Bo Diddley – The Black Gladiator (1970) Japanese press

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It’s never too late to commemorate the passing of the great Bo Diddley earlier this year. And what better choice than this little-known piece of fuzzed-out gutter funk, “The Black Gladiator.” OK, now the first thing you’re thinking is, “What’s going on with this cover art?” Don’t ask me. Maybe Bo (and not Hendrix, or Miles Davis) was actually the subject of Betty Davis’ infamous tune, “He Was A Big Freak.” But we’re not interested in fogging the memory of the renowned Mr. Diddley here, no sir. Maybe he’s just a gladiator, in addition to being a gunslinger and other occupations, and I’m reading too much into that. I am notoriously guilty of over-interpretation. This record speaks for itself. Is this a desperate attempt for an artist fifteen years into his career to “keep up with the times,” to ‘update’ his sound? Maybe. Do I care? Not really. Recasting his thang in a new musical landscape of black pride and consciousness, of psychedelic funk, does not bother me one wit. And the music is unmistakably Bo Diddley. One thing about the early 1970s, for me the apex of quality of all recorded music in every imaginable genre around the world (I’m not kidding folks.. I will take this claim to my grave and wager money on it) is that keeping up with the times wasn’t such a bad thing. The sounds of the decade age well — if they didn’t, why are the beats, textures, and tones from the 70s continually recycled, resampled, and reinvented, every decade hence? @#$% the 80’s revival. I’m staying in 1975 with my Curtis Mayfield records and this copy of The Black Gladiator. From a Japanese limited edition pressing with LP-sleeve artwork dupes. Enjoy! (My apologies for the misogyny of “Shut Up, Woman.” I tried selling Mr. Diddley on a song titled “Bo Diddley is a Radical Feminist Deconstructionist” but he refused to record it.)

P.S. Some people really hate this record. They loath it alongside Muddy Water’s “Electric Mud,” which I also like. Different strokes.

Bo Diddley – The Black Gladiator (1970) Aqui!!

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An “obituary” of sorts that circulated on a email listserv I belong to, upon news of his passing.

“No, goddammit, no. That grouchy genius can’t be dead. He was a
fucking Gunslinger. He fought monsters. He was loose, he was a surfer, he was
a man, he was a lumberjack, he would not be accused, he was looking for a
woman, he could bounce, he could twist, he was cookie-headed, he was powered by
heart-o-matic love, he was bad, he did the crawdaddy, he let them
bring it to Jerome, he shot tombstone bullets, he wore a fucking cobra snake
around his neck, he had a rock and roll nurse who gave him pills, he stopped
mumbling and talked out loud, he was my dearest rock and roll darling.

He was a lot of things, goddammit, but he can’t be dead. There’s no
fucking “Bo Diddley’s Dead” in his catalog.”

Linton Kwesi Johnson – LKJ , A Capella Live (1996)

I wasn’t sure if I should share this here without first sharing some of LKJ’s musical records first. But I decided it’s worth it. For one, this record is a bit harder to find than his landmark late 70s dub/reggae albums. But also because in many ways it makes a perfect introduction to his work, since he began his career as a published poet rather than a recording artist. For anyone interested in reggae, Caribbean cultural history, in poetry – Linton is a crucial figure. His literary output recently gained him recognition as one of the only living writers to be considered a ‘Twentieth Century master’ or something like that by Penguin Books, in a recent collection. I saw LKJ speak last year and left hoping that these accolades, however hard-earned, would not change him. It seemed he felt compelled to give a more academic presentation along the lines of a lecture on the poetics of Jamaican dub toasters, and only read a few of his own poems. This was a shame, as hearing him read his own work is infinitely more powerful than hearing him situate it intellectually in some kind of canon. In that spirit, I share this record. If you don’t get it after hearing this, you probably never will, no matter how many intellectual gymnastics you do.

Linton Kwesi Johnson – LKJ A capella Live (1996) – HERE!

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Gil Scott-Heron – Free Will (1972)

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This is, plain and simple, essential listening.

Gil Scott-Heron – Free Will (1972) – aqui

Side one

All songs written by Brian Jackson and Gil Scott-Heron.

1. “Free Will” – 3:43
2. “The Middle of Your Day” – 4:32
3. “The Get out of the Ghetto Blues” – 5:12
4. “Speed Kills” – 3:18
5. “Did You Hear What They Said?” – 3:32

Side two

All songs written by Gil Scott-Heron.

1. “The King Alfred Plan” – 2:47
2. “No Knock” – 2:12
3. “Wiggy” – 1:37
4. “Ain’t No New Thing” – 4:36
5. “Billy Green Is Dead” – 1:30
6. “Sex Education: Ghetto Style” – :51
7. “…And Then He Wrote Meditations” – 3:16

Ray Barretto – Acid (1968) VBR

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{2001 French pressing with bonus tracks}

RAY BARRETTO – Acid (1968)VBR

Psychedelic salsa? Not quite, except for the occasional Austin Powers-isms like “yeah, baby” and “sock it to me”. But this is a landmark record and needs to be in the collection of any fan of salsa or Latin soul. The closing track is the most ‘out’ of any of them and for me is worth the price of admission all on its own.

Tracks (of the original LP)
1. El Nuevo Barretto (Barretto) – 5:50
2. Mercy, Mercy, Baby (Barretto) – 2:44
3. Acid (Barretto) – 5:05
4. Deeper Shade of Soul (Barretto) – 2:46
5. Soul Drummers (Barretto) – 3:48
6. Sola Te Dejare (Barretto/Lopez) – 3:49
7. Teacher of Love (Barretto/Cruz) – 2:27
8. Espiritu Libre (Barretto) – 8:27

Players
Ray Barretto – Percussion, Congas, Vocals
Big Daddy – Bass
Rene Lopez – Trumpet
Roberto Rodriguez – Trumpet
Adalberto Santiago – Vocals, Bells
Orestes Vilato – Timbales
Pete Bonet – Vocals, Guiro

BONUS TRACKS ( I do not know where Sony got these tracks from.. No information in the booklet. Production sounds like early 70s. Anyone with session/line-up data feel free to comment and enlighten me!)

9. Guarare
10. Vina Pa’Echar Candela
11. Vale Mas Un Guaguanco
12. Canto Abuaco
13. Eras

REVIEW from John Ballon at ‘allaboutjazz dot com’
By the time 1968 rolled around, Ray Barretto was a celebrated studio session player whose hard-driving conga rhythms could be heard all over the records of Dizzy Gillespie, Cal Tjader, Cannonball Adderley, and countless others. Once he dropped Acid onto the music world, Barretto firmly established a reputation for himself as an innovator in his own right.

Like the drug itself, Acid had a mind-expanding influence on everyone, allowing for a far more adventurous and eclectic edge to slip into New York’s Latin music scene. A lot less psychedelic than its title and cover might lead you to believe, Acid remains one of the most far-out fusions of Latin and soul music ever conceived.

Catchy as hell, the records four original Latin/soul numbers (”Mercy, Mercy Baby”, “The Soul Drummers”, “A Deeper Shade of Soul” and “Teacher of Love”) are obscure classics loaded with plenty of vintage ’60s soul references—punchy James Brown and Stax Records sounding horns, thickly grooving bass lines, fat-back drums, and cliché soul catch-phrases such as “What I say,” “Lord have mercy,” “Come on, come on baby” and “Sock it to me!”

El Nuevo Barretto (The New Barretto)” opens the album on familiar ground, with its high-energy boogaloo-styled salsa sung passionately in Spanish. With the second track, “Mercy, Mercy Baby,” the sound shifts dramatically as soul gets a serious drenching in hot sauce. The band chants “Mercy, Mercy Baby” behind Memphis-styled horns, catchy lyrics, timbales, and Barretto’s kicking congas. The title track, “Acid,” opens up sparsely with a lazy hypnotic bass and percussion groove over which stretches the muted trumpet sounds of Rene Lopez (who was soon to be drafted and shipped off to Vietnam). After a rock-steady timbales solo by Orestes Vilato, the band begins calling out “Barretto, Barretto,” and master Ray steps forward, obliging them with one of his most fiery and intense conga solos ever. The lyrics on “The Soul Drummers” totally sums up the record: “Have you heard them cooking / The Soul Drummers / well they play so cool / Soul Drummers / so hard to resist / Soul Drummers / with the African twist.”

The album’s most psychedelic soul sounds can be heard on its closing track, the appropriately titled “Espiritu Libre (Free Spirit).” This instrumental opens with some pretty far out-there trumpet statements that sound as if they could’ve come straight off of Bitches Brew—pretty advanced stuff for a 1968 Latin record! The track builds into a full blown drum-heated jam flavored with odd rhythmic time-signatures, passionate brass, and feverish bass lines, bringing the album to a satisfying peak that leaves you in bad need of a smoke.

Acid turned on a lot of important players with its irresistible blending of Latin and soul music, significantly helping to bring about the rise of the Afro-Latin funk revolution.

Donny Hathaway – These Songs for You, Live! (2004) Vbr

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I mistakenly thought I had posted this over the weekend, but I had not. It might be because I was listening to it over and over again and only *thought* I had shared it here.

This is a beautiful record, aside from the legitimate complaints from Hathaway fans that his legacy as a live performer has yet to receive proper documentation. What this record does is combine tracks from 1972’s “Donny Hathaway Live!” with tracks from “In Performance” (recorded in 1973 and released after his death), so the end result is somewhat confusing indeed. It’s a sandwich of music recorded live before and after his magnificent 1973 album ‘Extensions of a Man’ was made, and it’s fantastic. Even if you already grabbed the ’72 live record here earlier, give this one a try — the sound has been remastered by Rhino and the extra songs are well worth it. ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ still gets me weepy every time. ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,’ and “I’ll Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” are also highlights missing from the other collection, and of course the Leon Russell-penned tune ‘A Song For You’ is a classic. (Thanks to Cristina, a loyal fan of The Carpenters, for reminding me of the confusing legacy of this song.. I probably should have looked it up first — Leon did in fact record it first on a 1970 record called ‘Leon Russell and the Shelter People’, which I own, but it’s been covered so many times I actually thought he had written it from someone else. I’ve seen Willie Nelson perform it live (also recorded it on a 1973 record) and it fits him perfectly, so I’d begun thinking Leon wrote it for him.. wrong! For a history of the song, look here)

Donny Hathaway – These Songs For You, Live! (2004) VBR

FULL ARTWORK

1 Flying Easy [#] Hathaway 3:11
2 Valdez in the Country [#] Hathaway 4:08
3 Someday We’ll All Be Free [#] Hathaway, Howard 5:30
4 You’ve Got a Friend King 4:34
5 He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother [#] Russell, Scott 7:49
6 What’s Going On Benson, Cleveland, Gaye 5:27
7. Yesterday [#] Lennon, McCartney 5:24
8 Superwoman [#] Wonder 6:42
9 A Song for You Russell 5:48
10 Sack Full of Dreams McFarland, Savary 5:30
11 Little Ghetto Boy Hathaway, Howard 4:33
12 I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know Kooper 5:55
13 The Ghetto Hathaway, Hutson 12:22
14 Interview [#] 2:58

Bill Withers – Still Bill (1972) Soul classic with bonus tracks!

This is just pure magic from start to finish. Lets forget about Bill’s amazing story for a moment and just focus on his music, his unique sound, and immediately identifiable voice and writing style. The fact that he was a ‘music business outsider’ of sorts no doubt contributes to all of the above, but in many ways its beside the point. This is some of the most soulful music ever committed to wax. It’s in the rare cadre of records that is simultaneously sad and joyful, youthful and mature, with Bill belting out lyrics that can be dryly biting but never never bitter, sung from a place of pains and sorrows suffered with an eye towards the warmth of a future yet unlived, sophisticated and yet disarming in its forthright matter-of-factness. Familiar yet with a new twist around every measure, this is Still Bill…