Tuesday, April 29, 2008

posted by Captain Planet

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Etoile De Dakar : Tolou Badou Ndiaye
taken from their self-titled album on SACEM (1980)

Elias Rahbani : From The Moon
taken from the 12" single on EMI (1978)

Formula 7 : Trouble
taken from their self-titled album on Castelinho (1970)

Erick Cosaque Et Les Voltages 8 : Decere Nou De Maye
taken from the album
"Chene A Kunta Kinte" on SACEM (197?)

In case you didn't already know by now, I get more geeked off vinyl than your average DJ. Moreso even than your run-of-the-mill skinny-necked record nerd. I even have nightmares that I will oneday join the ranks of those golem-esque record-fiending freaks who stop bathing and lose all social skills in the sole pursuit of posessing the holy plastic grail. If you see me start to get like that, please intervene.

However, in the meantime what that means for you all is that I've been hoarding some serious monsters for a special occaision. As a frequenter of the
Soulstrut.com forums, I found my occaision in the form of what we strutters call an "ISH". This ISH business provides a place for similarly crazed crate-diggers to show off some of their favorite obscurities to fellow record nerds. Being the geek that I am, I went for it. Today's tunes are culled from the same stash that made it into my ISH. For those that are new to this website, I highly recommend hanging out for a little while. Amid the flurry of non-record-related bullshwank, there's the occaisional nuggets of real-world knowledge- not to mention a whole lot of music sharing. Without further ado, onto the music...



posted by O.W.

Want to know what kind of music we roll to at Boogaloo[LA]? Peep:

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Monday, April 28, 2008

posted by O.W.

Editor's Note: This following reflection on funky jazz is by David Jaffe. This should have been posted a long time ago (my bad) but I think people will take away something great from his insights - and excellent tastes. --O.W.

From David Jaffe:
    For a long time I’ve wanted to write about the funky side of free jazz. Like most styles of Black American music of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, jazz in general, and free jazz in particular, served as spiritual, protest and dance music. One might more easily recognize the spiritual side of the genre in meditations of John Coltrane or cry of Albert Ayler. Also evident is the demand for equal rights in the colorations of Archie Shepp or the staccato of Rashied Ali. What is less obvious, unless one is careful, is the music that draws less on the intellectualism of the out-jazz, new-thing scene and more on git-out-the-chair-and-shake-your-thang sound created by many of the musicians associated with the free movement.

    It is likely that most of the African-American musicians commonly classified as out players had at one time or another played in R&B outfits. Many out instrumentalists, particularly those on the rosters of labels like Prestige and Blue Note, had also played in funky soul-jazz bands. For alert listeners the influences of R&B, soul and funk can be found in the recording of the musicians regularly associated with the New Thing in jazz, even so much as the music crosses over into the realm of pure funk. In this out jazz absent is the free improvisation, tonal experimentation and textured playing most familiar to free jazz fans, and present is the in-the-pocket playing with a groove and a break down most commonly associated with the music of James Brown and deep funk.

    Sun Ra was the original Method Man of the out big band scene (“mad different methods to the way he do his shit”). His musical universe covered big band, free jazz, doo wop, R&B, funk, soundtracks, and so much more. Sun Ra had a fair number of funky recordings, the most famous, or at least well known, of which is Lanquidity. The album has been described as lounge jazz, or dance jazz where dance in this case equates to disco. Neither of these descriptions apply, as was true of many of the descriptions of Sun Ra’s work. The closest approximation to a labeled style of the present example might be blaxploitation. On the track included here, the seriously funky Where Pathways Meet, even the lead solo by Eddie Gale brings the stanky stuff. The Disco Kid guitar solo is so Funkadelic, and the multiple percussionists keep the groove in the pocket.

    Sun Ra: Where Pathways Meet
    From Lanquidity (Philly Jazz, 1978)

    Eddie Gale also recorded two lesser known lp’s for Blue Note. As an aside, it is worth noting that all of the tracks included here, like most free jazz, was recorded for smaller independents or self-released for as much as a lack of interest by the public as the lack of understanding by the majors. On this track, Black Rhythm Happening, the traps duty falls to Elvin Jones, one of the greatest jazz drummers ever. While little of Jones’ playing could be considered pure funk, he did play on many funky soul jazz sides. Unlike Jones, Gale did not have enough opportunities to record, possibly because of his militant themes. His playing was very influential, however, and the Black Rhythm Happening lp was a direct influence Archie Shepp’s better known Attica Blues.

    Eddie Gale: Black Rhythm Happening
    From Black Rhythm Happening (Blue Note, 1969)

    One band that did have tremendous opportunities to record was the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Their soundtrack to the French film Les Stances A Sophie is a classic among jazz film soundtracks as well as some of the bands funkiest music. The film was part of the French New Wave, and not the only film of the genre to use funky accompaniment. On the cut "Theme De Yoyo" the ACOE is joined by soul and funk singer Fontella Bass, wife of trumpeter Lester Bowie. Following Bowie’s death three decades later Bass would record "All That You Give" with Cinematic Orchestra for Ninja Tune. Cinematic Orchestra would then cover "Theme De Yoyo" for their ex post facto soundtrack to Man With A Movie Camera, a silent-era Russian propaganda film).

    While both Cinematic Orchestra tracks are very good and worth tracking down for downtempo fans, neither can approach the outright funky of the original "Theme De Yoyo."

    Art Ensemble of Chicago: Theme De Yoyo
    From Les Stances A Sophie (EMI France, 1970)

    Like the ACOE, Joe McPhee had more opportunities to record overseas than at home. Also like the ACOE McPhee made his recording debut on a small, independent domestic label. In the case of the ACOE, their first recording came out as the sophomore release on the Nessa label, still active today, under the name the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble. McPhee’s first release as a leader was the inaugural release on the CjR label, which as far as I know, only released three lp’s, all of which were McPhee’s. On the track "Shakey," Jake McPhee is clearly influenced by both Coltrane and James Brown. The band includes organ, electric piano, electric bass, and two percussionists. This kind of track, recorded live, includes elements of touring soul and R&B groups on which many jazz players cut their teeth, as noted above, and lengthy, free improvisation practiced by the out players. McPhee apparently decided to pursue more free avenues of expression and neither of his other later two lp’s for CjR include the kind of work heard here.

    Joe McPhee: Shakey Jake
    From Nation Time (CJR, 1971)

    One player who frequently played in the funky vein was Phil Ranelin. His early funky sides can be found on the artist-owned Tribe label, such as "Sounds From The Village" on Vibes From The Tribe. The track is equally Funk Brothers’ Motown and electric-era Miles Davis, paying homage to the hard-bop Detroit forefathers of the previous generation (i.e. Yusef Lateef, Donald Byrd, Roy Brooks, etc.) and looking forward to the House and Techno forefathers of two generations later.

    Phil Ranelin: Sounds From The Village
    From Vibes From The Tribe (Tribe, 1976)

    Artist-owned labels were frequently purveyors of out jazz. Another example is the proto-Hip-Hop of Maulawi’s "Street Rap" on Strata East. More of an argument between a couple in the city than a rap, the arrangement of the vocals (!?) over the funky accompaniment is meant to be downright ghetto soul. Similarly, Rudolph Johnson’s Black Jazz recording of Devon Jean comes on like the theme song to Sanford & Son. Interestingly, Johnson’s Second Coming lp, also from Black Jazz, clearly shows the influence of less-funky-but-truly-beautiful A-Love-Supreme-era-Impulse-work of John Coltrane.

    Maulawi: Street Rap
    From S/T (Strata East, 1974)

    Rudolph Johnson: Devon Jean
    From: Spring Rain (Black Jazz, 1971)

    Both Webster Lewis’ Do You Believe and Roy Brooks’ The Free Slave are live recordings that open with funky drums. The funk continues on Believe with Lewis’ organ and the vocals of Judd Watkins. If the track reminds the listener of Barry White, that is because Lewis was at one time White’s band leader. One will also be forgiven for hearing a connection to fellow funky out organist Larry Young for whom Lewis took over in Tony William’s Lifetime. Brooks was more of a soul jazz and post-bop drummer than a free drummer. He will be familiar to Blue Note junkies as the drummer behind Horace Silver’s Song For My Father. Brooks is also well know for helping introduce the world the post-bop styling of Woody Shaw, who played trumpet on The Free Slave. Shaw’s playing here harkens back to Larry Young’s Unity and Shaw’s own In The Beginning. While neither of those two titles is as funky as The Free Slave, which shows the influence of boogaloo, they are both fantastic.

    Webster Lewis: Do You Believe
    From In Norway - The Club 7 Live Tapes (Plastic Strip,
    2007, Originally released Arne Bendiksen Records, 1971)

    Roy Brooks: The Free Slave
    From The Free Slave (Muse, 1972)

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

posted by O.W.

The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band:

Rather than try to tackle on all six of the Rhino UK reissues of the Watts 103rd series on Warner Bros., it just seemed more expedient to do half now and the other half soon. Andy Sax, the same guy who who put together the two Rhino Handmade comps I wrote about last week, also was responsible for putting together the entire series line for Rhino UK, complete with practically a second album's worth of bonus songs and new liner notes. It's too bad it didn't come out domestically only since folks could have saved some money on them but at $17 a pop, it's not they're way overpriced either.

I picked two songs off each CD to highlight, beginning with the first and arguably "false" Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band album from 1967. "Spreadin' Honey" is the song that purportedly started it all - the first to use the Watts name when the single first appeared on Keymen records. As I note in my liner notes for Live at Haunted House though, it's an open question if Wright even played on "Spreadin' Honey" and none of the other Watts musicians remember playing on that single either. Regardless though, it's what put the Watts Band on the map, having first started out as a hit theme for radio DJ Magnificent Montague, then as its own single, and THEN, jacked (well, supposedly jacked) by the Soul Runners for another single, this time on Mo Soul.

"Fried Okra," on the other hand, was recorded by the second Watts Band, the same on that Wright worked together with on the Bill Cosby LPs. No Gadson or McKay here but James Carmichael (pianist/arranger) was in the mix for these sessions which fill up all but one song on that first Watts album ("Spreadin' Honey" being the exception. It was included by Warner Bros.' insistence). Even though I don't really love anything off this first album, "Fried Okra" at least has a slinky, funky jazz feel that I can roll with. This is the mono version which is included as a bonus on the CD - it has a harder bite than the original stereo version.

But wait...the thing about "Fried Okra" is that it further confuses the whole "Soul Runners vs. Watts 103rd" debate. A very similar track appears on a Soul Runners' 45 as "Grits N' Cornbread" and as Funky 16 Corners has researched, also shows up in the early '70s (?!) as "Let It Crawl" by Society's Bag (again, on WBs). WTF? Who recorded what, when? If the Soul Runners had nothing to do with the Watts Band (which is seems to be the conventional wisdom)...I could see how "Spreadin' Honey" was recorded first by the Watts Band and then "borrowed" by the Soul Runners but "Grits N' Cornbread" didn't appear on the first Watts album until 1967 yet came out by the Soul Runners, supposedly, in 1967. What gives?

No confusion about the next pair of songs - they come from Together, the first "real" Watts Band album insofar as it contains the personnel everyone associates with the Watts 103rd name. It's also my favorite album by the group, thanks to a stellar trio of songs built around "65 Bars and a Taste of Soul," "Giggin' Down 103rd," and "A Dance, A Kiss and a Song." Out of those, I'm posting up "65 Bars" because I like how hard a funk groove this lays down, especially with the horn section blazin' away and a solid, in-the-pocket contribution by drummer James Gadson. "Poverty Stricken Chicken" is one of the bonus songs on Together; a previously unreleased song from the vaults that sounds like it should fit right around the time Together was being recorded. I can hear part of their earlier, Top 40 style here - there's a very Stax-like quality to part of the arrangement - but you also hear some of the new ideas Wright was cooking up in this era.

In the Jungle, Babe is probably the Watts album I'm least familiar with and I'm not even sure why...I just never listened to it much even though it has some of the group's most interesting songs, including "Comment" and "Love Land." "Comment," in particular, was considered controversial at the time for Wright's tackling of racial tensions. As he put it to me, "people didn't like it" and when I asked, "which people," he grinned and said "White people." Musically too, it's an extraordinary ballad with its gospel brushes, the string accompaniment and an indelible set of vocals. (For whatever reason, it also sounds very post-Pet Sounds). To me, it's really ahead of the curve for an R&B song - reminds me of something Roberta Flack or Donny Hathaway would have recorded a few years down the line.

"Oh Happy Gabe (Sometimes Blue)" is presumably a play on "Oh Happy Day" but name-checks trumpeter Gabriel Flemings. I had never heard this song in its entirety until recently and I'm feeling it like [braille/cordury/stucco]. It's a lovely instrumental that builds in subtle layers, especially the overlapping horns. Magnificent song, all around.

Part 4 of the Watts 103rd Week (well, more than a week) will wrap up with the other three albums available as part of this Rhino/Warners UK reissue set.


posted by O.W.

Folks will notice I've added a new media player to the site - I haven't gotten rid of the old way, you can still "click" and download songs - but instead, I added the Yahoo Media Player on top of the existing system, just to see how it plays out. The advantage to this is that it allows a continuous play of all the songs on the homepage via the player (though it won't do much for those who'd rather download).

So far, I find it unobtrusive and it adds a degree of usability that hasn't existed on the site before.

For other bloggers: you should give this a try...it's very easy to install and Yahoo makes no money off it. All it requires is a single line of code that you can put in your template or each blog post:

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://mediaplayer.yahoo.com/js"></script>

Note: this won't work with blogs that link to songs stored on a hosting service such as divshare or sendspace, etc. But if you link to songs hosted at a conventional server, you won't need to do anything else except add that line of script above.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

posted by O.W.

Thee Midniters: Jump, Jive and Harmonize + Hey Little Girl
From In Thee Midnite Hour (Norton, 2006)

Thee Midniters: That's All
From Giants (Whittier, 1967). Also available on their Greatest Hits.

Since I've been in L.A., I've tried to start learning about the bands with local roots down here and one name that kept popping up was Thee Midniters. I quickly learned why: they were the Chicano rock n' roll band of the 1960s - not just locally in their hometown of East L.A. but nationally too, with hits like "Whittier Blvd." and a version of Chris Kenner's "Land of 1000 Dances." Their exploits are well-chronicled in David Reyes and Tom Waldman's history of Chicano rock, also entitled Land of 1000 Dances.

Silly me though...I'm so used to lowrider-type soul that I just assumed that an East L.A. band would be some suavecito tip but while the group certainly had their share of ballads, such as the mellow "That's All", they also had an impressive catalog built off of some beautifully rough, rollickin' garage rock singles. I'm talking about some of the hardest sides I've heard in a while - fuzzed out, crunchy, but packing a wallop. Just listen to "Jump, Jive and Harmonize" and how vicious those opening guitar lines are from George Dominguez. Then you throw in George Salazar (or was it Danny Lamont?) attacking the drums while Little Willy G screams down the vocals.

If you dig that sound, the entire In the Midnite Hour disc collects those songs (no slow jams, just the ruff stuff) and what really impresses me isn't just the energy of the singles but also how sophisticated many of the rhythm arrangements are. Especially with a song like "Hey Little Girl" (a previously unreleased single), I can hear all kinds of similarities to some of the ideas James Brown was working out on his songs like "Night Train." These are just my initial impressions - I'll have to dig deeper, maybe take myself to the aforementioned Whittier Blvd.

Here's a bonus video of Little Willie G singing "That's All""

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posted by O.W.

Hua put me up on this new experiment in social music networking: muxtape.com.

I've gone ahead and created my first Soul Sides Muxtape, filled with a bunch of goodies, a few songs I've written about but most of them I've yet to yap about here. Consider it the preview.

I like the lo-tech quality of the site and its basic concept but seriously, would it kill them to throw in a search function? Random play is not a bad idea in principle but I still like some level of organization. And while we're whining, it'd be nice to be able to FF and RW on a track. But really, we like it otherwise.

In any case, be sure to peep the other muxtapes in rotation, including Hua's (both of them), Sasha Frere Jones' and Tony Phrone. Sasha just blew my mind a bit by including a cover of "Crumbs Off the Table" by Dusty Springfield.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

posted by Captain Planet


Paul Simon : Late... (Edit De DJ Spun)
taken from
the 12" on Editions Disco

LTJ Xperience Ft. Joe Bataan : Ordinary Guy (Latin Club Edit)
taken from the 12" on Irma (also available on
this CD)

Oreja vs. Plenafro : Julieta
taken from
the 12" on Candela

Schoolly D : Skool's Out (Les Rythmes Digitales Remix)
taken from
the 12" on Wall Of Sound

Last week Spring burst into the city with a palpable gush of long-dormant virility. The mere site of magnolia blossoms stirring in the sun evoked more artistic appreciation and divine wellness in the collective heart of New York City than all it's art museums, galleries and theaters combined throughout the entire rest of the year. In every direction you could find someone smiling and taking a long-deserved deep breath of rebirth. Looking out on the dancefloor, the stink of fermented pheromones was spilling out in bucketloads as party people remembered why they live in the land of Gotham. This music is as close as I can get right now to expressing the communal kinetic release I see in my neighbors and friends and feel in the warmest part of myself. Enjoy these true treasures of bombasticism and use them to shake loose whatever cantankerous crust you created over winter.


posted by O.W.

This is all from a kick ass concept for a blog: Record Envelope


Monday, April 21, 2008

posted by O.W.

But be warned that you may not want to click away after peeping this.


posted by O.W.

This might be of interest to folks: I recently interviewed Jeff "Chairman" Mao of ego trip fame on the eve of the new Miss Rap Supreme show on VH1 (just two weeks in and already with more beef than a Costco butchery).

Surprisingly, despite his high profile as a journalist/writer and DJ/collector, I found relatively few other interviews out there on the interweb and so my conversation with Jeff covered a broad range of topics in terms of his own personal history as well as professional insights on everything from hip-hop to music criticism to what makes compelling reality television. It's a long interview but I think it makes for a good read (biased as I am).

If you're ever in New York, be sure to roll through APT on Saturday night to see Mao and his friends spin.

As a Soul Sides bonus, here's one of the songs that Mao mentions in the interview, "Tribute to Obabi" from the Last Poets...a tune he heard being spun at the Soul Kitchen party in NY back in the 1990s that made him realize that people will actually dance to music like this.

The Last Poets: Tribute to Obabi
From Chastisment (Douglas, 1972)


Sunday, April 20, 2008

posted by O.W.

Rabbits & Carrots: Las 4 Culturas + Romeo Y Julieta
From Soul Latino (Musart, 1969). Also available on LP.

Bonus: Rabbits & Carrots: Express Yourself (snippet)
From We Got More Soul EP (Musart, 1971). Also on Soul Latino (CD but not LP)

File Soul Latino under those albums seemingly too good to be true - a group of Mexican rock/jazz musicians with a trio of brothers and nephews at core - sitting down in 1968 to record a series of instrumentals, most of them with a hard, funk edge. Frankly, if someone had told me this was some retro-soul band, masquerading as a vintage group with that backstory - I'd sooner believe the hoax. Not that Mexico City would lack the necessary musicians to put something like this together but it's like stumbling across an album such as that by Chile's infamous Xingu. Given how rare this purports to be, it's a genuine treat that the folks at Vampisoul got Musart's permission to reissue it.

Yes indeed: Rabbits & Carrots were real, as was their Soul Latino album and subsequent EP. That album constitutes one of the holy grails of Mexican funk albums and it's not just because of rarity or its unusualness - it's damn well put together and recorded well. Check out how they take on Don Randi's "Theme From Romeo and Juliet" - all dissonant whines and moody loops, beautifully accented by Luis Agúero's guitar and a brass section lead by Ramón Flores and Ramón Negrete and I'm assuming its bad leader and percussionist Salvador Agüero on those tinkling chimes.

"Las 4 Culturas," according to the liner notes, is the album's sole "original" song, a song about the Tlateloco Massacre. That may very well be true that the song is meant to inspire awareness around the murder of potentially 200-300 people before the Mexico City Olympics but musically speaking, most people would probably note: "uh, isn't this 'Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved' by James Brown?" And you'd be right - it is. In fact, that's how it's billed on this 12" from a year or so ago. Not that I'm complaining - it would make sense to take a song with a title as politically charged as Brown's and reapply it to the happenings in Mexico City.

For a bonus cut, I threw on a tease of the group's 1971 cover of "Express Yourself." This came after Salvador Agüero (nickname "Rabito," hence the group's name) left the band and a vocalist named Max (Max what?) joined. This isn't necessarily my favorite cover of the Watts 103rd's immortal classic but I dig its Spanish-language remake and given the timing with the Watts 103rd Week, it seemed only apropos (plus, that ridiculous drum-break toward the end doesn't hurt either). Just be aware: this song, along with covers of "Sex Machine," "We Got More Soul" and "Spill the Wine" are available on the CD of the album, as well as a separate EP, but it's not on the vinyl LP version of the Soul Latino album.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

posted by O.W.

Puckey Puckey: Jams and Outtakes, 1970-71 is very much the companion compilation to Live at the Haunted House. The latter captures Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band at the beginning of their career - Puckey Puckey follows the group at the beginning of their end.

As with Haunted House, I'm making an excerpt of my liner notes for Puckey Puckey available to ya'll but just keep in mind - this is barely a quarter of the total notes so please do pick up the CD (5000 copies only, then they're permanently gone). I touch a little bit on what makes this compilation so interesting in that excerpt but here's the basics:

The Watts Band recorded. A lot. A. Lot. Maybe it's because they had Warner Bros. dollars behind them but Wright took the band into the studio often and had them jam for hours. As a result, the amount of unreleased music - much of its rehearsal jams and the like - is beyond expectation. We're talking hours upon hours. Reissue producer Andy Zax went through and culled what he thought were the best parts.

Here's two I pulled off this two-disc set:

Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band: Express Yourself (alternate version) (snippet) + Jam #3 (snippet)
From Puckey Puckey: Jams and Outtakes, 1970-71 (Rhino Handmade, 2008)

Yeah folks - there's an alternate version of "Express Yourself." My face melted just a lil when I learned about that. If for no other reason, it's worth copping the comp just for this. We're not talking about, "alternate version with an extra horn." We're talking about basically a wholly different flavored recording. It's the same song, sure, but it's so much more laid-back and languid - you can feel the band just riding in that pocket on this one. Normally, I'd give you the whole song to enjoy but in this case, there's enough to tease you.

"Jam #3" is an example of the long, flowing grooves that Wright would have the band work on in rehearsal. When I say long, I mean long - this total song is over 20 min (hence why I snipped it). On the one hand, you can hear all kinds of ideas being worked on here, really ambitious long-form ideas that the Watts Band wasn't able to put out on record but you can see some connections between them, James Brown in the past, and looking forward to Clinton's P-Funk experiments.

These long sessions were a point of considerable tension within the group, certainly not the only one, but it didn't help matters and it was during this phase that the group was churning out some of their best work but also beginning to fall apart, especially as the group's success grew. By '72, with the departure of drummer James Gadson and most of the rhythm section, the Watts Band was no more.

Next in the Watts 103rd series: a monster overview of the recent Rhino UK series of Wright & Watts 103rd, Warner Bros. reissues.

And, oh yeah - there will be a giveaway at the end of all this and the mother-of-all giveaways it shall be!


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

posted by O.W.

I am very proud to announce the release of a new, 2-CD set by Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band called Live at the Haunted House - May 18, 1968. This is "never heard before" material (sort of...I'll get back to that point in a moment) and is an incredibly rich document of not just the Watts 103rd's own history, but a snapshot of the Los Angeles R&B scene in the late 1960s.

I wrote the liner notes for both this album and its companion compilation on Rhino Handmade, Puckey Puckey (more on that in a later post). It was an incredibly awarding experience, especially as a follow-up to the equally enriching Betty Davis liners. It wasn't just an opportunity to research one of my favorite bands and speak to folks like Charles Wright, Melvin Dunlap and James Gadson - it also allowed me to untangle a mystery that's surrounded the band for over 40 years: just how many Watts Bands were there?


Answer: at least three, with almost completely different personnel. I've created this excerpt from the notes that details this history. However, this doesn't include the second part of the liners - about the Haunted House and historical significance of the May 18th gig - nor any of the incredible images of the band, recovered from the archives. (In other words: get the album. Like all Handmade items, this is limited to 5000 pressings with no other pressings after. Once they're gone, they're gone).

Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band: Do Your Thing/Band Intros + We're a Winner/I Can't Turn You Loose
From Live at the Haunted House - May 18, 1968 (Rhino Handmade, 2008)

Here's the super-condensed history behind this recording: back in the mid-60s, Wright and his band, The Wright Sounds (which would morph into the Watts 103rd Band) had a regular gig at the Haunted House in Hollywood (see this great photo of the Haunted House's stage). At their shows, they would mostly play a medley of Top 40 R&B hits (especially since the group itself didn't have much original material recorded at this point). One of the things that makes this live show taping so important, in particular, is that edits from it ended up as songs on Together, the first "real" Watts 103rd Band album.

If you look over the album's tracklisting as a whole, you'll find the original, uncut versions of songs from Together such as "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "Stormy Monday." However, the most significant song recorded that night ended up being an improvised groove following "Funky Broadway" that became "Do Your Thing" after Wright edited it down. During the gig, the "Band Intros" came next and I included that recording too, just for kicks.

The gig ended with a cover of one of my favorite songs by the Impressions: "We're a Winner" plus a very short reprise of "I Can't Turn You Loose" before they closed out the night.

Next in the Watts 103rd series: Puckey Puckey: Jams and Outtakes, 1970-1971 plus a monster overview of the recent Rhino UK series of Wright & Watts 103rd, Warner Bros. reissues.

And, oh yeah - there will be a giveaway at the end of all this and the mother-of-all giveaways it shall be!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

posted by O.W.

Sorry to have been away for a while - my thanks to the Captain's Crates crew for holding it down.

I've been on award tour, starting last week at Duke University where I gave a pair of talks in conjunction with their Transcultural Humanities project. It was a great opportunity to talk about my work but the real enjoyment was spending some time, rapping with Mark Anthony Neal who brought me out there. He put me up on this stunning Max Roach/JC White Singers song but I'm still trying to track it down so that'll have to wait.


I did catch an equally compelling exhibit at the Nasher, an impressive, first-ever retrospective of Barkely Hendricks' paintings. Hendricks has flown under the radar for decades but hopefully, this show - which will travel to the Studio Museum in Harlem and then the Santa Monica Museum of Art - will rectify that situation. His works from the '60s, in particular, are such beautiful snapshots of the time, both in terms of the cultural signifiers and the personalities that he captures in them. Here's a personal favorite, "Tuff Tony":

Folks might be more familiar with this more recent painting of Fela:

If you're in Durham...or New York in the fall (or Santa Monica next spring, or Philly after that), I highly recommend you see his work. Soul inspired, for real. Shout out to Trevor Schoonmaker for having the foresight and resources to put this retrospective together. Here's a video preview he helped put together for the Nasher:

After Duke, I came home for all of 12 hours then had to fly out again for the EMP Pop Conference in Seattle. I. Love. This. Conference. Which is probably something only an academic would ever say, but f--- it. I have no shame in my appreciation for the conf (as noted in the past). I'm not going to do a complete run-down but I'll say this much: the conf does much to both inspire me intellectually as well as turn me onto new music/ideas/people. Here's a quick scattering, perhaps a follow-up post later.

1) Jeffrey Govan: This bassist in the LA ska scene is also now a grad student at USC's American Ethnic Studies program. He gave on paper on the Latin influence on ska back in the 1960s (and influence that has been remarkably cataloged here. Apart from introducing me to the Skatalites' "Latin Goes Ska" (a flip on Perez Prado), I was most thankful for Govan putting all of us onto this:

Tommy McCook and the Skatalites: Sauvitt
From 7" (Dodd, 1964). Also available on Tribute to Tommy.

It's a cover of a Mongo Santamaria song ("Sauvito") and the subtle intertwining of ska and Latin rhythms here are simply delicious. I love how the song opens with that piano, how the horns come in and layer themselves, and my favorite moment comes right before the two bridges with the four note horn hits - wish they had made that into an entire chorus. Great song - a new favorite.

2) Lauren Onkey: This professor at Ball State Univ. is doing fascinating research on the undersung Black rock and doo-wop bands who were part of the Mersey Beat scene in Liverpool circa the 1950s/60s. Onkey was drawn to this research given how, in most of the literature she had seen on Liverpool's music scene and the Beatles, rarely were any of the city's numerous Black bands ever acknowledged even though groups like the Fab 4 played with them and, according to some rumors, learned their R&B-styled chops from them. Onkey also makes the very provocative argument that Liverpool's historical Black population (dating back centuries to the city's prominence as the slaving port in Great Britian) is one reason why the blues fetishism that hit other British bands like the Rolling Stones or Cream bypassed Liverpool groups - they had grown up with Black people and thus, weren't as likely to romanticize/nostalgize them through the blues.

In any case, during her talk, she played this clip by the Liverpool doo-wop group, The Chants, who worked with the Beatles early on before they really became "The Beatles." Here they are, covering the jazz standard, "I Could Write a Book."

3) Gayle Wald: I last mentioned Gayle a year ago, in connection to her book on Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Gayle's now working on researching the life and times of the late Ellis Haizlip, a remarkable artistic force in New York, who, among other things, hosted the PBS show, Soul!. It's hard to quite capture how remarkable a show this was - in the late '60s through early '70s, it was an incredible meeting point of different Black artists, musicians, politicians, etc. in ways that have never really been duplicated since (no, not even by Arsenio).

The problem is that this show will likely never, ever be released to the public on DVD or any other format - the release contracts signed at the time make such a occurrence logistically impossible for all practical purposes. It's a damn shame - the clips that Gayle brought included a mind-melting interview between Haizlip and Farrakhan talking about gay sex, Ashford and Simpson performing on one of the last Soul! shows and - coincidentally enough - Max Roach w/ the JC White Singers.

Luckily (however illegally), clips have snuck out, including this 1973 performance by the Spinners on the show.

4) Last but not least, one of the other people on my panel (besides Gayle) was EMP organizer and fellow L.A. partner-in-culinary-crime Eric Weisbard who did a paper on Elton John's "Benny and the Jets" - a song that most everyone (I presume) has heard but may not remember being a big hit on not just the pop charts, but also the R&B charts. Don't believe it? Just ask Mary. Or the Diabolical:

Biz Markie: Sounds of Silence (by the Beastie Boys) (Capitol, 1999)

For real though, listening to that version isn't half as fun as watching it:

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Monday, April 14, 2008

posted by murphyslaw


Estelle: Come Over
Taken from the forthcoming album Shine on Homeschool (2008)

Here's the deal: I'm only going to post one song from this album because you need to buy the whole damn thing when it comes out on domestic release in two weeks. (If you know what's good for you you'll cough up the extra few bucks for an import and get the jump on all the cats who are gonna be on Estelle's jock come May.) Seriously. It's not terribly often that I'm introduced to a new record and can almost immediately forget about the other 35 gazillion songs on my Ipod and 46 bazillion LP's cluttering up my house... but this one did it for me.

This is an album that bears well its title. Tight production, well-selected and executed guest appearances, pop value and heady appeal, all anchored by the voice of a truly talented vocalist... If I sound gushy, it's because I am. I could have pulled virtually any one of these meticulously crafted twelve songs and felt pretty good about sharing it. But as it happens this particular tune has carried me on its lover's-rock-anthemic wings through an LA weekend that, in part because of the temperature outside (blazing) and in part because of the tone and quality of this track (blazing), seemed to usher Summer into the City one fell swoop. I had this song bumping at the beach, on the Los Feliz 3 Par, cruising late night on the balmy deserted freeways, at more than a couple BBQ's... and everywhere I went cats seemed to fall into lock step with the loping shimmering summery bounce. Oo-oh, oo-oh, oo-oh. So so sweet.

Check out tour dates and artist information here. Estelle's coming. Don't say I didn't warn ya'.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

posted by O.W.

Nolan Strong and the Dialbos: The Wind
From 7" (Fortune, 1954)

The Jesters: The Wind
From 7" (Winley, 1960). Also on Best Of...

Laura Nyro w/ Labelle: The Wind
From Gonna Take a Miracle (Columbia, 1971)

I recently went to a "Listening Party" event at the LACE, where my friend and colleague RJ Smith gave a great talk on the city of Detroit through its music. With images from Detroitfunk.com rotating on a video screen, RJ covered several decades worth of deindustrialization, White flight, abandonment, un-development and the post-humanization of Detroit.

One of the songs he played during this tour was "The Wind" by Nolan Strong and the Diablos, a decent sized doo wop hit from the mid-1950s that I found incredibly haunting and more than a little spooky given the echo effect that permeates the recording. It is such an affecting track that ti's probably not surprising that it found many future fans. The Jesters' 1960 version is especially well-executed - retains many of the dreamy elements of the original but it's a more accessible recording too. Even Laura Nyro was a fan - recording a 1971 version with Labelle on back-up vocals I presume. Her high voice fits especially well with the song, mirroring the original falsetto but even more piercing. Notably though, Nyro leaves out the spoken bit in the middle (which might be just as well).

Wind wind blow oooooh oooh blow wind wind

When the cool summer breeze
Sends a chill down my spine
And I long for my love's sweet caress
I know she is gone but my love lingers on
In a dream that the wind brings to me.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Loving Planet Earth
posted by murphyslaw

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Demon Fuzz: Hymn To Mother Earth
Taken from the album Afreaka on Janus (1972)

The Great White Cane: Mother Earth
Taken from the self-titled LP on Lion (1973)

Gil Scott Heron: We Almost Lost Detroit
Taken from the album Bridges on (1977)

Wayne McGhie: I Can See Mother Nature
Taken from the album Wayne McGhie and The Sounds of Joy on Birchmount (1970)

Okay. So I know I'm a bit early on the Earth Day love, but why not get a jump. Start spreading the good word a few weeks early and maybe by the time April 22nd rolls around you'll already have installed your new energy-efficient fridge and traded your H3 (heinous!) for a snazzy new Prius... or one of these. Bottom line is it's never too soon to celebrate GAIA!

Here are a few tracks from the vanguard of geo-social consciousness.

The Demon Fuzz record is pretty well-known on the nerd-circuit, but always a joy to introduce to people who may not yet have heard the bounty of this U.K.-based Cymande-esque outfit... A truly wonderful song with bass lines, organs and funky changes for days. To say nothing of the album art. Zinger!

Where did Rick James cultivate his inner super freak? Why, with The Great White Cane, of course, where he fronted the band for their mostly unmemorable sole record. This meandering 8-minute anthem, however, stands as a salient exception to the mediocrity of the rest of the record. Redeem me Rick!

G.S.H. surely needs no introduction, though this selection comes off an oft slept on record of his, and one of his first great collabo's with Brian Jackson in a synthier late-70's vein. This song along with the devastating "Delta Man" off the same album have been late night driving staples for me for years... A discerning listener might also notice a very tasty Blackstar sample tucked in there...

Lastly, Mr. McGhie, a West-Indian bywayof Canada, who made an appearance on this blog a few years back and returns now with this delicately loping sweetness. Drive on Earth Mother. Drive on.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

posted by O.W.

This week at Boogaloo[LA], it's me and special guest DJ Roberto Gyemant, aka Beto.

I've talked about Beto before - he's one of the most knowledgeable people I know concerned the jazz/soul/Latin music scene in Central/South American (the Afro-Antilles as he refers to it) and he wrote liner notes for both the Panama and Colombia comps. This should be a real treat - he'll be dropping in around midnight and hopefully will be blowing minds with some incredible Latin heat. I think I might just turn the whole evening into an all-Latin affair in tribute.

I owe Beto and my regular partner, Murphy's Law, a great deal for finally opening my ears to salsa. It's not like I wasn't aware of it but I think I've had bugalú tunnel vision for so many years, I wasn't all that interested in the era that followed and it wasn't until I started hearing some of the tracks Beto and ML enjoyed that I realized: "oh, this is why salsa is, you know, huge." Strangely, the road for me doesn't go to NY - it actually leads back to Colombia and specifically, Fruko (who's been a favorite here twice over). It probably could (should) have been Willie Colon or Hector Lavoe or the Fania All-Stars but no...it was a scruffy bassist who really sparked my interest.

In homage to him - and as a preview for tomorrow night - enjoy this:

Fruko Y Sus Tesos: El Preso
From El Grande (Fuentes, 1975)

This apparently is a stone-cold classic around the salsa world and I can see why. That "ay ay ay" kills it, on top of everything else.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

posted by O.W.