Wednesday, August 31, 2005:

George McCrae -- Take This Love

George McCrae -- Take This Love
George McCrae is probably best known for his track "Rock Your Baby," a funk/disco number that dominated the charts in 1974; it's a great track, but he's put out some other gems as well. "I Get Lifted" is particularly great, rocking a funky bassline with some handclaps and an understated piano; "I Can't Leave You Alone" is another great one, also charting in 1974, as is "Sing a Happy Song."

But "Take This Love" is what I'm posting, because I'm digging the light/carefree/funky vibes off it--the guitar line, the vocal melody and harmony, the piano break, and, yes, the cowbell. It's, uh, easy to go wrong with a cowbell, but this song comes across like a cool breeze in summer, a screened-in front porch with a swing, a barbecue and a pool party in the back. And, you know it, there's a room upstairs with bedside lamp and a bit of privacy.

The song is simple but not simple-minded; it wears its heart on its sleeve; it can't be bothered with duplicity: "Baby take this love of mine / and spread it all around you." It's a joyful ballad and a come-on at the same time; it probably worked as both.
[]: George McCrae -- The Very Best of. Track 8 is a slice of wet bread, but the rest is pretty tight. Though I wonder why the tempo on "I Get Lifted" is so much slower than it is on the Miami funk comp. Slowing it was not an improvement.


Monday, August 29, 2005:

Nancy Wilson: Don't Come Running Back To Me

Nancy Wilson -- Don't Come Running Back To Me
This song is two minutes and twelve seconds of gold: strong, piercing, melodic vocals, smart lyrics, clever instrumentation--bass on the right, strings on the left (bowed, sometimes pizzicato), horns on the right, all of it understated and modest, doing just as much as it should and not a bit more. Stone soup. A pop jazz nugget--brilliantly done, perfect in itself.

The lyrics have Wilson telling off her man--or, more probably, her former man--"If she's the one you want, good luck and goodbye / I won't stand in your way; I won't even try." It strikes me as strong, confident, not as salty as some of her work.

I posted Nancy Wilson earlier in the Shanty's run, when I knew even less what I was on about (rambling about politics? blech), though last time it was two tracks that were out of print. Last time it was "Lonely," a soft jazz number, and "The Real Me," a fiery number with a tight sassy delivery. The song was, oddly enough, better than some of the ones that made it onto the greatest-hits comp. I like Nancy Wilson's work, but tend to take it in small doses. She's apparently had hell with some of her relationships.
[] Nancy Wilson: Anthology


Friday, August 26, 2005:

Betty Wright

Betty Wright -- I'll Love You Forever
Betty Wright -- It's Hard to Stop (Doing Something When It's Good to You)

I had intended to post Betty Wright's "Clean Up Woman" with Afrika Bambaataa's "Zulu War Chant," but then I found that Wright's song was plenty popular without my help (twelve weeks on the chart, peaked at #6) and on listening to "Zulu War Chant" I realized that, for the most part, I didn't like the song anymore. I still like the parts with "this is something special for you" and the bridge with the sample chopped up a bit, and the sample itself is fine; I just wish Bambaataa had done more with it.

Luckily, Wright's got a solid enough catalogue that there's still material for a post.

"I'll Love You Forever" is out of print, digitized from the flipside to the 45" of "Clean Up Woman"; it's a sincere and romantic R&B number, uncomplicated, in much the way that a new love is. Betty knows the man might have been hurt before; she has too, but she's all about putting that behind and moving on, optimistic, the two of them treating each other right.

"It's Hard to Stop (Doing Something When It's Good to You)" is a funkier number, with a syncopated guitar line on the left, some great horns coming in on the right. Solid groove on this one; set the dancemeter to 8. And the vocals over it, man, that's tight. Lyrics have Betty with a cheating man, staying with him anyway because "he's a good lovin' man."

"It's Hard to Stop" is from Rhino's 20 track best-of collection of Wright's work, and there are any number of tracks on it I would have been happy posting. Good pickings there. "He's Bad Bad Bad," "Let Me Be Your Lovemaker," "Slip and Do It," and "Shoorah! Shoorah!" are all particularly good--fun work, great for a summer morning.


On some of these mp3blogs, people tend to put up a photo of the 45", I guess to prove they have it. I find it visually dull, and, besides, I've not got a digital camera; I have a Nikon FM2 and a flatbed scanner, so I won't be doing that. I'm not putting my vinyl on the flatbed and I'm not about to start paying $8 a pop for two dozen photos of nothing more than LPs and 45s. The covers, on the other hand--I'll continue to scan those in, giving the odd crop (Phil Judd, Mandrill, here's looking at you) or piecing them together in Photoshop (Cannonball, Brides of Funkenstein).

Elsewhere: mentioned some time back that someone had put the "pink elephants" scene of Dumbo with Sun Ra's cover of the original music; they were all agog about the results. I'm a bit underwhelmed: it starts out in synch and goes increasingly out of synch, as if Sun Ra had lost the plot or just didn't care. I saw the film a few days ago and I think Sun Ra's music is better, but the original music works better with the visuals. For starters, the horns and cymbal crashes correspond to events on screen.

That said, I wonder why the hell all the black men working in the rain putting up the tent have no face. Everyone else in the film does. And never mind about the crows at the end. Meh. Not as blatantly vile as their earlier stuff, I guess, with Mickey and Minnie and the rest giving a play in blackface. Oh, the height of comedy. I wonder when that one will come out on DVD.
[]: The Best of Betty Wright

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005:

even catfish get the blues

Skip James -- Catfish Blues
Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabaté -- Catfish Blues
Jimi Hendrix -- Catfish Blues
The songs here are three different versions of the blues standard "Catfish Blues," about a man who wishes he were a catfish, swimming at the bottom of the sea, because then all the women would be fishing after him. If you think it's metaphorical, you're uh, wrong. He really would like to be a catfish, and find some appetizing bit of food drifting past, and find a hook inside it. Also, the bit about two trains leaving a station, one at midnight, one during the day, that's not a metaphor either. Similarly, bluesmen who sang about squeezing lemons typically did so because they were chefs, each with a penchant for making pies and pastries and so forth. (For some reason they kept forgetting to ask to have the lemon cut in half. Maybe it just goes without saying.)

Right. Well, Skip James' version is traditional; it's a muted performance, soft-spoken, understated.

Taj Mahal's version is off Kulanjan, his collaboration with Toumani Diabaté. It's a somewhat louder song, with lovely interplay between guitar and kora; the album as a whole is a solid fusion of African music with its stepchild the blues. The album opens with "Queen Bee," which is just drop-dead gorgeous, seriously one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.

Jimi Hendrix' version is, well, typical Jimi.1 I like it, but then, I like his work in general. That said, nothing in the song really surprises me. (The same from someone less talented would, though ... no doubt I'm indulging in a double standard). (Oddly enough, I found the acoustic track on this disc wonderful and unexpected, and wish I could have heard more of his acoustic work).

On the subject of catfish, a former coworker mentioned once that he knew someone who claimed to go fishing for catfish and to take old bits of soap as bait. From this, the coworker concluded that catfish were stupid. My take on it was that if it's true (and effective) that you can catch catfish with soap, maybe catfish just have a different sense of taste. Birds at least do; they love hot peppers for some reason--just scarf them down one after another. That said, catfish do try to eat quite a wide range of things. They are, on the whole, not picky.

Below: pictorial evidence that even catfish get the blues.
catfish trying to eat a basketball
Found at, with the explanation that the catfish had tried to swallow the basketball and then exhausted itself trying (and failing) to dive. Someone caught it, cut the ball, and set the fish free.

1: A good, but possibly (probably?) apocryphal, story about Hendrix: I've heard the owner of Hyde & Zeke's in Gainesville say that his sister-in-law used to work at the building next to Electric Ladyland Studios, and that she used to go out to lunch with Hendrix--just friendly, nothing romantic. He says that she says that Hendrix said that he wanted to retire from the limelight for awhile and take guitar lessons--that Hendrix felt he'd gone as far as he could as a guitarist, and that also Miles Davis had invited him to jam with the band, which left Hendrix excited and intimidated. Supposedly Hendrix felt that Davis really knew what he was doing, and that he himself didn't. So his plan was to finish his contract and take a year off and then start playing with Davis. Which, as you know, never happened.

Now. Is it true? I don't know. It's a good story, though.
[]: Skip James -- Hardtime Killing Floor Blues
[]: Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabaté -- Kulanjan
[]: Jimi Hendrix -- Blues


Friday, August 19, 2005:

Mikis Theodorakis

Z cover
Mikis Theodorakis -- La Course De Manuel (Chase)
Mikis Theodorakis -- To Palikari Echi Kaimo (vocals: Maria Farandouli)
Mikis Theodorakis -- To Palikari Echi Kaimo (vocals: Mikis Theodorakis)
Walking home with a few sacks of groceries, you hear a snatch of music that grabs your attention. You turn to look, and find that the music is coming from a third-story loft, the window up halfway, propped with a board. After awhile you take a seat on the curb and set your groceries down beside you.

You sit fascinated, staring up at the window across the street, and then you notice that a group of wiry muscular heavily tattooed men have formed a half-circle behind you. They're closing in on the sides and they want to know what you're doing there. You point up at the window. The leader turns to look, and then the others follow suit. No one says anything for awhile.

Then, from your right: "I like the girl." You nod.
"I like the man more." This from your left. "It's like he has to try harder, but that makes it better." You nod to this too.

They sit down, one by one. A few songs later, you realize your ice cream sandwiches are probably melting. You open the box and pass them around. It's not enough. You look to see what else you have.

The next week you pass that same spot. The men are all there, hanging out on a stoop chit-chatting. The window across the street is closed. The men watch you approach. You tip your hat. They nod in response. From the back, someone asks if you have any ice cream sandwiches.


A bit of background: the last track offered here was one of two bonuses to the LP, which weren't included in the film. The film is a tightly-constructed political thriller about the assassination of a political figure and a government conspiracy to hide it (it sounds like it might be dull, ponderous, belabored--it's not; it's fascinating, fantastic, and should IMHO be well up on the IMDb top 250). At the beginning it's stated that any similarities between the characters and real people are deliberate. It's bold and brilliant work, on both the film and the music. Following the 1967 coup in Greece Theodorakis was jailed and then exiled for his political activities, but Costa-Gavras seems to have escaped that fate. Theodorakis is still alive and apparently going great guns, and no, thank you, I'd rather not debate his political views. :-)
wikipedia writeup on Mikis Theodorakis
Mikis Theodorakis' site
Z page at
[]: An out-of-print double-CD set of four soundtracks, if you have $100 USD you don't know what to spend on.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005:

Mandrill: Love One Another

Mandrill -- We Are One
Mandrill -- Love One Another
I picked this one up on a lark: saw the cover, was stunned briefly, laughed a bit, then decided I had to put it on. The first two tracks struck me as solid but nothing to write home about; the third, though, featuring what I'd thought was a banjo, was what convinced me to buy it. It's this banjo sound that hinted at the diversity I might find on the LP, though it turns out there's no banjo credited, so it's most likely a banjo tuning on the rhythm guitar (something John Lennon was known to do when he first started playing guitar).

"Love One Another" is the last track, a Latin/reggae/funk number that sounds like it would be at home on a War album. Striking work, and the lyrics are nice (though the pedant wonders--if we all love each other and treat each other like brothers, who exactly are we conquering? Or is this a peaceful sort of adversity-conquering?)

Regardless, it's solid music with a laid-back easygoing funk to it. I'll be on the lookout for any more LPs by the band.

This one has been re-released on CD with additional tracks.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005:

Experience in E: the revenge of Cannonball

Cannonball Adderley -- Exerience in E (excerpt)
I debated awhile whether to post this side, or an excerpt of the best part, or neither. The track is twenty minutes long, and in my opinion it goes from good to okay to downright brilliant to downright horrible and then back to merely good. I didn't want to post a twenty minute file and hose my hosting, or test anyone's patience (yours, or the RIAA's--even if the track is somewhat crackly, obscure, and long out of print). I also didn't know if I should post an excerpt--it seemed a bit like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the bread. But then Sean at Said the Gramophone said sometimes he ate peanut butter and jelly by the spoonful, so here's a spoonful.

Or, more properly, what we have is an army of caterpillars: methodically and implacably swarming the countryside, eating every leaf in sight, devastating the nation's crops. At some point they begin to pupate; they emerge; they show a severe and deadly beauty, like something out of a darkly humorous apocalyptic sci-fi film--one by Terry Gilliam, perhaps: butterflies flitting about, aimless, shooting laser beams and death rays. Behind it all is the evil genius Cannonball Adderley, who has become mad with power and the prospect of revenge. It turns out he's changed his mind and changed the goal: his enemy is now music itself; he will corner it; he will maul it so badly he can recognize it from a distance. You can hear him make this decision three minutes into the excerpt (eight minutes into the side). Harmony, melody, and rhythm fall under attack for nearly thirteen minutes, then muster the few remaining forces to sign a peace treaty. The terms are harsh, even criminal. Cannonball is pleased.

The LP cover shows a brown paper bag with bits of colored paper ripped off and taped in place crediting various people. It seems appropriate enough to the explorations on the LP. Whatever else it is, it is definitely an experience--uneven, patched together, yet something that I remembered for years and sought out (and wrote about before, with considerably less forgiveness).

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Monday, August 15, 2005:

Little Milton

Little Milton with guitar
Little Milton -- Cross My Heart
Little Milton -- I Feel So Bad
Little Milton -- Grits Ain't Groceries
Little Milton died August 4th, after having a stroke and going into a coma. I've been trying to write a post since then, but the problem was paring down the song selection. Getting from 43 to a dozen was fairly easy; going from there to six was more of a challenge; getting it down to two or three.... He had an impressive body of work to choose from: R&B, blues, jazz, soul, doo wop, 50s pop, all with a number of different themes and approaches to them. Much of his work has to do with relationships--like most of any music with lyrics, I suppose--and he's had a number of choice songs about faithfulness or infidelity, about giving up on a relationship or holding out hope.

"Cross My Heart" is a bit of doo wop, a Johnny Ace cover complete with sax and vibes; it's a mellow love song wearing its heart on its sleeve.

"I Feel So Bad" is a reworking of a Chuck Willis tune; it's got a solid groove propelling it; Milton's guitar work is spot-on, reminiscent a bit of B.B. King, but in a good way; the lyrics are about a man feeling indecisive and aimless after his woman leaves him.

"Grits Ain't Groceries" is a blistering track boasting about all that the narrator would do to prove his love--use a toothpick to dig a ten-foot ditch, fight lions with a switch, etc.

If I don't love you, babe:

( ) Grits ain't groceries
( ) Eggs ain't poultry
( ) Mona Lisa was a man
(•) All of the above

"Grits Ain't Groceries" is originally by Little Willie John, who has a name that time hasn't treated well. (He also had a short career to match his short stature and short temper--he died in prison, of pneumonia, a few years after stabbing someone in a fight).

Don't take these tracks to be representative of Little Milton's work, because the sample's far too small. :-) If you like these and think you might like to hear more, then you're probably right. I have both Anthology 1953-1961 and The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection, and they're both varied and accomplished, solid work. There's no song overlap between them, incidentally.
[Chess 50th Anniversary Collection @]
[Chess 50th Anniversary Collection @]

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Sunday, August 14, 2005:

Minnie the Moocher / the Man from Harlem

Cab Calloway -- Minnie the Moocher
Cab Calloway -- The Man from Harlem
1930s jazz today from Cab Calloway. "Minnie the Moocher" is probably his best-known song, but it's always good for a smile; "The Man from Harlem" isn't as well known but it's more of the same. Funny that "The Man from Harlem" came out at the tail-end of U.S. Prohibition, before that one was finally conceded as a loss, giving the U.S. something else to set its sights on. Marijuana was still legal, which is probably why the drug dealing seems so, well, unhidden.

The linguist in me wonders why women are "frails" in Calloway's songs--the progressive in me says "that's sexist"; the sociologist says he would like to read about gender expectations of women in 1930s New York. And then the music fan says "quiet, now, I'm trying to hear the piano."

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Thursday, August 11, 2005:

more Cannonball: Accent on Africa

Cannonball Adderley LP -- Accent on Africa
Cannonball Adderley -- Hamba Nami
Cannonball Adderley -- Gumba Gumba
"Hamba Nami" and "Gumba Gumba" are both from Accent on Africa, an LP produced by David Axelord and released on Capitol in 1968. There's no information on the LP about the crew, aside from Nat Adderley (courtesy Contemporary Records), though it credits Dick Brown as photographer and Axelrod as producer.

There is a bit of an explanation from Cannonball, though, stating that the compositions are Western, not traditional African music, and that they're "designed to show the influence rather than the pure form of African sources." There's also a brief explantion of each song, and a list of what kind of saxophone Cannonball used:

"Hamba Nami" -- means "walk with me" in Zulu. The composition feels similarly to a gospel walking song.

"Gumba Gumba" -- is a Pan-African expression meaning "Party Time" or "All-Night Session," and can be understood by any West African.

It's some exuberant, fiery work here: tight phrasing, driving percussion; the organ gives a solid backdrop; Cannonball's on point in his solos. In "Hamba Nami" he wanders a bit, but briskly, coming back to lock it down into an irresistible groove; in "Gumba Gumba" he's more of a tour guide, pointing out sights and interrelationships that most people might miss.

Cannonball used the Selmer Varitone on both of these tracks. Add that one to the Stitt and Harris recordings, I guess, and Coltrane's practice sessions at home.

There's a longer version of "Hamba Nami" on the Cannonball retrospective Phenix, which I don't have and haven't heard. From the sample at it sounds like the longer version has a rather different feel to it, and one that I'm not sure is an improvement.

This LP has some great music but is out of print; you can find it on ebay sometimes for fairly cheap.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005:

Cannonball Adderley, on film

Cannonball Adderley -- The Sleeper
Cannonball Adderley -- The Tune of the Hickory Stick
These two tracks are digitized from an LP which claims that it's Cannonball with John Coltrane, Wynton Kelly, and Paul Chambers--but, well, I'm not sure I believe it. I'm inclined to think that some of the tracks are from the 1959 session with Coltrane but that others are from Cannonball's cover of Duke's Jump for Joy LP. The page at for the album, re-released with With Strings, has a sample of "The Tune of the Hickory Stick" which sounds exactly the same. (update: Girish confirms that "The Tune of the Hickory Stick" is from Jump for Joy, with Bill Evans, Barry Galbraith, Milt Hinton and Jimmy Cobb but not John Coltrane.)

I like "The Tune of the Hickory Stick" in spite of not knowing why it's a tune of a hickory stick. I like the strings, I like Cannonball's work around them, I like the structure, I like the phrasing. (update: boblinn says: "Taught to the tune of a hickory stick" is a variant lyric in the song, "School Days, School Days." The verse goes: "School days, school days,/ Dear old golden rule days./ Readin' and writin' and 'rithmetic,/ Taught to the tune of a hickory stick." This last line refers to being paddled or switched with a hickory twig. Not sure if there's a connection.) (Tuwa says: It's possible, given that Jump for Joy was intended to be an anti-Uncle Tom, anti-Porgy and Bess musical giving a truer reflection of black life in the South. Maybe I can find more about this at the library; I seem to have run my course with Google queries.)

"The Sleeper" is just what it sounds like. At first I was rather unimpressed with it, but it grows on you. Don't take it for what it's not: it's not revolutionary Coltrane or Cannonball; it won't blow the top off your head and douse your brainpan in kerosene. What it is is solid, well-played, promising early work; it's the kind of thing that would get a producer out scouting for talent to come backstage and strike up a conversation. In a Hollywood film that man would be David Axelrod, who'd be a wealthy well-dressed huckster, and Cannonball would be down on his luck, out of money, newly evicted, still burning with his childhood dreams of being a famous musician, but considering going back home to take up his old job. John Coltrane, if he'd been in the concert, would probably get a glance from Axelrod--a shot of him down a hall somewhere talking to someone, or maybe knocking back a shot of whiskey--then a quick dismissal with a comment that he's just "okay"--"but you, kid--you've got fire. You're going places." Which would be true about Adderley and horribly misleading about Coltrane, but Hollywood's hardly known for its historical accuracy.

I love movies, and I love tackling them through various lists of ones someone thinks people "should" see. There's Ebert's list, which tends towards the somber and slightly arty, and Maltin's, which tends towards the slapstick and family-friendly, and Videohound's, which tends towards the thoughtful, and TimeOut's, which probably lives in mortal fear of suggesting anything outside the canon. Then there's IMDb's, which for a certain subset (U.S./U.K., mostly anglophile, middle-class) tends towards pop appeal. Of all the various lists I've collected, I think the IMDb's has been the most consistently entertaining--not the most profound, or artful, or life-changing, not the most informative or historically accurate, but just the most consistently entertaining. They're also overwhelmingly male: of everything on their top 250 list as of the end of July there were 166 directors and co-directors (167 if you count the man whose work was all thrown away on Wizard of Oz) and only two of them were women. Unfortunately, that's a fair reflection of film-making itself.

There are other complaints you could make about the list (an under-representation of most "great" directors--Fellini, Truffaut--or even "great" works--Mitt Liv Som Hund, Au Revoir Les Enfants, An Angel at My Table; the elevation of pop entertainment or soulless technique over vision or brilliance), but the list isn't meant to be definitive. It's not anything other than a running poll of what a self-selecting population of internet-savvy people likes, with whatever implications that leaves.

You could approach that dogmatically, with a scowl and a bit of finger-wagging, but there's not much point to it. For the most part people would laugh at you, or suggest you pull the stick out of your ass (check out this MeFi thread for some on-point and amusing criticisms). Or you could approach that Hollywood/pop-film mindest with a sharp eye and a bit of wit, which is what Terry Pratchett has done in Moving Pictures.

I've been reading through the Discworld series in mostly chronological order (not always reading the next-published book, but always reading the next published book in the given sub-series, e.g. the Witches, or Death, or the Watch). The books have all been solid, but by the time Pratchett wrote Moving Pictures I think he'd loosened up a bit; the writing seemed easier, more relaxed and confident. The characters are well-drawn, the motivations inherent to the personalities, the conflicts arising naturally from conflicting goals. These are just requirements of solid fiction, but Pratchett's also a humorist, and a good one. Very few of the jokes are predictable; some of them are downright brilliant; and they're all on-point. Pratchett makes good work of early film history, moving a couple of films back a bit for inclusion (e.g. Blown Away, a film about a capricious Southern Belle in a Worlde Gonne Madde). On the whole the book is a quick read, and if some of the targets are too big to ignore, they're also worth skewering, and skewered beautifully.

... Most of this film discussion was prompted by seeing House of the Flying Daggers last night, which so far is probably my least favorite Zhang Yimou film. As far as I can tell, he's being infected by Hollywood. Or maybe I'm just more aware of Hollywood's influence than I was when I started watching his films. In any case, it's not a fun thing to witness. <multiple spoiler warning>Fcrpvsvpnyyl: jgs jvgu gur "abg ernyyl qrnq" ovgf? Vg pna jbex nf n cybg cbvag va mbzovr svyzf naq inzcver svyzf, naq vg jbexrq ornhgvshyyl va Qvnobyvdhr naq Oybbq Fvzcyr, ohg sbe gur zbfg cneg V guvax vg'f whfg qnzarq naablvat. V jbhyqa'g zvaq vs vg jrer arire ntnva hfrq ba n znva punenpgre arne gur pyvznk bs n svyz. Vg'f nyzbfg arire qbar jryy.</spoiler>

Next post: less film, more Cannonball--and more in keeping with his namesake.
[]: With Strings/Jump for Joy
[]: Cannonball and Coltrane

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Sunday, August 07, 2005:

Horace X

Horace X
Horace X -- Strategy
So you're hanging out at the park when an Irish Setter comes up and sniffs your shins and your shoes. He licks your hand when you go to pet it, lets himself get scratched behind the ears, then runs off and comes back with a ball that he drops at your feet. He looks up at you, smiling, panting, eyebrows raised, then nuzzles the ball forward a bit. You pick it up and give it a good toss and he sprints after it: over a slight rise and across the park, and then he's back in a flash, scrambling to a stop just in front of you. He drops the ball at your feet and looks up, panting, smiling, eyebrows raised. He waits a beat and then nuzzles the ball forward.

A couple dozen tosses later you're wondering whether the dog will get tired before you do.

The Irish Setter is Horace X's music. The ball is the CD. You keep giving it a spin. You've been listening to it all day; you are, finally, beginning to tire of it; you think that maybe you should stop but the fun is just too contagious.

Horace X are a UK band mixing reggae, toasting, funky bumping slapping basslines, saxophones, fiddles (lovely, lovely fiddles), violas, some well-placed dub touches, and more kinetic energy than explodes out of a cannon. And, as I've said, they're a hell of a lot of fun.

"Strategy" is the title track from Horace X's recent EP; it's one of the slower songs on the disc. Other slap-happy bits of wonderfulness on it are "Puppet Show," "A Tune For Valerie," and "First Love" (which is available on the site for download).

Drew Miller at Omnium Records was kind enough to send me the CD twice--not because I wanted one for my best friend, though I do, but because I'd just returned from a longish trip and sent him the wrong address. I never did get the first one he sent, though I imagine someone at the dead letter office is very happy indeed.

Omnium Records, Horace X's label.
Strategy page at Omnium Records, with the hyperkinetic first track up for download.
Reviews and ordering

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Friday, August 05, 2005:

Half as much

Charlie Rich -- Half As Much
Charlie Rich -- There's Another Place I Can't Go
Charlie Rich: country/rock/pop/soul/R&B singer/crooner/wailer, and a mite more soulful than most country singers. But Rich probably doesn't need an introduction. I'm impressed with the way he mixes genres so seamlessly; plus he can sing, without aid from a computer program, which is always a plus.

"Half As Much" tells a story of a man who's convinced that his woman takes him for granted. It's a Hank* Curly Williams cover taken from Rich's Sings the Songs of Hank Williams and Others LP. The LP is pleasant, which isn't exactly a sterling recommendation--I think that on some tracks it's a real mismatch with Hank Williams' lyrics, which generally call for a gritter vocal approach. And then, on other tracks, the smooth approach has some surprsing rewards. The syncopated funkiness of "Hey Good Looking" was a nice surprise, and "Cold Cold Heart" took a surprisingly suave and melodic turn (two decades before another pianist came along and decided the song really belonged in every coffeehouse in the country), but for me the star of the show is this "Half As Much."

The LP was re-released as half of a double-disc set; the other disc was all R&B. I didn't manage to pick up that disc; it's gone out of print now, and at $50 for the set I think I'll stick with the slightly muddy sound.

"There's Another Place I Can Go" is off Feel Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich, which is still in print and has some fantastic tracks on it. It's about a relationship that's already over, the man left behind hurt by memories and feeling constrained by everything he has to avoid. It has a nicely understated bass line, some muted guitars, some wonderful organ and backup vocals; it would be easy to make it mournful and dirgelike, but the approach here is light and deft.
[Feels Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich @]

*Actually, it was written by Curly Williams and, yes, performed by Hank Williams and on a number of his recordings, but it was also covered by Patsy Cline, Rosemary Clooney, Ray Charles, and a number of others.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005:

Gwen McCrae

Gwen McCrae -- I Didn't Take Your Man
Gwen McCrae -- Keep the Fire Burning
These tracks today are off Gwen McCrae's 1982 LP On My Way, released some time after she and George had called it quits. I'm tempted to read into some of the lyrics more than I probably should, but let's just say Gwen sounds confident and happy enough throughout the LP. "Hang In" is a great track, an Ann Peebles cover, and "Doin' It" is great also. But "I Didn't Take Your Man" strikes me as more intriguing, more real somehow, and "Keep the Fire Burning" strikes me as more fun than any of those three, as great as they are.

"I Didn't Take Your Man" is (like "Hang In") an Ann Peebles cover; this one explains that it was the other woman's bad choices that led to her man running off: "If you had taken the time to treat him with a little respect / he wouldn't be out here looking for love somewhere else." Oh man. And then, the gloating at the end? The lyrics are from the "stab, then twist" school; still, the song is forty shades of awesome.

"Keep the Fire Burning" is (like "Doin' It") a saucy dance number that should get you all loose-limbed and joyful. Go on, give it a shot.

"Keep the Fire Burning" seems to be on CD on Natural High: 2-Step Soul, Boogie Fusion & Rare Groove ( page) and on Club Connection (also availabler at, but as a "UK Club remix," which may or may not be what you're after. So caveat emptor and all that.

I'm starting to love finding all these great LPs (or, sometimes, just a few great tracks on them) that are out of print. To me, at least, posting them stands as sort of a means of keeping the music alive, giving it more social currency. They're great songs in the first place, but there's also just something fascinating about them as cultural artefacts. Yet there's any number of different sets of circumstances that can lead to something with obvious merit being cast off and forgotten.

An interview with Gwen McCrae
A writeup of her work

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Monday, August 01, 2005:

Otis Rush

Otis Rush -- All Your Love (I Miss Loving)
Otis Rush -- My Love Will Never Die
These two should have been companion pieces to the Bobby Bland, but ah well. I'd been smitten by the joie de vivre of the Phil Judd so he went next, and then after I'd posted those, Otis Rush came along and smote me as well. I knew he was good, but it was a pleasant surprise to listen to him again and find out just how good.

"All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" sounds like the kind of track Reverend Frost might post. On display: pianos, sax on backup, a distorted guitar riff, some latin percussion, and then that solo that comes in sounding like a cross between surf music and a very stoned Jimmy Page. Wonderfully odd and addictive.

"My Love Will Never Die" sounds like a more traditional electric blues number; it's hard to miss the influence on Led Zeppelin (harder still if you've listened to some of Rush's other tracks, like his cover of Willie Dixon's "I Can't Quit You Baby.") Again with the wailing horns and the piano; and I love that bit where the guitar and the vocals are mimicking each other.

Not much more to say, except that this is a rock solid CD and Otis Rush needs a bit more praise. (Can you give me "hallelujah." Can you give me "praise the Lord.")

Chicago blues doesn't get much better than this. biography of Otis Rush
another biography
[Essential Collection: The Classic Cobra Recordings 1956-1958 @]