Saturday, January 30, 2010
If you were to tear a hundred pages from Pamela Des Barre's 'I'm With The Band', a fistful of anecdotes from 'The Abba Story', and the most titillating tales from Marianne Faithfull's biography and staple them all together you may well find a mutant monograph which is brave enough to hold a flickering candle to the story of Sarolta Zalatnay.
The protective packaging of this, first ever, compendium of Zalatnay's crown jewels would not provide anything close to the adequate ink space for a worthy account of her life in the Hungarian public eye (which has previously and periodically been documented in a series of autobiographies which are unlikely to ever benefit an English language translation).
After ten successful albums, drawing together a veritable who's-who of Hungarian progressive and psychedelic rock and utilizing some of the toughest dancefloor friendly metronomic drum breaks and a hard funk-rock sound years ahead of their Western European counterparts, the decline of communism in Hungary Western music, literature and cinema predictably infiltrated Hungarian culture overnight and the young record buying public began to turn their backs on home grown music and many faithful Eastern European artists were demoted to mum and dad's record shelf like musical photo albums. Don't worry though - Gal Costa is a huge name in Portugal but not many Portuguese people have heard 'Tuareg'. The youth of Hungary certainly know who Zalatnay is... but how many of them have heard that break at the start of "Hadd Mondjam El"?
Thursday, January 21, 2010
The Village Soul Choir were an obscure R&B act from New York City. Their guitarist, Edward Arrington, Jr., was a one-time Motown studio musician. Not much is known about the band, other than that they recorded a classic children's album in the late 60's when they released Soul Sesame Street.
The group are a vocal quintet with a solid harmony sound, initially recasting versions of Sesame Street hits, but eventually moving into some of their own numbers on the second side of the album. Highlights include the group's own funky classic "The Cat Walk."
Friday, January 15, 2010
For 1974's brilliant action film, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, composer David Shire used a funky multicultural rhythm section for "Main Theme." He intended to evoke the bustle and diversity of New York City, and his dense, funky composition has become an unofficial theme for the 6 subway line (the local Lexington Avenue Line that is depicted in the film). Shire received two Grammy nominations for his work on the film.
One of our favorite soundtracks ever--and the track has been sampled by Mixmaster Mike, Showbiz & A.G., and Xzibit.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I don't know much about Russia's shadowy "Gunshot Orchestra," which, according to beat-digging lore, was a collective of Soviet rare groove musicians who recorded TV and film library music in 70's Moscow. Others have told me they were a hardworking Psych/Funk band originally from the Ukraine--in fact (if you believe the legends), the band was so hyped, they played a single, sold-out show (with a full orchestra, natch) at a club in London--and then never performed live again.
The producer/arranger--and the only one credited on this bizarre 12"--is Faddei Vladik Kozlov, a multi-instrumentalist and widely respected Russian producer who was responsible for some devastating library work that came out of the Iron Curtain. He was also the owner of SRG Studios, a recording studio and vinyl pressing plant on the outskirts of Moscow. (Kozlov's father, Grigory, was part of the Bolshevik Red Guard.)
I've never heard another track by the so-called "Gunshot Orchestra"--maybe I never need to. Sometimes one track is enough, and the legend IS the story.
The vinyl is undoubtedly bootlegged/private press. This particular track name is untitled, and features a bizarre mix of drum breaks, spacey synths, chaotic orchestral noise...and of course, gunshots.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Lee Mason’s infamous, elusive and decidedly sleazy ‘Shady Blues’ has finally been brought to justice courtesy of Jazzman Records. A track that’s downright dangerous; that’s been sampled dozens of times; that’s appeared on numerous dodgy bootlegs and has had record hounds tracking its scent for years - has finally been nicked and locked down to wax. The story started in the mid-‘90s when library fever was about to grip the nation, and the good libraries still rubbed shoulders with the bad.
But the time soon came when the good ones just disappeared, leaving the shite behind… where did they all go? Collectors, DJs, dealers and producers (Madlib, The Outsidaz) and are all responsible for removing these records from our midst, but few of them ever even saw the elusive UK Chappell library LP Lee Mason & his Music, let alone capture one for themselves. The bootleggers released ‘Shady Blues’ and named it after Peter Moore to throw people off the scent, but now after all this time, reproduced from the original studio mastertapes, you can hear the ultimate combination of ultra fat drums and awesome flute in all its naked glory.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Sad news today out of Memphis, Tennessee.
Willie Mitchell, a record producer and musician who worked with Al Green and dozens of others, has died. He was 81.
Mitchell's son, Lawrence Mitchell, said his father suffered a cardiac arrest on Dec. 19 and died at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis at 7:25 a.m. Tuesday.
Mitchell was born and raised in Ashland, Miss.
At the age of eight, he began to play the trumpet. While in high school, he was a featured player in popular local big bands. He later formed his own combo, which from time to time included musicians such as trumpeter Booker Little, saxophonists Charles Lloyd, and George Coleman, and pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr. A trumpeter and bandleader in his own right, Mitchell released a number of popular singles for Hi Records as an artist in the 1960s, including "Soul Serenade."
Mitchell landed a job with the Home of the Blues record label as a producer, then left to join Hi Records as both a recording artist and a producer. When the founder of Hi Records, Joe Cuoghi, died in 1970, Mitchell suddenly found himself in charge of the label. What could have been a turbulent transition turned out to be a smooth one: a year before Cuoghi's passing, Mitchell had signed an up-and-coming soul singer named Al Green to the label. Under the guidance of Mitchell, Green's career would soon skyrocket and he became one of the '70s top soul artists with Mitchell co-producing and engineering all of Green's albums from 1970 through 1976 (the singer's most successful period), as well as such classic Top Ten hit singles as "Tired of Being Alone," "Call Me (Come Back Home)," "I'm Still in Love with You," "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)," "Let's Stay Together," "You Ought to Be with Me," "Look at What You Done for Me," "Let's Get Married," and others.
Known at the recording studio as "Papa Willie", Mitchell earned his nickname by taking over the reins of Hi Records in 1970 and guiding it through its most successful period. Mitchell's productions have been much noted for featuring a hard-hitting kick drum sound (usually played by pioneering Memphis drummer Al Jackson, Jr. of Booker T. and the MG's).
For further (and highly recommended listening), check out The Hi Masters.
Rest in peace, Willie. Here's a good track to remember him by: 1965's "The Champion (Part I)," a fierce Northern Soul workout.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Erasmo Carlos, born Erasmo Esteves on June 5, 1941, in the Tijuca area of Rio de Janeiro, is a Brazilian singer and songwriter. A core member of the Jovem Guarda ("Young Guard") scene of 1960's Brazilian pop-rock, Erasmo often appeared on television, in magazines and feature films with fellow teen idols Roberto Carlos and Wanderléa.
In contrast to his simpler pop-rock early sound, Erasmo went on to produce several of the more moody and introspective MPB records of the 1970s, including Sonhos e Memorias, which featured the classic track "Grilos." The album is often considered just plain psychedelic, but it actually mixes an eclectic blend of smooth Latin-jazz, dreamy pop-psych, afro-Brazilian funk-soul and electro-acoustic folk-rock.