Brazil

Their first album! Definitive Tropicalia tunes: 'A Minha Menina', 'Bat Macumba, 'Ave Gengis Khan'...

Tropicália would have been vastly different without Os Mutantes’ reckless innovation and humor. Their debut album could only have been made in São Paulo, the most modern of Latin American cities. Along with Rita Lee, brothers Arnaldo Baptista and Sérgio Dias played in a few different teen rock bands around town before meeting Rogério Duprat, an avant-garde composer and arranger, who in turn introduced the trio to Gilberto Gil. Full of classic compositions by Veloso, Gil, and Jorge Ben, as well as covers of the Mamas and the Papas and Françoise Hardy, Os Mutantes’ debut is arguably the best and most representative album of the Tropicália era. –Allen Thayer

The band's debut album, Os Mutantes, is far and away their best -- a wildly inventive trip that assimilates orchestral pop, whimsical psychedelia, musique concrète, found-sound environments -- and that's just the first song! Elsewhere there are nods to Carnaval, albeit with distinct hippie sensibilities, incorporating fuzztone guitars and go-go basslines. Two tracks, "O Relogio" and "Le Premier Bonheur du Jour," work through pastoral French pop, sounding closer to the Swingle Singers than Gilberto Gil. Though not all of the experimentation succeeds -- the languid Brazilian blues of "Baby" is rather cumbersome -- and pop/rock listeners may have a hard time finding the hooks, Os Mutantes' first album is an astonishing listen. It's far more experimental than any of the albums produced by the era's first-rate psychedelic bands of Britain or America. -AllMusic Review by John Bush

In his memoir, Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil, Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso recalls the first time his tropicalismo compatriots mentioned Os Mutantes: 

"They're still kids, and they know everything," they said in a frightened tone. "It can"t be true!"

But if fear struck the tropicalistas, a fledgling group of composers and poets diametrically opposed to the musical traditions of mainstream Brazilian pop, it can be said that it was an intrigued fear. After all, to them, the talent of Os Mutantes seemed almost too good to be true. The trio of teenagers from Sao Paolo, Rita Lee and the brothers Arnoldo and Sergio Baptista, had already developed an air of sophisticated anarchy about themselves. It reflected in their personalities and their musical precociousness. And though decidedly amateur, the tropicalistas saw in them an iconoclastic spark of daring that echoed their own. 

Not long after meeting Rogerio Duprat, a tropicalista and follower of avant-garde music, Os Mutantes joined the small but impassioned group of artists. It was a perfect fit: a fluid creative movement unrestrained by genre or medium, but anchored by a overriding reflective, satirical and irreverent modus operandi. Working closely with Duprat and Gilberto Gil, a rising Brazilian songwriter, the trio gained national attention at the country's national pop music competition in 1967. Backing Gil, the band got on stage, colorful, extroverted and armed with electric guitars, and played "Domingo no Parque," a glowing demonstration of tropicalia music. The song was a cross between bossa nova, the Afro-rhythms of northeastern Brazil and harmonious Beatlesque vocals, an affront to the strain of nationalistic pop prevalent at the festival. 

Unsurprisingly, the audience was overwhelmingly antagonistic. 

Their first album, self-titled, came a year later. As the first horn-laden fusillade is fired, it's apparent that Os Mutantes follows in the steps of "Domingo no Parque." The songs call on casserole of influence, picking and choosing from everything that surrounded the band, from British psychedelic pop to Carnivale music. 

Album opener "Panis et Circenses" demonstrates this perfectly, a complete mood-swing from one minute to another. The band flees from the dreamy rain of organs and harmonies under and into the canopy of a garage rock crescendo, right before the song collapses on itself in a frenetic heap. And just when you think the tune has taken you as far as it can go, sound cuts out and we hear producer Manoel Barenbein's voice, Strauss' "Blue Danube" and the sounds of an imaginary dining room feast, complete with clinking clanking glass and silverware. 

"Panis et Circenses" is attack on the aural senses, and culturally, it's an attack on certain sedentary Brazilian lifestyles of the tune. The song raises the bar up high for the rest of album, but its real intent is to display each function of Os Mutantes in microcosm. 

First, there are Duprat's arrangements. They're imbued with a fragile, porcelain beauty, yet still playful and ebullient, undoubtedly indebted to John Cage as well as the baroque pop of the Beatles and other bands. Though they're not as dominate elsewhere as they are on "Panis," the little touches to each song, things that one might imagine Duprat suggesting, undoubtedly make the album. Given the trio's own willingness to depart from the plot (for example, replacing snare hits with the sound of bug spray on the moody French standard "Le Premier Bonheur du Jour"), it's easy to imagine that anything Duprat might have suggested would easily align with the twisted minds of the Mutantes.

Only so much can be attributed to Duprat, though. The Mutantes' own experimental will exerts itself strongly throughout the album, prompted by the technologically deprived record studios of Brazil. The strongest example comes from Claudio Cesar, elder brother of Arnoldo and Sergio and the "fourth Mutante," who engineers several effects for his little brothers, most notably the strident buzzsaw guitars of "Minha Menina" and "Bat Macumba." Decidedly out of place on these rhythmically-charged tracks, the fiery guitars can be read as another volley fired against contemporaneous Brazilian pop reverence of traditional acoustic music.

In spite of these uniquely Mutantes tricks, the fingerprints of other tropicalistas are more plaster cast than mere passable smudges. Veloso and Gil, the musical figureheads of the tropicalismo movement, offered multiple compositions for Os Mutantes on their debut; "Panis," "Bat Macumba," "Trem Fantasma" and one of the movement's signature tracks, "Baby" all sprung from either one of the duo or as a collaboration between the two in conjunction with the band. Jorge Ben, who wrote and plays on "Minha Menina," also looms long over the song writing of the album. If, at this point in their career, the Mutantes were not strong song writers, it's hard to tell thanks to the many contributions from established pens of Ben, Veloso and Gil.

In any case, the few songs the Mutantes do pen themselves tend towards pastiches of Bahian rhythms and blues pop. "Senhor F," a tune that plays up an imported American cabaret blues influence, has the dubious honor of being the worst track here. The swinging "Tempo No Tempo" is more appreciable, but still fairly hit or miss. 

However, it's easy to argue in favor of the group's talent on the alternately airy and jagged "O Relogio." The band's finest achievement of themselves at this point, "O Relogio" works its way from Rita Lee's angelic vocal presence to an enjoyably garish tropicalia refrain, then back to the reverie of bass, keyboards and Lee. "Trem Fantasma," a song writing collaboration between Veloso and the band is also a strong tune, reflective of the kind of songs Veloso himself was recording at the time. A marchina rhythm introduces the track, augmented by a soulful horn arrangement that plows forward with fierce energy. The album closer, "Ave, Genghis Khan" is also a worthy demonstration of the band's unique brand of psychedelic pop, complete with demonstrations of freakout and finesse.

Without a doubt, Os Mutantes provides a very awkward meal for a music listener to digest. Arguably their most challenging and untamed album, the first self-titled release is psychedelic pop without bar, jumpy, jagged and underproduced. Later works would paint the image of a band interested in developing the Brazilian rock sound alongside contemporaries like Roberto Carlos, rather than the tropicalistas. But this is as much the product of the arrest and subsequent exile of many founding members of the movement. And that's a story for another place, another time.

Regardless, the first recorded incarnation of Os Mutantes is some of the most mind-boggling creative pop music to come out of the late 60's, easily on par with that of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, the Kinks or any of the other English invaders. With everything that was stacked against the band and their knit of creative contemporaries, from aggressive politicos to unreceptive audiences, Os Mutantes can be at least considered a testiment to ambition. It'll make you scratch your head and wonder what really is possible. It might even help you reimagine the limits of 60's pop. This album can't be true, but somehow it is. -Robert Crumb

1. Panis Et Circenses 3:40
2. A Minha Menina 4:45
3. O Relógio 3:32
4. Adeus Maria Fulô 3:06
5. Baby 3:02
6. Senhor F 2:36
7. Bat Macumba 3:10
8. Le Premier Bonheur Du Jour 3:40
9. Trem Fantasma 3:19
10. Tempo No Tempo (Once Was A Time I Thought) 1:49
11. Ave, Gengis Khan 3:51

Kentucky

For banjo lovers.

''The other reviewer is right that Buell Kazee does talk quite a bit about the history of songs and other ideas about the banjo itself. It does take up nearly half the album. The tunes here are great...but the conversations with Buell Kazee are intimate and really gives the listener the kind of insight I wish we had more of in regards to old tunes. Excellent for fans of old-time music...interested in history or not...it's a wonderful album to add to your collection.'' -Jon

Buell Kazee (1900-1976) grew up playing the five-string banjo in the traditional frailing style ("thrashing" style, as he called it). As a teenager, he began to study religion and ended up spending most of his life as a preacher. Despite his view that banjo music "did not harmonize" with the life of the church, he remained a musician and began recording in 1927 (several of his recordings appear on the Anthology of American Folk Music. Unusual for a mountain musician, Kazee had formal training in voice, and has an operatic tone at times. This style is particularly noticeable on "Dance Around My Pretty Little Miss." Liner notes include an autobiographical article by Kazee and complete song lyrics.

Originally recorded in 1958 for the Folkways label, Sings and Plays is now available on CD and cassette on a made-to-order basis, ordered directly from the Smithsonian label website. These 18 sides include as much oral history as they do fine banjo frailing. Kazee's expert clawhammer playing is the reason this collection remains essential for fans of the archaic performance style. His stories and impromptu banjo lessons are likewise worthwhile. Kazee's brittle singing voice, on the other hand, may require some getting used to for unprepared listeners. But the old familiar tales of "John Hardy" and "Darling Corey" sound like today's breaking news as this Kentucky minister performs them. This is an exceptional collection that chronicles an age of American musical tradition (and spirit) long since lost to history and third-generation imitations. Photocopies of the album's original notes and lyric sheet are included with each order. -AllMusic Review by Brian Beatty

Buell Kazee was a minister who played banjo and sang the ancient songs of his beloved Kentucky mountains during the 1920s. Considered one of the very best folk singers in U.S. history, he was a master of the high, "lonesome" singing style of the Appalachian balladeer. Kazee was born in the foothill town of Burton Fork, KY, and learned most of his songs from his family. He began picking banjo at age five and often played during local gatherings. He prepared for the clergy even as a teen and after high school began studying English, Greek, and Latin at Georgetown College, KY. It was there that he began to understand the significance of his family and friends' traditional songs. Kazee formally studied singing and music in order to transcribe the old songs and make them more contemporary. Following his graduation in 1925, he gave a "folk music" concert at the University of Kentucky. He wore a tie and tails while playing the banjo and piano, sang in his specially trained "formal" voice, and gave lectures about the history of the songs. The show was a great success, so he repeated it several times over the following years.
In 1927, he was asked to record the songs for Brunswick in New York, and he was signed to the label on the condition that he sing using his high, tight "mountain" voice and forego his formal vocal training. Over the next two years, he recorded over 50 songs backed by New York musicians. Many were religious, but others ranged from traditional to popular ballads, including "Lady Gay," "The Sporting Bachelors," and "The Orphan Girl." His biggest hit was a version of "On Top of Old Smoky" called "Little Mohee," which sold over 15,000 copies. In the early '30s, the recently married Kazee lost interest in pursuing a music career and stopped touring to become the minister of a church in Morehead, KY. For the next 22 years, he only sang publicly at revival meetings. Much later, he began using folk themes to compose formal music, such as a cantata-based on the old Sacred Harp piece "The White Pilgrim." During the folk revival of the early '60s, he made a comeback and was one of the first to appear at the Newport festivals. In addition to preaching and singing, Kazee also wrote three religious books and a book on banjo playing. He died in 1976. -Sandra Brennan, All Music Guide

1. East Virginia 4:12
2. Butcher's Boy 4:29
3. Dance Around My Pretty Little Miss 8:55
4. Wagoner's Lad 3:11
5. Yellow Pups / Fox Chase 5:02
6. John Hardy 2:38
7. John Henry 2:29
8. The Moonshiner 1:50
9. Darling Corey 1:47
10. Cumberland Gap 1:55
11. Cock Robin 2:15
12. Old Grey Mare 1:28
13. Amazing Grace 2:23
14. When Moses 2:32
15. My Christian Friends 3:50
16. Bread Of Heaven 2:40
17. Eternity 2:38
18. The White Pilgrim 0:47

South Africa

Masekela as a young trumpeter from the mid-'60s. Rare, but clearly his best format and playing. -AllMusic

Grrr: Hear this musical lion roar!

"Grrr" is one of Hugh Masekela's real Jazz albums. This 1966 gem predates his later pop-infused world music projects. This is thirty-two minutes of straight Jazz bliss. Naturally, "Grrr" is infused with flavors of Township Jazz. Inspired by Mirabi, Masekela's trumpet work is simply glorious. He plays with a signature phrasing and sonic vocabulary that is his own brasscentric language. The band consists of traps, bass and the occasional guitar or piano. The drums and percussion lend a South African feel to many of the compositions. The production is a bit dated, but always charming. Mostly an instrumental effort, 'Umaningi Bona' features some South African background singers. There really aren't any highlights, but the album's fantastic sound is consistently compelling. Given the real Jazz angle, this album compliments Masekela's debut, "The Lasting Impressions Of Ooga Booga." As the title suggests, "Grrr" is indeed played by a musical lion. -Delite Rancher

"I can't find much else to say. The song features Hugh at his best (in my opinion), before he got a little TOO into the world vibe and also before he got into synthesizers. Here, his vibrant powerful trumpet voice is at its best, and his arrangements perfectly bridge the gap between American jazz and South African township jive. Of particular note is the gorgeous ballad Ntjilo-Ntjilo, which I am having difficulty describing without expletives (so just take my word for it). Two quibbles with the CD however. One is that the names of the other performers are lost - as Hugh had left for the United States by this album it's hard to assume anyone (except maybe Jonas Gwangwa who is credited with arranging a track). The second is the occasionally atrocious sound quality. Fortunately, the dips in the sound are rare...but when they occur they really hurt the otherwise glorious music. Ultimately though, the sound problems disappear as far as listening is concerned. This is amazing music; check it out." -S. Hawkins

1. U. Dwi 3:14
2. Zulu And The Mexican 3:22
3. Emavungweni 3:08
4. Ntjilo-Ntjilo 4:12
5. Sharpville 3:29
6. Umaningi Bona 3:17
7. Sipho 3:44
8. 'Kwa-Blaney 2:12
9. Mra 3:08
10. Phatsha-Phatsha 2:55

Kenya

University of Nairobi graduate in 1990 and with postgraduate studies in the US, Sam Chege is not the typical Kenyan musician. Raised by his grandmother in rural central Kenya, Chege received a solid grounding in Kikuyu music and oral tradition. For over 10 years he was a music journalist writing about Kenyan music in newspapers and magazines. His own music is rooted in Kikuyu musical traditions which have been fused with other local Kenyan and Congolese styles. "Kickin" is a great example of Kikuyu benga music with its solid pulsing kick drum, interlocking guitars (with seriously delayed reverb), providing an interesting contrast to the Luo benga of D.O. Misiani, George Ramogi, or Victoria Kings. Lively, fun music with excellent sound quality. -eastafricanmusic

A Kenyan music journalist whose shopkeeper parents struggled to send him to college, Chege recorded these 12 unassuming songs in Nairobi with session men off the street and backup singers from the university. Although he reports significant sales, his profits haven't cut his straight career off at the pass--he's now studying at Iowa. So this collection is more Afropop in intent than in fact, and while we can't call it Afrosemipop, its self-consciously recombinant formalism--mixing, Chege reports, Swahili taarab, South African kwela, and Congolese soukous over Kenyan benga, tingeing Kikuyu vocal technique with "the poetic intonations of North Africa"--is more Neil Tennant than Sam Mangwana. Credit its irresistible tune appeal to the liquid tonal patterns of the underrecorded Kikuyu language. Fleshed out with a brightness, quickness, and rhythmic complexity absent from the classic folkish Afropop it superficially recalls, this appeal isn't just rare, it's unique. Sweet, cheerful, full of fun--at times almost a dream of happy happy. Yeah sure. Song subjects include suicide, domestic violence, and trading love in on money. -robertchristgau

Sam Chege was born in central Kenya and attended the University of Nairobi. While at the university, he formed his first music group made up of fellow students and performed for the university audience. Impressed with his performances, the university administration offered to sponsor him to record his first disc, Uthoni wa Thoni. The disc was followed by an album which was a huge success in Kenya. He worked and performed in Kenya for several years before signing up with a record company in the USA. His CD, Kickin' Kikuyu Style, was produced in the USA using the latest technology and has been a big seller around the world. The CD has received glowing tributes in the media and has been played in radio stations in the USA, Canada, Japan, France, Britain and in Latin American countries. He lives in the USA.

What the critics say about the CD: In an article that appeared in the Village Voice (a respected New York newspaper) Robert Christgau, the guru of pop music, had this to say about Chege's CD: 'Fleshed out with a brightness, quickness, and rhythmic complexity absent from the classic Afropop, this appeal isn't jut rare, it's unique. Sweet, cheerful, full of fun--at times almost a dream of happy happy...' The Africa Music Review wrote: 'Chege's band pulls together the expected mix of southern African, Nigerian and Zairean musical sounds, then gives them his own unique local twist. Chege is well educated, well traveled... This gives his music not only an international feel but a certain wit and depth that shows through every track. But at it's heart, this is jumping dance music with an incessant groove, with so much more character than the usual Paris-pop releases we've grown used to.' Douglas Paterson, a music producer and critic based in Seattle, USA, wrote in his review: 'Chege's CD is rooted in Kikuyu musical traditions which have been fused with other local Kenyan and Congolese styles. It is a great example of Kikuyu benga music with it's solid pulsing kick drum and interlocking guitars.' John Storm Roberts, a music producer and critic wrote in his review: 'The young Kikuyu artist, Sam Chege, has a unique take on Kenyan benga, amplifying it's fast urban beat with the fluid rhythms of Zairian soukous and using the result to back songs that draw from the traditional and contemporary singing of central Kenya's Kikuyu. The results are both highly personal and deeply rooted. Besides being gorgeous, of course...' The Icon newspaper in Iowa, USA, wrote in it's review: 'Chege has a charismatic presence with a jovial smile...Chege deals with the real details of life and the music is upbeat even when the subject is serious...He is a professional musician with a global audience...'

Writing for French and German audiences JSR had this to say: 'Le jeune artiste Sam Chege approche la musique 'benga' du Kenya d' une facon unique, amplifiant ses rapides rhythmes urbaines avec la fluidite, du soukous Zairois. Il met la resultat au service de chansons qui pluisent le chant traditionnel et contemporain des Kikuyu de Kenya central, la plus grande ethnie du pays. Le resultat est a la fois purement personnel et profondement enracine dans sa culture natale. Tout en etant franchement ravissant... Die Music des jungen Ostafrikanischen Artist Sam Chege bereichert die schnelle Rythmen des Benga von Keny Flussigkeit des soukous von Zaire. Dann braucht er sie um das traditionelle bzw. Moderne Gesang der Kikuyu, die grosste Volksgruppe von Kenya, zu begleiten. Das Resultat ist sowohl ganz personlich als tief i'm Kultur der gewurtz. Und auch einfach ganz schon...

1. Mwari Wa Munyao 5:12
2. Mama Na Tata 5:01
3. Abi 5:11
4. Victoria 4:46
5. Nduraga Na Maithori 5:02
6. Ngoma Cia Wendo 4:45
7. Sony 5:01
8. Clementina 4:50
9. Giki Ni Kigeranio 5:11
10. Ndiakuhenagia 5:06
11. Nyina Wa Judy 5:14
12. Gichanjama Ruci-ini 5:11

Jamaica

Reissue of deejay Zukie's classic 1976 album, first released in the UK on the old Klik label. Zukie rides the Revolutionaries epochal rockers rhythm tracks with his customary aplomb, the album is full of his own productions including cuts to tracks by Junior Ross & The Spear and Errol Dunkley as well as the stupendous Don't Get Crazy which originally emerged on a Yabby U label and is cut of Tony Brevette's gorgeous Don't Get Weary. The CD reissue is augmented by the dubs to Pick Up The Rockers and MPLA itself.

If any album could conjure up the revolutionary spirit of Jamaica in the mid 1970's, Tapper Zukie's invincible M.P.L.A. set would surely be a fighting contender. The coming together of great rhythms and meaningful lyrics in a time of unrest in the country seemed to have made the album all the more urgent and relevant. As time would tell it would also prove to be a lasting success, not only with the hard core reggae fans but also their punk counterparts. Who embraced its militant themes and crossed the album over to a whole new audience.

Tapper Zukie (b. David Sinclair, Kingston, Jamaica.) had already returned from a trip to London England by the mid 70's. Initially sent with help from his parents, brother Blackbeard and producer Bunny 'Striker' Lee to remove the youth from his troublesome ways on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica. He had performed some live shows in London and made some recordings for Larry Lawrence, that produced his debut 'Jump and Twist'. Alongside other recordings that would emerge as his 'Man A Warrior' set. But feeling homesick he had returned to Jamaica in 1974 to work with Bunny Lee. His work would consist of arranging sessions and collecting payments to bodyguard, the now very successful producer. His frustration of Bunny Lee's reluctance to record him led him cutting 'Judge I Oh Lord' for producer Lloydie Slim. Bunny Lee's then recording of Tapper's 'Natty Dread Don't Cry' and its subsequent release aboard, led to an altercation between Tapper and producer. The police had to be called and an offer to provide the singer with a set of rhythms put this matter to rest.The eight rhythms and a further two from Jo Jo Hookim and Ossie Hibbert alongside some free studio time at King Tubby's Studio would result in the M.P.L.A album.

The rhythm provided by Jo Jo Hookim was a Channel One studio cut by The Revolutionaires based on Little Richards 'Freedom Blues' and provided the backdrop to M.P.L.A.The Ossie Hibbert rhythm again cut at Channel One based on The Royals 'Pick Up The Rockers' would provide the backdrop to Tapper's 'Pick Up The Rockers'. These and the remaining Bunny Lee rhythms, were all cut in a one hour session, at King Tubby's Studio. 'Don't Get Crazy' cut on a rhythm based on the Joe Frazier rhythm to Tony Brevett's 'Don't Get Weary'.'Go De Natty' cut on Cornell Campbell's 'Please Be True', originally a cut to Alexander Henry's 'Please Be True'. 'Stop The Gun Shooting' runs over Horace Andy's 'Skylarking'.'Ital Pot' cut on Johnny Clarke's version of Burning Spear's 'Creation Rebel. 'Marcus' see's Tapper professing over Johnny Clarke's 'Poor Marcus' .'Chalice To Chalice' pulls on Johnny Clarke's 'Give Me a Love',' Don't Deal With Babylon' answers Junior Ross and The Spears 'Babylon Fall' and 'Freedom' rides on the great rhythm of Junior Ross and The Spears 'Liberty'. An outstanding album cut by one of Jamaica's finest DJ's and producers the mighty Tapper Zukie. We hope you enjoy this now timeless set. -deejay.de

1. Pick Up the Rockers 3:13
2. M.P.L.A. 3:10
3. Don't Get Crazy 3:08
4. Go De Natty 2:56
5. Stop the Gun Shooting 3:18
6. Ital Pot 3:46
7. Marcus 3:32
8. Chalice To Chalice 3:12
9. Don't Deal With Babylon 3:20
10. Freedom 3:00
Bonus Tracks
11. Pick Up the Dub 3:12
12. Dub M.P.L.A. 3:07

Notes
Aka (1976)

Pennsylvania

I just love how they go through the archives and dig out gems that haven't been heard before. Sun Ra's music still is a wonderful, ever surprising journey. -Daniel Vollstedt

Strut and Art Yard present another exclusive from the vast catalogue of cosmic jazz pioneer Sun Ra: a previously unreleased radio session most likely recorded at the WXPN FM radio studios in Philadelphia, 1974-5. 

This newly discovered session features a new version of Ra’s earlier ‘Island In The Sun’, a romping, raucous rendition of ‘Unmask The Batman’ and the first studio recording of ‘I’ll Wait For You’ There is no bass player on the sessions and Ra’s left hand beats out a rhythmic bass pattern on the piano. All tracks are remastered directly from the original tapes. The album package features a newly commissioned painting by legendary Bristol urban artist Guy Denning and new sleeve notes by Paul Griffiths. 

Recently discovered in the Sun Ra archive, the recording forms part of a series of sessions that Ra and the Arkestra recorded for WXPN-FM between 1974 and 1980. The ‘Antique Blacks’ album was recorded there in ’74. Based on the campus of The University of Pennsylvania, WXPN’s station manager Jules Epstein and music director Russ Woessner were instrumental in the exposure and recording of The Arkestra in their broadcast production studios. Geno Barnhart, founder of The Empty Foxhole concert collective, Jules and Russ broadcast an on-going series of jazz concerts covering a wide spectrum. The Arkestra performed at The Foxhole in Philly many times from 1974.

In 1974, Sun Ra found a musical home on the University of Pennsylvania campus, in the studio of public radio station WXPN. It was a scrappy, student-run venture, and a great spot for a jazz composer and self-proclaimed alien. He’d record at the station several times until 1980. For Sun Ra, an Afrofuturist who believed true peace for black people resided in outer space, finding solace anywhere on Earth was quite a surprise.

Newly released by Art Yard, Of Abstract Dreams collects a portion of the music Sun Ra performed on WXPN. Here, the cosmic jazz icon plays alternate versions of “Island in the Sun,” “New Dawn,” “Unmask the Batman” and “I’ll Wait For You,” tweaking the tracks’ arrangements while maintaining the songs’ original structures. Take “Island…” as an example: A Latin-influenced jam from 1974’s The Invisible Shield, Sun Ra quickens the rhythm with thicker percussion, adding harmonic chants that bolster the track’s divine essence. “Unmask the Batman” is also given new life on this set: with its deep scatting, piano stabs and winding horns, the song properly retains the original’s blustery swing.

Then there’s “I’ll Wait For You,” a robust funk-fusion cut that appears on Strange Celestial Road. A love story occurring across “many light years in space,” the stripped-down composition allows Sun Ra’s vocals to cut through, giving them adequate shine. Of Abstract Dreams is the sound of a true genius fully aligned with his spirituality. Though the artist had long mastered the path of space travel through music, this set feels decidedly comfortable, as if he’d finally ascended to a higher level of consciousness. While Abstract is a fleeting glimpse, it’s still an essential stop in Sun Ra’s grand voyage. –Marcus J. Moore

1. Island In The Sun 8:36
2. New Dawn 10:31
3. Unmask The Batman 6:06
4. I'll Wait For You 14:02

Japan

Rare 60's Tracks on CD Compiled for Club DJ S by Yasuhiro Konishi and Komoesuta Yaegashi. Included here are covers of "Aquarius" and "Louie Louie" among others. I highly recommend it. Put it on and you've got a party.

Two excellent archival collections compiled by Yasuharu Konishi (P5) and Comoesta Yaegashi (ex-Fifth Garden) of otherwise impossible-to-find Japanese club music mostly from the late '60s/early '70s. Ostensibly the "pop" collection, "Good Night Tokyo" can get rather jazzy at times while the "jazz" collection often delves into kitschy pop. The main difference is that "Good Night Tokyo" consists mostly of vocal tracks while "Midnight" is almost entirely instrumental. What's evident on both collections is the ability of the Japanese to devour Western pop conventions and recombine them into something absolutely crazy -- all the while retaining a sense of innocence at a time when the West had all but lost it. Lounge jazz, Hammond organ-driven go-go, bossa nova, funky breaks -- it's all here with nearly 20 tracks per disk. The long-lost source code for modern Japanese acts like Pizzicato Five and Fantastic Plastic Machine. (TC)

1. Yukio Ohta & His Humming Birds - Villa 88 2:06
2. Unknown Artist - Play Girl - Main Theme 1:41
3. The Mojo - So Long Baby 2:41
4. Jackey Yoshikawa & His Blue Comets - Lovers Shake 2:13
5. Reiko Mari - In The Town 2:23
6. Akira Ishikawa - It Happened On Saturday Night2:01
7. El & Gimgin - Aquarius 2:19
8. Miki Hirayama - Itsuka Doko Kade 2:47
9. Yukari Ito With The Green Ginger - And Now I Know 3:28
10. D'Swooners - I Can Hear You Calling 3:51
11. The Mojo - Crazy Midnight 2:27
12. Mieko Hirota - A Lonely Summer 2:10
13. J. Girls - The World Of Yellow 2:57
14. Katsuko Kanai - Mini Mini Girl 1:59
15. Jackey Yoshikawa & His Blue Comets - Louie Louie 2:36
16. Les Jeunes Etoiles - Beyer No. 91 2:25
17. The Black Panthers - Day Tripper 3:03
18. Ayumi Ishida - Yuwakuteki Na Gogo 3:23
19. Hide & Rosanna - Midnight Bossa Nova 2:52
20. Akira Ishikawa - The Dawning Of Love 3:00

Notes
Readymade Records Present Good Night Tokyo - A Collection of Japanese Clubpop Music 1967-1972

France/Algeria/USA

Featuring Areski Belkacem and Art Ensemble of Chicago, Comme à la Radio is the sophomore album in Brigitte Fontaine's prolific career. While her debut, Brigitte Fontaine Est...Folle, is a unique take on French chanson, here the Art Ensemble provides the perfect setting for Fontaine s exploration of free-verse poetry. Often arrhythmic and spoken, her vocals command the same spontaneity and grace that her collaborators applied to their instruments. The album's eight-minute title track sets the tone: a sparse bass line keeps time as Fontaine dances around stabs of flute and trumpet. On Tanka II, named for a form of concise Japanese poetry, Areski (who provides percussion throughout) plays hand-drums atop flurries of bass as Fontaine coos and whispers pensively, gradually uttering controversial phrases. L Été L Été centers around a repeated motif with individual lines of high-pitched melody on a bed of muted horns. Each track is its own world, with Fontaine's incredible range, both in style and substance, acting as the glue between the immense talent involved. The overall effect is chilling, and it is no surprise that Comme à la Radio is often cited as Fontaine's best known work.

Jauntily introducing itself, Comme a la radio’s eponymous track immediately sets course for thirty-five minutes of sublimely melded Chanson and soulful free jazz. Vocalist Brigitte Fontaine coos and murmurs, the backing of The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s sometimes foreboding-sometimes gentle brand of musicianship adding to the wafting eroticism Fontaine’s spoken singing technique. Moving far away from the folkier elements of Chanson and into the darker, abstract dimensions that the Ensemble and new collaborator Areski Belkacem were well versed in, Comme a la radio was Fontaine’s entry into the avant-garde wilderness, and into the French underground she’d be a major part of throughout the 1970s. Capturing both Fontaine and the Ensemble at their best, with the Ensemble releasing their seminal Les stances a Sophie the same year as Comme a la radio, Fontaine markedly caught the collective at their arguable peak.

Genuinely testing one’s patience and simultaneously challenging the listener, the minimalist production both enhanced the music and strengthened the connection between its audience and Fontaine’s music, achieving a level of intimacy often present in chanson, yet without the syrupy orchestral arrangements or the heavily-awkward sensuality regularly a part of the genre. Fontaine’s performance on the album, while immaculate, can easily be compared to the late Nico, with the cold, isolated emphasis put on her singing being a trait shared between the two singers. Many of the pieces on Comme a la radio weave an atmosphere akin to that of being in a dark, smoky nightclub in Paris, with the listener either being gently serenaded or confronted with scattershot instrumentation that serve more as a mood-setting rather than a proper accompaniment with “L'été l'été” and “Tanka II” being quite guilty of this. However, the final cuts on the album, “Tanka I” and “Lettre a Monsieur le chef de gare de La Tour De Carol” recoup the lack of outstanding material from its second half with excellent musicianship that traverses between haunting and greatly hypnotic. Comme a la radio ambitiously forges a relationship between the eroticism of chanson with the exotica of free jazz, and while not a perfect example of this union done right, it is one of the high watermarks of experimental music, whether the album falls in the folk category, jazz or pop.


Of all the strange records this French vanguard pop chanteuse ever recorded, this 1971 collaboration between the teams of Brigitte Fontaine and her songwriting partner Areski and the Art Ensemble of Chicago -- who were beginning to think about returning to the United States after a two-year stay -- is the strangest and easily most satisfying. While Fontaine's records could be beguiling with their innovation, they occasionally faltered by erring on the side of gimmickry and cuteness. Here, the Art Ensemble provide the perfect mysterious and ethereal backdrop for her vocal explorations. Featuring the entire Art Ensemble of that time period and including fellow Chicago AACM member Leo Smith on second trumpet, Fontaine and Areski stretched the very notion of what pop had been and could be. With strangely charted arrangements and mixing (percussion was in the foreground and horns were muted in the background, squeezed until they sounded like snake-charming flutes), the ten tracks here defy any and all conventions and result in the most provocative popular recording of 1971 -- and that's saying something. For their part, the Art Ensemble hadn't played music this straight since before leaving Chicago, with long, drooping ballad lines contrasted with sharp Eastern figures and North African rhythmic figures built in. The finest example of how well this works, and how seductively weird it all is, is on the two-part "Tanka." Here, Malachi Favors' bass and Areski's percussion meet everything from bouzoukis to clarinets to muted trumpets to sopranino saxophones, courtesy of Joseph Jarman, Roscoe Mitchell, Smith, and Lester Bowie, who play in tandem, using striated harmonies and modal intervals in order to stretch the notion of time and space under Fontaine's vocals. The effect is eerie, chilling, and hauntingly beguiling, and sets the tone for an entire album that runs all over the stylistic map while not adhering to anything but its own strange muse. This is remarkable stuff from a very adventurous time when virtually anything was possible. -AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek

1. Comme à la radio 8:04
2. Tanka II 2:04
3. Le Brouillard 3:25
4. J'ai 26 ans 3:04
5. L'été l'été 3:56
6. Encore 1:35
7. Léo 3:51
8. Les Petits Chevaux 0:43
9. Tanka I 1:46
10. Lettre à Monsieur le chef de gare de la tour Carol 6:05
Bonus Tracks
11. Le Goudron 4:10
12. Le Noir c'est mieux choisi 5:02

Note
Tracks 11 and 12 are bonus tracks, originally released as a 7" in 1970, recorded and written with Jacques Higelin.

East meets West

Reissue of two influential east-meets-west album experiments with oud and modal jazz dating to the late '50s. Remastered from original tapes and accompanied by liner notes from MOJO's Dave Henderson. Includes some really dope and psychedelic oud excursions.

''Yusuf Lateef’s 1957 album Prayer To The East is often cited as one of the first eastward investigations in jazz, but this compilation repackages two dates from the late-1950s that prove others weren’t too far behind. Ahmed Abdul-Malik was a New Yorker of Sudanese descent who provided double bass for Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. But it was as a player of the lute-like oud that he dug deeper into his roots on albums like 1958’s Jazz Sahara and, represented here, 1959’s East Meets West, which tastefully collides traditional Middle Eastern and north African folk tunes with deep, modal jazz and bullish hard bop. 

Charles “Chick” Ganimian was an Armenian-American oud player who brought Armenian and Turkish flavours into western music, and went on to collaborate with Herbie Mann in the 1960s. His one LP as a leader, included here, was Come With Me To The Casbah – a session with an even wider range than Abdul-Malik’s, roaming from pulsating, percussionheavy dervish jams to R&B stompers and mellow readings of classics like ‘My Funny Valentine’. Undoubtedly far-out at the time, today both these sets give off a pleasing waft of kitsch.'' –Daniel Spicer

Oud Vibrations brings together two complete albums from the late 1950s, which sit at the meeting point of eastern and western cultures, instruments and styles. Featuring Ahmed Abdul-Malik's super rare 'East Meets West', (an evocative tapestry of structured raga-styled music set off against some classic jazz horn breaks) and the rare début album 'Come With Me To The Casbah' from Charles 'Chick' Ganimian (a hybrid of Armenian and American cultures that touched on rock 'n' roll with the single 'Daddy Lolo' as Ganim And The Asia Minors, which was a minor US radio hit.) These vintage buried treasures from two unsung heroes of jazz create an intriguing set of sounds that should appeal to lovers of space age pop and exotica as well as jazz enthusiasts and fans of Yusef Lateef, Paul Horn, Alice Coltrane and Terry Riley. Cross-cultural unions and collisions of musical instruments always bring about intriguing other worldly ambiences. The oud's distinctive sound, and its traditional swirling, percussive backdrop was a malleable commodity that dovetailed neatly into Jazz music and early rock 'n' roll. It sounded truly different when it was introduced to tackle old standards. The instrument itself is a pear-shaped stringed affair, which looks like a sawn-off psychedelic guitar. The late great Ahmed Abdul-Malik was part of the New York Jazz scene in the mid-'50s, where his double bass acted as foil for Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Zoot Sims and Thelonius Monk, among many others. Of Sudanese descent, he had a penchant for the roots music of his on 'East Meets West' from 1959. The music is rich and heady, a multi-layered set of tonal grooves that are wrapped tight beneath the melody lines. Charles 'Chick' Ganimian was an Armenian American who played only record as a bandleader was 'Come With Me To The Casbah'; an exotic slice of mystery, which comprises tracks nine to 20 in this collection. The album features the hit single 'Daddy Lolo' as well as a superb reading of classics 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' and 'My Funny Valentine'. Like Abdul-Malik's album, it's super rare in its original vinyl form, an even deeper, swirling set of textures that are completely enveloping. Ahmed Abdul-Malik's ability to fuse Western Jazz with the driving rhythms created by his oud that seems almost sequenced, are startling. Ganimian's swing phrasings added to his sensuous, evocative song structures make both of these sets landmark recordings, where two cultures clashed and the result was a supremely different kind of music. 

East Meets West
1. Ahmed Abdul-Malik - E-Lail (The Night) 4:18
2. Ahmed Abdul-Malik - La Ilbky (Don't Cry) 4:55
3. Ahmed Abdul-Malik - Takseem (Solo) 5:10
4. Ahmed Abdul-Malik - Searchin' 4:02
5. Ahmed Abdul-Malik - Isma'a (Listen) 4:14
6. Ahmed Abdul-Malik - Rooh (The Soul) 3:40
7. Ahmed Abdul-Malik - Mahawara 4:12
8. Ahmed Abdul-Malik - El Ghada [The Jungle] 3:05
Come With Me To The Casbah
9. Charles "Chick" Ganimian & His Orientals - Oriental Jam 4:53
10. Charles "Chick" Ganimian & His Orientals - Over The Rainbow 2:44
11. Charles "Chick" Ganimian & His Orientals - The Whirling Dervish 3:52
12. Charles "Chick" Ganimian & His Orientals - Play Girl Play 2:16
13. Charles "Chick" Ganimian & His Orientals - Swingin' The Blues 2:19
14. Charles "Chick" Ganimian & His Orientals - Daddy Lolo 2:04
15. Charles "Chick" Ganimian & His Orientals - My Funny Valentine 2:32
16. Charles "Chick" Ganimian & His Orientals - Come With Me To The Casbah 2:30
17. Charles "Chick" Ganimian & His Orientals - Hedy Lou (Where Are You) 2:35
18. Charles "Chick" Ganimian & His Orientals - Hayastan Moods 3:56
19. Charles "Chick" Ganimian & His Orientals - Halvah (Halvaje) 2:12
20. Charles "Chick" Ganimian & His Orientals - Nine Eight 4:13

Jamaica

Remastered, 1982 roots reggae classic, includes four previously unissued tracks.

“Dread is me culture, know wha’ I mean? Me could not a sing reggae music and really be a man that trim. Ha fe be a dread. When I say dread, a Rastaman, know wha’ I mean? I ha fe dread because every song that I sing is dread. The way I sing it is dread. Yeah, the music itself dread… Just I way deh. One o’ the humble, one o’ de meek, one o’ de cool, but very vicious when I deal with music… A real reggae singer ha fe be forceful. A forceful reg¬gae singer will always survive. Reggae music, man—it might look simple, but it naw so simple, you know. You ha fe ready and you ha fe ready with the punch. You ha fe ready to attack and very swift. You see a karate man punch a man, you know, and move again. Well it’s just same way reggae. You ha fe tense your body to sing reggae.”

—Albert Griffiths

Albert Griffiths founded the Gladiators in 1966 after some success on his own. The group scored their first hit, produced by legendary producer Coxsone Dodd, with “Hello Carol” in 1968. During the ’70s the Gladiators made their way through releases on labels like Studio One, Upsetter, Virgin, and Groovemaster. 1980 found the Gladiators working with producer, and pre-“Electric Avenue” hitmaker, Eddy Grant on the album Gladiators, which also featured members of the band Aswad lending a musical hand.

On 1982’s Symbol Of Reality, their first for the Nighthawk Records label, they revisited their own catalog of songs re-recording their classics, “Dreadlocks The Time Is Now” (appearing here as “Streets Of Gold”), “Watch Out” and “Big Boo Boo Deh” (returning retitled as “Cheater”) while also paying homage to The Wailers with covers “Small Axe” and “Stand Alone,” both written by Bob Marley.

This newly remastered version of the album features the original ten tracks, the two bonus tracks that were added to the original 1997 Nighthawk CD reissue, “Symbol Version” and “Righteous Man Version,” plus four previously unissued tracks, “Streets Of Gold Version,” “Not Afraid To Fight Version,” “Symbol Of Reality Instrumental Dub” and “Streets Of Gold Instrumental Dub.” Original liner notes are also included. The reissue has been overseen by original Nighthawk Records’ producer Leroy Jodie Pierson and Grammy® Award-winning producer, Cheryl Pawelski, and has been remastered from the original tapes by Grammy® Award-winning engineer, Michael Graves.

On this superb set, the Gladiators revisit the past and take note of the present, while simultaneously looking to the future. First the past, and here once again the trio resurrects its classic "Natty Roots." They first cut this number for Studio One back in the early '70s, then re-recorded a fine version in 1977 for Prince Tony Robinson under the title "Dreadlocks the Time Is Now." And now it's back as "Streets of Gold" in its most sumptuous form to date, with the rich arrangement fleshed out by a fabulous brass section -- a masterpiece that keeps improving with time. Originally from 1970, "Watch Out" is given as equally sympathetic update, "Big Boo Boo Deh" returns as "Cheater," and there's an equally evocative retread of "Righteous Man," all three singles originally recorded for Coxsone Dodd years ago. But it's not just its own back catalog that the group is revisiting, but the Wailers' catalog as well. Over the years, the Gladiators have oftentimes paid homage to Jamaica's legendary group, and here they deliver up phenomenal covers of "Small Axe" and "Stand Alone." On to the present day, and the Gladiators offer up the dancehall-flavored "Bumping and Boring" and "Mister Goose," the latter magically blending dancehall rhythms with British beat-laced keyboards. But the band's future remains roots-bound, and the title track glories in the genre, keeping the atmosphere heavy through an appended dub. For a time it looked like the Gladiators had lost their final battle, but Symbol of Reality finds the group back in top form. -AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene

1. Symbol Of Reality 4:29
2. Symbol Version 4:34
3. Small Axe 5:14
4. Bumping And Boring 3:28
5. Cheater 3:34
6. Watch Out 3:33
7. Mister Goose 3:48
8. Streets Of Gold 3:56
9. Streets Of Gold Version (Bonus Track) 4:12
10. Righteous Man 3:24
11. Righteous Man Version 3:29
12. Stand Alone 3:21
13. Not Afraid To Fight 3:36
14. Not Afraid To Fight Version (Bonus Track) 3:34
15. Symbol Of Reality Instrumental Dub (Bonus Track) 4:20
16. Streets Of Gold Instrumental Dub (Bonus Track) 4:11

USA

Legendary Soul Sister

Eula Cooper's complete Tragar, Note, and Super Sound recordings. Produced by Atlanta record mogul Jesse Jones between 1968-1972, Let Our Love Grow Higher chronicles the development of this gifted, black soprano from high school freshman to womanhood over twelve slices of sultry southern soul. Recorded at the finest studios in the south, including Muscle Shoals and Fame, Jones spared no expense capturing Cooper’s unique and lilting delivery, even if the resulting 45s languished in Atlantan exile.

''Eula Cooper was trying on clothes at the boutique below the Tragar offices when she giggled her way through “Shake Daddy Shake” for her friends. The shop’s proprietor suggested she take the song to the guy on the second floor. Cooper and her friends marched upstairs to find Jesse Jones sitting behind a small desk in a paneled office. After her performance of “Shake Daddy Shake,” Jones immediately sent Eula home to fetch her mother. 

Born in Opelika, Alabama, but raised in both Birmingham and Atlanta, Eula Cooper was the artist Jesse Jones had been waiting for. Beautiful, articulate, and headstrong, Cooper had an incredible command of her voice, green though she was. A child of divorce, Jones would become something of a father figure to her over the next four years, as she would spend all her time between Booker T. Washington High and the office, studio, or stage. Jones believed that Eula Cooper was the best chance they had for hit status outside the city; “Shake Daddy Shake” seemed to prove that hypothesis, immediately finding a place on the local charts. Regional radio promoter Charles Geer began pushing the single outside of I-285’s loop and even convinced Atlantic Records to license it for a national run. Neither “Shake Daddy Shake” nor “Heavenly Father” had the legs or production values to jump state lines, but this would hardly be Eula’s last foray into the studio. At 14, it seemed she had plenty of time to crack the charts. 

As 1969 rolled in, Jones was finalizing the second Eula Cooper 45. The two had spent most of the fall in the studio working on a handful of tracks, but “Try” was the clear standout. Tommy Stewart’s arrangement was impeccable: a simple melody taped out on glockenspiel for the introduction lead to a mid-tempo soul jam with royalty written all over it. For the B-side, Jones went familiar and used a note-for-note remake of Martha Reeves & the Vandellas' 1965 hit “Love Makes Me Do Foolish Things.” It was built for chart movement but faced a challenge bigger than Atlanta this time. Money was tight, and not even Jones’ wealthy benefactors could pull him through the foreclosure of his house. A 1969 regrouping and restructuring left Eula Cooper’s best shot lost in the shuffle.'' (NG)

1. Shake Daddy Shake 1:54
2. I Can't Help If I Love You 2:26
3. Try 2:16
4. Love Makes Me Do Foolish Things 2:57
5. That's How Much I Love You 2:36
6. Heavenly Father 2:17
7. Since I Fell for You 2:03
8. Let Our Love Grow Higher 2:40
9. Beggars Can't Be Choosey 2:33
10. Standing By Love 2:26
11. I Need You More 3:05
12. My Man Is More 2:48
13. Mr. Henry 3:20
14. Have Faith In Me 2:45

Europe

''This is a classic and sought after afro funk LP. One of the best recordings in the genre: Pulsating african rhythms with funk bass and heavy brass sounds: Essential and ultra hard to find album with tons of true killer afro funk breaks. A sure killer set for collectors and DJs! Some also call it a stripped down Fela Kuti sound.''

Mombasa was a European band, put together by LA trombonist Lou Blackburn (1922-1990) in 1973. All of their albums between 1975 and 1981 have been recorded in Germany. The trombone of Lou Blackburn carries the lead on most tracks -- snaking out wonderfully over the grooves, with a quality that's amazingly soulful, and which almost has him standing head to head with Fred Wesley as a '70s innovator on his instrument. Other members of the group include Doug Lucas on trumpet, Bob Reed on percussion, Alan Tatham on drums, and Don Ridgeway on electric bass. A great ensemble that knew to mix together jazz and African roots with a sound that's unlike anyone else we can think of -- quite unique in its approach to rhythms, sounds, and solos! 

From original liner notes 1975:

"In describing the music of Mombasa which is a mixture of rhythm, jazz, folklore, blues, spirituals and worksongs, Lou Blackburn would prefer not to use the word jazz. Many people ask us, he says, how one describes our type of music. To this I can only answer that I leave it to the audience because i don't want to give it a label, for me it is simply ours, Mombasa's music"

Original producer H. Manfred Schmitz with his memories from September 2006:

I started working as an artist promoter at german Electrola in 1970, responsible for radio/ tv promotion and later as a freelancer at WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk). Rudy Petri has been te boss of Edition Accord, a publishing department of EMI. In Rudy's office, I met Lou Blackburn, a middle aged afro american with an exceptional headgear that I had not seen before. When he held out his hand to welcome me, I was feeling an unknown calmness and sovereignty from this tall man. His eyes were lookingat me through metal-rimmed glasses in a friendly way. They looked so warm and I felt that he was looking at me with his heart. My band Mombasa and I, we are looking for somebody to produce an album with us. We wanna go on a european tour soon and would like to sell our music after the concerts. We also know what we want to achieve in the studio, everything is well rehearsed and we will not need much time for the recordings. We mainly need support for the logistic aspects and a good connection to a suitable distributor. We already started our common work after 10 days: Edition Accord and my publishing company Many Music shared the cost and work for the production and we decided to record Mombasa in the Cornet Studio/ Cologne, that was equipped with a small but fine 8-track machine.

We needed two hours for the preliminaries of the recording process and focussed on the best adjustments for the rhythm group. From the beginning Lou had a very good connection to the sound engineer W. Sorger. While some of the musicians checked their instruments, others were decorating the recording room with african cloths, candles and even added incense cones to the prevailing mood. The band drew up like they did on stage, with the drums in the very back but with a visual contact to every band member. There was no real break within the recording session, only the ones for changing instruments and tuning them again. I got the impression they were giving one of their concerts!

We immediately felt a bubbling enthusiam. After the recording - there was only one! - Lou Blackburn came to the control desk and listened to everything that was recorded. We had only worked for three hours then. There was nothing to improve and so we began discussions about the final mix that was done with Lou alone. All in all the whole production only lasted one day. The first approach for a record label was successful too: From the first moment, Peter Springer of Intercord loved the product and wanted to release it on the german Intercord label Spiegelei (Fried Egg). Lou also confirmed to buy a few thousand records for their european tour so that the contract was signed early.

Finally I can tell you that I was never carried away by such a positive energy before. I felt so much happiness with Mombasa, especially with Lou Blackburn, without being able to appreciate it properly. But I owe Lou and his fellows a debt of gratitude until today! I hesitated for a long time before releasing this claim from the geography of my recently discovered soul. But with this re-release of the first Mombasa recordings, we are on a way, that Lou would have gone with us.

African Rhythms & Blues:
1. Nairobi 7:33
2. Massai 8:04
3. Holz 4:23
4. Kenia 6:49
5. Makishi 2:36
6. Shango 7:49


Reissue of the second LP release by the legendary cross-cultural Mombasa band: Deep Afro Jazz and Funk by Lou Blackburn and his group recorded 1976 in Germany - rare album formerly released on the Spiegelei label only, transferred from the master tapes, contains sought after DJ-spins "African Hustle", "Yenyeri" and "Shango II", with original cover artwork.

This is the second internationally famous and sought after Afro Jazz LP by Mombasa. And like the first legendary album already reissued by Sonorama in 2006, it was released on the german Spiegelei- abel in small amounts only and has completely vanished from markets and memories: Pulsating African rhythms with funk bass and heavy brass sounds. Stunning afro beat production that belongs to the best recordings in the genre. Essential and ultra hard to find album with tons of true killer afro funk breaks.

The second album from Mombasa was possibly even better than the first. The group have really come into their own by the time of this date - mixing together jazz and African roots with a sound that's unlike anyone else we can think of - quite unique in its approach to rhythms, sounds, and solos. The grooves aren't really the Afro Funk you might expect - and instead, they're based on a headier brew of bass lines and percussion, one that's somewhere in a space between Boscoe, The Pharoahs, and Demon Fuzz - but with a sound that's ultimately different than both. The trombone of Lou Blackburn carries the lead on most tracks - snaking out wonderfully over the grooves, with a quality that's amazingly soulful, and which almost has him standing head to head with Fred Wesley as a 70s innovator on his instrument. Other members of the group include Doug Lucas on trumpet, Bob Reed on percussion, Alan Tatham on drums, and Don Ridgeway on electric bass - the last of whom really does a great job shaping the sound of the tunes.

Mombasa 1976 was:

Lou Blackburn: Jamaica, 14 years U.S.A., there with Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Quincy Jones a.o. Since 1971 in Berlin, with Kurt Edelhagen for SFB Radio and TV. In 1973, Lou founded Mombasa. 

Doug Lucas: Arkansas, teacher of music, in Europe since 1968. Sessions with J.J. Band, Barry White, George McCrae. 

Bob Reed: New York, started with Latin groups, in Europe since seven years, here with Wyoming Electric Jungle and Equinox. 

Don Ridgeway: San Francisco, in USA with People`s Choice, since four years in Europe, worked with Jimmy Smith, Fox Hunters... 

Alan Tatham: Montego Bay, Jamaica, since 14 years in Europe, studied music in Vienna, studio musician in London and Vienna. 

From original liner notes of “African Rhythms & Blues 2” (1976): 

“My thanks first to the four marvelous musicians who made this record possible. Again thanks to president Ikeda for being. The energy and direction instilled in me through his guidance. Nam-Myoho-Renge-kyo.” (Lou Blackburn)

African Rhythms & Blues 2:
1. Yenyeri 6:52
2. Holz II 5:33
3. Shango II 8:42
4. Nomoli 9:46
5. African Hustle 5:32
6. Al Rahman 4:48

Trinidad/New York City

Invisible City Editions officially reissue the sublime extended 12” version of 'Praise Jah', this eccentric island-disco rarity from 1979, distinct with crazy electronic effects! Essential.

Oluko Imo was a Trinidadian born multi-instrumentalist, founder of the legendary spiritual afro jazz groups Mansa Musa and the Black Truth Rhythm Band. He moved to New York City in the 80s and divided his time between teaching music there and touring Africa with Fela Kuti as both his manager and part of the band. 

Praise Jah is Imo’s crowning achievement. An elevated electronic mantra that perfectly fuses synthy soca disco with his spiritual afro-Trinidadian leanings. It’s a timeless piece of music that sounds as visionary today as it did when it emerged from the aether back in 1979.

''Oluko Imo's career as a recording artist was as sporadic as it was exemplary. In 1976, his Black Truth Rhythm Band released their only album, Ifetayo, which was a calypso record with an emphasis on West African music. Imo's best record, the disco soca seven-inch Praise-Jah, emerged two years later. In the mid-'70s, soca—the Lord Shorty-engineered successor to calypso—was emerging in Trinidad, Imo's home country. US soul and funk were staples of Trinidadian radio, and Haitian and Jamaican music was popular, too. But Imo was drawn to West Africa, a region whose highlife sound bubbled on the surface of his catalogue. 

Where Ifetayo merged calypso with funk and Afrobeat in an easygoing style, Praise-Jah turned towards disco with earnest spiritual overtones. On the vocal version, Imo and an uncredited female singer trade devotional chorus and verse over organ funk, sweet synth harmonies, churning bass and dub-style sparks. Between her crisp shouts of "praise him," Imo plays trumpets, drums and cymbals, as though his instruments might have the agency to respond. Later, he sings, "Let everything that breathe the breath of life / praise, praise He, the Lord." 

Invisible City Editions, run by Brandon Hocura and Gary Abugan, has reissued rare music from Zambia, South Africa and the US, but it has given special focus to Trinidad. The 12-inches the label has sourced from the Caribbean island have what Abugan calls a "refraction of styles." Stephen Encinas' Disco Illusion and Michael Boothman's Touch were disco records with alien touches. Soca, disco, dub and gospel come together with the same ineffable clarity on Praise-Jah.''

1. Praise-Jah 6:10
2. Praise-Jah (Version) 6:01

Bristol

A lost treasure coming from the early 80's: groovy, free punk-funk to satisfy the heart and the mind.

Kiran Sande (Blackest Ever Black) and Chris Farrell (Idle Hands) trigger their Silent Street cooperative with a surefire survey of Maximum Joy’s dub-fuelled punkfunk and pop singles 1981-1982, collected as I Can’t Stand It Here On Quiet Nights. Digging a pivotal point in Bristol’s dub-informed lineage, it reveals the sound of Bristol parties and after-hours blues in the early ‘80s, which would also find success among the punk-funk crowds and hip hop stations of NYC. Fans of Vazz, The Slits, Glaxo Babies, The Pop Group need to check this one! -Boomkat

“I Can’t Stand It Here On Quiet Nights is centred around the trio of singles the band released on Dick O’Dell’s Y Records between 1981-1982. Their first, ‘Stretch’, was licensed to seminal American label 99 Records and soon after became an anthem on the New York club underground, a cult staple at Danceteria and on late-night radio. Closer to home and a shared personal favourite is their first B-side, ‘Silent Street / Silent Dub’: a languid, haunting tribute to long summer nights in St Pauls (where the Idle Hands shop presently resides), and specifically the Black & White Cafe, “where dub-reggae reigned supreme, 24/7”. Llewellin’s mesmerising one-drop kit and Catsis’s outrageously heavy bassline anchor the track, allowing Rainforth’s exquisite vocal and Wrafter’s trumpet to soar within the intense, expressionistic dub mix. In both subject matter and execution it is the definitive Bristol tune. 

‘White And Green Place (Extraterrestrial Mix)’, ‘In The Air’, and wistful instrumental ‘Simmer Til Done’ also feature; the non-Y bonus is the 12” version of ‘Do It Today’, Maximum Joy’s contribution to the Fontana compilation Touchdown, which originally came out in ’82 as a white label split with The Higsons. 

I Can’t Stand It Here On Quiet Nights is the first official UK vinyl reissue of Maximum Joy material, with sleevenotes by Janine Rainforth, Tony Wrafter and Kevin Pearce. We invite you to acquaint, or reacquaint, yourself with the eclectic, exhilarating work of Bristol’s finest, brightest pop idealists.”

Like many of their early ’80s UK peers, Maximum Joy mixed punk, funk, disco, and reggae. This new set captures a band carving its own place with two of music’s most powerful tools: muscle and joy.

Listening today, three-and-a-half decades later, it’s easy to hear Maximum Joy as a relic of their era. The defining characteristics of their music—rope-like basslines, squalls of dub delay, and alternately soaring and honking horn parts—peg them to the early 1980s, when punk rock, funk, disco, and reggae were all mixing together. But the Bristol, UK, group has never enjoyed the acclaim of contemporaries like Rip Rig and Panic, Pigbag, or the Pop Group (with whom they shared members), to say nothing of New York acts like ESG or Liquid Liquid (with whom they rubbed elbows on the roster of New York’s 99 Records). The group’s prime recording years spanned only from 1981 until 1983, in which time they recorded three singles, an Adrian Sherwood-produced LP, and a handful of compilation tracks. Since then, Maximum Joy have remained largely a footnote, despite the widespread reappraisal of funk-punk that began in the early 2000s, with the rise of DFA. They landed one track on Strut’s landmark 2008 compilation Disco Not Disco and another on last year’s Sherwood at the Controls Volume 1: 1979-1984; it has largely fallen to DJs like Andrew Weatherall and Optimo’s JD Twitch to keep their memory alive for the dancing public.

This new collection overlaps with an out-of-print 2005 anthology on Germany’s Crippled Dick Hot Wax! label, though the compilers here have mostly opted for different mixes, like the 7” “Silent Dub” of “Silent Street” instead of the 12” version, or the 12” mix of “In the Air,” which runs nearly twice the length of the previous comp’s version. Focusing primarily on the group’s three singles, I Can’t Stand It Here on Quiet Nights captures a band carving out its own place using two of music’s most powerful tools: muscle and joy. The former is right there on the surface, in the group’s slashing and zig-zagging rhythm section and horn riffs. Bassist Dan Catsis, formerly of the Pop Group, is alternately nimble and brute in his attack: On “Silent Street (Silent Dub),” he traces a taut pattern so neatly you might not even notice that the song is in 9/4 time; on “White and Green Place (Extraterrestrial Mix),” he digs in hard, thumbing a riff that suggests kinship with Liquid Liquid’s “Cavern” bassline before sliding fat, greasy fifths down the neck of his instrument.

Ex-Glaxo Babies drummer Charlie Llewellin is the perfect foil for Catsis’ blend of agility and force, with a fondness for crisp, skeletal grooves—nimble dub on “Silent Street,” neck-snapping disco on “Stretch (7 Inch Mix)” and “In the Air (12 Inch Mix)”—that make the most of the emptiness between hi-hats and snares. As for guitarist John Waddington, another Pop Group alumnus, he sides mainly with that gaping negative space, his presence felt mainly in glancing funk chords that fall across the music like the glow of a stained-glass window.

It’s singer Janine Rainforth that best embodies Maximum Joy’s exuberance: Having co-founded the group when she was just 18 years old, she channeled her inspirations—singers like X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene and the Slits’ Ari Up—into her own shape-shifting style. On “Stretch,” the A-side of the group’s debut single, she belts it out in the manner of her mentors, slicing into the midrange frequencies with a tone poised at the midway point between speech, screaming, and singing. It’s an entirely fitting complement to the song’s defiant positivity: “Stay positive, stay strong!/Hold safe, hold straight/Don’t terminate, no end!” Listen closely, though, and you’ll hear another side of her: a soft soprano background coo, diffuse as a pastel-colored mist. This is the voice that gives “Silent Street (Silent Dub)” its ethereal, sui generis feel: The lyrics (“Let’s have the music all day long/Let’s have the sound all night”) may scan as reggae boilerplate, but her airy tone lends a uniquely spooky quality to the song, like a ghost haunting the dancehall. It’s a quality you won’t find in any of their contemporaries.

Somewhere in between all that sinew and euphoria, Wrafter’s saxophone and trumpet blaze their own trail, shrieking and soaring and honking. On “In the Air,” no wave skronk comes to the fore, abetted by Rainforth’s own dissonant violin; on “Simmer Til Done,” his lowing, lyrical style has more in common with Clarence Clemons or the “Saturday Night Live” band’s Lenny Pickett. It’s here, as well as in his guttural bellowing on “Stretch,” that Maximum Joy’s music can occasionally feel dated.

Elsewhere, though, Wrafter's woozy tone gives the music its undeniable frisson: On “Silent Street” and “Building Bridges (Building Dub),” his atonal trumpet blasts are the glue that holds everything together. It’s no wonder the compilation opens with “Silent Street,” which was the B-side to their debut single. The song is where they found something inimitable. At the nexus of a bunch of different styles, in the shadow of their peers, they struck a spark that still glows. -Philip Sherburne

1. Silent Street / Silent Dub 7:53
2. White And Green Place (Extraterrestrial Mix) 5:27
3. In The Air (Extended Version) 6:39
4. Building Bridges / Building Dub 6:19
5. Simmer Til Done 4:44
6. Stretch (7" Mix) 3:45
7. Do It Today 4:59
Extra Track
8. Let It Take You There 8:03

USA

Clocking in at an epic eleven minutes, Vince Howard’s “I’m Gonna Love You More” is a tantric reimagining of Barry White’s 1973 top ten sex classic. Where White was content delivering a subtle and syrupy innuendo, L.A. drummer, band leader, and producer Vince Howard transforms the break-heavy track into a meandering fuck/funk workout. From “sliding off your pinkies” to Marsha Sims’ playful moans, Howard keeps the groove going until his roping climax at the nine minute mark before asking to “hold onto me for a while. Keep it wrapped up just like you got me.” 

Howard's Heart-Soul & Inspiration Orchestra cut their only album in 1974 for John Springs’ Los Angeles-based Viscojon concern under the watchful eye of R&B godfather Johnny Otis. The crooning Howard got his start in 1957 with Herb Newman’s Era label before signing with Viscojon in 1963. A few singles were tracked over the ensuing decade as Howard slowly began piecing together his “Orchestra” of bassist Jimmy Soul, guitarist Ron Carr, and pianist John True. After their Barry White/Isaac Hayes facsimile LP failed to gain traction, the group tracked their final recordings—“Funk on Down” b/w “Fallen Angel”—for Viscojon, petering out as disco and the DJ came to prominence and dominance on the nightclub circuit.

1. I'm Gonna Love You More 11:04
2. Can't Get Enough 7:17
3. Make Love to Your Mind 5:09
4. My First, Last, My Everything 4:59
5. Funk on Down 2:56
6. Fallen Angel 3:40

Italy

A really great Italian jazz score composed for La Legge dei Gangsters (Gangster’s Law), an obscure 1969 Italian crime film starring the mighty Klaus Kinski. Featuring a large ensemble of the country’s strongest players (including Oscar Valdambrini on trumpet), the music is a creation of the great Piero Umiliani and is plenty full of sophisticated, groovy and romantic tunes.

This late-'60s soundtrack was composed for a thriller about a group of gangsters (including future international star Klaus Kinski) who commit a robbery only to have it go horribly wrong. The score was penned by Italian composer Piero Umiliani, who mixes conventional orchestral touches with swinging crime jazz to create a score that is elegant and punchy all at once. The standout orchestral-style moment is "Crepusculo Sul Mare," a dramatic instrumental that wraps a lush string arrangement around a circular, hypnotic acoustic guitar riff. The highlight in the jazz arena is the title track, a seven-minute epic that travels through a variety of tempos and textures as it provides a showcase for some amazing horn arrangements. The score also includes "Lui E Lei," a percolating instrumental built on a clever male and female scat duet that has made it a favorite of lounge fans. Fans of Piero Umiliani will be pleased to see that Easy Tempo's reissue of this once-rare soundtrack album doubles its length by restoring some previously edited cues (including "La Legge Dei Gangsters") to their full length and also providing an array of bonus jazz cues that didn't make it to the original album. The best of the unreleased cuts is "Gangster's Song," a swinging, brass-heavy vocal number whose string-sweetened melody is reminiscent of Henry Mancini's jazzier moments. All in all, La Legge Dei Gangsters is a stylish and swinging treat for Piero Umiliani fans and anyone who enjoys soundtracks at their most jazzy. -AllMusic Review by Donald A. Guarisco 

''It’s an excellent sign when the recording you’re listening to for review purposes ends up being played purely for pleasure. La Legge dei Gangsters (Gangster’s Law) was an obscure 1969 Italian crime film. It starred Klaus Kinski and was the last picture directed by Siro Marcellini. But what appears to be no more than the score to a forgotten gangster flick is actually a great Italian jazz album, featuring a large gathering of the country’s strongest players (including Oscar Valdambrini on trumpet). It is the creation of Piero Umiliani and is right up there with his classics such as Svezia Inferno e Paradiso and is certainly one of the maestro’s most jazz-dominated film projects. 

Crepuscolo Sul Mare (Twilight on the Sea) is a vehicle for plangent acoustic guitar, which begins almost in media res, by Mario Gangi. Genoza P.zza De Ferrari Dalle 2 Alle 7 signifies a time and an (abbreviated) address (Genoza Piazza De Ferrari From 2 To 7) and, by contrast, the guitar here is electric and is played by Enzo Grillini with the fat sound of Wes Montgomery. The prudent and judiciously deployed vibes are the work of Franco Chiari and Umiliani himself plays piano with Basie-like restraint and minimalism. The captivating, probing bass flute is courtesy of Gino Marinacci and the mocking trumpet by Cicci Santucci blows Miles Davis style fragments. This piece has both powerful swing, propelled by Enzo Grillini’s bass and Roberto Podio’s drums, and a modernist surface of sustained solos. 

Swing Come Sempre (Swing As Always) is propulsive West Coast big band jazz with a substantial and lovely tenor solo sax played, with distinction, by Livio Cerveglieri set against massed brass interjections. It’s reminiscent of Shorty Rogers with a harder, more aggressive Stan Kenton edge (of course Shorty Rogers played and arranged for Kenton). The splendid title track, La Legge Dei Gangsters is an extended piece which features a boppish tenor solo from Cerveglieri that evokes a moan of pleasure from a member of the band and is also noteworthy for the wild keening squeal of the trumpet by Cicci Santucci, which becomes California-mellow at the end. Enzo Grillini’s easygoing guitar and more of Marinacci’s lovely flute are further treats to be found here. 

Episodio is a folkloric, baroque piece distinguished by a slanting expanse of strings played by Orchestra D’Archi and the wavering water-colour Hammond electric organ of Antonello Vannucchi. Lui E Lei (He and She) is aptly titled, with a ravishing countermelody of male and female scat interweaving from the (husband and wife) team of Alessandro Alessandroni and Giulia Alessandroni. Tema Dell’addio (Farewell Theme) is another showcase for Vannucchi’s Hammond organ, supported by subtly effective drums and bass (Roberto Podio and Maurizio Majorana), and strongly calls to mind the crime jazz masterworks of Elmer Bernstein and his film scores like Walk on the Wild Side and The Carpetbaggers.

This soundtrack has been issued before in various forms. As an introduction to the maestro’s work, this title comes most warmly recommended, both for the high density and superb quality of the jazz it contains. If you only buy one Umiliani album, then this is probably the one you've been waiting for.'' -Andrew Cartmel

1. Crepuscolo Sul Mare (Twilight On The Sea) 2:47
2. Genova P.zza De Ferrari Dalle 2 Alle 7 (Genova, P.zza De Ferrari From 2 To 7) 12:32
3. Epilogo (Epilogue) 3:05
4. La Legge Dei Gangsters (Gangsters' Law) 7:39
5. Episodio (Episode) 2:41
6. Very Fast 2:20
7. Alba Sul Mare (Dawn On The Sea) 3:13
8. Tema Dell'Addio (Farewell Theme) 2:33
9. Lui E Lei (He And She) 2:3
10. Epilogo (Epilogue) 4:35
11. Sei Ottavi In Blues (Six-Eights In Blues) 3:36
12. Apertura In Jazz (Jazz Overture) 3:56
13. Disgelo (Snow Melting) 2:30
14. Spiaggia Deserta (Empty Beach) 6:16
15. Sequenze Ritmiche (Rhythmical Sequences) 6:21
16. Swing Come Sempre (Swing As Usual) 2:49
17. Gangster's Song 3:38

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