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.


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Charles Wright – Rhythm and Poetry (1972)

Charles Wright – Rhythm and Poetry
1972 Warner Brothers – BS 2620
Vinyl rip in  24-bit 96 khz |FLAC |Artwork at 300 dpi

A1 Soul Train 5:03
A2 Run Jody Run 13:10
B1 Good Things 5:55
B2 Here Comes The Sun 5:05
B3 Girl, Don’t Let Me Down 4:20
B4 Just Free Your Mind 4:00

Produced by Charles Wright
Engineers: Ami Hadani (Soul Train, Good Things); Ami Hadani and Robert Appere (Here Comes The Sun, Girl Don’t Let Me Down); Lewis Peters (Just Free Your Mind); Lewis Peters and Ami Hadani (Run Jody Run).

Album edited by Nye Morton

Album cover design by Paul Bruhwiler, Inc.
Art direction by Ed Thrasher
The cover painting, “Winged Victory,” was created by scientist-artist Delbert Venerable II

 

Charles Wright – Vocals, drums on A1, A3, guitar, piano, organ
Robert “Sugarbear” Welch – guitar
Thomas Terry – Bass
Johnny “Guitar” Watson – piano on A1,
Garbriel Flemings – Trambourine on A1, piano on B3
Bobby Lexing – Tambourine on A1, maracas on B3
Bobby Sheen – Maracas on A1
Billy Richards – Maracas on A1
Harold “Peenie” Potier – drums on A2
Joe Banks – trumpet, cabasa
Gabriel Flemings – trumpet, drums on B2
James D. Meredith – trombone, horn arrangment on B3
Bobby Forte – saxophone
Yusuf Rahman – tambourines, horn arrangment on B2 and B3, clavinet on B3
Yusuf Moore – clavinet on B2
John “Streamline” Ewing and Richard Leith – trombones on B2, B3
Jackie Kelso – saxophone on B2
Freddie Hill, Melvin Moore, and Sal Marques – trombones on B3
Vanetta Fields – piano on B4
Maurice Miller – drums on B4
Clydie King, Venetta Fields, and Julia Tillman – backing vocals on B4

All rhythm arrangements by Charles Wright

Recorded at T.T.G. Recording Studio, Clover Recording Studio, and Paramount Recording Studio, Hollywood, CA


What do you do when your ensemble (The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band) loses one of the best drummers in the business, James Gadson? Well, you try and play the damn things yourself I guess. The result, on Charles Wright’s Rhythm And Poetry, is a bit like the first Funkadelic album with a concussion. It’s a fun ride but it’s loose.  Very loose.  If brain-damaged, synaptically-fried funk is your thing, you’ll love this record.  The first track, “Soul Train,” is actually jarring in the sloppiness of the drums, and before looking at the credits on the album jacket I just assumed the drummer was too inebriated to keep time.  Then when I saw it was Charles himself playing, I got a chuckle out of his emotive grunts while he did a drum fill worthy of your 12-year old cousin who just got his first trap kit for Christmas.  Thankfully drums on the second track are handled by the  more competent Harold Potier, but things remain strange when after a minute or two of sharp grooving, Charles bursts into a chorus of “Happy Birthday” for no apparent reason.  The next thirteen minutes are a wickedly dirty jam with only a smattering of lyrics about the folkloric “Jody”, the guy always running around with other men’s ladies, and some great low-key fuzzed-out guitar solos from “Sugarbear” Welch.  He uses one of my favorite guitar tones here – the sound of a stomp box pedal with a dying 9-volt battery in it!  You know Hendrix used to save those things up just to have a supply of almost-dead batteries for his favorite pedals, or so I’ve been told.  Charles is back on drums on “Good Thing,” but he redeems himself on this mid-tempo funk number.  Of course there is also a curtain of incidental percussion to mask any mistakes.  The “set a mood and see what happens” aesthetic of this “Rhythm” A-side of the album is typified in one instant on this song, at the very beginning: somebody barks at Bobby Lexing to ‘lay out’ on the maracas, and Charles, in a slow stoned drawl, retorts with “Let him shaken ’em the way he want to shake ’em…”  Brilliant.

Things do get a little more coherent on the second “Poetry” side of the LP, with more structured pieces, actual songs.  “Here Comes The Sun” is wonderful but then again George is my favorite Beatle.  Purists might chafe at Charles’ raspy vocal, but the exquisite horn arrangement is downright regal.  The closer,  “Just Free Your Mind,”  dedicated to the backup singers, is light and uplifting.  In fact the entire “Poetry” side is light and uplifting, which seems almost necessary after the relentlessly raw grooves on the “Rhythm” side.  As one of my online pals  put it when I introduced them to this record – this one is a slow-burner that just keeps on burning all the way to the end.  And I appreciate the rough edges a lot here, because in 1972 that roughness was about to slowly become an endangered quality, as funk bands tended to get tighter and tighter, outdoing each other with their instrumental chops and show-stopping arrangements.  This record is really music for the sake of it, and we’re just lucky enough to be a fly on the wall.


320 kbs

16-bit and 24-bit FLAC

password: vibes

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Magnets? How do they work?

 

 

Prince – Batdance / 200 Balloons (1989) (12″-remix)

Prince – Batdance / 200 Balloons
Vinyl rip in 24bit 192 khz |  Artwork at 300 dpi
Original release 1989
This Record Store Day release, April 22, 2017
Warner Brothers 21257-0

Scout’s honor, I swear I was already preparing this long before the news that Adam West, who introduced me and a lot of my generation to Batman and Eartha Kit with its campiest iteration, had passed away.  I was going to share it anyway because Prince would have turned  59 years old this last Wednesday,  and the 1989 Batman soundtrack  has such a mixed legacy that I imagined Robin Williams pranking him with it in the afterworld:  “Happy birthday, Prince.  I called the house DJ and asked him to play ‘Batdance’ on repeat all day long….”   The record was hyped up a lot as a “comeback” by the fickle music biz press, ironic considering that he had been putting out some of his most interesting and creative work with albums like Lovesexy and Sign O’ The Times, but those ambitious records did not take the world commercially by a Purple Rain-style storm.  When word got out that Tim Burton – who apparently was listening to those aforementioned albums while working on his Gothic reinvention of the Batman mythos – had asked Prince to put together a soundtrack, the hype machine began heralding that this high profile film was going to put Prince back in the “biggest star on earth” slot.   In the end the truth is probably best encapsulated by the phrase, “THROW IT!” from Shaun Of The Dead, when Prince’s Batman is separated from Shaun’s record collection, including several Prince LPs set aside as worth saving during a zombie apocalypse, and chosen instead to be used as a projectile weapon.  It’s a kind of distinction. Continue reading

David Axelrod – Earth Rot (1970)

David Axelrod
EARTH ROT
1970 Capitol Records SKAO-456
Genres: Jazz, Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Eschatological Funk

“A musical comment on the state of the environment.   Contemporary music with ancient yet timely words set to the theme of ecology.”

Lyrics adapted by Michael T. Axelrod from The Book Of Isaiah, The Old Testament and adapted from Song Of The Earth Spirit, A Navajo origin legend.”

    The Warnings
A1     Part I     2:48
A2     Part II     4:28
A3     Part III     5:04
A4     Part IV     3:08
    The Signs
B1     Part I     3:44
B2     Part II     3:43
B3     Part III 5:41

 Composed By – David A. Axelrod

Bass – Robert West (Except B3)
Chorus – Clark Eran Gassman, Diana Lee, Gerri Engemann, Jacqueline Mae Ellen, Janice Gassman, Jerry Whitman, Jon Joyce, Lewis E. Moreford, Tom Bahler
Drums – Earl Palmer
Guitar – Dennis Budimir, Louis Morell
Piano – Don Randi
Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Flute – Jack Kelso, William E. Green
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Ernie Watt
Trombone – Richard Hyde, Richard Leith
Trumpet – Allen De Rienzo, Frederick Hill
Vibraphone – Gary Coleman
Track B3 only:  bass – Arthur Wright, vibraphone – Sonny Anderson

Produced by David Axelrod
Lyrics adapted by Michael T. Axelrod
Recording engineers – Gene Hicks, Rex Updegraft
Cover painting – Renate Drutts

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Vinyl ripping info: First pressing Capitol 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 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 and Rename.

Continue reading

Sheila E. – In The Glamorous Life (1984)

Sheila E. – In The Glamorous Life
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/96kHz | FLAC and mp3 |  Art scans at 300 dpi
749MB (24/96) + 245MB (16/44) |  Direct Links  | Genre: pop / funk /  soul | 1984
Warner Brothers ~  1-25107

 

 Side 1:

    The Belle Of St. Mark (5:08)
    Shortberry Strawcake (4:44) 
    Noon Rendezvous (3:50)

    Side 2:

    Oliver’s House (6:20)
    Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar (3:50)
    The Glamorous Life (8:58)

All tracks written by Prince (credited to Sheila E.), except where noted.

The year of 1984 was a watershed one for Prince Rogers Nelson with its record-breaking Purple Rain soundtrack and tour, and the period surrounding it was also a time of  prodigious activity for his many proteges and acts where he wrote, recorded, and produced all the basic tracks – Vanity 6, The Time, Apollonia 6, Mazarati,  The Family, Jill Jones.  One of the most notable – and easily the most talented – of these proteges was Sheila E., who already had many years in the music business as Sheila Escovedo.  From the mid-70s, Sheila Escovedo’s talents as a percussionist had graced records from such established artists as Alphonso Johnson, Con Funk Shun, Johnny Hammond, and especially George Duke.  She also made a few albums with her father Pete Escovedo, and her uncle was percussionist Coke Escovedo, a pioneer in Latin-rock-jazz crossover through his contributions to the third Santana record (my personal favorite), the Santana/Buddy Miles band, Herbie Hancock, and his own group Azteca.  One could argue that Sheila’s Latin jazz chops are underused on these Warner/Paisley Park records, but I still find the standout tracks to be unique and emblematic of how Prince was able to constantly incorporate new sounds and influences.  As a musician, though, Sheila probably shines more as a member of the Lovsexy and  Sign O’ The Times-era ensembles led by his diminutive purple highness.  Last year I spent a lot of time listening to Prince bootlegs after he passed, and there are some soundboard rehearsal tapes from that period where Prince hasn’t even arrived to the studio yet, and the band is just running through material.  It’s not like I was a fly on the wall in those rehearsals, but there is some conversational banter that got caught on microphone.  I have this intuitive itch that Sheila was probably the person leading everyone through the changes.

Oliver’s House, The Glamorous LIfe, and Shortberry Strawcake are the funk-infused numbers here, but the whole album holds together well.  Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar is a unique plea for courtesy in one’s indiscretions, and when played live it often got a preamble from Sheila that fell a bit more squarely on one side of the naughty/nice dichotomy she had going on.  The cover for this album is classic too, juxtaposing a flair for high fashion with trashy decadence – you barely even notice the guy passed out on the floor amid squalor, tucked behind the slightly-opened door of what appears to be a dilapidated mansion or luxury apartment building.   Is the black cat on the front steps his or hers, or does it belong to the street?  Or is it an animal familiar summoned by the sorcery of Sheila’s drumsticks, tucked discreetly into the right leg of her alluring outfit?

For those fond of trying to decipher backward masking on records (which Prince was a bit obsessed with at this time), I’ve isolated some of the unknown lyrics to the instrumental Shortberry Strawcake here:

There is an interesting anecdote about Jesse Johnson (of  The Time) having actually written the bulk of The Belle of St. Mark but Prince finishing it up and giving it to Sheila; this resulted in him giving Johnson a writing and performing credit on Shortberry Strawcake as consolation.  Perhaps the real truth is recorded in some production notes locked in The Vault.  Incidentally, some internet sources  take the credits as listed on the album jacket at face value.  They are, however, widely known to be false or misleading information to masque the degree to which this album and others were really Prince projects.

The following information is drawn from the Prince Vault @ http://princevault.com/index.php?title=Album:_The_Glamorous_Life

First steps

Prince urged Sheila E. to record a solo album starting in February 1984, when she came to visit him at Sunset Sound during initial sessions for the Around The World In A Day album, following a friendship which had begun almost six years earlier.

She wasn’t very comfortable singing lead vocals, although she had sung background vocals for other artists; Prince and Sheila E. began by recording Erotic City, which was used as the b-side of Let’s Go Crazy, before he had her record vocals over some tracks he had originally intended for Apollonia      6 .

Prince suggested she shorten her stage name from Sheila Escovedo to Sheila E., and took the finished tapes to his management company, who introduced Sheila E. to Warner Bros.

Recording process

The time between vocal recordings to the release of the album was swift; less than two months in total.

All songs on the album were recorded at Sunset Sound, Hollywood, CA, USA. The Glamorous Life and Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar were recorded in late December 1983. The Belle Of St. Mark, Oliver’s House and Shortberry Strawcake were recorded in early January 1984. Noon Rendezvous was recorded in mid-February 1984.

Sheila E.’s vocals and percussion for all tracks were recorded in the first few days of April 1984. The Glamorous Life, Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar, The Belle Of St. Mark, Shortberry Strawcake and Oliver’s House were initially intended for Apollonia 6 until Prince began to work with Sheila E. in February 1984, at which time he set the songs aside for her.

Promotion

The album produced three singles, The Glamorous Life (which preceded the album), Noon Rendezvous, and The Belle Of St. Mark.
It reached number 28 on the US Billboard 200 Chart, and number 7 on the Billboard Soul LP’s Chart.

Personnel

    Sheila E. – vocals, percussion
   Prince – all instruments, except where noted (uncredited)
    Jill Jones – background vocals on The Belle Of St. Mark and Oliver’s House (as J.J.)
   David Coleman – cello on Oliver’s House and The Glamorous Life
  Novi Novog – violin on Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar
    Nick DeCaro – accordion on Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar
  Larry Williams – saxophone on The Glamorous Life

Production

    Prince – producer, arranger (album) (credited to Sheila E. and The Starr Company)
    Bill Jackson – mixing engineer
Peggy McCreary – mixing engineer (as “Peggy Mac”)
    Terry Christian – mixing engineer

The last entry in the Spring Funk Drive fundraising effort?  Well in terms of funds it has been a colossal failure but it was fun to attempt to create some momentum I guess

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