The Salsoul Orchestra – Christmas Jollies (1976)

The Salsoul Orchestra
Christmas Jollies
1976 Salsoul Records SZS-5507

A1 The Little Drummer Boy 4:57
A2 Sleigh Ride 3:03
A3 Silent Night 1:05
A4 Merry Christmas All 3:28
A5 Christmas Time 2:30
A6 There’s Someone Who’s Knocking 3:59

Christmas Medley (12:08)

B1.a Joy To The World
B1.b Deck The Halls
B1.c O Come All Ye Faithful
B1.d Jingle Bells
B1.e Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
B1.f Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
B1.g The Christmas Song
B1.h White Christmas
B1.i Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
B1.j I’ll Be Home For Christmas
B1.k Winter Wonderland
B1.l The First Nöel
B1.m We Wish You A Merry Christmas

New Year’s Medley (6:46)

B2.a Auld Lang Salsoul
B2.b I’m Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover
B2.c Alabama Jubilee
B2.d Oh, Dem Golden Slippers
B2.e God Bless America

Recorded At – Sigma Sound Studios
Mastered At – Frankford/Wayne Mastering Labs
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Salsoul Record Corp.
Copyright (c) – Salsoul Record Corp.
Distributed By – Caytronics Corporation
Manufactured By – Caytronics Corporation

Credits

Alto Saxophone – John Bonnie
Bass – Gordon Edwards
Chorus [Children’s] – Santa’s Little Helpers
Congas – Larry Washington, “Chiwawa”
Drums – Earl Young
Guitar – Norman “The Harris Machine” Harris
Guitar, Banjo – Ronnie James
Illustration [Backliner] – Yvonne Ortiz
Keyboards – “Cotton” Kent*
Photography By [Cover] – Joel Brodsky
Producer – Vincent Montana, Jr.
Strings, Horns – Don Renaldo And His Little Helpers
Trumpet [Solos] – Evan Solot
Tuba – Eddie Moore (2)
Vibraphone [Vibes], Chimes, Marimba, Timpani, Percussion, Bells – Vincent Montana, Jr.
Vocals – Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson, Evette Benton, The Salsoul Singers

 

LINEAGE
Salsoul Records SZS-5507 vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; AUdioquest King Cobra cables; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair on very light settings, manually auditioning the output; further clicks removed with Adobe Audition 3.0; dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag & Rename


It might be easy to dismiss this Salsoul Christmas album as a disposable, vapid cash-grab because, let’s face it, that’s the essence of most Christmas albums.  And when it first occurred to me to do a post on this one, I confess it came with a chuckle and I wasn’t sure if I would be “liking this ironically” or sincerely digging it, having not played it in a million years.  This album was such a big seller for Salsoul that even non-music heads like my parents had a copy around the house when I was growing up (they don’t recall it, however, so it may have been given to them by their friend who ran a record store in Jersey and later worked for a distributor).*  I still have the jacket for that family heirloom (the record went missing), but this is super common record and I picked one up in decent shape super cheap this year.  And you know what?  It doesn’t suck!  Sure, disco versions of Christmas classics can be considered “novelty music”, but the level of professionalism in the arrangements and the playing – this is the Salsoul house band, after all – make it hard not to groove out to them.  “Sleigh Ride” might be my favorite of the classics here.  There are even a few original Christmas tunes that aren’t half bad – in fact, “Merry Christmas All” is just a darned good song.  The Christmas and New Year’s medleys are bombastic and over the top, which is actually as they should be for a record like this.  I could personally do without the finale of God Bless America, but it’s fine, I just always remember to spit contemptuously off to the side whenever it comes on.  Which makes for an odd sight at Christmas parties and I apologize to everyone who’s had to maneuver around my saliva on their kitchen or dance floor.

This was one of the fastest vinyl transfers I’ve ever done, and a voice coil on my fancy headphones broke in the middle of working on it, so you may hear some blemishes.  If any of Santa’s elves out there want to donate to the blog (Patreon button below, or link in the top left), it would help expedite a repair!

Merry Christmas to all and don’t forget to get up off of that thang and dance till you feel better!

*Trivia note about the cover.  The copy my family had was the more common version where “Dance Your Ass Off” as been entirely censored and changed to just “Dance to Salsoul” on the back of the model’s shirt.  As you can see, my current copy has the *partially* censored and nonsensical version that says “Dance Your As”.   And I might as well mention that, adding to the quick-cash feeling of a holiday album, the cover photo is a ‘family friendly’, pre-Photoshop modification of the same one gracing the previous Salsoul Orchestra album, “Nice and Naasty”…


password: vibes

 

The Young Tradition with Shirley & Dolly Collins – The Holly Bears The Crown

The Holly Bears the Crown
The Young Tradition with Shirley & Dolly Collins
Originally recorded 1969 but unreleased (see below)
Fledg’ling Records FLED 3006 (CD, UK, October 30, 1995)

 

Recorded in London in 1969 (but shelved because of the Young Tradition’s break-up);
Produced by John Gilbert
Mastered by Dennis Blackham at Porkys, London
Photography by Brian Shuel
Cover artwork by David Suff

Musicians

Peter Bellamy, vocals;
Shirley Collins, vocals;
Dolly Collins, portative organ;
Adam Skeaping, violone;
Rod Skeaping, bass viol;
Heather Wood, vocals;
Royston Wood, vocals;
Gary Watson, narrator [1, 8]

Tracks

Prologue from Hamlet (0.28)
The Boar’s Head Carol (Roud 22229) (1.38)
Is It Far to Bethlehem (2.12)
Lullay My Liking (2.10)
The Cherry Tree Carol (Roud 453; Child 54; G/D 2:327) (2.48)
Shepherds Arise (The Shepherd’s Hymn) (Roud 1207) (3.10)
I Sing of a Maiden That Is Makeless (1.56)

Interlude: The Great Frost (2.16)
Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day (Roud 21931) (2.08)
A Virgin Most Pure (Roud 1378) (4.19)
The Coventry Carol (Roud 19028) (1.55)
The Holly Bears the Crown (Roud 514) (2.49)
March the Morning Sun (2.24)
Bring Us in Good Ale (Roud 203; G/D 3:590) (2.33)

All tracks trad. except
Track 1 William Shakespeare;
Track 3 words Frances Chesterton, tune trad.;
Track 4 words trad., tune Gustav Holst;
Track 5 words trad., tune Shirley Collins;
Track 7 words trad., tune Dolly Collins;
Track 8 Virginia Woolf;
Track 13 Royston Wood

Arrangements by Peter Bellamy, Shirley and Dolly Collins, Royston Wood, Heather Wood;
All instrumental arrangements by Dolly Collins;
All titles published by Cacophony Music

Information in this text file was found on the wonderful website:
https://mainlynorfolk.info/peter.bellamy/records/thehollybearsthecrown.html

One single was released from this project at the time:

The Boar’s Head Carol / The Shepherd’s Hymn
The Young Tradition

Argo AFW 115 (single, UK, 1974)
The Young Tradition: The Boar’s Head Carol (Argo AFW 115)


Here’s one for getting out the mulled cider and spiced wine, although this will be the most sober of my holiday offerings. It is one of those genuinely “lost classics,” an album that went unreleased at the time except for one single on Argo.  It’s all very, very English.  The Collins sisters teamed up with vocal group The Young Tradition, whose name itself suggests that core folk revival principle of recovering, preserving, adapting, and recontextualizing ancient tunes.  Each “side” of the unreleased album was opened by brief recitations of passages from Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf, as if to underscore that traditional/modern dialectic.  A couple of the melodies were newly composed by Shirley and Dolly for traditional lyrics, and one comes from composer Gustav Holst, who played a part in the previous folk revival of the early 20th century, in the same cohort as Vaughan Williams.  Another deploys lyrics by Frances Chesterton (wife, manager, and religious anchor of G.K. Chesterton) to a traditional melody.  One original Royston Wood composition graces the album, sung by Shirley.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the UK during part of the Christmas season, and to make a broad generalization, man are they really into Christmas there.  Sure, it’s also saturated with American-style consumerism and filthy capitalism.  But being there as a Yank still impressed upon me that there’s a basic human kindness and warmth that is stronger and less transitory than all of that.  The kind of goodwill that individualist Americans reserve only for their family and friends (or church congregation) seems to spill forth from every city street and village corner to embrace you.  Yes, I know there are more people “sleeping rough” (that’s British for “homeless”) than there ought to be in any so-called civilized place, there are forces trying to gut the NHS, and the isles have their fair share of socioeconomic problems, racism, and moral contradictions.  But when Theresa bloody May has to publicly chastise the child-tyrant of the USA for retweeting fraudulent Islamophobic propaganda made by fascists, perhaps you can indulge me in a bit of fantastic romanticizing that at least some remnants of British society hold fast to a more humane, compassionate, less-batshit-crazy worldview than what currently prevails in the land of my birth.  Since I won’t be able to take in evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral, at least I can put on this record, though certainly less grandiose than a choir or pipe organ, and keep myself in good ale.

Once again, if you’re feeling the holiday spirit and have anything left over from your gift fund, consider becoming a patron of the blog via Patreon, using the links at the footer of each post.  It would help us with some site ‘remodeling’ and with enough patrons I can actually run some of the fun features like opinion polls and requests.

 


password: vibes

The Three Suns – A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas! (1959)

The Three Suns – A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas!
Original release 1959, RCA Victor LSP-2054
2015 reissue, Real Gone Music: RGM-0395

 

01 Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town (2:04)
02 Skater’s Waltz (2:56)
03 The Chipmunk Song (2:03)
04 White Christmas (3:06)
05 Ding Dong Dandy Christmas (2:54)
06 The Christmas Song (2:31)
07 Russian Sleigh Song (2:39)
08 Jingle Bells (2:41)
09 Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (2:20)
10 Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (2:00)
11 Jingle Bell Rock (2:12)
12 Sleigh Ride (2:57)
13 I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (2:21)
14 Winter Wonderland (2:44)

Guitar Al Nevins
Accordion Morty Nevins
Organ, Vocals Artie Dunn
Arrangements Charles Albertine
Other Performers Uncredited

Producer Al Nevins
Engineer Ernie Oelrich
Liner Notes Art Whitman; Joe Marchese


Tubas! Bells!  Rockin’ jazzed-up guitar solos! Accordions! Did I mention bells?  After I first heard this Three Suns Christmas album (one of several they made), I began picking up every Three Suns LP I came across in the charity shops in the hopes of finding one as fun and exciting as this one.  So far that quest has ended in failure, nothing comes close.  This toe-tapping, zany sleigh ride through a set of old chestnuts will bring a smile to even the most jaded humbug hater of Christmas music.  Sure, most of these tunes are so worn out that they should be classified as noise pollution during the month of December, but you’ve rarely heard them this animated.  This is what the future sounded like in 1959!  If you were trapped in a fallout shelter for a hundred years with only one holiday record, this would have been the one to choose.  Thanks to my friend Y. for supplying the secure audio extraction.  He also supplied this blurb from the Dusty Groove record store, which I will include below solely because it includes the word tintinabulation.

A hell of a great record from the Three Suns – upbeat, playful, and everything we love about an unusual Holiday set! In fact, the record may well be better than most of the group’s other RCA work – as their usual groove is inflected here with lots of hip percussion, which creates an extra flourish amidst melodic lines on accordion, guitar, tuba, and organ – all romping around in a mighty nice way! There’s lots of bells, especially – and they add this tintinabulation to the record that’s really wonderful – ringing out on titles that include “Skater’s Waltz”, “The Chipmunk Song”, “Ding Dong Dandy Christmas”, “Russian Sleigh Song”, “Jingle Bells”, “Sleigh Ride”, and “Let It Snow”.


So do yourself a favor, put on that smoking jacket and fix a drink from that oak sideboard with the built-in speakers holding your hi-fi equipment, and let your mind relax while your eyes wander across that patterned wallpaper in your den.  I’m not inclined toward any insightful socio-musical commentary during these busy holiday weeks, but I am inclined to post a few more light-hearted albums that are only good once a year, so stay tuned to this station.  Also if you are brimming with holiday generosity,  consider becoming a patron of the blog via Patreon – if we get enough patrons, we can get a Mega Pro account, because hosting direct links on this site is no longer a viable option going forward.  Also, more than 3 patrons (our current number) would allow me to actually run the fun activities like opinion polls and the occasional request fill that are set up as ‘member rewards’ currently.

Careful with that eggnog!


passw3rd: vibes

Claudja Barry – Sweet Dynamite (1977) (Salsoul SRZ-5512)

Claudja Barry
Sweet Dynamite
1977 Salsoul Records SZS 5512
US Pressing

A1 Love For The Sake Of Love 7:53
A2 Sweet Dynamite 7:22
B1 Dance, Dance, Dance 6:43
B2 Live A Little Bit 3:28
B3 Why Must A Girl Like Me 7:21

Phonographic Copyright (p) – Salsoul Record Corp.
Manufactured By – Caytronics
Distributed By – Caytronics
Mastered At – Frankford/Wayne Mastering Labs

Credits

Backing Vocals – Claudia Schwarz, Roberta Kelly, Stefan Zauner
Bass – Dave King, Gary Unwin
Drums – Keith Forsey
Keyboards – Thor Baldursson
Percussion – Jorg Evers, Jurgen S. Korduletsch
Saxophone – Pepe Solera

Arranged By – Jorg Evers
Mastered By – Jose Rodriguez
Mixed By – Tom Moulton
Photography By – Michael Doster
Producer – J. S. Korduletsch
Written-By – Evers, Korduletsch
Engineer – Jurgen Koppers, Peter Ludemann

 Notes
An original Lolilipop Recording.
Manufactured and Distributed by Caytronics Records.
A Cape Music Company.

1977 Salsoul Record Corporation

Deadwax inscriptions:
SZS 5512A-REV1 TM/JR
SZS 5512B-REV1X TM/JR

LINEAGE INFO
Salsoul SZS 5512 vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; AUdioquest King Cobra cables; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair on very light settings, manually auditioning the output, and often turned off for large sections of this record; further clicks removed with Adobe Audition 3.0; dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.


Forgot protest music, forget Eminem – disco is the best weapon against your classic-rock / “new” country-listening Trump supporter neighbor and his or her dreams of a white ethnostate. It has all the right elements to churn their schizo-paranoid, alternate fact-fueled persecution complex – this music was a conspiracy of people of color, The Gays, women, and Europeans to threaten their hegemony and prevent bands named after notorious concentrations of normative whiteness, like Boston or Kansas, from reaching the top of the Billboard charts.  Absent an explicit political message, it espoused an ideology of equal parts tolerance and hedonism, of the pure physicality of getting everybody off their sofas and away from watching the squares on Hollywood Squares, commanding them to get up and mix all their sweaty limbs together in one gelatinous mass of grooving, gyrating joy over the simple gratitude of still being alive after Vietnam, surviving Nixon, and paying obeisance to unrelenting 4/4 beats and the deliverance of music.  Sure, the Khmer Rouge was committing genocide with the complicity of agents of “Western Democracy” and the CIA was preparing itself to try and crush the Sandinistas, but for a few hours every night, in cities around the world, DJs would spin records like this almost defiantly funky debut album by Claudja Barry – a Jamaican-born, Canadian raised singer, professionalized in London before winding up in West Germany, where she married this album’s producer and principal songwriter, Jurgen Korduletsch.

And what a hard-hitting debut record this is, thanks in no small part to the aggressive mixing of Tom Moulton, who worked closely with mastering engineer Jose Rodriguez. Their work is a great example of judicious and creative use of compressors and limiters to create records where everything seemed crisp, loud, and punchy but without squashing everything to bits, still leaving room for the dynamics to breath.  The way the mix on a song like “Love For The Sake Of Love” is built up layer by layer is very satisfying.  Not especially innovative, but satisfying – it could be a didactic example in an audio production class of how to make  music that is as pleasurable  for listening as it is dancing. It is notable that the US pressing has a different track sequence from the European release and is missing several songs found there, such as the questionable cover of Steely Dan’s “Do It Again.”  I don’t know what the story is but I can imagine Donald Fagen litigating against Salsoul or something. Surely a disco-funk version of his song drove him nuts, and they even messed with his lyrics!  It was released as a single, so without knowing the chronology I suppose it could have been added to those Euro releases later (I don’t think it was mixed by Moulton, either), but given the 31-minute running time of the US version, it sure feels like it was cut.  In my personal opinion, you’re not missing much.  The first four tracks on this album are all monsters, with the solid and steady drum work of Keith Forsey (who worked with Giorgio Moroder among others) laying down the bedrock.  The instrumental track “Live A Little Bit” seems to be intentionally reminding us of Claudia’s island roots.  It’s pleasant but doesn’t really go anywhere.  “Why Must A Girl Like Me” is the weakest cut here, eschewing the hard edge of the earlier tracks for a more pop sound.  Mileage may vary and I would forgive you for stopping the record and putting on something else at this point.  And hey, if anybody knows who played guitars on this record, leave a comment – the rhythm guitar work here is excellent, as are small tasty but tiny lead lines on the album’s opener.  The band (as credited on reissues, no personnel is listed on the LP jacket) is comprised of a hodgepodge of US and Berlin-scene musicians as well as Italian sax player Pepe Solera.

The CD format in general has not been kind to Tom Moulton – most of the Salsoul catalog has recently been manhandled by reissue labels who brickwall the shit out of everything they release.  This album may have been spared the so-called ‘loudness wars’, at it seems it was reissued once in 1993 (before everything began to be mastered for iPods or car stereos) and then only in Japan in 2014, where people still care about sound quality.


password: vibes

Marcos Valle – Vontade de Rever Você (1981) (2017 RSD – ViNiLiSSSiMO)

Marcos Valle
Vontade De Rever Você
Reissue April 22, 2017 ViNiLiSSSiMO MR-SSS 546
Special release for Record Store Day
Original Release 1981 Som Livre 403.6224

 

01 – A Paraíba Não É Chicago     4:35
(Laudir de Oliveira, Ware, Marcos Valle, Paulo Sérgio Valle, Cetera)

02 – Bicho No Cio     4:35

(Leon Ware, Marcos Valle, Paulo Sérgio Valle)

03 Velhos Surfistas Querendo Voar     4:35

(Leon Ware, Marcos Valle, Paulo Sérgio Valle)

04 – Campina Grande    3:22

(Marcos Valle)

05 – Sei Lá     4:35

(Laudir de Oliveira, Ware, Marcos Valle, Paulo Sérgio Valle, Cetera)

06 – Pecados De Amor     3:40

(Marcos Valle, Paulo Sérgio Valle)

07 – Garimpando     3:55

(Marcos Valle, Paulo Sérgio Valle)

08 – Nao Pode Ser Qualquer Mulher     4:12

(Leon Ware, Marcos Valle, Paulo Sérgio Valle)

 

Accordion – Sivuca
Bass – Jamil Joanes, Luizão, Peter Cetera
Drums – Danny Seraphine, Robertinho Silva
Electric Piano [Rhodes] – José Roberto Bertrami
Guitar – Chris Pinnick, Robertinho De Recife, Robson Jorge, Sergio Dias
Keyboards, Piano – Marcos Valle
Percussion – Airto Moreira, Bezerra da Silva, Chacal, Laudir de Oliveira
Producer – Marcos Valle, Paulo Sérgio Valle, Ribeiro Francisco
Saxophone – Oberdan, Walter Parazaider
Trombone – James Pankow, Serginho

 

LINEAGE INFO

RSD 2017 ViNiLiSSSiMO MR-SSS 546 vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; AUdioquest King Cobra cables; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair on very light settings, manually auditioning the output, and often turned off for large sections of this record; further clicks removed with Adobe Audition 3.0; dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

This is a very solid record from Marcos Valle in what would these days be called his ‘boogie’ phase.  I suppose it can’t also be called ‘yacht rock’ because, a) there’s not much rock here, and b) on the album jacket, Marcos definitely looks more like the guy selling suntan lotion (and maybe a little something extra for your voyage if you seem hip) down at the pier, moreso than he resembles the owner of a yacht.  This album also answers the unasked question, “What would it sound like if you put Chicago’s Peter Cetera and Brazilian accordion wizard Sivuca on the same song?”  The result was the moderately big hit single “A Paraíba não é Chicago” that opens up this upbeat, breezy album.  Cetera contributes bass guitar to unspecified tracks, as do the great Jamil Joanes (who played with Banda Black Rio, Gal Costa, Tim Maia, and many others) and Luizão Maia (Antônio Adolfo e A Brazuca, Fórmula 7, Elis Regina, João Bosco and many more). Sergio Dias of Os Mutantes plays a guitar or two somewhere here.  The eclectic mix of magic helper elves continues with sessions credits from three other members of Chicago (Danny Seraphine, splitting drums duties with the ubiquitous Robertinho Silva, and horn players James Pankow and Walter Parazaider), and co-writing credit from both Cetera and soul singer Leon Ware on four songs.  Valle worked with both those guys during his second stretch living in the USA, and his melodic flare is in heavy abundance on this Ware track  Rockin’ You Eternally, also from 1981. Robson Jorge and Robertinho do Recife (on guitars) and Airto (on percussion, although you wouldn’t really know it’s him) are in the mix as well.

Marcos Valle sounds natural and in his element here, still youthful and not at all like he was simply keeping up with the times while approaching the milestone of twenty years as a recording artist. Although I will probably always prefer his string of home-run classic albums from the late 60s and early 70s, I’m glad his work from this period is getting more attention lately, as evidenced by this special 2017 Record Store Day repressing by Spanish label ViNiLiSSSiMO.*  Marcos Valle has never needed to be ‘recuperated’ as hip, because he’s like some kind of Brazilian Brian Wilson, without the mental instability and a much longer span of productivity, a guy whose work has stayed afloat above the tides of fashion as effortlessly as the most expert surfer.  There are no bad songs here, although the shimmery slick production may occasionally get in their way, depending on the listener.  The instrumental Campina Grande continues the album’s peculiar fascination with the state of Paraíba (they have great beaches there…), using a Northeastern rhythmic foundation for a piano melody that is evocative of Valle’s bossa nova years.  If he had recorded an English-version of the radio-friendly, mid-tempo “Sei lá”, he might have been a household name in the northern latitudes.  But I doubt Rio’s golden boy loses much sleep over that notion.

*Unfortunately, in terms of mastering and sound quality, I’m fairly confident they just took a CD and slapped it on wax, which ignores that the two media have different properties.  The good news is I am guessing they used the Japanese reissue on Bomba Records, since it doesn’t pin the meters to 0 db in a solid slab of ‘brickwall’ like I suspect the Som Livre 2006 CD, based on all their other CD reissues.  Anyway, I guess it’s nice to have around for analog playback, at a reasonable price.

password: vibes

Wolfmoon – Wolfmoon (1973) (featuring Swamp Dogg)

 

Wolfmoon
Wolfmoon
1973 Fungus FB 25149

01 Cloak Of Many Colors
02 If He Walked Today
03 My Kinda People
04 If I Had A Hammer
05 People Get Ready
06 Proud Mary
07   God Bless
08 What Is Heaven For
09 Treasures That I Found
10 The Artist

Artwork By – George Reeder Jr
Coordinator – Yvonne Williams

Deadwax matrix runout info:
SIDE A: F-25149-A-RE-1-11-1
SIDE B: F-25149-B-1-11-1 p@ D PR T-2Producer – Jerry Williams Jr.

Lineage:
Fungus 25149 LP; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; Audioquest King Cobra cables; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair on light settings, manually auditioning the output; Stereo->Mono fold down in Click Repair; further clicks removed with Adobe Audition 3.0; dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.


A look at this cosmic album cover art leads you to speculate excitedly about the contents. Who is Wolfmoon? Is he some kind of psychedelic superhero who goes bowling with planets amidst the stars? What does his music sound like? You put the record on your turntable, half expecting squalls of Echoplex feedback guitar to fill the room and fulfill your urge for uncovering some lost psychedelic funk treasure, but what meets your ears is… slightly off-kilter southern soul. I think I use the phrase “slightly off-kilter” a lot whenever I try to describe the work of Swamp Dogg to the unfamiliar. Swamp Dogg, the musical persona of one Jerry Williams, Jr, produced this album, wrote all the songs that aren’t cover tunes, and possibly played half the instruments. And his approach, his musical gestalt if you will, has always struck me as what it would sound like if an arranger for Muscle Shoals Studio ate a quarter ounce of psilocybin mushrooms at 8 a.m. right after getting to work, and continued on as if it were just a normal day at the office. The song structures are more or less traditional, the elements all familiar to the universe of southern soul music of the 60’s and early 70’s, but there is always just enough strangeness – odd lyrics and titles, occasional embellishments of inter-dimensional lysergic audio production creeping through an arrangement like kudzu overtaking a barbecue stand – to alert the listener that something is a little bit “off.”

Williams/Dogg’s production work for other artists usually plays it a little more straight than on his own records, and Wolfmoon is no exception. So I’ll confess to some mild disappointment when I discovered that the sounds emanating from the grooves did not sound like a collection of early Funkadelic outtakes thrown into a blender with some of Otis Redding’s ashes and some paint chips from the discarded scepter of King Floyd. This is high quality soul music, but with the exception of the expansive take on “People Get Ready”, there are no ‘freakouts’ here. Since I have no idea what Wolfmoon actually looks like beyond the comic-book style cover art, I found it helps to visualize an animated film with him “in character” singing all these songs.

Almost half the songs are infused with an idiosyncratic gospel-soul religiosity, and a look at the song titles will probably help you guess which ones.  “If He Walked Today” speculates on the second coming of Christ in a way that uncomfortably reminds me of a truly awful assignment I turned in for a drama-writing class when I was a teenager in which I attempted to cast Jesus as a hippie in Greenwich Village or the Haight (can’t remember which) in 1970.  I mean that was pretty much the whole “plot,” I don’t think there was much else to it.  Wolfmoon’s track is better than my dramatic script, which for some reason I still haven’t burned in a bonfire but refuse to actually reread.  Another track, “God Bless,” is a cute observation of little kids offering nightly prayers to Deputy Dog, Elmer Fudd, and Tweety Bird.  Talking about the “off kilter”, funky gospel-soul tunes among the original compositions is a good segue-way to the cover songs.  While “If I Had A Hammer” wins my praise for being the funkiest version of that song you’re likely to come across, it’s the eight minutes of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” that is truly the centerpiece of this whole album.  I mean, all the other songs clock in at under 3 minutes, meaning that “People Get Ready” here is nearly 4x as long as any other track, so I have to believe we are meant to regard this as THE highlighted show-stopper.  With a long intro and outro vamp on one chord sandwiching Mayfield’s spiritual civil-rights anthem in the middle, it largely works.  But it is one of those things that is probably more impressive the first couple of times you hear it.  It’s a restrained kind of psychedelic freakout leading into the main tune, and I mostly applaud Swamp Dogg’s decision to remain understated rather than taking the easy approach to such an idea and just adding squalls of feedback and tape delay.  But then other times I wish there were in fact a swelling tsunami of feedback and tape delay, leading up to a crescendo that cuts off suddenly, yielding to the stately D-major / B-minor / G major progression of this immortal, uplifting tune.  Instead, the opening vamp just kind of chugs along for a few minutes and then just kind of collapses on itself.  They give the song a worthy treatment, and I’m 99% sure that it’s Jerry Williams himself doing the spoken rap of the lyrics in the middle of the track rather than Wolfmoon.  If I were grading it, I’d give it an A but not an A+.   An A+ for this kind of idea would be reserved, for example, for Baby Huey’s take on Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” which is a truly staggering  achievement of raw psychedelic soul.  Given that Baby Huey’s one and only album was produced by Mayfield, and how that track kind of stands out as a centerpiece there, I can’t help but wonder if Swamp Dogg / Jerry Williams Jr. was actually inspired to arrange “People Get Ready” this way by hearing that album, that it planted the idea of “I want to do something kind of like that!”  If so, good for him – but he doesn’t really get close to that kind of brilliance.  But really, saying that any soul/funk artist falls short of Curtis Mayfield is less of a criticism than a compliment, like saying any pop/rock artist is not quite as brilliant as Lennon/McCartney.  I’m excited to see Swamp Dogg getting more recognition in the last few years, manifesting in unexpected ways – for example, The Isley Brothers and Carlos Santana just covered his song “Total Destruction To Your Mind” on their recent collaboration, and Santana has incorporated into his live set!

As I was putting the finishing touches on my vinyl transfer of my Fungus Records original copy, I discovered that this had actually been reissued a few years ago in a very limited edition.  It was done by ‘Alive Records’ on a series of Swamp Dogg-related reissues, which I know he was personally involved with and fully endorsed.  In fact he wrote personalized liner notes for this and other releases in the series, and I’d love to see them someday – perhaps they would help shed some light on the enigma of Wolfmoon.  If you like this stuff, go and get yourself one and pick up the other Alive Records reissues while you’re at it — I have only one at the moment but it sounds pretty great.  The original Fungus Records version of this was distributed by BASF Records, the famous tape company who briefly had their own label in the 70’s. And in spite of having hardly a scratch on it, my copy is a bit noisy, which indicates cost-cutting somewhere in the laquer-cutting or manufacturing process (although it maybe have been cut at a Preswell plant, based on the matrix info).  So rather than breaking the bank to get an O.G. copy, I’d encourage folks to check out the reissue.  Plus, maybe you send me a pic of those liner notes, I’d like to read ’em.


password: vibes