Friday, April 27, 2007

The Boogie King Gets Funky

When John Lee Hooker died in 2001 he left behind a musical legacy that includes an overwhelmingly huge discography having recorded under several pseudonyms for many labels. Throughout his nearly 60 years of recordings he always displayed the John Lee Hooker signature style. There is however one album that is dramatically different. Call it "John Lee Gets Funky",1974's Free Beer and Chicken has a more exploratory feel with flutes, violins, synthesisers and even an African kalimba. Unfortunately the complete list of guest artists has been lost when the record company skimped on including an insert credit list with the original release. There are known appearances by Joe Cocker and violinist Sam Rivers. Like Muddy Waters' psychedelic Electric Mud and Howlin' Wolf's hard to find This Is Howlin Wolf's New Album..., Free Beer and Chicken was universally panned by blues purists, but I find it refreshing to hear new interpretations by the master. I also appreciate knowing that John Lee was always open to push the envelope and explore in different directions with a wide variety of musicians. Many of the tracks are edited and feel much too brief. I would love to hear the uncut master tapes. Maybe someday an expanded edition will be released, but seeing how hard this CD or vinyl is to find I'm not holding my breath.

John Lee Hooker: Make It Funky

The title says it all. John Lee brings the funk.

John Lee Hooker: Homework

"Get that funky sh-t!" John Lee directs. Something tells me he's not talking about school.

John Lee Hooker: 714 Blues

This is the tail end of 713-714 Blues. I'm not sure why they chopped the 714 bit into it's own track. The tune fades as JL gets us ready for 715. Kinda makes me wonder how long the jam continued...768 Blues?!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Everybody Loves The Sunshine

Spring has finally come to Western New York. I never truly realized how much I appreciate the sun having taken it for granted for the past 12 years living in LA, but after my first New York winter in a long time I understand the sun's power. Trees are getting their leaves flowers are popping, but more importantly everyone seems to instantly be in a better mood riding their bikes, taking walks and working away in their yards. Right now I have to admit I'd rather be outside than sitting in front of my computer but I have a responsibility to my 8-12 readers. So I present to you 4 versions of my favorite sunshine song Roy Ayers' Everybody Loves The Sunshine. Listen quickly and then GO OUTSIDE!!!!

Roy Ayers Ubiquity: Everybody Loves The Sunshine

Here's the 1976 classic from the
album of the same name.

R.A.M.P.: Everybody Loves The Sunshine

This mellower version is taken from the hard to find German import Cafe del Mar, Vol. 2. Originally released on the even harder to find Roy Ayers Music Project's 1977 release Come Into Knowledge.

Roy Ayers: Sunshine (Demo)

A demo version featured on 2005's compilation of unreleased material Virgin Ubiquity II.

Roy Ayers featuring Erykah Badu: Everybody Loves The Sunshine

An appealing take with Ms. Badu from Kinkysweet's 2005 Midnight Soul compilation.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Little Royal's Funky Tales

Little Royal: Little Royal Freeze

Little Royal: Keep On Loving

These tracks by the mysterious Little Royal were previously unissued until they were found in the Excello Records vaults and released on 1996's Funky Tales. They were most likely recorded sometime in the mid sixties during the "Freeze" dance craze. Born in Durham North Carolina and raised in Washington DC, Royal Torrence started his career with his uncle's gospel group where he was discovered by James Brown and earned himself a spot on The James Brown Revue. James Brown's influence is apparent on these sides. Little Royal & The Swingmasters cut numerous sides for Tri-Us and Black Pride labels and had a moderate hit with the 1972 single Jealous. Subsequent recordings failed to reach the same heights but Little Royal continued to be a crowd pleaser for several more years.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tax Time

Gary Nesta Pine & Dollarman: Money

I hate gimmick records. For example, let's cover every track of Pink Floyd's 1973 classic Dark Side of the Moon, but with reggae artists. Sounds stupid, but 2003's Dub Side of the Moon is actually good. Here's the Easy Star All-Stars version of Money. The choice to replace the intro cash register with a bong is a little juvenile, but I definitely dig the rap break.

The O'Jays: For the Love of Money

It's a little overplayed and probably ruined forever by that hump Donald Trump, but I always liked this Gamble & Huff ode to all things greed performed by The O'Jays from their 1973 masterpiece album Ship Ahoy. Dollar bills y'all.

Prince - Money Don't Matter 2 Night

Prince's shot at Philly Soul from his 1991 album Diamonds and Pearls.

Dennis Brown - Money In My Pocket

Here's Mr. Brown's 1972 hit single. You can find it on about a thousand Best ofs and Reggae Hit compilations. One of my favorites is the 1993 box set The Story of Jamaican Music from Mango.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Why Can't We Live Together?

Timmy Thomas: Why Can't We Live Together

This song is proof that less is more. Recorded as a demo in 1972 Timmy Thomas' rather simple song became a surprisingly huge hit. Thomas accompanies himself on organ backed by a cheesy rhythm box. It's the title track on his LP from 1974.

Tinga Stewart: Why Can't We Live Together

Tinga Stewart's 1977 performance is riven with emotion and in many ways far more powerful than Thomas's original. In Stewart's capable hands, the lyrics become an accusation, a demand, and finally an affirmation that indeed "we can live better." A stunning cover that leaves the original in the dust. This track can be found on Blood & Fire's exceptional compilation from 2001 Darker Than Blue: Soul From Jamdown 1973-1977.

Steve Winwood: Why Can't We Live Together

Taken from Winwood's 2003 "comeback" album About Time this version has a considerably more Latin vibe featuring Winwood on a Hammond organ, drummer Walfredo Reyes Jr., and guitarist José Piresde Almeida Neto. Congas and timbales flesh out the rhythm.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Jamaica to Toronto

Canada has a large population of West Indians who created an often overlooked music scene. Centered in Toronto in the late 60's and early 70's Jamaican rhythms mixed with R&B creating a new hybrid of soul music. Here are a few tracks from Light in the Attic's recent compilation Jamaica to Toronto.

Jo-Jo and the Fugitives: Fugitive Song

Recorded in 1967, this track features Jo-Jo Bennett on trumpet and vocals. Musically it's very reminiscent of James Brown's I Don't Mind, but Jo-Jo's desperate pleading vocals makes it his own.

Jackie Mittoo: Grand Funk

As a member of legendary Jamaican groups such as The Sheiks and The Skatalites Jackie Mittoo helped define early reggae music. On this track from 1971 Jackie demonstrates his R&B side with super funky results.

Cougars: I Wish It Would Rain

A beating heart sets the tempo for this 1970 cover of The Temptations classic. Motown, funky ska and Rastafarian chants all come together to make this track irresistible.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Father of Rock N Roll

I'm never really sure why Elvis is considered the "King of Rock N Roll". I assume it's because he became the first profitable mainstream rock star by putting a pretty white face to great songs by the likes of Big Boy Crudup and Junior Parker. Elvis' early recordings are great, but is he the King? Chuck Berry could be considered a king, but his personal troubles kept a dark cloud over him throughout his career. Little Richard labels himself the architect and he may be right. I guess there is no answer to these label debates, but I know who is the father of rock...Mississippi Muddy Waters.

Born McKinley Morganfield outside of Clarksdale, Muddy Waters moved north to Chicago in the 40's and single handily defined Chicago blues until his death in 1983. Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, James Cotton, Little Walter,Otis Spann, Jimmy Rogers and of course the great Willie Dixon all played in his band at one time or another helping to make Chess Records the epicenter of electric blues. Muddy Waters influenced generations of rock stars like Eric Clapton, The Who and The Rolling Stones who took their name from one of Muddy's signature songs. Muddy Waters had a man's voice and lived a man's life always with class. Today is his 92nd birthday.

Muddy Waters: My Home Is In The Delta

This track is taken from 1964's Folk Singer, Muddy Waters "unplugged" album. The album was a response to the growing popularity of folk music in the country. Intimate and now fully remastered you feel as though you are in the room. Muddy's vocals are incredible and it features a VERY young Buddy Guy on guitar.

Muddy Waters: Tom Cat

In 1968 the blues were in a serious decline. Chess' solution was to hook older blues legends up with young psychedelic musicians and record what happens. Electric Mud was the result. The trippy, sometimes uncomfortable versions of Muddy Waters classics were widely rejected, but I actually like the results.

The Rolling Stones: I Just Want To Make Love To You

Here are The Stones covering their idol on their first LP from 1964 dubbed England's Newest Hit Makers.


Muddy at Newport Jazz 1960

Monday, April 2, 2007

Marvin Gaye : April 2, 1939 - April 1, 1984

"One of the most gifted, visionary, and enduring talents ever launched into orbit by the Motown hit machine, Marvin Gaye blazed the trail for the continued evolution of popular black music. Moving from lean, powerful R&B to stylish, sophisticated soul to finally arrive at an intensely political and personal form of artistic self-expression, his work not only redefined soul music as a creative force but also expanded its impact as an agent for social change." Marvin Gaye would've been 68 today.

Marvin Gaye: Soon I'll Be Loving You Again

This track is from his 1976 I Want You LP at the peak of his sexually charged music. Marvin's vocals ooze.

Marvin Gaye: Piece Of Clay

A tragically ironic lyric considering Marvin's death at the hand of his own father. This track is incredibly moving with a screaming guitar and a gospel vibe. It can be found on the 1995 box set The Master 1961-1984.

Marvin Gaye: Let's Get It On (Da Producers MPG Groove Mix)

Taken from 2005's Motown Remixed, this is yet another clue that Marvin Gaye's music will last forever. The laid back groove on this track breathes new life into one of Marvin's most popular songs.


Marvin performing What's Going On/What's Happening Brother from 1973.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Greatest Song EVER.

Music, like all art, is constantly under debate, but every once and a while an artist produces a masterpiece that is universally praised. If we're lucky we can witness this rare feat that generally will only occur every 300-400 years. Well children, it has happened...The greatest gift to the arts in our lifetime, and possibly any other lifetime. Sit down for this one and enjoy.
Quite simply
The Greatest Song EVER.