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! 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Kanye West and Jay-Z: Watch The Throne

The long anticipated Kanye West/Jay-Z album Watch the Throne, finally hit the stores Friday morning. I picked up my copy and like it for the most part, but have some mixed feelings about it.  It's great hearing Kanye and Jay-Z rapping together, on top of their game.  Upon my first two listens, there are some tracks I love ("That's My Bitch", "Welcome to the Jungle"), and some I'm not feeling ("Lift Off").  Overall, a pretty solid album, though I can't help but feel increasingly put off by the new direction much of mainstream hip hop is taking.  I'm beginning to miss hip hop the way it was, with the emphasis on the beats and rhymes.  These days, synths are more prevalent, and an electro-techno/club friendly beat is beginning to take the place of the old school sound.  While I don't mistake the genius of a producer he is, and damn he writes great hooks as well, but I miss some of the head-nod beats off of albums like Kanye's College Dropout, Late Registration, or Jay-Z's The Blueprint.  Nevertheless, Watch the Throne is a good listen and definitely worth copping.  The below track is "Welcome to the Jungle", definitely a song I'm feeling!       

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tennessee Waltz

Today I'm focusing on the song "Tennessee Waltz" written by Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart in the late 1940's, such a highly covered song that made it's way through the country music communities in the 40's and 50's, and eventually made it's way into the set lists of R&B/Soul performers in the 1960's by the likes of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding.  I thought I'd bring out a few clips of probably one of the most beautiful songs written in our country.  It's a beautiful slice of Americana, from Patsy Cline, to Otis Redding, "Tennessee Waltz" is a beautiful song, and Otis's version brings a tear to my eye on occasion.  First off is the original recording of Pee Wee King's "Tennessee Waltz".  Listen to each recording and see how the song evolved over time.  While it started out as a southern country-fried tear-jerker, Sam Cooke's version (recorded 15 years after it's first release) is definitely more peppy.  Otis Redding's version is my favorite though I like all five versions I posted of this song, which is why I did so.  I enjoy Otis's version the most because he stayed true to the country standard but injected a little more soul into it. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sinatra and Jobim--A Dynamic Duo

In honor of Kanye West and Jay-Z's upcoming Watch The Throne album (yes, I know it's out on itunes now, but it officially hits stores tomorrow), I thought I'd revisit another dynamic duo:  the team of Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim.  Bossa Nova hit world-wide in the mid-to-late 60's with the team of Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz.  Sinatra jumped into the Bossa Nova craze in 1970, and recorded some beautiful songs, written by Jobim.  You can't script this team better--Frank Sinatra, arguably the greatest American singer, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, arguably the greatest Brazilian composer.  The results were magical.  I especially love their version of "Girl from Ipanema", where Sinatra starts out singing, then Jobim joins in, and they later conclude singing together. The album Sinatra recorded with Jobim is, along with Watertown, my favorite two Sinatra albums. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Little Philly Soul

Scored this authentic Ryan Howard Phillies jersey at a Seattle Goodwill last week for 5 bucks.  The Phillies are my second favorite baseball team (behind the hometown Seattle Mariners) so I was pretty psyched, and have been rocking it out all day today. Besides this jersey reminding me of the ol' scrappy 90's Phillies teams with Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams, Lenny Dykstra, Darren Daulton, and John Kruk, wearing a Philadelphia Phillies jersey also reminds me of all the great soul to emerge out of the city of Philadelphia.  Jackie Wilson, The O'Jays, The Intruders, Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, The Delfonics, and the great producers Gamble and Huff made tremendous, unforgettable music.  Even Philly's own Hall & Oates made some good blue-eyed soul music in their early days.  Most of these songs are pretty obvious choices and well-known to most soul fanatics.  Nevertheless, these are a few of my favorite soul songs to emerge from great city of Philadelphia!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Joao Gilberto--Truly Heavensent

Summertime is always great for Bossa Nova, as I discussed in a recent post.  I've been riding with Joao for quite a few years now, but just recently started digging even deeper into his catalog besides Getz/Gilberto and Chega De Saudade.  I've more recently been turning towards his second album, O Amor, O Sorriso e a Flor, as well as his self-titled album from 1973.  O Amor actually is probably my favorite of Joao's releases overall.  It feels a bit more put together as a whole than Chega, although there are tracks I love on his debut release, and certainly the release that is possibly the most influential album to emerge from Brazil in the 60's (Caetano Veloso and his fellow Tropicalians worshiped this album, and you can certainly hear Caetano's musical style as a cross between Joao Gilberto and The Beatles or other Brit/US rock bands from the 60's).  Joao's voice, plaintive yet expressive at the same time, his wonderful intricate guitar playing, and the arrangements of the strings--it truly is music from the heavens.  Sometimes I listen to Joao and feel that there isn't anything better than his music, especially his first few albums, when he was truly on top.  Listen to Joao Gilberto perform "Desafinado" live and tell me I'm wrong!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Song for My Father

I could listen to Horace Silver's Song for My Father album repeatedly (in fact I do) and never grow tired of it...Here's the title cut, and a classic from the great Horace Silver.