Classic Melting Pot

Did I seriously buy all these records???

{This marks the final post of 2010 for Melting Pot, we’ll return on Jan. 3rd with a Breakdown of our Best of 2010 radio show and posts on the top reissues, vinyl finds, songs and releases of 2010, see you in the New Year!!!}

Last show of 2010 was focused on some of the best records I tracked down over the year. Most were from stores around LA, including Records LA, Atomic, Bagatelle, Amoeba, Record Recycler, As The Record Turns, and of course the venerable Groove Merchant in SF. Had a really productive Ebay season as well, tracking down a number of records I’d been looking for quite some time. Even with this haul, based on this pace, it will take me 30 years to get my collection back to 3,000-4,000 that it was at at the beginning of this century!  I think instead I’ll go for quality over quantity…Hope you enjoy the show, next week I take another look back at 2010, playing my picks for the best music released throughout the year.

Melting Pot on KPFK #26: Best Vinyl of 2010 First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #26: Best Vinyl of 2010 Second Hour

Playlist: 12-26-2010
Best Vinyl Dug Up In 2010

{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – Melting Pot (Stax)

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Captain Beefheart – On Tomorrow – Strictly Personal (Blue Thumb)
Howlin’ Wolf – Smokestack Lightnin’ – The Howlin’ Wolf Album (Cadet Concept)
Antonio Carlos e Jocafi – Hipnose – Voce Abusou (RCA)
Leigh Stephens – Another Dose Of Life – Red Weather (Phillips)
Zoo – Mammouth – Zoo (Mercury)

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The Runaways – Drive Me Wild – The Runaways (Mercury)
The Flamin’ Groovies – Teenage Head – Teenage Head (Kama Sutra)
Freddie King – Going Down – Getting Ready (Scepter)
Toussaint McCall – Shimmy – 7” (Ronn)
Toni Tornado – Bochechuda – Toni Tornado (Odeon)
The Pretty Things – Cries From The Midnight Circus – Parachute (Rare Earth)
Haircut & the Impossibles – Sock It My Way – Call It Soul (Somerset)

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The Contortions – Bedroom Athlete – Buy The Contortions (Ze)
James Brown – You Mother You – Sho Is Funky Down Here (King)
Ginger Ale – The Seventh Floor – 7” (Pip)
Gal Costa – Hotel Das Estrellas – LeGal (Phillips)
Tim Weisberg – Tyme Cube – Hurtwood Edge (A&M)

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Rotary Connection – Life Could – Aladdin (Cadet Concept)
Juan Pablo Torres y Algo Nuevo – Y Que Bien – Super Son (Arieto)
Rastus – Sailin’ Easy – Rastus (GRT)
Arnold Bean – I Can See Through You – Cosmic Bean (SSS International)
The Minutemen – June 16th – Double Nickels On The Dime (SST)

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The Minutemen – The Product – Buzz or Howl Under The Influence (SST)
Les Baxter – Hot Wind – Hell’s Belles: OST (Sidewalk)
Jun Mayuzumi – Black Room – 7” (Capitol)
The Steve Karmen Big Band feat. Jimmy Radcliffe – Breakaway Pt. 1 – 7” (UA)
Franciene Thomas – I’ll Be There – 7” (Tragar)
Los Apson – Por Tu Amor – Satisfaccion (Peerless)
The Small Faces – Rollin Over – Ogden’s Nut Got Flake (Compleat)
Jeffrey Simmons – Naked Angels Theme – Naked Angels: OST (Straight)

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Roberto Carlos – Nao Vou Ficar – Roberto Carlos (CBS)
Ray Camacho Group – Si Se Puede – Salsa Chicana (Luna)
Love – Between Clark and Hilldale – Forever Changes (Elektra)
Battered Ornaments – Sunshades – Mantle Piece (Harvest)

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{closing theme} Kenny Baker – Mississippi Waltz – Plays Bill Monroe (County)

Captain Beefheart – On Tomorrow/Beatle Bones ‘N’ Smokin’ Stones
Captain Beefheart – Gimme Dat Harp Boy

Seems fitting that the final record I buy in 2010 (and next to last post of this year) is one from the dearly departed Captain. Back before my bigtime sell-off, I used to own most every record that Beefheart had recorded, but for some reason I’d never tracked this one down. I think part of the reason was that I used to own “Mirror Man” which contained outtakes from this same session. Also, I’d always heard that Beefheart was never very pleased with the studio effects that producer Bob Krasnow inserted possibly against the Captain’s wishes (including some “psychedelic” phasing and a heartbeat at the end of “Ah Feel Like Ahcid”).

Now that I’ve gotten a copy, I actually rather like this album, though, because of the reasons above, many Beefheart fans might rank it just below Unconditionally Guaranteed as the worst record in the Captain’s catalog (then again, I always liked that record too). The sound is stripped down, quite different from the mostly conventional psych of Safe As Milk, and not nearly as chaotic as what was coming next on Trout Mask Replica. It’s still a very eccentric sound, especially lyrically, but it’s also very
elemental. As wild as some of the time signatures are, a lot of this music just seems like it could have been performed on a back porch somewhere, albeit, perhaps after the consumption of massive quantities of hallucinogenic mushrooms or the like. In some ways I guess that’s the shame of the studio trickery from Krasnow. The music should just stand on it’s own, it was psychedelic enough just by itself. But at the same time, like a lot of records from this period, the phasing and odd sound effects mark the record in a particular time and place, and I actually appreciate that.

What I most appreciate is of course the music. I’ve chosen a couple of tracks from the 2nd side of the record. “On Tomorrow” & “Beatle Bones ‘n’ Smokin’ Stones” flow so nicely together, I figured I’d keep them that way. “Gimme Dat Harp Boy” has a slightly bluesier feel and a nicely locked in groove (sounding just a little bit like Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful”) that the Captain is more than happy to vamp over on harmonica and vocals. You get the sense that someone might have said the song’s opening line (“Gimme Dat Harp Boy, it ain’t no fatman’s toy” to a young Captain Beefheart when he tried to play his own brand of blues, as evidenced on this record and several that follow (especially 1972’s The Spotlight Kid). Thank goodness he never gave that harp up. Beefheart was always a favorite of mine, it’s nice to end a very good year of diggin’ with a sentimental choice like this. It will be extra nice to play this on the Captain Beefheart tribute I’m planning for January.

Cheers,

Michael

Syl Johnson – Soul Heaven (Is It Because I’m Black Instrumental)
Syl Johnson – I Resign
Syl Johnson – Right On

Just in time for the holidays, the Numero group has unfurled perhaps their most ambitious project yet. Dubbed the “Complete Mythology” this 4 CD/6 LP box set covers just about the entire career of a far to often overlooked soul singer Syl Johnson. The title “Mythology” is very apt, since there is a good bit of myth telling and myth-making in Syl Johnson’s career. He was born in Mississippi in the mid-1930s, claimed to be Robert Johnson’s illegitimate kid, though this seems to be a myth, primarily raised in Chicago and began in the blues scene up there with Magic Sam and Matt Guitar Murphy as good friends. Later on Syl would perform with Billy Boy Arnold and Jimmy Reed. Johnson cut at least 60 sides during his career from the early 60s to the mid 70s, recording primarily for the Twinight and Hi record labels. This collection covers music recorded from 1959 to 1971 when he left for Hi records, (if you want to pick up the story you’ll need to get the Complete Syl Johnson on Hi Records collection that was released in 2000), and then includes a few sides cut in 1976-77.

Syl Johnson as a singer, strikes me as falling somewhere in the spaces between Ronald Isley and Wilson Pickett. An interesting mix of something very sweet and smooth with something a bit rough and rusty, even in his early 1960s output. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why he never was able to achieve consistent stardom, despite several hits, “Sock It To Me,” “Different Strokes,” “Dresses Too Short” and “Is It Because I’m Black.” His legendary status, especially among those of us in the Hip-Hop generation is primarily because of two very different sessions.

Though it’s not the most sampled song in history, “Different Strokes” is one of the most distinctive samples with an intro that is instantly recognizable in a number of Golden Era tracks from the likes of The Beastie Boys, De La Soul, NWA, Public Enemy and Eric B & Rakim. What I’d never known is that the woman laughing on this track that gives it that distinctive sound, is none other than Minnie Ripperton, who at the time was a secretary at Chess Records in Chicago. It’s amazing, as soon as I knew that fact, it made perfect sense, cause who else would be capable of laughing like that.

The other reason Syl’s music has legendary status amongst a number of us is because of his landmark, though often overlooked masterpiece, “Is It Because I’m Black.” The first time I heard the song was actually Ken Boothe’s cover version. Somebody mentioned that I should hear the original, and at some point in the early 2000s I finally did (though from a vinyl reissue, I’ve never seen an original copy, generally they run $300-400). “Is It Because I’m Black” stands as one of the best in a handful of social commentary soul records from this period of time, eclipsed by Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On,” even though “Black” was released a good 13 months before Marvin’s classic. Part of what makes this record is the commentary in the title track and others such as “Concrete Reservation” and “Right On.” The song, “Is It Because I’m Black,” might just be the best song of this type from this era, touching on an often felt but rarely articulated question that forms in the minds of people of color when things do not turn out as they expect, or when someone just out right treats them wrong. Almost 40 years later, the song remains a powerful statement on the experience of racism.

But the number one thing that keeps bringing people back to this music and makes that album such a desired LP is the great feeling in Syl’s voice and the funky funky playing of his band. The band featured with Syl at this time was called the Pieces of Peace, and they more or less were the backing band for Brunswick records (another bit of Soul trivia I learned from this box set, this was the actual group playing on “Soulful Strut” which doesn’t really even feature Young or Holt). It’s that great feeling for soul that Syl and his many bands display throughout these many tracks that makes this set something truly special.

The entire package itself, especially the design, is also a truly special thing. Numero really should be proud of themselves on this one. The “Complete Mythology” took 4 years to complete and Numero really went all out, not simply remastering tracks or conducting interviews, but they even went so far as to convince one of the holders of Syl’s songwriting credits to negotiate a better royalty deal for Johnson, better than the original and scandalous 1.5 cents per unit he signed in 1959. Attention to detail is one thing, but mixing that with social justice is entirely another, and that in addition to all the magnificent music contained within, is more than enough of a reason to splurge on this big box of soul.

Now, with 80+ songs, perhaps you expected me to post more, but I’ve chosen only three to give a brief snap shot of the collection. “I Resign” is actually featured twice, in very different arrangements and spread a few years apart. The soulful sweetness of this version floors me every single time. “Right On” is a monster of a funk song, that is featured on “Is It Because I’m Black” and gives that legendary song a run for its money. I especially love how they decided not to use a cleaner take, as Syl attempts his trademark howl, and his voice cracks. He shrugs it off in the song, simply stating, “I cracked that time, but we still got a good thing…” before letting loose with his proper signature sound. The drums that close things out, remain some of my favorites of all time. Also here is “Soul Heaven” which is track that many of you will instantly recognize as the instrumental version of “Is It Because I’m Black,” though it was released on a 45 under a different artist’s name. These tracks only scratch the surface of an amazing soul singer, who, thanks to the efforts of the Numero group and countless DJs, is likely to only see his mythology grow with each passing generation.

…and since I didn’t include it with the tracks above, here is the full length version of “Is It Because I’m Black” just in case you haven’t heard it before.

I think one of the many things I appreciated about Captain Beefheart was the way he had with words. Here are my favorite lyrics from the Good Captain, sometimes insightful, sometimes playful, sometimes just plain silly, but always absolutely original.

“Ashtray Heart” from Doc At The Radar Station (1980)

“You used me like an ashtray heart,
Right from the start…a case of the punks,”
Another day, another way,
Somebody’s had too much to think,
Open up another case of the punks!”

 

 

“Dirty Blue Gene” from Doc At The Radar Station (1980)

“She’s not bad, she’s just ge-net-i-ca-lly mean,
Don’t you wish you’d never met her?”

 

“Grow Fins” from The Spotlight Kid (1974)

“I’m gonna grow fins,
And go back in the water again,
If you don’t leave me alone,
Imma take up with a mermaid and leave you landlubbin’ women alone…”

 

“Nowadays A Woman’s Gotta Hit A Man” from Clear Spot (1972)

“Nowadays a woman has to haul off and hit a man to make him know she’s there,
Other night a woman came up and hit me like I wasn’t even there,
Yeah, um, dawned on me man,
That a man been doin’ a woman unfair”

 

“Click Clack” from the Spotlight Kid (1972)

“We’ll I had this girl, threatened to leave me all the time,
Threatened to go down now,
Go down to New Orleans, get herself lost and found”

 

Chaweewan Dumnern – Sao Lam Plearn

Still digging my way out of a pile of final exams as I wrap up a semester of teaching at CSULB, but definitely wanted to make sure I say a little about this amazing comp., one that almost slipped under my rader. I’m always on the lookout for interesting hybrid styles of funky music and this comp. points me in a new direction, with some wild sounds from Thailand recorded from 1964-1975. The star of the show, if you ask me, has to be Chaweewan Dumnern, not only because they have the most tracks (3) on this 19 track collection, but because all of them are extra killer, with “Sao Lam Plearn” being the best of the bunch. Don’t sleep on this one, this might be one of the best compilations of 2010.

Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls foto © Aaron Richter

Would have liked to have given these away over the air, but since we’re off the air today for the fundraiser, some of you are going to be lucky people indeed, getting a chance to see Dum Dum Girls return to the stage here in LA at the Echoplex December 21st along with Abe Vigoda as part of IHeartComix, Media Contender & LA Record’s Check Yo Ponytail 2 series of concerts.

Dum Dum Girls, in my mind, leads the pack of the current wave of “girls in the garage” bands, including Vivian Girls, Best Coast, Agent Ribbons, Frankie Rose & the Outs, and on and on. The band recently rescheduled their US tour for 2011, this will be the first show they’ve played since Dee Dee’s mother passed. I’m also trying my hardest to get them into the KPFK studios sometime before February. If you want to see them live and in person, make sure to e-mail me (michael[at]meltingpotblog.com) before 6pm on Monday.

Here’s something a little different, DDG unplugged at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival May 2010:

{Finally tracked down the original cassette that I recorded this show on, so the sound is a bit more improved (at least for a 15+ year old cassette) and no more of those annoying clicks. I’ll be doing a new 2 hour tribute to Captain Beefheart this Sunday on KPFK’s Melting Pot from 4-6pm}

Just heard some news that deeply saddens my heart, Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart passed away today at the age of 69. Captain Beefheart was and remains one of my favorite artists of all time, a man of tremendous talent and creativity. I’d always hoped that somehow someway I’d get a chance to interview the Good Captain, even though he’d been so far removed from the music industry and making music over the last 15-20 years. He certainly left quite a legacy. It especially pains me that because of the fundraiser on KPFK I won’t be able to pay him proper tribute on my radio show, perhaps I’ll do 2 hours on him on the 26th, instead of the vinyl show I’d planned on doing.

I was able to dig up a 2 hour show of Captain Beefheart’s music I did in the mid or late 1990s (I’m thinking 1996 or 1997) when I lived in Atlanta on WRAS 88.5, Album 88. If I can find the cassette copy of this, I’ll replace this version (which has frequent computer clicks, since this was one of the first things I ever transferred into a digital format, 7 or 8 years ago) with slightly better audio, but this will have to do for now as a tribute to one of the most original musicians I’ve ever heard.

Captain Beefheart Freeform on WRAS Album 88 9-26-1996: First Hour
Captain Beefheart Freeform on WRAS Album 88 9-26-1996: Second Hour

Antonio Carlos E Jocafi – Hipnose
Antonio Carlos E Jocafi – Quem Vem La
Antonio Carlos E Jocafi – Deus O Salve

I’m getting ready to go into my grading bunker here at the end of the semester at CSULB and won’t be emerging until this time next week. There’s no radio show this week, due to a fundraising special, and I’ll have to postpone the planned review of Numero’s excellent Syl Johnson box set til next week (trust me, it’s fantastic and will make every single Soul aficionado very happy this holiday season). I did want to make sure to Dig Deep this week, especially as I begin to think about the best records I tracked down in 2010 (this month’s all vinyl radio show on Dec. 26th will focus on tracks from the best LPs that made it into my collection this year).

This is a record that I got on Ebay around Christmas time last year, but it didn’t arrive until Mid-January. I actually used to own a slightly beat up Brazilian copy of this record, the first from musical partners Antonio Carlos & Jocafi, that had a more psychedelic cover (I seem to recall giving it to Cool Chris at Groove Merchant at the end of a particularly advantageous trade). For some reason when this same record was released in Argentina, it was titled “Voce Abusou” instead of “Mudei De Ideia” (perhaps because “Voce” was the hit), but all the tracks appear to be exactly the same between the two versions.

Antonio Carlos e Jocafi straddle many borders on this LP, moving from slightly psychedelic sounds influenced by the Tropicalia movement to Brazialian Soul and Samba to even a bit of Brazil’s (then recent) Bossa nova past, occassionally in the same track. Most people know this record because of “Kabaluere,” which has been on a few comps and is admittedly a great slice of Brazilian Soul/Funk, but of the really solid tracks on this record that one may actually be my least favorite. I had a much more difficult time deciding which 3 of the 5 or 6 songs I like more than “Kabaluere” I’d decide to post here.

Top honors go to “Hipnose” which remains one of my favorite Brazilian tracks of all time, just for the way it opens. I could listen to that intro all day long, with all those percussive elements coming together one by one. I’m frankly surprised that no one has found a way to sample that intro or other parts of this track, perhaps it’s just a little too psychedelic in its funky. That bit of psych added to the funk and Brazilian elements is precisely why I dig this song so much.

I’ve also chosen to post up “Quem Vem La” just because I love how rockin’ that unaccompanied electric guitar is at the beginning (I think it’s courtesy of Lanny Gordin, who also played guitar with Gal Costa, but don’t quote me on that). I’ve heard this track probably 40 times, and in the context of the album (coming after a more traditional mid tempo samba track like “Descato”) it still surprises me a little every listen. Just as surprising is the upbeat workout from the full band that follows after those screaming lines.

As a final track for this post, I just had to flip a coin (or maybe several coins). I could have chosen the samba fueled “Morte Do Amor” the sublime “Voce Abusou” or “Mudei De Ideia” the funky “Se Quiser Valer” or the slightly wacked out country/vaudeville act of “Nord West”. As luck would have it, “Deus O Salve” ended up being the third track, it’s basically a straight funk workout, with a nice tight rhythm and punchy horns, that could have easily found its way onto a Toni Tornado record, and works as a nice closer here. I really don’t see this one too often stateside (basically the case with all the top shelf material from Brazil, thus my foray into Ebaylandia), but I did see a copy at a local record swap back in August. Suffice to say, if you see it, don’t hesitate with this one, you will not be disappointed.

Cheers,

Michael

Zion I – The Sun Came Out

Perhaps it’s just me, but 2010 seems to have been a fairly weak year for good Hip-Hop. I’m just now starting to come up with my “Best Of” lists and there’s not a lot of Hip-Hop that’s coming to mind. Thankfully, there is this fairly recent release from Bay Area stalwarts Zion I, which I feel like is a marked improvement over 2009’s The Takeover, a record that a lot of people seemed to dig, but left me wanting something better. “The Sun Came Out” erases any lackluster feelings I had about this group, and makes this album worth a listen all on its own.

Had a fine time raising funds for KPFK with Morgan Rhodes during yesterday’s show. We’ve only be on the air for 6 months, so our goals are pretty modest, but we were able to meet them, raising $1060 for KPFK. Even though it’s a fundraising show, with a bunch of pitches for the station, still give a listen, lots of great music, including selections from the Jimi Hendrix West Coast Seattle Boy boxset, a whole set of music from the Syl Johnson “Complete Mythology” set from Numero (review later this week), and tracks from the packs from Charles Bradley & the Menahan Street Band, Belleruche, Quadron and the Groove Merchant 20th Anniversary collection. During the show we had a sweepstakes and I’m very happy to say that the winner was Robert Campbell from Altadena! The Syl Johnson box set will on its way to him, just in time for the holidays…big thanks to everyone for supporting the show, with your pledges or just with your ears. Either way it is much appreciated.

Melting Pot will not be on the air Dec. 19th due to a fundraising special, but we’ll be back on KPFK Dec. 26th with an all vinyl show featuring my best finds of 2010, and then Jan. 2nd will be my roundup of the best music from 2010!

Melting Pot on KPFK #25: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #25: Second Hour

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