Archive for September, 2008

The Secret History Of Beastie Boys – The Cover Art

18 September 2008

Here’s the cover art for my compilation of Beastie Boys rarities, live tracks, and B-sides.

Because I haven’t said it in a while, now is probably a good time to mention that my mixes are for friends and family only, and not for sale in any form to the general public. Thanks in advance for your interest, but this is for fun, not profit…

[here’s the front inside]

[here’s the back inside]

[here’s the back]

[copy on the back reads: #2 in a series of albums dedicated to presenting the hidden side of some of music’s most enduring performers. Featuring B-sides, mashups, re-mixes, live performances, and more. This edition… the Beastie Boys.]

[and here’s the track listing]
One] Triple Trouble (Graham Coxon Remix)
Two] The New Style (from No Alternative)
Three] Root Down (Free Zone Mix)
Four] Flowin’ Prose
Five] And Then I
Six] Shadrach (Peanut Butter Wolf Remix)
Seven] Shake Your Rump (Instrumental)
Eight] Skills To Pay The Bills>Shake Your Rump (7.8.98 / Austria)
Nine] Hurricane * Stick ‘Em Up (featuring Ad-Rock)
Ten] Deal With It
Eleven] Whatcha Want, Lady?
Twelve] Jimmy James (Original Original Version)
Thirteen] Unite (4.26.03 / Indio, CA)
Fourteen] Now Get Busy
Fifteen] Alive (Hang All DJs Remix)
Sixteen] High Plains Drifter (6.20.98 / Germany)
Seventeen] She’s On It
Eighteen] In 3’s (5.22.92 / Seabright, NJ)
Nineteen] Pow (5.22.92 / Seabright, NJ)
Twenty] Tripper Trouble


Check out the previous mix in this series: The Secret History Of Jimi Hendrix

Doubleshot Tuesday: Pink Moon/Solid Air

16 September 2008

[Today: Doom and gloom has rarely sounded so beautiful…]

Nick Drake died of an overdose of anti-depressants (sick irony, that) on November 25th, 1974. He was 26 years old. Whether or not it was suicide has been hotly debated ever since, but almost everyone agrees that he was severely depressed in the months leading up to his death. Pink Moon was the last album released during his brief life, and it’s a crushing listen – akin to reading a dead man’s diary. Drake is accompanied here by just his own guitar, which sounds like it was strung with pieces of his soul. It’s one of the most naked, bleak and beautiful albums ever recorded, with Drake singing lyrics like “Look around you find the ground/Is not so far from where you are” like a man who’s already six feet deep.

John Martyn was a friend of Drake’s, and has become an unwitting oracle into the frame of mind of his deceased friend. “I think he distrusted the world. He thought it didn’t quite live up to his expectations,” is one of the many ways that Martyn has explained Drake’s profound sadness. Martyn has had enough of his own reasons to feel down – his career peaked in the early 70’s with the kind of modest commercial success that might have saved Nick Drake’s life. Released in February of 1973, Solid Air is one of his career highlights, a jazz/blues/folk confection that sees Martyn tackle the dark side of life with a devilish gleam in his eye.

But even as he churned out one fine album after another, Martyn saw his commercial fortunes dim to the point that – even though he had broken the color barrier as Island Records’ first white artist – he found himself without a label in the late-80’s. In 2003 Martyn contracted an infection that resulted in the amputation of his right leg below the knee. Today he’s just turned 60, but you won’t catch him moping: as he told Word Magazine‘s Rob Fitzpatrick earlier this year “I honestly believe that no man who has ever lived has had more fun than me. Living full on is the best fucking way to do it and I would absolutely do it all again in a fucking moment!”

Listen: Things Behind The Sun [Nick Drake]

Listen: Over The Hill [John Martyn]

Weekend Playlist

15 September 2008

Here are some of the sounds that The P and I enjoyed during a lovely Northern California weekend:

The Mighty Imperials | Thunder Chicken

Various Artists | Verve Remixed 2

The Rolling Stones | Some Girls

Slade | Slayed?

Dave Alvin | King Of California

Traffic | Welcome To The Canteen

Finley Quaye | Maverick A Strike

Wynton Marsalis | Marsalis Standard Time

Jimmy Forrest | Most Much

Duke Ellington | Blues In Orbit

MC5 | Babes In Arms

Paul McCartney & Wings | Band On The Run

Stereo MCs | Supernatural

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers | Like Someone In Love

The Byrds | Untitled

Masterpiece: Funky Kingston

14 September 2008

[Today: Toots & The Maytals want to take you higher…]

Frederick “Toots” Hibbert grew up singing in the congregational choir of his local Baptist church before forming The Maytals with Jerry Matthias and Raleigh Gordon in 1962. It isn’t a surprising influence – Toots sings with a joyous, full-throated voice of redemption that wouldn’t sound out of place on a preacher at an old-time revival tent meeting. His vocal delivery allows the group to turn songs like The Kingsmen’s ‘Louie Louie’ and John Devnver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ into something approaching spiritual experiences. Most reggae music has soul and funk at its core, but Funky Kingston is built on a foundation of gospel.

It’s an album with a confusing lineage. There are actually two LPs in The Maytals’ catalogue under this title – a middling 1973 studio album that featured the title track and ‘Louie Louie’, and the 1976 compilation (pictured above and discussed here) that pulled together many of the group’s best singles to that point. Adding to the confusion, recent reissues have flipped the release dates, so the ’76 compilation is labeled as a 1973 release, and the original studio album is listed as a product of 1976. It’s enough to make a sane man fire up a big fat spliff.

Toots & The Maytals were one of the few reggae acts to span several different eras of the genre’s development. They were ska sensations in the mid-60’s and created some of the best ‘rock steady’ reggae of the early-70’s before shifting gears to a more standard roots/rock/reggae sound. The band called it quits in the early 80’s, but has been touring regularly since at least the mid-1990’s, and they still put on a fierce live show. I saw them play New Year’s Eve 1997, and a daytime concert on Pier 28 in San Francisco, and both shows were marked by high-energy, positive vibrations, and excellent reggae music.

Which brings us back to Funky Kingston. Jamaican music doesn’t get much better, and this should be one of the first reggae albums in any collection. Just make sure you pick up the right one…

Listen: Funky Kingston

Listen II: Time Tough

Buried Treasure: Battle Of Armagideon

12 September 2008

[Today: Lee Perry is a madman…]

Introducing Myself’ is the opening shot fired on this album, and it was an entirely appropriate gesture for a reggae legend who was introducing himself to a new generation of fans. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry produced some of the finest reggae music of the 70’s in his Black Ark Studio, but when that studio burned to the ground in 1979, Perry took several steps away from the spotlight. Depending on who you listen to, the legendary studio burned down because: a) Perry torched it during a drug-induced psychotic episode, b) Perry torched it to avoid relentless shakedowns by the Kingston mafia, c) Perry torched it to rid the building of “evil spirits”, or d) faulty wiring in the building caused a fire.

Regardless of which story you choose to believe (and it’s sure hard to pick against the juicy ones), Perry lost his standing in the reggae community the day that building went up in flames, and it took him nearly a decade to regain it. Released in 1986, Battle Of Armagideon was the album that signaled his return to the forefront of reggae music. “I am a madman” he sings gleefully on the song of the same name, and it has become a signature tune for Scratch. The music lives up to the madness and encapsulates the many shades of Scratch: ‘Show Me That River’ has the warbled, driving reggae/disco rhythm that Perry perfected in his Black Ark days, while ‘Happy Birthday’ features his requisite zany lyrics (“Sea captain/wrapped in a napkin”) and ‘Sexy Lady’ finds an intoxicating dub groove.

But beyond any individual high points, this album crackles with the weird energy of Professor Lee’s best work. It certainly foreshadowed his surprising re-emergence during the 1990’s. That decade saw Scratch tour the US for the first time in two decades, record with the Beastie Boys, and release several more fine albums (1990’s From The Secret Laboratory foremost among them) before winning a Grammy award for best reggae album for 2002’s Jamaican E.T..

Lee Perry, phone home…


Listen: Show Me That River

Listen: I Am A Madman

Том Уэйтс

10 September 2008

The P and I hit our local flea market on Sunday, and while I came away with a few treasures (notably Neil Young’s Decade on LP [finally!] and Earl Hooker’s Sweet Black Angel), far and away my best find was a Russian pressing of Tom Waits’ classic album Swordfishtrombones.

Feast your eyes…

[here’s the back cover]

[here’s the label]

I couldn’t help but notice the production date on this record is 1991 (the album was originally released in ’83), more than likely making it a product of perestroika. In thinking about how this album made its way to Northern California, I decided that some impressionable Russian kid (‘Boris’ in my mind) picked up a bunch of American rock albums in the early 90’s, fixated on Tom Waits as his creative hero, and decided to move to the land where everyone was wacky and brilliant and talked through bullhorns like Tom Уэйтс.

Then, once he arrived here, Boris realized that this is the land of strip malls, bad tv, and village idiots. So he sold his records, bought a plane ticket to Moscow, and joined the KGB.

Or something like that…

Listen: 16 Shells From A Thirty Ought Six


Check out Tom Waits’ Wikipedia page – in Russian!

Doubleshot Tuesday: The Basement Tapes/ Public Domain

9 September 2008

[Today: A dip into popular music’s deep, dark past…]

“The old weird America” coined by Greil Marcus is colorfully reflected in both The Basement Tapes and Public Domain. Bob Dylan and Dave Alvin have each successfully burrowed into the past – Alvin using songs that had fallen out of copyright control, Dylan creating his own past out of the whole cloth of his imagination.

Released in 1975, The Basement Tapes features songs recorded during the summer of 1967, while Dylan was recuperating from a nearly fatal motorcycle accident. He was joined in the basement of his Woodstock, NY home by members of The Band, and the music they made is ragged, hazy, and brilliant. Dylan’s characters inhabit a world of half-formed melodies, non-sequitars, one-liners, biblical prophecy, and dream imagery. These were original tunes recorded to sound like they were generations old, but they have always sounded new and strange. When Dylan sort of half sings the lines “I went back in the house and Mama met me/And then I shut all the doors” he sums up the sadness and struggle of the American frontier.

If The Basement Tapes is a murky snapshot of a subconscious musical history, then Public Domain is the real deal – primitive folk songs from the past, lovingly rendered and brought back to life. Living in a world of natural disaster, murder, and insanity, the characters here are every bit as troubled, witty, and courageous as those in The Basement Tapes. The tunes paint vivid pictures of their times, and tell stories set on farms, battlefields, oceans, graveyards, railroads. These people have blood on their hands, but they live with honor and maintain their dignity. As Alvin wrote in his brief liner notes for the album, “A lot of what is good, and bad, about us is in these songs.”

Listen: Clothes Line Saga [Bob Dylan & The Band]

Listen: What Did The Deep Sea Say [Dave Alvin]

Weekend Playlist

8 September 2008

Here are a dozen albums that hit my turntable over the weekend.

It was extremely HOT in the Bay Area both Friday and Saturday, so that affected the choices to some degree.

I’m often asked about what I’ve been listening to lately. Here’s a partial answer…

The Stooges | Fun House

Neil Young | Decade and On The Beach

My Morning Jacket | It Still Moves

Fleet Foxes | Fleet Foxes

Sweet | Desolation Boulevard

The Soft Boys | Underwater Moonlight

Willie Colon | Cosa Nuestra

Traffic | The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys

Earl Hooker | Sweet Black Angel

The Black Crowes | Warpaint

Fairport Convention | Unhalfbricking

Tosca | Suzuki


QUESTION: What was on your playlist this weekend?

Masterpiece: Psychedelic Shack

7 September 2008

[Today: The Tempations know how to solve the world’s problems…]

‘The Sound Of Young America’ was Motown’s longtime tag-line, but by the late-60’s, the music the label was churning out was closer to the sound of middle-aged white America. The anxieties faced daily by the black youth of this country were not expressed on any Motown product until Marvin Gaye fought the label to gain release of his landmark song ‘What’s Going On’. After that single sold in unprecedented numbers, Motown boss Berry Gordy saw that topical music could be profitable, and finally turned his artists loose to discuss the matters of the day.

The resulting albums – including Gaye’s What’s Going On, The Four Tops’ Still Waters Run Deep, and The Temptations’ Psychedelic Shack – finally lived up to the label’s catchphrase. This sub-genre was dubbed Psychedelic Soul, and it was the natural evolution of the Motown sound. But where What’s Going On is a brooding litany of social ills, Psychedelic Shack sounds like a bunch of friends kicking it in the park and rapping about how they can make the world a better place.

The album opens with the title track, a picture perfect description of the Fillmore West and psychedelic ballroom scene of the day (“People walking around reciting poetry/Screamin guitars and a thousand colored lights/People I’m telling you this place is really out of sight”). The Temptations had obviously absorbed at least the cursory tenets of hippie philosophy, because this album views the problems of the world through a prism of grooviness, love, and personal responsibility, and the net takeaway is that we should strive to be a happy, dancing, fellowship of man.

In his September 1970 Rolling Stone review of the album, Arnold Brodsky noted that “Psychedelic Shack… gains decidedly from being played through from beginning to end, its individual songs seemingly growing out of each other with a cumulative effect.” Like the best conversations, this album represents a number of different points of view and touches on serious issues, but never gets preachy or glum. Instead, this is warm, thoughtful, fun music that is dated in the best kind of way.

Listen: Psychedelic Shack

Buried Treasure: A Black Man’s Soul

6 September 2008

[Today: Remembering a bad, bad man…]

Izear Luster Turner, Jr was a bad man – perhaps a little too bad for his own good. In spite of having a legit claim to inventing rock & roll with his 1951 fireball ‘Rocket 88’, Turner is generally remembered for little other than being the abusive ex-husband of Tina Turner. In his autobiography Takin’ Back My Name, Ike pleads a sort of self-defense: “Sure, I slapped Tina… there have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I never beat her.” Quotes like that, along with a monumental cocaine problem, have long overshadowed a dynamic music career.

Turner roadied for blues legend Robert Nighthawk, produced Howlin’ Wolf, and scouted talent for Chess Records. But his greatest discovery came in the form of Annie Mae Bullock, who changed her name to Tina, married Ike, and instantly overshadowed her husband to become the star of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. In the late-60’s Ike & Tina had by far the hottest act on the so-called “Chitlin Circuit” of southern clubs. During the short breaks in their rigorous touring schedule, Ike hauled a well-seasoned version of his band – The Kings Of Rhythm – into the studio for several funk jam sessions.

Those sessions resulted in the all-instrumental 1969 gem A Black Man’s Soul. It’s top-shelf funk featuring tight yet meandering grooves that are heavy on wah-wah, horns and piano, yet rarely run longer than three minutes. The songs deliver the kind of loose, gritty vibe that titles like ‘Philly Dog’ ‘Black Beauty’ ‘Nuttin Up’ and ‘Getting Nasty’ so vividly promise. This is mood music for the greatest blaxploitation flick never made, and an essential purchase for fans of funk.

Ike Turner wasn’t a nice guy, but neither was he the sadistic lunatic that Laurence Fishburne portrayed on the silver screen. Somewhere between those two extremes lived a talented musician and first-rate band leader who deserves to be remembered as something more than just a wife beater. If you’re interested in hearing the other side of Ike Turner, A Black Man’s Soul is the place to start.

Listen: Getting Nasty