Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chairman wow

I don't generally spend much time listening to other DJs' mixes or radio shows because they cut into the time I have to seek out new music. When I make exceptions, they're for stuff friends have done or mixes which I think can turn me on to something I want to know.

Chairman Mao's monthly radio shows for Spine Magazine, the Spine Blowing Decisions series, are both. In case his reputation doesn't precede him, Mao is a longtime NYC DJ and rap writer whose knowledge is as deep as his taste is good. His shows focus on obscure soul, funk and disco and usually have a theme or style (e.g., disco raps, Halloween music, tortured ballads). They always include at least a handful of things I wish I knew or had forgotten about and am delighted to be reminded of. His dry, occasional voiceovers are a nice touch, too.

This week I finally got around to listening to Mao's December show and it really knocked me out. The episode centers on late 70s/early 80s sounds: disco, modern soul, boogie, funk and the selections are uniformly great. There were songs I hadn't heard in too long, songs I'd never heard before but instantly wanted to hear again and even some songs I'd been saving to build mixes of my own around (damn you, Mao!). It's the best collection of soul sounds I've listened to in a long time.

There's no track listing per se, but Mao scatters some clues throughout the mix and also his blog features scans of some of the songs he included, like the following:

(One track that's not pictured is the Gospel Soul Revivals' awesome Slave knockoff, "If Jesus Came Today". The track is featured on the Numero Group's new and wonderful Good God! Born Again Funk, which came out Tuesday and which I can't recommend highly enough.)

But uh, back to the lecture at hand. Spine Magazine doesn't host older shows and the episode of Spine Blowing Decisions is no longer available from Spine's site, so with Mao's permission, I've uploaded the show:

Chairman Mao: "Spine Blowing Decisions 18" (2009)

(Spine dudes, if this is a problem, get at me and the links will be gone.)

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Win your love

Billy Jones: "Win Your Love" (Blue Elephant, 1974)

Billy Jones was an American singer who lived and recorded in the Netherlands, first as a member of Oscar Harris & the Twinkle Stars and later solo. I pulled out his Birds of the Sea album intending to rip one track and ended up getting sucked into the whole thing-- it's really good front to back. There's some more info about Jones and other artists from the Netherlands's surprisingly fertile soul scene here.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

So ruff, so tuff

I just got around to listening all the way through the homie DJ B.Cause's tribute to Roger Troutman, Playin' Kinda Ruff: The Troutman Legacy and it's a really enjoyable listen.

Although I know and love most of Roger and Zapp's hits, for whatever reason I never listened to much beyond the first 2-3 LPs. Josh's mix draws together all of the much-played, much-sampled classics, some of the rap songs that stem from them and a whole lot of other stuff you probably haven't heard, from pre-fame recordings with the Human Body to oddball collaborations from the 90s. Josh is an incredibly skilled DJ and knows his way around a multi-track, so he's able to make all kinds of transitions that I would never attempt sound smooth and natural.

There's a full track listing and instructions for ordering physical copies of the CD at Josh's blog. You can also download the mix for free here.

Speaking of Roger, a recent Soulstrut post reminded me of this, which is one of my favorite performances by him:

Vontel: "4 My Homiez" feat. Roger Troutman (Fo' Life, 1998)

Vontel's an Arizona rapper. The album this is drawn from was partly produced by Battlecat, but this track was produced by Dre LeSean and Robert "The Professor" Anderson. Troutman's ad-libs are gorgeous.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oldd rapps

King Monkey: "Badd Mann Dann Rapp" (Ala, 1980)

King Monkey: "King Monkey Rapp" (Ala, 1980)

This is not a great record, but it's an important one-- I'm fairly certain it was the very first rap record from the West Coast. Both tracks are traditional toasts dressed up with a little blues/funk backing. It's really derivative of the style of Rudy Ray Moore, who recorded a lot of traditional toasts, sometimes also with a beat. I'd be curious to know if Too $hort heard this, since it anticipates both his nasty subject matter and his spelling, although not his musical or lyrical style.

Given the way pop culture seems to constantly get more vulgar, I'm always a little surprised when I hear nasty lyrics that predate $hort, 2 Live Crew, etc. I guess songs like that were always being written and performed, if not necessarily circulated in the mainstream.

This recording, from 1964, has some of the filthiest, most vicious lyrics I've ever heard:

Henry: "Pimpin' Sam" (Rounder, 1964)

The recording comes from an album called Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me!: Narrative Poetry from Black Oral Tradition, which was compiled by Bruce Jackson as a companion to his 1974 book of the same name. Most of the recordings were made in Texas state prisons; this one is credited only to a man named Henry on the Ramsey, Texas prison farm. The last minute or so gives me chills; it's colder than even anything Suga Free ever recorded.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Real sounds

Last month Chairman Mao posted a teaser that had me lusting for BBE's The Real Sound of Chicago comp. It's finally in stores, so I snatched it up.

The Real Sound of Chicago is a 2-CD collection of disco and boogie tracks compiled by the two guys who run Chicago's Peabody's Records, which I'm told is a great store. Their selections are all really obscure and rare; several are great to boot. The comp is a little frustrating because the liner notes are uninformative and (as is too often the case with BBE releases) completely illegible, but it's worth copping if only for Martin L. Dumas, Jr.'s insanely great "Sun Goddess" rip-off.

Kinda in the same vein but not remotely as rare as anything on The Real Sound of Chicago, I thought I might as well throw this up:

Heaven & Earth: "I Really Love You" (WMOT, 1981)

Heaven & Earth were also from Chicago, although I think this may have been cut in Philly because it features PIR ace Dexter Wansel.

I don't generally mess around with a song this great, but I've edited this track ever so slightly. It's a small thing, but the original version comes in with a fill that confuses the shit out of me every time I try to play the song. I snipped it off. This is still a little tricky because it comes in on the 3 but to me it's way more comprehensible.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Willie Mitchell tribute mix

Willie Mitchell passed away earlier this month. He produced some of the greatest soul music ever made, so this week's show collects 45 of my favorites, including some big hits from Al Green and Ann Peebles, as well as great music from a handful of lesser-knowns.

It's tough to talk about Mitchell without talking about Al Green, the artist Mitchell worked the most with and had his greatest success with. Green's gift is so overwhelming and his vocal identity is so established that it's easy to overlook Mitchell's role in shaping it. But to hear Green's work prior to recording with Mitchell, or even to hear their early recordings before Mitchell crafted Green's signature style, and to compare it with his mature style is to understand exactly how important a producer can be.

Mitchell plucked Green from relative obscurity, brought him to Memphis and recorded him for almost two years before they hit upon Green's sound. Early singles, like "Back Up Train", "Gotta Find a New World" or "All Because", show Green to be a better than average soul singer—strong, gritty, agile—but offer no clue as to how sinuous or graceful Green's vocals could be. It took two albums and a dartboard approach to find out what worked and apparently even Hi Records didn't recognize it at first; Green's breakthrough, "Tired of Being Alone", wasn't the first single from Green's second album with Mitchell, Al Green Gets Next to You, it was the fourth.

Once Mitchell hit upon a formula for Green, he worked subtle variations on a style that paired lush strings and jazzy chords with a restrained, lightly earthy backbeat. It was a perfect setting for Green’s music and their run of albums from I'm Still in Love With You to Livin' for You is almost flawless.

Mitchell’s touch was also evident in a host of other records he cut at Hi Records’ Memphis studio, both for Hi mainstays like O.V. Wright and Ann Peebles and for out-of-towners like the Detroit Emeralds and Denise LaSalle. Mitchell was not just a producer, he was an engineer, too, and the sound he coaxed from the room and from Hi’s band is instantly identifiable. Signature elements stamp all of these productions, like the wheeze of Charlie Hodges’s organ, the full, slightly tame sound of the Memphis Horns and especially the bone-dry snap of a snare drum, whether played by Al Jackson, Jr. or Howard Grimes.

The other acts Mitchell produced may have been less successful than Al Green, but many made remarkable music. When their songs were up to snuff, O.V. Wright, Syl Johnson and Ann Peebles all regularly made music that was nearly on Green’s level. Soul journeymen like the Masqueraders and George Jackson cut some of their best material with Mitchell, too.

I’ve tried to capture some of the breadth of Mitchell’s work in my mix. It’s not really his greatest hits (that would have required too much Al Green) or a selection of songs that have been popularized by sampling (though many were) and Mitchell’s work as a trumpeter and bandleader gets really short shrift (truth be told, I really dislike the music he made under his own name). I chose my favorites and tried to shape them into a mix that would function as an introduction or a celebration of his incredible body of productions. Enjoy.

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1. Al Green: Love & Happiness
2. Al Green: Love Ritual (Remix)
3. Ann Peebles: Somebody's On Your Case
4. O.V. Wright: Ace of Spades
5. Syl Johnson: The Love You Left Behind
6. Ann Peebles: It's Your Thing
7. O.V. Wright: A Nickel & a Nail
8. Willie Mitchell: Groovin'
9. Al Green: So You're Leaving
10. Al Green: Tired of Being Alone
11. Al Green: Let's Stay Together
12. Ann Peebles: I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down
13. Al Green: Call Me
14. Al Green: Your Love Is the Morning Sun
15. George Jackson: Aretha, Sing One For Me
16. Jean Plum: Here I Go Again
17. Syl Johnson: Anyway the Wind Blows
18. Ann Peebles: I Can't Stand the Rain
19. The Detroit Emeralds: Baby Let Me Take You In My Arms
20. Al Green: I'm a Ram
21. O.V. Wright: Are You Going Where I'm Coming From
22. Ann Peebles: Run, Run, Run
23. O.V. Wright: I'd Rather Be Blind, Cripple & Crazy
24. Ann Peebles: Trouble, Heartaches & Sadness
25. Al Green: I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
26. Al Green: I'm Glad You're Mine
27. Al Green: What a Wonderful Thing Love Is
28. O.V. Wright: Let's Straighten It Out
29. The Masqueraders: Let the Love Bells Ring
30. Al Green: La La For You
31. Syl Johnson: Steppin' Out
32. Syl Johnson: I Hate I Walked Away
33. Syl Johnson: Could It Be I'm Falling In Love
34. Al Green: I Wish You Were Here
35. Al Green: Simply Beautiful
36. Erma Coffee: You Made Me What I Am
37. George Jackson: Let Them Know You Care
38. Al Green: Something
39. Al Green: Strong As Death (Sweet As Love)
40. Syl Johnson: Wind Blow Her Back My Way
41. Betty Everett: Just a Matter of Time
42. Teacher's Edition: Sleepy People
43. Al Green: Jesus Is Waiting
44. Syl Johnson: It Ain't Easy
45. Ann Peebles: I Still Love You

If there's interest, I might break the mix into individual tracks and upload them as a .zip, but it's kinda a lot of work, so we'll see.

Statistical shits and giggles:

Number of songs by Al Green: 17
Number of songs by Syl Johnson: 7
Number of songs by Ann Peebles: 6
Number of songs by O.V. Wright: 5
Number of songs by George Jackson: 2
Number of songs by none of the above: 8

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Friday, January 8, 2010

2 Busy Saying Yeah - new rap music 3!

Since my last new rap show back in November there's been a slew of major rap albums released, as well as some great indie and mixtape stuff. I've sifted through as much as I could find time to listen to and gathered some gems.

It's a diverse selection of songs, covering Oakland, Alabama, Tennessee, New York, Louisiana, Houston, Atlanta, D.C., Virginia Beach and other places, and featuring everyone from buzz favorites to past-their-sell-date superstars. A disproportionate share of the music comes from Huntsville, Alabama, but that's just because they've been making a disproportionate amount of great rap music. Enjoy.

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1. Yelawolf: Box Chevy Pt. 3 feat. Rittz
2. Juicy J & Project Pat: Ike Turner Pimpin' feat. Slim Thug & New Generation
3. MJG: Dope Track
4. Webbie: Money Getting Taller feat. Pimp C & Lil Phat
5. G-Side: This Is Life
6. DJ Paul: Hi Way (I'm Gone)
7. Mia X: Grown Woman Shit
8. R. Kelly: Put Some Money On It feat. Rick Ross
9. Whitefolkz: Take a Picture
10. Wyld Money: G-Spot (Remix) feat. Gucci Mane
11. Korleon: Ray Charles feat. Bohagon
12. Mac Shawn: And You Do Know That
13. Drag-On: Money feat. Neo Da Matrix
14. Proton: Fuck the Economy
15. T-Boz: Get It Get It feat. Yung Joc & Too $hort
16. Tabi Bonney: Duhh
17. Souls of Mischief: Fourmation
18. Mos Def: 24 Hour Karate School
19. Kanye West: I'm So Appalled
20. Freeway & Jake One: Know What I Mean
21. G-Mane: 5th Wheel feat. Spyda, PT & Bentley
22. Z-Ro: Bottom to the Top feat. Mike D
23. RapTite: That's My Shit
24. J. Stalin: Pot of Gold feat. Mistah FAB & Kaz Kyzah
25. Messy Marv & DJ Fresh: In My Bloodline feat. J-Stalin, D-Lo & J-Mo
26. The Knux: Fuck You
27. Josie Stingray: Gotta Get It
28. Natural Elements: Off Beat Bop
29. Clipse: Counseling feat. Nicole Hurst
30. Jay Electronica: Glass Everywhere (Act I Encore)
31. Redman: Coc Back
32. OJ Da Juiceman: Frank Sinatra
33. Lil Jon: All the Way Crunked Up feat. Pastor Troy & Waka Flocka
34. Project Pat: Burglar Bars feat. OJ Da Juiceman
35. Cam'ron: Ooh Baby feat. Vado
36. 50 Cent: Strong Enough
37. Black C: Stay With Me feat. Hermanata
38. Betta Half: Cruisen
39. G-Side: In the Rain feat. Bentley
40. L.E.$.: Sittin' Low
41. Starlito: Magic Carpet Ride
42. Dude 'N Nem: McDonalds

Statistical shits & giggles

Songs by artists who were more popular in the 1990s: 12
Songs from the Bay: 6
Songs from New York: 6
Songs from Huntsville: 5
Songs from Atlanta: 5
Songs from Memphis: 4
Songs ripped from videos: 3
Songs by artists from New Orleans who don't sound like they're from New Orleans: 2
Songs featuring artists who were platinum in the 1980s: 1

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