1. MF Doom (Mediavuelta remix), “Go With the Flow (12” version)“, Operation: Doomsday, Foldle ‘Em / Metal Face, 1999 / 2008 / 2018, USA
June haze remix of the original version of Doom’s “Go With The Flow.” I have the recording as collected on the 2008 Metal Face reissue of the oft reissued Operation: Doomsday. The 12” version is sparse and easier to remix than the album version. I ambiened the verse, almost reducing it to rap soundz, but no disrespect is intended. Hopefully, you have a well worn issue of the album on your shelf.
2. Moses Taiwa Molelekwa, “Rapela”, Genes and Spirits, M.E.L.T., 2000, South Africa
“Rapela” means pray in Zulu. Genes and Spirits is full of genius moments in which Molelekwa and company fused S.A. jazz, hip-hop, kwaito and electronica. All innovation duly credited, the two barely syncopated notes introducing the deceptively simple first theme of “Rapela” are my favorite part of the album. The joyful canon that follows, like one of Chick Corea’s children’s songs, is buoyed by the rest of the band and eases into a supercrisp, 21st century jazz take on the same melody, before snapping into a breathtaking, unified turnaround. Fusion aside, “Rapela” is beautiful because of very clever writing that the listener hears as organic.
3. Sons of Kemet, “My Queen is Ada Eastman”, Your Queen Is A Reptile, Impulse!, 2018, U.K.
On Your Queen Is A Reptile, Shabaka Hutchings and Sons of Kemet raise up a fist to acknowledge the power of black women and lower a withering gaze at conventional British history – embodied by the queen – that declines to recognize the impact of black women on that history. Ada Eastman was Hutchings great-grandmother, his family’s matriarch from Barbados.
Hutchings, Theon Cross (tuba) and Seb Rochford (drums) cook at a FAMU drumline temperature beneath Joshua Idehen’s lines. “I’m born strong, the song of an immigrant / […] I’ll be here when your cities are sediment / and only your borders and fences are left / I’ll be here when your banks stop selling debt / and all your leaders stop selling death / And you’ve lost all relevance.”
This is the most Impulse!-y music Impulse! has released since Black Unity and Magic of Ju-ju, fifty or so years ago.
4. Donald Byrd, “Places and Spaces”, Places and Spaces, Blue Note, 1975, USA
I’ll admit that while I have about a dozen or so Byrd, Blackbyrd and Mizell brothers recordings from this era, and “Lansana’s Priestess” played a key role in ramping my wedding reception song list from stun to kill, I had never heard Places and Spaces before a few months ago. I heard a clubby remix of the title track at a pizza place, recognized the sample from Pete Rock’s “All The Places” (P.R. has sampled Mizell and Byrd more than a few times), recognized the trumpet as obviously Donald Byrd and the arrangements as so perfect they must be Mizell brothers, and tracked down the album that afternoon. I’m resisting the urge to gush too much about this record.
5. Blackrock, “Yeah Yeah”, 7″ single, Select-O-Hits, 1969, USA
This lone release from a group of Stax and Hi session musicians in Memphis is thunder that predates the first Funkadelic album by a few months. It’s an odd and effective bit of song arranging, with the first, minor key section not serving an obvious role except to amplify the overjoyed, major key guitar solo you didn’t realize was going to microwave your face a few seconds later.
6. MonoNeon, “Shooting For the Stars With My Laser Beam”, I Don’t Care Today (Angels and Demons in Lo-Fi), self release, 2018, USA
MonoNeon is the freek funkateer handle of Memphis bass virtuoso Dwayne Thomas Jr. I Don’t Care Today is some clever shit, couching MonoNeon & friends’ intimidating virtuosity and avante-garde experimentation on a futon of immediately approachable pyjama funk. Like the bedroom stoner, Sonic The Hedgehog funk that Thundercat rips but doesn’t pull off quite as well because his music is too high fidelity. I just really like the guitar riff after the chorus.
7. Belair, “Samba For A Cold Warrior”, Relax, You’re Soaking It In, Belby Wetterman, 1980, USA
I have this recording from a Kev Beadle, Private Collection compilation. (Where does he find all of this not Brazilian, jazz samba?) The original seems to be small or private press on a microscopic label. I don’t know much about this group. I presume guitarist Michael Belair is the leader. Broadly, “Samba For A Cold Warrior” fits a Kev Beadle presents comp well – small combo, small press, medium edge, mild Chick Corea-esque exotica. The big surprise is the vocal chorus that emerges from seven minutes of traded solos. “With the darkness dispelled by the radiance of day, the wiles of the wicked are driven away.”
8. The Grodeck Whipperjenny, “Put Your Thing On Me”, The Groedeck Whipperjenny, People, 1970, USA
You read that label correctly. James Brown’s People label put this megaton psych rock shit out. Keyboardist Dave Matthews arranged for Brown and Brown released Matthew’s project. The star of this album is guitarist Kenny Poole. Poole is a Cincinnati legend who went on to be better known for intricate finger picked sambas than for renal liquefying fuzz devastation. Great album.
9. M.C. Mell’o’, “All Terrain M.C.s”, Thoughts Released, Republic Records, 1990, U.K.
Rufff bounce from the godfather U.K. rapper isn’t exactly as mell’o as jell’o. I won’t pretend to analyze Mell’o’ rhymes, because my London accent detection is not that sharp. You can tell it is ruff albeit smooth, though. Republic was house and disco master, Joey Negro’s first label.
I love this era of beatmaking. Slamming rolands atop a funk break, every bass drum sample ever on the one, monosyllabic guitar and organ stabs interjected to fake a harmonic accompaniment, unintelligible vocal scratches, a chord change to keep it fresh, the strange piano interlude whose purpose isn’t clear twenty five years later. Like Mell’o’ would say, there is something “dusk to dawn, dawn to dusk, no fuss” about the beat. It would have lit a fire under my five year old self when it was released just as it does today.
10. La Mecanica Popular, “Part 4 (Visiones)”, Roza Cruz, Names You Can Trust, 2018, USA
La Mecanica Popular, NYC psych salseros, push their newest release into the crawling, sinister realms of live/evil bitches Miles or Eddie Palmieri with his oxygen burning Rhodes turned to t h i c k. “Visiones” churns when the the synth bass, keys and electric guitar unite for the final head. I like that, at least for Roza Cruz, La Mecanica have shunned going somewhere for digging in and being somewhere.
11. Piero Umiliani, “Danza del fuoco”, La ragazza dalla pelle di luna, Schema, 1972, Italy
Umiliani is a minor hero of mine. There is a perfect Umiliani track for every life experience. “Danza del fuoco” is a bonus recording not on the original Omicron soundtrack for La ragazza dalla pelle di luni, a 70s exploitation flick about a white European supermodel making out with a Seychellois supermodel or something similarly highbrow.
“Sdoganare” means to sanction or clear through customs. I just discovered that Schema has a Bandcamp page.
12. Leon Ware (ft. Minnie Riperton), “Instant Love”, Musical Massage, Gordy, 1976, USA
The second syllable of Riperton’s performance, the rising guitar note in between the verses (from either David Walker or Ray Parker), the Mizell-perfect orchestration, this song is so good. I don’t know how Ware and company put together such a carefully controlled experience that is dripping with truth and soul. Maybe it is what happens when you task a room full of master craftsmen each with a small task. Parker and Walker’s guitar tones on this album have haunted me. I’ll accept advice on ringing that bell.
13. Sinn Sisamouth, unknown recording, Cambodian Soul Sounds, Vol. II, Cambodian SoulSounds, early 1970s, Cambodia
Sisamouth was a hugely popular and influential figure in Cambodian popular music for decades before his disappearance and death at the hand of the Khmer Rouge. He songs are still re-recorded today. Intellectual property debates regarding the music of Sisamouth and his contemporaries continue to the present, as while the music remains beloved, the Khmer Rouge sought to erase the careers, legacies and lives of many of the musicians who made it. The first Cambodian intellectual copyright law was passed in 2003, but bootlegs are commonly traded and the Cambodian state lays claim to Sisamouth’s compositions as property of the Ministry of Culture. Richard Rossa, the Swedish DJ behind the compilations donates sales from both volumes of Cambodian Soul Sounds to charities that support Cambodian youth and the preservation of Cambodian cultural history in an effort to square the fact that the recordings were unlicensed, or possibly un-licensable in the traditional sense.
– RS, 9/6/18