Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Like a man

The other night I was driving home after a gig and was trying to listen to some music on one of those iPod car radio adapter things but was foiled by interference from a pirate station. I was mad until I gave up on the iPod and realized that the DJ was playing this:

The Dramatics: "Treat Me Like a Man" (edit) (ABC, 1975)

The Dramatics are one of the longest-running franchises in soul music but aside from their hits from Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get and their appearance on Snoop Dogg's best song, I can't say I listen to them much. For a couple of years the album this is taken from, Drama V, had been sitting in a small pile of LPs near my desk with a note reading "rip 'Treat Me Like a Man'".

I've edited the track a little. The album version starts with "The Dramatics Theme", a 90-second instrumental that doesn't do much for me. My edit comes in kind of funny but I prefer it this way-- it's far more enjoyable on repeat.

Incidentally, this song was produced and written by Michael Henderson, who has a fascinating career that took him from Stevie Wonder sideman to the linchpin of Miles Davis's electric band to quiet storm gold and then on to eventual fame as a bikini model.


Kind of related: for a horrifying true-life story of race relations in America circa 1967, check out John Hersey's The Algiers Motel Incident. To summarize: in the midst of a riot, some police and national guard members raided a Detroit motel in search of gunmen who had been reported near the motel. The police proceeded to brutally interrogate the guests of the motel, 11 black men and two white women. All 13 were beaten; 3 were murdered; 5 were the original members of the Dramatics.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Oh, my spectacularly poor timing...

Sunday I'm flying out to NYC to hang out, eat, shop, play some records, etc. but it looks like I couldn't have timed it much worse. In the 48 hours before I arrive there's a ton of great stuff happening-- tonight Mannie Fresh is DJing at Santo's and Syl Johnson is performing at Southpaw; tomorrow DJ Anonymous is guesting with my homies from the Rub.

Meanwhile, I'll be returning to the Bay just a little too late to catch this:

Back in July I did a mix celebrating the 20th anniversary of Luv 'n Haight Records, a great reissue label that grew out of the Groove Merchant store in San Francisco.

Luv 'n Haight has just released Groove Merchant Turns 20, a new set compiled by the store's current owner, Chris Veltri.

Chris is a tremendously knowledgeable collector with great, eclectic tastes in rare records. The album tracks those tastes-- there's floaty soul, bummer folk, soulful disco, funky gospel, moody jazz and a few things that might fit into a bunch of those categories. Almost all the selections were new to me and great, to boot. The packaging on the vinyl version they sent me is also fantastic: the sleeve is ultra-heavy duty and Freddy Anzures's layout and poster are a perfect fit for Chris's own highly-refined aesthetic (if you've ever examined the store's windows, you know what I'm talking about). It's easily my favorite compilation of the year.

Next Friday, they're throwing a release party for the album at the Elbo Room in San Francisco featuring Chris and the store's three current employees-- DJ B.Cause, Sweater Funk's Jon Blunck and Vinnie Esparza.

Also on the bill is a surprise guest I won't name or even hint at, but I will say this-- there aren't that many DJs I see as peers and there are even fewer I look up to; the special guest is the only one that makes me want to roll over and give up. I really wish I could make it.


New Yorkers who want to catch me:

I'm keeping a pretty low profile this time out, but I'm planning to swing through a couple of my favorite weeklies devoted to great sounds from the past: Jared Boxx & the Lost & Found Crew's Tuesday night party at Savalas in Brooklyn and Mr. Finewine's Wednesday night at Botanica in Manhattan. Both are all-vinyl affairs, so I'll be limited by the number of records I choose to drag east with me, but I'm looking forward to getting to play a lot of stuff that's a little too sophisticated for Bay crowds.

I haven't confirmed yet, but I may also be guesting again with Radio Rios and Oskar Mann on their East Village Radio show, Never Not Working. (Sorry I've been flaky, dudes!)

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Iron Chic

I had planned to stop with Chic-related stuff but then tonight I ran into Trackademicks and in the midst of a long conversation about '80s British blue-eyed soul, Ciara's "C.R.U.S.H." and the shittiness of commercial radio in the Bay, I remembered that he made this beat from one of my favorite Chic songs, "A Warm Summer Night":

Rydah J. Klyde: "Quit Wynin'" feat. Johnny Cash (Thizz, 2005)

I love this song to death but every time I bring it up, Track kind of winces because apparently they snatched the music from a beat tape he had made and he wasn't happy with how it came out. He was credited on the CD but the beat they used was only a loop of the intro to the actual track Trackademicks had made. Fortunately he says there's a full version that he may get around to putting out one day. (Homie: Please please please.)

Trackademicks also has a debut album due out in late January that he's been working on since I met him in 2006 (and probably before that!). There are two teaser tracks featuring Phonte and F.A.B. that you can grab here and here. Both are strong productions but I'm more into the latter one.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Harry Whitaker, R.I.P.

Harry Whitaker passed away two weeks ago and I've been meaning to post something about him.

I first heard Whitaker's music through his work with Roy Ayers, who Whitaker served as a keyboardist, writer and arranger during Ayers's early-1970s artistic prime. Whitaker played on all of Ayers's albums from 1970 to 1974 and wrote classics like "We Live in Brooklyn" and "Boogie Back". During the same period, Whitaker worked as music director for Roberta Flack and Eugene McDaniels.

Whitaker's first release as a leader, 1976's Black Renaissance, was almost as ill-fated as it was great. The album was pressed in minute quantities by a fly-by-night Japanese label and Whitaker lost the masters in a house fire. It wasn't until 2002 that the record got a wide release, courtesy Luv 'n Haight records. After that reissue, Whitaker had something of a renaissance, releasing three further solo albums.

There's a very nice reprint of a 2002 profile by Andrew Mason over at Wax Poetics.

Over the years, Whitaker had a hand in a ton of great records. Here are some favorites:

Eddy Jacobs Exchange: "Pull My Coat" (Columbia, 1970)

(co-writer, arranger)

Roy Ayers Ubiquity: "Hummin'" (Polydor, 1970)


Roy Ayers Ubiquity: "We Live in Brooklyn" (Polydor, 1972)

(writer, arranger, electric piano)

Roy Ayers: "Coffy Is the Color" (Polydor, 1973)

(electric piano, orchestration)

Black Renaissance: "Black Renaissance" (Baystate, 1976)

(piano, writer, producer, arranger, conductor)

Terumasa Hino: "The Planet Is Ours" (Flying Disk, 1978)


Vitamin E: "Sharing" (Buddah, 1977)


Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway: "Back Together Again" (Atlantic, 1979)


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