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Monthly Archives: August 2008

Curtis/Live! is, simply, one of the greatest concert albums ever cut on a soul artist, and one of the legendary live albums of all time. Cut in January of 1971 during four nights at The Bitter End (then Greenwich Village’s leading music venue) in New York, the resulting double LP transcended any expectations in both its programming and execution — Mayfield performed numbers off of the Curtis album (“[Don’t Worry] If There’s a Hell Below We’re All Going to Go”), as well as exciting and urgent new versions of songs originally performed by the Impressions (“We’re a Winner,” “People Get Ready,” “Gypsy Woman”), plus a very moving R&B version of “We’ve Only Just Begun.” This is all beautifully stripped-down work by a quintet consisting of Mayfield (vocals, guitar), Craig McMullen (guitar), Tyrone McCullen (drums), “Master” Henry Gibson (percussion), and Joseph “Lucky” Scott (bass) — a solid, intense performance, with quietly elegant guitar playing against a rock-solid rhythm section, as Impressions hits are rethought and reconfigured in a new context, and Mayfield’s early solo repertory comes to life in newer, longer live versions. [The British import from Sequel adds the complete contents of 1973’s live Curtis in Chicago.]

-AMG

DOWNLOAD:
Curtis Mayfield-CURTIS/LIVE! (1971)
192kbps

Disco Club by Black Devil is a sinister electro-disco artifact that was issued on vinyl in at least two countries — Italy (Out), France (RCA) — during the late ’70s. Since then, it has become such a prized truffle that people have been willing to part with over 150 dollars in exchange for an original copy. Metro Area’s Morgan Geist wanted to make the release available again on his Environ label, which has been reissuing long-forgotten singles through its Unclassics series. Rephlex beat Geist to the punch. Making matters curious: around the same time, Rephlex released Kerrier District, a project from Luke Vibert that’s heavily indebted to labels like Environ and Balihu, not to mention this particular 12″. Each of this 12″‘s like-themed tracks are credited to Joachim Sherylee and Junior Claristidge, two unknown producers who were at least a couple years ahead of the disco-morphing-into-house game. None of the six tracks — with plump rhythmic elements, dense construction, and shadowy vocals as common traits — would be out of place on the Strut label’s Disco Not Disco compilations, though we are most definitely talking about disco here. As indicated by the namesake, a dark spirit is present at all times. Even if it weren’t conveyed in the ominous chords and pitch-black fallout-shelter atmosphere created by the production values, the vocals contribute plenty of unease on their own. Most of the time, they make a wordless scat (“Deedit, doodee dee deedit”), or they’re unintelligible, sounding as if the vocalists were cloaked by a thick blanket while in the recording booth. The tracks aren’t terribly different from one another; they’re more like variations of one original mix, but the entire thing remains very susceptible to full play-throughs. Anyone with a remote interest in electro-disco, whether it’s through elders Klein + M.B.O. or younger goofs like Legowelt, should find some time for this.

-AMG

DOWNLOAD:
Black Devil-DISCO CLUB (1978)
256kbps

Take a stack of soul platters from the 1960s and 1970s from the likes of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Sly & the Family Stone, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder; mix generously with a propulsive mix of two bass guitars, two drummers, and the vocals of a Detroit rock legend; and you have an underrated gem in the Motor City music scene. Ultraglide in Black puts a rock spin on recognizable nuggets of soul and funk while retaining the original version’s integrity and message. Most of the tunes covered here are spirited party tracks, including a sparkling version of Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” that features a strident breakdown. Vocalist Mick Collins, of the Gories fame, paints each track with a flavorful delivery which at times will have the listener literally transported to AM radio’s yesteryear. The Dirtbombs have created a record that is akin to stumbling across a box of cool records in your parent’s attic, and is suitable for continuous play at any house party.

-AMG

DOWNLOAD:
The Dirtbombs-ULTRAGLIDE IN BLACK (2001)
320kbps

This album by the Prince of Darkness is most likely, the thickest, darkest piece of music that I own. It sounds more like Miles recorded it in Hell than Carnagie Hall, as everything is dark and dense and almost possessing an evil quality. And the band rocks pretty hard.

The concert opens in typical Miles fashion, like a mf with a song called Moja. It almost reminds me of the days when he started a show with something furious like Ah-Leu-Cha, which is on that great Miles and Coltrane live album. But if Ah-Leu-Cha takes a nod to Bird, then Moja takes it’s nod to the devil himself. Al Foster’s drums probably knocked everyone out of their seats while Miles pitted his almost screaming, electrified trumpet against an impenetrable wall of three (!) guitars. The song is wild, and rocks harder (and longer with such sustained momentum) than the heaviest rock song of the day. The dark funk starts with the second song, Wili. This slow, black, 25 minute track (split into two parts) shows off some menacing interaction between Michael Henderson’s bass, Foster’s drums, and Miles’s cryptic keyboard and finally trumpet playing. The song paints images of a giant Miles, walking slowly through Carnagie Hall, in his flowing red bellbottoms and custom made fringed canary yellow jacket picking off concert goers one by one with his short, caustic trumpet blasts. His tone might not have been fantastic, but this is a new Miles… more crazy than his earlier days, with his trumpet lines taking the shape of almost painful little shards. All the while, the three guitar attack of Pete Cosey, Reggie Lucas and Dominique Gaumont slash away with their electric axes.

Disc two begins with the sounds of Michael Hendersons HUGE, funky basslines. The dark atmosphere has not and will not leave this show. Tatu is funkier than the last, and has some more of Miles’s weird keyboard playing. Just a sustained note here or there gives enough direction and mood for the band to follow as the guitars all blare away. This song goes on for a while, kind of meanders aimlessly as the band seems to search for inspiration and direction, eventually moving into some more hardcore thumping. That leads into Nne part 1 (Ife) which also is a little slow but that leads into Nne part 2 which is out of this world. The band just lets everything loose, and it’s not even clear if Miles is still on the stage!

Overall, Dark Magus is good. Maybe not 5 stars, but certainly better than 4 in my book. It doesn’t deserve to get panned like it so often does. A lot of purists don’t like it… don’t like much of Miles past In A Silent Way… or even don’t like much of Miles past Jack Johnson. But like On The Corner, I think it’s just a great listen. If you’re a first time Miles enthusiast, maybe Dark Magus is not the place to start. But I love (along with Agarta and Pangea) the direction Miles was taking during this time period, and these listens are therefore essential. It’s still Miles, baby. Listen to this album and then imagine what Carnagie Hall must have felt like!

-Amazon.com

DOWNLOAD:
Miles Davis-DARK MAGUS (1974) DISC 1
Miles Davis-DARK MAGUS (1974) DISC 2
320kbps

In the mid-’90s, Juan Garcia Esquivel enjoyed one of the most unexpected resurgences of popularity — and hipness — in the annals of 20th-century pop. The composer and arranger skirted the lines between lounge music, eccentric experimentalism, and stereo sound pioneer in the late ’50s and early ’60s on a series of albums aimed at the easy listening market. Both cheesy and goofily unpredictable, these records were forgotten by all but thrift-store habitues for decades. With the space age pop/exotica revival of the mid-’90s, however, Esquivel was not just being rediscovered, but was being championed as a cutting-edge innovator by certain segments of the hipper-than-thou alternative crowd.

Traditionally the most sought after and highest valued Esquivel record, More of Other Sounds Other Worlds should be considered in context. First, it is not a sequel to the RCA record of three years earlier. The title only reflects Stanley Wilson’s desire to record Esquivel since having heard the earlier LP. Second, the label switch is significant. Reprise, a division of Warner Bros., started out giving old masters a fresh shot (hence the name). While the dual 35mm film recording process is played up, it is more important that new people are involved after hi-fi and stereo have become old hat. (Another great, similar “Reprise” from this period is Les Baxter’s return to exotica in The Primitive and the Passionate.) The album begins with “The Breeze and I (Andalucia),” a brassy bullfighting number. “Street Scene” and “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” belong to the bluesy urban crime jazz idiom. The rest of the album is typical of the style of Esquivel’s later U.S. RCA work. While not his quirkiest or most sensational, it is among his best and most interesting.

-AMG

DOWNLOAD:
Esquivel-MORE OF OTHER WORLDS, OTHER SOUNDS (1962)
320kbps

Curtis Mayfield’s visionary album, a landmark creation every bit as compelling and as far-reaching in its musical and extra-musical goals as Marvin Gaye’s contemporary What’s Goin’ On. Opening on the hit “Get Down,” the album soars on some of the sweetest and most eloquent — yet driving — soul sounds heard up to that time. Mayfield’s growing musical ambitions, first manifested on the Curtis album, and his more sophisticated political sensibilities, presented with a lot of raw power on Curtis Live!, are pulled together here in a new, richer studio language, embodied in extended song structures (“Underground”), idealistic yet lyrically dazzling anthems (“We Got to Have Peace,” “Keep On Keeping On,” and, best of all, the soaring “Beautiful Brother of Mine”), and impassioned blues (“Now You’re Gone”). The music is even bolder than the material on the Curtis album, with Mayfield expanding his instrumental range to the level of a veritable soul orchestra; and the recording is better realized, as Mayfield, with that album and a tour behind him, shows a degree of confidence that only a handful of soul artists of this era could have mustered. Charly Records had this album out on CD in the 1980s, but Rhino’s acquisition of the Curtom catalog in 1996 led to a remastered and expanded reissue in 1999 with superior sound, detailed annotation, and the addition of four bonus tracks. Apart from a slow, funky, stripped-down but eminently listenable demo of “Underground” (which reveals just how sophisticated Mayfield’s conceptions — forget the finished versions — of his songs were), the latter consist of the single edits of “Get Down,” “We Got to Have Peace,” and “Beautiful Brother of Mine.” They seem redundant after the album versions, though they don’t detract at all from the extraordinary value of this mid-priced CD.

-AMG

DOWNLOAD:
Curtis Mayfield-ROOTS (1971)
224kbps

Credit where credit is due, I downloaded this from the indispensable blog BONOBOS HUMP TO MUSIC, so check that out! -Ian

Lizzy Mercier Descloux made a significant splash in New York’s underground music community with her first solo album for the ZE label, home to equally bent acts like Was (Not Was), Cristina, the Contortions, and Kid Creole & the Coconuts. The French transplant had already established herself as one half of Rosa Yemen, a short-lived no wave combo that released a hastily recorded six-song EP for the same label a year earlier. Along with Rosa Yemen partner DJ Barnes and Garçons’ Eric Elliason, she recorded Press Color — eight tense, terse tunes owing more to disco, funk, and film scores than punk rock — within the span of two weeks. The lead single, a cover of Arthur Brown’s “Fire,” couldn’t have ripped out Descloux’s no wave roots any more violently, all the while changing the original’s fire-and-brimstone theatrics into a zippy roller-rink wink. Covers of two Lalo Schifrin compositions — “Mission: Impossible” and “Jim on the Move” — are relatively faithful, though Descloux adds something of her own to the latter by repeatedly intoning the title (“Jim…Jim! Jim, Jim, Jim — on…the move”). The original arrangement of the standard “Fever” is also kept intact, but Descloux replaces every instance of “fever” with “tumor” (“you give me tumor,” “tumor when you hold me tight,” etc.). The other half of the album is made up of originals, including “Wawa,” a bobbing, disco-inspired instrumental full of the spindly guitars that would populate much of her brilliant follow-up, Mambo Nassau. Spirited, fun, and full of luscious basslines, the only thing that prevents Press Color from being as venerated as ESG’s early releases is that no rap producer has been keen enough to sample from it.

-AMG

DOWNLOAD:
Lizzy Mercier Descloux-PRESS COLOR (1979)
192kbps

From the traditional Nubian sounds of Southern Egypt to the cultured Arabic pop of Beirut, its all here in super-sonic collage: Cairo Orchestral/Greek Sartaki/Palestinian Folk/ Jewish and Euro-hybrid music styles/ Jordanian reverb guitar….all placed deep within the mirage of an 18 year-old time capsule of news, commercials, radio plays, UFO signals, Secret agent messages and chainsaw shortwave! Recorded in the summer of 1985 from Aswan to Jerusalem, this is a cerebral-smashing 65-minute listening experience soaked in raw beauty. If you don’t like gettin’ your ears pierced, then Clear the path NOW….the Radio Collage Revolution has been unleashed!

-sublimefrequencies.com

DOWNLOAD:
Sublime Frequencies-RADIO PALESTINE: SOUNDS OF THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN SF008 (2004)
192kbps

A jaw-dropping expose of music, news, interviews and field recordings from one of the least-known quarters of the Arab world. The country of Syria has been politically and culturally exiled for decades by the western media leaving little known of its rich heritage of art, music and culture. Recorded and surgically-assembled by Mark Gergis from two trips to Syria in 1998 and 2000, disc one of this 2-CD set features recordings made in Damascus and is a virtual documentary of sound from the legendary Capital including street scenes, a wedding, a mosque interior, spontaneous live music and interviews with citizens, radio broadcasts, a song about Saddam Hussein, and the mystery of an underground city called “Kazib”. Disc two extends to Greater syria with the same approach capturing live musicians, political opinions, radio excerpts, an interview with an anonymous homosexual, and unique sound documents from this small but highly-influential corner of the Middle East.

-sublimefrequencies.com

DOWNLOAD:
Sublime Frequencies-I REMEMBER SYRIA Sf009 2004 DISC 1
Sublime Frequencies-I REMEMBER SYRIA Sf009 2004 DISC 2
192kbps

HERE’S A LIST of all my organized albums.

Feel free to ask about anything not on that list that you would think I’d have based on it, because there’s a lot more laying around that I’m too lazy to sort through.