for Freaks of All Ages.
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Dead Movie Stars
Guitarist Wayne Kramer has made a lot of music since the MC5 and being imprisoned. His first solo effort was a 45 for Jake Riveria's Radar label in 1979, and for that he worked with producer Martin Rushent. His solo albums show a range of musical interests and abilities. When he played in my Tower, this was certainly one of his most power numbers, as it captures his flair for jazz, performance narratives and much more. It was a joy to present him and if you have not been listening to his work over the past 30 years or so, start now!
The Price of Love
After 1962 the Everly Brothers pretty much stopped having big hits in the US. They remained more popular in the UK and in 1965 they reached #2 over there with, to me, one of their greatest records, The Price Of Love. In the UK it has had many interesting covers, as the Status Quo did it in the late 1960s and in the mid 1970s Brian Ferry made a very good version. The song does not seem as popular here, though not that long ago Buddy Miller did it and did it very well. The Everly's version, the big UK hit really must be heard!
The Feminine Look
Mickie Most is mostly known as a producer, and sometimes as a producer who really hacked off his own artists, like Donovan and Terry Reid and the Yardbirds. Still, he was very successful over more than two decades. Early on, though, Most was a singer. He wad a good deal of success in S Africa during the beginning of the 1960s, returning to London in 1962. Most was one of the first producers to use Jimmy Page and Big Jim Sullivan regularly, and this 1963 example, though the lyrics are a bit stereotyped, has much wonderful Page!
Sitting By The Window
The weather here in Chicago has alternated between beautiful and then cold and damp. It has been raining again for hours and promises to rain off and on ALL day. In that spirit, let's hear this Moby Grape which includes the rain among its mise-en-scène to an emotional lament. It really is a moving and beautifully sung record!
Put It In
Drummer and producer Bill Curtis oversaw the rise of The Fatback Band and he has been involved in many aspects of r&b, funk, latin and rap for decades. This is one of his earlier productions featuring guitarist and singer Johnny King. It borrows from River Deep Mountain High to develop a strong and memorable groove. It seems to have been released in 1968.
I just love the music Esther Phillips made. Though she had a tumultuous life and battled drug use, she made her singing mark on blues, r&b, jazz and soul, just to cite the most obvious. She was an accomplished singer at age 15, and had big hits on her own or with Mel Walker. Most of her early records were overseen by the great Johnny Otis, and she benefited from his big band. Better Beware opens with staccato lead guitar from Pete Lewis leading to and a stirring arrangement. After Phillips has her pointed say, Ben Webster enters on sax, relaxed at first and then he gets going. Lewis follows him. It is truly amazing how much music and emotion fit into less that two minutes and forty seconds!
Because of Santana, the Willie Bobo tune, Evil Ways, has become well known. It was written by Bobo's guitarist, Clarence Henry and appeared on album in 1967. A rock group from East L.A., The Village Callers, recorded their version in the late spring of 1969 for the L.A. label Rampart, and it did well enough in California markets that it was picked up by the Bell label in September. It's popularity was noticed by employees of CBS in San Francisco, and they started a campaign to have it released as a 45, since Santana's Jingo had died. They were successful and at the very end of December, Evil Ways became the second Santana 45, and hence a big hit. It isn't just that the Village Callers deserve some note; their record is also really great and deserves to be heard. If it is really true that the accomplished pianist Hector Rivera had something to do with their management, that would also give the Callers a direct tie to the N.Y.C. latin soul and boogaloo scene. But I have no idea if that is actually true.
Going Back Home
Harmonica Slim (Travis Blaylock) has spent most of his musical life as a sideman, playing on records that are not by him. He has made one well respected album and at least four 45s. This is on the earliest, and it is a beautiful example of harmonica blues. He has the right, almost natural tone and though it was most likely recorded in Los Angeles, it could pass for something done in Chicago during the mid 1950s, which is when it was recorded. Once upon a time, blues records like this were not uncommon. That is not at all the case now.
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I Can’t Stand the Rain
Still raining, and so wet I'm not dreaming. Some main roads are flooded and still the rain comes. Since I've posted this great Ann Peebles hit before, let me note that many other people have covered it, including Lowell George (a good version) Seal (also good) and Tina Turner (not so good). The biggest hit version was by Eruption, in 1977, as it was a top ten hit everywhere in Europe and even made the top 20 here in the US. It is pretty good, and the lead singer at that time, Precious Wilson, can sing! So may the rain dissipate.
Today at the Soul Station, I present the Isley Brothers' Brother, Brother, Brother and 3+3 albums. I think these are two of their very best albums. Brother was the final studio release in their T-Neck deal with Buddah Records, though they had to give the label a double live set, too, which came out in March of 1973, almost one year after Brother. The Brother album isn't the first on which Ernie Isley plays rock influenced lead guitar, but in my estimation, it is the first one in which he is really successful and find his own way, even with many touches obviously borrowed from Hendrix. Overall the album balances the soul, funk and mighty dance grooves, with some searing guitar and perhaps the best vocal version of It's Too Late. Having moved to CBS, they reconfigured That Lady from a 1964, moody, latin inflected, brass driven track, to one featuring Ernie's searing and soaring lead guitar. Big difference, big hit. And while they continued to cover rock and pop tunes well associated with other artists and groups, the versions here of Summer Breeze and Listen To The Music really stand out! So be prepared to groove and connect with the Brothers Isley of 1972-73.
Arsenio Rodriguez was one of the most important figures in the rise and development of Afro Cuban music for several decades beginning in the late 1930s. His contributions are immense. The Orquesta Casino de la Playa, with Miguelito Valdes on vocals, was one of the first bands to record a song by Rodriguez, even before he began making his own recordings. This song, Bruca Manigua, with lyrics in Bozal, has been recorded many times since, by Nilo Menendez, Xavier Cugat, Orquesta Afro-Cubana Batamu, and more recently Buena Vista Social Club. This version is by a group that is basically a mystery. It may, or may not, have been recorded in Cuba, though the Coast label was apparently based in the US. The band also had a 78 on the Mexican Peerless label. There is no vocal and the arrangement clearly has some jazz influence, in addition to the way it ends, with a repeating montuno part that almost gets at the mambo. It is, even without the lyrics, quite beautiful and powerful!
Into the mid 1970s Barry White used a group named White Heat as his touring band. White and singer-producer Bob Relf oversaw the group's RCA album in 1975, but sometime after that there were disputes, and all but one member of the group left White. Then that band became Hot Ice, with an album in 1977. Later this record was released as by Smash. Smash then became Switch and finally DeBarge. The White Heat album is really great and covers several aspects of funk and soul, even getting a little trippy, as in this track which works on a slow funky groove, has nice fuzzy lead guitar and strong horns before its downtime ending.
You don't hear much about tenor player Vido Musso. He emerged from the big band era of the 1930s, and by the time he was a main soloist for Stan Kenton it was the mid 1940s and Musso, along with Kai Winding, Pete Rugolo, and others in Kenton's band he began to be attracted to be-bop. Musso flirted with it in early 1946 for Savoy, and with a few of the same cats, cut this boppish track in 1947. It really is more the tune and the arrangement here that is boppish, as for the most part, the fine solos are still mostly in the swing thing. It shows how many aspects of what Gillespie and Parker introduced became made and remade after their most influential recordings of 1945 and 1946. Musso has his own sound and mildly gruff approach and at his best seems reminiscent of Lockjaw Davis, Lucky Thompson and Illinois Jacquet, who were all his contemporaries.
Me and My Woman
Little Joe Blue (Joe Valery, Jr) had his greatest and only national chart success with a disc he cut in LA. It was written by songwriter Fats Washington, and cut for the Movin' label. After it was picked up by Chess, it made #40 on the Billboard r&b chart in 1966. As good as that record is, I think the one he actually did for Chess, his third release for the label, and the only one that wasn't originally on Movin', is the best. Here in Chicago Joe worked with musician/producer Gene Barge and cut a song he wrote. Charles Stepney made the arrangement, and Joe managed perhaps his greatest vocal on record. Of course such wonderful effort was NOT rewarded, and he did not record again for Chess, His further records were done in LA, on Kris, Jewel and a few other labels. Though he recorded into the 1980s, there were no more hits. I first heard Me An My Woman by the Keef Hartley band, and a few years later, I discovered the amazing version by Shuggie Otis. It took me quite some time to find Joe's 45, and I am very happy I did.
I'm No Stranger
Have you heard of the 60s LA band, The Seven Souls? Probably not. But they have quite a story. Formed by at least 1964, the band had a strong horn section and were known for originals and strong soul and funk covers, though these were only released in France! When the original guitarist left, the replacement was Bob Welch. Welch, of course, would go on to Fleetwood Mac and a solo career. With singer and sax player Henry Moore they would write I'm No Stranger, the A side on the first 45 they cut--they would do only one more in the US while in France there was an ep and another 45 that was not issued here. This first 45 was released in the summer of 1967 and apparently it received no national notice. But it was noticed in the NYC latin soul scene, as Joe Bataan covered it on his masterpiece album, Singin' Some Soul in 1969. In 1970 Sunny and the Sunliners (singer Sunny Ozuna's band) from San Antonio covered it. This was not the first time that a Mexican American band in Texas recorded latin soul from New York! By 1969 Seven Souls disbanded. Welch went to Paris and then the Mac, while latter day members Bobby Watson (bass) and Henry Maiden (guitar, who seems to have replaced Welch) eventually joined Rufus. Though the band briefly was popular in France and Northern Soul clubs have popularized the B side of I'm No Stranger (I Still Love You) there still isn't much notice here, nor am I aware of any of their music having been re-issued. Sad. By the way, in the pic below, Welch is on the left with the guitar and glasses.
Deep South Suite, Pt. 4 Happy Go Lucky Local
There is no one else like Duke Ellington in jazz history, a musician, band leader and brilliant composer who was and remains,many different things to many different audiences. At least in my view. And in that view, I have always heard an uncompromising, sometimes daring musical approach. This track certainly shows that he was a mighty pianist, capable of playing something like a very hard blues, and doing so with a dissonance that is usually just associated with Monk or Sun Ra. After Duke's piano, the band really roars, for afterall, this is about a train! Eventually this music would be transformed into Night Train. This version comes from a V-Disc and was originally recorded at Carnegie Hall in 1946!
My everlasting appreciation of Ronnie Self stems largely from knowing a great band from Springfield, MO, variously known as The Symptoms, Morells and Skeletons. They have promoted his works since the mid 1970s. Self was from Tin Town, MO, not too far from Springfield. His early 45s are the kind of rockabilly that legends are made of: tough rocking guitars, slick, inventive language, and sometimes wild, edgy singing. His Bop-A-Lena on Columbia charted in 1958, but no higher that #68. Fortune and fame, though, came as a song writer, as his works were successfully covered by Brenda Lee. He moved from Columbia to Decca but after his first release, the material became less rock and rockabilly and more pop and straight country, though his singing remained very strong even on weak discs. One side I've always liked is Instant Man, as it has great lyrics, wonderful singing, cool r&b horns and an almost cute electric keyboard that reminds me of early Del Shannon. Even the female chorus doesn't lessen the appeal. Self continued to write and occasionally made records after leaving Decca We must be thankful for many great songs he wrote that he did not release commercially, like Home In My Hand and Waiting For My Gin To Hit Me, which in some ways describes his severe drinking problems and early death at age 43.
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Shake For Me
I discovered the Southern Friedalbum in 1970, sometime after it was released. Most of it hit me right off. I was also drawn to it because Duane Allman is on four of the disc's tracks. I was already familiar with Hammond's Vanguard label albums, since the public library had them. I liked them, but really felt this album was in a different class: it had horns and a much different drum sound. Probably because it was recorded in Alabama. The lead track on side one was also put out on a 45 at the end of 1969, before the album was issued, and though it didn't light up the charts, it is easy to tell why it was chosen: Allman adds a lot when his slide enters during the second verse.
In April of 1953, Miles Davis recorded with sax player Jimmy Heath, and that session also produced a recording of Heath's composition, C.T.A. Sometime after this session, Heath's drug problems escalated and he did two prison stints, not getting out until 1959. During that time in jail he worked hard on his writing and composed several things that ended up on an album by several prominent, west coast players. It was originally called Playboys (in 1957) and later was issued as Picture of Heath, as all the tunes were written by him. Among the musicians on that disc are Chet Baker, Art Pepper, and the very prominent bassist, Curtis Counce. C.T.A. was also recorded, and this helped propel it toward becoming a classic, and quite significant jazz standard. actually WRITTEN by a jazz musician!
Pianist Pete Rodriguez had been leading his combo/conjunto for a few years before he made his explicitly boogaloo records 1966-67. The track his band members Tony Pabon (trumpet-vocals) and Manny Rodriguez (percussion), wrote, I Like It Like That, became somewhat anthemic to the rise of latin boogaloo, and though it must have received air play around NYC, it did not chart nationally. Some of the ingredients to the boogaloo Rodriguez help popularize were evident on his earlier records for the Remo label, such as this excellent guajira, also written by Pabon and Rodriguez. The piano solo Rodriguez turns in sparkles with dissonance and then really pronounces the vamp. To me, it is a latin grind, great dance music and still drawing on traditional Afro-Cuban song forms.
DJ π a.k.a. Paul Yamada
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