July is a funky month in the Bay Area, and I don’t mean that in the rhythmic sense of the word. While the rest of the country is basking in sunshine and enjoying cook-outs and picnics, the Bay is covered in a dense layer of fog, and rainy days aren’t uncommon. This used to profoundly bum me out, until I realized: 1) fog is a small price to pay to live here, and 2) our hot and sunny Septembers and Octobers more than make up for the soggy Junes and Julys.
Besides, a nice upbeat album can make any day feel like a picnic. Here’s some of the stuff that kept the fog at bay for me last month:
#1 Gilles Peterson * Fania DJ Series – Don’t be fooled by the title, there is no remixing going on here. This is simply one of the best compilations to be found of music from the extinct Latin label Fania Records. This two-disc set lives up to its subtitle The Incendiary Sound Of Latin New York through 26 supremely hot tracks. Peterson claims to have listened to more than 200 albums to get these selections, and it shows in a neverending stream of boogaloo funk classics. The colorful packaging isn’t too shabby either…
#2 Word Magazine * July Issue – The good folks at Word Magazine were kind enough to publish a lovely two-page spread on my Hip-Hop Sgt. Pepper’s art in their July issue [Leonard Cohen is on the cover]. Columnist Rob Fitzpatrick did an amazing job on the article, and was great to deal with throughout the process. Once I finally laid my hands on the magazine, I was so impressed with the editorial content that I signed up for a year’s subscription. Cheers to everyone at the publication and thanks for a memorable write-up!
[I'll be posting a PDF of this article, just as soon as I can secure permission to do so. At any rate look for a 'making of the Hip-Hop Sgt. Pepper's cover' post in the near future...]
#3 Walk It Out, Fosse - Bob Fosse’s choreography and Unk’s hip-hop anthem go together like peanut butter and jam. Check out how many of the dance moves synch up perfectly with shifts in the music (gotta love Gwen Verdon’s big smile on the “purple smoke” line). A very cool clip that has given me repeated viewing pleasure over the last few weeks, this shows what a genius Fosse (the choreographer behind Cabaret and All That Jazz) was, and proves that quality steppin’ never goes out of style.
#4 Osibisa * Heads – For reasons already mentioned, and so much more…
#5 Various Artists * Tropicalia – A truly great summer album that livens any event. Even sitting on the couch by yourself feels like a party when this one is on the box.
#6 Journey * Greatest Hits – How could I ignore the outpouring of affection that came out in the comments to my ‘On The Fence’ post about this album? As promised in the lead-in to that article I’ve been listening to this – and re-living the splendor of the 80’s – over the last few weeks. As commenter JD smartly noted, “This album is like a highly calibrated GPS to the past.”
#7 The Soft Boys * Underwater Moonlight – A great album for a bad mood. I wrote about this one a few weeks back, and it just keeps getting air time. It’s truly amazing that this group featured a future member of Katrina & The Waves.
#8 Umlaut - Reviewing concerts new and old, this blog kicks axe. I’ve particulalry enjoyed the recent posts on Iron Maiden (as epic as its introductory warning indicates) and AC/DC. For those about to rock, Umlaut salutes you…
#9 Nina Simone * Four Women: The Philips Recordings – Big shoutout to Furr for passing this four disc box my way. The whole thing is pretty great, but I’m currently stuck on her cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘The Ballad Of Hollis Brown’ – a really powerful song and one of the best Dylan covers of all-time.
#10 Maritime Hall Postcards - I pulled out my old stash of Maritime Hall postcards from the late 90’s/early 00’s last week and picked out a few for framing. It’s funny, this was never my favorite artwork, but I have a lot of fond memories of the Maritime (RIP), including some of the best Reggae shows I’ve ever seen, and it has a big nostalgia factor for me. I’m pretty happy to have a few of these around to remind me of good times and great shows.