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Monthly Archives: April 2008

A principal architect of the Stax/Volt sound, singer/composer William Bell remains best known for his classic “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” one of the quintessential soul records to emerge from the Memphis scene. Born William Yarborough on July 16, 1939, he cut his teeth backing Rufus Thomas, and in 1957 recorded his first sides as a member of the Del Rios. After joining the Stax staff as a writer, in 1961 Bell made his solo debut with the self-penned “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” an archetypal slice of country-soul and one of the label’s first big hits. A two-year Armed Forces stint effectively derailed his career, however, and he did not release his first full-length album, The Soul of a Bell, until 1967, generating a Top 20 hit with the single “Everybody Loves a Winner”; that same year, Albert King also scored with another classic Bell composition, the oft-covered “Born Under a Bad Sign.”

William Bell’s history illustrates just how singles-oriented soul was in the 1960s. Though he’d enjoyed a hit in 1961 with “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” it wasn’t until 1967 that Stax finally released his first album, the magnificent The Soul of a Bell. From that classic and Bell’s moderate hits “Never Like This Before” and “Everybody Loves A Winner” to heartfelt versions of “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” everything on this album (reissued on CD in 1991) illustrates the gospel-drenched richness of Southern soul. Meanwhile, the influence of Motown and the Four Tops is hard to miss on the riveting single “Eloise (Hang On In There),” which should have been a major hit, but surprisingly, never even charted. The 2002 CD reissue adds alternate versions of “You Don’t Miss Your Water” and “Any Other Way”.

by Alex Henderson,

William Bell-THE SOUL OF A BELL (1967)
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This seminal New Orleans funk group’s debut album features the semi-hit “Cissy Strut” and its follow-up, “Sophisticated Sissy.” This 1999 reissue also offers two previously unreleased bonus tracks, “The Look of Love” and “Soul Machine.” Other highlights include “Here Comes the Meter Man,” “Live Wire,” and “Sehorn’s Farm.”

The second album by Art Neville’s band continues the sound that made them New Orleans legends. In addition to the title track, there’s plenty of funk aboard in songs like like “Pungee,” “9 ‘Til 5,” “Rigor Mortis,” “Funky Miracle,” and “Yeah, You’re Right.”

by Cub Koda,

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LOOK-KA PY PY (1970)
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There’s not a note or a nuance out of place anywhere on this record, which was 35 of the most exciting minutes of instrumental music in any category that one could purchase in 1962 (and it’s no slouch four decades out, either). “I Got a Woman” is the single best indicator of how superb this record is and this band was — listening to this track, it’s easy to forget that the song ever had lyrics or ever needed them, Booker T. Jones’ organ and Steve Cropper’s guitar serving as more-than-adequate substitutes for any singer. Their version of “Twist and Shout” is every bit as satisfying. Even “Mo’ Onions,” an effort to repeat the success of “Green Onions,” doesn’t repeat anything from the earlier track except the tempo, and Jones and Cropper both come up with fresh sounds within the same framework.

“Behave Yourself” is a beautifully wrought piece of organ-based blues that gives Jones a chance to show off some surprisingly nimble-fingered playing, while “Stranger on the Shore” is transformed into a piece of prime soul music in the group’s hands. “Lonely Avenue” is another showcase for Jones’ keyboard dexterity, and then there’s the group’s cover of Smokey Robinson’s “One Who Really Loves You,” with a ravishing lead performance by Jones on organ and Cropper’s guitar handling the choruses. Just when it seems like the album has turned in all of the surprises in repertory that it could reasonably deliver, it ends with “Comin’ Home Baby,” a killer jazz piece on which Steve Cropper gets to shine, his guitar suddenly animated around Jones’ playing, his quietly trilled notes at the crescendo some of the most elegant guitar heard on an R&B record up to that time.

-Ned Raggett,

Booker T & The MGs-GREEN ONIONS (1962)
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In 1976, the Stooges had been gone for two years, and Iggy Pop had developed a notorious reputation as one of rock & roll’s most spectacular waste cases. After a self-imposed stay in a mental hospital, a significantly more functional Iggy was desperate to prove he could hold down a career in music, and he was given another chance by his longtime ally, David Bowie.

Bowie co-wrote a batch of new songs with Iggy, put together a band, and produced The Idiot, which took Iggy in a new direction decidedly different from the guitar-fueled proto-punk of the Stooges. Musically, The Idiot is of a piece with the impressionistic music of Bowie’s “Berlin Period” (such as Heroes and Low), with it’s fragmented guitar figures, ominous basslines, and discordant, high-relief keyboard parts. Iggy’s new music was cerebral and inward-looking, where his early work had been a glorious call to the id, and Iggy was in more subdued form than with the Stooges, with his voice sinking into a world-weary baritone that was a decided contrast to the harsh, defiant cry heard on “Search and Destroy.”

Iggy was exploring new territory as a lyricist, and his songs on The Idiot are self-referential and poetic in a way that his work had rarely been in the past; for the most part the results are impressive, especially “Dum Dum Boys,” a paean to the glory days of his former band, and “Nightclubbing,” a call to the joys of decadence. The Idiot introduced the world to a very different Iggy Pop, and if the results surprised anyone expecting a replay of the assault of Raw Power, it also made it clear that Iggy was older, wiser, and still had plenty to say; it’s a powerful and emotionally absorbing work.

On The Idiot, Iggy Pop looked deep inside himself, trying to figure out how his life and his art had gone wrong in the past. But on Lust for Life, released less than a year later, Iggy decided it was time to kick up his heels, as he traded in the mid-tempo introspection of his first album and began rocking hard again. Musically, Lust for Life is a more aggressive set than The Idiot, largely thanks to drummer Hunt Sales and his bassist brother Tony Sales. The Sales’ proved they were a world class rhythm section, laying out power and spirit on the rollicking title cut, the tough groove of “Tonight,” and the lean neo-punk assault of “Neighborhood Threat,” and with guitarists Ricky Gardner and Carlos Alomar at their side, they made for a tough, wiry rock & roll band — a far cry from the primal stomp of the Stooges, but capable of kicking Iggy back into high gear. (David Bowie played piano and produced, as he had on The Idiot, but his presence is less clearly felt on this album.)

As a lyricist and vocalist, Iggy Pop rose to the challenge of the material; if he was still obsessed with drugs (“Tonight”), decadence (“The Passenger”), and bad decisions (“Some Weird Sin”), the title cut suggested he could avoid a few of the temptations that crossed his path, and songs like “Success” displayed a cocky joy that confirmed Iggy was back at full strength. On Lust for Life, Iggy Pop managed to channel the aggressive power of his work with the Stooges with the intelligence and perception of The Idiot, and the result was the best of both worlds; smart, funny, edgy, and hard-rocking, Lust for Life is the best album of Iggy Pop’s solo career.

by Mark Deming,

Iggy Pop-LUST FOR LIFE (1977)
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Iggy Pop-THE IDIOT (1977)

As a musical landscape, Detroit is tangled up in mythology: the twitchy legacy of Motown, the ashes of The Stooges, the political caterwauling of John Sinclair and the screeching MC5, the piercing howls of a carnivorous, vine-swinging axman, and the recent commotion kicked up over a brother/sister duo and a loping white rapper. Fold in a handful of press-ready analogies about industry and grime, and a few prosaic portraits of clanging pistons, merciless winters, and honest, pink-faced Americans, and unleash the wordy enigma that is contemporary Detroit. Forced to sacrifice a viable cultural identity for series of one-dimensional, Upton Sinclair-meets-Norman Rockwell-meets-8 Mile cliches, it becomes impossible not to ask: Does Detroit even exist outside the pages of Mojo?

Chances are, The Dirtbombs hate that they’ve become just another notch in the greasy Motor City totem pole (check every White Stripes feature framed by a meaningless Dirtbombs sidebar), but Dirtbombs frontman Mick Collins has Detroit roots that can’t be easily overlooked, or at least not anymore: former guitarist for late-80s garage beasts The Gories, Collins has recently been dragged into the very weirdest kind of posthumous regard, with sold-six-copies Gories records suddenly becoming elite status symbols for Detroit-crazed garage-rock revivalists. A crude, pubescent, magnificent mess, The Gories were both a reaction to and an embodiment of the city which spawned them; the band sucked up much-discussed local influences and then promptly spit them back out on the floor, each rock-soul-garage song a half-digested, unrecognizable, and entirely gross hometown homage.

Collins’ mission with The Dirtbombs is not so different: Dangerous Magical Noise, the band’s third full-length (and follow-up to 2001’s soul covers record, Ultraglide in Black) quakes with the potential for total implosion, always threatening to completely dissemble itself and leave a tiny pile of gravel behind. That danger– the menace of possible destruction, or of feeling like this record might never play again because it’s just too fragile to hold up– is also exactly what makes Dangerous Magical Noise so unabashedly glorious. Stubbornly lo-fi and expectedly scrappy, the album is also tremendously listenable, a rhythmic, leg-flailing romp through vintage soul cool, glam boogie, classic rock thrash, and punk bravado.

The Dirtbombs boast two drummers (and have recorded with two bass players), but even with all that thumping, the band’s backing effort is barely enough to support Collins’ wild guitar freakouts and billowing Henrdix-hollers. Opener “Start the Party” is as clear an introduction to raucous Detroit stomping as anyone’s ever gonna offer, a fuzz-laden Kick Out the Jams promise that, while breeze-blowing powerful, doesn’t readily admit to the band’s capacity for subtle tinkering. The rollicking blues-rocker “F.I.D.O.” belies The Dirtbombs’ ability to craft emotionally complex, anthemic songs; “Motor City Baby” showcases the band’s readiness to dip into the hooky, bubblegum choruses that made Motown wiggle.

There’s not too much here to dismiss: “Stuck in Thee Garage” is ultimately forgettable (although its title is a nice implication of the Bombs’ embrace of high/low dichotomy), but Dangerous Magical Noise plays better as one big, somersaulting explosion, aggressive and gentle and smarter every time you look. If The Dirtbombs are any indication of Detroit’s real “scene,” they’re proving that the frantic archivists and smoking-jacket cognoscenti will never actually come to terms with the anti-poetry of this city. But if the lack of a realistic, cohesive music community means it’s possible to create this kind of bizarrely assimilated beauty, then Detroit shouldn’t even care.

-Amanda Petrusich,, December 04, 2003


Surfacing out of nowhere in 1996, Black Dots turned out to be an archival release of the best kind, something truly rare and unheard that also captured a band at its best. The liner notes explain the origins of the release: In 1979, fellow DC locals the Slickee Boys heard an even earlier rehearsal tape from the Brains and suggested hooking up with now-legendary DC producer Don Zientara, who had recently opened his Inner Ear Studios in his house. The group duly booked time, set up in the fledging venue and put on a commanding performance. Nearly all the legendary early hits are here, including “Pay to Cum,” “Don’t Need It,” “Regulator,” “Banned in D.C.,” “How Low Can a Punk Get?” and “Attitude,” while a number of otherwise unheard or never-recorded elsewhere numbers make Black Dots easily the equal of the ROIR cassette.

Some of the changes and quirks are really fun — H.R.’s mock-cockney sneer throughout a number of songs is one of the last things probably anybody expected to hear. Aside from “new” oldie “The Man Won’t Annoy Ya,” the reggae side of the band went largely by the boards this time around, aside from the reedy inflections HR throws in from time to time. Instead it’s all monster-rock power — Dr. Know plays like a man possessed, Darryl Aaron Jenifer does it low and loud, while Earl Hudson overcomes for the slightly hollow drum sound with sheer manic smashes and just enough control. Absolutely necessary for Brains fans or anyone who appreciates the power of live, loud electric music.

-Ned Raggett,

Bad Brains-BLACK DOTS (recorded 1979, released 1996)
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The third and final Oblivians record was promoted as their gospel album largely due to the subject matter (God/facing one’s spiritual fate) and covers of traditional songs. A departure from raw, in the red garage soul music, Play 9 Songs explores the power of black spirituals (in a raw in the red garage style). “Feel Alright” opens the record with the steady boogie of Mr. Quintron, organ man extraordinaire, and Greg Oblivian’s invocation to do the Lord’s bidding. Imbued with howling soul searching, this is a sinner’s record not a saint’s. Play 9 Songs is by far the cleanest recording by the Oblivians with much of the buzz and fuzz replaced by more subdued guitar parts. “Live the Life is the standout track on the record, full of Memphis soul and preacher’s conviction, “You can’t go to Church child, on Sunday/go out and get drunk/and be a devil on Monday.” The band is talking about the preponderance of fake rock & roll bands out there as much as any morality lesson. A criticism of the record is that “Live the Life” isn’t the finale; it is a very cathartic song. “I May Be Gone,” credited to Blind Charles White, employs a gang chorus and borrows the regional fife and drum beat. Not every track is somber; “What’s the Matter now” and “Ride That Train” are joyous and raucous — downright juke joint dance numbers. The prayerful “Final Stretch” transcends the song of a dying man into a prophesy of the band. The Oblivians broke up shortly after this record. The record finishes at its most rock & roll frenzied, “Mary Lou,” which would have fit on the band’s earlier releases. So they end as they began.

by Chris Moonie,


Best to clean the crud off those loafers now: come May 20, you’re gonna be staring at your shoes a lot more than you expect. For that, schmutz-covered sandal-wearer, is the day Baltimore’s We Are Free will issue Free Gold!, the new full-length from pedal-happy Indian Jewelry. Sporting 14 feedback-drenched tracks, Free Gold! may not make you rich, but it sure will have you looking at those busted Converse in a new light by the time it’s all over.

Interestingly enough, Free Gold! emerges right as the band’s U.S. tour– which launches April 18– comes to a close. Perhaps parading around the country offering folks Free Gold! and then telling them they’ll have to pay for it will lead the band into hiding? Or perhaps they’ll just add some more dates later.

Indian Jewelry-FREE GOLD (2008)

R. D. Burman has influenced the bollywood music more than any other music director of his times and brought glitzy dance oriented music to stagnated techniques of 70s. His approach of taking cues from western rock and electronic music and amalgamating it perfectly with Indian chorus and rhythm based melodies is unprecedented and years ahead of his times. The use of new recording techniques and instruments reflected upon the changing attitude of his audience and acted as a trendsetting innovation to the Indian music industry.

If there’s one Bollywood funky soundtrack that almost everyone knows (and wants), it’s Shalimar. This soundtrack is taken from a UK/USA/India co-production, a lavish affair starring Dharmendra, John Saxon and Rex Harrison. The album has been issued twice, with the front cover for the first issue being used for the back cover of the second. The better of the two has a superb multi-page gatefold. The music is excellent, hard chunky funk with massive beats, horns and wah. The best cut is the classic ‘Baby let’s dance together’ and the theme is also outstanding. Always expensive as it’s in such demand, but highly recommended.

Sholay is also in the top five best Hindi Film soundtracks we’ve ever heard. This is a great film too, by the way. It’s a “Western,” pretty much. And the music absolutely kills. Slightly bigger production than usual for this 1975 classic, but all the usual craziness: strings going a zillion miles an hour in unison, super schizoid percussion breaks, some really wigged out chorus vocals — but mostly these are just great compositions and songs. A couple of unique-for-Hindi-Film sounding singing voices here. It’s not just Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar and their clones who show up for the recording. That and some successful digressions harmonically make this an extra-special winner. All the instruments in the world seem to make appearances at one time or another, and of course with Mr. Rahul Dev Burman going completely gonzo on the mixing board, that means some serious shelf life for this album. You’ll be singing ’em in your sleep and STILL be surprised at stuff you hear next time you throw it on. This has been a real favorite for years now.

by Bhasker Gupta,, Trey Spruance,

Rahul Dev Burman-SHOLAY & SHALIMAR (1975/1978)
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The Sub Pop debut by this LA duo is succinctly all encompassing, from the faux simplicity of the title to the beautiful distortion of its sound, to the packaging that includes a 68-page full-color book packed with photos and art pieces. The record opens with a symphony of noise and sometimes creeps, sometimes smashes through a sonic headlock befitting “Daydream Nation”-era Sonic Youth, Kiwi pop, My Bloody Valentine, and experimental noise.

-Sub Pop

No Age-NOUNS (2008)
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