Tuesday, October 27, 2009

WILT: What I'm Listening To, Vol. 1

All right, in 2009 I suffered from an affliction that can only be described as "musical bulimia," having gone months starving myself of new music only to binge to the point of near death--or at least, financial collapse. Ever since we've been to Canada, I've been on a music-buying binge that (if Missus Unknown found out) would surely be the death of me. So, here's what I've been listening to these past four weeks in no particular order. I hope you enjoy it while you can. I won't be indulging this lunacy again anytime soon.

The Temptations -- Puzzle People

All right, I have a confession to make, and I hope you don't judge me too harshly for having actually said this but ... but ... well, to be honest, I'm not much of a Motown fan. Yes. All the music was great. Yes. Barry Gordy was a genius. Yes. All those groups and their music will live for all time.

I just wasn't that into it. Motown was always my folks music--"old folks music." I give the Motown Sound its propers, even today. I don't know. I guess I just like Stax better.

As part of that whole thing, I was never really into the Temptations either. They always signaled the end of the basement party and it was time for me to wake up and get my pajamaed behind in the car. All the old folks were going home. And talk about corny ... I once saw the Temptations perform at Sea World!

However, nobody ever told me about the Temptations and their "psychedelic funk" experiments they conducted in the late '60s/early '70s with Cloud Nine, Puzzle People, and Psychedelic Shack (are there others?). Now I have some newfound respect for the geezers.

The funk on Puzzle People is rough and rugged like the first few Sly and the Family Stone albums and a lot of fun. Sure, they never should've covered the Beatles' "Hey, Jude," but their cover of the Isleys' "It's Your Thing" is pretty nice. There's the classic, "I Can't Get Next to You," my second-favorite Temps' song (the first being "I Wish It Would Rain"), "Message from a Black Man," and a real ass-shaker in "Don't Let the Joneses Get You Down."

Lawd hab mercy!!!

The Heavy -- The House That Dirt Built

Whee dogey!!! I got this bad boy in the mail yesterday and have been pretty much listening to it solely ever since. I went absolutely ape-shit over their hard-driving, funky-ass debut, Great Vengeance & Furious Fire. This is more of the same--though less funky with a harder rock edge--and they're a little more imitative than you'd expect from their debut. But this is definitely no sophomore jinx. You must needs check out this CD.

Passion Pit -- Manners

Man, I wish I would've liked pop/rock sooner. Then, while I'd been a music critic, I could have all the references and snarky, hip lingo down to describe bands like these. Aside from telling you that I absolutely love this CD, I'm really and truly at a loss for words. The best I can do is cut and paste what I wrote Sammy about them on Facebook:

I don't know exactly how to describe them. Maybe something like--2Gs electro-rockers with a taste for late '80s dance music and a dash of the Beach Boys. Something along those lines. Maybe.

Q-Tip -- The Renaissance

I was gettin' all into this album, diggin' all the smooth grooves and crisp beats, refreshed that I can pretty much play this one around Pooh without worrying about her calling her classmates "nigga" all day, when Triple T, whose damn near half my age, burst my bubble. She was ranting what bullshit! this album was. I wasn't like, "Aw, kid, you don't know nothin' 'bout no good music," because I know it's not true. Then it suddenly hit me, "Oh my God, is this the opening salvo for 'Old Folks' Rap'? Are there soon gonna be 'Smooth Rap Flavas' radio stations? I can hear it now ... Now homeyz and homettez let's relax our minds and let our bodies be free and get down to the sounds of Digables, De La, and the Fugees."


Various Artists -- Bridge into the New Age

This compilation should be renamed Afro-Hippy's Delight. This is a collection of Prestige releases from the early '70s with artists who were influenced by Miles, Trane, and the Black Power movement. McCoy Tyner, Alice Coltrane, Gary Bartz, Norman Connors, Joe Henderson, Jack DeJohnette, and Idris Muhammad. If there's one disc in this whole list I strongly urge you to get, it is most definitely this one.

Dave Pike -- The Doors of Perception

Vibraphonist Dave Pike is a fan favorite among dancefloor jazz crate diggers the world over. Only the first song is as far-out psychedelic as the album's title and cover would have you believe. Mostly it's the groovy vibes one would expect from a genre posthumously labeled "dancefloor jazz."

Various Artists -- Cold Heat

If you like your funk as hard and fast and as nasty as a Pamela Anderson sex bout, then this disc is for you. As the subtitle says, "Heavy Funk Rarities -- 1968-1974." Most of you would probably have never heard of any of these people. But for one brief, shining, recorded moment, they were some of the funkiest cats to ever be put on wax. You fans of the Budos Band, Sugarman 3, Poets of Rhythm, and/or Sharon Jones really need to check this one out.

Quincy Jones and His Orchestra -- The Quintessence

Well, as many of you know, Impulse Records is the "house that Trane built," featuring a lot of the experimental jazz that exploded onto the scene in the late '60s/early '70s. So, when I saw that Quincy Jones actually recorded an Impulse release, I was intrigued. I wasn't expecting (nor would I have wanted) some heroin-induced free jazz. But I know Q did a semi-funky release for CTI back in the day. I was wondered what he concocted for Impulse. Nothing far out at all. It's Quincy Jones, after all. And being Quincy, it's good.

Chakachas -- Jungle Fever

If you scour the internet for Belgian funk (and why the hell would you?), the closest you'll come is the Chakachas. So, when my wife went to Belgium last year, I had her look for some of their stuff. They apparently looked at her like she was some kind of crazy American. As well they should've, the Chakachas were just a bunch of middle-aged, married Belgian guys who cut an album of funky Latin grooves and then vanished into obscurity. If it weren't for their uber-funky international hit, "Jungle Fever," this disc probably never would've been released. Aside from that masterpiece, though, the album's worth a listen. It's boogaloo fun!

Traffic -- John Barleycorn Must Die

Well, I always hated Steve Winwood--master of schlocky '80s "blue-eyed soul". But I also hated his twin, Robert Palmer. Then I heard Palmer's Sneakin' Sally through the Alley and had to give the man his due. When I was browsing through the CD shop, heard the first two rock-jazzy songs on this CD and found out it was Traffic, I thought I might have to do the same for Winwood. After all, I do love "I'm a Man." Alas, I was wrong. I'm not at all a fan of the last four tracks on this album. Needless to say, I was disappointed and felt more than a little betrayed.

K'Naan - Troubadour

Speaking of feeling betrayed, a dear friend who shall remain nameless who, oddly enough, is not Nameless, has been absolutely raving over this brother for millennia. I bought this disc on the power of her rantings alone. Boy, I don't know if I'll ever listen to the woman again. Actually, I don't know if we can actually remain friends. I mean ... Mrs. Unknown summed up our disappointment somewhere in the middle of Troubadour, when she asked, "Did this suddenly turn into a pop album?"

Gilles Peterson -- Digs America 2

This compilation is subtitled, "Searching at the End of an Era." There is something to that. Crate digging is becoming a harder and harder obsession to satisfy. And how many more of these crate-digging expedition compilations can there possibly be for the funk/jazz/soul junky? But all of us know that Gilles Peterson is the best at this game, and this disc does not disappoint. I mean, who else could find a song done by Chuck Mangione's brother? He's also got an obscure Al Jurreau on here. And you'll simply love Irene Kral's "Going to California".

Plasticines -- LP1

One of my side CD-buying projects is to actually purchase hard copies of discs that I may or may not have come across in their digital form. This may or may not have been bought with that in mind. Besides, I love these French femmes (and Go Betty Go's) jaunty, pop "post-punk" sound. They're a lot of fun to listen to, and every once in awhile I understand a word or two of what they're singing--when they're singing in English, that is.

Wayne Shorter -- Super Nova

I'll confess: it's been a real long time since I've listened to music I've really had to think about. This one's going to take awhile for me to digest. I just couldn't resist the line-up here with John McLaughlin, Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moreira, and Chick Corea on drums and vibes?!

The Mar-Keys -- The Great Memphis Sound

I love me some funk! I love me some Stax! So this CD from the Stax session band is like having your hog maws and chitterlings, too! And no, I will not compare them to Booker T. and the MGs' sweet cornbread soul. They're all delicious.

David Axelrod -- The Axelrod Chronicles

David Axelrod has been the source of many a great sample (just ask Madlib, Mos Def, the Beatnuts, Rob Swift, Sadat X, Kool G, De La--you get the idea) and not a single one of them was found on this CD. This collection is a bit too post-Mr. Magic fusion-y for my tastes, but there are a few really funky tracks. I'll give it a few more listens. I am trying to branch out these days.

R.E.M. -- Murmur

When I came across this CD, I thought, "Oh hey, I used to like R.E.M. in high school. Maybe I should get this." As soon as I popped this bad boy into the CD player, I realized, "Oh yeah, I didn't like Mumur. I liked Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction, Life's Rich Pageant, and Document." Oh well, what can you do?

Dmitri from Paris -- Sacrebleu

My boy Jet has been screaming about Dmitri from Paris for the past year or so now. I've always been meaning to check him--or at least his Playboy Mansion series out forever--but have just never gotten around to it. I stumbled across Sacrebleu and figured I'd give it a try. This CD is most definitely Bossarific. It's interesting, since lounge's ubiquity has come and gone, to hear where it basically came from. Still breezy and chill and a great album to listen to. After all, how derivative can you sound when you were the first?

Santana -- Amigos

Just got it. So haven't heard it yet. But this is '70s Santana--before he went totally for the queso--it's gotta be good, right?

Outkast -- Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

Every collection--no matter how obnoxious (and mine is obnoxious) has holes in it. I was just filling one with this purchase. I doubt if I'll be listening to this one too much. But it never hurts to have it.

Oh No -- Exodus into Unheard Rhythms

Oh no! I thought you was Madlib and "Oh No" was just another one of his pseudonyms. But no! you're his little brother. You ai'ight, though. I guess I'll have to give you a few more listens before I pass judgment--though I gotta tell ya, I am a little disappointed.

The Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra -- The Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra

Yeah, remember those two mysterious, Milli Vanilli-dread-lookin' violin-playin' androgyns on Soul II Soul's "Keep on Movin'"? That was the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra. I remembered liking this back when it came out in '88, saw it in the store, and said, What the hey? Well, the "Hey" in this matter is that The Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra is now like the Meg Ryan of my music collection: Cute in the '80s but most definitely has not aged well.

Fever Ray -- Fever Ray

Another attempt to branch out. They said something like "Karin Dreijer Andersson, Fever Ray, a singer for The Knife ..." And I said, "All right! I have no fucking clue what you're talking about! Give me two!" The CD just came in the mail on Saturday. So, I haven't had much of a chance to listen to it yet. So far, though, she gives me sort of a Björky/Kate Bushy/Laurie Andersonish feel--which probably means I'll fall in love with it and my wife will curse the day I ever heard of Fever Ray.


Paula said...

Thanks for this Bill. I'll definitely look up a few on one of the music sites, to hear a snippet or two.

By the way, here's a bit of DC lore for you. Long ago, in another century--if not galaxy--I taught at MdKinley Tech, 2nd and T NE. The new young, hip principal, George Rhodes, put together (required) weekly assemblies and we never knew what they would include, until we sat down in our reserved seats.

One week it would be fire safety, the next time a guest speaker (including Margaret Meade herself!) but two particular assemblies stand out in my memory. One featured (Little) Stevie Wonder and another, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. No lie. Ask anyone who went there in the late 1960s. I'm sure they'll remember.

boukman70 said...

Please pardon the pun, Paula (and the alliteration), but that is too cool for school. My school couldn't even get the local polka band while I was there. I am truly jealous.

Paula said...

I figured you would be. Those were halcyon days...