Monday, July 23, 2007

The Are & His Records

That is all for now... OH!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mark The 45 King & Vestax Handytrax

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Record Digging 101

Folks, meet BJ. BJ is a friend of mine who, with his wonderful girlfriend Monica, just traveled from our nation's capital (by car) to spend the summer in beautiful San Francisco. And not just anywhere in San Francisco, but in the thick of it all - on the crest betwixt Upper and Lower Haight. What a summer they'll have. Having already visited the city as tourists, the pair have become more than familiar with the Amoebas and Rasputins of the area and I felt that as a local, BJ should get an idea of some of the record havens to be found off the beaten path.
The above photo gives a brief hint at what the basement looks like. Beyond the back-to-back rows of records, hanging guitars and 13-inch deep clearances in which you are expected to stand, 4-crate tall stacks eliminate all chances at a safe escape in the case of an emergency which makes this spot, well.... better than most others. If not more fun to navigate. Never have I felt so nimble as when I hoisted myself over said 4-crate stack to peruse the soul section. Well worth the effort - and risk of bodily harm. And at $5 for ANY record in the place, this is the kind of store that let's you get away with murder when you find that special dig.

And special digs we found. In the above above pictures, you'll note that BJ is test-driving a copy of Joe Simon's GET DOWN. Oh, so lovely. I put him on to that, and in exchange? He gets me into WHO I AM by David Ruffin. Now, sadly, I'm not up on mr. Ruffin like I gathered that I should be. But having gotten through the record twice now, I'm definately on the hunt. "Walk Away From Love" is beautiful and the man has a great knack for performing convincingly. Super.
Perhaps the inspiration for mr. K. West's affinity for mascot outfits, this 1978 Odyssey album, HOLLYWOOD PARTY TONIGHT dons a lion mascot - headless, and the lovely Lopez sisters in formal where. It is, I guess, your standard soul/disco fare. Super dope though. I hadn't heard any Odyssey prior to this, but again, something else that I'm checking for. One of the nicer releases from trios that I picked up this weekend. As dope as it is though, it pales in comparison to the following:
Love Unlimited's IN HEAT came out in the wonderful year of 1974. I was not even a twinkle in my parents' eyes while Barry White was killing mainstream America with his solo career and releasing more potent, soulful material via his femmebot threesome, Love Unlimited. Oh, how they've influenced hip hop in the last 20 years. Nas, Q-Tip, Pras & Mya (yes, THAT one), Masta Ace, Cappadonna, OC, Guru and EPMD have all used L.U.'s sound for some of their bigger hits. IN HEAT, my newest L.U. acquisition is also my favorite. For me to highlight a particular cut would be almost criminal - like a parent naming a favorite child, or my girlfriend picking her favorite Asian dish. So I'll just list the tracklisting and you can make your own pick(s):
1. Move Me No Mountain
2. Share A Little Love In Your Heart
3. Oh I Should Say, It's Such A Beautiful Day
4. I Needed Love - You Were There
5. I Belong To You
6. I Love You So, Never Gonna Let You Go
7. Love's Theme

Seriously, 5 stars. Per song. That's like 35 stars. And two more fore each fingernail longer than 2 inches on the album's cover. So that's like 65 total stars which, by my math, kids, makes it a classic.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Back In The Swing Of Things

So since we last caught up, I've moved apartments, have acquired my Brother's collection, spent the 4th of July digging at two of my favorite spots in the bay area, and acquired a LARGE portion of DJ Derrick B's collection (thank you, brother). I also bought some cool magnetic clips that i can hang my records from on the fridge for their photo shoots... oh, and I have sleeved 1,500 of my soul records for protection. On to the records...

THE ISAAC HAYES MOVEMENT. Isaac Hayes. I've seen it in stores every visit for the last 10+ years. Buying it at 50% off when it's tag reads "$2.95" was the way to do it. Man, it sounded good on mp3, but listening to the album the whole way through? Wahwahweewah. His cover of Harrison's "Something" makes you wonder if Harrison had a good idea but just couldn't come close to pulling it off. I'm convinced that this is how Harrison intended the song to sound. If not.... he should have. Hayes has an obvious mystique about him. Lord of soul, conducter of funk epics, etcetera. But when you wash all that away, the music really stands up. Seriously... check this out. He makes bad good and good better. And as far as my collection is concerned, this is the best peice in it. Perhaps that will change as I own more, but my expectation is that this will remain the crown jewel atop my Isaac Hayes Crown.

MIDNIGHT LOVE AFFAIR. Carol Douglas. First off, kudos to Adam of Lost Role Models for doing the right thing and handing this over to me while we dug on Independence Day. I let you get away with the Jaggerz and appreciate you letting me walk with this. Title track? Bananas. "Headline News"? Super ill type break. And A2 has a drum break that is just bonkers. I grew up despising only two music fields: disco, and the musical works of Mr. Prince Rogers Nelson. Around the age of 18, the epiphany train struck me dead and I managed to see Prince's catalog for the brilliance that it is. It hasn't been until recent years that I've managed to find my way through the weeds that are "YMCA", "I Will Survive" and "Shake Shake Shake" that I've found the flowers of Carol Douglas, and innumerous disco greats. I guess the fact that I'm still discovering much of the genre's works bodes well for me. Hooray for still having plenty to learn.

TOO HOT TO HANDLE. Heatwave. So about that cheesy, weedy disco... "Boogie Nights" by Heatwave has never been among my favorites. Its grown on me a tad in recent years and mixes well with Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall" which I believe it may have even inspired. Both songs were written by the legendary Mr. Rod Temperton. He wrote ALL of TOO HOT... and a flurry of hits for MJ in the years to follow.

When I found (doubles of) TOO HOT TO HANDLE in Derrick B's old crates, I was thrilled. Why, you ask? Could it be because it has the full version of "Always And Forever" with the shrieking falsetto finale? It probably could. But it honestly wasn't. It was because of a little ditty called "Ain't No Half Steppin'" which went on to inspire another song a decade later called... you guessed it: "Ain't No Half Steppin'" by Big Daddy Kane. Small world, ain't it? Now you can impress your friends when you play six degrees and want to hop from MJ to "Boogie Nights" in one move. Liner notes are a man's best friend.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Rocking & Rolling (part 1)

Today, on this glorious 30th of June, 2007, we celebrate Rock & Roll - its variations, its niches, its infinate glory and splendor. In the past months since my last update (sorry about that), I've gone digging in Seattle with Jake One, rummaged a few garages, and digested a new addendum to my collection - all of my brother's old records (he moved too - to North Carolina).

We start off with a fantastic record that I found just outside of Seattle. The record is called FACE THE MUSIC (1972), and it's by the obscure (to me, at least) Jazz-Rock band, SOD. "California" is bassist and vocalist, "Highme" Devers is on drums and vocals, Michael Green plays a myriad of percussion, and Rick Kellis is on sax, percussion and vocals. They're joined by Pat "Chico" Murphy on Congas and "Dirty" Don Phillips on guitar.
Allured by the album cover, I picked it up, listened to the first 8 or 9 seconds of A1 and walked straight to the counter to buy (I did not pay the $24.00 as the sticker might otherwise imply). I have since spent hours with this record and am at a loss when listening to it. It is some of the funkiest, vampiest, live shit I've ever heard. It reminds me a little bit of War, a little bit of Sly, a little bit of Spruce (my uncle's New England-based band circa 1974 - more on that later).
Like many great random finds, the tracklisting on the sleeve does not match that of the a- and b-side labels, but the labels are accurate in portraying what is actually included in this recording. In addition to the tracklisting on the sleeve there is a little paper insert inside the sleeve. Let's continue reading, shall we? After peeling through the "thank you"s, the engineering credits and the song lyrics, there's this one little line. What's that say? I must not be reading it right. Oh. Produced by.... David Axelrod??!?! Well I'll be. No wonder. This does sound exactly like the fruits of mr. oft-psych jazz-funk-rock fuser's labor. It all makes sense now.
To be perfectly honest, this record could supply enough samples to fill a discography of beatmakers who still sample in hip hop. I have wet dreams (well, not really) about what Jake One, The Are or Madlib might do with this record. It's guitar and horn heavy riffs and abundant instrumental breaks are just too good to be true. There is such a great dynamic relationship between the rhythm section and the brass that you'd swear this is the way bands should have always been arranged. What if Led Zeppelin had a trumpet ensemble for FOUR or if The Stones had a tuba and sax dueling throughout SOME GIRLS? Of course, neither of these hypotheticals should really exist, but I trust that you get my point.
Perhaps the only negative thing that you could say about this record is that... erm. I don't know, man. Seriously, this is a brilliant record. The songs are amazing, the performances and arrangements solid, and the sound impecable. Even if I'd paid the full price as listed for this one, I feel I would have had made the right choice. If you find it, buy it. If you find two, put one aside for me. I could always use doubles.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

R.I.P. Johnny Angel

My life's passion right now is the donut hunt; collecting samples that Dilla used during the course of his life - focusing on, but not being limited to the DONUTS album. I've had the 2 songs that he flipped from UK rock group 10cc, but not in "donut" form. I've now got the soundscape for "Waves" in Donut Box-ready format and I'm super excited about it. I found this picture-sleeve pressing online and when I came home today, it was sitting, waiting for me. What joy!

I must say, I'd hit some roadblocks in my donut hunt but as it stands right now, I'm actually faring quite well. I've got somewhere between 15-20 donuts on 45 with some great leads on more. And I'm expecting Motherlode's "When I Die" any day now.

I've come across so many records in the last year, but I will say this. The fine people at Blue Meanie in Dallas, TX seem to take great care of their records. The plastic and paper sleeves, as well as the record itself are in amazing condition. The significance of this? However subtle it may be, a clean record gives a cleaner sound than a dirty record. This is by far, the cleanest used record I've ever seen. It's so clean it's cleaning other parts of my apartment right now. Just playing it reorganizes my books and junk mail. I think the bathroom is sparkling more than usual too.

Although "Waves" is not my favorite Donut, "Johnny Don't Do It" is a dope cut, for real. And Dilla chopped the hell out of it. Seriously. He spiked 10cc's punch on this one. "Johnny Don't Do It" can be found on just about ALLLLLLLLLL of the group's greatest hits releases, so if you want an easy find, there you go. If you're looking for a 7" version of the song with picture sleeve, that was printed and distributed in Holland, beleive me... its a tougher find.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Honey Cone - "Want Ads"

Okay... so The Honey Cone were Holland, Dozier and Holland's Mary Jane Girls or Vanity/Apollonia 6. They were a trio from the late-60s early-70s who had some seriously funky pop/soul songs on Hot Wax Records which was was being run at the time by Eddie Holland. People have called them the female answer to The Jackson 5. I don't think its the worst comparison in the world. They had uptempo tracks with emphasis on the rhythm section and guitar parts - chicken grease pre-"chicken grease".

I got hip to them indirectly. I'm the first to admit that I'm not the most seasoned music listener or record buyer, but I'll definately hunt some shit down once I discover it. This is how I came to find Honey Cone. I am a big fan of Googoosh who is this once-ill, now-eh Iranian pop diva who performed dope, pre-revolution funky material in Farsi, English, Italian and more. I found her cover of "Want Ads" and did about 20 seconds of due dilligence before I fell in love with the original. I've gotten some more Honey Cone stuff including "Stick Up" which is a similar upbeat romp through chicken grease guitar and strong r&b backbeat. Super cool stuff. Here's the Googoosh cover for your listening enjoyment:

So anyway, check out Honey Cone and pretty much anything H,D,H did. There is some good information on Honey Cone here, if you're interested. And wikipedia is always a good look. I guess they sunk into the realm of obscurity after being a succesful backing group for some of the more popular motownesque girl groups of the early-mid-70s. Buddah re-released some of the group's more popular songs in the mid-80s as well. History is fun. I'm still hunting down any and all Googoosh vinyl. If you come across it, holler.