Monday, December 5, 2011

Hatin'/A trip down memory lane

On Friday, Serg Dun, Soft Money and I taped a new installment of Stay Hatin', which you can stream or download here.

In it, we play a lot of new rap songs we like and also speak on important topics of the day, such as the singer Lloyd's resemblance to Gonzo and the genius of Los Masters Plus and Frank Frazetta.

These are the songs we played, most of which are available in a .zip file here:

1. A.Dd+ - Genocide
2. Mobb Deep - Conquer
3. Andre Nickatina - Call the Dealer
4. Juicy J - Stoner’s Night 2 feat. Wiz Khalifa
5. Z-Ro - Stompin
6. Ghost8800 - California Hot Boy feat. Birch Boy Barie & Gigs510
7. Nacho Picasso - Moor Gang feat. Jarv Dee
8. SL Jones - Gas Station
9. SpaceGhostPurrp - Dont Give a Damn (Miami Bass)
10. Fat Tony - Lotus
11. Willie Evans Jr. – Introducin’
12. Lakutis - Lakutis In the House
13. Keak Da Sneak - Punk Ho
14. Twelve - So High feat. Lil Goofy

Although I didn't manage to work it in, I had hoped to play this song:

Rick Flare: "Family" (The Good Look Movement, 2011)

Rick Fairley a/k/a Rick Flare a/k/a Kwanz a/k/a K-Dub a/k/a Dubstar Infamous passed away last year. The video was made posthumously and (I'm guessing) released to mark the anniversary of his death.

I didn't know Kwanz personally but he touched a lot of people I know. He was a member of SF's long-running Bored Stiff crew.

Back in the early 1990s, I used to work at the Groove Merchant record store. I think all of the guys in Bored Stiff lived in the neighborhood and they would come through often, usually in a big group. I never really became friendly with them, but over the years I admired a lot of the stuff they did both as a group and in the production Equipto and TD Camp did for Andre Nickatina, Mac Dre and others.

The Rick Flare song made me think of this, which I hadn't listened to in many years:

Marvin Holmes and Justice: "I Can't See You" (Brown Door, 1973)

Then I got to thinking about how we value things differently as times change. Back in the day, Groove Merchant used to regularly put copies of The Summer of '73 on the wall, usually priced at about $12. In those days, any time a record was marked over $10 it seemed to draw a lot of eye-rolling and questions about why our records were so expensive. Even so, people often shelled out for The Summer of '73 when we played "All Night Into Day", a snare-tight funk instrumental, over the store's system.

At the time I don't think any of us really appreciated "I Can't See You", "Got to Be There" or some of the more soulful songs on the album, but these days those resonate with me a lot more. I remember picking up a lot of copies in those days for two or three dollars; the record also sells for way more money now.

I feel very thankful to have come up in a time when there was so much low-hanging fruit and also that I've been given the time to savor it.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Howard Tate, R.I.P.

Howard Tate died Friday. Although a cause of death hasn't been announced, he experienced a lot of ups and downs in his 72 years.

Tate was a hugely gifted soul singer who is best remembered for a handful of soul classics he cut with writer/producer Jerry Ragovoy in the mid-60s, this among them:

Howard Tate: "Get It While You Can" (Verve, 1967)

Ragovoy produced all and wrote most of two of Tate's three albums from the late 1960s/early 1970s, 1967's Get It While You Can and 1972's self-titled album on Atlantic. Although Ragovoy wrote some indisputably great songs in his day ("Time Is On My Side" and "Piece of My Heart"), I've never really warmed to the stuff he did for Tate the way I wanted to. Here are two favorites:

Howard Tate: "The Bitter End" (Atlantic, 1972)

Howard Tate: "Ain't Got Nobody to Give It To" (Epic, 1974)

The song takes a while to get going, but when it gets to the chorus and Tate's voice soars, it's an amazing moment.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Lee "Shot" Williams, R.I.P.

Lee "Shot" Williams died this past week. From one of the write-ups I learned that he got the nickname "Shot" from his mother, because he liked to dress up like a "big shot". I liked that detail.

Although he's probably best remembered as a blues artist, I love his soul recordings on Shama and Sussex, in particular this two-sider:

Lee "Shot" WIlliams: "Get Some Order" (Shama, 1969)

"Get Some Order" is an all-star affair. The great Chicago arrangers Willie Henderson and Johnny Cameron are in the writing credits, and the Pieces of Peace are credited with production along with Syl Johnson, whose label Shama was. This song and its flip, "Our Thing Is Through", are as raw as "Different Strokes" or any of Syl's music from that era, which is saying a lot.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

J. Blackfoot, R.I.P.

John Colbert a/k/a J. Blackfoot passed away yesterday from a heart attack. Blackfoot was a member of the coed Stax quartet, the Soul Children, and later a solo artist. The Soul Children were gifted second-stringers who enjoyed a number of minor hits but never broke through to the kind of success enjoyed by labelmates like Isaac Hayes or the Staple Singers.

The Soul Children's Friction album was, for me, the gateway to a lot of other great soul music. I first heard it in the early 1990s at a time when I was mainly focused on obscure funk and rare groove records. Although I had a good grounding in a lot of the the great soul album artists of the 1960s and 1970s (e.g., Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, etc.), I had not yet bothered to dig in to the next tier of straight ahead soul artists.

The first side of Friction hit me like a ton of bricks, in particular "Can't Let You Go" (which Blackfoot sang lead on) and "I'll Be the Other Woman". The songs had this incredible mixture of intensity and restraint: it's not the emotional overload of James Brown or the instrumental overkill of Isaac Hayes, instead it's like the pain and longing in the performances are so overwhelming that every element succumbs to emotional exhaustion. It's the kind of record I pick up every time I see it cheap just so I can turn others onto it.

The Soul Children: "Can't Let You Go" (Stax, 1974)

A fair portion of the Soul Children's discography is in print on CD. There's a collection of Stax recordings that isn't great, but all four of their original Stax albums are available on CD twofers. (If only for the sake of this song, I wish Friction were paired with the S/T one but oh well.)

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