Classic Melting Pot

Paul and the Pack – Hidin’ From Myself
The Mad Doctors – The Mad Mad Doctor
Terry Stafford – Try My World Little Girl

I’m pretty sure the first copy of this I got at Amoeba Berkeley in their soundtrack section on the cheap, a couple years ago I ran into a sealed copy at Atomic still at the relatively affordable price of $10. Dr. Goldfoot was a thoroughly campy 1960s film that later on became a bit of the inspiration for the first Austin Powers movie. I’d seen the film back when I worked at Four Star video in Madison, WI, so when I saw the soundtrack I picked it up vaguely remembering the music as being in the swinging 60s variety.

Like a number of soundtracks on the Tower/Sidewalk labels, most of the artists aren’t particularly well-known, though Les Baxter does some composing work and likely had a hand in the sessions, and most of the tracks are nothing to write home about. But, the tracks that are good, to my ears at least are VERY good. “The Mad Mad Doctor” is actually one of my favorite instrumental tracks from around this period of time. It’s a great track to start off a night of music, really sets the tone right with those great organ lines at the start and that beat.

“Hidin’ From Myself” sounds like the kind of thing that I’d expect someone to pull out on a white label at a Northern Soul party. Perhaps the vocals aren’t as stellar as they could be, but I love that beat and I’m a well known sucker for some well placed handclaps.

The real surprise on this album continues to be Terry Stafford’s “Try My World Little Girl.” First off I was surprised that Stafford actually had a couple of hits, including a #3 hit with the song “Suspicion” (which does sound suspiciously a bit too much like Elvis). Similar to that song “Little Girl” has a back beat that is at once totally conventional and totally off-the-wall. I’m not sure whether or not that’s a moog or a theremin that’s responsible for the odd sounds in the background of the song and in the breakdown but it gives the track a unique feel that elevates it so far above Stafford’s vocal performance.

If you are a fan of mid-1960s spy spoofs, the film is worth tracking down, if only to see Vincent Price get goofy:

Cheers,

Michael

Adrian Younge & Venice Dawn – Two Hearts Combine

Adrian Younge is the mastermind behind the retro soul masterpiece soundtrack to the retro-blaxploitation masterpiece Black Dynamite! Recently he’s been revisiting earlier work and blending it together with the his more recent material to create the sound you hear on Something About April. The album plays like a concept record focused on the ups and downs of an interracial couple in the late 1960s (for more on the real thing and the couple that made it possible for interracial couples to marry legally in the US, definitely check for the documentary “The Loving Story” premiering on Valentine’s Day on HBO!).  One of things that’s interesting is that in some ways the record itself is a mix of retro 1960s style with post-1990s production, a kind of post-modern retro soul record, if that’s possible.  “Two Hearts Combine” shows a bit of this, like a fantasy collaboration between the Brand New Heavies  and Rotary Connection with production work from Geoff Barrows of Portishead.  One of my favorite records of this brand new year and something, even at this early stage, I can almost 100% guarantee will be on my year-end best of list.

Barry Adamson performs at KPFK

Barry Adamson was our guest during what was an exceedingly rare visit to Los Angeles (perhaps his first as a solo artist).  I’ve been a fan of Adamson’s music since the mid 1990s when I first discovered his work with Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and later his own solo work.  In addition to being a founding member of the Bad Seeds, he was also a member of post-punk/new wave legends Magazine and has worked with David Lynch and Oliver Stone on soundtracks for their films.  Last year Adamson himself became a filmmaker, releasing the short film Therapist, a process that eventually led to his new record I Will Set You Free, coming out in February on his label Central Control.

Adamson performs three songs, “People” from 2008’s Back To The Cat, and two tracks from his new record I Will Set You Free, “The Power of Suggestion” and “The Sun and the Sea,” all on acoustic guitar. Being a long time fan of Adamson I truly was shocked and surprised by hearing Adamson perform his songs in this way. In my mind/ears his music has always had such a dark and often ominous tone, but while the mood is considerably brighter with the use of acoustic guitar, it amazing to me how this simple change magnifies what a fantastic songwriter Adamson is, as well as highlighting his best instrument, that incredible voice. Much more that I could have discussed with Mr. Adamson, but we didn’t have a lot of time, hopefully the next time he’s in LA we can have more time to discuss his career and music.

Barry Adamson on KPFK’s Melting Pot: Recorded 01-16-2012

Last week was rough and tough, 3 legendary performers passing away in the same week! We paid tribute to two of them on this week’s show, honoring Jimmy Castor at the start, and Johnny Otis at the end. In between we have a little new music from the Dirty Three, Michael Kiwanuka, Neverever, Sonnymoon, Sureshot Symphony Solution and a couple others. At the beginning of the second hour there is an interview and performance with Barry Adamson (separate post upcoming), where we talk about his career and he plays 3 songs just with acoustic guitar. If you’re a fan of Adamson, you’ll likely be as surprised as I was hearing him in this new light. Next week we’ll definitely have a tribute to Etta James…

Melting Pot on KPFK #72: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #72: Second Hour

Playlist: 01-22-2012
{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – 7” (Stax)

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Jimmy Castor Bunch – It’s Just Begun – Super Breaks (BGP)
Jimmy Castor Bunch – Troglydyte (Cave Man) – It’s Just Begun (RCA)
Jimmy Castor – Southern Fried Frijoles – Hey Leroy! (Smash)
Jimmy Castor – Ham Hocks Espanol – Hey Leroy! (Smash)
Jimmy Castor Bunch – L.T.D. (Life Truth & Death) – It’s Just Begun (RCA)

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Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again – Home Again EP (Communion/Polydor)
Emily King – Every Part – The Seven EP (Self-Released)
Sonnymoon – Goddess – 2012 EP (Plug Research)
Gonjasufi – The Blame – Muzzle EP (Warp)

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Neverever – Venus – Shake-a-Baby (Slumberland)
The Dirty Three – That Was Was – Toward The Low Sun (Drag City)
Dengue Fever – Only A Friend – Cannibal Courtship (Fantasy/Concord)
Katalyst feat. Stephanie McKay & Buff 1 – U Can’t Save Me – Deep Impressions (BBE)
Sureshot Symphony Solution feat. Coultrain – Chair On The Ceiling – A Good Look EP (Self-released)
Barry Adamson – The Big Bamboozle – Oedipus Schmoedipus (Mute)

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Barry Adamson – Interview & Performance – Recorded Live At KPFK

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Barry Adamson – If You Love Her – I Will Set You Free (Central Control)
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Your Funeral, My Trial – Your Funeral, My Trial (Mute)
Johnny Otis – Cold Shot – Cold Shot (Kent)

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Johnny Otis – Signifying Monkey – Cold Shot (Kent)
Johnny Otis Show – Country Girl – Watts Funky (BGP)
Vera Hamilton – But I Ain’t No More (G.S.T.S.K.D.T.S.) – 7” (Epic)
Johnny Otis Show – Watts Breakaway – 7” (Epic)
The Vibrettes – Humpty Dump – 7” (Lujon)
Johnny Otis Show – Goin’ Back To LA – Cold Shot (Kent)

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

Freedom – Nobody
Freedom – Man Made Laws
Freedom – Pretty Woman

Freedom started off as a band featuring a couple of the guys who got kicked out of Procol Harem just as the band found success with “A Whiter Shade Of Pale.” Gutiarist Ray Royer and drummer Bobby Harrison formed the group, which went through a slew of personnel changes before and after releasing this, their third record. By this time the group was just a trio, with Harrison joined by Roger Saunders on guitar and Walt Monaghan on bass.

At times, the groups sounds an awful lot like the band Free, but at their best (I guess sounding like Free isn’t really a bad thing) they have this really nice gritty bluesy rock sound that grooves nicely funky. “Nobody” and “Man Made Laws” have that easy heavy rock groove, “Pretty Woman” is a solid version of the Albert King track (not to be confused with the other “Pretty Woman” from Roy Orbison). Shame the group never took off, the playing is mighty good though (predictably) I wish they’d laid down an instrumental or two (or someone would dig up the instrumental backing tracks), but all in all, pretty good music to drive or strut down the streets of a big city on a Sunday evening.

Cheers,

Michael

Shawn Lee’s Incredible Tabla Band – Let There Be Drums

I guess it’s not too surprising that one of our first releases in 2012 comes from Shawn Lee. Dude is incredibly prolific and will likely release 3 or 4 records this year. Tabla Rock is a pretty faithful tribute to one of the greatest breakbeat records of all time from the Incredible Bongo Band. A few Record Store Days ago, Shawn Lee gave us a take of this project, with his tabla inflected version of “Apache,” now we have a track for track recreation of Bongo Rock complete with tabla and sitar on the majority of the tracks. There are no stunning reimaginings here, just a solid homage with a twist to some great music from a great musician with great taste.

For some strange reason, I’ve been holding off on posts this week unable to get anything together. I’m not saying I’m psychic or anything, but when news first hit early in the week that Jimmy Castor had passed away, there was some feeling that more bad news was coming. Boy was that feeling right, with the additional passings of Johnny Otis and Etta James! Unbelievably three legendary soul artists have left us all in the same week. Over the next couple of weeks on the radio show I’ll be paying tribute to each, with short tributes to Castor and Otis this week and a longer tribute to Etta James on next week’s show. For now, I just wanted to say a few words about my favorite tracks from each artist.

Jimmy Castor Bunch – It’s Just Begun

Jimmy Castor had more popular songs, and he had songs that were more sampled in Hip-Hop, but none of them possibly tops “It’s Just Begun,” a song that if you were to survey “real” B-boys and B-girls the world over, would likely top their list of the best songs to break dance to. I can’t break to save my life (I think all the years of listening to free jazz ruined my ability to consistently “uprock” on beat) but “It’s Just Begun” makes me want more than any other classic B-boy song. The rhythm is so hard, the horns so dirty, the guitar so fuzzy, it just kills all competition for the quintessential B-boy jam. The lyrics also make it anthemic, not only for B-boy/B-girl culture but for Hip-Hop more generally, which literally was just beginning around the time this record was released, and remains a multi-ethnic poly-synthetic hybrid culture that has the potential to break down barriers, like the music of Jimmy Castor.

Johnny Otis Show – Country Girl

My best memories of Johnny Otis are listening to his radio show when it was broadcast in the Bay Area on KPFK’s big sister station KPFA. There’d always be a couple of family members and friends with Johnny in the studio and they’d just basically shoot the breeze for two hours, reminiscing and playing classic R&B. It’s the kind of radio that you almost never hear anymore, endearing beyond belief, silly and funny quite often, but informative and swinging when it came to the music. Johnny Otis had a hand in so many classic and funky tracks, that it’s daunting picking a particular fave. “Country Girl” is the song that I keep coming back to from Johnny Otis. Despite the well-traveled, “Tramp” rhythm the song is based on, Otis brings something new to what he’s borrowing, injecting charm into the back and forth about the merits of this “girl” with singer Delmar Evans (including the gem closer, “it must be jelly, jam don’t shake like that”). But it’s the chorus that slays me every time. First there’s that strong soulful shout, “she’s so fine” and then smoothed out and playful “great big ole healthy country girl.” Even that chorus sounds slightly drunk, just like the rest of the song. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face no matter your mood.

Etta James – I’d Rather Go Blind

Irma Thomas maybe the ruler of my heart when it comes to soul singers, but Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” is quite possibly the best deep soul song of all time. “At Last” is the song that everyone knows from Etta, but in a number of ways that song is an anomaly. Almost too perfect. “I’d Rather Go Blind” is not a perfect song. It’s not a song that likely gets requested at weddings, it’s a song that is about a woman who is unwilling to give up the man she loves, even though she knows the affair is over. The rawness of emotion which James pours into the song is a rare thing of beauty. It encompasses all of her strengths as a soul singer, it’s a gritty, soulful, painful, desperate performance and it’s the #1 song that I’ll always remember her by.

Generally for these first couple of shows in the new year I don’t have a lot of new records to play, but here in 2012 we’re seeing quite a few quality releases in our early shows (perhaps showing what a strong year musically 2012 will be!). Yesterday’s show features brand new music from The Dirty Three (first album in 5+ years!!!), Frankie Rose & the Outs, Ana Tijoux, Lee Fields & the Expressions, Hunx (without his Punx), and Adrian Younge & Venice Dawn. The show starts with a short tribute to MLK, with tribute tracks from Jose James and Max Roach, and in the middle an excerpt from his final speech. What’s always struck me about the “Mountaintop” speech is King’s awareness that the threats against his life were becoming far too real (he was assassinated the very next day), but despite those threats and all he had endured in the past, he had great faith that this nation would one day live up to its ideals. Though there has been at times slow, at other times stunning progress since his murder, we still haven’t achieved his dream. Our work to make this place better than its been, remains to be done. Part of the reason why I prefer to play multiple genres, is that I want to bring together different types of people with these different sounds, to surprise people who thought they were only Indie or Hip-Hop with music they might not have listened to otherwise, breaking down all the little barriers we erect that keep us from each other. Bridging those gaps and bringing “us” together is what this show, every single week, is about musically, a small testament to men and women like Dr. King who worked so hard to give everyone an opportunity to just be themselves, live and love.

Melting Pot on KPFK #71: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #71: Second Hour

Playlist: 1-15-2012
{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – 7” (Stax)

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Jose James – The Dreamer – The Dreamer (Brownswood)
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop” excerpt – Free At Last (Gordy)
Max Roach & the JC White Singers – Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? – Lift Every Voice And Sing (Atlantic)

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Lee Fields & the Expressions – Walk On Thru That Door – Faithful Man (Truth & Soul)
Allah-Las – Catamaran – 7” (Pres)
Los Nombres – Todos – Los Nombres (Numero)
Hunx – Always Forever – Hairdresser Blues (Hardly Art)
The Sureshot Symphony Solution – Mr. Fortune & Fame – 7” (Self-Released)

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Echocentrics feat. Tita Lima – We Need A Resolution – Echoland EP (Ubiquity)
Love – Doggone – Out There (Blue Thumb)

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Adrian Younge & Venice Dawn – Two Hearts – Something About April (Wax Poetics)
The Dirty Three – Rising Below – Toward The Low Sun (Drag City)
The Lions – Jungle Struttin’ – Jungle Struttin’ (Ubiquity)
Fela Kuti – No Agreement – No Agreement (Knitting Factory)

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Ana Tijoux – Shock – La Bala (Nacional)
Bright Moments – Travelers – Natives (Luaka Bop)
Wu Tang Clan – Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’ – Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers) (Loud)
Sroeng Santi – Nam Man Pang – Thai Funk Vol. 1 (Light In The Attic)

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Frankie Rose & the Outs – Know Me – Interstellar (Memphis Industries)
T. Dyson – It’s All Over – Personal Space (Chocolate Industries)
14KT – Pick Up Sticks – A Friendly Game of KT (Mellow Music Group)
Barry Adamson – The Vibes Ain’t Nothing But The Vibes – Oedipus Schmoedipus (Mute)
Alpha – Silver Light – Stargazing (Nettwerk)

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

Richard Groove Holmes – Soul Power
Richard Groove Holmes – How Can I Be Sure
Richard Groove Holmes – Sunny

I don’t know about you, but most of the time when I run across a “Groove” Holmes record, I’m often disappointed. It’s not that Holmes was not in fact a “groovy” organ player, he certainly was. In terms of pure organ playing, he should be considered with the greats, definitely a player with greater soul feeling. But for a guy who recorded during the heyday of truly funky soulful jazz, a lot of his LPs leave a lot to be desired for my post-hip-hop ears. In my book, there are 4 “good” Groove Holmes records for fans of seriously funky jazz, Onsaya Joy on Flying Dutchman, Comin’ On Home on Blue Note, New Groove on Groove Merchant and this LP on Prestige, which is actually the oldest of the bunch. Strangely enough, it’s just in writing this post that I realized that out of 30+ Groove Holmes recorded in the 1960s & 1970s, he released exactly 1 super solid LP on each of the 4 labels he was associated with! Those 4 records are so good, I really wish the man had gotten a bit more funky during this period of time, but these are the breaks and we should feel blessed for output as funky as “Soul Power.”

I ran into this copy of Soul Power at Amoeba Berkeley back in the day where it was $4 because of the condition. Haven’t seen another copy of it since. Due to an unfortunate post-purchase incident, only Side 1 is playable now, but thankfully that is the “good” side featuring all of these tracks. “Soul Power” is truly a monster. With that guitar intro and then into those funky shuffling drums from Ben Dixon, I’d put that track up against almost every single funk-jazz track from the Prestige catalog (well…at least all of those not named “Fire-Eater”).

“How Can I Be Sure” is a cover of a tune from the Rascals, that more or less follows the original melody, but the arrangement with Holmes group is actually MUCH better than the original. Dual guitars and bright sunrise notes from Holmes’ organ and then more fabulousness from Ben Dixon and that waltz rhythm. I love Holmes’ solo on this track once it begins in earnest, just has this swoozy bluesy vibe to it because of the organ effects. “Sunny” is the kind of song you’re more likely to find on the majority of Groove Holmes records, more swinging than overtly funky, but he does light things on fire during his solo, so I think it rounds out things nicely here.

Cheers,

Michael

Shimmering Stars – No One

I’m neither sure exactly how I missed this release or even how I eventually found my way to the Shimmering Stars, but I was in full-on manic music crush mode when I finally did get a chance to hear this Vancouver based trio’s blend of 1950s Rock & Pop + Indie Rock. Seems I’m genetically predisposed to fall hard for great sing-a-long melodies and mountains of beautiful reverb. Shimmering Stars (which really is just about as perfect a band name for this sound as is possible) capped off a really fantastic year for Hardly Art, along with Hunx & his Punx and La Sera, that might just place them at the top of Indie-rockdom.

…An an added treat, here’s also the video to “Nervous Breakdown,” starring the drummer for the band going on what appears to be an alchohol induced “breakdown”:

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