Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chicago Guitar Killers (Blue Night Records, 1979)


Before the Chess Records catalogue was acquired by MCA in the 1980s, the recordings of lesser-known musicians on the legendary Chicago label were generally only available on British or Japanese imports. Unofficially, however, one could also find such obscure material on bootleg releases like this one. MCA finally got around to putting out most of the rare Chess material on the four-CD Chess Blues box set and numerous collections (e.g. Chess Blues Guitar, Chess Blues Piano Greats, etc.) during the 1990s, which rendered most unauthorized compilations obsolete.

Indeed, most of the material on Chicago Guitar Killers has by now been released on official Chess reissues or anthologies. The three Buddy Guy tracks are from his fruitful 1963-1964 period and include the hot instrumental "Buddy's Boogie," the money blues "$100 Bill," and the dolorous "Stick Around," which is actually a mistitling of "Worried Mind" on the part of the bootleggers. "Little Boy Blue" and "Sweet Woman" (aka "Hand Me Down Blues") are two Albert King pieces that were recorded (or purchased) by Chess Records around 1960-1961 and bear some similarity to his sides that appear on the Door to Door LP (which also features songs by fellow southpaw guitarist Otis Rush). "She Knows How to Love (a Man)" and "Someday" are excellent performances from 1949 and 1964 respectively that perfectly bookend Robert Nighthawk's recording career on Chess. To some, the appearance of B.B. King on a compilation of tracks from the Chess vaults may seem confusing. The inclusion of "Recession Blues" and "Tickle Britches," however, is explained by the King of the Blues' discontent with Modern (his label at the time) and decision to play hooky by briefly recording for a competitor. For awhile, Chicago Guitar Killers and some other bootlegs were just about the only way to hear these unreleased tracks, although they became available on B.B. King reissues released in the 1990s. The trio of Earl Hooker instrumentals provide ample evidence of the musician's artistry and are among my favorite performances by the man who I consider to be the greatest electric blues guitarist of all time. Finally, and the best reason to have this LP, there are the two Otis Rush pieces, "Ooh-Wee Baby" (which sounds like a truncated predecessor to Buddy Guy's "Let Me Love You Baby") and "I Won't be Worried No More" (a member of the "Worried Life Blues" family of songs), which apparently were recorded during the same 1960 session that produced the guitarist's tracks that appeared on the aforementioned Door to Door. To my knowledge, these two performances have not appeared elsewhere, and it's a bit of a mystery as to why they didn't appear on that particular Chess LP. (Most of Rush's performances on Door to Door are thinly-disguised remakes of his Cobra records that, while boasting better production standards, are marred by hideous fake stereo reprocessing.) Surely, these would have been better selections than the retitled versions of "I Can't Quit You Baby" and "My Love Will Never Die" that appear instead. But hey, I'm not paid to make those decisions. I'm just a blogger.

Anyway, while this album may not be as cool to have as it was when it first came out in 1979, this is still a pretty neat artifact for the Otis Rush tracks alone.

1. Stick Around - Buddy Guy
2. Little Boy Blue - Albert King
3. Frog Hop - Earl Hooker
4. She Knows How to Love - Robert Nighthawk
5. Recession Blues - B.B. King
6. Ooh-Wee Baby - Otis Rush
7. Hooked on Love - Earl Hooker
8. I Won't Be Worried No More - Otis Rush
9. Guitar Rhumba - Earl Hooker
10. Someday - Robert Nighthawk
11. Buddy's Boogie - Buddy Guy
12. Sweet Woman - Albert King
13. Tickle Britches - B.B. King
14. $100 Bill - Buddy Guy

Monday, March 30, 2009

Gus Vali - Belly Dance Navel Academy (Peters International, 1972)


Despite its bargain-label appearance and woeful pun for a title, this ranks among my favorite Middle Eastern LPs in the Record Fiend archives. Unfortunately, the minimal liner notes are extremely uninformative, so most of the first-rate musicians on Belly Dance Navel Academy are a mystery. The instrumentation is typical for the genre: oud, kanun (harp), violin, dumbeg (hand drums), bass, clarinet, saxophone, and dudoog (recorder) in various combinations. The back of the album does list Gus Vali as the conductor and co-producer, and it is possible that he plays the woodwinds as well. The other co-producer is Chet Amsterdam, a somewhat mysterious figure who played bass on John Berberian's Music of the Middle East and Middle Eastern Rock LPs, and it is logical to assume that he does the same here. A reliable source indicates that George Mgrdichian plays oud on the proceedings, and if true, he puts down some truly hot licks on several of the tracks.

Since it is an all-instrumental album, there is no need to worry about translating difficult Armenian, Turkish, or Arabic lyrics. This is a hot session, so the pieces maintain a high standard throughout the album, and most are up-tempo performances intended to keep the belly dancers out on the floor doing their thing.
However, there are some slower, more sensual numbers, such as "Ahyazain," "Taxim," "Byr Demet Yasemen," and "Taxim Bassclaro" that balance the overall mood of the LP. "Port Said" and "Siseler" are outstanding takes on belly dance standards, while "Savgulum," "Kashlarin Ingee Ingee," "Semra Semra," "Farfara," and "Rahks Taxim" all feature scorching oud leads.

1. Navel Academy Theme.
2. Savgulum
3. Sauda Sauda
4. Kashlarin Ingee Ingee
5. Ahyazain
6. Port Said
7. Taxim
8. Semra Semra
9. Sesame
10. Farfara
11. Siseler
12. Byr Demet Yasemen
13. Rahks Taxim
14. Taxim Bassclaro

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Funky Funky Houston Volume 1 - Rare and Unreleased Recordings from the Vaults of Ovide Records 1968-1969 (Funky Delicacies, 1999)


Although primarily known for being a blues and country town, this collection of tunes from the Ovide Records label proves conclusively that Houston also had a thriving funk scene that nowadays is unfortunately almost completely forgotten. What's presented here is pretty sophisticated in terms of arrangements and production, although the material never strays into glossy, proto-disco territory as the tracks all date from 1968 and 1969. There seems to be an equal emphasis on guitars and horns, and the performances at times recall the contemporary work of James Brown, early Funkadelic, Booker T. & the M.G.s, Kool & the Gang, and others.

Instrumentals make up approximately two-thirds of the material on this comp. Americans of '68 chip in with the propulsive "Hunching Sticks," "Baby, Baby, Baby," and "Come On Mama." The enticingly-named African Echoes show off some J.B.s-influenced moves in "Mgimbe/Zulu Lunchbag" and "Big Time." "Song for a Princess" is a catchy horn-driven piece by the T.S.U. Tornados, who also had numerous releases on Atlantic. "Cha-Cha," despite its title, may be the crown jewel of this collection. The sole unreleased track on this LP, it features some top-notch fuzz guitar leads, and with performing credit given to the Ovide All-Stars, one would have to assume the players were culled from some of the other groups that appear here. It would be nice if there were some liner notes that listed the musicians and especially the guitarist on this cut. The album's closer, "Cool Sticks" by Ambassadors of Soul features some fine guitar-organ interplay in addition to excellent polyrhythmic conga-drum playing.

The tracks with vocals display the same high standard of quality. Soul Meditations' "The Bird" is a tribute to a like-titled dance with singing arrangements that at times recall early P-Funk. Mark Putney's gritty vocals grace "Today's Man" and "Don't Come Around Anymore," tracks that also showcase a superb backing band with an especially outstanding vibraphonist. I can't say enough good things about the Masters of Soul's "I Hate You." More of that bad-ass fuzz guitar, great vocal harmonies, and an unforgettable line in, "I hate you in the daytime, but I love you at night" combine to make this a true funk nugget. Pete Mayes' "Peace" features more tight playing and a message that is very much a product of its time.

Collectors of funk 45s may turn up their noses at this collection, but for those of us who were not at the right place and right time to acquire such artifacts, this sho' nuff is nice to have.

Get Funky Funky Chicago here.

1. The Bird - Soul Meditations
2. Today's Man - Mark Putney
3. Hunching Sticks - Americans of '68
4. I Hate You - The Masters of Soul
5. Mgimbe/Zulu Lunchbag - The African Echoes
6. Baby, Baby, Baby - Americans of '68
7. Peace - Peter Mayes
8. Big Time - The African Echoes
9. Song for a Princess - T.S.U. Tornados
10. Don't Come Around Anymore - Mark Putney
11. Come On Mama - The Americans of '68
12. Cha-Cha - The Ovide All-Stars*
13. Cool Sticks - Ambassadors of Soul

* previously unreleased

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Roosevelt in Trinidad - Calypsos of Events, Places, and Personalities 1933-1939 (Rounder, 1999)


Another fantastic volume in Rounder's first-rate series of calypso compilations, Roosevelt in Trinidad includes songs whose subject matter includes historic events, celebrities, political figures, and specific locations on the southern Caribbean isle. The lilting rhythmic quality of the music could just as easily complement a song of praise as it could help draw away undue attention to politically insurgent or harshly critical lyrics. Compared to their blues and jazz counterparts in the United States, calypsonians were generally more lyrically sophisticated and more cosmopolitan in their world-view. So while it may lack the deeply personal nature of blues and the improvisatory nature of jazz, calypso more than compensates with its unique combination of rhythm and message making it an equally important musical by-product of the African diaspora.

All the greats from the 1930s are here: Atilla the Hun, Lionel Belasco, the Lion, the Caresser, Lord Executor, Wilmoth Houdini, the Tiger, King Radio, and others. With Trinidad still being a British colony at this point in its history, several songs concern the royalty of the mother country as exemplified by "Duke and Duchess of Kent," "Edward the VIII" (relating to his abdication in order to marry an American divorcee), "King George the VI," and "Reign of the Georges." The influence of American celebrities (and politicians) is acknowledged in "Four Mills Brothers," "Movie Stars," "Bing Crosby," and "Roosevelt in Trinidad." "Mannie Dookie" celebrates a Trinidadian runner, and a trio of compositions - "M.C.C. vs. West Indies," "Body Line," and "Intercolonial Tournament" - all deal with the sport of cricket. Some pieces are overtly political such as "West Indian Federation," which calls for a political union of Britain's Caribbean colonies, and "Captain Cipriani," a tribute to Captain Arthur Andrew Cipriani, who the booklet notes describe as "the Trinidad labour leader, politician and hero of the poor." The remaining tunes were inspired by Trinidad's current events of the 1930s, especially disasters - for example, "Trinidad Hurricane," "Fire, Fire in Port of Spain" (my personal favorite on this set), and "The Treasury Fire" - but there are also songs of patriotism ("The Beautiful Land of Iere"), youthful hi-jinx ("School Boys' Adventure"), local scandals ("Unfortunate Bridegroom"), urban development ("History of Woodbrook Vicinity"), and honoring World War I veterans ("Poppy Day").

You either like this kind of music or you don't. If you do, you'll love this compilation.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: THE CARESSER, ATILLA, THE LION,
LORD EXECUTOR & RECORD DEALER EDUARDO SA GOMES

1. Trinidad Hurricane - Wilmoth Houdini
2. The Treasury Fire - Lionel Belasco and his Orchestra (E. Peters, vocal)
3. West Indian Federation - The Atilla
4. Mannie Dookie - The Tiger
5. Captain Cipriani - Egbert Moore (Lord Beginner)
6. Duke and Duchess of Kent - Raymond Quevedo (Atilla the Hun)
7. M.C.C. vs. West Indies - Egbert Moore (Lord Beginner)
8. Unfortunate Bridegroom - King Radio
9. Movie Stars - The Tiger
10. Four Mills Brothers - The Lion
11. Body Line - King Radio
12. Intercolonial Tournament - The Atilla
13. Edward the VIII - The Caresser
14. Roosevelt in Trinidad - The Atilla
15. King George the VI - The Lion
16. Reign of the Georges - The Executor
17. Modern Times - The Lion and The Atilla
18. History of Woodbrook Vicinity - The Growler
19. The Beautiful Land of Iere - The Tiger
20. The Vendor's Song - The Lion
21. School Boys' Adventure - Black Prince
22. Fire, Fire in Port of Spain - The Caresser
23. Police Diplomacy - The Growler
24. Bing Crosby - The Lion
25. Poppy Day - Lord Executor

Mississippi Blues & Gospel - 1934-1942 Field Recordings (Document, 1995)


This fantastic release on Document compiles various blues, proto-blues, and gospel performances collected by John A. Lomax for The Library of Congress during the Depression and the first years of World War II. The title is somewhat inaccurate since some of the musicians were recorded in Arkansas and even as far north as Detroit. However, the subjects of Lomax's field recordings all seem to have been at least somewhat influenced by musical styles prevalent in the Mississippi Delta, so the title is probably as good as any. As with other Library of Congress projects, the portable equipment used to record these artists did not always provide the best sound quality, and even listeners used to dealing with scratchy old 78s may find that certain tracks leave a bit to be desired in the listenability department.

The three tracks that open the album are driving gospel pieces that can make even the staunchest of atheists feel like getting into the spirit. "Jesus is My Everything" positively kicks ass and sounds as if the guitarist is employing rhythms that Chuck Berry would become famous for during the following decade. The two Charles Berry (no relation) pieces are what their titles say they are: unaccompanied field hollers that sound as if they could have been recorded 100 years earlier. "Four O'Clock (Flower) Blues" is a re-recording of song a Willie "61" Blackwell had done a year earlier for Bluebird, but this time is assisted by the presence of another guitarist. That other guitarist is William Brown, whose three songs are among the many highlights of this collection. What Lomax's portable recording equipment lacked in sound quality, it more than made up for with its ability to let musicians stretch out longer than the three-and-a-half-minute limit imposed on them when recording ten-inch 78s. The six-minute "Mississippi Blues" and nearly five-minute "Ragged and Dirty" give the listener an idea of what a real Mississippi juke joint performance (without any time restraints) might have sounded like. And despite Lomax's faulty recollection in The Land Where the Blues Began, this William Brown is not the same person as the Willie Brown who associated with Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson, although he too would be recorded during another field trip. George Boldwin, Lucious Curtis, and Willie Ford were all recorded in Natchez, Mississippi and display varying degrees of competency with "Time is Gittin' Hard" being the strongest performance in this group. Booker T. Washington "Bukka" White provides what may be the finest songs on this set. Recorded at the notorious Parchman Farm penitentiary, "Sic 'Em Dogs On" and "Po' Boy" are true classics of the genre and fraught with such intense emotion that it is nearly palpable coming through your speakers or headphones. "Oh Mary" is a well-traveled gospel number performed by Lonnie and Clara Frazier, while the excellent "Welfare Blues" is a secular piece by another member of the musical family, Calvin, who would go on to become a professional blues musician in the 1950s. Mississippi Blues & Gospel concludes with street musicians Blind Pete & Partner whose performances include bad-man ballads and jaunty guitar-and-fiddle reels.

All in all, this is an extraordinary cross-section of southern African-American music styles from the 1930s and early 1940s. Prewar blues aficionados will find plenty of material to enjoy.

1. No Condemnation - Church of God in Christ
2. Testimony (One Day Lord I'll Give Up This World For You) - Rev. McGhee
3. Jesus is My Everything - Rev. McGhee
4. Cornfield Holler (6629-A-4) - Charles Berry
5. Cornfield Holler (6629-B-5) - Charles Berry
6. Four O'Clock (Flower) Blues - Willie "61" Blackwell
7. Mississippi Blues - William Brown
8. East St. Louis Blues - William Brown
9. Ragged and Dirty - William Brown
10. Country Girl Blues - George Boldwin
11. Guitar Picking Song - Lucious Curtis
12. Time is Gittin' Hard - Lucious Curtis
13. Nobody's Business - Willie Ford
14. Sic 'Em Dogs On - Bukka White
15. Po' Boy - Bukka White
16. Oh Mary Don't You Weep - Frazier Family
17. Welfare Blues (2475-B) - Calvin Frazier
18. Booker - Blind Pete & Partner
19. Stagolee
- Blind Pete & Partner
20. Cacklin' Hen
- Blind Pete & Partner
21. Black Bayou Ain't Got No Bottom
- Blind Pete & Partner
22. Banty Rooster (fragment) (243-A-2)
- Blind Pete & Partner
23. Blues (fragment)
- Blind Pete & Partner
24. Banty Rooster (243-B-1)
- Blind Pete & Partner
25. Banty Rooster (243-B-2)
- Blind Pete & Partner

Sunday, March 22, 2009

shin jung hyun & yup juns -- vol. 1 (korea, 1974)















several years ago, a co-worker [not into psychedelic music at all] very kindly picked this up for me [unasked] on a visit home in Korea, after she had once watched me excitedly bring in my copy of shadoks' deluxe LP reissue of countrymen HE6's "go go sound" (had to pick it up at the post office on my way in...in general, i try to avoid carrying deluxe LP reissues of Korean psych to work with me).

it's a fine album, veering all over the stylistic map. while nothing earth-shattering--apart from one semi-"funky" number that had this scribe mildly-cringing near its interminable end, very much worth your time. nice fuzz work in spots, and one track in particular is communal-psych konk-out-bliss. there's some more information here &, in particular, about half-way down the page here (this is the "second LP version", as noted in the latter link).

[discographers: my copy's (almost) entirely in Korean, so, sorry, no tracklisting this time. i could transliterate Korean if i really wanted to...but it takes a while, so, um, i won't.]

anyway; enjoy.

bruce mackay -- midnight minstrel (usa, 1967)


















here's a wonderful slightlty-fractured-folk album from ESP-Disk (originally a self-titled release on their short-lived ORO subsidiary) that i was quite surprised recently to discover isn't terribly available out in the ether of the interwebs.

at once haunting and spare; another familiar and congenial; yet another as warm as a napping cat purring delicately on your chest.

enjoy.

tracklisting:

01 in the misty-eyed shores of morning
02 geneva brown
03 the half-masted schooner
04 the girl of stone
05 this song about the railroad shack
06 feet of clay

CD rip
320 kbps

URL in comments.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Leaves - 1966 Live/Unreleased/Original Masters (Fan Club, 1990s)


There's not much I can write about The Leaves that hasn't already been written. Anyone who's into American 1960s rock is undoubtedly familiar with them. Were they one of the greatest bands of their time? No, but they still were a solid group and notable for being able to bridge the gap between garage and folk rock, especially on their early singles and first LP.
The Leaves were also the first to have a hit with "Hey Joe," and no matter how many times you've heard it, you still have to bow down to that wicked fuzztone guitar solo.

So anyway, I picked up this comp sometime during my undergraduate days, and it served as my introduction to this band. It may have been the only thing by the Leaves available on CD at that time, but since then a lot of other material has been released including their first two albums. The sound quality ain't the best as some of the tracks on this CD are sourced from records, making the listener wonder if this is a bootleg. And yet group founder and bassist Jim Pons apparently wrote the booklet notes for this release. As a result of this comp's production values, nuggets like "Too Many People," "That's a Different Story," and the obligatory Dylan cover "Love Minus Zero" sound inferior to appearances on more recent Leaves reissues. "Dr. Stone" remains a very clever ode to marijuana, and features better sound quality than the aforementioned songs. The closing tracks are what ultimately make this comp noteworthy: "Dead Time Bummer Blues," a post-Leaves recording of an early Judee Sill song by vocalist John Beck and lead guitarist Bobby Arlin that had been previously unreleased and a decent live version of Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited," which also seems to have made its debut on this comp.

Ultimately, these guys were sort of like a low-rent version of the Byrds, which isn't a bad thing to be in my book. This is a good collection to have if you're a hard-core Leaves fan. Check it out.

L TO R: BILL RINEHART, JIM PONS, TOM AMBROSE RAY,
ROBERT LEE REINER, & JOHN BECK

1. Too Many People
2. Be with You
3. You Better Move On
4. That's a Different Story
5. Love Minus Zero
6. Funny Little World
7. Hey Joe
8. Just a Memory
9. Dr. Stone
10. Dead Time Bummer Blues
11. Highway 61 Revisited (live)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Clear Blue Sky - S/t (Repertoire Records, 2007)


"One of the joys of life in the early Seventies was the freedom accorded to ambitious young musicians. Clear Blue Sky was a lucky bunch of 18 year olds, who were given the chance to sign to a major record label and brush shoulders with the giants. Their response was to create an album that has since been hailed as one of the classics of British progressive rock."

"The young group found themselves competing with the likes of Black Sabbath, but nevertheless the album was well received by critics, who admired their bold musical policy"

So sayeth the liner notes of this cd reissue that I obtained on a weekend in glorious Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was there to take in the wedding of a friend, which was a killer Wicker Man styled affair in an old one room churchhouse type place next to Falling Water and the ceremony was conducted by a bald female buddhist who was really nice. Oh yes, an acoustic Donovan song was played as well. Top notch for a wedding. . .

Anyhoo, this album is really quite grand, check out the guitar workouts on here by one John Simms. "I'm high, high, high in the sky!"

"Highly" recommended. . .

1. Sweet Leaf
2. The Rocket Ride
3. I'm Comin' Home
4. You Mystify
5. Tool of My Trade
6. My Heaven
7. Birdcatcher

Howlin' Wolf - The Back Door Wolf (Chess, 1973)


There are a wide range of opinions about this album. Some hail it as a powerful final statement by the legendary Howlin' Wolf. Those with an opposing viewpoint consider it a feeble attempt to update his sound, much like the lamentable Howlin' Wolf Album and Message to the Young.
Others, like myself, believe that The Back Door Wolf, while no masterpiece, has enough redeeming qualities to make it a worthwhile addition to the collection of any electric blues fan. Despite being past his prime, Wolf did not lack for effort, and even at less than full strength, was still better than 90% of the other blues musicians out there.

Recorded in 1973, this LP is definitely a product of its time. GRT, which had acquired Chess Records only four years previously, was trying to find a way to keep the younger record-buying public interested in its musicians without resorting to the psychedelic excesses of the previous decade's last years. As a result, the album's only major departure from Wolf's established sound was the addition of Detroit Junior's electric harpsichord on the title track, "Speak Now Woman," "You Turn Slick on Me," and "Watergate Blues." While there are a significant number who just can't accept the sound of this particular keyboard on a Howlin' Wolf record, I don't have a problem with it. Muddy Waters' "Can't Get No Grindin' (What's the Matter with the Meal)," recorded a year earlier, also featured harpsichord (although according to discographies, the keyboard player is Pinetop Perkins), and somehow its baroque sound gives it a bit of funky edge in a similar fashion to the aforementioned numbers by Wolf.

EDDIE SHAW (L) & THE WOLF

At this point in his career, the legendary bluesman was in poor health, even worse than he had been during the recording of The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions when fatigue limited the amount of time he could spend in the studio. Saxophonist Eddie Shaw was Wolf's effective band leader during this time as well as manager, arranger, and sometime songwriter. Although it is strange for a Howlin' Wolf album not to feature any Willie Dixon songs whatsoever, Shaw's compositions -
"Coon on the Moon," "Trying to Forget You," "Leave Here Walking," "The Back Door Wolf," (co-written with Chess stalwart Ralph Bass) and "Watergate Blues" - do a pretty good job of filling the void. "Coon" and "Watergate" are two racially-conscious pieces that celebrate the ascendancy of black folks during the immediate post-Civil Rights era. The former acknowledges how far African-Americans had come since the days of Wolf's youth, and the latter deals with the black security guard who had busted Richard Nixon's henchmen during the infamous Watergate break-in. "Back Door" features the only appearance of Shaw's capable saxophone and is essentially an instrumental with Wolf moaning low along with the melody. Neither "Leave Here Walking" nor "Trying to Forget You" (which sounds a little too much like "Smokestack Lightnin'") are exceptionally notable. On both "Trying" and "Moving," the listener can clearly hear someone (Shaw?) feeding the lyrics to Wolf. This is especially strange on "Moving" since it is one of two songs (the other being the rollicking "Stop Using Me") on the album where Wolf receives songwriting credit. Moreover, the self-derivative nature of the song (Wolf refers to both "Back Door Man" and "Forty-Four") makes one wonder why he needed any coaching at all. Illness, perhaps. Despite these quibbles, "Moving" features some absolutely sublime playing by the great Hubert Sumlin which recalls his guitar work on "Shake for Me" and "Killing Floor." Sumlin, in fact, is in superb form throughout the proceedings and puts down some especially hot licks on "You Turn Slick On Me," "Can't Stay Here," and the alternate take of "Speak Now Woman."

Although Wolf didn't have many bullets left when he recorded this album, you have to admire the fact that he still went down shooting.

1. Moving
2. Coon on the Moon
3. Speak Now Woman
4. Trying to Forget You
5. Stop Using Me
6. Leave Here Walking
7. The Back Door Wolf
8. You Turn Slick On Me
9. Watergate Blues
10. Can't Stay Here
11. Speak Now Woman (Alternate Take)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bob Gibson - Where I'm Bound (Elektra, 1964)


An important founder of the late 1950s-early 1960s folk scene, Bob Gibson today is unfortunately a nearly forgotten figure. Perhaps best-known for his At The Gate of Horn live album with Hamilton Camp, Where I'm Bound is Gibson's follow-up LP on Elektra and was to be the folk singer's last album before a lengthy drug-induced hiatus from the music business. Yes, despite the singer's relatively clean-cut appearance, he was also a serious alcoholic as well as a speed freak and heroin addict. Although he seemed to have conquered his demons in the 1970s, by this time he had long ago missed the boat and was consigned to being just another folkie who should have had a more successful career than he did.

For awhile, he had it all: a pleasantly earthy singing voice; capable of playing the 12-string guitar and banjo; a residency at Chicago's leading folk music club of the early 1960s (the aforementioned Gate of Horn); and the strong-armed management of Albert Grossman (whose most famous client would eventually be Bob Dylan). Where I'm Bound does a good job of showcasing Gibson's musical talents, although the LP's first side is a stronger collection of songs than what appears on the second. The title track that opens the album is classic Bob Gibson with his ringing 12-string guitar and lyrics that recall old-time black spiritual numbers. Songwriter and poet Shel Silverstein co-wrote the chilling "Waves Roll Out" and contributes to six other songs that appear here, including the somewhat hokey "Wastin' Your Time," "The New 'Frankie and Johnnie' Song" (which relocates the dysfunctional lovers' tale to the streets of Chicago), the atmospheric "Fog Horn," the banjo-infused "Baby, I'm Gone Again" (admittedly a bit dated-sounding), the traditional-derived "Some Old Woman" (often done by other folk singers as "Babe, It Ain't No Lie"), and the yearning "What You Gonna Do?" "12-String Guitar Rag" is a brief instrumental that demonstrates Gibson's picking prowess, while "Stella's Got a New Dress" and "The Town Crier's Song" are two songs co-written with the aforementioned Hamilton Camp. Among the pair of compositions written solely by Gibson, the story line of "Betsy from Pike" proves to be more memorably enduring than the sentiments of "Farewell My Honey, Cindy Jane." The album closes on a very strong note with a winning version of the oft-covered "Fare Thee Well." This is sadly a most appropriate song to conclude Where I'm Bound since Gibson was essentially saying goodbye to fame and fortune at this point in his musical career.

1. Where I'm Bound (Gonna Be Singing in That Land)
2. The Waves Roll Out
3. 12-String Guitar Rag
4. Wastin' Your Time
5. The New "Frankie and Johnnie" Song
6. Fog Horn
7. Baby, I'm Gone Again
8. Farewell My Honey, Cindy Jane
9. Some Old Woman (There Is a Woman)
10. Stella's Got a New Dress
11. The Town Crier's Song (Ten O'clock All Is Well)
12. What You Gonna Do?
13. Betsy from Pike
14. Fare Thee Well (Dink's Song)

Ennio Morricone - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Dagored, 2001)


A lot of you are probably saying, "Oh, I already have The Good, The Bad and The Ugly soundtrack, just with a different cover," and are preparing to skip over this entry. Hold that mouse. You may own a version of the soundtrack, but unless you have this Dagored double-LP reissue from 2001, you don't have the most complete version of the extremely influential music featured in the landmark spaghetti western. Or, as The Man With No Name would put it,

"You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend. Those with the original version of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly soundtrack, and those with the Dagored expanded version. I prefer the expanded version."

Of course, it's not worth getting into a serious disagreement with your record collector friends about which version of the soundtrack is better.

And don't do anything foolish like pointing a gun in someone's face to prove your point.

But having said that, you'd still be hard-pressed proving that this expanded reissue isn't superior to its predecessor. For admirers of film score composer extraordinaire Ennio Morricone and especially for fans of Il Buono Il Brutto Il Cattivo, it just doesn't get any better than this beautifully-packaged, double-LP magnum opus that contains not just the well-known material from the original version of the soundtrack, but the (count 'em) ten bonus tracks as well. I have a friend who is actually more obsessed with this movie even than I am (if that's possible), so much so that several years ago, he used his cassette deck to record all of the music directly from his Laserdisc version of the film. For the longest time, I had a dub of this audio tape and used it to enjoy soundtrack numbers from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly whose titles I did not know. The good people at Dagored have seen to it that this music shall neither remain nameless nor unreleased, and they have done an excellent job with this first-rate expanded reissue. Several of the bonus tracks contain elements of the "Titoli" theme, but I can never get enough of that distinctive whistling, Bruno Battisti D'Amario's one-of-a-kind guitar, and those human attempts at coyote howls. And the surprises don't stop with the bonus tracks. This album also features the unedited full-length versions of "La Storia di un Saldato" and, more interestingly, "Il Triello," the stirring piece that accompanies the film's riveting final duel scene. If you need a good spaghetti western fix but don't have the three hours necessary to watch The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, listening to this is the next best thing.


1. Il Buono Il Brutto Il Cattivo (Titoli)
2. Tramonto
3. Sentenza*
4. Fuga a Cavallo*
5. Il Ponte di Corde*
6. Il Forte
7. Inseguimento*
8. Il Deserto
9. La Carrozza Dei Fantasmi
10. La Missione San Antonio*
11. Padre Ramirez*
12. Marcetta
13. La Storia di un Soldato
14. Il Treno Militare*
15. Fine di una Spia*
16. Il Bandito Monco*
17. Due Contro Cinque*
18. Marcetta Senza Speranza
19. Morte di un Soldato
20. L'Estasi Dell'Oro
21. Il Triello

*previously unreleased

Friday, March 13, 2009

I Got Two Wings - Elder Utah Smith (CaseQuarter, 2009)


"Pastor, evangelist, radio personality, healer and musician all rolled into one is typical of the Reverend Mr. Utah Smith of the Two Wing Church of God in Christ who is in his 25th year in the field of religion" - Louisiana Weekly, January 20, 1951

"The Reverend Smith delivers his religious message with the aid of an electrical guitar. Some of his preaching is extemporaneous; some is part of his original repertoire. His theme song is "I Got Two Wings" - The Museum of Modern Art (New York) Official Press Release 1941

This compact disc is part of a 120+ page book that is chock-full of grand old pictures of Rev. Smith and heavy documentation about the man and his church. The book is available online for $20 or less and is "highly" recommended for both the great songs and accompanying text, so buy it and support the label.

Henceforth I may put the title "Elder" in front my name, nice and respectful like. . .


1. Two Wings 1953
2. Glory To Jesus, I'm Free 1947
3. Two Wings & Every Man's Got To Lay Down And Die 1947
4. Take A Trip 1953
5. I Have Good News To Bring 1958
6. I Want Two Wings 1944
7. God Rode In On A Windstorm 1961
8. Crucifixion 1926
9. With His Stripes We Are Healed 1927
10. Memphis Flu 1930
11. God's Mighty Hand 1944
12. There's A Two Wing Temple In The Sky 1949
13. Two Wings Flying Home, Parts 1 And 2
14. New World In My View
15. New World 1964
16. Two Wings
17. Prayer Changes Things 1961
18. I Got Two Wings 1947

The Old New Thing - A Free Jazz Anthology (Abraxas, 2007)


This here is a killer compilation of what thee cool cats call "free jazz". . . crazy horns and mad percussion punctuated here by occasional black power slogan snippets. . . In thee words of thee Prophet : "Highly" recommended. . .

Disc 1:
1. Shoot a Nigger and Watch Him Run - 0:08
2. Backdrop for Urban Revolution [Edit] - 7:13 (Watts, Marzette)
3. Spirits [Edit] - 4:39 (Ayler, Albert / Ayler, Albert)
4. Exotic Forest [Edit] - 5:01 (Ra, Sun / Ra, Sun)
5. Nothing, Pts. 11 & 10 [Edit] - 3:03 (Graves, Milford)
6. Giblet [Edit] - 4:16 (Murray, Sunny / Murray, Sunny)
7. Ain't Gonna Let Nobody - 1:33
8. Outer Spaceways Inc. - 1:40 (Ra, Sun / Ra, Sun)
9. Black Mysticism - 9:14 (Tyler, Charles Ensemble)
10. Tabla Suite - 4:54 (Logan, Giuseppi Quartet)
11. By and By - 0:19


Disc 2:
1. A Revolutionary - 0:17 (Hampton, Fred)
2. Dolphy's Days [Edit] - 4:10 (Simmons, Sonny / Simmons, Sonny)
3. Shebar [Edit] - 3:57 (Logan, Giuseppi / Logan, Giuseppi)
4. Ghosts - 5:13 (Ayler, Albert / Ayler, Albert)
5. The Ark [Edit] - 2:28 (Coleman, Ornette / Coleman, Ornette)
6. Nothing, Pt. 19 [Edit] - 5:00 (Graves, Milford)
7. The Cosmos - 7:23 (Ra, Sun / Ra, Sun)
8. Free Music Quintet [Edit] - 5:04 (Free Music Quintet)
9. Bleecker Partita [Edit] - 8:14 (Logan, Giuseppi Quartet)
10. By and By - 0:18

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Going Away Blues 1926-1935 (Yazoo, 1969)


Unlike other Yazoo compilations, which generally tend to focus on particular regional styles (e.g. Mississippi Delta blues, Memphis blues, etc.), the material on Going Away Blues 1926-1935 does not have any definitive characteristics in common other than a recurring theme of departure that appears in some of the pieces. Even so, this is one mighty fine collection of prewar blues songs that puts the spotlight on some of the lesser-known and underappreciated artists of the genre.

The two tracks by powerful vocalist Lottie Beaman are among the few recorded examples of the 1920s Kansas City blues scene, which was unfortunately ignored by most labels of the day. "Rolling Log Blues" and "Going Away Blues" also both feature the extraordinary guitar of Miles Pruett, and it's a pity that such an accomplished musician left us with such a small legacy. Uncle Bud Walker, Charlie Kyle, and George "Big Boy" Owens are all biographical non-entities whose guitar-playing styles suggest that they were songsters, a term given to proto-blues musicians born in the 1870s and 1880s. The standout among these three sides is Owens' bizarre "Kentucky Blues," notable for its banjo-like fingerpicking and oddly incomplete verses. Another songster, Henry "Ragtime Texas" Thomas provides the fascinating "Railroadin' Some," which is essentially a musical travelogue of his hobo journeys. This is one of the most atmospheric of all blues-related compositions with his guitar strums simulating the sound of a chugging locomotive engine, pan pipes imitating the train's whistle, and vocal interjections calling out the names of the towns along the tracks. "Right Now Blues" finds Beale Street blues king Frank Stokes teamed up with fiddler Will Batts of Jack Kelly's South Memphis Jug Band instead of his usual partner, guitarist Dan Sain. It's a nice change of pace from his usual sound if just a little bit maudlin. St. Louis is ably represented by J.D. "Jelly Jaw" Short's "Grand Daddy Blues" and Charley Jordan's "Stack O'Dollars," which would later be covered by the legendary Big Joe Williams. Although blues harmonicists didn't really become prominent until Sonny Boy Williamson #1 became a best-seller for Bluebird, Texan William McCoy and Alabamian George "Bullet" Williams respectively show off their mouth harp virtuosity on "Central Tracks Blues" and "Frisco Leaving Birmingham." If there is one prewar blues legend who has never really gotten his just due, that would have to be Robert Wilkins, who was characterized by his excellent but never flashy guitar playing and original lyrics. "New Stockyard Blues," a tribute to a former place of employment, and "Old Jim Canaan," a celebration of a notorious Memphis sporting house, both feature Little Son Joe on second guitar and an unknown percussionist on spoons. The closing track, "Over to My House" (the best-known version belongs to Blind Willie McTell), is a somewhat brooding-sounding duet between Mississippi's Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley, the latter being (with apologies to Memphis Minnie) the greatest of all female prewar blues guitarists.

1. Rolling Log Blues - Lottie Beaman
2. Kyle's Worried Blues - Charlie Kyle
3. Look Here Mama Blues - Uncle Bud Walker
4. Right Now Blues - Frank Stokes
5. Stack O'Dollars Blues - Charlie Jordan
6. Grand Daddy Blues - J.D. Short
7. Railroadin' Some - Henry Thomas
8. Going Away Blues - Lottie Beaman
9. Old Jim Canaan - Robert Wilkins
10. Central Tracks Blues - William McCoy
11. Kentucky Blues - George "Big Boy" Owens
12. New Stockyard Blues - Robert Wilkins
13. Frisco Leaving Birmingham (Take 2) - George "Bullet" Williams
14. Over to My House - Elvie Thomas & Geeshie Wiley

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Doug Sahm - Rough Edges (Mercury, 1973)


This LP is a holy grail of sorts for Sir Douglas Quintet fans. Sure, some of this stuff was released as bonus tracks on the Raven CD reissues, but there are some truly essential outtakes, singles and other rarities on this compilation. As the liners astutely state, "this album is as raw, as primal, jangling, funky, infectious, unpretentiously great rock and roll music as any of the other Sir Douglas Quintet albums." I quite agree, as we get all sorts of snippets of prime-era Quintet, with the classic rollicking Tex-Mex style line-up of Augie Meyers, Frank Morin, Johnny Perez, Harvey Kagan and Jim Stallings. Culled from 1968-69 sessions, I guess this LP was a bitch to edit, as ol' Doug would often ramble into one song directly from another, but it was well worth the hassles, as catchy nuggets like the autobiographical "Sir Doug's Recording Trip," the ballad "Soulful Woman," and "Colinda" could've even been damn hits (especially with "Colinda"'s great chorus, "I don't care how many dudes ya paid, or how many girls ya laid, what have you given to the world?"--I couldn't agree more! You go, Sir D!) Killer singles that fell between the tracks like "Dynamite Woman" and the lilting "Too Many Docile Minds" are included here too. I scored this LP out in Pasadena, CA and I've never seen it again since..so.....

1. Sir Douglas's Recording Trip
2. You're Doing It Too Hard
3. The Homecoming
4. Soulful Woman
5. Too Many Docile Minds
6. Southside Girls
7. Hello Amsterdam
8. Spearfish By Night
9. Colinda
10. Linda Lou
11. Dynamite Woman
12. Leaving Kansas City

High Rise - Durophet (Fractal, 1999)


This just might be the rarest piece in the High Rise canon--limited to just 100 copies, this French LP documents a Parisian show from Nov. 1998, with High Rise in all their blasting glory. Yes, the Japanese psychedelic speed freak power trio never sounded as roaring, as they plow through classics like "Ikon" and "Induced Depression" at full velocity, like Blue Cheer and Motorhead meeting Les Rallies for shots of pure adrenaline. One of the greatest bands I've ever seen, with love particularly for guitarist Munehiro Narita--easily one of the best psychedelic guitar gods currently on the planet.

1. Ikon
2. Right On
3. Disallow
4. Induced Depression
5. Door
6. Pop Sickle
7. Psychedelic Speed Freaks

Sami Rageb - Hyetti/Egyptian Music (Mer, 1978)


This is one of those records that could almost be from any era, as its simplicity and warm recording are timeless. Egytian bad-ass organist Sami Rageb is of course the star here, but with Jerusalem-born percussionist Jamil Summa backing (and Iraqi Arsham Zakarian on side 2) an unbelievably funky symbiosis is reached. Rageb's weedly farfisa-like tone and the amazingly-hot recorded drums are a dizzying and spiraling rhythm machine that transports one to far off lands, where they have their own devotional definition of what is danceable--yet this shit was recorded in the lily-white suburb of Northbrook, IL?! Well, that's where the label was based, and the blurb on the back reveals Rageb moved to the Midwest in 1974. This strikes me as so very odd, as it seems Rageb had a prolific career back in his native Egypt. He started in 1960 playing the Maxim Hotel in Cairo, and formed his own band "The Knights" in 1965, which toured all of Upper and Lower Egypt backing local movie stars--and by 1972 he was playing as far away as Paris.
In any case, be grateful for this well-worn LP to exist, as it has gotten some asses moving at various DJ gigs over the years--side 2's medley is perfect for extended moves......


1. Alfleila
2. Bahia
3. Ramallah
4. Naffoosah
5. Middle Eastern Medley Dance Routine

Splendor Mystic Solis - Heavy Acid Blowout Tensions (Galactic Zoo Disk/Eclipse, 2003)


Well, I must admit I'm not impartial when discussing these recordings, but let me try and step out of my biases and NOT think of the hot summer of 1999--and an un-air-conditioned/carpet sample lined van, ringleader Nanjo's temper tantrums, TV show appearances, a dude crushing a 40 oz bottle in his hands, gigging with all from Christian Marclay to Fuzzhead, doors kicked in, brawls, snorts, and even rooftop nakedness. Ah, those were the daze.

Well yes, this conglomeration of musicians got together mainly for a Mainliner tour, which intersected with the end of a Ruins tour, and Mainliner-leader Nanjo Asahito wanted to explore his other "concepts," like Okhami No Jikan and Toho Sara, regardless if he had those band members present or not. He also masterminded one-time "supergroup" Splendor Mystic Solis, which featured an amazing caliber of Japanese underground stars--Kawababta Makoto of ye olde Acid Mothers Temple, Musica Transonic, and a zillion other projects; the aforementioned Nanjo Asahito of High Rise prominence; Sasaki Hisashi, then bassist of the Ruins, Shimura Koji , now of AMT as well as former High Rise, White Heaven, etc.; the one young American Plastic Crimewave; and a mysterious young lady known only as "Nana," who I don't think you can even hear on the recordings.
Most nights things exploded into a monumental blistering jam, usually with the same mellower lift-off point. Somehow Ed Hardy at Eclipse got hold of a few recordings from a fan, and some bootleg recordings were spotted (a very typical Nanjo scam) and purchased while in Japan at the legendary Modern Music shop (home to PSF Records).
Hearing the concerts later, it was amazing how telepathic some of the "changes" were and how well it all meshed--one couldn't tell who was who (3 guitars will do that) and when played for a respected Japanese-friendly writer at the WIRE magazine, he said it was better than most of Nanjo's releases. So an LP document had to happen, envisioned a bit like that Butterfield Blues Band release that compiled three complete versions of the expansive track, "East/West'--all of them intense, morphing into new stratas, and growing increasingly more complex. The skree here is a bit more full-on though, maybe sounding like Quicksilver on their most dissonant night, or Ash Ra Tempel on "11." The LP was limited to 1000 copies and is way out of print now....



1. Splendor 1 (22:51) 7/17/99 Chicago, recorded by Mike Toole
2. Splendor 2 (14:13) 7/21/99 Detroit, recorded by Nanjo Asahito
3. Splendor 3 (8:33) 7/20/99 Minneapolis, Ed Hardy mystery recording

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ara Topouzian & Dick Barsamian - Near Eastern Ride (ARP, 1996)


Thank goodness for ethnic music, otherwise there wouldn't be too many relatively recent (i.e. within the last 10-15 years) musical releases that would be of interest to me. Among other international genres, there is still a lot of first-rate Middle Eastern/belly dance music being made, both in the United States and overseas. Kanun (Middle Eastern harp) player Ara Topouzian, one of the leading Armenian-American musicians of his generation, has consistently released excellent albums that continue to take the music of his homeland in new directions yet with a reverence for the traditions from which it originated. On Near Eastern Ride, he joins forces with oudist Dick Barsamian to lead a band of top-notch instrumentalists in performing a collection of Armenian and Middle Eastern dance numbers.

This is as good, if not better, as any LP released during the golden age of belly dance records (late 1950s through the mid-1960s). Near Eastern Ride consists of six instrumentals and four pieces featuring the vocals of dumbeg (hand drum) player Jay Baronian. I can't really single out any of the tracks as favorites since this album is excellent from beginning to end. Even though these are superb ensemble performances, the headliners provide the majority of musical delights. Barsamian proves himself worthy of inclusion into the pantheon of legendary oudists such as Udi Hrant and John Berberian, and Topouzian's kanun refrains provide the perfect complement to his partner's oud artistry.

DICK BARSAMIAN (L) & ARA TOPOUZIAN

1. Soorch Bar
2. Agh Anoush
3. Tak Bar
4. Husenig Medley
5. Shekhani Bar
6. Near Eastern Ride
7. Aghchig Mariam Tamzara
8. Asoomeyir
9. Hayde Kaleh
10. 2/4 Fantasy

Friday, March 6, 2009

Terry and the Pirates (Oh Boy, 1990s)


It's story time...

Back in the summer of 1995, when things were much simpler and I had just recently graduated from college, I thought that I had it made. I had just started what was for me a dream job. Even though I have few nice things to say about my alma mater, the University of Illinois (aka Screw of I), Urbana-Champaign did have a good number of record stores, including my place of employment, Village Green Records, which was located in the downtown district of the latter of the aforementioned twin "cities." (Don't bother looking for it now since it went out of business years ago.) At that point in my music-collecting life, I was obsessed with all things San Francisco circa 1965-1970, and my boss had numerous items in his inventory that satisfied my cravings. In some cases, I used my employee discount to purchase particularly coveted items. In others, I used the tape deck of the in-store sound system to make cassette copies of CDs and LPs that interested me. I remember listening to a lot of Quicksilver Messenger Service that summer, and I was determined to get my hands on anything that featured the work of one of my favorite guitarists, John Cipollina.

In the glass display case at the front counter of the store, my boss had several "import" CDs of mostly 1960s and 1970s rock bands, including this double-disc set by Terry and the Pirates, often referred to as the Oh Boy Bootleg. The spine of the CD case back insert identifies this as a John Cipollina release even though the cover of the booklet lists Terry Dolan as the group leader. So, not knowing who the hell Terry and the Pirates were at the time (other than a reference to the old comic strip) but seeing that there was involvement from Cipollina, I figured that this album would be at least worth copying. Man, was I right. For the next three years, this cassette was one of the most regularly played items on my Walkman and in the tape deck of my beloved 1992 Acura Integra (which I finally parted with last November - rest in piece in whatever junkyard you currently reside). Even though the Oh Boy Bootleg was probably intended for Terry and the Pirates completists, it served as my introduction to Terry Dolan and earned him another well-deserved fan.

Terry and the Pirates are one of the few post-1970 San Francisco groups that I like as much as bands from the city's earlier psychedelic heyday. Equally at home performing rock numbers or folk-influenced acoustic material, the various incarnations of this band represent all that is great about American music. The Oh Boy Bootleg collects demo material (Dolan solo and with group) and live performances most likely from the early to mid-1980s, which otherwise is a real low point in music history as far as I'm concerned. Some of these songs would also appear as more polished versions on other Terry and the Pirates releases. The first eight tracks are just Dolan and his acoustic guitar, though on some songs it seems to be treated with some sort of effects device. These selections include well-chosen covers such as Mance Lipscomb's "Sugar Babe," Tim Buckley's "Pleasant Street," and Bob Dylan's "I'll be Your Baby Tonight." (On the last number, you can hear a San Francisco Giants baseball game on TV or radio playing in the background. The announcer mentions former outfielder Jeffrey Leonard, MVP of the 1987 NLCS, whose 1981-1988 tenure with the team helps provide an approximate date for the songs on this collection.) Other tracks include folk material like "I Ride on Ol' Paint" and "Cuckoo" (part of the "Jack o' Diamonds" family of songs) in addition to originals like "Queen of Thieves," "Hard to be Soft," and "Big Divide," the last of which reflects Dolan's fondness for the Old West.

"Truer Than Blue" is a work of sublime beauty with a haunting flute as well as...is that a glockenspiel? On "So Who Asked You," you can finally hear the guitar of Cipollina with that distinctive vibrato. "I Can't Dance" and "Love's Made a Fool of You" are fine group performances of old standards. "Dog Mountain Blues" has appeared on other releases of dubious legality and showcases Dolan's exquisitely yearning vocals. "Maya," "Jesse's Song," and "I Wish I Were Your River" are live tracks possibly all recorded at the same show, which, from the sound of it, would have been a great gig to have attended. As the title indicates, track number 18 is Dolan's monologue wherein he explains the background of some of the songs. However, you'll need to crank up the volume to hear what he's saying. "Shadow of the Buffalo" continues Dolan's fixation on the Old West to good musical effect. The concluding five tracks highlight Cipollina's guitar pyrotechnics to varying degrees, especially on the two versions of "99 Rock," which sound like they could have been attempts at a jingle for a radio station or something similar.

Obviously, this is a rip from a cassette copy of a CD, so some of you may be concerned about the sound quality. My recollection is that the original source sounded a bit muddy to begin with, and I don't think the MP3 versions of these tracks are that much worse. This is a bootleg, after all. Despite the sonic limitations, this is music of a timeless beauty by a true American original. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Get their excellent album from 1980, The Doubtful Handshake, here.

1. Sugar Babe
2. Pleasant Street
3. Queen of Thieves
4. Big Divide
5. Cuckoo
6. Hard to be Soft
7. I Ride on Ol' Paint
8. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
9. Truer Than Blue
10. So Who Asked You
11. I Can't Dance
12. All in Your Mind
13. Love's Made a Fool of You
14. Dog Mountain Blues
15. The Beginning
16. Maya
17. Jesse's Song
18. Terry Talks About the Songs
19. I Wish I Were Your River
20. Writin' You a Letter
21. Shadow of the Buffalo
22. Brown Skin Monkey Bag - Verse 1
23. Brown Skin Monkey Bag - Verse 2
24. Jungle Love
25. 99 Rock #1
26. 99 Rock #2

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Clifton Chenier - Black Snake Blues (Arhoolie, 1967)


I usually run as far away as possible when I see someone with an accordion. In most cases, I just don't like the way it sounds. But for zydeco, the instrument just sounds so right, especially in the hands of a true master like Clifton Chenier. You really can't go wrong with any of his Arhoolie albums, which feature him and his bandmates in their prime. The rhythm section lays down that solid backbeat; Chenier's brother Cleveland provides counter-rhythms with his deft playing of the rubboard (also known as the frottoir, which is an adapted version of the washboard - see album cover photo above - that Clifton invented with the help of a metalworker friend); Felix James Benoit occasionally provides a burst of lead guitar; but it's the "King of Zydeco," with a playing style that at times recalls the sound of blues harmonica, who wields the true lead instrument, his trusty accordion.

This album features an eclectic track list even if all of these tunes are intended for dancing. "Black Snake Blues" is an old blues composition given new life with an injection of zydeco power. Albert King fans will recognize "Let's Talk It Over" as a remake of the southpaw guitarist's "I Get Evil." "Wrap It Up," a lively instrumental, and the driving "Johnny Can't Dance" both have infectious rhythms that make you want to get out of your seat and get down. True to his Louisiana Creole heritage, Chenier also includes two songs with lyrics in French, "Monifique" and "I Lost My Baby," but his underrated vocals sound great in any language. The other tunes ain't bad, either. I guess the only thing to complain about is the fact that this album is damn short.

I realize that I should have posted this in time for Mardi Gras, but as they say, "C'est la vie."

1. Black Snake Blues
2. Let's Talk It Over
3. Walking to Louisiana
4. Things Ain't What They Used to Be
5. Wrap It Up
6. Monifique
7. Johnny Can't Dance
8. I Lost My Baby (In French)
9. Can't Go Home No More
10. I Got a Little Girl

Monday, March 2, 2009

Oxford American 2003 Southern Music CD No. 6


I'm happy to be posting something that readers have requested. So this one is going out to you, Cor and finvarra. Oxford American 2003 Southern Music CD is one damn fine collection and does exactly what a good comp should do: feature tracks that make the listener want to go out and explore a musician's discography. For me, the opening cut did it. Those twangy guitars and unforgettable lyrics in "Why You Been Gone So Long" make it a stone cold outlaw country classic. This song just grabbed me from the get-go, and I just had to check out more Johnny Darrell even though he was a complete unknown to me. I'm glad I did. Talk about a guy who didn't get his just dues. I highly recommend the excellent Raven comp, Singin' It Lonesome - The Very Best 1965-1970, which includes a well-chosen selection of singles and the landmark California Stop-over album in its entirety on one CD. Swamp Dogg's "Total Destruction to Your Mind" is a funky, mind-expanding masterpiece. Another guy who has yet to get the accolades he deserves. "Evelyn Is Not Real" by My Morning Jacket is fine rock of a more recent vintage (anything post-1975 is recent as far as my tastes go). Esther Phillips' "No Headstone on My Grave" has a haunting majestic quality to it. "God Moves on the Water" is a slide-guitar tour de force that recounts the sinking of the Titanic courtesy of Blind Willie Johnson. P.J. Proby chips in with a tough version of the Southern soul-country standard "Niki Hoeky." "Columbus Stockade Blues" is good early-period Willie Nelson. There is a lot of other good stuff on here as well. This is another tastefully assembled Oxford American Southern Music compilation which goes to show how diverse the sounds of the South can be.

Get the 1997 CD here and the 2005 CD here.

1. Why You Been Gone So Long - Johnny Darrell
2. Total Destruction to Your Mind - Swamp Dogg
3. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning - The Del McCoury Band
4. La Chanson d'une Fille de Quinze Ans (Song of a Fifteen Year Old Girl) - Ann Savoy & Linda Ronstadt
5. Swan Blues - King Pleasure
6. Run on for a Long Time - Five Blind Boys of Alabama
7. Evelyn Is Not Real - My Morning Jacket
8. Lake Charles Boogie - Nellie Lutcher
9. Hot Rod - The Collins Kids
10. No Headstone on My Grave - Esther Phillips
11. El Paso - The Gourds
12. Leaving Loachapoka - Marshall Chapman
13. Grits Ain't Groceries - Little Milton
14. Killer Diller Blues - Memphis Minnie
15. Miss Maybelle - R.L. Burnside
16. God Moves on the Water - Blind Willie Johnson
17. Niki Hoeky - P.J. Proby
18. See That Coon in a Hickory Tree - The Delmore Brothers
19. Leaning on You - The Yo-Yo's
20. You and Your Sister - Chris Bell
21. Columbus Stockade Blues - Willie Nelson
22. A Little Girl from Little Rock - Marilyn Monroe & Jane Russell
23. Goodnight Moon - Will Kimbrough

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tim Buckley - The Copenhagen Tapes (PLR, 2000)


Tim Buckley is one of my all-time favorites. The amount of talent he had was frightening. Nobody else ever really musically did what he did, before or since. His vocal range was unbelievable. And then at age 28, he was gone.

The Copenhagen Tapes, from a Danish radio broadcast of an October 12, 1968 concert, is a remarkable artifact. Tracks from this show appeared on various bootlegs over the years, but this complete version seems to be an official release licensed from the late lamented singer's estate and presents the material in its best ever sound quality. While not up to the sonic standards of the equally amazing Dream Letter: Live in London 1968 double CD, the performances are artistically equal at the very least. Recorded during a subsequent tour several months after his London appearance, The Copenhagen Tapes' tracks are versions of songs that would, for the most part, appear on Buckley's groundbreaking folk-jazz masterpiece, Happy/Sad. The somewhat meandering and nearly 22-minute "I Don't Need It To Rain" would materialize in a radically different form on Live at the Troubadour 1969 and some of that version's lyrics would end up in Lorca's closing track, "Nobody Walkin'." "Buzzin' Fly," "Strange Feelin'," and "Gypsy Woman" are probably the best of an excellent set of songs that comprised Happy/Sad. These live versions are absolutely superb and arguably the finest concert recordings of the curly-haired, twelve-string guitar strummin' American bard in existence. The slightly different lyrics of "Strange Feelin'" are interesting and demonstrate that all of Buckley's compositions were constant works-in-progress. Even more noteworthy lyrics are those that begin "Gypsy Woman," which are lifted from "Country Boy" by Fred Neil, a singer that Buckley greatly admired.

A must-have for all fans of this amazing musician.

Also, check out Works in Progress here and Live at The Folklore Center, NYC - March 6, 1967 here.

BUCKLEY FLANKED BY LEE UNDERWOOD (L) AND
CARTER "C.C." COLLINS (R)

1. I Don't Need It To Rain
2. Buzzin' Fly
3. Strange Feelin'
4. Gypsy Woman