28 November 2016, No. 217, The Revenge, ‘Heavy Love’

The Revenge’s “Heavy Love” at No. 217 always brings to my mind another number we’ll get to in the 400s, “Heavy Vibes” by Montana Sextet. Both feature vibraphones prominently, but “Heavy Love” is built from Marvin Gaye’s “Heavy Love Affair” and not from the Montana Sextet piece.

The Revenge is an alias of a producer named Graeme Clark, who seems to have put edits into the hands of the best of the bunch: Danny Krivit, Todd Terje, and Bill Brewster, among others. Give a listen and it’s clear to hear why they were receptive. When the bassline finally breaks at the end of the third minute, all you want is for it to come back before the end. And it does. Feel the pain, then you’ll feel the very heavy love.

27 November 2016, No. 216, Mona Rae, ‘Do Me’

I’m pretty sure it was Mike Trombley who uncovered the label on No. 216 for me at his Paradise party in Philadelphia, and I’ve been playing Mona Rae’s “Do Me” regularly since then. All it took was that big, zooming synth that cuts through right before the vocal starts. The horn-like lead synth sound isn’t bad either, and I like the phase shifting on the rhythm guitar. The whole song is both relaxed and exciting simultaneously. Tee Scott has a “mixed by” credit here, and as I’ve mentioned before, we’ll get to “Tee’s Happy” by Northend in the mid-400s, which has a similar feel. At this moment, however, just give it everything you got; don’t stop.

21 November 2016, No. 215, Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, ‘Tramp’

The chronology is a little fuzzy here, but it’s a clean-shaven kind of clear that No. 215, “Tramp” from Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, is not the original. It’s a cover of “Tramp” by Lowell Fulson, which was released as a single and as the leading cut of an LP in 1967.

In 1966 Joe Tex put out “Papa Was Too” (which was No. 41 on our list), and that song also contains an accusation of tramphood and the response that, “well, papa was too.” Fulson’s “Tramp” is not an outright cover of “Papa Was Too,” and since songs are usually written and performed publicly before they’re recorded, the question of who inspired whom is open even though the Joe Tex record was first.

In 1968 an assemblage of studio musicians calling themselves The Mohawks put out “The Champ,” an instrumental cover of the Fulson tune. “The Champ” is coming up in the 400s and is maybe the most recognizable of the songs under discussion here, with an organ riff that’s been sampled everywhere.

Otis Redding, according to Carla Thomas in “Tramp,” was country, with his big old brogan shoes. In fact brogans are more like boots and have a construction similar to (yet simpler than) brogues. Redding was from Georgia and died at 26 in a plane crash. Maybe his ghost haunts Lake Monona, Wisconsin, where the plane went down, or maybe it tramps the Georgia woods in overalls and unkempt hair. Either way most of Redding’s stuff is a little too popular for this list, though I think I’ll add “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” to the next one, since even the current list has a “crowd pleasers” subsection.

This Redding and Thomas version of “Tramp” isn’t fully faithful to the Fulson original, and I’m happy to report Redding’s offer to replace minks and sables with squirrels, rats, and rabbits is wholly an invention for the new version. Plus Fulson had only three Cadillacs to Redding’s six and nothing in the way of Lincolns, Fords, or Mercuries.

But you’ll never catch either one in those continental clothes.

20 November 2016, No. 214, Orange Krush, ‘Action (Disco Version)’

No. 214 brings to mind one largely and one entirely dissimilar song. Maybe it’s because I live in Athens, Georgia, now, home of REM, but I can’t see this band name, Orange Krush, without thinking of the REM song “Orange Crush.” We are agents of the free, after all.

The other thing I think of when I hear Orange Krush doing “Action (Disco Version)” is the bassline from Keni Burke’s “Risin’ to the Top,” specifically as rearranged by Posdnuos from De La, which we covered at No. 74. Just the bassline, though, since “Risin’ to the Top” has an easy modern soul vibe while “Action (Disco Version)” is more of a party starter. Listening to the two back to back, it sounds almost like Pos had “Action (Disco Version)” in mind when he was cutting up the Keni Burke bassline for “Crosstown Beef.”

But we’re on Orange Krush, a group about whom I know nothing except that I have this single of theirs, “Action,” from 1982, that has ill open drums and credits one Russell Simmons with production and writing. Simmons would go on to cofound Def Jam with Rick Rubin the next year. Adding a little more faded star power to the (re)mix, the B side, which is the disco version we’re highlighting here, lists John “Jellybean” Benitez as creator of the dance mix.

The lyrical content of “Action (Disco Version)” (and the title, I suppose) brings to mind one more song, and since like REM’s “Orange Crush” the song likely won’t appear on the list otherwise, I’ll mention it here. Matty C’s “Action” is a great nu-disco adaptation of hairspray-era Poison’s “I Want Action.” There are some nu-disco tunes on this list, but I have another crate chock-full of those (though it ends in 2015; been busy doing other stuff and not collecting a lot of new music, clearly), and that’s where the Matty C tune is recorded for posterity. Maybe forever from now, when I finish this disco jams list, I’ll start on the nu-disco jams.

For now it’s No. 214, “Action (Disco Version)” from Orange Krush. And if you need a little more action, the first book in the Warm Glow Record Show series, Warm Glow Record Show 1: Your Self-Conscious Substitution, went live today. Get one now for $1, or wait and claim your free copy on Thanksgiving or on the black Friday that follows.

19 November 2016, No. 213, KC and the Sunshine Band, ‘Let’s Go Party’

Not to be confused with “Do You Wanna Go Party” from the LP of the same name, this is KC and the Sunshine Band with an album cut from their third full length, Part 3.Let’s Go Party” is a three-minute basket of boogie coming in at No. 213, and all it wants to do is go, you know, let’s party, let’s go get down.

In their typical fashion KC et al. eschew a chill, laid-back feel in favor of sending the horns almost over the top and offering up vocals that are little more than group chants, incantations calling forth tonight’s eponymous shindig and tomorrow’s and tomorrows’.

When trolling in the slower tempos, like in languid tropical waters, it’s good to play songs with lyrics about parties, getting funky, and getting down so as to remind people that the party poop deck on which they’re merely milling will fill up soon. So let’s party; let’s party. Let’s go, you know, let’s go get down.

18 November 2016, No. 212, Fred Wesley and the JB’s, ‘Watermelon Man’

I don’t think the Head Hunters LP version of “Watermelon Man” makes it onto our list, nor does the Mongo Santamaria Latin version, nor for that matter does the original Herbie Hancock recording of the tune from 1962’s Takin’ Off, his first LP. Instead we’ve got Fred Wesley and the JBs tearing it up again with their take on “Watermelon Man” at No. 212. Honestly (and obviously, if you’ve picked up on my proclivity for synthesizers), I like the Head Hunters version best, but I think I kept it off the list because the tempo varies too much. Or maybe it’s a simple oversight. I won’t correct it in this case because I fear the Head Hunters version is too slow, and we’ve passed its place already. I’ll add it to the next list. And it was “Chameleon” I kept off the list because of the uneven tempo, but maybe I’ll add that one to the next list too. Difficult to mix, but who doesn’t love a challenge?

17 November 2016, JJC Mixtape Archive 15 – Warm Glow Record Show 4: Dance It Out

I decided these little bits accompanying the releases of the mixtapes will constitute the introductions to the booklets I’m working on, so I’m being mindful now that I’m writing the front matter for a publication and not just an entry in a blog. It’s difficult to have much in the way of introductory material to write about the mixtape since the chapters in the book are all about the songs in the mix. Further, as I’ve noted before, the methodology for these mixes is pretty straightforward and maybe a little mechanical. Certainly formulaic.

I tried to recall whether any of the blends in this mix use novel effects, but nothing came to mind. Upon review I found a few. Some of the best ones I didn’t have to work for, like “Yaya” into “Funky Penguin” around 37:40. The mix into “Yaya” from “Disco-Fied” isn’t as good, even though it relies on the same technique. It’s always better to emerge from a swirling mess of sound and echo with something solid than it is to go from something straightforward into a big mess, even if the mess resolves into a beat pretty quickly. 

“Check Your Bucket” into “Keep on Moving” around 18:30 is pretty fun. I used the reverb to make Eddie Bo sound like he’s shouting from the bottom of a well. 

At 48:00 or so “Garden of Four Trees” ends with one of my favorite tricks from turntablism. I used the same “double ’em up instead of echo” technique on the first Dollar Grillz mixtape and at the very beginning of Warm Glow Record Show 3: It’s a Dance, Dance, Dance. Here I was unsure about leaving the dead cutoff, but I did it anyway the first time. Contrast that with the little reverb tail I added to the next stop and I think you’ll agree it’s fun to have both. “Garden of Four Trees” wasn’t mixing well with the next song, is why I ended it so abruptly, in case you were wondering.

“Superstition” wasn’t mixing well either, but I thought the results might be rewarding if I forced it, so I quantized the Clavinet and detuned it. Getting the tuning right was tough. It needed a semitone or two and a handful of cents before it sat comfortably in the mix. Then the mixtape almost goes out on a discordant snippet of “Superstition,” hinting that there will indeed be something to work out at the start of the next mixtape.

For now though, if it ain’t funky, don’t you know we can’t use it. Now.

Warm Glow Record Show 4: Dance It Out

What is this streaming crap? Give me my own copy.

11 November 2016, Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen has died. I didn’t care for him much on the page, but what a singing voice. I was surprised to learn of his death as I heard a review of his new album on the radio just last week. I stopped what I was playing at the gig last night and put on the live version of “Lover Lover Lover” from Field Commander Cohen. Then, to get back to the kind of mood I like more, I played a Cohen song I also like more: “First We Take Manhattan.”

“First We Take Manhattan” is not amazing as far as synthpop goes, with its swelling choral pads and gated reverb on the snare. And here’s more proof that digital synthesis didn’t help bass or horn sounds in the late 1980s. We forgive all of that to hear Cohen threaten a takeover of major metropolises. First Manhattan, then we take Berlin.

10 November 2016, No. 211, Pierre Henry and Michel Colombier, ‘Psyché Rock (Fatboy Slim Malpaso Mix)’

Malpaso is the name of Clint Eastwood’s production company, and I’m fairly confident No. 211, “Psyché Rock (Fatboy Slim Malpaso Mix)” by Pierre Henry and Michel Colombier, starts with Alessandro Alessandroni whistling an Ennio Morricone score from some spaghetti western or another, maybe one from the Dollars trilogy that made Eastwood famous.

The tumbleweed-woven beginning of the tune brings Firefly, the best space western ever, to mind because after the whistling ceases this number takes a sharp left into the retro future, being all Futurama from here on out. It has more of a campy, go-go ’60s vibe than does the 30-second Futurama theme, so it also brings Austin Powers films to my mind. The flutes are what does it, playing those little trill-like parts reminiscent of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s work in Quincy Jones’ “Soul Bossa Nova.” And the organ riff and double-time tempo in the last minute and a half. And the 1967 release date of the original, haha.

9 November 2016, Do You Want Total War?

“Do you want total war?”

Yesterday too many people in the States said, “Yeah, that sounds pretty good.”
NON, “Total War

8 November 2016, No. 210, Freedom, ‘Get Up and Dance’

Kazoos! Here’s hoping my household will make some celebratory noise tonight after the election results are in. No. 210 is “Get Up and Dance” by Freedom, something certainly worth celebrating. This tune forms the basis of Grandmaster Flash’s “Freedom,” a tune I confuse with another of his, “The Birthday Party,” since both feature choruses of kazoos.

I promised the fourth installment in the mixtape series today, but because I haven’t yet written a satisfactory introduction to it, I’ll wait another week to release that properly into the wild. In fact it’s already out there, and you’ll find it easily enough if you go and look for it, but you’ll have to wait until next week to hear me drone on about it.

For now I’m back to hoping that after all the polls close we’ll have something to get up and dance about.

[Edit: smfh. At least you no longer have to wait for Mixtape 4.]

7 November 2016, No. 209, Earth, Wind & Fire, ‘Kalimba Tree (Todd Terje Edit)’

Blame MCC SELFHELP (later Ten Thousand Villages) and relatives with missionary connections to Kenya, Zaire (which is not even a place anymore), and elsewhere in Africa, because as a kid I often came in contact with mbiras on knickknack shelves, and I never thought too much of their potential. Thumb pianos were fun to screw around with, but I don’t think I ever really established a groove. Earth, Wind, and Fire, on the other hand, grew a whole tree’s worth of the things, and Todd Terje is back on our list to quantize and rearrange them.

In fact, lead singer Maurice White bought the trademark for a smaller version of the mbira, this tune’s eponymous Kalimba, after discovering it in the 1970s. Also running through this edit are more of those non-lexical vocables, not nearly as good as the ones in Earth, Wind, and Fire’s too-short (and not on this list) “Brazilian Rhyme (Interlude),” but then those are some of the best vocables, non-lexical or otherwise, ever committed to wax, so at least Maurice White (who died earlier this year) is competing only with himself in that regard. 

The Kalimbas in No. 209, “Kalimba Tree (Todd Terje Edit),” play a lightly syncopated sixteenth-note pattern that gives this mid-tempo song a frantic feeling, especially on top of the long and rather dark bass synth notes. A guitar playing distorted sustains that compete with the synthesizer’s frequencies before they drift into feedback and give way to a ringing sort of riff adds to the endarkened atmosphere.

There’s a slim chance the chants in this tune mean something in some language, but I’m doubtful. “Don’t Look Any Further” by Dennis Edwards gives me pause with its approximation of Swahili, and the “Brazilian Rhyme” refrain might have originated as a reference to the Brazilian state of Bahia, but I’m assuming singing in foreign languages is not what they’re up to here. Give a listen, and you decide.

2 November 2016: Mixtape trifecta

The Halloween dust has settled (I went as the DJ from Westworld, haha), but I’m still a little late with this mixtape post, having vowed to post one on Tuesday, and now it’s half past midnight Wednesday morning. Ah well.

I’m also taking the lazy way out and reposting the first three volumes of the mixtape series rather than taking the time to upload the fourth installment. Next week for that one.

Closer to triptych than triple threat, this trifecta of mixtapes is relaxed, slowish, contemplative, and makes nice background music if you’re busy or foreground music if you want to lie back and groove.

The next mix breaks the fall color scheme and gets all crazy marbled tie-dyed looking, and the fifth starts the winter colors with a dull, icy blue, which is to say you ought to get into the deciduous-hued warm glow of this trinity before it’s displaced by something frostier.

You might also want to note bene that volumes 2 and 3 are on Soundcloud as well as Mixcloud.