100% Pure Poison – Coming Right At You (1974)

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100% Pure Poison
Coming Right At You
Released 1974 EMI-UK

A1 You Keep Coming Back (3:24)
A2 No More City, No More Country (6:54)
A3 Boarding Pass (3:46)
A4 Holes In My Shoes (3:42)
A5 My Little Someone (4:28)
B1 Windy C. (5:35)
B2 (But You Say) You Want To Make It With Me (4:31)
B3 Don’t Let Your Pride, Overpower Your Love (4:37)
B4 (And When I Said) I Love You (5:15)
B5 Puppet On A Chain (3:53)

Bass: Lawrence Reynolds
Composed By: Danny Leake , Lawrence Reynolds , Marvin Daniels
Guitar: Danny Leake , James Williams
Keyboards: James Williams
Organ: Steve Maxwell
Percussion: John Jackson, Pie Harrison
Producer: Danny Leake , Rick Hartung
Saxophone: Jackie Beard
Trombone: Slide Beard
Trumpet: Marvin Daniels
Vocals: Jackie Beard , Marvin Daniels , Pie Harrison , Slide Beard

Produced by Danny Leake and Rick Hartung

RIPPING INFO (Euripedes)

Original UK LP 1st pressing, EMI International, INS 3001, Matrix Numbers: A: INS 3001 A-2 1 R / B: INS 3001 B-2 1 M RJL
Equipment:
Vpi HW-17F Record Cleaning Machine
Technics SL 1210 Mk II
Rega RB 300 tonearm (Origin Live! mod)
Denon DL 304 M/C Cartridge
NAD 3101 (M/C phono section)
Outboard M-Audio Profire 610 Multichannel A/D
Adobe Audition 3.0

The song “Windy C”

This legendary album has long been out of my financial reach on vinyl and I have had to content myself with the a 2002 CD reissue. Kudos to Soul Brother for releasing it and making it accessible to a broader public beyond greedy collectors with deep pockets, but the sound quality was pretty much crap. I must say that the record gained a new lease on life when I found a really nice needledrop from a skilled vinyl ripper. I don’t typically like sharing other peoples’ vinyl rips here but the quality of both the music and the audio, coupled with the fact that I will most likely never own an original copy, compelled me to break my loosely-held rule. So, all credit goes to Euripedes for the transfer.

The band 100% Pure Poison, formed by US serviceman while stationed in Germany, only recorded this one record. I knew nothing about their back story until reading the liner notes on the reissue, and in fact I had always thought they were a Chicago band based on the track “Windy C.” The great playing and funky grooves on the album would have been enough to get the crate diggers reaching for their charge cards, and the quality songwriting helps put it a cut above the rest. The record opens with the very dance-worthy bit of Northern Soul, “You Keep Coming Back,” an immediately catchy tune that ought to be on all the AM radio dusties stations but isn’t. About half the songs here are sweet soul ballads, which personally makes things drag a bit in places for me, because as might be expected I prefer the funkier stuff on here. And that material does not disappoint. “No More City, No More Country,” is like.. Post-modern funk or something, where all categories of the black american experience, rural and urban, are declared passé and “everything is space, man.” Complete with a jazzy scat break at the end of every verse. Listen to the way the organ is mixed waaaaaaay in the background in a cushion of reverb. It’s the loosest and most jam-oriented of the tracks here and sort of a mind blower after the tightness of the opening track. “Holes In My Shoe” brings more funky northern goodness, but “Windy C” makes the obvious center-piece of the album. Both because it really is splat in the middle of the album but also because it shows off the group firing on all its creative cylinders – soul tunefulness, marinaded in heavy funk, and brushed with jazz before serving. “Don’t Let Pride Overpower Your Love” may be a mouthful of a title, but it might be my favorite ballad on the record, structured with crescendos that leave the tune positively soaring. The secret weapon of the whole album, though, may be “Puppet On A Chain” which hits all my pleasure centers relentlessly. The arrangement is both lush and lean – horns and strings and guitars and electric piano and Persian carpets of reverb in just the right places. Great lyrics and vocal performances. Four minutes of perfect. The kind of a track that has to go at the end of an LP because there just isn’t any way to follow it up. Thank you and goodnight!
You can do an A/B of the two versions for yourself, but makes sure to give Euripedes’work a listen.
2002 version

Brother To Brother – Let Your Mind Be Free (1976) 24-bit

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Brother To Brother
Let Your Mind Be Free
Turbo Records (TU-7015)

A1 Let Your Mind Be Free 3:28
A2 Visions 6:52
A3 Chance With You     4:46
A4 Phattenin’     3:28
B1 Groovy Day   2:54
B2 Take My Love   6:07
B3 Leavin’ Me   6:17
B4 Joni   3:15

Ripping process
Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue
Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio
Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; Click
Repair light settings, sometimes turned off; individual clicks and pops
taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope
RX Advanced (for 16-bit). Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and
Rename.

Bass Guitar – Jonathan Williams
Congas, Voice, Other [Special Thanks] – Craig Derry
Drums – Clarence Oliver
Orchestrated By – Sammy Lowe
Producer, Arranged By, Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Bass, Clavinet, Organ, Voice – Billy Jones
Producer, Piano, Synthesizer [Moog, Arp], Clavinet – Bernadette Randle
Voice – Billy Brown, Joan Abbott, Linda Parker, Tommy Keith, Walter Morris

Design , album artwork – Dudley Thomas
Engineer – Allan Tucker, Richie Corsello
Other [Special Thanks] – “Shag” Taylor, Al Goodman, Barry Diament, Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Robinson

Recorded and mastered at Platinum Recording Studios, Englewood, New Jersey. All songs published by Gambi Music, Inc. (BMI)

A Division of All Platinum Record Group
Platinum Record Co. 1976

Doc Tucker
Yes, Billy Jones!!
[Etched “shout-outs” runout area A]


Bernadette Says Hi, Too
Tucker
[Etched “shout-outs” runout area B]

Imagine yourself walking into a decent-sized club in 1976 to catch a
Kool and The Gang show only to find out that the bus carrying the horn section was broken down on the highway a hundred miles away.  The band perseveres and puts on a great show anyway.  That imaginary scenario
is a little bit like what my first time listening to this record.  But
it’s an unfair characterization, because Brother To Brother does have
their own sound, and could really write some great tunes.  The lack of a horn section gives lots of room for
the other instruments.  In particular this is an analog keyboard-lovers
wet dream.  The band had two keyboard players (both of whom double on other instruments in this largely studio-based project), and there are lovely textures of Fender Rhodes coupled with
clavinet, Hammond organ, and even a dreamy Moog and Arp instrumental track.  The
band is tight and lean but never showy, and there are a few long tracks that
really stretch out, like the languid Latin-Soul of “Visions” and the
fired-up funk of “Leavin’ Me” which was apparently released as one of
the singles.

Why did these guys never make it big, or at least
bigger?  Well I don’t know much about them.  The group was based around multi-instrumentalists Billy Jones and Bernadette Randle.  Their only big hit was a cover
of Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Bottle”, which ended up on their debut album.  Their albums were released on
the Turbo imprint which was part of the Platinum family of labels founded
by Sylvia Robinson, who also gets a co-writing credit on the only ballad
here, “Take My Love.”  Platinum (sometimes known as “All Platinum”)
eventually folded but Robinson reemerged with the famous and seminal Sugar Hill Records.  In 1976, the music world was flooded with
funk, making these guys just a couple more fish in a big ocean.   I can testify that I have a lot of records with a few
great tunes on them but a lot of filler, yet this album doesn’t have any turkeys.  “Chance With You” should have been a hit song, and “Leavin’ Me” is a monster although its length would probably keep it off the radio.  And it gets better with repeated listens.
The only ballad on the album,
“Take My Love,” has a really nice vibe but could have used a bridge section to break up its
six-minute length.  I think that’s a pretty minor quibble, though, especially given the obligatory inclusion of questionable ballads on funk albums by this point.  The cluster of inverted chords in the progression gives this is a
nice midwestern-soul-jazz inflection.  I dig it.  The only other quibble is with
the mastering of the LP:  there doesn’t seem to be any.   I know that
here in the digital realm we tend to bitch and moan about digital CD
remastering.  Well in this case we’re brought back to the original point of LP mastering in the first place –
to give the tracks more consistency as a whole and give it all that
little extra shimmer and magic.  The tracks are all recorded and mixed
really well.  In fact I really like the production choices.  But some of
the tunes fail to “jump out” at you like they deserve.  The obvious
concession for a shot at a crossover  single, the Sly & the Patridge Family Stone-styled “Groovy Day” (the only song with horns, by the way), is the quietest song on the record, volume-wise.  And the difference between the quietest tune
and the loudest tune on each album side is HUGE.  These mixes could have benefited from being run through a good tube limiter, or at least some adjustments of overall track levels and a little
EQ to give the mixes some ‘air’ in the top end.   Oddly enough, a young Barry
Diament gets a `thank you` on the album jacket, and he has an
engineering credit on their next album.  Did he stop by the studio and
give them some pointers?  Help set up their studio?  Because this was
all recorded, mixed, and mastered in-house from the looks of it.

The song with the heaviest
“vibe” on the whole album is undoubtedly the Latin opium dream of
“Visions,” which must be why I chose to play it on my podcast a while back.  I’ve come to just love this whole album.
A lot of variety on here.  The last two songs have some incredible bass guitar tones, with just the right amount of over-driven amplifier, and the instrumental “Joni”
features fuzzy guitar runs and a weird
disco-prog-rock arrangement.

 

24bit

In a few weeks or months or whenever, I’ll share their next LP too.  Enjoy!
A couple of YouTube samples below

Lightnin’ Rod – Hustler’s Convention (1973)

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Lightnin’ Rod – Hustlers Convention (1973)
Original release on United Artists (UA-LA156-F)
Reissued on Celluloid (1984) and Charly (1996)

1. Sport – Kool & the Gang, Lightnin’ Rod
2. Spoon
3. Café Black Rose
4. Brother Hominy Grit
5. Coppin’ Some Fronts for the Sets
6. Hamhock’s Hall Was Big (And There Was a Whole Lot to Dig!)
7. Bones Fly from Spoon’s Hand
8. Break Was So Loud, It Hushed the Crowd
9. Four Bitches Is What I Got
10. Grit’s Den
11. Shit Hits the Fan Again
12. Sentenced to the Chair
———————–

I’ve got some news // you dude’s could  use // that might help y’all get by // So I thought I’d nonchalantly mention // the hustler’s convention // taking place at the end of July

This is the masterful and influential record from Alafia Pudim (aka Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin) of the Last Poets, supported by a group of musicians who can best be described as ecumenically funky. In fact the sheer number of well-known heavy hitters who appear on what was by and large a pretty underground and radically uncommercial album is astounding: Pretty Purdie, King Curtis, Julius Hemphill, Cornell Dupree, Eric Gale, Chuck Rainey, and a percussion army featuring Candido, Bobby Matos, Johnny Pacheco, and Norman Pride. The record allegedly features an uncredited Tiny Turner and the Ikettes, presumably on the last track. And of course there is the young Kool & The Gang, who in 1973 had been around for a while but were only just about to break into the mainstream.

While the Last Poets are infamous for the radical politics and black nationalism, this record is the aural equivalent of a blaxploitation film focused on two friends on an all-night gambling spree punctuated by drug use and violence set in 1955. There’s even a car chase and a shoot-out with the cops. And like some of its blaxploitation film peers, the record could be construed as political metaphor by the time it ends, the real draw here is the word play and the outrageous groove. A press kit from the original LP (scans of which are included here, scavenged from the interwebs) elaborates the narrative a bit and provides background on the two main characters of Sport and Spoon. This promo material also maintains that Lightnin’ Rod had a book in the works for Viking Press – anybody know about this? Production was done by Alan Douglas who has long pedigree or interesting work (in addition to infamously tampering with some posthumous Hendrix material). Sandwiched between the funk jams are instrumental extracts of a few actual songs borrowed from Buddy Miles, Sly Stone (uncredited) and Traffic. The pressing linked here is the Celluloid one.

————–
A1 Sport

Backing Band – Kool & The Gang

A2 Spoon

Bass – Fred Backmeier
Keyboards – Neil Larsen
Saxophone [Tenor] – Brother Gene Dinwiddie
Guitar – Howard ‘Buzz’ Feiten*
Drums – Phillip Wilson
Congas – Rocky Dejon*
Saxophone [Alto] – Julius A Hemphill

A3 The Cafe Black Rose

Bass – Fred Backmeier
Keyboards – Neil Larsen
Saxophone [Tenor] – Brother Gene Dinwiddie
Guitar – Howard ‘Buzz’ Feiten*
Drums – Phillip Wilson
Congas – Rocky Dejon*
Saxophone [Alto] – Julius A Hemphill

A4 Brother Hominy Grit

Bass – Fred Backmeier
Keyboards – Neil Larsen
Saxophone [Tenor] – Brother Gene Dinwiddie
Guitar – Howard ‘Buzz’ Feiten*
Drums – Phillip Wilson
Congas – Rocky Dejon*
Saxophone [Alto] – Julius A Hemphill

A5 Coppin’ Some Fronts For The Set

Bass – Fred Backmeier
Keyboards – Neil Larsen
Saxophone [Tenor] – Brother Gene Dinwiddie
Guitar – Howard ‘Buzz’ Feiten*
Drums – Phillip Wilson
Congas – Rocky Dejon*
Saxophone [Alto] – Julius A Hemphill

A6 Hamhock’s Hall Was Big

Bass – Jerry Jemmott
Organ – Billy Preston
Saxophone [Baritone] – James Mitchell
Saxophone [Tenor] – Andrew Love, King Curtis, Lou Collins*
Guitar – Cornell Dupree
Drums – Bernard Purdie
Trombone – Jack Hale
Piano – Truman Thomas
Trumpet – Roger Hopps, Wayne Jackson
Congas – Pancho Morales

B1 The Bones Fly From Spoon’s Hand

Backing Band – Kool & The Gang

B2 The Breack Was So Loud, It Hushed The Crowd

Bass – Fred Backmeier
Keyboards – Neil Larsen
Saxophone [Tenor] – Brother Gene Dinwiddie
Guitar – Howard ‘Buzz’ Feiten*
Drums – Phillip Wilson
Congas – Rocky Dejon*
Saxophone [Alto] – Julius A Hemphill

B3 Four Bitches Is What I Got

Backing Band – Kool & The Gang

B4 Grit’s Den

Bass – Chuck Rainey
Timbales – Bobby Matos
Drums, Congas – George McCleery
Saxophone [Tenor] – Maurice Smith, Trevor Lawrence
Guitar – Eric Gale
Percussion – Gordon Powell
Drums – Jimmy Johnson (2)
Piano – Richard Tee
Trumpet – Charles Sullivan, Gerry Thomas, Wilbur ‘Dud’ Bascombe*
Congas – Candido, Johnny Pacheco, Norman Pride

B5 The Shit Hits The Fan Again

Effects – Tom Clack

B6 Sentenced To The Chair

Bass – Chuck Rainey
Timbales – Bobby Matos
Drums, Congas – George McCleery
Saxophone [Tenor] – Maurice Smith, Trevor Lawrence
Guitar – Eric Gale
Percussion – Gordon Powell
Drums – Jimmy Johnson (2)
Piano – Richard Tee
Trumpet – Charles Sullivan, Gerry Thomas, Wilbur ‘Dud’ Bascombe*
Congas – Candido, Johnny Pacheco, Norman Pride
—————–

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The Last Poets – Chastisement (1973)

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The Last Poets – Chastisment
1972 Blue Thumb Records – BTS 39
This reissue, Celluloid Records, 1992

Tribute To Obabi (Ogun) 10:16
Jazzoetry 3:46
Black Soldier 5:56
E Pluribus Unum 4:38
Hands Off 4:05
The Lone Ranger 0:28
Before The White Man Came 3:43
Bird’s Word 6:10

   Artwork By – Jim Dyson
Bass – Jon Hart (tracks: A1, A2, B5)
Congas – Obabi, Omiyinka (tracks: A1, A2, B5), Omonide (tracks: A1)
Cowbell – Alafia Pudim (tracks: A1)
Engineer – Tony Bongiovi
Other [Undefined] – Last Poets, The* (tracks: B3)
Photography – Edmund Watkins
Producer – Last Poets, The, Stefan Bright
Saxophone [Alto] – Sam Harkness (tracks: A1, B5)
Saxophone [Tenor] – Sam Harkness (tracks: A1, A2, B5)
Shaker – Bessermer Taylor (tracks: A1)
Vocals – Monjile (tracks: A1), Okantomi (tracks: A1), Olubiji (tracks: A1)
Voice [Poet] – Alafia Pudim (tracks: A2, B, B5), Suliaman El-Hadi (tracks: A3, B2, B4)
Written-By – Alafia Pudim (tracks: A2, B1, B5), Suliaman El-Hadi (tracks: A3, B2, B4)

Produced by The Last Poets and Stefan Bright for True Sound Communications, Inc.
Recorded at Media Sound Studios, New York City
Manager for The Last Poets: Obawole Akinwole
All Selections: Spoet Publishing Corporation

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I had a request to repost this one, so here it is.  The early work of the Last Poets, like Leroi Jones/Amiri
Baraka, or Gil Scott-Heron, has to be contextualized in the Vietnam era
of post-MLK, post-Malcom X Afrocentricity, anger and indignation, or else any
interpretations you make are going to be as clueless as the kind of stuff they publish on, let’s say, the All Music Guide…  Anyway, the Poets records are ones I listen to
occasionally rather than frequently (in contrast,for example, to Gil’s work), not
so much because of its intensity but because they are more interesting
poetically than musically most of the time.  This record has a lot more
variety than their first two, however, although not as much as the next one, “At Last” which is probably the most compelling to my ears.  The jazz elements in the instrumentation that are only occasionally present here are given pride of place on “At Last” so that also probably explains my predilection for it.   (Unfortunately for “Chastisement” one of those tracks here is “Bird’s Word” which is a bit tediously didactic.)  The opening cut plays like a
long candomblé or santeria invocation, drawing down the blessing of the
Orixás on the rest of the music that follows.  It goes without saying that The Poets didn’t shy away from polemic.  The track Black Soldier questions the priorities of Black men going to fight in a foreign land in the name of a country that was also making war on their own people in the streets, “helping your oppressor oppress another man.”  Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin served as a paratrooper but was discharged for not saluting the flag; he’s sympathetic towards soldiers but thinks their skills could be put to better use at home.  The track is so tightly written, packed with excoriating critique, that it’s unjust to single out single lines.  But when they end the cut by warning that the violence in Newark and Detroit “wasn’t a riot, it was a dress rehearsal for things to come”, it’s chilling enough to make it clear why these guys were in the sights of COINTELPRO.     This album is also
impressive in that, given how much this music is tied in with a
particular place and time, it still sounds refreshingly relevant,
sometimes unnervingly and depressingly so:  listen to E Pluribis Unim
and you might think you’re hearing an anthem written for the Occupy
movement.  A classic, solid record all the way – I just wish they would get around to reissuing “At Last” already.





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Buck Black – Mississippi Bluze Mass (1973)

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Buck Black
Mississippi Bluze Mass
Released 1973
Greene Bottle Records GBS-1007
A1          Love Is All            3:11
A2                        Miss Vegalopps                2:40
A3                           Only A Fool         3:53
A4                           You No Longer Care For Me        3:23
A5                           If I Had You         2:22
B1                           Stuff I Uze           3:27
B2                           Something I Never Had                 3:37
B3                           You Ain´t Smart                 2:34
B4                           Back Home To You           4:27
B5                           That´s Why I Love You    3:36
Vinyl ripping and processing by Flabbergast May/June 2012
Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue
Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio
Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair
light settings; individual clicks and pops taken out
with Adobe Audition 3.0 – resampled (and dithered for 16-bit) using iZotope RX
Advanced. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag&Rename.

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The trippy album cover design and the weird name are enough to make most people who stumble across this album think that it’s going to be a lost psychedelic funk freakout. It’s not. There’s barely any songs that crack the three minute mark and the only solos are taken by saxophone and trumpet (or in one case, harmonica); with the exception of the tune “Stuff I Uze” which seems to be a cuckold’s love song to a drug habit, there is very little here to even place this record in the hazy days of 1973. Even calling the album “funk” (as record dealers seem to have done) is misleading, unless we understand “funk” in the way it was thought of perhaps in the late 60s rather than the early 70s. Buck “D. D.” Black owes a lot to sweaty southern soul of early Stax and Muscle Shoals and none of these songs would sound out of place nestled in that body of work. The horn arrangements are meticulously written and executed, the rhythm section is tight as Botox, and Buck’s vocals cover a wide range of soulful.

Well then, why was this record totally overlooked and to this day (as far I know) remained without a reissue?
Good question.

The first thing is probably that it was released on a private press label, which although given a catalog number ending in 07 has no other releases out there that I could find out about. A second reason might be the packaging, which I happen to love but which could have put off potential fans of this music by its slightly ominous ‘black cross’ design and graphic of a squatting naked girl with her feet nailed to a wooden plank and wrists nailed to.. something, maybe the graphic of the text above her head. Then there’s the weird vaguely occult sigil above her head. It’s good to remember that for every potential record buyer who stumbles across an album cover like this and says “What the fuck IS this? I have to have it!”, there are a hundred others who will stop at “What the fuck is this?” and then just keep looking through the record bin for the next Seals & Croft album. But the music isn’t nearly freaky enough to satisfy a lot of the people who fall into the first category, who probably brought the record home and listened to it once (like the copy I managed to find, which looks practically unplayed). The album gives the appearance of being some kind of concept album, supported by the verbose rambling about the albums ‘conception’ on the back cover, and the inner gatefold’s designation of the first side only as the ‘Bluze Mass.’ If you’re expecting the Electric Prunes, don’t. There really isn’t any overriding concept stringing these songs together unless it’s something so esoteric that only Buck Black could see it. I think the bottom line is that grand concept albums were all the rage in `73 and Curtis Mayfield had proven that they could be pitched to the Black American public.

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Which brings us to what is the more crucial element that holds this back from true greatness – the lack of a real producer. The album could have used a southern-soul equivalent of a Curtis Mayfield or Donny Hathaway directing and shaping the whole project. Buck’s instincts are right, but he needs someone to help tie it all together. Take it easy, Buck, you’re working too hard, let someone else take charge for a while. I’m talking about things like pacing and song sequencing: the album eventually falls into a predictable pattern of fast song / slow song that makes the it seem much longer than its 30 minutes, even if it never falls into tedium. Although when taken individually each song is a gem in its way, after you put them all together the melodies can begin to sound too similar. What’s needed is someone to make the executive decision to cut one of them out, or combine two of the ideas into one song, or perhaps go one step further and write a bonafide HIT song for the album with the golden Mayfield or Hathaway touch and freshen up the proceedings. But I wouldn’t personally want to make those judgment calls. It should be stated that the record gallops off to a promising start in terms of variety and pacing in the first ten minutes: the uptempo “Love Is All” lyrically lectures us to love our fellow man regardless of the color of his skin or social standing, and that we’re all just a hair’s breadth away from standing in the welfare line (well, except for the 1%..), and the choruses are topped with punchy 8-bar brass runs that would have incurred the jealousy of many a horn-rock band like Chicago or Blood Sweat & Tears. They follow this up with the swamp-funk of Miss Veegalopps, a tambourine-driven gospel revival that involves a lot of jumping up and down of the protagonist, punctuated with the aforementioned harmonica solo. Then we get the first soul-infused ballad of the album, “Only A Fool”, which opens with descending piano chords plunked down alongside a pretty heavy rhythm section. Buck lets loose and shows us his vocal range, dipping into baritone and flying to falsetto in the same lines, preaching about how love blinds us even when someone is “running [their] low-down rotten stinky funky game” on us. Simple and effective.

From here on out, it’s love songs of one variety or another. There’s the swinging, almost jump-blues of “You No Longer Care For Me” and the up-tempo soul nugget of “If I Had You.” But it’s on the album’s second side that the fast/slow pattern I mentioned before actually kicks in. Again, on their own, each of these songs carries their weight, but in the context of what’s come before they seem a bit like a rehash. Repeated listens have mitigated this impression somewhat as I’ve come to appreciate each tune’s merits, but first impressions are important in the fickle music world, and the impression still holds in this case. It’s not until the regal chord changes of the penultimate song, “Back Home To You” that I feel really engaged with the album again. This is Buck’s songwriting as its peak, belting out a soul ballad worthy of the repertoire of an Otis Redding or Sam Cooke. I can’t see why a song like this wouldn’t have been recorded by a ‘star’ if it had been offered as a demo to a major studio. But it’s obvious Mr. Buck Black has his sights set on grander things. The final track is one hell of a closer. Melodically distinct and saddled with a propulsive groove, it also makes us realize we haven’t heard a vocal harmony on the entire album – probably a key failing on a record like this. Here we get Buck harmonizing with himself, which is pretty obvious even if you don’t read the album credits. It works nicely but other voices are also nice on a good soul record. But the lyric “there ain`t nothing that Buck wouldn’t do” should perhaps be taken literally. This is 100% his project. The credits list a Jackson Howe as the producer, who has some engineering and production credits with Muscle Shoals and some folk-rock-country artists. But I get the impression that Buck was kind of a control freak, and/or that Howe didn’t have much inspiration to take control – to add to the sonic impression, there is a somewhat hilarious photo of him with his head bowed and cradled in his hands at the mixing board, an image of studio frustration if there ever was one.

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Nothing has been said yet about the identity of Buck Black, because he’s an enigmatic figure about which I know next to nothing. He has a vocal credit on the album “Gris Gris” by Dr. John, but you wouldn’t know this from THAT album’s jacket because everyone there has a bizarre nickname (a tradition that Buck carries onto this album). Thanks to info picked up at another blog, I figured out that his real name was Dave Dixon (‘D.D.’) and confirmed that he is in fact credited on Gris-Gris. That album was recorded in Los Angeles, in spite of all its hoodoo swamp atmosphere. Mississippi Bluze Mass was actually recorded in Mississippi, but mixed in “parts West” in unspecified studios. It’s recorded and mixed remarkably well, in fact sonically it’s a joy to listen to, although it is a shame that it was pressed on cheap OPEC-crisis era vinyl which produces a high-pitched whine in between the tracks.

So what was Buck’s aka Dave Dixon’s story? Maybe someday we’ll learn it. I’m thinking he lived on the West Coast for a while pursuing a career in the music business, grew frustrated and moved back home to Mississippi and eventually made this album. From the photos, he appears to be a man in his forties, perhaps even fifties. But if this is a debut album it doesn’t sound like the work of a novice – this guy was drawing from lots of experience, playing and singing and bands and writing songs, somewhere.

So, I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “lost masterpiece” but maybe an unjustly forgotten near-miss. There are a lot of obscure, private-press records from the early 70s which are obscure for good reason, and whose appeal rarely reaches beyond the type of folks who read the Head Heritage `zine. “Mississippi Bluze Mass”, though, could have reached a broader public if it had more guidance in the studio. Whether it might have lost some of its charm in the process is a question that can’t be answered.

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Andy Bey – Experience and Judgment (1974)

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ANDY BEY
EXPERIENCE AND JUDGMENT
Released 1974 on Atlantic (LP 1654)
This pressing 1998 Koch Jazz (KOC CD-8520)
This pressing is HDCD encoded

1 Celestial Blues 3:24
2 Experience 2:57
3 Judgment 2:58
4 I Know This Love Can’t Be Wrong 4:22
5 Hibiscus 4:39
6 You Should’ve Seen The Way 2:31
7 Tune Up 4:11
8 Rosemary Blue 3:24
9 Being Uptight 3:05
10 A Place Where Love Is 4:38
11 Trust Us To Find The Way 2:39
12 The Power Of My Mind 2:55

Recorded at Regent Studios, NY

Andy Bey – Vocals, Acoustic Piano
Buddy Williams, Jimmy Young – drums
Wilbur Bascomb – Bass
William Fischer – Electric Piano, Organ, Harpsichord, Synthesizer, Percussion
Electric Bass – Wilbur Bascomb
George Davis – guitar (Track 2 only)
Richard Resnicoff – guitar
Engineer – Bob Liftin
Guitar – George Davis (2) , Richard Resnicoff (tracks: 2, 3, 8, 9)
Selwart Clarke – Violen, viola

Produced by by William Fischer

———————-

Yes, this is one ugly album cover. But what’s inside is as beautiful a record as you’re likely to come across.

A long long time ago I promised a flood of music from Gary Bartz. I didn’t deliver on that promise. What can I say, my life is a morass of unfulfilled potential and broken promises. At least, that’s how it seems some of the time.

Until I put on this and then everything is suddenly fine. Andy Bey is easily one of the most underrated figures in music. His work with Horace Silver and Gary Bartz especially is phenomenal. And this album is, well, eternal. It’s largely a laid-back affair, brimming with the echoes of cosmic soul in ways that aren’t too different from a lot of other contemporary albums, but this one has a certain fire and heart that just isn’t very common. It begins with a slowed down take on his ‘Celestial Blues’ that he had already recorded with Bartz’ NTU Troop. First time I heard this version I didn’t know how to react. I felt like a fly suspended in sweet funky amber. Followed by ‘Experience’, the most frantic and uptempo tune on the record, full of lyrics that would be difficult for anybody but Andy to sing and make sound this cool in elongated melodic gospel shouts from the lotus seat. “Judgment”, the other side of the coin, is slowly and heavier on the funk with some wickedly-recorded wah-guitar sounding like the microphone was in the hallway during the session. Andy deserves more credit as a pianist than he usually gets but it must be said that keys man Bill Fischer steals the show here. Acting as producer and also composer on some of the tunes, he definitely has a ‘mark’ of production here – but with his exquisite taste in analog synth tones and the absolutely perfect mix, you won’t hear me complaining about his production. His synth work and electric piano weave in and out of the music faster than an arcade old-school centipede, there and gone halfway before your awareness has caught up. In trying to find some more info on this album on the All-Knowing Interwebs, I have seen this album compared to Gil Scott-Heron in a few places. Which really makes no sense in terms of Gil’s vision and gestalt.. Where there IS a similarity is between this album and Brian Jackson, Gil’s co-conspirator. Now, THAT makes sense to me.

Really really I mean it, not a bad song here. The scaled-down funk poetry of ‘Hibiscus’ hits all my buttons in the right place, perfect in every way of composition, lyric, execution, tonalities, textures, production. A heavily spiritual mind-expanding vibration just billows forth from your stereo speakers (or, um, iPod earbuds, I guess) to envelop you. “You Should’ve Have Seen The Way” is easily the funniest song about meditation I’ve ever come across. Granted, that makes it kind of a big fish in a small pool, but still… Story of guy taking a friend’s advice by trying to clear his mind and find his way through meditation, but he just can’t stop thinking about making love to a woman. Deep, metaphysical, sensual as hell. For all the buddhist vibe on this album it’s good to know Bey and company can keep it real. “Tune Up” is a more serious tune on a similar wavelength, one of my friend TY’s favorite tracks on this. More lyrics that would sound weird from anyone but Andy Bey, “like hypnotizing yourself up to a certain point,” it just kind of works on you and achieves in the listener an analog of what he’s singing about.

So far there is nothing remotely commercial about whats been presented here (jazz purists be damned, this stuff is too obscure and deep to be selling out to anyone). Then we should be all the more surprised by the next tune, a ballad lifted from Neil Sedaka. That’s right – Neil fucking Sedaka! And he just kills us with it. It becomes a love sonnet sung from across the veil of mortality, sung from a dead man to his widow. Granted all that was already in the lyrics but goddamn if Andy Bey doesn’t make it all come together and work on this album. By now we are 3/4 through the album and the remainder is pretty low-key and mellow. Nothing to grab you like what’s already come before but just enough going on to keep you engaged, going out on a wonderfully optimistic and sensual mindsex epic of “The Power of My Mind”.

It’s always weird to stop and think about how friends are brought together out of seemingly random occurrences, some drifting apart, some always there, some coming back like cycles of the moon. And when I ask myself why it took me so long to post this record, because it had been on my ‘short list’ for about a year now, I think it must have to do with that elusive ephemeral thing called friendship. I remembered it, suddenly, and sent it to someone who I think may have needed it right then. And a few days later we were having an intense conversation that ostensibly had nothing to do with this album but yet also had everything to do with this album. And that is one of the great qualities of “Experience and Judgment” – although you can call it ‘soul jazz’ or ‘spiritual jazz’, it is of an earthly sort of cosmic consciousness, one imbued with the substance of day to day living and struggle, that keeps its lyrics even at their most abstract from flying untethered into the blinding light of oneness, instead staying in the air for a while to light our way as we listen. I can’t recommend this album enough.

p.s. the HDCD mastering is a nice touch. Several digital players can recognize the coding and provide the up-sampling, leave a note if you want to know more.

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