Friday, March 27, 2009
We Be So Sincere With This Here...
"The Waves Are High Today"---Don Adams (LimeLinx)
"The Waves Are High Today"---Don Adams (YSI)
Although I've been known to call out the pompous audacity of blah-blah-bloggers whose egos are too big for their tight-ass spandex britches, I have to speak for a moment with the bloated arrogance of a self-appointed tastemaker and declare this: you're stupid, uncool, and crazier than cat piss if you don't like Don Adams .
Not only was Adams a mesmerizing vocalist who could effortlessly channel the spirits of Jackie Wilson and Otis Redding, he was somewhat of an intriguing and enigmatic character as well. Born in Glasgow in 1942 (I see you, Styler), the amazing vocalist was the youngest in a family of seven children. He was a scrawny kid who got picked on quite mercilessly during childhood, but he literally came out swingin' after undergoing intense daily training to become a boxer. As legend has it, Adams (born Donald McKay) emerged a scrappy little ass-kicker, feared by...well...just about everyone.
Even as he began to pursue a career in music, it apparently wasn't uncommon for his violent temper to flare, often fighting people in the audience who didn't care for his performances. Perhaps not surprisingly, the first band Adams sang with was called The Macho's. He teamed up with the group in Germany, having moved there in the late '60s as a staff member of the musical Hair.
The ballsy singer became a regular fixture of the club scene, and would soon come to be known as "the black voice from Munich". From a purely physical standpoint, that particular description was no more reliable than the other label that's often haphazardly applied to his style~ blue-eyed soul (see the pic below to test the questionable veracity of these claims).
While the drive to categorize every-fucking-thing is a naggingly persistent feature of the human condition, it's often misleading and downright moronic to apply stereotypes or phony organizational principles to something as variable and unpredictable as music. Hearing Adams' stirring and incredibly affecting vocals will undoubtedly affirm this notion: the only way one can fully appreciate the immense gift of his artistry is to approach his material with absolute colorblindness and an uncluttered mind. Close your eyes and tell me the homie Don Adams ain't had no soul, children...
Watts Happening (a reference to the 1965 LA riots) was originally recorded in Munich in 1969 and was treated to a limited release on the German Sunset label. The record was such an obscurity that it was damn near impossible to obtain, until Sonorama graciously reissued the LP in 2007 (along with bonus tracks culled from the archives). In addition to showcasing Adams' immeasurable talent, the LP boasts an impressive array of musicians who once comprised the cream of the local jazz scene in Munich.
Following the album's original release date, Adams continued recording studio tracks, although the consensus was that his later material never matched the quality of his earlier efforts. In the '70s he appeared on German television as a member of Love Generation, and later relocated to Hamburg to join the Les Humphries Singers. However, according to the liner notes on the Watts Happening reissue, the vocalist's health and career began a downward spiral due to years of bad habits and excesses. He passed away in London in 1995 due to complications with his liver.
"Sometimes I Don't Like Myself"---Steve Colt (LimeLinx)
"Sometimes I Don't Like Myself"---Steve Colt (YSI)
APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING: PART 2
The first Steve Colt track I was introduced to was "Dynamite", an irresistibly infectious groove that's highly revered by a good many collectors who really know their shit. Larry Grogan of Funky 16 Corners aptly described the single as follows:
"Speaking of brilliant proto-funk, Steve Colt's 'Dynamite' is as heavy as it comes. If ever another white guy laid down a 45 as heavy as this I haven't heard it. Colt grunts and screams his way through the tune backed by slamming drums and bass deep enough to throw the tone arm off the wax."
I never actually copped the original 7" (sometimes compilations make life way too easy), but I used to occasionally price it on the internets just to check the going rate. The first time I saw the label on the 45 I was floored. This dude lookin' like the long-lost brother of Potsie on Happy Days laid down those killer vocals on "Dynamite"? Noooooo shit...(furrows brows, rubs chin).
While the image on the label surely makes for a fascinating conversation piece, I didn't realize how badly I needed to have this side in my crates until DJ Blueprint (aka Mike from This Is Tomorrow) dropped the B-side ("Take Away") as one of his stellar contributions to the Love Lockdown series. Evidently I'm not the only one who fell in love with the song. Quite a few readers e-mailed me to see if I could possibly send them something else by Mr. Colt, so I decided to share one of the best songs from his Paradox LP (Vanguard, 1970).
This particular track, and Paradox as a whole, was quite a different look for Colt in comparison to the vibe he had goin' on with "Dynamite" and its flipside. There's the obvious fact that he grew a nice furry David Crosby porn 'stache in the interim, but the music itself also underwent a fairly radical transformation towards the softer side. Many of the songs were written and produced by Brand Harris, but the album also features soulful interpretations of "Walk Away Renee" and Dylan's "Memphis Blues Again". In sum, if you dig the Muscle Shoals/Stax-Volt sound, there's a very good chance that you'll be feelin' this record as well.
"Sometimes I Don't Like Myself" is arguably a bit maudlin and self-deprecating, but its vulnerability is also undeniably earnest and charming. You may find that it's more subdued and less gripping than "Take Away" in an immediate sense, but it's still tremendously affecting once the substance of the song settles in your soul.
If you missed the post with "Take Away", be sure to take a moment to rewind.
"Dumb I Sound/ATLiens (Tor Mix)"---Outkast vs. Sufjan Stevens (LimeLinx)
"Dumb I Sound/ATLiens (Tor Mix)"---Outkast vs. Sufjan Stevens (YSI)
It's not difficult to harbor some resentment towards Danger Mouse for dropping the Grey Album. I thought it was pretty damn terrific at the time, but who could have foreseen all the ugly little demon spawn that would be gratuitously birthed from its grossly overproductive loins?
Fast forward to 2009, and the guy who's trying to be adorably quirky by smashing apples and oranges into the fruity concoction du jour is a Canadian fella by the name of Tor. In all honesty, I downloaded his Illnoize EP fully expecting to loathe every horrific moment of it. I couldn't imagine that it was going to be particularly aurally delightful to hear Sufjan Stevens' songs of emasculated tenderness struggle beneath the weight of some of the heaviest hip hop lyrics of all time.
As it turns out, my fears were only half-assed justified~ a few of these mixes are actually rather legit. The Outkast redux is my favorite at the moment, but I fuck with a few of the other tracks as well. All in all, I gotta give Tor all due propers for...almost...changing the mind of a stubborn skeptic.
Download the EP in its entirety here
And...if (for some bizarre reason) you find yourself jonesin' for more Sufjan remixes, The Metermaids also dropped a free remix of Stevens mash-ups called...mmm hmmm...Illinoise.
"Hang On To A Dream"---Cissy Houston (LimeLinx)
"Hang On To A Dream"---Cissy Houston (YSI)
Hopefully most of you know a thing or two about Whitney's mama, but if not, here is a brief rundown...
Cissy Houston (born Emily Drinkard) entered the world on September 30, 1933 in Newark, NJ. Five years later she was already pursuing her musical aspirations, singing in a gospel act called the Drinkard Singers with her siblings. As a member of The Sweet Inspirations, she laid down backing vocals for countless artists and recorded a couple of albums with the group before deciding to go solo. In addition to recording her own material, Houston has performed in some capacity with the likes of Dionne Warwick (her niece), David Bowie, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Elvis, Chuck Jackson, Luther Vandross, Patti LaBelle, Dusty Springfield, and of course, her daughter Whitney.
In 1970, the powerhouse vocalist recorded a supreme album for Commonwealth United, entitled Presenting Cissy Houston. In what can only be seen as an unfortunate turn of events, her contract was sold to Janus Records later that year. While she recorded quality material for the label well into the mid-70s, she never received the promotional support she needed to facilitate her success. A prime example of this is that she rendered the original recording of "Midnight Train To Georgia", a song that popular culture clearly associates with Gladys Knight and the Pips.
Midnight Train To Georgia: The Janus Years is a collection of her work with the label that showcases many of the forgotten highlights of her career. "Hang On To A Dream" is one of the finer moments, Houston's striking cover of a beautiful tune penned by Tim Hardin.
Houston has been granted most of her accolades for her gospel recordings, but if you're more interested in delving into her secular material, this digitally remastered compilation serves as quite a worthy introduction.
"Funky Cat"---James Knight And The Butlers (LimeLinx)
"Funky Cat"---James Knight And The Butlers (YSI)
The music scene in Miami during the late '60s and early '70s never achieved the same legendary status as Muscle Shoals, Memphis, or Motown, but the southeastern region of Florida undoubtedly spawned some incredibly heavy funk and soul acts in the years preceding the disco invasion. The Miami Funk compilation spotlights some of the region's funkiest citizens, celebrating not only the artists who released major hit records, but some who were rather underappreciated and obscure. James Knight was a phenomenal musician and frontman who unfortunately happened to fall into the latter category.
Born in Miami in 1946, Knight began playing the drums at age 2, joining a calypso band only four years later. At age 14, he started playing around on his brother's guitar, and became so accomplished within a short time that he was jamming with the likes of Sam & Dave, Gwen McCrae, Betty Wright, Frankie Beverly and Ben E. King by the following year.
Around the time Knight turned 19, he formed a group called The Butlers (aka The Fabulous Butlers). The ensemble started doing shows outside of the Miami area, and would eventually perform with Joe Tex, The Chambers Brothers, John Lee Hooker, The Persuaders, James Brown, Muddy Waters, and many more of the era's most popular artists.
While it certainly appeared that Knight was destined for success, his professional woes began shortly after he recorded his Black Knight LP in the '70s. According to the artist's website, the album was put on the back burner because studio executives cautioned him that the material was at least 20 years before its time. It's since been reissued and is available through many online retailers for a fairly reasonable price.
"Funky Cat" has probably been comped the most times (with "Fantasy World", sampled by DJ Shadow, running a close second), and in my opinion, it's the standout track on the LP. It's to your discretion whether your dollars are better spent on copping Black Knight or a more diverse collection of tunes such as Miami Funk. I've read glowing reviews that compare Knight to stalwarts such as Jimi Hendrix, Charles Wright, and Sly Stone, but other collectors have expressed a degree of disappointment with the album as a whole (individual tracks can also be purchased via Knight's website, linked below). I personally kinda dig it, but my suggestion is to stream those bitches before you unass any cash, children.
"Kickin' Afrolistics"---The Afros (LimeLinx)
"Kickin' Afrolistics"---The Afros (YSI)
One of the illest things about having a giant music collection coupled with a long-ass history of abusing weed is...aww snap...I forgot. Nah...I'm just playin'. What's dope about it is pulling out throwback joints that you haven't listened to in forever because...ta da...those shits get to be brand new all over again. I had love for this record back in the day (produced by Davy D and Jam Master Jay), but right now it might just sound better than ever.
If you skipped class on The Afros the first time or your silly ass wasn't born yet (dayuuuuummmm....it's hard to believe this album is almost 20 years old), get your learn on by diggin' deeper.
"Oh, Baby"---The Time (LimeLinx)
"Oh, Baby"---The Time (YSI)
Every once in a while, I have to throw in a jam that will ensure the future generation of soul children, so you know...quit reading and go make some beautiful babies for the love revolution.
Before you check out, one last little bit of feel good~ a video by my homies Lady Daisey and Batsauce called "Magical". It actually came out quite a while ago, but it never loses its sublime sweetness and power to uplift. More from these two coming soon at SO:
Word From Your Moms:
"A verbal art like poetry is reflective; it stops to think. Music is immediate, it goes on to become."---W. H. Auden
"It is the stretched soul that makes music, and souls are stretched by the pull of opposites--opposite bents, tastes, yearnings, loyalties. Where there is no polarity--where energies flow smoothly in one direction--there will be much doing but no music."---Eric Hoffer
"All paths lead nowhere, so it is important to choose a path that has heart."---Carlos Casteneda