Sunday, April 08, 2007

Cymbalism In The Abstract

"Don't Mess With Cupid"---Buddy Miles Express

Buddy Miles began his musical legacy at age twelve, when he joined his father's jazz band, The Bebops. A gifted drummer and vocalist, Miles has performed with a variety of different bands and artists since then, including The Delfonics, Ruby & The Romantics, Wilson Pickett, Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton, Electric Flag, Santana, Bootsy Collins, Barry White, Stevie Wonder, The Ink Spots, and Muddy Waters. His career spans 50 years, during which he's appeared on more than 70 albums, and embarked on six world tours. In the '80s, he also provided the lead vocals for the California Raisins ad campaign, which (despite being kinda irritating) many consider the most successful TV commercial of all time.

It's always seemed to me that Buddy may have come along a bit before his time. His style varied greatly depending on the particular project he was working on, which seems to have caused him to fall between the cracks when it's come to gaining iconic status within any particular musical genre. His first noticeable shift from making jazz and R&B records came after he joined Electric Flag, a group whose musical ambition was to successfully fuse soul, rock, blues, jazz, and psychedelia. This spirit of eclecticism continued to guide Miles as he formed the Buddy Miles Express.

BME was signed to Mercury Records, and contained the sensational horn section that Miles had played with in Electric Flag. "Don't Mess With Cupid" appeared on their debut album, Expressway To Your Skull (1969). The liner notes on the LP were written by none other than Jimi Hendrix, who would eventually produce tracks for the group's subsequent LP, Electric Church. Many of the songs on Expressway exemplify the fusion of styles that was typical of Miles' musical palette. I chose "Don't Mess With Cupid" because it's an outstanding tune that leans more heavily towards the soul side than most of the other tracks on the album. However, if you can appreciate music that falls outside of those parameters, by all means, consider purchasing this LP.

More info about the legacy of Buddy Miles can be found here and there.

"Scars And Pain"---Jemini The Gifted One

Jemini The Gifted One is probably best known for his collaborations with Danger Mouse, including the underground hip-hop essential, Ghetto Pop Life (Lex records, 2003). Despite the cult-like popularity of that particular album, I would argue that the Brooklyn MC's best material to date comes from his criminally slept-on Scars And Pain EP (1995). Polygram/Mercury released a limited number of vinyl promo copies of the EP to create some buzz for an LP that never materialized. There's a great article about the whole ordeal in the archives at Oh Word.

To be honest, I never got my hands on a copy of Scars And Pain until just a few years ago. I played it fairly often after acquiring a copy, but then it ended up gettin' dusty until just recently. My renewed interest came by way of the release of Buckwild's massive Diggin In The Crates compilation. Both of the songs on Scars And Pain that Buckwild produced are included in the collection---the title track, as well as the equally impressive "Story Of My Life". Listening to these joints again, I'm more in tune than ever with Buckwild's tight beats and Jemini's skilled delivery. Since Oh Word already posted "Story Of My Life" a while back, I decided to give you "Scars And Pain"---figuratively speaking, of course...It should definitely give you an idea of how dope it would have been if the recording industry hadn't dropped the ball on this one...

"Spead"---Soul Partners

I don't happen to know very much about this record, except that it's one of the friendliest grooves I've ever heard. I tried to do a little research, but for the most part, it was to no avail. Googling on "soul partners" yielded some alarmingly unattractive photos of people who are desperate to find someone to...screw. When I searched on "spead", Jeeves couldn't tell me shit either, because he just wanted to know if I really meant "spread". I guess this places you in the unfortunate position of having to trust my somewhat questionable judgment...

What I can tell you is that the group hailed from Columbus, Ohio. They released a couple of sides on Bell, including "Walk On Judge/Lose The One You Love"(B-758), a single that was first pressed on a smaller label called Holiday. "Spead" originally appeared as the B-side to "Boo Boo" (Bell, B-792). This exceptional tune may be available on other rare funk and groove compilations, but I know for sure that you can track it down on Hard To Find! Volume 1 (FUNK-O-RAMA Records, 2005). This one is practically guaranteed to get you on your feet, soul children...

Just as an aside, do you think RZA might be familiar with this track?

"Tell Me Baby"---Garnet Mimms

The greatest success that Garnet Mimms enjoyed was his original version of "Cry Baby", a track that would later become an essential component of Janis Joplin's repertoire. He scored a few minor hits after that (such as "Baby Don't You Weep" and his wonderful cover of Jerry Butler's "For Your Precious Love"), but the undeniable value of his material somehow didn't translate well in terms of sales. Regardless of this oversight, Mimm's vocal abilities were on par with the likes of Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke, and his style was definitive in the sense that it had a major impact on the evolution of the deep soul sound.

I chose "Tell Me Baby" (1964) to represent Mimms for a few reasons. For one thing, it's one of the only "baby" songs he recorded that wasn't covered by Janis Joplin, since in addition to "Cry Baby", she also offered a rendition of his single, "My Baby". Nothing whatsoever against Janis, but that fact alone makes this track unique. Also, the song proves that Mimms could effortlessly rise to the occasion of a song with a more funky, uptempo vibe, despite primarily being recognized as an accomplished balladeer. The man truly exhibited soul power, no matter what he was singing.

If you plan to begin an education on Mimms' material, I would suggest starting with The Best of Garnett Mimms: Cry Baby. It features most of the songs that he recorded between 1963 and 1966, and includes "Tell Me Baby" + 24 other outstanding soul gems.

More about Mimms here.

"Luchini AKA This Is It (Destruments Remix)"
---Camp Lo

Camp Lo is comprised of two MCs from the Bronx, Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede. They emerged onto the hip-hop scene in 1996, when their first single "Coolie High" (from the soundtrack to The Great White Hype) reached #25 on The Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart. Their next single, "Luchini AKA This Is It" reached an even higher commercial plane by reaching #5 on the rap charts, and crossing over into the top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100. Both songs were included on the duo's classic debut LP, Uptown Saturday Night (1997).

It's difficult to explain how this group fuses raw hip-hop sensibilities with jazz and funk overtones in such a smooth and effortless manner. They remind me of Outkast in this way---I frequently have no idea what the fuck they're talking about, but I can't help nodding my head in agreement anyway. Many of their lyrics are based on blaxploitation-era slanguage, and even though I'm somewhat familiar with that terminology, I still can't always comprehend their meaning. It's not important in this me. Their unique and original style, coupled with stellar production by Ski, makes this album a worthwhile listen every time.

Since most hip-hop heads have already heard this record, I thought I'd put a different spin on things with this chillin' little remix of the joint from the compilation Reworked 4. I already know that some of you won't like this, but in that case, may I suggest a blunt or two?

Check out more about Camp Lo here.

"No Money Down"---Jerry Butler

One of the main reasons why Jerry Butler is such a significant figure in music history is because he embodies the connection between gospel, doo-wop, and soul, having been proficient at performing all three. Butler was born in the South, but at age three he moved to Chicago, growing up in what would later be known as the Cabrini-Green Housing Projects.

Butler's first music lessons were learned in church, where he would ultimately end up singing in the same choir as Curtis Mayfield. The two would eventually begin performing secular music together as well, perhaps most notably as members of The Roosters, who evolved into Jerry Butler & The Impressions. The group's first hit came in 1958 when they released "For Your Precious Love", a song that Butler had written the lyrics for at sixteen years of age. That same year, Butler departed from the group to focus his energy on a solo career.

It's utterly impossible to do justice to an artist of Butler's caliber within the space of a few paragraphs, so I'm leaving that to the experts. Also known as "The Ice Man" (presumably because of his cool vocal stylings), Jerry Butler has released a wide variety of records that should be essential listening for fans of many different musical genres. I grabbed "No Money Down" out of the crates for this post because it's an engaging cautionary tale that soul and R&B fans should easily embrace. I also thought of my hip-hop enthusiasts, who will recognize this track as the sample Kanye West used on "Dreams" by The Game. This song can be found on Jerry Butler: The Philadephia Sessions---The Iceman Cometh, Ice On Ice, And More.

Word From Your Moms:

"I have been thinking about the notion of perfect love as being without fear, and what that means for us in a world that's becoming increasingly xenophobic, tortured by fundamentalism and nationalism."---bell hooks.


vik said...

nice selections this week.

that buddy miles track is one of my faves from his catalog.

speaking of lost soul legends, outside of soul music circles, i don't find much talk of garnet mimms.

dude could SING. for those without that compilation, it's a MUST.

Anonymous said...

Hi scholar. I never leave comments, but I read all the time. Good looks on the Camp Lo remix and the song by Soul partners is great too. I hadn't heard of them before, but now I'm on a mission to find more. I''l let you know if I turn up anything.

Anonymous said...

Good post. The Camp Lo joint was quite refreshing; I need to pull out my "Uptown Saturday Night" CD again.

Travis said...

"Uptown Saturday Night" is one of my favorite albums that even I forget to mention. I played the shit out of that album that year, which for me, was the start of the ending for great Hip Hop. I'll have to look and see if I have this remix, there are a couple different remixes floating, most of them are pretty good.

"Scars & Pain" is something I've been sleeping for awhile. I play it from time to time, and while I always like it, it never sees any extended amount of play time. I sure it would have though if it was released retail. I personally, dislike the "Ghetto Pop Life" and that was even before Dangermouse turned into a psuedo super producer.

I was trying to remember where I heard the name Buddy Miles then when you mentioned the Raisans campaign it came to me.

I'll have to listen to the other stuff, which is all new to me.

Good post as usual.

Scholar said...

Vik---I don't know about you, but I'd rather post about underdogs like Mimms than artists who've already achieved legendary status. People with that much unrecognized talent should be getting their props somewhere.

Anon---Thanks for leaving a comment---things would get pretty boring without feedback.

I kinda wish that Buddy hadn't associated himself with those Raisins. I know that people really like them, but...fuck the Raisins.

Vincent---Uptown Saturday Night is a classic---always worth pulling out for a repeat listen.

Travis---Co-sign on your sentiments about USN. It still has an exceptionally high replay value. I personally think '96 was the last great year for hip-hop, and your timeline is about the same, because USN came out at the very beginning of '97.

writer said...

i still remember when i first heard luchini, classic song.

DL said...


I'm back from my hols, nice posts. The Scars and Pain EP is certified classic in my book, and certainly trumps the later stuff with DM.

Take it easy,