Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  I hope you all enjoy spending quality time with your families, and y'all get what you want!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Smokey Robinson: Pure Smokey

I've slept on Smokey's solo albums forever, not realizing how great his albums were from the 70's.  Of course, I have plenty of early compilations and albums with Smokey & The Miracles from the 1960's, but I never realized how introspective, sensual, and funky his 70's albums were until recently.  Over the past few months, I've picked up Pure Smokey, A Quiet Storm, and Smokey's Family Robinson.  All are great, but my favorite has to be Pure Smokey.  Released in 1974, Pure Smokey feels like Robinson's response to the introspective albums Motown was now releasing, like Marvin Gaye's What's Going On.  Smokey was tackling some heavy subjects like male virginity, as well as babies (young women) having babies, among other subjects.  Among it all, the music is great while maintaining the funkiness that soul music veered into in the 70's.  And of course, Smokey's voice and songwriting was top notch, as always.  Here are a few of my favorite tracks off of Pure Smokey, "Asleep on My Love", and "Virgin Man". 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Old School Video Focus: Michael Jackson "Rock With You"

For my final day of the week of my Old School Video Focus, what better artist to finish off than with the King of Pop?  Honestly, when picking a MJ video, it's hard to pick my favorite.  Picking Michael Jackson videos is like trying to pick my favorite Ken Griffey Jr. catch, or my favorite Miles Davis album, in that it's hard to pick a favorite because they are all so great.  I decided on "Rock With You", because it is my favorite MJ song off my favorite album of his.  It's not necessarily his best video, per se (that would more likely go to "Thriller"), but it brings a smile to my face every time I watch this.  Gotta love the sparkled outfit and the boots!  Written by Rod Temperton (the great songwriter from Heatwave...I plan on featuring a post solely on his songs in the near future), here is "Rock With You". 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Old School Video Focus: Super-Wolf "Super-Wolf Can Do It"

"Old School Video Focus" is turning into "Old School Hip Hop Video Focus", as I'm slowly realizing that a lot of my favorite videos are of the late 70's/early 80's hip hop variety.   Today, I'm featuring Super-Wolf, and the track "Super-Wolf Can Do It".  Say what you want about Sugar Hill Records (and there have been a lot of negative press regarding how the Robinson's treated their artists, but that's a whole other story), they had an ear for music, an eye for talent, and a vision on how to market their product.  Sugar Hill Records helped bring hip hop to the masses.  Before the Robinson's and Sugar Hill Records, hip hop was just an underground street/NYC thing, but songs like Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight", and Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" helped bring the genre of hip hop into the public eye, and for that, Sugar Hill Records should be commended.  Anyway, I don't know anything of the artist Super-Wolf, but I dig the song, of which I first heard it after buying The Sugar Hill Records Story box set.  Check it out!  Super-Wolf Can Do It! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Old School Video Focus: Heavy D. & The Boyz "We Got Our Own Thing"

I found Heavy D. & The Boyz Big Tyme on vinyl at the Goodwill a few weeks ago, and was suprised to hear how well it has held up over the years.  Released in 1990, Big Tyme featured the single "We Got Our Own Thing", and the subsequent video that was released to the public showed that, for a big dude, Heavy D. had some amazing dance moves.  Heavy D. passed away just last month of pneumonia, at the young age of 44. 
R.I.P. Heavy D.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Old School Video Focus: Mantronix "Bassline"

For today's classic old school video focus, I thought I'd go way back in the hip hop world to the mid-80's with electro hip hoppers Mantronix.  Taken off of their seminal first album Mantronix:  The Album, "Bassline" is not only a classic hip hop track, the video is so freaking cool as well.  Check it out!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Old School Video Focus: Zapp & Roger "I Can Make You Dance"

A few months ago, I posted one of my favorite old school videos of all-time by The Fat Boys, and it gave me an idea:  to devote an entire weeks worth of posts to classic, old school videos.   The video I'm featuring for today is by Zapp & Roger,the Cincinnati funk-soul band from the early 1980's.  Bootsy Collins was a childhood friend of Roger Troutman, and after Bootsy made it big with Parliament-Funkadelic, he helped his friend Roger out in getting a record deal, where Zapp & Roger eventually released their first album, Zapp, in 1980.  Heavily sampled by many West Coast area hip hoppers over the past 20 years, here is Zapp & Roger, with "I Can Make You Dance". 


Friday, December 9, 2011

Get Out The Friday Funk!

Kool & The Gang
Earth, Wind, & Fire
I've been seriously busting out the funk in my car the past few weeks, focusing mostly on early Kool & The Gang, and Earth, Wind, & Fire.  Both amazing bands, yet I feel that Kool & The Gang topped out in the mid-70's, as their late 70's/early 80's period just doesn't do it for me ("Celebration", "Ladies Night", fun songs, but the bite is gone).  Earth, Wind, & Fire, however, could do no wrong.  Sure, probably their late 70's period was a similar path to Kool's in that they veered into a more commercial disco approach.  However, EWF was just more consistent, from album to album, from That's The Way of The World to Gratitude (one of the best live albums ever!) to I Am to All N All, they were a hell of a great album focused band, while Kool's albums weren't as consistent.  God, I love Kool & The Gang though, as they put a hell of a lot of great singles in that early 70's period that just blows your mind.  For Friday, I thought I'd feature a few of my favorite tracks from both Earth, Wind, & Fire, and Kool & The Gang. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"This Reminds Me of..."

I've moved around a lot, especially in my early 20's when I lived in four states during a five year time span.  Now firmly settled in Seattle for the past seven years, it's giving me time to reflect upon my times in other places.  As a music junkie, it's easy to associate certain songs and artists with certain places.  Gram Parsons, for example, reminds me of the transition from my final year living in Portland, and moving to Phoenix.  My first six months living in Phoenix, I listened to a lot of Gram, probably because of the open, dusty, warm air of the southwest.  The country-rock of Gram and The Flying Burrito Brothers just made sense on so many levels.  So did The Byrds, and Townes Van Zandt.   My college years in Portland I listened to a lot of everything, from indie, to hip hop, to soul, to jazz, but if I had to associate any artist with my time in Portland it would be Elliott Smith.  Elliott wrote about Portland, and breathed the streets, as it was so wonderfully conveyed in his songs.   Yet at the same time, Elliott reminds me of my wife as well, as we listen to a lot of Elliott on road trips. I associate Buffalo Springfield with my brief time living in Southern California, but probably because the only album I bought during my brief residency was the Buffalo Springfield box set, so I drove along the Southern California hills everyday blaring "Flying On The Ground Is Wrong", "Out Of My Mind", "Baby Don't Scold Me", and "Bluebird".  My time spent in Seattle conjures up so many artists, but I fondly remember my times when I first moved to Seattle, I had an apartment which if you climbed to the rooftop, you had a view of the entire city, including the space needle.  At night, I would bring my i-pod up to the rooftop with a glass of wine, and listen to Miles Davis Ascenseur Pour L'├ęchafaud repeatedly.  These days I'm married with an 18 month son aptly named Miles, and will pull out albums I haven't listened to for years, and it brings it all back. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Frank Sinatra: Cycles

An email to a friend tonight triggered this post.  I've been going back to Sinatra a lot more recently, especially his 60's output.  The 1960's was an interesting time for ol' blue eyes.  Folk rock protesters, and psychedelic hippies/hipsters raided the airwaves. Sinatra could have continued swinging during this decade, and probably would have still kept a healthy population of devoted fans.  Instead, Sinatra went more introspective, more melancholy.  Maybe it started with the Bossa Nova pairing with Brazilian great Antonio Carlos Jobim in Sinatra/Jobim (which was featured in an earlier post).  From there he released albums such as Cycles (a theme album based on seasons, and people changing through the years), A Man Alone (theme album based on growing older and being alone), and Watertown (theme album based on a couple with kids going through a painful divorce).  All of these albums are special in their own right, but my personal favorite is Cycles.  Released in 1968, it's Sinatra's version of a folk album, yet he is crooning as only Sinatra can.  There are beautiful songs on here, and ol' blue eyes covers songs by Joni Mitchell, and Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", among others.   My two favorite tracks on Cycles is "Both Sides, Now", and the title track, "Cycles".  But honestly, every song on this album is a gem.  Only 31 minutes long and not a minute wasted, Cycles is musical perfection. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

OT: Feedback

I've been wanting to post this for over a month, but kept it on the back burner for awhile.  Soul Excursions has been a blog for almost a year now, run solely by yours truly.  In the beginning, I had some feedback via comments on the board, but mostly through emails from others sent directly to me.  Recently, I haven't received any sort of feedback, though I've noticed my numbers (in terms of those looking at my blog per day) continue to remain the same.  I would love some feedback either through email or comments on my blog.  Not necessarily along the lines of the above cartoon (though compliments are always great!), but any sort of dialect/conversation/comments regarding music, or my blog, would be greatly appreciated.   Constructive criticism is cool as well.  As Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band would say, "Express Yourself!"

Monday, November 21, 2011

Soul & Jazz vs. Rock--Evaluating a Music Collection

Blurred snapshot of a portion of my cd collection

Blurred snapshot of a small selection of my 45's
Recently, I've been in a music purging mode, getting rid of lots of albums that I didn't see the purpose of owning anymore.  This is not anything new for me (see May 11, 2011 Soul Excursion post titled "Binging and Purging--Music Style!").  In fact, it's almost a monthly event that I take out 10-20 albums that I don't see myself listening to anymore, and trading them in for something new--new as in usually something from the 60's/70's soul era, 60's/70's jazz era, or 90's hip hop.  As I've noticed recently, I have almost double the amount of soul and jazz albums then I do rock albums, which it seems my rock collection has dwindled over the past few years as some of my old rock albums are the first ones to go in trade.  In evaluating this observation, clearly this is because I hardly ever listen to any rock music anymore, from any era, and this has been that way for over a few years now.   The only rock I generally listen to is The Beatles (and occasionally Bee Gees, Donovan, or Elliott Smith), which the entire Soul Excursion family enjoys and is listened to frequently on road trips. This past weekend, I went on another music selling/buying binge, and thought I'd feature a few tracks off of new purchases from this past weekend.

The first track is the title track off of jazz drummer Billy Cobham's 1975 release A Funky Thide of Sings.  Great funky jazz, with some crazy synths and guitars included, the title track would've sounded perfect on a film straight from the 70's.   

I'm a big Roy Ayers fan, so I was excited when I stumbled upon Cincinnati's own RAMP, and their only release, Come Into KnowledgeCome Into Knowledge was released in 1977, and Ayers produced this album, and wrote some of the songs as well.  "Everybody Loves The Sunshine" is one of my favorite tracks by RAMP.  

I picked up a classic hip hop album by Oakland's Souls of Mischief, 93 'Til Infinity.  Released in 1993, I don't know how I slept on those cats for so long, when I have most of the essential hip hop releases from the 90's.  Somehow, 93 'Til Infinity has been on my list to buy for years but have never gotten the chance to do so.  I decided to scoop it up and glad I did, as it's one of those staples of 90's essential hip hop albums, well worth picking up. Here's the track and video for "Never No More". 
Lastly, I felt like including a James Brown track off of Black Caesar, which I actually picked up over a week ago while visiting Portland for the weekend.  JB released his soundtrack to the blaxploitation flick Black Caesar in 1973.  It seems as though every major soul artist was creating a soundtrack to a blaxploitation film during this time (Curtis Mayfield Superfly, Isaac Hayes Shaft, Marvin Gaye Trouble Man, Willie Hutch The Mack, and Edwin Starr Hell Up in Harlem, to name a few of the best), and Brown doesn't disappoint with this soundtrack.  I have about a dozen James Brown albums, and have always wanted to pick up Black Caesar, so I was stoked to find this for $5.  Very groove-heavy instrumentals, as much of James Brown's albums were during this time.  Good stuff, though in terms of James Brown's 70's albums, I like The Payback, and In The Jungle Groove better.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Dream Duo: Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack

Someday, I'm going to devote an "Under Review" post devoted solely to Donny Hathaway, along the lines of my previous ones on Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.  Hathaway was one of the greatest singers ever to walk this planet, and deserving of a post to his own.  In the meantime, I wanted to touch on the magic that Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack created together as a duo.  Sure, there were great male-female soul duos in the past (Otis Redding-Carla Thomas, and Marvin Gaye-Tammi Terrell, to name a few), but nothing touches these two together as a duo.  Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of Flack's solo catalog as a whole (some smooth jazz albums in there that are too smooth for my taste), other than possibly First Take and Chapter Two, both very solid early 70's soul albums.  Hathaway, I could go on for hours about his voice and his albums.   Though a brief career recording-wise, everything in his catalog is essential...but I digress.
Released in 1972, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway is an absolute stunner of an album, from "I (Who Have Nothing)" to "Be Real Black for Me" to "Where is the Love" to "Come Ye Disconsolate" (one of most beautifully recorded tradional gospel songs ever) to the closer "Mood" (listening to the instrumental of Hathaway's electric piano and Flack's piano together is Classical music minimalist beauty for the 20th Century).  I really can't recommend this album enough.  I wanted to post the track "Come Ye Disconsolate", and to my suprise, could not find full clip of the song via the internet.  Instead, I thought a live clip of the duo performing "Baby I Love You" would suffice.  Though a little lo-fi, the clip certainly shows the musical chemistry between these two extraordinary soul singers.   

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

45 Focus--Groove Thangs

The Originals!

I wanted to focus on a few 45's that I've picked up over the past few weeks.  First off, I wanted to start off with The Originals, whom worked closely with Marvin Gaye, and Gaye in fact wrote "We Can Make It Baby".  Vocally, it sounds like a Gaye track, more than anything, especially with the backing vocals repeating the lines of the lead vocals.  I picked up a compilation of The Originals months ago, but don't listen to it as often as I do with this 45.  
The Soul Excursions household is a big fan of anything Michael Jackson related, so anything by Jackson 5 (the first five albums up through Lookin' Through The Windows), The Jacksons (everything, with the exception of Victory), and early Michael Jackson (the Motown solo years through Thriller) is played anytime, and often.  "Ben" is the track off of Michael's second solo album, and is played often in my household, as it is the song that helps soothe my 1 1/2 year old son to sleep.  However, one of my favorite tracks from The Jacksons is "Blame it on the Boogie" off of Destiny.  You can tell MJ and company were beginning to perfect that disco-soul sound, and "Blame it on the Boogie" doesn't disappoint.  Somewhat of a precursor to "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" off of Off The Wall, released one year after The Jacksons Destiny album.  Love the video too, as MJ always succeeded in his videos, from The Jacksons through his solo albums. 
Regarding Eddie Holman's "Hey There, Lonely Girl", what else can I say about it other than it is perfect soul perfection, one of those perfect singles.  The falsettos, the oohs and aahs backing vocals, and the lovely accompanying orchestration make this such a treat.  Holman didn't record any other songs nearly as sublime as this. 
Finally, I wanted to throw out something modern, which I rarely do these days.  Recently dove into Jersey's own The One & Nines, as I recently listened to their recent 45 release "Tell Me/Make It Easy".  Released in October 2011, The One & Nines almost sound as if they stumbled out of a Stax Records session in Memphis, which is partially true, as this 45 was recorded in Memphis.  Stax influenced (I hear the keys come in on "Tell Me" and I'm reminded of Booker T and the MGs), yet also at the same time it also reminds me of Junior Walker (may be the driving horns), both "Tell Me" and "Make It Easy" work on a level where it appeals to the 60's/70's soul fan, yet they make it sound modern and original enough that it's interesting, and not the least bit retro-boring. Hopefully they make their way to Seattle in the near future!   In the meantime, here's a youtube clip of them peforming "Tell Me" live.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Marvin Gaye: Under Review

It's funny to devote a post entirely on soul singer Marvin Gaye.  I mean, what else is there to write or say about Marvin Gaye that hasn't been said already?  He's not only one of the best soul singers ever, but one of the best singers to ever walk this planet, and extremely creative to boot.  When I was in college (15 years ago), the first Marvin Gaye album I bought was What's Going On.  To be honest, at the time, I didn't understand the hoopla surrounding this album.  There are some great songs on that album, starting with the title track, "Mercy, Mercy Me", and "Inner City Blues".  It flows together nicely, but I rarely finished the album all the way through back then.  It wasn't until years ago, that I have grown to realize what an amazing album it is.  I fully appreciate everything regarding What's Going On, and consider it one of the best albums ever recorded, of any genre.  Moving on, the second album of Gaye's that I bought (also in college 15 years ago) was Let's Get It On.  While I thought it was a solid album upon first listen, it didn't quite blow me away like I thought it would.  Similar to What's Going On, it grew on me more so years later, and it's definitely one of my GOAT albums of Marvin's.   I Want You and Here, My Dear, are, in my opinion both extremely underrated.  Regarding the 1976 released I Want You, the story behind it is Leon Ware was nearly finished with his solo album at Motown, and invited Gaye over to listen to it.  Gaye loved it, and asked Ware to work on his new album, which ended up being over 90% of Ware's songs off of the unfinished album that Gaye originally heard.  While I really like Leon Ware Musical Massage, I can't help but feel Marvin Gaye really turned I Want You into his own.  Listen to "Come Live With Me, Angel", probably my favorite track off the album.  I love Gaye's use of multi-layered tracking vocals throughout this album, and especially this song.
It's interesting to hear Leon Ware's version of it, later released on the remastered version of Musical Massage.  Minnie Riperton sings with him on the track.  I don't like it as much, even though I like both Ware and Riperton (together and individually as soul singers), mainly because nothing tops Marvin Gaye.   
Here, My Dear is a brilliant Marvin Gaye album, possibly my second favorite of his behind What's Going On.  Released in 1978, this album was released after the messy divorce from his first wife, Anna Gordy (Motown founder Berry Gordy's sister).  In the divorce proceedings, the judge ordered Gaye to give the profits of his new album to his ex-wife.  Hence, the title Here, My Dear.  It's lyrically almost painfully too direct, while also bitter, sad, and tormented.  However, the album also has moments where Gaye is getting as funky as he's ever been.  Listen to "Anger", with the driven, funky percussion and guitar.  It probably sounded somewhat out-of-place when released among the swirling sounds of disco on the radio during that time, as the funk of "Anger" almost sounds like an underground funk band from the early 70's.  Good stuff!
I also love both of the albums Marvin Gaye recorded with Tammi Terrell, as well as some of his early singles from the 1960's, and even Trouble Man is a solid sountrack that Gaye released after What's Going On (his answer to Superfly and Shaft?) and is very underrated as well. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Best Music Video Ever!
Musically, Halloween makes me think of Michael Jackson and the groundbreaking "Thriller" video, arguably the greatest music video ever made.  I recall watching it countless times on MTV at a young age, and being memorized by it.  I worshiped the music of MJ back then, and thought he was the coolest dude in the world.  Off The Wall and Thriller were (and still are) my jams.  At the same time, while I loved the "Thriller" video, I recall being slightly terrified at Michael's transformation into a dancing zombie fiend.  It was so cool, but slightly scary at the same time.  I remember that I just couldn't stare too much at MJ's face when he became a zombie, so instead I watched the dancing and thought (as most 7 year old kids probably thought at the time), that there was nothing cooler than Michael Jackson, his music, and his dance moves. 
My favorite Halloween-inspired 45 that I own is "The Monster Mash", by Bobby "Boris" Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers.  I randomly picked up this 45 a few months ago, and thought that the record would be perfect to play in the month of October.  It's gotten a lot of play in the Soul Excursions household this month!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Piero (For My Wife)

My wife turned me onto Piero, the Argentinian singer-songwriter who released a wonderful album Mi Viejo, in 1969.  The song I'm featuring, "Mi Viejo" is the most popular song he recorded--an absolutely heart-wrenching, beautiful yet sad song about one's relationship with their aging father--how one can be so different in some ways than their parent yet so much alike--you are in their blood (and they in yours), after all.  If you don't understand Spanish, please take a minute to google the lyric translation in English, and even though it's doesn't come across in English the same way, it's still remains an extremely powerful message lyrically and poetically nevertheless.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

All Because of You

One of my favorite soul songs from the mid-1970's is "All Because of You" by Leroy Hutson.  Hutson was initially known for replacing Curtis Mayfield in a latter-day version of The Impressions.  Shortly afterwards, Hutson left and released a great album, Hutson, in 1975.  Ironically enough, Hutson was released on Mayfield's record label, Curtom Records.   It's one of my favorite albums from the mid-70's post-funk/pre-disco era, well-worth checking out.  Here is my favorite song off the album, "All Because of You".  Can't get enough!

Monday, October 10, 2011

George Benson and Childhoods

This was my jam at age 4, and still is to this day!
Recently, I've been thinking a lot about the music of Jazz Guitarist George Benson.  Albums like Breezin and Give Me The Night were my jams at a young age (in Preschool, I wrote a Valentines Day Card for George Benson, but that's a whole other story).   My dad was definitely an influence musically on me, as I would pull out all of his Benson records, and listen to them continuously, as well as Quincy Jones.  Benson was my favorite--I absolutely adored him.  I also listened to a lot of Classical  music, like Ravel's Bolero, Beethoven,  Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff, so I basically listened to a lot of music that most four year old's wouldn't listen to voluntarily.  You could say I caught the music bug at a young age, which brings me to my 1 1/2 year old son Miles.  Miles is already beginning to catch the music bug.  As a daily occurrence (sometimes a few times a day), he runs over the record player and grabs at it while looking at me, wanting me to put on a record.  I oblige, and while holding him, I play him a series of soul 45's.  I gently rock him, and he lays his head on my shoulder, watching the records spin.  I definitely notice that he enjoys anything Motown.  He gets pretty fired up when I put on the Four Tops, Jackson 5, or Stevie Wonder, and he also seems to dig Bill Withers and Sly Stone.  Miles is definitely loved, and it's great to see him have so many people in his life who love him and are always there for him--his immediate family (my wife and I, and his older brother), his grandparents (from both sides) and his tias (my wife's sisters) as well.  It makes me realize how lucky we are as a family, and regardless of what Miles is interested in growing up, whether he becomes a music junkie or he develops many other interests, it's great that he has the support that I had as a child.  I haven't played him George Benson yet, ironically enough, so that will be next on our playlist.  On that note, here's a little Benson from his best-selling 1976 release Breezin' (title track "Breezin"), as well as a few clips off of his early solo albums from the late 60's that I dig as well. 
Here's a clip off of his 1966 release, The George Benson Cookbook.  Track is called "Slow Scene". 
 "JH Bossa Nova" is taken off of Benson's mid-60's release It's Uptown.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Night Fever

 For all those cats crusin' the streets tonight, here's a little Johnnie Taylor for ya...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Late Late Party

I'm really liking this Light in the Attic Records compilation featuring some great tracks from Charles 'Packy' Axton and his many bands.   Packy was the son of Estelle Axton, co-founder of Memphis's famed Stax Records.  Packy was an integral part of many different bands from the Memphis instrumental soul scene, and participated in many bands of which are featured on this comp.  Some of the tracks remind me of The Meters, or Booker T and the MGs (not a suprise since a few of the MGs played in many of Packy's bands prior to the MGs success).  However, I'm somewhat suprised how much I enjoyed this comp, as a few years ago I read Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music, which portrayed Packy as somewhat of a no-talent scenester, and a drunkard who was living off of his mom's name and success at Stax Records.  Regardless of his talent, it's apparent that he hooked up with some great bands throughout the 1960's in Memphis.  I thoroughly enjoyed Charles 'Packy' Axton Late Late Party and highly recommend it.  Here's a clip from one of Axton's bands, The Pac-Keys, called "Stone Fox", one of my favorite tracks off of Late Late Party.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Organ Grinders

I'm always listening to Jazz, mainly from the 60's and early 70's, and have been specifically focusing on some of the funky fusion sounds that feature organ players.  While I love the organ featured in Jazz, it seems fairly limited in terms of sounds it can create.  It's funky, soulful, and jazzy, which is cool and I love it, but you don't hear many ambient Jazz albums that feature the organ, for example.  The organ--it is what it is, and I love it, but it's not for everyone.  The above photo is of Charles Earland 1972 released Black Talk! album, one of my favorite of the featured Jazz organ genre.  Take a listen to Earland on the cut "Black Talk"

One of my favorite Jazz organists is Jimmy McGriff.  I featured him on an earlier post regarding the album Electric Funk.  While I love that album, my favorite McGriff album is this:
Dig the sexy 70's blaxspoitation cover!  Nevertheless, it's such a wonderful album, a groover from beginning to end and I possibly my favorite Jazz organ-based album.  Here is a track off of Jimmy McGriff 1971 released Soul Sugar album, titled "Sugar Sugar":

I really dig Lonnie Liston Smith's organ work as well, and have some albums of his that I enjoy, like Expansions.  However, some of my favorite organ work of Smith is off of Lou Donaldson's Alligator Bogaloo album. 

Alligator Bogaloo is a great album, and truly an all-star affair that features Lonnie Liston Smith on organ, and a young George Benson on guitar.  Released in 1967, here is the classic cut "Alligator Bogaloo" which shows Smith at his best on the organ.  Of course, Lou Donaldson is in top form with his saxophone on this cut as well.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Duke

I was supposed to leave for New Orleans in a few days, but had to abruptly cancel the trip.  It would've been my first time there, and it's a bummer but I know I made the right decision.  There are a few main reasons of which I won't go in to detail here, but the idea of New Orleans approaching made me nostalgic for New Orleans based music.  I've been pulling out the early Allen Toussaint albums, Aaron Neville, and Irma Thomas albums, as well as a great comp off of Soul Jazz called New Orleans Funk.  Duke Ellington isn't from New Orleans, he was born in Washington D.C., but he released a marvelous late-Ellington period album called New Orleans Suite, which brilliantly captures the essence of New Orleans (at least in the eyes of one who hasn't been there).  Before I go into Ellington more, let me just say that I'm a huge fan of the Duke.  From his early Okeh Recordings, through his recordings with the Blanton-Webster Band, through his collaborations with John Coltrane, and Charles Mingus (the later featured on the 1962 release Money Jungle, one of my favorite Ellington albums).  The Duke can do no wrong in my opinion.  I wanted to feature a clip off of the 1970 release New Orleans Suite, mainly in honor of New Orleans, and The Duke.  This clip is titled "Blues for New Orleans", it's seriously swings, and it's wonderful.  Here's to The Duke, or Mr. Ellington to you!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Back In The Day, It Was All Good

The Fat Boys in their hayday
 I'll contribute a more lengthy post later in the week when I have the time and energy, but in the meantime, enjoy one of my favorite videos of all time.  Always a riot, The Fat Boys were the inspiration for my horribly attempted beatboxing back in the day as an impressionable 12 year old after seeing them for the first time on Yo! MTV Raps! many, many years ago.  I still pull out the occasional Fat Boys track on a rare occasion...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Coffey Is The Color--Exploring The Work of Dennis Coffey

Dennis Coffey...One of the Funkiest White Boys Ever
One of greatest guitar players ever to walk the face of the Earth, Dennis Coffey was a major part of the funky sounds of Motown as he joined the fold as a session player for the label in the late 1960's.  In fact, Coffey was the guitar player on the classic Temptations track "Cloud Nine".  Solo-wise, Coffey had some great instrumental albums that were extremely funky, jazzy, and soulful (and ended up being sampled by a million hip hop artists over the years).  I recently picked up a compilation of Dennis Coffey called Absolutely The Best of Dennis Coffey, which pulls together some of Coffey's best tracks from his first four solo albums.  Below, I have included a few of Coffey's essential tracks, like "Scorpio", "Getting It On", "Theme from Enter the Dragon", and "Big City Funk".  There's plenty more where that came from in terms of Coffey's catalog, as this is just a sampling of the guitar great!  

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

45 Focus--Soul Stylin'

I've been pulling out the soul 45's recently, and thought I'd feature three in particular that I have been playing on repeat for the past few weeks.  
Harlem River Drive's "Need You" 45 is a groover with some tasty electric keyboards and a pre-disco/funk sound.  Good stuff!

I love this Gwen McCrae 45 "For Your Love", recorded in 1975.  Strong female vocals, great intro (reminiscent of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On"), a slow burner and my favorite McCrae track she ever recorded.
A nice deep-soul 45 cut by Dyke and the Blazers "Uhh".  Honestly, I don't know anything about this group (google, here we come!), but I've loved this track since I picked it up a few months ago.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Bruce Haack--Electro-Pioneer

Bruce Haack...vocoder man, electronic music guru, musical mastermind, psychedelic pioneer, whatever one may call him (or associate him with), he was a unique talent.  Electronic before Kraftwerk, psychedelic pre-Krautrock, Haack's early music was space age pop songs written for kids, and made some guest appearances on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood over the years.  Haack was also featured on The Johnny Carson Show and The Michael Douglas Show back in the 1970's.  Haack passed away in 1988 at the age of 57, but left some worthy music, certainly interesting to check out if one has a passing interest in early electronic compositions.  An influence on musicians like Beck, Stereolab, Kraftwerk, and has been sampled by hip hop dj's like Cut Chemist.  If I had to choose a favorite of his albums, I would say that the 1970 released The Electric Lucifer is tops.  However, Stones Throw Records put out a good compilation of Haack's music called Farad, which features cuts from 1970-1982.  Here are a few of my favorite cuts composed by Bruce Haack, starting with the space-age pop sounds of "Rita".
Bruce Haack kickin' it with Mr. Rogers

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Nerves

Another great one by Little Willie John, which suitably fits my life at this moment...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rabbits & Carrots: Soul Latino

Picked up Rabbits & Carrots 1969 release Soul Latino album a few weeks ago, considered among the times to be Mexico's answer to The Meters.  It's one of those albums that has been on my list to buy for over a year now, but I continued to put it off because, honestly, the thought of listening to a bunch of instrumental covers of James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone, Rufus Thomas songs, etc. didn't excite me too much.  I love the originals so why would I want to hear an instrumental cover?  Man, was I wrong!  These dudes take these songs and run with them.  Just great, funky, Mexican soul.  The track "Pais Tropical" is probably my favorite.  It's a cover of a Jorge Ben song, and these dudes really do a great job with it.  Check it out!
Of course I can't include "Pais Tropical" without including the original by one of Brazil's finest, Jorge Ben:

 I will probably feature a future post on Jorge Ben, who is one of my favorite singer-songwriters from the 60's and 70's, but wanted to conclude this post with another solid track off of the Rabbits & Carrots Soul Latino album, titled "Romeo y Julieta".  Has this track been sampled by someone before?  It sounded so familiar to me the first time I heard it, but couldn't recall.  Anyway, good stuff!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Baden Powell: Os Afro Sambas

This week, I've hit a rut in terms of my blogging.  I've been contemplating what to post about, because I feel that I'm due to post something new but have been at a loss about what to discuss musically.  Honestly, I'm not going to lie--although this blog is titled "Soul Excursions" and the initial intent was to discuss mainly soul music from the 60's and 70's, I've been listening to very little soul music recently.  I'm sure I will come back to some of my favorites from Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, etc. eventually because soul music is my lifeblood and is, as a whole, my favorite music genre.  However, other than the occasional listen to one of my many Little Willie John albums (the "Fever" biography that I recently read led me back to his catalog after many years of neglect), my heart, my ears, and my soul have been drawn towards everything Brazilian.  Bozza Nova, Samba, and Tropicalia have been on constant rotation on my player, from the likes of the Tamba Trio, Marcos Valle, Azymuth, Joao Gilberto, Joao Donato, Jorge Ben, among many others.  The main diet of my Brazilian nourishment has been the albums of Baden Powell.  Mainly, his 1966 release Os Afro Sambas.  The haunting guitar playing of Powell, the lyrics from the Brazilian writer Vinicus, the backing female vocals of Quarteto em Cy, it's all present in probably one of my favorite Brazilian albums of all-time.  Take a listen to "Tempo de Amor". 
I have a bunch of Baden Powell albums that are well worth listening to, especially from his On Guitar series, like Images on Guitar, Canto, or Tristeza, but Os Afro Sambas, is the masterpiece in Powell's catalog.  Highly recommended!