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Monthly Archives: July 2008

Dramatic Funk Themes Vol. 1 is another great library music compilation and showcases some cool (mostly previously unreleased) funky, jazzy, easy and groovy tracks from the archives of the Themes International Music Library.

The soundtrack for scenes that don’t yet exist. Well produced, budget priced music in all styles, which were intended for use in backgrounds for radio, television, films and advertising. This music was never commercially available and was pressed in limited quantities from the 1950s onwards allowing samples to be sent to production houses and radio stations for use as and when required. Due to the fact that producers with a limited budget didn’t have the funds available to commission a specially composed soundtrack, it made economical sense to license suitable “off the shelf” tracks from library archives.

Since library music was intended to convey specific moods and atmospheres, it wasn’t uncommon for composers to switch between different styles such as jazz, rock, funk, easy listening, electronic, avant-garde or baroque in just one record. Although it only reflected the contemporary world of music, library seems to have a uniqueness which sets it apart from commercially available music. Perhaps this is because composers had the freedom to do whatever came in mind to create specific atmospheres. Miles away from the world of the pop charts, they only had to follow a tight production schedule to guarantee low production costs.

During the 70s library music era, some of Europe’s leading jazz, classical and avant-garde musicians took part in composing and playing on those library recordings. While many were involved just once, others (like Alan Hawkshaw – our main featured composer in this compilation) penned thousands of usable themes for different library companies.

The strange appeal and mystique of library music is intensified by the anonymity of its musicians. There is no image or cult and library tracks were never played live or sold directly to the public (with the exception of the relatively small number of signature tunes which became popular due to their continued use and ended up appearing on compilation albums of television and film themes). The record sleeves usually stated mood descriptions for each track; e.g. “high-powered dramatic theme”, “funky underscore with movement” or “medium beat”. Most library tracks are instrumental themes. Only a very small number of recordings contained vocals.

In the mid 90s library music started to drawn the attention of hip-hop producers looking for samples, breaks and loops. The discovery of library records proved to be a goldmine providing an almost endless supply of breaks and beats. DJs and collectors alike started to dig through crates of cheap records in second hand shops as news of the library phenomenon began to spread. Nowadays however, one is only likely to find these rarities on websites such as Ebay as most items of interest have long since been snapped up.

The demand for library records was fuelled even further as library music compilations started to become available to the public. The prices for some funky items began to soar and most of the Themes library records, found in this compilation, usually fetch between 40 and 400 US Dollars. The most sought-after and highly recommended albums are “The All American Powerhouse”, “The Voice of Soul” as well as Alan Tew’s “Drama Suite Pt. I & II”, which was used on the television series “The Hanged Man”.

Now sit back and enjoy the first compilation to be compiled solely with rare grooves from the Themes International Music library. Furthermore, none of these tracks have ever been released before!

by Michael Schütz, Jon Vokes


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Sloan was one of the most successful Canadian bands of the ’90s, which was both a blessing and a curse. While they were well known in their homeland, where their Beatlesque power pop became a radio staple, they had a difficult time breaking into the American market, especially after their label, DGC, decided not to market their hooky pop in the wake of grunge. After spending several years fighting the label, and nearly breaking up, Sloan re-emerged in 1996 with One Chord to Another, a record that became an instant success in Canada and a critical sensation in the U.S. upon its American release in 1997, establishing the group as one of the leaders of the new wave of power pop groups in the late ’90s.

Following the bungled American release of Twice Removed, it seemed unlikely that Sloan would survive, let alone record an album as wonderful as One Chord to Another. On the group’s previous album, Sloan had refashioned itself as a power pop band, often with terrific results, but on One Chord to Another the songwriting blossoms. Filled with catchy, jangling riffs and memorable melodies, the record is a tour de force of hooks and harmonies, filled with exceptionally strong songs and forceful performances, which give the record a firm, rocking foundation. Few power pop records of the ’90s are as infectious and memorable as One Chord to Another.

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine,


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Along with Let’s Active, the dB’s defined the Southern power pop/jangle pop movement of the early to mid-’80s. The band’s music was a quirky blend of smart pop and psychedelia crossed with the more experimental side of new wave. Though they never received widespread recognition outside of critical acclaim, they provided a key link between Big Star and ’80s alternative guitar acts such as R.E.M.

On their debut, the dB’s combined a reverence for British pop and arty, post-punk leanings that alternate between minimalism and a love of quirky embellishment, odd sounds, and unexpected twists; Stands for Decibels is clearly a collegiate pop experiment, but rarely is experimentation so enjoyable and irresistibly catchy. Singing and songwriting duties are shared equally by Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple — Stamey, more quirky and psyc hedelic-leaning with a winsome, pure-pop whine, is nicely balanced by Holsapple’s more earthy drawl and straightforward approach. The album stands not only as a landmark power-pop album, but also as a prototype for much of the Southern jangle that would follow.

Repercussion is very much of a piece with the debut, repeating much of the same formula that made Stands for Decibels great — terrific harmonies, winning melodies, and catchy hooks with subtle quirks thrown into the mix. This time, they feature a fuller, more polished sound, but the impact of the songs isn’t diminished. Stamey left shortly after Repercussion to pursue a solo career.

Although it has already been released once before by Line Records, this one CD version of the first two dB’s albums is a wonderful collection of what is arguably the band’s finest hour. Featuring some gorgeous hooks and wonderful playing, there are few lulls in this excellent package. Fans may complain about pairing two albums that are strong entities when separate, but this is an inexpensive way to purchase both releases and should be viewed as the alternative to hunting down rare, out-of-print vinyl.

by Chris Woodstra,

The dB’s-STANDS FOR DECIBELS & REPERCUSSION (1981/82, 2002 compilation)
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I really love this album, I just can’t find a decent review. -Ian

The two most popular artists to record for Britain’s Rephlex label — label-founder Richard D. James (Aphex Twin) and Michael Paradinas (µ-Ziq) — collaborated in 1996 for Expert Knob Twiddlers. Recalling the great Milton Bradley game boxes of the 1970s and ’80s, the cover is a picture of James and Paradinas, in suitable low-res, chop-and-paste photos, playing a variant of Connect Four. Inside, the two techno auteurs’ music mesh quite well; Paradinas’ liquidy funk distortion smoothes out the calculated, almost sterile, experimentation of Aphex Twin. The style-blending, however, cancels out the particular attractions of both artists, and the listener is left with a somewhat bland album. Fans of Aphex and µ-Ziq will be excited, but newcomers should go elsewhere before they dig this deep.

by John Bush,

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Group Inerane is the now sound of the Tuareg Guitar Revolution sweeping across the Sahara Desert and inspired by the rebel musicians that started this music as a political weapon used to communicate from the Libyan Refugee camps in the 1980s and 1990s. Spearheaded by the enigmatic guitar hero Bibi Ahmed, Group Inerane has been together for several years and carries the rich tradition of Tamachek guitar songs for another generation. These ten tracks are a combination of amplified roots rock, blues, and folk in the local Tuareg styles at times entering into full-on electric guitar psychedelia. This music is performed with two electric guitars, a drum kit and a chorus of vocalists. The recordings were captured live in the city of Agadez in the Republic of Niger. Group Inerane was also featured in the Sublime Frequencies DVD “Niger: Magic and Ecstasy in the Sahel”. Recorded by Hisham Mayet, this is the second Sublime Frequencies Vinyl Release. 180 gram vinyl, full-color gatefold jacket, and limited one-time pressing of 1000 copies.

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Ambient and Musical recordings from Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma recorded by Robert Millis in 2002. In a strange twist of fate, Sublime Frequencies has obtained the rights to distribute the remaining copies of this superb collection released on Anomalous Records in 2004.

Culled and carefully edited from many hours of field recordings made in Southeast Asia by Robert Millis, member of Climax Golden Twins (who are responsible for the OST of the film “Session Nine”). A mix of ambiance and music including a beguiling improvisation performed by an elephant mahout using only a leaf, ethereal temple orchestras, blind street musicians, insect choruses, stagecoach rides, singing cabbies, a drunken spirit orchestra performing a Leo Sayer song, naughty and nice children. This is an impressionistic ride from 21st century Thailand to the medieval corners of Myanmar — strange meetings of natural and supernatural, East and West. Millis also worked on the recent Sublime Frequencies DVD “NAT PWE: Burma’s Carnival of Spirit Soul” and some of this disc was recorded during the same trip.


LEAF MUSIC, DRUNKS, DISTANT DRUMS (Sublime Frequencies/Anomalous 2004)
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Basically, everything on CRYPT RECORDS is amazing to me. Please drop a dime on them. -Ian

The subtitle, by the way, is “Full Monophonic Teenblast From America’s Mid-60’s Garage Explosion.” The first CD in the Garage Punk Unknowns Series is crammed fulla mind-meltin’ rock n roll magic. These 31 songs rock harder and louder than just about anything else you’ve ever heard- they’re sloppy, exuberant, violent, brutal, and brilliant, more mercilessly fun than- oh, I don’t know… heroin (I’m not speaking from experience). Songs of particular note include Fink-Muncx Nine’s deranged “Coffee, Tea, or Me,” the Teddy Boys’ lean, mean, ominous “Jezebel,” and the Hard Times’ “I Can’t Wait ‘Til Friday Comes,” which is both nasty and hilarious. And then there’s the Temptations’ (no, not THOSE Temptations) cover of “Hey! Bo Diddley,” which starts out as a bit of punk rock a capella before launching into an amazingly catchy rock n roll pound-fest. The End reduce Buddy Holly’s classic “Not Fade Away” to its most basic elements: A primal beat and some truly primitive vocals. The King Beez’s groovin’ “Now,” is another highlight, as is the Ravens’ schizophrenic “Don’t Press Your Luck.” There’s also the Landels’ surf-tinged cover of “The Witch,” and the Big Beats’ heavy, pummeling “Beware.” These are only a few highlights of what is easily one of the best garage rock discs ever assembled. Pick it up and enjoy!

By Laszlo Matyas,


Crypt Records Presents: GARAGE PUNK UNKNOWNS Vol. 1&2 (1999 compilations)
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Once upon a time — let’s call them the pre-Winehouse years — there was a little label that could pumping retro soul and funk out of a tiny label in Brooklyn. With the mainstream record industry centralizing power and CD sales on the rise, this tiny label faced seemingly insurmountable odds by pairing young musicians who were in love with the sounds of the ’60s and ’70s with older singers who were steeped in that era and then recording their modest little jams on seven-inch slabs of vinyl.

Daptone Studios, Bushwick

The core of their music is the Dap-Kings: Binky Griptite, Guitar, Emcee; David Guy, Trumpet; Bosco “Bass” Mann (AKA Gabriel Roth), Bass, Bandleader; Neal Sugarman, Tenor Saxophone; Tommy “TNT” Brenneck, Guitar; Homer “Funky-Foot” Steinweiss, Drums; Fernando “Bugaloo” Velez, Percussion; Ian Hendrickson-Smith, Baritone and Tenor Saxophone. The Sugarman 3 features Neal Sugarman, Saxophone; Adam Scone, Hammond Organ; Al Street, Guitar; Rudy Albin, Drums; Dave Guy, Trumpet. Legendary Soul Singer Lee Fields often sings with the Sugarman 3 as well as flautist Daisy Sugarman. Daptone built their own studios in Brooklyn where they have recorded most of their releases. The unique quality of their sound is a product of the studio acoustics, recording only on analog tape — no digital –, and mixing by Gabriel Roth.

Then Winehouse came. And everything changed.

Of course, this story is blown slightly out of proportion. Even while Ronson, Carter and even the Reverend Green were drafting the label’s many talents, Daptone quietly continued to release these little gems for its devoted fans.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

So, consider these two volumes of Daptone 7-Inch Singles Collection a reminder of the label’s humble, yet no less raucous, roots. Collecting the esteemed (and limited pressings) of seven-inch singles from its roster stars, such as Sharon Jones and Lee Fields, from the last few years, the compilation serves up an even broader menu of retrophilia. From the gutbucket funk of the Mighty Impreials’ “The Matador” and the Otis-style balladeering of Lee Fields’ “Could Have Been” to Sharon Jones’ groovy reinterpretation of the de facto Lebowski theme “I Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Condition Is In” and Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra’s subtle reading of Hector Lavoe’s anthem “Che Che Cole,” the collection demonstrates how the label attracted such mass appeal: by casting a wide and thoroughly ass-shaking net.

By Dan Nishimoto,


DAPTONE 7 INCH SINGLES COLLECTION: VOL. 1&2 (2006, 2008 compilations)
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Even after his debut release, too much love, captured the imagination of Memphis’ music lovers, Harlan T. Bobo still remains a mystery. Arriving in Memphis nine years ago after traveling a route as circuitous as that of any fugitive, Harlan has been busy endearing himself to local fans and soaking up as much of the city’s rich musical history as possible. Instead of shedding light on the man behind the music, his intensely personal lyrics have actually served to help perpetuate his enigmatic persona. However, with the release of his second album, I’m Your Man, one thing about Harlan T. Bobo can no longer remain an uncertainty — his musical talent is the real thing. It’s true, the man with a name that could’ve come straight from A Confederacy of Dunces can write classic heartbreaker songs with the best of ’em.

Whereas too much love was about a relationship’s soul-wrenching dissolution, I’m Your Man is the post-breakup album- dealing with a wide array of emotions — from fits of false confidence to the comforts of self-delusion to the relapses of despair. In terms of George Jones albums, too much love is Memories of Us and I’m Your Man is The Battle. Accordingly, the musical styles on I’m Your Man are more varied than on his debut. The playful whimsy of the opener, “I’m Your Man,” is immediately offset by the unhinged heaviness of “God’s Lamb,” a powerful, propulsive number that could stand alongside Nick Cave’s Book-of-Relevations-styled stompers. The aggressive, distorted voice on “Sick of It” surely can’t belong to the same guy who is practically whispering on such fragile, gentle songs as “Baptist Memorial” and “Pretty Foolish Things.”

The songs on I’m Your Man were definitely written by Harlan with performance in mind and it shows. There is a theatrical nature to the songs, most noticeable on the monologues and dark cabaret style of “My Life.” Fans of the first album should not fear, however, that Harlan has completely changed his style. The majority of the songs on I’m Your Man undeniably contain his signature elements — tuneful country-fied, nocturnal laments and articulate, discomforting lyrics in the confessional vein. What listener could remain unaffected when Harlan sings remorsefully of babies unborn in “So Bad?” or when he desperately tells an ex-paramour, “you’ll wish you’d stayed,” on “One of These Days,” arguably one of his best songs yet.

The Memphis influence stands out most on the white soul stirrer, “Last Step,” which could have been pilfered from Dan Penn’s back catalog. It’s impossible to be a musician in Memphis and not be inspired by the fascinatingly diverse tradition of the city’s musical output. Though his debts are occasionally discernible, his newest ultimately reveals that Harlan is finding his own unique voice. He’s already won the collective heart of Memphis, it’s time for the rest of the country to discover him. He’s too good to be a secret any longer.


Harlan T Bobo-I’M YOUR MAN (2007)
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Among Bowie aficionados, the live recording from the Santa Monica Civic Center in 1972 ranks as perhaps the best document of the Spiders from Mars at their peak, certainly outranking the Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture soundtrack, which may have documented the band’s fabled final gig, but didn’t capture the band at full flight. This recording — frequently bootlegged, often popping up on semi-official releases, finally released officially by EMI in 2008 — does just that. Here, the Spiders sound otherworldly, lean yet monstrous, simple and lethal on “Hang on to Yourself” but majestic and dramatic on a ten-minute “The Width of a Circle,” flipping a hat to Jacques Brel via Scott Walker on “My Death,” then stripping down such grandiose Hunky Dory tunes as “Life on Mars?” to the essentials. The grand thing about Live in Santa Monica ’72 is that it doesn’t feel like a special gig: it may have been Bowie’s first American radio broadcast, but that’s secondary to how it feels like a snapshot of the band during its prime. It’s tantalizing to think that this is just how the band was in 1972 and that there may be plenty of other great performances never recorded. What’s special about this is that a night like this was indeed captured — and with each passing year this seems more and more like the best Bowie live album.

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine,


David Bowie-LIVE IN SANTA MONICA ’72 (2008)
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