Bobby Byrd earned himself a place in history as one of the original Famous Flames, alongside James Brown. I NEED HELP is his debut solo album, recorded in the early 70’s and produced by the Godfather himself. It’s a strange one, billed as a live album but with a radio fade on every song, topped off by canned applause that sounds as fake as a 60’s sitcom laugh track! Factor this in with the album title (I NEED HELP), plus the fact that Bobby’s face is intentionally obscured on both sides of the album jacket, and you’ve got to wonder: was James trying to make sure this album didn’t succeed? Musically, the album falls more on the soul side (a la “Please Please Please”), though there are a few of the James Brown- patented funk workouts. If you could strip out the audience noise on this record, you might have a damn fine debut album.
A 1996 release from the ever-intriguing Sabotage label out of Austria. This six-track electro EP is more beat-heavy than bleep-heavy. “Device A” opens the circuit at a propulsive, trancey tempo, while “Device B” delays the signal to a more percolating groove. The standout component, though, is “Device F,” which combines knob-twiddly synths with sitar and some crunchy, John Bonham-inspired beats.
James Brown and Fred Wesley scored this blaxploitation gangster flick from 1973 that was written, produced, and directed by Larry “It’s Alive” Cohen. The album is fairly evenly balanced between instrumentals featuring the J.B.’s and vocal numbers from the Godfather of Soul. Singer Lyn Collins also features on one track, “Mama Feelgood.” The tracks that will make you feel REAL good are the openers and closers on each side. The rest is mostly filler.
There just aren’t enough records like this one: spiritual, uplifting jazz with Jamaican and African roots. Sax player Brooks was a crucial component of Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One sound, as well as Count Ossie’s Mystic Revelation of Rastafari. It’s the latter that provides the most influence here, as Brooks gathers an extraordinary group of singers and players, including Earnest Ranglin and Dean Fraser, to record a profoundly beautiful set of vocal hymns and instrumentals. Recorded in the late 70’s, it’s just one more reminder of the incredible musical magic that blossomed in Jamaica during the decade.
This EP of tracks from 1995 was a refreshing reminder to me of what “electronic listening music” was all about in the early 90’s: exploration and a sense of wonder. Before there was much of a “scene” to compare their work with or against, artists like The Black Dog were inventing a new musical language. And compared to much of today’s electronica, this sounds practically ambient. The tracks move at their own pace, stopping and restarting, or shifting rhythmic gears altogether, but always progressing, never redundant. There is some achingly beautiful music on here; thanks to Warp for giving us an opportunity to hear it after all this time.
Arovane’s 4-track debut EP comes to us from Germany’s Din Records, who’ve previously delivered fine releases from Pole and Monolake. It’s prime bedroom electronica, full of ratchety rhythms and melancholy melodies. A very austere and beautiful release, which should appeal to fans of Autechre or Funkstorung. (Like me!) Bonus points for inventive use of static as a percussion instrument.
Originally released in 1992, “Digeridoo” is one of the first half-dozen releases from Richard D. James, and quite a milestone in the annals of electronic dance music. There are no digeridoos here, only the sound of a Roland 303 synth that has been tweaked, processed, or otherwise manhandled to emulate the sound of that Australian aboriginal instrument. Alternating between fairly ambient passages and stabbingly propulsive beats, the sound of “Digeridoo” is in fact the sound of the drugs kicking in. The other three tracks here operate in similar sonic territory, but none quite as successfully as the title track.
Drummer Tony Allen is the most significant figure in the development of Afrobeat outside of Fela Kuti himself. A member of Fela’s band from the early days on up through the late 70’s, Allen developed the rhythmic patterns that lay the foundation for Afrobeat. This recording from 1978 was the third and final solo release that Allen recorded with Fela’s band, Africa 70. Musically it’s as strong as any Fela record, but vocally Allen falls short of the master, as he talks his way through both side-long tracks. The title track is a 17-minute political statement about a mishandled government relocation effort that occurred in the 70’s. “African Message” is a more intimate rumination on the uplifting power of African rhythms. While lacking the impact of Fela’s best work, it’s still great to have this significant and fairly obscure musical document back in print.
Growing up in the 70’s, I was pretty sure that the decade sucked. But apparently I wasn’t listening to the right music. Here we have a dozen alternating tracks from two great 70’s Jamaican deejays, Dennis Alcapone & Jah Lloyd. Toasting over classic dub tracks recorded at Randy’s, Harry J’s, Channel One, and the infamous Black Ark, Alcapone and Lloyd rap about Jah, smoking herb, rude boys…you know, the usual stuff. Oh yeah, and there s one track all about Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Reagan. (Go figure.) I’m not sure I like the deejay battle approach to the sequencing; I’d have preferred one whole side of Alcapone, followed by a side of Lloyd. But whichever way you sequence it, these are some classic tracks.
Totem, from Uruguay, released their first and eponymous album in 1971. Originally on De La Planta, it was re-relased in 2004 by Vampi Soul, an interesting label that has been re-releasing vintage music – often out of print – from the 60’s and 70’s (check the insert in the album).
The genre of this music is ‘candombe-beat? a fusion of Western pop and the native Afro-Uruguayan rhythms of candombe (pronounced can-dome-bay). Candombe is played with three drums (or tambores): piano, chico, and repique. The beat came to Uruguay by way of African slaves.
The music is definitely a product of its time and the production sounds slightly dated. But they are rocking out with the extra percussion and rhythm guitar. The singing is smooth, bordering on crooning.
Blendcrafters is DJ Nu-Mark (of J5 fame) and Pomo. A year after their album, they are back with a 12″ single containing two songs.
There are 4 different versions of a remix of the first song, Melody: clean, non-clean, a cappella (which translates as ‘in the style of the chapel? by the way), and instrumental. M.F. Doom is featured on the remix, spitting out tongue twisters with twisty meanings just behind the beat. In the background is a piano playing jazz chords while a tenor voice asks, ‘What good is melody? What good is music, if it ain’t possessing something sweet?’ There is also a sound effect of a bat hitting a baseball just in time for summer!
The other song is Eddie Harris‘s Bold and Black with Carol Kaye overdubbing a fantastic bass part and Derf Reklaw punching up the percussion. It’s an instrumental and definitely as strong as the A side.
It’s not easy to combine jazz elements with hip hop, based on the semi-embarrassing attempts I have heard from other groups before, but Blendcrafters makes it seem effortless.
Falling in between the ???Not the Way??? EP &
the ???I Cannot Lie??? 7??? single (both in the KFJC
library) is this debut full-length from Brooklyn
(by way of Baltimore) singer/songwriter CASS
MCCOMBS. The going here is slow and decidedly
innocent, though powerful & most endearing???
??????Aids in Africa, and cancer back home???.???
Acoustic guitar, piano, tambourine, + well-laid
melodies bestir this material, with best bets on
Side A ???What Isn???t Nature???, the deft details of
???A Comedian is Someone?????? ??????I spent my days,
shaking hands, forgetting names?????? sample also
Side B???s amiable ???Gee, it???s Good to be Back Home???,
the standout stanzas of ???When the Bible was Wrote???,
and an easygoing ???My Pilgrim Dear???. A former
PALACE player, MCCOMBS plays a swooning pop
of guitar and foreground emotion in oblique settings,
somewhere betwixt SIMON JOYNER + PEDRO THE
LION, and always, as noted by John Peel,
MITCH June 2005
Based in Montreal, Hugo Girard is the man behind Vromb. Rayons is his fourth full-length release.
Mr. Girard‘s intent with this release (and I know because I read the press pack) is to capture different types of rays – hence Rayons – and translate them into music. The rough audio cuts of the songs were given to photographer Alain Gauvin, who was inspired to take some pictures around Montreal which appear on the album cover and the CD insert that should be inside the album cover. These photographs in turn inspired Mr. Girard‘s final mixing of these tracks.
All the sounds on this album, except for a touch of voice on one track, are synthetically generated. Despite the emphasis on light, to me it has a dark, ambient feel. Some tracks are amorphous with the beats in the background or non-existent and others pulse with the regularity of a lawn sprinkler.
This limited-release EP is the 2nd volume (there are three so far as of 5/05) of remixed psychedelic funk tracks featuring the sitar and the sounds of Bollywood and Pakistan. Each side has two funky tracks and a third track consisting of bonus beats for your mixing pleasure. Bend It Like Beckham meets Barney Miller. Enjoy!
One word review: Brownsploitation
The ‘5? Royales, an R&B group originally from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, recorded these 12 songs while signed to King Records. This is a bootleg replica put out by ‘The Official Record Company? of Denmark back in 1988. The King label is covered up with a made-up ‘Sing? label.
The ‘5? Royales started out as a gospel group called The Royal Sons Quintet but changed names and switched to a more secular doo-wop/jump blues sound while signed to Apollo Records and then to a heavier R&B sound while at King Records. Throughout their career the strong gospel influence is always present.
This record presents The ‘5? Royales at the peak of their powers. This is mainly due to Lowman Pauling‘s excellent songwriting and guitar playing combined with the group’s effortless harmonizing. During these later recording sessions for King, Mr. Pauling really started letting loose on his Les Paul. Check out the guitar on Think and Messin’ Up as well as the call-and-response with John Tanner‘s vocals on Say It.
Labelmate James Brown had a hit with Think in 1960, and The Shirelles and The Mamas and Papas had a hit with Dedicated To The One I Love. Check out the originals.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so attracted to
something and terrified by it at the same time? (Grace
Jones?) There’s something about Mu’s Mutsumi Kanamori that
screams for your attention, and just plain screams. Is she
a battle rapper at war with the world? She has zero tolerance
for poseurs, paparazzi parasites and pretty much anybody she
comes in contact who’s *not* named Luke. Lurking in the
shadows here Maurice Fulton is the beat pimp, slapping hand
claps and other Roland percussion together. He also doctors
Mu’s vox, from Darth Vaderification to Spaced Invader robo-
reverb. She adds her own effects, sounding like rooster,
coughing up dry heaves (on “Throwing Up” of course). A
twisted thread of justice and vengeance and English make
this a pretty powerful car crash. When she screeches
“Ugly lazy fuck loser”
I know she’s talking especially to me! File this under
disturbed disco… She’s probably a total sweetheart, but
for now, I’ll respect the restraining (dis)order.
This is a live recording of Saturn native Sun Ra in Italy one January evening in 1978. He is playing with Michael Ray (trumpet), John Gilmore (tenor sax), and Luqman Ali (drums). Originally issued on Sun Ra’s Saturn label, this is a limited re-release by the UK Art Yard label.
The album opens with A1: Saturn Research, in which Sun Ra has his electric organ set on ‘stun? as he takes the audience through highly abstract patterns and cosmic greetings.
There are two long tracks that must be heard: A2 Constellation starts with the rhythm machine channeling Surfin’ Bird by The Trashmen as a trumpet, sax, and then organ rip through it. B1: Media Dreams goes from the sublime to the bizarre.
The last two tracks B2 and B3 sound downright conventional after listening to the tracks that come before it. Sun Ra is on an acoustic piano for these songs.
Thanks to Art Yard for reissuing this rare album that gives a glimpse of Sun Ra playing as part of a quartet. The mystery of why the Huygens probe photographed a mini-moog on Titan has been solved.
Recorded in 1976 by Verna Gillis, 2 stellar percussion pieces, 5 perc w/ women’s voices and one outstanding guitar and perc song that brings the heart of Ghana to your ears. Historical relevance is obvious but the performances are timeless. All pieces are short and
have a lively sound that will uplift any accompanied selections. Rhythm is some high odd number over 4 with substantial butt-moving influence and the pieces carry emotion of a narrative of generations of people.
3w:African Heart Rhythm
Great granola pop of Donovan Quinn+Glenn Donaldson.
Distinctive jagjaguwar sound occasionally wandering into Barrett/Guild of Temporal Adventurers/Kendra Smith zone. Ranging from bright and upbeat to lush and contemplative, the songs breathe of simple but deep emotion like the clarity of childlike wisdom. Short, acoustic pieces with vocal duets offer temptations to intimately interpret these deceptively simple songs.
3w: Granola Folk/Psych Pop
Simple structures of gtr, loops and drums reverberate and resonate into monstrous ultra-drone maelstroms. Guitar overtones with soft hum feedback, loops and Sleep-like drum phrase timing emit sonic turbulence that gives the feeling of your world shaking at the foundations. Like early Gate (Julian Dashper w/more feedback and space or maybe an angier, more articulate Thela). It could be a group fronted by Morley’s bastard son.
3w: Jaw Dropping Shit
12345 S. El Monte Road Los Altos Hills, California 94022
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