September 8, 2008
Eclectic Mixup Vol.1
No focus on one band/genre today, just an excuse to post up some great music!
Kicking off with Donald Glen Vliet, AKA Don Van Vliet, AKA Captain Beefheart with an early incarnation of his Magic Band. This track is taken from the 1967 album ‘Safe as Milk’, and fuses the unique guitar blues of the Magic Band with Beefheart’s own raw vocal style.
Elusive London based producer Burial (now known to be William Bevan) released his second album, ‘Untrue’, in November of 2007 to huge critical acclaim. He remained largely anonymous until the second half of 2008, when he was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. The track above is a short cut, possibly intended as an interlude, but still manages to conjure the distant and haunting sound Burial is known for, building some interesting and complex harmonies from various vocal clips and synth pads.
Separating the two George Clinton-led powerhouses Funkadelic and Parliament in terms of both personnel and musical styling is not an easy task. Some suggest that Funkadelic were Clinton’s vehicle for a more ‘rock’ based sound, whereas Parliament brought the ‘P-Funk’. It is more likely that many albums were made under the name Funkadelic due to record company Revilot claiming ownership of the Parliament name due to the records made with Clinton’s doo-wop group ‘The Parliaments’. ‘I’ll Stay’ appeared on ‘Standing on the Verge of Getting it on’ from 1974 (although it is a remake of a much earlier Parliament’s track ‘I’ll Wait’). The cut actually featured Gary Shider on lead vocal, and the song’s soulful passionate mood was enhanced by the heart-wrenching lead guitar work of influential guitarist Eddie Hazel.
Next we have a song that appeared on the 1975 roots classic ‘Marcus Garvey’. The band were known as Burning Spear, but the name is generally attributed to lead vocalist and main songwriter Winston Rodney. Grammy award winning (and 11 times nominated) Burning Spear were known for always presenting a very afro-centric message in their music, with the ‘Marcus Garvey’ album being no exception. My personal favourite track, ‘The Invasion’, combines issues surrounding the European capture of African slaves with tribal melodies and some deep roots played by some of the most in demand Jamaican musicians of the period. Listen, then pull it back and listen again.
Following the break up of politically driven punk/ska/latin band Mano Negra, front man Manu Chao went solo with the release of ‘Clandestino’ in 1998. Born in Paris, Chao is a singer and political activist of Spanish/Basque origin and performs (mainly) in French, Spanish and English. His multi-linguistic music allows easy accessibility for many audiences, but unfortunately by default labels Chao with the hideous tag of ‘world music’. ‘Mentira’, with its beautiful and constant guitar phrase, is a good example of the overall sound of ‘Clandestino’, and is my favourite track on the album.
Curiously referred to as the ‘Ethiopian James Brown‘ or the ‘Ethiopian Elvis’, possibly due more to his level of popularity than to his musical style) is an Ethiopian ‘Ethio-Jazz’ singer, made famous to the rest of the world by the ‘Ethiopiques’ series from Buda Musique. The track above appeals to me mainly through the guitar work that sounds to be more from west Africa’s highlife/afrobeat traditions.
The Ramones 1970s output was regarded as pioneering work in the word of punk, with low budget albums full of fast paced songs clocking in under two minutes, poorly attended shows and singles that made no impact on Billboard charts. This is of course part of their lasting appeal for most people, although it is from 1989 album ‘Brain Drain’ that the above song features. Punk purists discount anything the New York band made after 1980 as too pop, a view seemingly shared by guitarist Johnny Ramone. Members came and went and came again. ‘Brain Drain’ featured the above single, written for the Stephen King film of the same name, and was the last album to feature main songwriter and bass player Dee Dee Ramone. Despite all this, ‘Pet Sematary’ is still a great song.
James Brown obviously needs no introduction, but is perhaps a good thing that the hardest man in show business can now get some rest (in peace). ‘King Heroin’ appeared on (among other albums) ‘Star Time’, a 4 CD box set released in 1991. The track is in effect a radical anti-heroin poem, and is backed by some of the most beautiful music ever recorded. Not much more to say on this, so listen for yourself!
Red is a turntabalist and musician based in London, releasing his music through Nottingham based independent label Dealmaker Records. The track above features on 2008 album ‘Fingerprints’, as well as the Dealmaker compilation ‘The Departure Lounge, Volume 1’. Red’s approach to music creation is new and refreshing, looping and manipulating samples ‘played’ on his deck, and forging them in to perfectly crafted pieces. Please check out more on the Dealmaker website if you like what you hear above.
Much celebrated hip-hop producer and MC Pete Rock for many typifies the jazz/soul sampled-heavy sound of New York in the ’90s. The track above was finally released in 2003 on a compilation double album of unreleased tracks with proteges INI and DeDa, and is characteristic of Rock’s mid-’90s sound. It is not only a personal favourite Pete Rock track of mine, but a favourite Hip-Hop cut in general.
Ticklah is a busy man. When he is not producing modern reggae classics, multi-instrumentalist, multi-talented producer Victor Axelrod (AKA Ticklah) spends his time playing keyboards with Afrobeat band Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, as well as sessioning for many artists including Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. He also produced the popular dub album ‘Dub Side of the Moon’ from the Easy Star All-Stars. The track above is a taster of 2007 album ‘Ticklah vs. Axelrod’, a heavyweight dub album that successfully progresses the genre while encapsulating the sound of similar ’70s efforts. ‘Answer Me’ may not be as much of a stand-out track as Mickey General collaboration ‘Rescue Me’, or roots banger ‘Pork Eater’ (another of my favourite tracks from a consistently strong album), but it has a haunting harmony that appeals to me greatly. Check the track then make sure you get the album!