Sunday, July 13, 2014

Funkadelic - Red Hot Mama and Comin' Round The Mountain (from the 'Rocky Mountain Shakedown' bootleg)

 Whoever is responsible for this bootleg release did it right, in true P-Funk style. The cover is scatalogical (and drawn in the style of P Funk artist du jour Pedro Bell), liberties are taken with the song titles, and the gatefold cover has higher production values than your standard illicit release.

This double LP captures this group operating at another level; no surprise, as this was recorded in Denver, 1976 on the Mothership Connection tour when the Parliament/ Funkadelic mob was at their commercial peak. While the album is billed as 'Funkadelic', it stays true to how these concerts were performed; 'Parliament' would play the horn driven hits, and within the same set 'Funkadelic' would inject the guitar driven psychedelic insanity into the mix. Of course, many of the musicians overlapped, and George Clinton held court throughout everything, as an inmate leading the asylum of funky insanity.

I chose two tracks here that represent the Funkadelic side of things at moments of pure meltdown. 'Red Hot Mama' was recorded twice officially by P Funk (first by Parliament on 1970's Osmium LP, then by Funkadelic in '74 on Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On) , and it's one of the greatest of all Funkadelic tracks, and a showcase for the guitar genius of Eddie Hazel.

'Comin' Round The Mountain' (the leadoff track from Funkadelic's then current LP Hardcore Jollies) takes a relatively square tune and turns it inside out in a way that shouldn't make sense but somehow it does. While the studio recording of this track is excellent (and grooves DEEP), the live version heard here ups the intensity to a whole other level!!! It's a wonderful thing that this show was captured, and thank you, kind bootleggers, for putting it out on wax. I've only ever seen one copy 'out in the wild' and it happens to be the copy I own (and have owned for over 20 years). It turns up on ebay every once in a while, but be prepared to be patient to find a copy of this rarity.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Garnet Mimms - As Long As I Have You

'As Long As I Have You' is a rarity among '60's soul; typically, a cut this powerful ended up as a 45 (especially when it was the title track of an LP).  For whatever reason, this majestic track never ended up on a 45! Although apparently there is an ultra rare French issued 45, apparently.

The collaborations between Garnet Mimms and (producer) Jerry Ragovoy are one of those magical meetings; Garnet's vocals were some of the most soulful ever cut to wax (just listen to how the man phrases his performance here as he slides into the notes and conveys the purest feelings of the lyric) , and Jerry Ragovoy was a master of the studio, a man who crafted a spellbinding swirl of sound full of emotion and musical drama. By the time Garnet (and his newly formed group The Enchanters) had moved from Philadelphia to New York City in 1961, he was already a veteran of many years singing gospel music professionally.

Of course 'Cry Baby' was the big hit collaboration between these two, and while there's no denying that 'Cry Baby' is a stellar record, in my opinion 'As Long As I Have You' is the pinnacle, and one of the greatest soul records of all time.

I first heard 'As Long As I Have You' not by Garnet Mimms but by Led Zeppelin. Zep played this song live during their early concerts in the US in 1969, and the first Zeppelin bootleg tape I ever heard was in the late '80's when I was a young teenager. This recording from the Fillmore West blew my young mind, especially this incredible song that I'd never heard before! Of course, this was pre-internet so the information wasn't available at the click of a mouse. It took several years to find out where this song came from, and even then it took the arrival of ebay for me to find a copy of this record (which was one of the first things I purchased from ebay back in the '90's).

Monday, June 30, 2014

Neil Young - Don't Let It Bring You Down (BBC Broadcasts bootleg LP)

Music lovers have it very easy these days; everything from the biggest hits to the rarest of the rare are available with a mouse click. Hear a band play an unexpected cover or debut a new song at a gig? More than likely it'll be on youtube almost instantly.

Back in early 1971, Neil Young appeared live on BBC TV and debuted a good chunk of his album Harvest, which, didn't get released until January 1972. Of course today if an artist were to do this, the performance would be all over the web and the songs would be old news by the time they were released!

This bootleg LP from the legendary Los Angeles based Trade Mark Of Quality (TMOQ) label was itself released in 1973. Must have been very exciting for anyone who was outside of BBC territory to be able to hear this stellar performance in pretty swell sound quality! Of course, high quality video of this performance is available via youtube, but to a kook like me it's a whole lot of fun to be able to throw a record like this on the turntable and enjoy the music sans visuals.

TMOQ released some of the greatest bootleg LP's of all time, and the 'real' ones were almost always pressed on colored vinyl; this was not only a way to differentiate the genuine product from forgeries (several other scoundrels pirated and undercut TMOQ releases), but the colored vinyl also guaranteed high quality, virgin vinyl pressings. It also created a maddening amount of highly collectable variations on splattered color wax and odd colors that sell for hundreds (and in some cases, over $1000)! Just look at how cool that gold foil TMOQ sticker is on the cover with the cryptic pig logo; I think a big part of collecting these things is the whole 'outlaw' element of anti-establishment types giving the middle finger to the music business by bringing what would have been unheard recordings 'to the people'.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Freedom Singers - Fighting For My Rights

First published in 1962, Broadside (magazine) was not only THE most important publication of the folk boom, but also set the scene for all 'zines (covering any style of non-mainstream music) that followed in its footsteps. Broadside was incredibly influential and also highly opinionated as to what constituted 'real' folk music. Several artists (most famous of which is Bob Dylan) recorded exclusive tracks (with a focus on protest/ political action) for the magazine with the purpose of the lyrics to be printed in Broadside.

1963 was a watershed year for crucial changes in the United States. The Civil Rights movement made a massive mark upon the world with the March On Washington on May 15th and representatives of the folk scene (Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Odetta, and Peter Paul & Mary) made (controversial in the case of the white artists)  appearances alongside the power and majesty of the march and Dr. King's 'I Had A Dream' speech. While the appearance of white performers may have been criticized, Dylan's performance of 'When The Ship Comes In' at the March is one of the most powerful and moving social/ musical commentaries I've ever seen or heard.

The Newport Folk Festival, held at the end of July in 1963, was a fully integrated event that had the Civil Rights movement completely at heart. Vanguard Records released the Newport Broadside that focused on the most politaclly charged performances of the festival, as a companion piece to Blues At Newport, Country Music And Bluegrass At Newport, Old Time Music At Newport, and Evening Concerts At Newport; all of which were drawn from the 1963 festival.

With an earnest and powerful introduction by Pete Seeger, Albany, GA's Freedom Singers adaptation of Doc Pomus' 'Lonely Avenue' (made famous by Ray Charles) into a gorgeous and goose bump inducing 'Fighting For My Rights' is the sound of heroes who went up against the bigoted police of the south to do exactly what the lyrics of the song state. These men and women put their lives on the line to help make the United States a better place, and their singing here is a great gift to the world as well. Their names are Bernice Johnson, Rutha Harris, Cordell Hall Reagon, and Charles Nesbitt- let them and their work never be forgotten.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Charlatans - Sidetrack

With the exception of the 45 RPM release of '32-20 Blues' b/w 'The Shadow Knows', the great 1966 recordings of San Francisco's Charlatans remained unreleased until (French label Eva) released this (probably unauthorized) LP sometime in the 1980's. These tracks were recorded for the Kama Sutra label and rejected.

Sloppy but spirited, The Charlatans were the quintessential harbingers of the San Francisco sound and even their time spent holed up as the house band at The Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, NV (starting in June of '65) never brought them up to any level of what was considered professionalism or tightness. Didn't help matters that the band dosed themselves with copious amounts of LSD before taking the stage, I reckon. In fact, this loose spirit is what drove the San Francisco scene! While (my beloved) Beau Brummels were the first San Francisco rock n roll band to have hits, their professionalism alientaed them from the incoming ballroom scene. I saw a reformed Charlatans perform in 2005 at the Chet Helms Memorial in Golden Gate Park; at times it sounded like the band was playing two different songs at once, but one couldn't help but smile at the spirit and fun that was coming off of the stage!

The Charlatans also helped usher in the type of vintage Victorian era clothing that became a staple of the SF scene. A little known fact is that this clothing was brought to popularity by John Lundberg of Berkeley; Mr Lundberg ran a highly influential music store, and (as a collector of vintage clothing himself) decided to start selling some of the gear in his store, creating a flurry of demand for these styles.

Probably the most full on rockin' track on the LP, 'Sidetrack' finds vocalist Lynn Greene joining the fellas to great results. The song essentially re-writes the blues standard 'Rollin' And Tumblin'' (originally recorded by Hambone Willie Newbern but made famous by Muddy Waters) updating it for the oncoming era of free love.

Also of note on this LP is the massive droning epic 'Alabama Bound'.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Soul Christmas In Store Promo, 1968

Here's a rare one!  When Atlantic released the excellent Soul Christmas LP in 1968, they also sent this promo disc out to record stores to promote the release, and added a sides worth of Booker T & The MG's Xmas tracks from their 1967 Stax Christmas release. My copy is the only one I've ever seen, and it's pretty beat but I'm stoked to have it in my collection.

A highlight of the set is Solomon Burke's gorgeous 'Presents For Christmas'

 A very radio friendly radio voice announces the tracks, and I included the intro and outro for Clarence Carter's 'Back Door Santa' right here for you, as it's easily the coolest voice over on the set!

My fave Booker T. track is their take on 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas'

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Happy birthday, Dennis Wilson!

Dennis Wilson (1944-1983) was the SOUL of The Beach Boys; the surfing, drumming Wilson brother was not only an early favorite of the group's female fans (thanks to his movie star good looks and obvious bad boy sex appeal), but as the his older brother became less prolific, he began to step out on his own and show the world that he, too, had a massive amount of songwriting talent and an ear for melody that was as unique and brilliant as Brian's.

Presented here are four favorite cuts from Dennis, both solo and with the Beach Boys.

Dennis was able to release his (solo) masterwork in 1977, the majestic Pacific Ocean Blue. While the album is superb from start to finish, the opening cut 'River Song" is one of the most epic tracks ever cut to wax by anyone, anywhere. Dennis' sensibilities of melody and harmony here are original, and the track melds together elements of gospel, soul, and pop music and it works like a charm. Sadly, alcoholism was also destroying Dennis at this time, and he never completed the slated follow up LP, (tentatively titled Bamboo) before his tragic death in 1983.

From the earliest Beach Boys albums, Dennis' raspy, earthy voice (mostly in harmony, occasionally as a lead) stood out but blended beautifully on those gorgeous Beach Boys harmonies. However, in 1965, "In The Back of My Mind" was buried as the last song on side 2 of the masterful The Beach Boys Today! LP. Not only did the arrangement of this song and several others from the album foreshadow what was coming for the Beach Boys in 1966 (Pet Sounds and 'Good Vibrations'), it was also the first lead vocal that Dennis was given that showed the type of emotional depth he could bring to a song.

During those crucial years of Brian's creative peak ('66-'67), his greatest ally was his brother Dennis. Both physically and mentally strong, Dennis not only encouraged his brother but also fought the more conservative faction of the group for Brian to create the music that we love so much today. Without Dennis' support, there's a good chance that there would be no Smile.
Brian's music was an inspiration to Dennis, who stepped out in a big way on his own during the Friends (1968) and 20/20 (1969) LP's, and his own composition "Be With Me" (from 20/20) updates the moody vibe of "In The Back Of My Mind" in a very adult way.

By the release of Sunflower in 1970, Brian Wilson's studio presence with the group had fallen to a low level of participation. The other members kept moving forward, and Carl and Dennis stood out as a musical force nearly as strong as their older brother. Sunflower was the (post-Pet Sounds) group at its peak, and the incredible opening track, Dennis' 'Slip On Through', was also released as a 45.

These songs represent merely the tip of the iceberg of the talents of the late, great Dennis Wilson.

 Pacific Ocean Blue inner gatefold, 1
Pacific Ocean Blue inner gatefold, 2
20/20 inner gatefold.