Classic Melting Pot

Foto © Brandon Davis (BPD Photography)

Most DJs I know won’t buy a record unless it’s in at least VG condition. There’s nothing more deflating than digging through crates and crates of 45s, finding a super rare gem and then putting the needle to record and hearing nothing but massive surface noise, distorted vocals and groove disrupting pops, clicks and scratches. Sometimes though I have to admit I appreciate a record that will play straight through but has a lot of snap, crackle and pop as it goes. It’s part of what gives vinyl it’s distinctive sound and part of what continues to make it the most endearing of the various means of recorded music. Crackly vinyl tells a story, you might not know the full story, what exactly happened to the record, but you know SOMETHING happened to give that record it’s extra crispy catfish frying sound. In my mind I like to think the original owners simply played the 45 so much it wore out, that was certainly the case with some 45s in the Barnes Family…For this 45 edition I thought I’d focus on some of my dustier tracks, in my opinion all top shelf material even if none of them are super super rare. It’s also worth noting that the total price for all four of these 45s was $5 and when I bought these records they sounded considerably worse that this, but a little cleaning makes them listenable while retaining all the “character” of the 45.

Clarence Reid - Masterpiece - Alston

This one is probably in the best shape of this bunch, though the condition is not great it doesn’t get in the way of what is a truly dynamite song. Jurassic 5 fans surely recognize this (or the instrumental version at least) as the bedrock sample for “Quality Control”. As much as I love the instrumental, I love this vocal version even more. It adds some extra horns and Reid’s lyrics and performance just knock it out of the park, especially the way he exclaims, “Masterpiece!” throughout the song. This one is a legit $50-100 record, but I scored it for $3 at Records LA.

Don "Soul Train" Campbell - Campbell Lock - Stanson

If “Masterpiece” sounds the best of these four, “Campbell Lock” is probably in the worst condition, especially on the vocal version. I thought about posting the instrumental version, but I love the vocal version so much I had to run with it, even with the mild distortion in addition to the scratchiness. I was super stoked to come across this one at Bagatelle, super deflated when I actually got it out of its sleeve and on a turntable, but for $1 I couldn’t pass on this one. Don “Soul Train” Campbell is so named because he was on Soul Train in the early 1970s, and he is indeed one of the original Poppers/Lockers from out her in Los Angeles. Classic tune from a legendary dancer.

Alvin Cash & the Crawlers - Twine Time - Mar-V-Lus

I’m really fond of mid-1960s soul instrumentals, “Twine Time” being one of the best of those post “Green Onions” tracks to hit the soul charts before things got real funky in 1967/1968. Aside from the “Ooh-Aah’s” of the opening, it’s that slinky rhythm with just a bit of “Tramp” in it and those boss horns that make this one such a winner. A real late night strutter of a track for sure. This one was in such sorry shape I actually got it for free from Bagatelle. I stay on the lookout for a clean copy of this one, if nothing more so I can hear the handclaps and finger snaps a bit clearer, but at the same time I like how this copy sounds almost as gritty as the actual song.

Hank Ballard - Blackenized - King

James Brown penned and Hank Ballard performed, “Blackenized” is a serious call (though delivered mostly tongue-in-cheek) for Black people to get their self-respecting act together over a seriously mellow groove. Despite the condition there was no way I could pass this one up, especially since it ended up costing me only $1. By far my favorite line is one of the closers, “you don’t have to be like an Oreo cookie brother, black on the outside and white on the inside,” if only cause I had no idea “Oreo” went all the way back to the 1960s. I figured it had to have come out of the post-Cosby show 1980s. Thinking about these lyrics, I wish someone had the guts to record a track like this for the current generation who thinks “Blackness” is all about being a hyper-masculine “thug,” mainly since that’s largely the only images of Black masculinity we get in mainstream media…I could go on and on and on, on that front, but that would require me startin’ a whole ‘nuther blog folks.

Shabazz Palaces – An Echo From The Hosts Profess Infinitum

Just released this week is this gem of an abstract Hip-Hop album from Shabazz Palaces. Aside from the music, the band is noteworthy for a couple of reasons, they are the first Hip-Hop group signed to venerable indie-rock label Sub Pop and they feature Ishmael Butler better known as Butterfly from the seminal Hip-Hop crew Digable Planets. Butterfly is now known as Palaceer Lazaro fronting this outfit, which in live performances appears to mainly be Butler at a laptop, sampler and mic with a percussionist/hype man behind him and guests. Aside from the overly long and just slightly pretentious titles of all the songs, the tracks on this album, of which “Echo” is probably my favorite, are really quite fantastic.  From the inventive and surprising beats to the depth in lyricism on display.  They also remind me quite a bit of the late 1990s, especially this classic from Company Flow/Indelible MCs.  Expect a pairing of the two in a future radio broadcast.  Definitely one of the more intriguing releases of 2011.

Back to all vinyl at the end of the month (you might note at the very beginning that somebody forgot to check if the turntable was at the proper speed, thankfully, very few issues other than that this week after last week’s CD player rebellion), with a decidedly summery feel to this one, beginning with Love’s “The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This,” and also Temptation’s “It’s Summer,” and “Summer of Love” from the Bay Area’s Sandwitches. All over the place elsewhere, as is the case with these vinyl freeform shows. Quite a bit of newer tracks, a couple from LA label KuDeTa, who have released Jovenes y Sexys Bruno EP on vinyl, also got a chance to play “Journeyman” from Amon Tobin, CD Players be damned! Particularly fond of that set, moving from Tobin to a 1940s track that was a throwaway 45, just used as packing, but is really quite lovely, though also strangely sinister. Enjoy the show, next week it’s the “Best So Far of 2011”!!!

Melting Pot on KPFK #48: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #48: Second Hour

{opening theme} Boris Gardiner – Melting Pot – Is What’s Happening (Dynamic)

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Love – The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This – Forever Changes (Elektra)
Willie & the Red Rubber Band – I Dig Love – Red Rubber Band (RCA)
Syl Johnson – Sorry Bout Dat – 7” (Twinight)
Perez Prado – Mama A Go Go – Concierto Para Bongo (United Artists)
Boogaloo Joe Jones – Sunshine Alley – No Way (Prestige)

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Jorge Negrete – Mexico Lindo Y Querido – Fiesta Mexicana (Arcano)
Bigott – Pachanga – This Is The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship (Ku De Ta)
Willie Wright – Right On For The Darkness – 7” (Numero)
Curtis Mayfield – Future Song – Back To The World (Curtom)

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Jovenes y Sexys – Gold Day feat. Joie Joie Joie – Bruno (Ku De Ta)
Jimi Hendrix – One Rainy Wish – Axis: Bold As Love (Reprise)
Rotary Connection – I Took A Ride (Caravan) – Aladdin (Cadet Concept)
McDonald & Giles – Suite In C – McDonald & Giles (Island)

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Amon Tobin – Journeyman – Isam (Ninja Tune)
Tony Martin with the Aristokats – You Call It Madness (But I Call It Love) – 7” (RCA Victor)
The Temptations – It’s Summer – Psychedelic Shack (Gordy)
Tim Maia – Broken Heart – Tim Maia (1971) (Polydor)
Myron & E – It’s A Shame – 7” (Timmion)

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Blonde Redhead – En Particular – Melodie Citronique (Touch & Go)
The Sandwitches – Summer Of Love – Mrs. Jones’ Cookies (Empty Cellar)
The Small Faces – What’s The Matter Baby? – Early Faces (Pride)
Dr. John – Danse Famebeux – Dr. John the Night Tripper (Atco)
Ivan Lins – Madalena – O Prestigio De Ivan Lins (Fontana)

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Michael Jackson – It’s The Falling In Love – Off The Wall (Epic)
Sylvia Striplin – Give Me Your Love – 12” (Uno Melodic)
Cymanda – Bra – Cymande (Janus)

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Eddie Palmieri – Condiciones Que Existen
Eddie Palmieri – Puerto Rico
Eddie Palmieri – Cosas Del Alma

I run into this album from Eddie Palmieri a fair amount, I think both copies I’ve owned have come from Amoeba, first at Berkeley, more recently in Hollywood. It’s a bridge album in some ways for Palmieri, with his sound moving away from the more experimental and visionary work he’d been laying down with Harlem River Drive and his bands at the beginning of the 1970s and into a more refined salsa-jazz style. As such it features a bit of everything, but everything here is really quite fantastic.

“Condiciones Que Existen” sounds just like a outtake from the Harlem River Drive sessions, especially with its easy funky vibe. I know most DJs who pick up this album wish the whole album was full of latin-funk like this, but the fact that its not just make this track more expectional. Besides, if the album had been an all latin-funk jam, we wouldn’t have maybe the single best salsa anthem for Puerto Rico, “Puerto Rico.” I know there are other salsa tracks from this period of time that are more well known, but I’m not sure there’s one that’s more anthemic than this one. When those horns hit and start to swing I get chills every time. The song is so good I feel proud for Puerto Ricans even though I’m not even remotely Puerto Rican! No matter your ethnic affinity, it’s hard not to feel it once that chorus “Isla Linda y Preciosa, Fabulosa, Para Mi Casa” comes in. Fabulosa indeed.

I could have chosen the truly epic salsa-jazz number “Adoracion” but instead I’ve gone with what is probably more in the bolero style, “Cosas Del Alma.” Normally when bolero latin slow-jam tracks like this turn up on a record I can’t pick the needle up quick enough. “Alma” however has this really lovely opening, almost like something you’d expect on a Bud Shank/Laurindo Almeida record from 1960, just gorgeous stuff. The use of electric guitar in particular throughout the track keeps that feel going and elevates it above other similarly romantically styled songs. Great sound and great playing throughout from truly one of the greatest.



While it’s clear from my Side Bar podcast with Oliver Wang that I love Althea & Donna’s “Uptown Top Ranking” best of all, it does set up an interesting discussion with the other prominent versions of this riddim. The original was a Studio One cut by the impeccable Alton Ellis, re-recorded by him several times until Joe Gibbs hooked up with Marcia Aitken for a feminine take on the same song. That eventually led to Trinity’s DJ version, full of macho swagger and ultimately to Althea & Donna’s top ranking classic. So what do you think, pound for pound, amongst these three classics, which version is the best? Respond here or on to facebook.

Alton Ellis – I’m Still In Love With You

Marcia Aitken – I’m Still In Love With You

Trinity – Three Piece Suit

I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Oliver Wang of the legendary for his new series “The Sidebar” so far he’s hosted truly excellent interviews with my soul brother Matthew Africa, Jesse Thorn of the Sound of Young America and Tom Brenneck of the Dap-Kings, Menahan Street Band and the Budos Band (If you want to subscribe to Oliver’s Side Bar podcasts via Itunes, just click here). We chat about my love affair with radio, selling most of my records for our wedding back in 2004, a subject I broached earlier here on this blog, and we spend time discussing several “Summer songs.”  It’s really hard to narrow down the variety of tracks that could be regarded as great songs that remind me of summer, but I chose Arthur Lee & Love’s “The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This,” Althea & Donna’s “Uptown Top Ranking,” and Donald Byrd with the Mizell Bros.’ “Dominoes.”

Even though the finished podcast is about 34 minutes, our total conversation was over an hour, so Oliver has included some of the best bits of the rest of our conversation as out-takes. Enjoy!

Side Bar Episode 8: Michael Barnes with Oliver Wang of
Side Bar Outtakes

Music used in the podcast:

The Boris Gardiner Happening – Melting Pot – Is What’s Happening (Dynamic)
The 5th Dimension – Wedding Bell Blues – The Age of Aquarius (Soul City)
Love – The Good Humor Man Sees Everything Like This – Forever Changes (Elektra)
Althea and Donna – Uptown Top Ranking – 7″ (Lightning)
Alton Ellis – I’m Still In Love With You – Sings Rock and Soul (Coxsone)
Donald Byrd – Dominoes – Places and Spaces (Blue Note)

One of the best rock’n’roll bands in recent memory to come out of my hometown of Atlanta is coming to LA this week, The Black Lips, who will be playing a show at the Music Box. Though the band’s performance style has mellowed out a bit over the years, even Mark Ronson couldn’t wash away all the grime from their gritty rockin’ sound on their latest release Arabia Mountain. If you want to see the Black Lips this Friday, make sure to e-mail me at michael[at] before Thursday at 5pm!!!

Black Lips – Modern Art

Black Lips – Short Fuse

Black Lips – Veni Vedi Vici

Amon Tobin – Journeyman

Had problems playing this track during my show on Sunday so I thought I’d share it here. I’ve been a big fan of Amon Tobin from all the way back in the 1990s when he seemed to fall fairly securely into the Drum’n’bass camp. As he’s progressed as a musician and an artist, labels have been more and more difficult to apply to Tobin’s music. Isam, his 9th full length recording, connects sonically & aesthetically with 2007’s Foley Room, where instead of building his music from breaks and samples of other people’s records, Tobin uses organic field recordings to construct his samples and what he describes as “sound sculptures.” Tobin’s work isn’t the easiest thing in the world to listen to, but it’s visionary, both sonically and in terms of how he’s going to perform music from this album and his catalog.

Isam is as much a piece of performance art as it is a piece of music, here’s a short film that details the conception of this project and the work that was necessary to create a truly unique experience for Tobin’s music and for those who will see him live during this tour.

An additional treat, Amon Tobin has shared the whole album on with running commentary about the process of putting together this fascinating album:

‘ISAM’ – Full album with track-by-track commentary from Amon Tobin by Amon Tobin

Was really excited to play this show, with a lot of new music that just came to me this past week, including Ocote Soul Sounds, Pollyn, Kid Congo Powers, Amon Tobin and a true gift from the Gods, Samuel L. Jackson reading Adam Mansbach’s children’s book for parents, “Go The Fuck To Sleep!” Also a nice mix of newish tracks from the Sandwitches, Vieux Farka Toure & Derek Trucks, Boom Clap Bachelors feat. Robin & Coco from Quadron, the Black Lips and a few classics sprinkled around including the Father’s Day inspired track from Groove Holmes that starts off the show. I had a little bit of technical difficulties in the second hour which can’t be edited around. Sometimes the CD players at KPFK just don’t seem to like my music and this week they rejected the planned song from Amon Tobin. I tried to re-cue it up, but the CD player just wasn’t going to play ball. I might try to track it down on vinyl for this coming Sunday’s end of the month vinyl show (or maybe I’ll throw it up for a post here). Either way hope you enjoy the show.

Melting Pot on KPFK #47: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #47: Second Hour

Playlist: 6-19-2011

{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – 7” (Stax)

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Groove Holmes – Song For My Father – Onsaya Joy (Flying Dutchman)
The Pepper Pots – I Can’t Choose – Train To Your Lover (Double Back)
Le Nombre – Loving You – Burned At Boddie (Numero)
Boom Clap Bachelors – Lob Stop Sta – EP (Plug Research)

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Pollyn – How Small Are We – 12” (Self-released)
Love Inks – Can’t Be Wrong – ESP (Hell Yes)
Seun Kuti & the Egypt 80 – You Can Run – From Africa With Fury: Rise! (Knitting Factory)
Black Lips – Dumpster Dive – Arabian Mountain (Vice)
Love – Stay Away – Black Beauty (High Moon)

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Ocote Soul Sounds – Speak Truth To Power – Taurus (ESL)
Ikebe Shakedown – The Hold Up – Ikebe Shakedown (Ubiquity)
Vieux Farka Toure – Aigna feat. Derek Trucks – The Secret (Six Degrees)
Sun Kil Moon – Church Of The Pines – Admiral Fell Promises (Caldo Verde)
Swervedriver – Cars Converge Over Paris – Mezcal Head (Hi-Speed Soul/Second Motion)

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Samuel L. Jackson – Go The Fuck To Sleep – Go The Fuck To Sleep (Audible)
Tom Waits – The Piano Has Been Drinking – Small Change (Asylum)
The Sandwitches – In The Garden – Mrs. Jones’ Cookies (Empty Cellar)
Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs – The Whole Day Long – No Help Coming (Transdreamer)
Martina Topley-Bird – Baby Blue – Some Place Simple (Honest Jon’s)

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Father’s Children – Everybody’s Got A Problem – Who’s Gonna Save The World (Numero)
Karl Hector & the Malcouns – Girma’s Lament – Tamarassent (Now-Again)
Shabazz Palaces – Swerve…the Reaping of All That Is Worthwile – Black Up (Sub Pop)
Amon Tobin – Journeyman – ISAM (Ninja Tune)

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Kid Congo Powers & the Pink Monkey Birds – Hills Of Pills – Gorilla Rose (In The Red)
The Carnations – Scorpion – Keb Darge & Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers (BBE)
Katalyst – Day Into Night feat. Stephanie McKay – 12” (BBE)
Little Brother – Lovin’ It feat. Joe Scudda – The Minstrel Show (Atlantic)
James Mason – Funny Girl – Rhythm Of Life (Chiaroscuro)

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{closing theme} Dungen – C. Visar Vagen – Tio Batar (Kemado)

Nina Simone's Legacy Will Never Be Finished

Nina Simone – Funkier Than A Mosquito’s Tweeter
Nina Simone – The Pusher
Nina Simone – Obeah Woman

I’m pretty sure the first time I came into contact with this record from Nina Simone was at Groove Merchant. I’d been a fan of Simone’s but didn’t own any of her records (a true sin, I know…) and I was drawn to this one because it had one of Cool Chris’ attention grabbing notes on the front to check “Funkier Than A Mosquito’s Tweeter.” When you see albums with a note from Cool Chris, you just know the track has to be killer and that’s definitely the case with this monster.

“Tweeter” is a really interesting track. Like a number of songs Nina Simone covered, she puts such a distinctive stamp on it that you’d never know that the original came from Ike & Tina Turner. The pieces come together slowly, first upbeat African styled percussion, some notes from the electric bass, later on some fine funky drumming. It’s not until the final line where Nina growls, “…always rapping about the same ole thing,” that finally everything is together, the percussion, the tight drums and that rumbling soulful bass, for just 20 seconds and then it’s gone. The rhythmic build up is part of what makes this song so exceptional, the majority has to do with Nina’s delivery, especially of the punchlines in the lyrics where the rhythm completely drops out, she gives us a sassy “boring” or a whispered, “things you do ain’t never really pleasing” leading to a defiant “can’t believe nothing you say…” in the chorus. Beyond badass, pure Nina Simone.

The other tracks I’ve provided here are also covers, and also better than the originals. “The Pusher” is a significantly more soulful version than Steppenwolf’s original. In Nina’s hands the song seems less like a joke from a drugged out hippie band and more like a real indictment of drug culture. “Obeah Woman” is actually the second Exuma track on this record as Nina also covers his song “Damballa.” “Obeah Woman” is a bravura performance, deserving of the final place on the album and as a final statement for an artist who, as the title of the record references, had just finished her contract and was about to take a hiatus from performing and recording for several years. When she takes hold of the audience during this song, you never doubt that the “Obeah Woman” is Nina, this fierce, spiritual, powerful, elemental force, and an artist who’ll likely never be matched in her intensity of performance, her emotional volatility and the inspiration she continues to provide as the years go passing by.



…p.s. Recently my former KCRW homeboy Anthony Valadez guest hosted the station’s signature show Morning Becomes Eclectic and played “Tweeter” which then found its way into one of my Wife & I’s favorite summer Reality TV competition shows, “So You Think You Can Dance”…I think a boy/girl pairing might have been better considering the lyrical matter, but there is some nice dancing (especially the little JB inspired bit during the chorus) and it was nice to see dancing to this track. I’ve never had the guts to drop the needle on this record in a club because of the unconventionalness of the rhythmic changes…maybe I’ll give it a go if I get another chance to guest at Funky Sole, just to see how the dancers respond.

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