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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