Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: August 2009

Toots & the Maytals’ first LP for Chris Blackwell was originally released in the early ’70s, and it includes solid sides like “Pomp and Pride,” a whacked-out restructuring of Richard Berry’s “Louie, Louie,” and the wonderful title track, “Funky Kingston.” Blackwell reissued a bulked-up version of Funky Kingston in the mid-’70s on his Mango subsidiary, adding in the immortal “Pressure Drop,” the brilliant “Time Tough,” and a reimagining of John Denver’s “Country Roads” (simply called “Country Road”), to make a much better and stronger set.

In the Dark is a ska/reggae classic that captures the Maytals in their prime, brimming with energy. In the group’s music, the positive vibrations of reggae and the deep soul of singer Frederick “Toots” Hibbert are united and elevated by a pervasive spirituality. Exuding warmth and goodwill, Toots & the Maytals seek to excise their sorrows through joyful celebration and praise. “Got to Be There” sets the mood perfectly with its jubilant roll call into heaven. Hibbert’s religious concerns are equally strong on “In the Dark,” a song directed at those lacking belief. But he continually succeeds in reaching across lines of strict faith. The emotions in the Maytals’ music always defy such boundaries. Similarly, this soulful reggae blend has the power to communicate to diverse musical tastes, reggae converts and unbelievers alike. “I’m from Jamaica/I want to do my Jamaican stuff,” sings Toots, inviting everyone to watch and listen. Backing him is a formidable rhythmic force, capable of luring anyone out onto the dancefloor. At times, the grooves are so dense with reggae’s characteristic syncopation that rhythms seem to spring forth from multiple directions. “Time Tough” layers organ stabs, chopping reggae rhythms, and tight, coiled guitar lines along with call and response vocals. In the Dark’s classic status may be assured from three songs alone: signature numbers “54-46 Was My Number,” “Time Tough,” and the Maytals’ rendition of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (which sounds like it was written for Hibbert to sing). But the Maytals hit the mark with every song on this collection. Like the best of the blues, gospel, and soul, they turn struggle into strength. When Hibbert sings “I’m so lonely/I’m so blue” on “In the Dark,” he makes the emotions seem truly addictive; if the blues felt as good as they sound here, people would be lining up to get their dose.

-Nathan Bush,

Toots & The Maytals-FUNKY KINGSTON / IN THE DARK (1973 / 1976 / 1995 compilation)

Definitely the most talented and arguably the all-around best jazz vocal group of all time, the Boswell Sisters parlayed their New Orleans upbringing into a swinging delivery that featured not only impossibly close harmonies, but countless maneuvers of vocal gymnastics rarely equalled on record. Connee (sometimes Connie), Helvetia (Vet), and Martha Boswell grew up singing together, soaking up Southern gospel and blues through close contact with the black community. They first performed at vaudeville houses around the New Orleans area, and began appearing on local radio by 1925. At first, they played strictly instrumentals, with Connee on cello, saxophone and guitar; Martha on piano; and Vet on violin, banjo, and guitar. The station began featuring them in a vocal setting as well, with Connee taking the lead on many songs (despite a childhood accident that had crippled her and left her in a wheelchair).

Word of their incredible vocal talents led to appearances in Chicago and New York, and the Boswell Sisters began recording in 1930 for Victor. By the following year, they’d moved to Brunswick and reached the Hit Parade with “When I Take My Sugar to Tea,” taken from the Marx Brothers’ film Monkey Business and featuring the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in support. The trio continued to work with many of the best jazzmen in the field (including Eddie Lang, Joe Venuti, and Bunny Berigan), and appeared in the 1932 film extravaganza The Big Broadcast with Bing Crosby and Cab Calloway. The Boswell Sisters hit the top of the Hit Parade only once, in 1935, with “The Object of My Affection” from the film Times Square Lady. One year later however, both Martha and Vet retired from the group in favor of married life.

This 1995 CD has a sampling of the Boswell Sisters’ recordings, 20 titles from the premier vocal jazz group’s prime period. A few of the tunes are rarities (particularly “Song of Surrender,” “Coffee in the Morning,” and “Trav’lin All Alone”), while some others have been reissued numerous times (“Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” a classic “Sentimental Gentleman from Georgia,” and “Minnie the Moocher’s Wedding Day”). Although one hopes that all of the Boswells’ recordings will be reissued in chronological order someday (this collection skips around a bit), the CD acts as a strong introduction to the music of this magical and innovative group. The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra (with trumpeter Bunny Berigan) provides accompaniment on many of the titles.

-John Bush, Scott Yanow,

The Boswell Sisters-THAT’S HOW RHYTHM WAS BORN (1995 compilation)

This is probably my real favorite rock album of the 2000s. The new one might be better but I’m still listening to it over and over.

Reigning Sound-TOO MUCH GUITAR (2004)

Get it now because I’m not re-upping it again! DO IT

Re-up, higher bitrate. I included this review because I think it’s embarrassing for Ira Kaplan, who I generally love. He wrote it in 1981 and would probably reconsider it now, if he cared at all. This comp is absolutely necessary if you live in Indiana or the midwest in general. Get this for the song “Indianapolis” by E-In Brino (Paul Mahern of the Zero Boys) and the Dow Jones & The Industrials jams! -Ian!

So which would you rather be: unknown or “immortalized” by Breaking Away? If the 16 bands on the Red Snerts (anagram: Rent Dress, get it?) sometimes seem a little too foot-shufflin’ unassuming – and they do – it’s at least not hard to figure why. The Gizmos sing “The Midwest Can Be Allright” (but not too often, I guess, or they wouldn’t’ve moved to NJ). The liner notes solicit correspondence with the query: “Like those bands? Maybe one or two of ’em?” and elsewhere promise, “If Hoosier Land has anything, it’s right here on Red Snerts.” And let me tip my hand and say yes, Hoosier L. has something. Only fair to start with the brainchildren. Mr. Moneybags Bob Wino keeps the profile low, taking the odd pic, producing an occasional cut, that’s it.

Jamie X. Jetson and Scientific Brad Garton (Mr. Science, I presume), however, let the proverbial all hand out. Jamie’s tough-guy vocal on the Jetsons’ “I Bet Not” might be a little ludicrous, but it’s not, even though he’s singing stuff like, “I’m gonna puke, I’m gonna vomit on your face, But you’re such a cliched fuck, you’d think I was bein’ neat.” In fact, it’s durnright O.K., thanks to on-the-nose innocent garage production that captures those ringing rhythm guitars and neat electric piano fills in all their considerable glory. Chorus takes a nifty melodious turn, too, as Jamie warbles, “Would you go away if I burned down your house? I bet not.” If anybody burned down Scientific Brad G.’s house that’d be the end of Red Snerts, because most of it was either recorded or remixed in his studio, and that unfortunately includes his yucko electronic star-turn, “Mr. Science.” (Bugaboo: all those electronics.) Highlights. Phil Hundle needs a new stop-watch; his “30 Second Affair” lasts but :29, but you gotta admire the economy of a guitar and (the Last Four (4) Digits’ Joh Koss’s) drum sound that can thrash like this one can. (Speaking of the L4D – their “Diddy Wah Diddy” is pretty superfluous, but it’s nice to see it dedicated to George Scott. Maybe they never heard Beefheart’s version either.) “Pink Lincoln” is Post Raisin Bran’s no-frills, no-problems rocker about cruising in a guess-what. Zero Boys’ “New Generation” takes punk to the cutter’s edge: “Don’t dance like Fred Astaire.” E-in Brino aren’t as good as their name, but hey, Red Snerts practically disoperates quality as a yardstick. Really.

It reminds me of the Happy Squid Sampler: some cuts’re good, some bad, but they all have that unassuming charm, that feeling of “oh boy, makin’ a record” not “watch out, makin’ a statement”… all you have to do is listen between the grooves. Two more things. Another good song(right at the beginning) is a quasi-reggae poptune gone haywire called “Designer Genes” by Amoebas in Chaos. And lastly, lest I mislead, about that Happy Squid comparison: even if you took the Red S. Top-5 and pitted ’em against the Happy S. 5, the Squids’d come out on top. Just means there’s two records you ought to hear.

-Ira Kaplan, Yo La Tengo

Various Artists-RED SNERTS: THE BEST OF GULCHER RECORDS (1981 compilation)

I also upped 25 O’CLOCK by The Dukes Of Stratosphear earlier. -Ian!


XTC were an influential rock band (starting out as essentially a post-punk outfit but eventually developing into a sound that was a mix of new wave and alternative/college rock) which formed Swindon, England in 1972. For most of their career, the band consisted of Andy Partridge (vocals, guitar), Colin Moulding (vocals, bass) and Dave Gregory (guitar, keyboards). Gregory replaced founding keyboardist Barry Andrews in 1978 and left himself in 1999. After co-founding drummer Terry Chambers left in 1983, the band did not hire a drummer to replace him and instead hired session drummers on an album-to-album basis.

First coming together in 1972, the core duo of Andy Partridge (guitars, vocals) and Colin Moulding (bass, vocals) went through numerous band names (including The Helium Kidz and Star Park) over the next five years. Drawing influence from the New York Dolls and the emerging New York punk scene, they played glam rock with homemade costumes and slowly built up a following. Drummer Terry Chambers joined in 1973. Keyboard player Barry Andrews followed in 1976, and the band finally settled on a name: XTC. By this time, the punk rock movement was in full swing, and XTC had found their style, a unique brand of hyperactive pop mixed with funk, punk, ska, reggae, and art rock.

-crappy bio

BLACK SEA (1980)
MUMMER (1983)

Though sadly short-lived, Tiger Trap emerged as one of the most beloved indie-pop bands of the 1990s. The group was formed in Sacramento, CA in 1992 by singers/guitarists Rose Melberg and Angela Loy, schoolmates who soon recruited bassist Jen Braun and drummer Heather Dunn to complete the lineup; within weeks of their formation, Tiger Trap — so named in reference to a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip — issued their debut single “Words and Smiles,” a split release with Bratmobile which appeared on the Four Letter Words label.

Jumping to K, the band issued the “Supercrush” single, followed in 1993 by their self-titled debut LP; the record was a major underground favorite, with its spiky melodies, lovely harmonies and sweet-and-sour lyrics striking a chord throughout the indie community. Sadly, after just one more EP, Sour Grass, Tiger Trap disbanded in the wake of a December 1993 concert in San Francisco, although a handful of compilation tracks appeared posthumously; in the years to follow, Melberg remained the most prolific member of the outfit, recording as one half of the Softies as well as with Go Sailor! and Gaze. Dunn, meanwhile, frequently drummed in support of Lois.

-Jason Ankeny,


If that is an actual name and not a pseudonym (or either way I guess), then it might absolve all the past sins of Allmusic. -Ian!

The Unboxed Set is exactly what the title implies; a single disc compilation that includes all four of the Angry Samoans’ official pre-breakup 12″ releases, including their classic 1982 release, Back from Samoa. One of the truly great ’80s punk bands, the music of the Angry Samoans contained all the right elements: juvenile humor, raging barre chords, snotty vocals, and most importantly, a strong sense of justice and the everyman (except, unfortunately, when it came to homosexuals). In addition, they also had an unusually tight rhythm section and great pop songwriting instincts that placed them several notches above their contemporaries. All this is in evidence here, from vocalist “Metal” Mike Saunders’ primordial screams on “Ballad of Jerry Curlan” to the hilarious faux-folk of “STP not LSD.” Also included in the package are truly inspired liner notes from guitarist Gregg Turner, which perfectly capture the band’s recklessness, nihilism and uncompromising punk attitude.

-Pemberton Roach,

Angry Samoans-THE UNBOXED SET (1995 compilation)

Another re-up, higher bitrate. -Ian!

The first Caetano Veloso solo album was recorded in 1967. Soon after the III FMPB, where Veloso took fourth place with “Alegria, Alegria,” he and his group (which would soon constitute the Tropicalia movement) were news, dividing opinions concerning the group’s interest in fusing Brazilian music with international pop culture, lysergic psychedelia, generalized irreverence, and whatever crossed their minds. The arrangements were done by three classically trained composers, fully committed to the most adventurous experiments in modern music: Júlio Medaglia, Damiano Cozella, and Sandino Hohagen. Veloso’s concept was that the album should surpass the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s, being also very Brazilian and, at the same time, international. The record has immortal classics, such as “Clarice,” “Soy Loco por Tí, América” (Gilberto Gil/Capinam), composed under the effect of the recent death of Che Guevara, “Superbacana,” “Tropicália,” and “Alegria, Alegria.” The rest of the album has had less success but consists of excellent tracks that remain modern to this day. “Tropicália,” the title track, was an unnamed song when its recording began. By suggestion of the then photographer Luís Carlos Barreto, Veloso used the same name of an installation by the visual artist Hélio Oiticica, which was composed by a labyrinth made with plants and birds and shown on a television set. The suggestion was accepted, and the Tropicalia was born.

-Alvaro Neder,

Caetano Veloso-CAETANO VELOSO (1968)