Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Gary Burton Quartet - In Concert (1968)

This album is a live recording of Burton and his quartet at Carnegie Hall. The performance mixes elements of hard-bop, modal jazz, rock and even country, creating an requiem of the post-bop era. The interplay between Burton and guitarist Larry Coryell is something worth checking out. Coryell's compositions make their way onto the album (Lines, Wrong is Right), as well as the Dylan tune I Want You. Together they offer a nice respite from the free-jazz mentality of Burton. The song One, Two, 1-2-3-4 showcases their complimentary styles as well as a killer drum solo by Bob Moses.

Vinyl ripped @ 320 kbps

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Sunday, 15 April 2012

Bill Evans - Symbiosis (1974)

When Harold Rhodes invented the Rhodes piano in 1942 as a therapeutic device for wounded soldiers, there is little chance he could have imagined it being featured on an album as it is on Symbiosis. Symbiosis was Evans's third orchestral release with arranger and conductor Claus Ogerman and it showcases Evans's work on the Steinway and Rhodes with a classical/jazz backing. Under the direction of Ogeman, the orchestra effortlessly shifts between driving latin rhythms, swinging jazz, and space-like grooves to create a wholly unique listening experience. Also, Eddie Gomez plays bass and Marty Morell plays drums - bonus!

Vinyl ripped @ 320 kbps

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Leon Thomas - Gold Sunrise on Magic Mountain (1971)

Even before his tenure with Pharoah Sanders, Santana and Archie Shepp, avant garde jazz vocalist Leon Thomas was a force to be reckoned with. Recorded live on June 18, 1971 at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, this performance showcases Tomas's ability to wow and amaze.

Occupying a precarious position between jazz and the occult, Thomas's performance is both pithy and wild. This probably has to do with the environment it was recorded in. When Thomas sings, "It's five o'clock in the morning," he isn't just reciting the standard blues lyrics - it actually was five o'clock in the morning. Regardless, the audience that had been crowded into the smoke filled casino since eight the previous evening was still eager for more only to be stopped by festival officials who had to pull the plug.

The band was comprised an all-star lineup. It features, Cornell Dupree on guitar, Oliver Nelson on alto sax, Neal Creque on piano, Victor Gaskin on bass, Sonny Morgan on congas, David Lee, Jr. on drums, and Nana Vasconcelos on percussion and berimbau (the instrument that opens the track Na Na).

The album is tour-de-force and will probably leave you wondering the same thing as the Swiss yodellers up the hill from Montreaux - how did this guy get so good?

Vinyl ripped @ 320 kbps

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Saturday, 14 April 2012

V/A - New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (1976)

Once a year, during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, some of the greatest artists the Crescent City has to offer get together to revel in their colourful past and give fans a sample of what's in store for the future. The 1976 Jazz & Heritage Festival was no exception to this tradition. The music contained within is not only indicative of the time it was recorded but also transcends time by affecting the popular music being produced today by bands like Galactic.

Most of the tracks on this album were recorded on April 9, 10, and 11 at the R&B segment of the festival. The album contains performances by jazz progenitors and New Orleans greats such as, Professor ('Fess) Longhair, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe, Robert Parker, Earl King, and Lightnin' Hopkins.

This is some of the most heartfelt and feel-good music I've heard in a while and it's bound to make you feel the same way.

Vinyl Ripped @ 320 kbps

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Friday, 13 April 2012

The Blackbyrds - The Blackbyrds (1973)

The Blackbyrds were a ground-breaking jazz/fusion group who produced seven albums on Fantasy Records from 1973-1980. Their eponymous debut album is arguably their most raw and funky release.

The group was formed in 1973 in Washington DC by Jazz legend Donald Byrd. Byrd was teaching at Howard University and selected six promising pupils to record an album. With the help of production genius Larry Mizell, they cut this album at Fantasy's studios.

The album is famous for it's fusion of complex and melodic horn lines with straight ahead funk rhythms - finding a solid balance between jazz and funk. It's also great sample material (The Beastie Boys shout out the Blackbyrds on their song Do It)! Songs to check out include Do It Fluid, Runaway and Life Styles.

Vinyl ripped @ 320 kbps

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Thursday, 12 April 2012

Kashmere Stage Band - Texas Thunder Soul (1968-1974)

Conrad O. Johnson
As a follow up to the last post, here's another great group of student musicians, this time hailing from Kashmere Gardens in North Texas. Under the leadership of Conrad O. Johnson, the band grew from being imitators of funk greats like the J.B's to actually having the chops to rival them. Listen to their rendition of Shaft and you'll agree.

Kashmere High School c. 1972
The program began when Conrad O. Johnson (known as 'Prof) decided to follow the principle (and fellow jazz drummer) George Haines, from Booker T. High School to Kashmere High. Once at Kashmere, Haines gave Conrad carte blanche with the program: "Listen, I want everybody to know what you're doing here. So I'm going to let you take off and do jobs with the stage band, whether it's school hours or not."Thus a legacy was born.

Fashioned after the big-band's (i. Benny Goodman) that came before them, the Kashmere Stage Band used this structure as the foundation from which they would venture into the realm of funk. Conrad took advantage of local independent and user friendly record production companies such as the California based Century Records to produce a total of 12 releases - each one rarer than the next. This album was compiled by Now-Again records serves as a compilation of the group's rare and highly sought-after collection of records in a uniquely tight and funky package.

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Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Southern University Jazz Ensemble - Live at the 1971 American College Jazz Festival (1971)

It's truly amazing what can happen when you harness the power of students. Led by the legendary Alvin Batiste, the Jaguar Jazz Ensemble from Southern University in Baton Rouge (the first University level Jazz program in the country) work their way through a series of originals and covers - sustaining the intensity with each track - an amazing feat for musicians of such a young age. Some of the members of the band showcased on this album include bassist Julius Farmer (check out his killer solo on So What), drummer Herman Jackson (who went on to work with Stevie Wonder), sax player Reggie Houston, as well as pianist Henry Butler.

It's quite something to hear these guys playing together under the tutelage of a jazz master such as Batiste. Their grooves exhibit a complexity and depth that is not only hard to achieve at a young age but also hard to reach in the form of a live performance - as presented here. This is a copy of one of 500 re-issues put out by Family Groove/Jazzstronauts Records, a rare gem definitely worth checking out.

Vinyl ripped @ 320kbps

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Sunday, 1 April 2012

O.V. Wright - The Bottom Line (1978)

This is Wright's second of three albums released on Hi Records. With the exception of I Don't Do Windows, the album consists mainly of ballads. But don't let that turn you away, Wright's voice is something to behold. The band may not be the funkiest or the tightest, but the effect Wright's voice has on the music is about as close to divine as you can get. Check out his (loose) cover of Stevie's I Don't Know Why as well as the Latimore classic, Let's Straighten It Out - which was reincarnated in U.G.K's Quit Hatin the South. In short, this album is a great snapshot of the later part of Wright's career - a period where he ever so slightly suppressed his gospel past in favour of a more pop-friendly aesthetic.

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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

VA - Trouser Press Presents the Best of America Underground (1983)

Big record companies take note! While the songs on this compilation don't really fit within the normal parameters of this blog, I decided to post it, firstly, because of its rarity (gotta share them gems) and secondly, because it goes to show that you don't need the material resources (or resulting headache) that come with a big record contract.

The tracks on this cassette were compiled by Ira A. Robbins for Trouser Press. From 1974 to 1984, you could subscribe and receive a years worth of issues for $15 . What's better, every issue included a free flexi disc. Score!

The trans-oceanic Trouser Press billed itself as, "America's Only British Rock Magazine," and starting in 1975, began publishing reviews sporadic low-budget singles that were sent in from bands around America. As the readership of the reviews increased, Trouser Press introduced a column called "America Underground," to keep readers up to date on independent releases. This compilation features some near-forgotten obscuros and home-brewed 45's rich in feeling and Lo-Fi depth.

Cassette ripped @320kbps

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Sunday, 11 March 2012

Ohio Players - Skin Tight (1974)

Super funky, super tight. Skin Tight was the fifth album released by Dayton, Ohio natives, The Ohio Players, and their first of a series of three consecutive albums to be certified platinum. This was their first album released on Mercury records and marks the Player's move towards a more dance/disco-friendly feel.

Skin Tight features the track "Heaven Must Be Like This", which notably was later covered by D'Angelo for the Down in the Delta soundtrack.

Vinyl ripped @ 320kbps

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Saturday, 10 March 2012

Stuff - Live at Montreaux (1976)

The cover may not look like much, but trust me, this is truly a killer album from start to finish.

Legend has it that during a break in a Esther Marrow sound check, the guys in Stuff shot each other a wink and started to grove. The rest is history. Stuff hail from New York and the band backed some of the largest acts in the 1970's and 80's, including the likes of: Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, and John Lennon (just to name a few). Stuff's greatness is not solely attributable to the virtuosity of the players, but also to the dynamic they share. Led by bassist Gordon Edwards, Stuff includes Richard Tee on keys, Eric Gale on guitar, Cornell Dupree on guitar and once again, the awesome Steve Gadd on drums.

What really makes the album is the dynamic range of the musicians. Every member of the band sacrifices part of their ego for the benefit of the groove. Gadd's syncopation on "Ode To Stuff" is a perfect example of the shared respect they had for one other. Listen to how the band drops out when Tee solos on the same track then slowly return to full throttle, all in perfect sonic balance. At no point is one person dominating the groove.

The group works through a bunch of instrumentals beginning with their song, "Foots." The band chose to do a lot of covers during the set including a cover of Stevie's, "Signed Sealed Delivered", "Boogie on Reggae Woman", and Earth Wind and Fire's, "That's the Way of the World." They even grace gospel music with their magical touch covering the spirituals, "Lift Every Voice" and "Oh Happy Day." Also, a review of the album would not be complete without mentioning either of the two stellar one minute drum solos done by Steve Gadd - a must listen.

If you don't know Stuff, this is the perfect album to get your feet wet with. Once you turn it on, you won't want to stop it.

CD ripped @ 320

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Friday, 9 March 2012

Bob James - BJ4 (1977)

When Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley penned the theme song, "Pure Imagination" for the film Willy Wonka, there was no way that they would envision having their song funkifized by Bob James. BJ4 was released in 1977 and peaked at #3 on the Bilboard top Jazz Albums. It was James' last record on CTI before he began releasing material on his own Tappan Zee label. If anything, just listen to the first track and you'll be hooked.

The album features Eric Gale on guitar, Gary King on bass, Ralph MacDonald on percussion, Hubert Laws on flute, Art Farmer on trumpet+flugelhorn and the legendary Steve Gadd on drums. Listen Gadd's syncopation and the resulting 'airiness' it has on the groove. It's not so much what he plays, but what he doesn't play that makes it so good.

It was recorded at Van Gelder Studios (gilded with reverb) and was produced by Creed Taylor (CreedTaylorInc).

Vinyl ripped @ 320kbps

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Monday, 5 March 2012

Esther Phillips - Alone Again, Naturally (1972)

Esther Phillip's music just oozes with soul. Recorded in 1972, Alone Again, Naturally, is a perfect starting point for people who are new to her music. The album showcases her distinctly smokey voice that is just raspy enough to still be sexy. Think not quite Janice Joplin yet not fully Aretha with the backing of an all-star studio band.

Phillip's life was marred with substance abuse problems - namely heroin - which contributed to her pre-mature death at the age of 48 due to liver and kidney ailments. Like other childhood prodigy's, Philips was originally billed as "Little Esther Phillips" and under the guise of bandleader Johnny Otis (father of Shuggie Otis) was able to pump out 10 rhythm and blues hits by the time she was 17. But her childhood charade didn't last long and by the late 1950's, she was already battling with addiction. This however wasn't before she grew to become what the Beatles called one of the most important innovators in rock. The Beatles even featured her on a BBC telecast in 1965, yet still she has yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame despite being nominated twice.

Alone Again Naturally was her second album from her time with the Kudu label - which marked a brief period of moderate sobriety during which she released eight stellar albums. She then signed to Mercury in 1977 and released four albums before dying in 1984.

The album features an all-star line-up of musicians including, Ron Carter on bass, Maceo Parker on Tenor Sax, George Benson and Cornell Dupree on Guitars, and Billy Cobham and Bernard Purdie on drums. Tracks to watch out for include her cover of Bill Whithers', "Use Me" and the smoky, southern title track, "Alone Again, Naturally." Phillips delivers all the warmth of her native Texas, in a velvety smooth package guaranteed to bring joy to your heart.

Vinyl ripped @ 320kbps

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Esther covering the Beatles:

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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Ramsey Lewis Trio - Bach To The Blues (1964)

Not quite classical yet not straight-ahead jazz, Bach to the Blues occupies a precarious spot on the 'soul' music spectrum. Frustrated with the rigidity of classical performance pieces, Lewis decided to take his trio in a new direction and incorporated elements of Jazz into their interpretation of Bach, Brams and Tchaikovsky. The result was an easy listening album ripe with deep cultural nuances. Listen for the balance between classical and blues.

Recorded at Ter Mar Recording Studio, Chicago 1/31/64

Ramsey Lewis, piano; Eldee Young, bass & cello; Richard Evans, bass; Red Holt, drums.

Cadet 732 - 70's re-iussue.

Vinyl ripped @320 kbps

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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Bar-Kays - Let's Have Some Fun 7" (1977)

The Bar-Kay's are one of those bands who most people are familiar with but can't quite say why. The reason is they performed on a lot of Stax records coming out of Memphis during the late 60's and 70's. The band originally formed in Memphis in 1966 as a session group backing Stax artists and in 1967, were chosen by Otis Redding to play as his backing band on tour. On December 10, 1967, tragedy struck when on their way to perform in Madison Wisconsin, Redding and four of the band members died in a plane crash. The surviving two members rebuilt the band and went on to continue backing major Stax acts including Isaac Hayes on Hot Buttered Soul.

The early 70's saw the Bar-Kayes move in a new, funkier direction. With the departure of the original trumpeter Ben Cauley in 1971 and the introduction of funk guitarist Lloyd Smith in 1973, the Bar-Kays shifted grooves and established themselves on Mercury Records - which is a notable moment in the progression from soul to funk. This 45 features their super funky 1978 hit, "Let's Have Some Fun" which peaked at #11 on the US R&B charts.

Ripped @320 kbps

Interesting fact: Rapper "Jazze Pha" is the son of Bar-Kay's bassist James Alexander and is named after his late band mate Phalon Jones, who died in the crash.

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Monday, 20 February 2012

Heat Wave - Too Hot to Handle (1976)

The band Heatwave is an international collection of outstanding musicians, who in 1976 gathered in England at Audio International Studios to cut their first record, Too Hot to Handle. The album was certified Platinum and reached a peak position of #11 on the charts. It features the hits "Always and Forever" and the classic, "Boogie Nights". More interestingly, the album was composed entirely by Rod Temperton - the same guy who penned MJ's "Thriller" and "Rock With You". This album is on par with anything produced by Quincy Jones when it comes to tightness and is an archetypal example of the Funk genre just before it shed its gritty past in search of a more sterile, dance-floor friendly groove. 

Vinyl ripped @ 320kpbs

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Monday, 13 February 2012

Caesar Frazier - '75 (1975)

This rare gem comes from funky soul-jazz organist Caesar Frazier. '75 was Frazier's follow-up to his debut album Hail Caesar! and is an album you do not want to pass by. It features Bernard "Pretty" Purdie on the drums and Cornell Dupree on guitar. The album also contains the track "Funk It Down" - made popular by Gang-Starr's "Ex-Girl to the Next Girl" as well as covers of Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City" and Seals and Croft's "Summer Breeze".

@320 kbps.

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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Bruce Cloud - California Soul (1969)

This fantastic album by West-coaster Bruce Cloud is not for everyone, but, it's a smooth-gem for those who enjoy his distinctive voice. Cloud originally reached stardom as second tenor with the group "Billy Ward and the Dominoes". After leaving the group in 1962, Cloud tried to make it on his own and in 1969 released California Soul. Cloud is an interesting character as much for his music as he is for his tragic personal life story. After failing to realize commercial success with his solo career, Cloud was forced to take a job at a drug store. Things were not going well for Cloud and his family and after nearly divorcing his wife, Cloud killed her and their two year old child before committing suicide.

Personal issues aside, this album resonates with the archetypal laid-backness common to Californian soul. It's surprising to hear such an easy going album come from a man who clearly had a lot on his mind. I remember reading somewhere a rebuttal from his sister, who claims that his death was actually a staged murder. She claims that the killer left a message by ransacking the house and only leaving the shoes - evocative of the tune "Walk In My Shoes". If I can track down the link to her comments, I'll be sure to post them. They have eluded me thus far but they provide an interesting counter-point to the amazing story of the life of Bruce Cloud.

"Your Papa may have, and your Momma may have, But God's gonna bless the child that's got his own"

Vinyl ripped @ 320

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Saturday, 28 January 2012

Otis Redding - In Person At The Whisky A Gogo (1968)

There's a reason they call him Mr. Pitiful. Following in the tradition of James Brown's Live at the Apollo ('63), Sam Cooke's Live at the Harlem Square Club ('63), and Ray Charles' Live in Concert ('64), Otis Redding recorded this performance live from the Sunset Strip LA at the Whiskey A Go Go club on March 30, 1966. Like the R&B giants who preceded him, Redding was looking to make the switch from the Rhythm & Blues Scene to the more popular 'crash pop scene' (think Sinatra and the Beatles), and this recording proves such. Redding belts out the classics: "Mr. Pitiful", "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag", "Respect" and the Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" with a heart that's clearly been broken and mended many times over.

Redding died in a plane crash in 1967 and is most commonly known for his sedentary "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" - which was written and recorded less than a week before his untimely death and proved to be his post popular song. This album is of note because it shows Otis trying to appeal to the pop audience before his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival (organized by Jerry Wexler) in June 1967 - which is commonly acknowledged as signifying Redding's switch from R&B to Pop. That being said, the album was released a year after his performance at Monterey which shows it may have taken a while for the record execs to catch on to the fact that Redding appealed to all audiences.

Redding drops some of his R&B swagger but doesn't sacrifice intensity. Listen to the ferocity of his band. The album reached #7 on the US R&B charts and is soaked in soul, blues and pure emotion.

Vinyl ripped @ 320

On loan from J.M - many thanks!

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Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Earth Wind & Fire - All 'N All (1977)

All 'n All features some of the, "most intense and gutsy funk", of the 1970's. Recorded at Hollywood Sound and The Burbank Studios, California, the album is super tight to the point that the whole band seems to morph into one mighty Power Ranger with Marice White as it's head.

The speed of the interplay between the horns and the percussion rivals that of a well tuned engine block and will certainly blow the lid off your head. Featuring singles such as "Serpentine Fire", "Jupiter" and "Magic Mind", this is a funk classic you do not want to miss.

So strip down to your skivvies, crank up the bass and get ready to dance around your apartment (not that I do).

@320 kbps

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Sunday, 15 January 2012

Deniece Williams - This is Niecy (1976)

This funky gem comes from Gary Indiana native Deniece Williams. This is Niecy came out at the same time that Williams was performing as a backup singer for Stevie Wonder and Minnie Riperton - which is amazing because it is full of original and unique material.  It's also interesting to note the album credits as they pretty much list off all the members of Earth Wind and Fire.

This is Niecy came out a year before EWF's All 'n All - a veritable funk classic - and it's no surprise that the White's (the main family of EWF) were testing out some of their ideas on it. The album features Al Mckay on guitars, Jerry Peters on piano and Freddie, Maurice and Verdine White on percussion, drums and bass respectively. The album starts strong and arguably has one of the best B sides of any funk album from 1976 closing out with the smooth "Free", driving "Watching Over", and soulful ballad "If You Don't Believe." Look out for the similarities in groove between the EWF track "Serpentine Fire" and Williams' "Watching Over." Produced by Maurice White and Charles Stepney, this is a must listen to for any fan of EWF. The album is great sample material and even better to just groove to.

Ripped @ 320

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