the middle of the decade.
           6.God Is A Good God-Campbell Bros. W/Katie Jackson
                    Burning pedal steel track with booming vocals from the essential Sacred Steel-Live! album on Arhoolie. Religious and Rocking, but this ain't Stryper.
            7. Come Down Now- Passing Strange (Broadway Cast)
                   I finally got around to liking Stew in 2008. He and his writing partner, Heidi Rodewald had been making music as The Negro Problem for over 10 years, but it was this musical (their first) that opened the door to their music for me. What took me so long? My old boss had been telling me to go there for years and he wasn't lying. Stew and Heidi, in whatever guise their music appears, are always a revelation.
            8. Awufuni Ukulandela Na?- Izintombi Zasi Manje Manje
                   The whole compilation that this tune appears on, Next Stop...Soweto, is choice South African pop, but the sheer joy of this track (not to mention the guitar and drums), easily crack through the language barrier. The first time I heard this tune I hit rewind at least 10 times.
            9. Raw Spitt- Raw Spitt (Charlie Whitehead)
                   The compilation, Songs To Sing-The Charlie Whitehead Anthology, houses the output of a journeyman soul singer who worked with legendary, iconclast producer/artist Swamp Dogg (Jerry Williams). Their 1970 album was billed simply as Raw Spitt..need I Say more?
           10. Shake Daddy Shake - Eula Cooper
                    Don't know if this got so popular that Northern Soul DJ's leave it alone, but this Georgia based Soul singer cut a heap of sharp tracks for the Note and Tragar labels. Easy to find nowadays thanks to the Numero group's Eccentric Soul series.
            11.If You Believe Your God Is Dead, Try Mine- The Swan Silvertones
                     Now, I love Gospel Quartet music from it's heydey in the 50's and before, but this 1969 cut from the long running Silvertones is more Godfather of Soul, than God the Father, if you know what I'm sayin'..
            12. Long Time - The Roots
                     I also missed the boat on The Roots until I came across this track from their 2006 Game Theory LP.  When I started music blogging in 2006, it was one of the first songs I wrote about (badly,too). Black Thought's first verse was staggering to me.  I'm sure fans of the band were not surprised and going back through their stuff, I can see why.
           13. Kokoriko-T.P. Orchestre Poly Rhythmo
                     The incredible Soundway label introduced me to Benin's T.P. Orchestre Poly Rhythmo back in 2005. The band has released over 50 albums in their home country and the comp, Kings Of Benin Urban Groove 1972-1980, distills it all down to an almost perfect 13 song primer of their intricate,layered,pan-continental Funk.
           14. Roll Call - Oliver Morgan
                     A New Orleans party on wax, with an excellent back story to boot. Check the link.
           15. Rudi- Butch Cassidy Sound System 
                     Here's one my six year old (at the time) son and I could agree on. A mix of live instruments, cut and paste tech, and loads of reggae vibes.
           16. Another New Day-Jazzanova
                      A post-2K record, but with a drum and conga break that reminded me of James Brown and Dennis Coffey. I couldn't get enough of this tune.
            17.  Kyenkyen Bi Adi Mawu- Alhaji K. Frimpong
                      A 1976 cut from Ghana's highlife master finally reached me in 2006. I've subsequently searched out everything I could find on Mr. Frimpong, but I never found anything quite this good. The slippery organ is one key, but the 2+ minute intro is what keeps me coming back to this one.
            18. This Broken Heart - The Sonics
                      As far as I know the Funkadelic version of this tune from, Cosmic Slop, is the only commercially released cover song P-Funk ever waxed. A sweet late period doo wop cut from the Chess Rhythm and Roll box set.
            19. I Can Feel the Ice Melting- The Parliaments
                      Although it isn't the most danceable cut in the P-Funk canon, it was the first cut my wife and I danced to at our wedding, which was almost 10 years ago. When we first met, I was obsessing over this tune and I brought my wife along for the ride.
             20. How Long Do I Have To Wait For You?- Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
                      After a few years of raw funk from Sharon and the boys, in 2005 they released a record that showcased a more soulful sound...and the rest is neo-retro-soul history. It's funny that I discovered the Inell Young cut (track 1) around the same time..I find the sound and vibe of the tunes eerily similar.

    So there they are, in all their highly subjective, thoroughly un-scientific, glory. After almost 10 years of digital gluttony, I'm still not sold on the way I listen to music these days, but I sure as hell don't like music any less.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010

    Baaad Jazz 2-Rufus Harley

     Originally posted on MOG 4.26.2007
    I know a guy who plays bagpipes in one of those bagpipe clubs that is always appearing at funerals and parades and such. I thought I'd impress him by dropping Rufus Harley's name and mentioning that he was one of the few jazz bagpipe cats out there. My guy said, yeah, he knew about Rufus, but wasn't that impressed with his piping.No music conversion points for me, boo hoo, but then I said (begin embellishment here),"oh yeah, well you've probably only heard the records he made in the 60's for Joel Dorn at Atlantic (Reissued in their complete form-Courage:The Atlantic Recordings by Rhino Handmade). Have you heard his later self-released stuff."  My piper said, "no." Aha vindication! So folks, this is the good Rufus, from '72's Re Creation of the Gods.  Never (for me) have drums, b-3, and bagpipes come together like this, and lord knows, this is plenty. Jazz dancers resurrected Malika (track 7) in the late 80's and I've been grooving ever since.

    Since, I made this post I found out two things. The first is that Rufus Harley passed away in 2006 (Times Obit) and the second is that Re Creation of the Gods has been reissued. RIP, Mr. Harley.

    Rufus Harley-Re Creation Of the Gods (Complete LP)

    Tracks from Courage
    Feelin' Good

    Scotch & Soul

    A Discog and a nice essay about Rufus at Hip Wax

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Baaad Jazz 1-Funk Inc

     originally posted 3.30.07
    Don't get me wrong I've got a good share of "real jazz" records in my collection. Blue Note, Impulse,Prestige, Verve, and Bluebird are all amongst my favorite labels of all time. For many those labels produced the records that are the standards by which jazz is judged. Buyers and critics alike (not everyone)pretty much dismiss records that came out after 1965. I know what I like in classic jazz, but I find a hard time reviewing it because I feel unqualified. I just don't know enough about music theory to comment. As jazz has continued to grow and folks have continued to push the boundaries, it has for the most part left me in the dust. I can catch glimpses of brilliance, but most of todays Jazz soars over my head.
    Songs From Funk Inc (1971)

    After cutting edge jazz pushed beyond mass appeal in the 60's, and rock took over the world, musicians pretty much had to try to fit in or find new lines of work. Local jazz scenes that once thrived (Newark,Detroit,Indianapolis) were on the way out. Some players made moves to rock (Miles,McLaughlin)and ended up crossing over pretty well, over time gaining a little respect from the critics. Other players went more into a soul/blues/funk bag and were generaly reviled by the jazz press.
    Tunes from Chicken Lickin' (1972)

    The soul jazz crowd may have been the precursor of today's mostly treacley smooth jazz, but when these guys were laying it down in the 70's it was not smooth, and as hip-hop heads and jam band aficionados have noted, there was a lot of sweat soaked, fun-filled, musically challenging, and downright funky music being created in what must have seemed like the death throes of Jazz at the time.

    Tunes From Hangin Out (1973)

    Funk Inc.
    Congas -Cecil Hunt
    Drums - Jimmy Munford
    Guitar - Steve Weakley
    Organ - Bobby Watley
    Saxophone [Tenor] - Eugene Barr
    One group that exemplified that era for me is Funk Inc. Working with Organ,tenor,guitar,drums, and congas (killer congas I might add) in Blues based textures on 4 records from 71 to 74, Funk Inc. first fell into my lap during the acid jazz days of the 90's. There are a few very mellow, very 70's; vocal cuts, but the rest of these first 4 LP's are raw,dirty Jazz Funk, with strong blues guitar, swinging B-3, and banging funky drums.
    If you are into Medeski,Martin, and Wood, you should check 'em out. If you are into hip hop, the drums from,"Kool Is Back" have been sampled into countless rap tracks from folks like DJ Shadow, Geto Boys,and Jeru tha Damaja. So despite their humble beginnings in Indianapolis,IN. Funk Inc. are still influencing and inspiring folks today.You won't find a whole lot about Funk Inc. in any jazz tomes and I didn't see anything on wikipedia either, but folks who study grooves know they are not to be missed.
    Tunes From Superfunk (1973)

    12.20.10 notes- Since I made this post both All Music Guide and wikipedia  (copied from All Music Guide) have entries for Funk Inc. I've also discovered there was a pretty sizable jazz scene in Indianapolis, but  more on that later. Funk Inc. recorded one other LP in the 70's:Priced to Sell, that isn't quite up to the standards of the initial 4 records and a comeback record in 1995 brought on by their support from the (also reviled...but to me crucial) Acid Jazz community. They are still gigging in one form or another.

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Unintended Benfits Of The War On Terror

    originally posted 3.21.2008
    While the "coalition" has been scouring the world looking for evil doers, a few things have been missed..Osama and Weapons Of Mass Destruction being the first that come to mind. What is little known, though, is that during the war, while turning every stone for terrorists, some incredible Funk has been found, in places you might not expect.I'm not a general so I won't speculate on how the War on Terror is going, but in the Search for Funk, coalition forces most definitely have earned this..Mission Accomplished.
    Israel-The Apples

    Freak Afrique 

    Ze Ra'ayon Tov


    Howlin' with Fred


    Poland-Polish Funk Vol. 1-3

    Coda-Czerwone Gitary

    How Can I Stand It-Kombi

    Księżniczka - Andrzej  Zaucha

    Strit-Poznanska Orkiestra Pritv

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    Battle of the (Japanese Funk) Bands

    original Osaka Monaurail post 2.14.2008
    After the FIFA World Cup ended this summer, I put together a battle of funk and groove bands that replicated the South African tournament. I "replayed" all the matches and came up with quite a different result. One of the surprises of my Funk and Groove World Cup was Japan, who advanced to the Quarterfinals. A big part of Japan's deep run in the tournament were it's two main raw funk exports...Osaka Monaurail and Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro. Take a look at the 2010 Funk and Groove World Cup final 16 bracket.

    I first wrote about Osaka Monaurail for a Funky Friday post back in 2008  after I finally heard about their collab (15 months after its release) with James Brown alum, Marva Whitney.
    New, New Superheavy Sushi Funk
    I know a phone call that made somebody's day...This was the call when Marva Whitney's (that's the Marva Whitney that sang with the James Brown review) manager called the manager of the Osaka Monaurail (Japan's primo JB-esque funk kings, named after a late period JB's album), and said,"Yes,Ms.Whitney would be glad to cut a record with you."
    If you are the top funk band in Japan, and have pretty much styled your sound on the James Brown big-funk-band model, you would be ecstatic to back one of The Man's best singers. The fact that the vocals are really the only thing missing from your complete mastery of the JB sound, does not escape you, and so,problem solved, you go out and cut the best post-James Brown, James Brown record by a country mile.
    Marva Whitney w/Osaka Monaurail

    This is good old funk here folks, with strong female vox, and a tight-as-a-drum band, that knows where The One is, and takes solos the way Fred and Maceo used to do. Like the myriad of soul artists "coming back" with new records Marva Whitney proves age ain't nuthin' but a number, and, in fact, the added maturity adds even more grit to a voice that was already down and dirty. I think it was an article in Wax Poetics where I found out about the Osaka Monaurail, and I have to admit, I was mighty skeptical. Truth is though, these cats can lay it down. If you enjoyed the funky soul that Sharon Jones and Amy Winehouse have made with The Dap Kings, then this record should be right up your alley. Please have a funky friday.

    back to 2010..
    So coming into the tournament this fall, I knew Japan had at least one strong entrant, in the form of the Monaurail, but without repeating myself, how would Japan compete in their group with Holland, Denmark, and Cameroon. A little research delivered, Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro.  The MMK drop some fine instrumental funk, but the Osaka boys come with longevity (and vocals), having been working on their JB-styled grooves since back in 1992, releasing upwards of 7 albums worth of material, since the 2000 debut, What It Is , What It Was. Still though, the MMK spreads it's wings a lot further and faster than the Monaurail, covering grooves in quite a different bag from the Godfather. And yet, the Osaka Monaurail does the JB thing so well (with and without vocals), you can see why they wear the crown. But let's let the music decide this matter..
     Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro- S/T (2009)

    The MMK have a second LP, that goes by the name of, Uhuru Peak. Check out an interview talking about the new record at Jelly Jazz and see the vid for the lead track (Aint Got Nobody) I'm Just A Ramblin' Man right here:

    For their part Osaka Monaurail have been very busy with European tours (they just released a Live in Spain record) and putting out a steady stream of releases since their debut. All of these, excluding the Marva Whitney record , have gotten very little coverage here in the US, although Dusty Groove tries to keep their records in stock (at $30 bucks a pop, this can be a pretty expensive crate dig).

    Here's a snippet of what you might've seen if you caught their 2010 Euro tour:
    Osaka Monaurail-Live

    Osaka Monaurail - Just Being Free (2001)

    Osaka Monaurail -Tighten Up (2006)-stretching a bit from the JB mold on a mostly instrumental soul covers record.

    Osaka Monaurail-Quicksand (2006)

    This is just a small sampling of the Monaurail's funk oeuvre, but I am going to let the challengers have the last live word. I'll leave the judging up to you. Wagering is not necessary, because funk is its own reward.
    Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro-Live

    Saturday, December 11, 2010

    A Good Week For Chicago-Terry Callier+More

     Originally posted 4.8.07
    This past week saw an incredible amount of Chicago related music pass through my ears and it made me think a lot about my tumultuous time in the second city. I lived in Chicago for about 6 years off and on in the '90's. Despite the lack of good pizza (that deep dish stuff they make there is more of a quiche), Chicago is a great town with an intoxicating mix of mid-western innocence and international flavors. I got my first taste of the music biz there, got married for the first time there, and really expanded my music horizons there. Until I moved to Brooklyn, it was my adopted hometown. But on to the week that was.

    Firstly, I got a copy of the latest entry in the Numero Group's  Eccentric Soul series. No.13 is called Twinight's Lunar Rotation. Twinight (aka Twilight) was a Chicago label started as a side project by some legendary Chicago radio promoters that lasted only for a couple of years. During that time the label had some killer releases from Syl Johnson, but none of those are featured here.

    1.The Devastator-Stormy
    2.Antoinette Poindexter-Mama
    3.Pieces Of Peace-Pass It On
    4.Renaldo Domino-Not Too Cool To Cry
    5.The Notations-I Can't Stop

    Instead you get rare offerings, often produced by Syl Johnson and featuring the versatile backing of Pieces of Peace. This was good for me, since I already have Syl Johnson's Twinight stuff, so I got 40 new tracks, ranging from slabs o' instrumental funk to sweet Chicago style ballads from forgotten groups like the Dynamic Tints, Antoinette Poindexter and the Pieces of Peace, and The Notations. Great stuff and all done up with typical Numero quality. 

    Next was Jerry Butler who came up in Chicago singing with Curtis Mayfield in the Impressions. The CD I scored was some of his late 60's work with Gamble and Huff. The 2-fer contains, The Ice Man Cometh and Ice on Ice, and these records are smooth like butter. Perhaps too smooth for Impressions fans, but right up the alley of Philly Soul lovers, I'd reckon.

    Perhaps stretching the theme a bit, I also laid my hands to something from Chicago's, now venerable, Bloodshot label.  I checked out the new Detroit Cobra's record, Tied and True. Perhaps not as ragged as their previous releases it still hits harder than most modern attempts and rhythm and blues.

     Puppet On A String

    You'll Never Change

    The Chicago-centricity of my week added to a post I read about Bill Withers finally nudged me to revisit my fave musical discovery from the Second City.. that would be Terry Callier.

    Record store folks in Chicago always talked in hushed tones about Callier, a local artist who "coulda been a contender." A family man making his way up from his local label (Chess-Cadet) beginnings to a major label signing, but who instead ended up disappearing for about 20 years. Much like Bill Withers he had an incredible warm voice and an acoustic folk-soul sound. Unlike Bill, he had a less straightforward way with lyrics and some of his tunes drift on past the 7 minute mark and are colored with Jazz touches. His earliest Cadet records were straight up folk, but at the dawn of the 70's instruments were added to the mix and, as acid jazzers would discover 15 years later, were pretty damn funky. 1972's Ordinary Joe, has become something of a personal theme song for me.
    Ordinary Joe

    What Color Is Love

    His lyrics range from strummed love ballads to jazz excursions into the mind and beyond, but by the end of the 70's, after a trip through the major label wringer, he dropped off the scene (much like Bill Withers). The later records, while still decent, seem overproduced, as the majors just had to pigeon hole him as a love man, a soul man. They needed him to fit in and he didn't, so he just left.

    Flash forward 20 years to '98 and it seems the love he got from small tours organized by movers in the British acid jazz scene convinced him to come back into the spotlight. Time Peace was my introduction to Terry Callier. I had heard some of his classic material, but when I heard he was releasing a record in '98, I was all over it and I wasn't disappointed. Besides one track that nods to hip-hop, his comeback record is a criminally under appreciated LP (only 7500 sold to date).  The production is throughly modern, but the unique combination of soul, folk, and jazz he hit on 20 years before is brilliantly captured. The record came out on Verve in the US, but never did much here, as Terry Callier just did not fit into any of the niches folks wanted to put him in.
     Lazarus Man

    People Get Ready/Brotherly Love

    He ended up returning to England and Europe where he was received enthusiastically and cut a brilliant live record, Alive, in 2001. He has continued to perform across the pond and has released 4 more records on the Mr. Bongo label. None of them have seen any kind of stateside release.
    You're Gonna Miss Your Candyman (Live-2001)

    From Louis Armstrong's Hot 5's and 7's to Sun Ra to Curtis Mayfield to Marshall Jefferson to Bloodshot to Common, Chicago has a rich musical history that I probably would know a lot less about if I hadn't lived in the toddlinest of towns. But folks who look at that history will be missing a crucial piece if they don't take a listen to the catalog of Chicago original, Terry Callier.

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    Modernization/Herman Chin-Loy

    originally posted 1.27.07
    I figured I might as well join the 21st century, so I've done a little upgrading lately. I convinced my wife we needed a new computer for the house and some additional hard drive storage. Why I found it necessary to do this, I am not sure, but my shiny new devices have arrived and everything has been installed and I'm ready to start being a member of modern society.So I decide my first step toward assimilation in the digital world is to get all my music onto the computer.
    Funky Aquarius-The Aquarians

    I estimate that 500 gigabytes of memory should be enough to hold my collection. 12,000 songs and 42 gigs into the project, there are a lot more questions than answers. Many of the questions are of a technical nature, Why is (insert your least favorite music storage platform here) unable to correctly identify the genre of so much music? Why do some Jazz CD's show all the artists on a track, even though the CD is credited to one leader, in effect "robbing" the leader of the session of his (or her) proper track count, and messing up alphabetizing, and making it hard to find the track later? Why is it so hard to change the information the program recognizes for all tracks on an entire album with one click, so that you can tailor it to suit your needs? I guess, for programmers, it is hard to please everybody, so I'm not completely turned off to the digital experience, and it does open new vistas as far as organizing your entire collection; so I am doing it. Am I totally pleased? No. Will I miss the joys of CD and LP reorganizing? Yes.My tech problems aside, the main question I'm puzzling over, as I rip my 1500th CD, is why?

    I'm not giving up any of these CD's, so it is not a space saving issue. I'm not sharing any of these files, so that isn't it either. I think, in the end, there are a few issues I do understand concerning the project.

    1. I am an insane, obsessive, old man (I fear my wife and son are thinking this when they see me, seemingly shackled to a computer terminal by an invisible set of chains all day).
    2. I have all this music and I want to do something with it!
    3. I am curious to see exactly how much stuff I actually have, so I can brag, complain, converse, catalog, and wish for more!
    Alton's Official Daughter- Alton Ellis

    Thankfully, there is a lot of discovery going on, especially as I plow through some of the Reggae I've been hoarding for years. Among my newly discovered favorites are titles on the Pressure Sounds label. The folks at Pressure Sounds present Reggae reissues with the depth and class they deserve. Detailed track notes, quality remastering, in depth research, deft sequencing, and an eye for little heard gems, are a part of every package they put together. To pick up one of their CD's is an experience and really lends to an understanding of how pervasive Reggae is in Jamaican culture. There is just so much music that comes from that small island..and so much of it is excellent, but like the US, the music is totally driven by commerce, so there is a good chance that what is hot today, may be forgotten tomorrow. Pressure Sounds is in business, too, but every song has a story, and I'm glad they are around to collect these stories, and some great Reggae music.

    Aquarius Rock-The Hip Reggae World of Herman Chin-Loy not only chronicles the story and musical output (rare tracks from Augustus Pablo, Alton Ellis, and Dennis Alcapone) of a part-Chinese/part-Jamaican music shop/record label/studio owner, but drops the science on an Asian/Jamaican cultural connection I had absolutely no idea about.
    East Of The River Nile-Augustus Pablo

    From the Booklet:
    "The Chinese had first come to the island as indentured laborers in 1838 following emancipation and, after their contracts had expired, many settled in Jamaica. Their contribution to the economy was felt immediately and their influence on the development of Jamaican music throughout the second half of the next century is incalculable. Musicians such as Phil Chen and the Chung brothers, Geoffrey and Michael, were hugely influential. Vincent Chin and his son Clive with Randy's record Shop and Studio 17, The Hookim brothers, Ernest, Jo Jo, Kenneth and Paulie, at Channel One, Leslie Kong at Beverly's down on Orange Street, Byron Lee musically with The Dragonaires and taking care of business with Dynamic Sounds and Justin "Phillip" Yaps' legendary Top Deck and Tuneico labels all proved to be vital creative and entrepreneurial forces within the music. Herman Chin-Loy's Aquarius record shops, label, and recording studio are an integral part of this distinguished roll call of musical and commercial achievement."
    Aquarius Rock-Augustus Pablo & Herman

    In all my gushing I have forgotten to mention how truly cool the records on the collection are. The tunes are very indie, lo-fi, almost homemade sounding, as well as, truly tweaked roots, rock steady, and dub from the late 60's and early 70's, that will be worth your time if you are into Reggae sounds at all. To me though, the package, the story, and the vibe make this a CD essential.As many of you already know, and my record collection will surely confirm this, I am entirely fascinated by music made before my time. I don't know what that says about me (and to be fair, I do listen to tons of new records), except that I'm a crazy 42 year old man, who knows this isn't a problem...yet (It may be if I'm pushing the 100K ripped level). So I welcome the digital age and all the discoveries it may bring.
    Roadrunner-Sounds Unlimited

    My Top 10 Artists by Number of Tracks-1/27/2007- 00:12EST-subject to change daily-
    1.James Brown
    2.Tom Waits
    3.The Carter Family
    4.Billie Holiday
    5.Thelonious Monk
    6.Cab Calloway
    7.Ella Fitzgerald
    9. Grateful Dead
    10. Hank Williams

    Post Script (12.9.10)
    Well, I did get rid of most of my CD's, selling 'em in bulk at the Princeton Record Exchange. I figured out how to use Itunes as well. As of today I have 93,597 digital tracks. My lastfm stats say  that I've listened to 160,573 songs by 13,210 artists since 2006.

     My top 10 today has a few changes.
    1.  James Brown
    2. Duke Ellington
    3. Funkadelic
    4. Grateful Dead
    5. Parliament
    6. Tom Waits
    7. The Meters
    8. Gil Scott-Heron
    9. Memphis Minnie
    10. Bill Evans

    Nashville: Across The Tracks and In The Shadows

     Originally posted 1.29.10
    During the first half of the 20th century nearly every town had 2 or 3 recording studios, a handful of clubs, and a few larger venues where music was made. In the most places you could usually find all these outlets in pairs..for every whites only venue, there was a similar spot for black folks only. In the Northern States it was somewhat less overt, but it was still the general rule as deep segregation was the written and unwritten law of the land. Things relaxed a bit in the music world though, even in the south. Rhythm and Blues was at the forefront of this boundary blurring, most famously at places like Atlantic Records, Fame Studios, and Stax, but also in Nashville.
    Nashville Jumps - Cecil Gant (1949-Bullet 250)

    Though it was the (business)home of country music, Nashville also had a separate (and perhaps even equal) black music scene, featuring clubs (the New Era, the Del Morocco and Maceo's), a major chitlin circuit theater (The Bijou), a 50,000 watt radio station (WLAC), and more than one label focusing on R&B records (Bullet, Sound Stage 7,Dot, Silver Fox, SSS International).

    "In 1962, a struggling musician was living above a Nashville nightclub in an apartment furnished with little more than a mattress and a light bulb. Perfecting his guitar playing at home during the day and performing in local clubs at night, he eventually attained worldwide fame. It's a stereotypical Nashville success story, to be sure, but there's a twist. The tale isn't about a country musician. The guitar player's name was Jimi Hendrix." (CMT news)

    A few years back The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (which, although I can't vouch from personal experience, sounds like it slays the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame) put on an exhibit called Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues, 1945-1970, that opened up Nashville's R & B closet. In conjunction there were also 2 double discs released that showcased local acts and the output of local labels.

    The exhibit told the story of Nashville's black music scene going all the way back to the Fisk Jubilee singers in the 1870's, through the dawn of Rhythm & Blues (see Nashville native Cecil Gant's Nashville Jumps), up to the demise of the soul club scene in the late 70's (percipitated by the construction of I-40 and the record industry's love affair with disco).

    One of the main proponents of Nashville R & B was a DJ at WLAC, John Richbourg, a white man, who went by John R on the air, and laid on the jive pretty thick. He also went on the produce records (well over 100 sides) for Sound Stage Seven and his own labels, Seventy Seven and Sound Plus, as well as manage the career of Joe Simon.
    Joe Simon - Moon Walk Part 1 (1969-Sound Stage 7)

    She's A Wiggler - Fenton Robinson (1971-Sound Stage 7)

    Hey, Lucinda - Betty Everett (1976-Sound Stage 7)

    We're Not too young -The Continental Showstoppers (197?-Seventy seven Records)- A Northern Soul Fave

    Goo Bah-the Continental Showstoppers (197?-Seventy Seven Records)

    There weren't a ton of major hits that came out of Sound Stage 7, but that doesn't detract from the quality of the output from the small indie label. Richbourg was a dedicated soulman producing records in black southern styles until his death from cancer in 1986. The performers at a 1984 benefit put together to cover his medical expenses give you an idea of how important he was to the soul community...

    "By 1984, Richbourg was dying from lung cancer. His wife, Margaret, and singer Jackey Beavers, a longtime associate, organized a benefit concert to help pay the announcer's steep medical bills. The March 26, 1985 show, held at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House, included numerous artists who were featured in John R.'s broadcasts: James Brown, B. B. King, the Neville Brothers, Rufus Thomas, The Tams, The Coasters, gospel singer Bobby Jones (who then hosted a local TV program), and Beavers (now the pastor of a Cartersville, Georgia church) himself. In his book, Wes Smith commented that James Brown gave one of the best performances of his career at the event." (wiki)
    John R (Richbourg) Aircheck from WLAC

    Another big name in Nashville was iconoclast record man Shelby Singleton. He started as a regional promo guy in Shreveport, LA for Mercury/Smash, scouring the South for sales and finding new records and labels that he would try to break nationally. After being elevated to producer, he went indie. He wasn't based in Nashville but he spent a lot of time there, starting the Plantation, SSS International , and (with Lelan Rogers -Texas cat who recorded the 13th Floor Elevators) the Silver Fox label. He hit big with novelty country hits from Ray Stevens (Ahab The Arab) and Jeannie C. Riley (Harper Valley PTA), but he had his hands in a lot of Soul records, from his labels and as a producer for Brook Benton. His final claim to fame (and reason for his inclusion in the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame) is that he bought Sun Records in 1969, and oversaw the reissues of that seminal labels' output. The vibe you get from Mr. Singleton's story is that he was all about the music (that would sell), whether it was soul, garage, rockabilly,or country.
    Betty Harris-There's A Break in The Road (1969-SSS International)

    Mickey Murray-Stickey Sue (SSS International)
    Bettye LaVette-Do Your Duty (1970-Silver Fox Records)

    Big Al Downing-Cornbread Row (1969-Silver Fox Records) (You can hear why Big Al also had a few country hits)

    There were no barriers for Mr. Singleton:
    (His) roster included artists of varying styles, and it was not uncommon for Mr. Singleton to preside over sessions that featured African-American artists and white musicians.

    "He brought (African-American) artists to town and put them up at his house," said Kennedy, who often engineered sessions that Mr. Singleton produced, and who also produced hundreds of records for Kennedy-owned labels. "He brought people like Clyde McPhatter, Brook Benton and Ruth Brown here, and the only hotel where they were allowed to stay was the old Eldorado, in North Nashville. So most of the time, the artists stayed with Shelby."

    Shelby Singleton died in 2009 at 77, another great loss from a year that saw a lot of great folks from the music biz pass away. Another loss in 2009 was the Blues guitarist Johnny Jones. He arrived in Nashville from Chicago in the early 60's after holding down gigs with Junior Wells and Earl King. It is said that upon his return he battled Hendrix in a guitar duel at the Club Baron. Hendrix and Billy Cox played in a band called the King Casuals. Johnny Jones replaced Hendrix in the lineup when Jimi headed for New York. He played in and around Nashville for years, releasing his own music and touring with "Gatemouth" Brown and Bobby Bland. Later in his career Johnny Jones backed another Nashville R&B legend, the vocalist, Earl Gaines. Mr Gaines, sadly, also passed away in 2009. Like we've all noted it was a tough year.

    Louis Brooks & His Hi-Toppers w/Earl Gaines-It's Love Baby (24 Hours A Day) (1955-Excello)

    Johnny Jones And The King Casuals-Soul Poppin (1968-Peachtree)

    The Nashville Soul Story keeps giving though, because Music City was also home to Bobby Hebb("Sunny") and southern soul master Arthur Alexander, whose tunes (Anna,You Better Move on) were covered by the Beatles and The Stones, not to mention a tune he did that Elvis had a comeback with (Burning Love).
    Arthur Alexander - Burnin' Love (1972-Warner Bros.)

    I really wish I had gotten to see that exhibit, but just going through the Nashville R&B scene on the internets and on record has been a real treat. It should be no surprise to me by now, but the depth of the regional soul music scenes from the 50's through the 70's continues to be a revelation.
    Fenton Robinson Discography
    Cecil Gant bio
    Actions Speak Louder Than Words- SSS International Comp
    Johnny Jones & the king Casuals at Funky 16 Corners
    John R (Richbourg) wiki
    CMT News re:Night Train To Nashville Exhibit
    Blog with a podcast that had a Continental Showstoppers tune
    Guitar News Daily Johnny Jones Obit
    Earl Gaines Obit
    Shelby Singleton Obit
    Rockabilly hall Of Fame:Shelby Singleton
    Arthur Alexander @
    Great Blog post on Joe Simon @ B-side
    Betty Harris post at Funky 16 Corners
    Betty Everett Discog
    Jackey Beavers and "Someday We'll Be Together"

    Bonus Beats
    bettye LaVette- Love's Made A Fool Out Of Me

    Jakey beavers-Hey Girl