[Today: Happy birthday to me…]
I’ve got a birthday coming up, and one of the real disadvantages of being over 40 and still having birthdays is that people continue to ask what you want for your birthday. “What do you want for your birthday?” It’s a question I could have answered with a 5,000 word essay when I was eight years old, but now it’s hard to work up a shrug in response. When I was a kid, the stuff I wanted was stuff – toy guns and slot car tracks and nerf toys and a million other things that kids stopped asking for and parents stopped buying decades ago.
But lately, I’m more taken with gifts that don’t come in wrapping paper – being happily married; knowing where to get excellent soul food; owning a five-lifetimes supply of LPs; having good neighbors and true friends; not loathing my work; loving and respecting my entire family; and living with two of the ten coolest felines on earth. What more could you ask for?
More music, that’s what. So last week I snuck off and treated myself to a browse of the local (Berkeley) record establishments. Whenever I do this, I always come up with a fistful of records I never intended to own, and this visit to Amoeba and Rasputin was more of the same. The first of two highlight finds was The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, a pyrotechnic blend of psychedelia, spoken word nuttiness, and hard metal soul. Arthur Brown wore crazy costumes, including a helmet of fire, and his song ‘Fire’ charted in 1968. “I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE, AND I BRING YOU FIRE!!!” he bellows, channeling his inner-demons and no doubt inspiring a young Gene Simmons.
My second find was provided courtesy of Macfarlane Gregory Anthony Mackey, who recorded under the stage name Exuma. Mackey was born in the Bahamas, and it shows in his music. Reincarnation is more chameleon than album, shifting colors with every track. Exuma alternately sounds like a Bahamian Cat Stevens, a fired-up Taj Mahal, a raving voodoo witch doctor, and Richie Havens at Woodstock. And if you can’t get behind that combination, I’ve got a couple of George Winston albums for you.
My hat’s off to the forward-thinking record executives who green-lighted these projects. As long as record bins continue to be stuffed with unique artists like Arthur Brown and Exuma, I’ll have enough birthday presents to last me to 110…
Listen: Fire [The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown]
Listen: Exuma, The Obeah Man [Exuma – not from Reincarnation]