Monday, December 19, 2005:

So this is Christmas

Very brief writeups today, because my planned holiday posts aren't finished.

A few days ago I got a Christmas gift from my sister overseas: a small box of German chocolates. In a show of restraint, I didn't open them for at least five minutes.

I'm heading out tomorrow and will be away until early January. If past experience is any indication, I'll be able to pull a camel through the eye of a needle easier than I can find an internet connection, so this is it till 2006.

I know you'll do the right thing and leave these unopened till Christmas. Or at least pace yourself. Or maybe not. I won't blame you if you don't.

Little Johnny Taylor -- If You Love Me (Like You Say)
Milk chocolate with almonds. You have to snap pieces off and eat them quickly, else they melt between your fingers.

This is a somewhat atypical Little Johnny Taylor tune; most of what I've heard by him is a grittier blues.
[Little Johnny Taylor's Greatest Hits @]

Keb' Mo' -- Am I Wrong
Dark chocolate/jalapeño cake. You can't decide if you love it or hate it, but you keep cutting another thin slice. It's hot, feisty; it wants to kick your ass; you're not sure if it is.

Keb' Mo's first CD is brilliant; the second is okay; the third is bad; the fourth rocketed past bad into sonic Ed Wood territory. I haven't listened to any after that. But damn what a good album that first is. ... I sent Sean a track from this CD a year ago, but here's another. That self-titled debut is just amazing, and why he fell off is just as puzzling.
[Keb' Mo' @]

Blind Gary -- You Got To Go Down
Chocolate-covered peanuts.

Public domain track I found somewhere ages ago. (One of the older file stamps on my system: late 1990s.) Early blues here, and great stuff. I love the clear, catchy guitar, and the man's scratchy voice, and his long bit in the middle about not making assumptions about drinkers.

Skylab -- Seashell
Chocolate with a high minty taste that lingers.

Most of this Skylab CD is so minimalist as to make me question my definition of music. This one's one of the more, er, ornate tracks, insofar as anything in a monastery might be called ornate. Drums, bit of keyboard, waves on a beach, and a bit of dialogue. Aural opium.
[Skylab -- #1 @]

Dead Can Dance -- Black Sun
Chocolate-covered caramel nougat.

I love it when this singer cuts loose from the emoting a bit and belts one out with his giant wodden sledgehammer voice. Which is not to say I don't like the rest, but this is better. Sock it to me.
[Dead Can Dance -- Aion @]

Pharoahe Monch -- The Light
Chocolate toffee.

Most of this disc is thuggish posturing, or maybe not posturing, but definitely not my cup of tea. Then there's this one, which is a very welcome change.

In retrospect it seems this disc was in and out of print as quick as a sneeze.
[Pharoahe Monch -- Internal Affairs @]

Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek -- Expansion Outro
Dark chocolate. Bitter but so good.

A reprise/commentary on Nina Simone's "Four Women," which I described in September 2004 as a lacy silk sock pulled over a brick. Nina Simone is awesome and so is this Talib Kweli/Hi-Tek CD. Very impressive work all around.
[Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek -- Reflection Eternal @]

Albinia Jones -- Give It Up Daddy Blues
Hot chocolate on a cold morning with fuzzy bunny slippers.

Another public domain track. I've no idea who Albinia Jones is, or what else she's done, but she's awfully saucy here. Apparently she played in the 1930s and 1940s (which doesn't prevent her works from being in the public domain, contrary to popular belief--prior to the 1970s in the U.S. the requirement was to list something as copyrighted, either with the full word or the c in the circle, then to list the year and the rightsholder, plus the statement "All rights reserved," for the copyright to be valid. Too bad that was changed so the legislators could have a land of copyrighted grocery lists on the backs of envelopes.)

Cheb Mami -- Yahamami
Chocolate wafer cookies that snap apart and leave crumbs everywhere.

Algerian electronica, complete with string section, flute, and birds.
[Cheb Mami -- Delalli @]

Domez M -- Born Again (Cycle Mix)
Chocolate chai that steams and burns your tongue, but you keep blowing on it and trying again.

Actually, no; if this one were any more chill it would give you a Slushee headache.
[Arabic Lounge compilation @]

Baaba Maal -- Senegale Ngummee
Orange chocolate with a shaved coconut center.

Baaba Maal steps up to the plate, swings, crack!, walks around the bases. His album with Mansour Seck is just as good; those two CDs are a force of nature.
[Missing You (Mi Yeewnii @]

Sukhwinder & Sapna Awasthi -- Chaiyya Chaiyya
White chocolate and ginger with ground cloves and chopped pecans.

There are a number of different mixes of this floating around, of different lengths. This one's from the Dil Se soundtrack, logically enough. Great scene, that, with them all on top of the train singing as it chugged along--something you'd see in the U.S. with a bad bit of bluescreen.
[Dil Se soundtrack @]

Charles Mingus -- Theme For Lester Young
An empty wrapper breezing down the street, and all the stores are closed and you're out of cigarettes.

Melancholy work from an irascible genius.
[Priceless Jazz @]

Happy holidays: Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hannukah, whatever celebration of light and companionship you gravitate towards in the coldest months.... Peace on earth and goodwill towards men, and other unfashionable wishes from a bloodthirsty nation. I'll be back with some vinyl finds in early January.

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Friday, December 16, 2005:

54 46 That's My Number, Buddy

Toots and the Maytals -- 54 46 That's My Number
Toots and the Maytals have done some amazing work--"Reggae Got Soul," "Pressure Drop," "Sweet & Dandy" ... and this one, too: immediate, breezy, with a casual groove and good vibes to spare.
[Toots and the Maytals -- Sweet and Lowdown @]

De La Soul -- Buddy (Native Tongue Decision)
This track is from a 33 1/3 with "Ghetto Thang," a vocal version, and a remix, plus "Buddy" and two remixes. The original is of course on 3 Feet High and Rising, a laid-back artsy hip-hop cornerstone; the remix didn't make it onto the re-release (though it is available on a $40 import, if that's your speed). The track features The Jungle Brothers, Q-Tip, Queen Latifah, and Monie Love.
[De La Soul -- The Best of import @]
[3 Feet High and Rising @]

These two are off my happy-making playlist in iTunes. What's on yours?


The reviews for that mix CD I sent out have been coming in; the mix has been getting the snot knocked out of it. Its reception, coupled with my trip, has been a wonderfully humbling experience. I still like most of the songs on the disc, with one notable exception; perhaps my taste in music is slipping. I'll start posting the tracks when that last review comes in, assuming the last reviewer doesn't beg off. I imagine it'll be like that bit at the end of Mortal Kombat where the opponent is swaying on his feet and a careful series of taps can rip his spine out for a trophy.


Q: What's with the big gap in posting?

A: Funny you should ask. I've been in San Francisco. Dropped altogether too much money on LPs, which should be arriving in a day or two. Found some great things which I'm looking forward to hearing again and posting. Amoeba Records was fifty shades of awesome; Rasputin less so (at least for digging in crates--it was more expensive and had a smaller selection and a snootier staff); Grooves was okay but didn't have anything I was interested in for myself (all the better since I'd already stacked up 34 lbs of LPs for shipping). Grooves did have a nice find, though: a sealed Suspense LP which starred Ida Lupino on the flip side. I expected it to make a nice gift for one of my hosts, who's into old-time radio and a fan of Lupino's work.

Also neat-o-riffic were Dog Eared Books (great store, horrible website), Borderlands Books (all the sci-fi/fantasy you could want ... well, unless you're Neil Gaiman or William Gibson), and Mariachi's Taqería (healthy Mexican with some great veggie burritos). And then hanging out with friends is always cool, as were the Father Ted episodes we watched sometimes.

Not cool was the first day of taking BART by myself--getting lost looking for the station, then getting on the right train in the wrong direction and riding it to the end, then getting off and taking the wrong train in the right direction, then getting off and taking the right train in the right direction but getting off at the wrong stop. The cap on the experience was getting lost again finding my destination. Five hours for a thirty minute trip. The second day traveling was better; and the third went off without a hitch except for a long bit walking where I was behind two women heading towards Market Street. They were keeping up a steady pace and I was too; then one of them started glancing to the side repeatedly. Finally she looked behind her, didn't like what she saw (me), then said something to stop her friend. They both stood to the side to let me pass, which was a bit embarrassing and made me feel guilty even though I hadn't done anything. But down I went, minding my own business, then I saw an open record store and stopped in. It smelled of fresh paint and there were two men on the left with rollers, finishing up the top of the wall. The records were already in the bookcases and uncovered, which is, I think, not how I would have done it while painting. But obviously the store wasn't open so I left, and who was in front of me again but those same two women. "Oh fuck," I thought, then realized I'd said it, then decided I'd follow them to the corner and turn whichever way they didn't. So that was that. It sucks that women can't always walk around feeling secure, even in the daylight, on a busy street, with a friend right there.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005:

Jonah Jones Quartet -- Blues Don't Care (Who's Got 'Em)

Jonah Jones
Jonah Jones -- Blues Don't Care (Who's Got 'Em)
Ah. Had some bad news, and more bad news, and then some more, about family. Not worth getting into, as a) my family wouldn't like it and b) it sounds like something made up anyway. Got me a bit on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Here's the Jonah Jones Quartet giving a happy-go-lucky spin on it: commiserating, patting you on the back, taking you out to some bawdy hilarious comedy and then a few rounds of beer. It's not some Monk/Coltrane/Davis session that leaves you puzzling it over for days, putting it on endless repeat to try to tease out the intricacies--it's simple, swinging Dixieland jazz, but that tone: so clear! And when he blows so hard it rattles--yes. Perfect.

The tune has lyrics, but not here. Has anyone heard any of the other versions? Any good? ... It's new to me, off another $1 find--rescued from a bin consisting mostly of prog rock, Christmas tunes, deservedly obscure soundtracks, and the requisite Whipped Cream and Other Delights and José Feliciano LPs (either it's international law that every used record bin have one of each, or both musicians sold one to every person on the planet).

The LP was re-released on CD, with a slight reordering and a couple bonus tracks. Then it went out of print again.

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Friday, December 02, 2005:

Sister Sledge -- If You Really Want Me

Sister Sledge -- If You Really Want Me
Funky guitars, hand claps, horns, strings, and a beautiful melody laying out terms and conditions. For me, this would have been a contender for Sister Sledge's Best Of comp, but it didn't make it--it's available on their All American Girls album, which was re-released on CD in the mid-90s and seems to have gone out of print since, and on a compilation of 80s club music, but that seems to be it. So here it is from vinyl.
[All American Girls @]


Thursday, December 01, 2005:

The Lovin' Spoonful -- Sportin' Life

The Lovin' Spoonful -- Sportin' Life
Today's track is from The Lovin' Spoonful's debut, Do You Believe in Magic, which is a mixture of rockabilly, electric blues, and folk-rock. This one is a slow rock song; the reverb and tremolo on the guitar push the song towards a mild surf sound, while the harmonica wails, moans, and laments, tying it to both country and the blues.

The song is traditional and has been covered by Dave van Ronk and Reverend Gary Davis, among others; the lyrics are more yearning than content, about a man finally considering his mother's plea to give up the nightlife and settle down. Yet the narrator seems less optimistic about the future than resigned about the past; he agrees he should give up the nightlife; and he wants to, or thinks he wants to, or maybe just wishes he wanted to. He might be meant to convince us or he might be meant to convince himself. In any case, there's a weary beauty to it, and Sebastian's delivery is spot-on.
[Do You Believe in Magic]