What we’re gonna do right here is go back…way back…back into time. Back to Harlem, circa 1979, where a new musical form was about to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of the 70’s disco inferno. That new sound was called hip hop, and helping to document its birth was an independent record label called P&P Records, run by Peter Brown & Patrick Adams. Having experienced a modest amount of success in the disco market, they were perfectly situated to capitalize on this newest underground sound. The P&P tracks collected here are about as “old school” as “old school” gets; Chic’s “Good Times” rhythm even gets an airing on the track by Sicle Cell & Rhapazooty. Other tracks delve deeper into rap’s disco influences, particularly the instrumentals by Super Jay and Cloud One. And the futuristic, proto-electro side shows up on tracks by Troy Rainey and Naomi. All in all, though, this collection is about a time when rap was FUN. Drop the needle on any track and you’ll soon be wanting to throw your hands in the air, and wave ’em like ya just don’t care!
Plastic Records continues to document the 70’s output of the Italian Cometa production music library with this second volume in the STROBOSCOPICA series. Like most production music, the tracks herein are short, simple, and indexed by instrumentation, tempo, and style. While certainly not in the same league as the full-length film scores of Morricone, Allesandroni, et. al., the music here is functional and fun. More reminiscent of 70’s television than anything else, the somewhat cliched compositions evoke suspense, anxiety, mystery, action, romance, and the hustle and bustle of daily life.
DESCO. Need I say more? In little over a year, Desco have established themselves as a hallmark of quality when it comes to funk and soul music. Now, here comes the first Desco compilation, and it’s a MONSTER, collecting all the limited- edition 7″ singles they’ve released to date. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was a collection of classic 70’s tracks…IT’S THAT GOOD! All your favorite Desco artists are here, plus a few you might not have heard before. (Be sure to check out the sitar-funk of Ravi Harris and the new tracks from Lee Fields’ upcoming album.) 100% heavy, heavy funk!
The first full-length release on the eclectic Mush record label is an adventurous collection of underground hip hop, featuring mostly unknown artists and DJ’s. A wordy collection, to be sure, as the nine pages of lyrics in the CD booklet can attest, but these words are closer to poetry than your average hip hop record. Musically you can expect lots of jazz and soundtrack samples, plus an ample helping of turntablist trickery. Lots of variety from track to track, yet it all sounds cohesive in the end. Very impressive.
Come again mi selectah! Kelvin Richard presents chapter 3 in the ongoing compilation series “inspired by” the work of his own recording alias, the Dub Funk Association. Don’t expect to find much funk in this set, but rest assured there is plenty of dub and rootical riddims. Highlights include: some extremely tweaked production from the UK’s Alpha & Omega on “Jerusalem”; the legendary Prince Alla vocalizing over Jah Warrior’s “Our Father Dub” (check the Dixieland-style horn solo!); Mr. Dub Funk Association himself setting the standard with his own contribution, “Babylon Kingdom”; Zion Train’s DJ Perch giving the people what they want on “Edutainment Dub”; and finally, some squelchy electronidub from the Vibronics on “Natty Riddim”. Twelve exclusive dub plates in all, enough to hold you over until the arrival of chapter 4.
It’s Nick Drake covers, but totally out of left field! Songlines and producer Tony Reif have corralled an impressive roster of jazz/avant-garde talent from the Pacific Northwest to pay tribute to this legendary British singer/songwriter. And the result is something quite haunting, yet familiar: old songs completely reimagined and sounding fresher than ever in this new context. Though jazz is the central pulse, many other elements are woven into the mix, including a bit of electronica, psych, folk, and rock. Personal favorites include two tracks featuring the sensual vocals of Kate Hammett-Vaughan (“Clothes of Sand”, “Poor Boy”) and a 14-minute improvisational piece that isn’t technically a cover, but more of a tribute (“For Nick/Horn/Know”). Totally unique and successful on its own terms, this is a covers album that should appeal to both fans and non-fans of the original artist.
You may not be familiar with the name of Phil Pratt, but you will certainly be familiar with some of the reggae artists he produced: Ken Boothe, Big Youth, The Heptones, and Dennis Brown, just to name a few. This latest Pressure Sounds compilation rounds up some of the best work from Pratt, a publicity-shy producer who never really got the attention he deserved. Several of the tracks on this excellent retrospective are multiple variations on the same riddim. For example, Al Campbell’s soulful vocal on “Going the Wrong Way” is followed by the “Discomix” dub version, then a DJ toast over the tune by Big Youth. For “Talk About Love” Pat Kelly & Dillinger team up on the SAME version and the results are exhilarating… easily worth the price of the album. Pratt’s story is the typical one of record company ripoffs. He left the music business in the late 80’s and today runs a cafe in London. What a shame.
Leaf is another one of those genre-defying U.K. labels, like Fat Cat or Lo Recordings, that operates at the fringes of modern electronic music. And the music on OSMOSIS, a budget-priced preview of forthcoming Leaf releases, is appropriately hard to categorize. As a sweeping generalization, though, most of the tracks here feature downtempo or subdued beats, and offer more than just electronics, whether it be live instruments or samples or vocals. No particular tracks stand out from the others… it’s pure quality through and through. Put this album on …relax…and let the music flow selectively through your auditory membranes.
The soundtrack to director Brad Anderson’s debut film about looking for love in modern-day Boston is 100% bossa nova. Evenly weighted between classic tracks and specially-recorded cover versions and incidental music, this is perfect music for a hot summer day: easy on the ears but harmonically and rhythmically sophisticated. 1998 marks the 40th anniversary of the bossa nova; what better time to acquaint or re-acquaint yourself with its many charms?
The latest manifesto from Detroit’s Underground Resistance posse is a new take on the classic electro sound, replete with vocodered vocals and stabbing synths. Alongside veterans like The Suburban Knight, Drexciya, and UR themselves, this compilation features several newcomers: Chaos, Perception, and Chamaleon, just to name a few. For a compilation, the sound is remarkably consistent, particularly over the first three sides. Favorites here include the funky opener, “Maroon,” and the electro house of “Soul Saver.” With Drexciya’s unique aquaticisms on Side D, things start to go a bit pear-shaped, and Side E even features two tracks with a Middle Eastern flavor! Rounding out the compilation are a brooding instrumental track by Chamaleon and a funky closer by UR. In short, an album that documents Detroit’s continued musical vitality.
Good God! This be the real thang: funky funky funky soul from 1967-69, by some of the most obscure groups you’ve never heard of, like Willie Tell & the Overtures, or Jimbo Johnson & the Violators. They’re singing and shouting about dances like the Popcorn, The Get It, and the Yak-a-Poo. Lo-fi as hell, with loud, snotty horns, and wailin’ guitars, and unrelenting FUNK! All killer, no filler! And remember: “If ya can’t do the Get It, ya got ta quit it!”
The 45 RPM record labels featured on the cover of this LP represent just a few of the “holy grails” in the world of the fanatical funk and soul collector. Fortunately, for those of us too poor or perhaps just less knowledgeable about the genre, Soul Patrol has assembled yet another fine collection of these super-rare 45 gems on one extremely affordable LP. Twelve straight shots of lo-fi, hi-energy funk and soul from the 60’s and 70’s: all killer, no filler. Be sure to check out Hebrew Rogers’ “Can’t Buy Soul” and Al Reed’s “99 & 44/100 Pure Love” for starters.
Another remarkable collection from the vaults of Sir Coxsone Dodd, FEEL LIKE JUMPING documents the often-neglected contributions made by women to the Studio One sound. Highlights include: the classic title track from Marcia Griffiths, which also formed the basis of Toots & the Maytals’ “54-46 Was My Number;” Dawn Penn’s original version of “No No No;” a new, extended remix of Norma Fraser’s “First Cut is the Deepest;” and Jerry Jones’ soulful reggae rendition of Les McCann & Eddie Harris’ “Compared to What.”
As the subtitle confirms, Volume 4 in the Easy Tempo series presents “a kaleidoscopic collection of exciting and diverse cinematic themes.” From bossa nova to blaxploitation, that’s no lie! Highlights of this volume include a super-funky version of Desmond Dekker’s classic “Israelites”, plus those waka-waka guitars and wordless vocals we love so well. Keep ’em coming!
There’s a helluva party goin’ on in downtown Soulville! The DJ’s are rockin’ the house with obscure 60’s soul, from labels like Punch, Blackjack, and Cross-Tone…records that would probably cost you a fortune if you could even find them to begin with…records by Carl Holmes and the Commanders, Billy Wade and the 3rd Degrees, and Little Daddy Walton, just to name a few. And the guests are learning how to dance the Tight Rope, the Soul Strut, the Skate, the African Twist, and more. So don’t be left out…git yourself on downtown and check out the sounds. You’ll be glad you did.
Following on from previous compilations (WELL CHARGED and WHEN THE DANCES WERE CHANGING), this is the third in a Pressure Sounds trilogy documenting the output of Ernest and Jo Jo Hookim’s Channel One label. This time the focus is on dub versions and instrumental b-sides from the mid-to-late 70’s. Made specifically for the sound system market and with a band featuring the bedrock rhythm section of Sly & Robbie, these tracks were enormously successful in their day. Dillinger’s “Natty A General” gets a wacked-out treatment with honking car horns, and Leroy’s Smart’s “Ballistic Affair” dub retains all the charm of the original vocal version. I’m sure you’ll find your own favorites here as well.
Another cruise through the Lower Antilles with Alan Lomax, circa 1962. This set of field recordings includes 31 selections from Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Carriacou, St. Lucia, St. Barthelemy, Anguilla, Trinidad, and Nevis. Recorded at a time when many of these islands were achieving independence from the British Empire, it was Lomax’s hope that by finding cultural commonalities among the peoples of the Caribbean, he might contribute to a postcolonial Caribbean unification. Lofty ambitions for a guy with a tape recorder. What he found and documented included a myriad of musical styles with roots in African, French, English, Celtic, Spanish, and even East Indian cultures. A remarkable musical survey with excellent liner notes.
Here’s the third in Trojan’s series of triple-LP box sets documenting Lee Perry productions from the oh-so-crucial 70’s. This box focuses on singles, alternating the vocal A-sides with the instrumental/dub versions. My advice is to head straight for Side Four, which features superb vocal contributions from The Meditations, The Congos, and Junior Murvin. But if it’s truly wacked-out dub you’re looking for, better check Junior Dread’s “A Wah Dat/Dub Dat” on Side Two. Even a genius like Lee Perry, however, can’t redeem Sharon Isaacs’ cover of perhaps the most heinous song ever written, “Feelings” (Woah woah woah…) Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Following up collections from Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Russia, the latest stop on Cosmic Sounds’ jazz tour of Eastern Europe is 1960’s Poland. And it’s a rousing success. Among my favorites are the four tracks featuring vibes player Jerzy Milian: three under his own name and a fourth as featured soloist with Jan Wroblewski and the Polish Radio Jazz Orchestra. Then there’s a really swingin’ track by the Novi Singers, one of the all-time greatest jazz vocal groups’from any country! Pianist and film composer Krzystof Komeda, perhaps the most familiar name here, is oddly represented by two versions of the same composition (“The Kitten”), both programmed on the same side of the record. Aside from that minor quibble, BAZAAR really is a valuable and entertaining document of a mostly ignored part of jazz history.
Here’s the first of two 12″ EP’s featuring artists from the second annual Battery Park electronic music festival in Cologne, Germany. The first track, by Dr. W and Mr. Fluex (sic), is a fantastic electro-soul workout with computerized vocals from Nik Frost. We’re talking “Prince meets Kraftwerk” here. The last track, by Computerjockeys, is an amazing rhythmic tour de force, almost drum’n’bass-like, incorporating the sampled sounds of a ping pong game. You have to hear this one to believe it! In between these tracks are two more from Dr. Walker and M. Flux, probably fine tracks by themselves but completely eclipsed by the aforementioned two. Bring on the second volume!