Classic Melting Pot

Breakdown: Best of 2009 on KCRW

December 31st, 2009

Here it is, my rundown of my favorite records of 2009. Expect a few more posts in this breakdown category after the new year begins (Fave Songs + Fave Records Dug Up). Playlist will come in the new year as well. This one should be archived for some time, so enjoy the tunes of 2009. Thanks so much for checking out Melting Pot in 2009, I promise bigger and better things for 2010.

Happy New Year!

I had the distinct pleasure of guest hosting one of the iconic shows in radio, Morning Becomes Eclectic. Especially nice since I’m taking a hiatus away from KCRW during January and most of February. Includes some 2010 releases still upcoming including Vampire Weekend, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Laura Veirs and Numero’s Born Again Funk collection. Not sure how long this will be archived, I have a copy I might throw up here if it disappears from the website. Playlist after the new year…

40th Anniversary Edition!!!

40th Anniversary Edition!!!

King Crimson – I Talk To The Wind (Studio Run Through)
King Crimson – Epitaph (Backing Track)

This holiday season, musical nerd that I am, I was able to splurge and pick up the 5 CD anniversary edition of a classic LP, King Crimson’s debut from 1969, In The Court of the Crimson King. I first heard King Crimson on a “sick” day from middle school watching MTV’s Closet Classics. They played a live version, probably from Beat Club, of the group performing “Larks Tongues in Aspic” and I was floored, I’d never heard anything so simultaneously beautiful and ferocious, maybe still haven’t. When I started buying cassettes (this was the late 1980s after all), beginning appropriately enough with A Young Person’s Guide To King Crimson and then to the studio releases, I found that there were different versions of the songs, so King Crimson was also my introduction to the “alternate take,” and “alternate mix,” and probably the reason I take such joy from finding subtle differences in different recordings, performances or mixes.

This expanded edition (there are also 2cd versions available) features virtually every possible edition of this album. There’s a new 2009 mix (with a thankfully “edited” version of “Moonchild,” chopping out a full 3 minutes of noodling that I always found incongruent with the mood of the piece), the previously highly touted 2004 mix, a mix from a original pink label Island records 1st pressing (from Fripp’s own private collection no less), a promo mix culled from vinyl for US DJs, single mixes and a slew of unreleased studio and live recordings. It’s a pretty overwhelming batch of tuneage given that the original album only had 5 songs to choose from, but something that is geared towards Crimso-fanaticos only. Personally, I’m a little disappointed that there wasn’t more from the “Morgan Studios” sessions with Tony Clark, from what appears to be the recreated master list from those sessions, it seems the group recorded a version of “Tomorrow’s People,” probably the best track from Crimson off-shoot McDonald & Giles (which I’ll have to feature sometime in 2010). All we have from that session is a blistering instrumental version of “21st Century Schizoid Man,” that makes you wonder what the band heard that made them want to scrap this session and take over production themselves.

Speaking of instrumentals, based on the amount of instrumental “backing” tracks to make it on this set, I’m curious if Fripp is courting producers to sample and remix Crimson’s work. It’s hard not to hear those possibilities on “Epitaph” or “I Talk To The Wind,” especially the studio run-through, with that unique drum sound from Michael Giles. More likely, the inclusion of the many instrumentals were designed to place a focus on the musicianship of the players. Having the instrumental backing track of “21st Century Schozoid Man,” a trio recording featuring Giles, Fripp & Lake, definitely shows how clearly locked in they were even though the group in this incarnation was together for less than a year in total, and had spent even less time together when they began recording. They nailed this backing track on the first take and hearing it this way was a revelation for me, from Fripp’s solos to the fact that Giles was using a double bass drum set, something that at least to my ears was obscured in the final mix.

You also get to feel a bit of the fire that this band produced with the inclusion of live material from Hyde Park and the Fillmore, in addition to a couple of recordings from Peel Sessions the group did. Also included are extensive notes, in some cases from Robert Fripp’s personal journal, on the rise and fall of the band. Those notes helped me to understand better what I had always found to be a strange thing, how Ian McDonald could go from being in King Crimson to Foreigner, but part of the reason that it appears he gave for leaving the band was the “dark” overtones of the music and a personal need to make sunnier music. There’s also an interesting article that connects the business side of Crimson to the larger trends in the music industry. All in all a fine collection and the type of thing that a “40th Anniversary Edition” should be all about.

In listening to this anniversary edition and thinking about the music to follow, it’s interesting to me that for a record that all but ushered in “progressive rock” the music is actually rather pastoral. Really much of that moniker comes down to “21st Century Schizoid Man,” their most well known song and a crazed mixed of rock and avant-garde jazz. “I Talk To The Wind,” “Moonchild,” “Epitaph,” and “In The Court of the Crimson King” sound nothing like that track and had it not been included (an impossibility of course), we’d have a very different impression of the band. There are other records from King Crimson that I enjoy more, or at least that contain more cherished songs for me, but as a total package, it’s hard not to argue that this record is the one that rules them all, the boxed set, simply cements the legend.

Another great group from New Jersey, Real Estate

Another great group from New Jersey, Real Estate

Real Estate – Black Lake

Since hearing this band on KXLU the other day while driving on an uncharacteristically low traffic day in Los Angeles, I’ve been addicted to their lo-fi indie pop rhythms. Real Estate hails from New Jersey, and reminds me of a cross between the Velvet Underground and American Analog Set, or more specifically, what the grandkids of the VU and the AMANSET’s cousins would sound like playing in a suburban cul-de-sac ’round about midnight.

Breakdown: December 23rd on KCRW

December 25th, 2009

Been so focused on grading and the holiday season, forgot to mention this is one of my last show’s for a couple of months as I take a little break from KCRW. I’ll likely put together some mixes for this blog, but this show and next week’s two shows (I’m guest hosting for Morning Becomes Eclectic in addition to my Best of 2009 show next Wednesday) will be it until February. Enjoy the show, especially the big long set of King Crimson in the second hour from the 40th anniversary edition of their classic record In The Court of the Crimson King (review comin’ soon).

B.B. Fieldings is feelin' it!

B.B. Fieldings is feelin' it!

Black Pearl – Cold Sweat
Black Pearl – Uptown
Black Pearl – People Get Ready

Might revise this tomorrow, but wanted to get something up tonight before my radio show at KCRW. Best I can gather, Black Pearl was a Los Angeles based group, who put out a couple of records in the rock’n’soul vein (the other being a self-titled record on Atlantic with some really great artwork). They were led by B.B. Fieldings and featured not one, or two but three…count ’em up, three guitarists (or four if you include the bass player).

Recorded live at the Fillmore West in Frisco in 1968, this record is fairly highly prized because of a pretty solid breakdown in “Cold Sweat.” Overall the record is a solid showcase for the group and for Fieldings’ sincere appreciation of black music. “Cold Sweat” shows off the best parts of the group, solid groove, nice and funky, mostly based off the James Brown original, but with other bits thrown in, particularly at the breakdown as B.B. calls out each member of the band “Memphis Soul Stew” style beginning with the drummer who he implores to do it “dirty” and “nasty”.

“Uptown” is similar in style and feeling to “Cold Sweat,” though with some “mildly” racist essentialism associated with white folks going to the “darker” side of town to let it all hang out, though I think B.B.’s sincerity makes it seem more endearing (especially when he’s talking about soul food) than totally ignorant (A fine line admittedly, and maybe it’s just me, but since I’ve been doing cultural studies research on race and representation, I feel like I hear this trope a lot in the 50s and 60s).

B.B. certainly was attempting to do his part to bridge the Soul / Hippie divide, this especially comes out during his version of “People Get Ready” which contains these pearls of wisdom towards the end.

What the fuck good is it to live
if you don’t know what you’re alive for,
So I ask you,
I ain’t talkin’ hippy talk,
and I ain’t talkin’ freak talk,
I’m talkin’ bout life,
I’m talkin’ about the way it was,
the way it is and the way it always will be…

Not much else to say other than that…enjoy the music.

Cheers,

Michael

Breakdown: December 16th on KCRW

December 19th, 2009

As you might have guessed from the lack of posting here, I’ve been slammed with grading from my work at CSU-Long Beach…Now that finals are over and it’s just daily grading, should get back into a regular groove with the posting.  This was a pretty solid show from this past week, with a bevy of new releases, King Khan, Born Again Funk from the Numero Group, slept-on records from earlier in the year including Quadron & Electric Wire Hustle and classic tracks from Jimi Hendrix & the Band of Gypsies, Talk Talk and Renaissance featuring Keith Relf & Jimmy McCarty of the Yardbirds.  Enjoy it till next week is on demand…

quadron

Quadron – Herfa Hvor Vi Står

Here’s another slept on release from earlier in the year, one that’s on a bunch of KCRW DJs “Best of 2009” lists, from this Denmark duo, featuring the Hannibal 1/2 of Owasu & Hannibal. Some interesting influences throughout this mostly future funk release from Sly Stone to the Shangri-Las but I’m quite fond of this slow slow burner at the end, the only track in Danish.

Ghettoblaster Runs Downtown!

Ghettoblaster Runs Downtown!

I’ll be spinning some tunes on Thursday December 17th at Bar 107, likely one big long set starting off around 11:30ish. 60s/70s funk, soul, psych, and more. Swing by and check it all out!

Hazy, Lazy Tunes from Chicago's Barry Goldberg

Hazy, Lazy Tunes from Chicago's Barry Goldberg

Barry Goldberg – Sittin’ In Circles
Barry Goldberg – Strung and Young
Barry Goldberg – Another Day

Back in my early college days I hosted a blues show called Crossroads on Album 88 in Atlanta. In learning about and searching for music I started to gain a big appreciation for the revivalist sound of the 60s out of Chicago, including white artists from the windy city like Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Charlie Musselwhite, Harvey Mandel, Nick Gravenites and Barry Goldberg. I’ve already featured one record that features many of these players, Harvey Mandel’s debut, of the records of that period I think this one from Goldberg is my favorite, just because of the sound. Partially it’s the diversity of sounds on this album, the group is allover the map, performing Dylan meets the Velvets numbers, bloozy Southside strutters, wah-wah heavy rock and even a couple of country psych joints.

Mainly my love for this record is all about the way it’s produced. The sound on this record is big, so big I like to call it the Chicago Wall of Sound record. Everything just washes over you on the better tracks, the slightly echoed drums from a mellowed “Fast” Eddie Hoh, slightly reverbed bass, gorgeous clean lines from Mandel (or groovy wah-wah psych outs), floaty horns and organ. You can hear this especially on the slow burners like “Sittin’ In Circles,” “Another Day,” and the instrumental “Strung and Young” and the mostly instrumental “I Think I’m Gonna Cry.”

Of that bunch, “Sittin’ In Circles” has to be one of my favorite songs from this period of time. One of the other groups Goldberg was associated with, The Electric Flag, also recorded a version of this song, but this one is light years away from that one, sounding like a hazy drugged out summer night of sound once those drums shuffle the whole group in and Goldberg lazily sings his lines…just slays me every time.

Cheers,

Michael

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