Friday, October 31, 2008
NY Times obit here. One of the great Chicagoans, master and innovator of the oral history. I've been reading his book Working all year long and will probably be reading it for years to come, and that's just one of many important works. "The average American has an indigenous intelligence, a native wit. It’s only a question of piquing that intelligence."
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Digging the Lau Nau song and video briefly excerpted above, a song from her recent Locust release Nukkuu. Here's the whole thing:
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Hey, Nice Pooper zine from back in the 1990's has a website with some cool archival stuff, more to come hopefully. Check out the interview with Michael Morley (of the Dead C).
AND more NZ interviews at the Radio New Zealand site... 15-minute NPR-style Real Player-type joints... great recent ones with Alastair Galbraith and Bruce Russell...
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Can't front on Billy Preston's organ solo on "I Got The Blues" by the Stones. It's a ripper! Short and sweet. Not enough to forgive him for this (courtesy TLASILA blog), of course, but a good 'un.
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I always love it when reggae singers do a pop/R&B hit, like Junior Murvin combining "Closer Together" and "Gypsy Woman" by Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions on this record, or this one I just stumbled across tonight, Dennis Brown & the Observers doing Lou Rawls' "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" (you know, this song) as "Moving Away," collected on the Trojan 12-inch Box Set. And then there's my favorite example of all.... y'see, a while back, I was shopping at Reckless when I heard a rather sublime reggae version of "Billie Jean" coming over the store system ("she was more like a beauty queen with an M-16..."). When the vocalist eased his way from "Billie Jean" into a version of "Mama Used To Say," the somewhat cheesy but still great 1982 R&B hit by Junior, I had to go up to the counter and ask who it was. The answer was Shinehead, and the clerk had brought the record in from home. He ordered it for me, and recommended a blog called Who Cork The Dance? that had tons of "blown-out dancehall" mixes for download. I went there and quickly found this 90-minute mix that kicks off with none other than the Shinehead jam in question. Wow, my record still hasn't come in, and probably won't, but thanks dude, that was some excellent record-store clerking!
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The electric side of Rust Never Sleeps is so good... it's perfect. The all-time mighty "Powderfinger," then two startling metalloid punk songs, one with someone dialing a phone number fucking audible over the top of it, and then the closer "My My Hey Hey," one of the bleakest shambling horrors of a heartland rock anthem ever heartlanded. I mean, I know you already knew all this, but damn... and of course the acoustic side is perfect as well. Ever sit down and read the lyrics of "Thrasher"? Ever heard the way that song is used in Dennis Hopper's Out of the Blue?
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Alan Bishop lays it down: "These people are us. There is no separation.... People are crazy and weird everywhere. People all over the world are being socially engineered to trivialize those who are different from them. The price is paid in stacks of human corpses." From this feature on Sublime Frequencies.
Friday, October 17, 2008
This was actually one of the "promoted videos" right there on the front page at youtube.com... literally the first time I've ever watched one of those, and it was a good choice. George isn't always COHERENT (it's because of drugs) but he is hilarious, and pretty damn wise. He not only defines the funk for once and for all (in many different ways), he also gives the most succinct history possible of the rather confusing relationship between Parliament and Funkadelic: "We started out with Parliaments in '56, had a few jive records didn't do nothin', then we had "I Wanna Testify," which was a big record in '66, '67. Got in trouble as most small labels do, we couldn't use the name no more, so we took our little brothers, who was our backup band, we named them Funkadelics... we became their backup singers! And we just stayed together, playin'..."
Embedding is disabled by request, but do check it out:
30 MINUTES LATER:
Help, George Clinton threw me into a YouTube Vortex! I've just watched several Whitney Houston clips, including over 35 minutes of her 2003 interview with Diane Sawyer for an hour-long special edition of ABC's Primetime! This is some of the most stunning television I've ever seen! Don't laugh, it's actually highly appropriate for George to have sent me to Whitney, because a) they're both from the Newark, New Jersey metropolitan area and b) Whitney is actually FONKY AS HELL. I had no idea, her image was so tightly controlled during her early superstar years, but check her out when Diane Sawyer reads from a newspaper that the Houstons had spent 730,000 dollars on drugs in one year. "730?? I wish! No, I wish whoever was makin' that money offa me could share it with me [laughter]! No. No way. I wanna see the receipts! From-the-drug-dealer-that-I-bought-730,000-dollars-worth-of-drugs-from, I-wanna-see-the-receipts!" But still, somehow, Whitney seems like a pretty noble lady, a lot more noble than her husband, holy shit: "But I tested... I tested for... I tested for a substance like cocaine. Which can be anything. It can be an aspirin. It can be a valium. Anything. But it was not cocaine in my system. And this is what I know."
I highly recommend setting aside an hour, starting with Part One (embedded below) and watching the whole thing, but if you're in a hurry, and I'm sure you are, don't miss Part 3. It's got all the drug stuff and all the Bobby Brown stuff, including a rather sinister beginning: "At this point someone has slipped into the room, sitting on the sofa, listening. It's Bobby Brown, hearing me ask if he's jealous of her . . ."
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Lee Perry "Kojak" (Trojan)
Roots Radics "Mission Impossible" (Trojan)
Jesus and Mary Chain "Inside Me" (Reprise)
The Leaves "Hey Joe" (Rhino/WEA)
Soup Greens "Like A Rolling Stone" (Rhino/WEA)
Shira Small "Eternal Life" (Numero Group)
B.J. Snowden "In Canada" (Gammon)
Sun Ra and his Astro Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra "Nature's God" (Saturn/Thoth Intergalactic)
Cutty Ranks "Six Million Ways To Die"
Mobb Deep "The Start Of Your Ending (41st Side)" (Loud)
LL Cool J "Big Ole Butt" (Def Jam)
Terminator X feat. Dubmaster "DJ Is The Selector" (Columbia)
Monster Magnet "Nod Scene" (Caroline)
Monster Magnet "Black Mastermind" (Caroline)
Human Puppets "Faces (Behind Walls And Closed Doors)" (Wierd)
Dead Luke "Rohypnol" (Sky-Fi)
Dead Luke "Break Neck/Stab Back" (Sky-Fi)
Dead Luke "The Thermostat Has Shorted Out" (Sky-Fi)
The Boys "On A Night Like This" (Numero Group)
The Lollipop Shoppe "You Must Be A Witch" (Rhino/WEA)
Television "See No Evil" (Elektra)
The Castaways "Liar, Liar" (Rhino/WEA)
Phillippe Laurent "Exposition Partie 5" (Flexi-Pop)
Mi Ami "Clear Light" (White Denim)
Gastr Del Sol "Work From Smoke" (Drag City)
C.A. Quintet "Bury Me In A Marijuana Field" (Sundazed)
"Mission Impossible" by Roots Radics is a very extreme dub, in that the bassline sounds as underwater and low-level as possible, while the snare hits on the 3 of each measure are as loud and crisp as possible, super jarring. About three minutes just a murmur of a vocal is mixed up and then quickly out again.... perfect. This would probably be a good track to explain dub for someone who's never heard it before. Been getting deeper into the 4-disc box set version of Nuggets lately. So many.... nuggets on here, like these sweet regional/underground versions of classic rock standards by The Leaves (from L.A.) and The Soup Greens ("from somewhere in New York State")... the Shira Small track is from the Numero Group's Ladies From The Canyon compilation, and her track really stands out. Not so much a Joni Mitchell style, more of an, um, B.J. Snowden feel, or June Tyson with Sun Ra (both played next for comparison purposes)... playing some old college favorites in here, no not the Cutty Ranks or the Mobb Deep, I wasn't that hip. You probably were, but I wasn't. LL Cool J was more my reach, and even though Walking With A Panther was not really that great of an album, "Big Ole Butt" had a seriously slammin' groove... and the 1991 Terminator X solo album Valley of the Jeep Beats album was incredibly sick for something on a major label and MTV, for example the way leadoff single "Buck Whylin'" opened with Sister Souljah screaming "We are at war!!" and then cut right into a sample from Black Flag's "Rise Above" over an especially turbulent Bomb Squad beat... but I'm gonna go with a deep cut here, the crazy sci-fi dancehall number "DJ Is The Selector"... I'd say that this track and various KRS-One numbers like "100 Guns" were my introduction to dancehall... then came Shabba Ranks, of course, followed by less world-renowned greats from the island like Cutty... once again go to Who Cork The Dance? for a crash course... ah, Monster Magnet and their album Spine of God... I bought this (on cassette!) back in '92 or '93 because it was on a year-end list in Spin Magazine, and that was a very good call. Such a heavy wasted bloodshot-eyed album of malevolent doom swagger... listening to this today I realize why the whole stoner/doom thing of the last 10 years or so has produced almost zero memorable albums for me, because none of them come close to the gauntlet thrown down by Spine of God listened to on headphones at an impressionable age. On this album the band played with dynamics (extended quiet and atmospheric sections that brilliantly set up the loud and heavy sections... unbelievable how few bands seem to be willing or able to do this) and frontman Dave Wyndorf displayed real individualistic personality (also a real rarity among heavy music frontpeople). A cassette by Dead Luke just showed up in the mail, mere hours before air-time... I really don't keep up with all of this post-TermBo limited-edition Blankdoggery but this tape looked cool so I threw Side A on over the airwaves and it worked just fine, aggressive psychotronic one-man-band trash... sign me up for a 7" by this guy... wait, lemme guess, they're all sold out... here's a power pop nugget that came out in 1980 and was therefore too late for Nuggets, "A Night Like This," my favorite song by Lincoln, NE's finest, The Boys... you can hear this and more by them and others on another Numero Group release, the Titan Records It's All Pop! 2CD retrospective... "See No Evil" by Television is a power pop nugget too, right?... The debut 12" by Mi Ami sounds new and different to me every time I play it, especially this slower/quieter/dynamic B-side track "Clear Light." I missed their followup 12" Ark of the Covenant but I'm looking forward to what they do as a newly signed member of the Touch & Go/Quarterstick roster... I could be wrong but it seems like people rarely talk about what a mind-blowing band Gastr Del Sol was 10 or 15 years ago in those heady days just before "Chicago post-rock" had a solidified genre name... "Work From Smoke" from the Crookt, Crackt, or Fly album just popped up on the iPod shuffle, first time I've heard it in a very long time, and my jaw dropped all over again at this 13-minute epic and its unclassifiable flamenco/prog acoustic guitar duelling, abstract poetic melodic vocals, and especially the smoky foggy bass clarinet driven coda... then the iPod took me to a track from an infamous album I had yet to listen to, Trip Thru Hell by the C.A. Quintet... this band was from Minneapolis and are described as some sort of damaged garage rock outfit but this song "Bury Me In A Marijuana Field" is a woozy Cali-sounding country rock ballad... sounded good after Gastr and that's how I'm going to end the show... smoke them if you have got them...
Monday, October 06, 2008
For the last couple days I've been watching this Curtis Mayfield DVD called Movin' on Up: The Music and Message of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. It's basically an extensive oral history in which the talking is interspersed with no less than 19 complete live performances from over the years 1965-1973, with a total running time of over two hours. This is basically the format I wish all music documentaries would follow. Keep the talking, because that's how stories are told and memories live on, but tell the story in chronological order and show live performances as completely as possible throughout... don't bring any 'experts' to talk unless they were actually 'there', and don't talk about the music when you could be showing it... this formula might not make for a fast-moving and constantly riveting final product, but this ain't MTV, this is documentation. This DVD adheres to the formula so well that I found myself fast-forwarding through the Impressions history a little bit, not because I didn't love the tunes (and the great interview subjects: the other two Impressions Sam Gooden and Fred Cash, Curtis's widow Altheida Mayfield, civil rights activist and former U.S. congressman Ambassador Andrew Young, and Chuck D) but simply because it was so extensive, and I just had to get to his solo career, that heavily-conscious float-like-a-butterfly feather-funk he was doing 1971-1973. It really is the best part, and it's really something to hear his cohorts talk about his songs as they get more and more challenging. Ambassador Young was and is shaken by Curtis's challenge "If There's A Hell Below (We're All Gonna Go)" but stands tough and puts a positive spin on it, and the discussion between Gooden and Cash over "We People Who Are Darker Than Blue" gets pretty deep - they agree that when Curtis says "they" in the song, he's talking about white people, but Gooden calls it an angry song, while Cash says he took it a whole different way, as an inspiring call for do-it-yourself uplift.
Of course, we could go on for days about the sociological impact of Curtis's early solo career... but how about that band?! I'm talking about the 1971-1973 era five-piece band, of course, and even though I've been listening to the masterful Curtis/Live! 2LP for years now, it wasn't until watching these clips that these players really clicked for me as an organic touring small group. They are surprisingly unknown musicians, especially considering that they were the band on that beloved live LP as well as what is probably Mayfield's best-known studio LP, the Superfly soundtrack. Curtis of course plays great subtle rhythm guitar with some sparse and clean leads, but very little is said about the band's second guitarist, Craig McMullen. This guy played great wah-inflected counterpoint, combining lead lines and strong chordal playing in a sweet, laid-back, but still completely bad-ass post-Hendrixian manner. Plus, he always wore a rad hat. He appears to have played on a few albums back in the day, by the likes of Donald Byrd and Stanley Turrentine, but I can't find anything on the internet about where he came from or what he's done since. On bass was Joseph "Lucky" Scott, another very solid, aggressive player who really pushed and moved through the band's arrangements with a restless and slightly heavier-than-the-norm style, somewhere between James Jamerson and, I don't know, someone like Tim Bogert. The famous basslines for "Freddie's Dead" and "Pusher Man" were probably written by Curtis but it was Lucky who hammered them down. The rhythm section was rounded out by a smooth drummer named Tyrone McCullen, about whom even less is known than Craig McMullen (although he's introduced as being from Chattanooga, Tennessee on the Curtis/Live album), and last but definitely not least, the only band member besides Mayfield with a Wikipedia page, Master Henry Gibson on "bongos/congas/tumbas" - his hand percussion is probably the single most identifiable presence in the band other than Curtis's falsetto. (Plus, he's an alumni of Phil Cohran's African Heritage Ensemble!) Together, this band played sublime stripped-down heavy soul music, worthy of more notorious bands like the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Funkadelic, but with the pyrotechnics dialed down to an expert simmer. One of their very best performance sessions was in 1972 for the UK show The Old Grey Whistle Test. Here's a couple clips from YouTube:
"Keep On Keepin' On"
"We Got To Have Peace"
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Dead C "Bury" (Siltbreeze)
Dead C "Bury (Refutatio Omnium Haeresium)" (Siltbreeze)
Marzette Watts Ensemble "Play It Straight" (Savoy, aka 'The Internet')
Propinquity "And I A Fairytale Lady" (The Numero Group)
Sir Douglas Quintet "Mendocino" (Takoma)
The Clean "Tally-Ho" (Matador)
Eddy Current Suppression Ring "We'll Be Turned On" (Arrghht!/Goner)
Fuzzhead "A-OK" (Pointless Music)
Fuzzhead "Wake Up America" (Pointless Music)
Studio 1 "Rot 1" (Studio 1)
Drexciya "Dehydration" (Submerge)
Drexciya "Bang Bang" (Submerge)
Vita Noctis "She Likes Me" (Flexi-Pop)
Eric B & Rakim "Microphone Fiend" (MCA)
Ghostface Killah "Nutmeg" (Epic)
The Five Discs "Never Let You Go" (Rhino/WEA)
Cymande "Genevieve" (Sequel)
Curtis Mayfield "We Got To Have Peace" (Curtom)
Socrates Drank The Conium "Destruction" (Anazitisi)
The Gordons "Joker" (Flying Nun)
The Gordons "Sometimes" (Flying Nun)
This Heat "The Fall of Saigon" (These Records)
Rush "Tears" (Mercury)
Terry Callier "You Don't Care" (Cadet)
Man, I've started listening to the Dead C again big time, in anticipation of their new album Secret Earth and a show coming up here in Chicago in a couple weeks. If there were a couple more hours in the day, I would do a mega-post about how I've been listening to this band for 13 years now, starting from when I saw 'em open up for Sonic Youth at First Avenue in Minneapolis in the Summer of 1995. It was the first time I ever heard them and they blew me away with what sounded like aging noisy dirge punk as some sort of harbor-town sea-folk played inside a hurricane. I bought the Metal Heart 7" at that show, which was cool enough but it was two short sides of obtuse instrumental noise jam. My travelling partner K. Brock sprung for an LP however, Operation of the Sonne, and a few days later when we were all back in Nebraska we huddled in anticipation around the turntable.... and heard slow-developing no-developing turgid feedback/drone improv with eldritch thick-accented spoken word muttering over the top. That wasn't what they sounded like at First Ave... where were the SONGS, man? A couple weeks later I bought The White House and it didn't help much either when it started with like 14 minutes of noise improv. But it actually had songs, once you got past the noise, and they turned out to be very good songs. The noise was great too - said 14-minute track was a doozy called "The New Snow," and I still play it every year the first time it really snows. (In fact, this remains my single favorite Dead C record, but more on that some other lifetime.) A few weeks after that, I bought the CD of Trapdoor Fucking Exit, and it was almost ALL songs, and even though I recognized a handful of 'em from the show, it still didn't sound like the same band. Live they had been loud, full, and heavy, but Trapdoor Fucking Exit sounded spindly and thin, purposefully weak and distant, music like dead and torn leaves hanging outside your window, rattling and swaying in a wet greenish grey ocean breeze..... I became obsessed with the album anyway, with its black-on-grey text-only front cover, the Middle East rebel on the back cover, and the blurry band photo on the inside along with blunt track listing. Hell, I was obsessed simply with the way the track-listing looked, these intense one-word song titles typed on the page.... "Heaven".... "Mighty".... "Power".... "Bury"..... "Sky".... "Bone".... "Krossed".... And finally, after listening to the album a lot for a couple years, I came to realize that the songs, these dry and torn leaves, were in fact played much the same way they were played that night at First Avenue. It took me awhile to figure this out because the club was a much different acoustic space than the room where Trapdoor Fucking Exit was apparently recorded, and the equipment used there was probably a lot more "pro," but the real reason is that they play a naturally confounding dream-music and like a dream the details are often distorted and blurry when recalled, whether by memory or by recording equipment. Anyway, we start today's show with three cuts from Trapdoor. (And by the way, this is a great interview with the Dead C's Bruce Russell - excellent stuff about how independent music works and misconceptions about 'lo-fi' among other things.) Holy shit some blog posted the Marzette Watts album, not the one for ESP, but THE OTHER ONE, the Savoy label one that Thurston Moore raved about on his free jazz rarities list for Grand Royal Magazine back in like 1992 or something. So far so good, I heard this album was "cooler" than the "hotter" ESP one, and it is, produced by Bill Dixon, just a nice late-night feel but still plenty out-there and uncompromising. Nice discussion about it here at the Destination:Out blog. Hey, you gotta hear the Wayfaring Strangers: Ladies From The Canyon CD on The Numero Group label. I don't know how they found so many completely unknown and lost Joni-worshipping private-press albums that were actually this good, but they did. Pretty much every track is great, and this one by Propinquity might be the very best. Couldn't resist playing "Mendocino" and "Tally Ho" back to back because of that roller-rink organ dancing through both (I love it how "Tally Ho" is called "the 'Louie Louie' of New Zealand') and then follow 'em up with that super happy keyboard tune on the Eddy Current Suppression Ring album. All the jams by Studio 1 (a project by Wolfgang Voigt, aka GAS) are very minimalist but I think "Rot 1" is the minimaliMOST! I've really only heard two albums by the long-running Ohio psych band Fuzzhead, the recent Burning Bridges and Raining Sparks companion CDs, which are awesome Ameribeat trance-psych jam stuff, but this older cassette Fuzzhead is Love sounds a lot different. I mean, the extended trance-grooves are still there, but this is like noisy industrial avant pop... I'm still baffled. Drexciya are minimalist as hell as well (wax is for Anthrax, still they can rock bells), hard Detroit techno coming out in the early 1990s right on the heels of Underground Resistance. Like UR, Drexciya wore bandanas over their faces and it was a long time before anyone really knew who was in the group. Also, Drexciya had the best band mythos: "...an underwater country populated by the unborn children of pregnant African women thrown off of slave ships that had adapted to breathe underwater in their mother's wombs." Vita Noctis track is on the None Night of Flexi-Pop Vol. 1 CDR release, from the German label Flexi-Pop. I know absolutely nothing about any of this stuff, I just downloaded it off a blog. I'm guessing it's from the 1980s and Vita Noctis is probably from Europe but they could be from Bloomington, Indiana or something for all I know. The genre might be what is known as cold-wave. The aforementioned blog starts to explain everything (and also offers about 30 different entire Flexi-Pop compilations for download, including this one). "Shadazz" is from the very proto-flexi-pop second Suicide album. Released in 1980, produced by Ric Ocasek, it has a really strange tone: total post-Cars pop sheen without washing out any of Suicide's malevolance. "Tears" by Rush is just stunning. It's possibly the least metal thing a metal band has ever done, and Rush has done plenty that is barely metal at all (like more or less their entire career from Grace Under Pressure to the present). It's from 2112, which is such a bad-ass album, of course they could get away with this song in that context, but today I heard it all by itself on shuffle, and it is literally a lush 1970s ballad that might as well be by Helen Reddy... Helen Geddy, anyone?
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