Baden Powell – É de lei (1972) (aka Images On Guitar)

baden powell
baden powell

Baden Powell
“É de lei”
Released 1972 on Philips (6349.036)
01 – Até Eu (Baden Powell / Paulo César Pinheiro)
02 – Petite Waltz (Baden Powell)
03 – Violão Vagabundo (Baden Powell / Paulo César Pinheiro)
04 – Conversa Comigo Mesmo (Baden Powell)
05 – Blues à Volonté (Baden Powell / Janine de Waleyne)
06 – Sentimentos Se Você Pergunta Nunca Vai Saber (Baden Powell)
07 – É de Lei (Baden Powell / Paulo César Pinheiro)
08 – Canto (Baden Powell)

Baden Powell – guitar,vocal
Janine de Valeyne – vocal
Ernesto Ribeiro Goncalvez – bass
Joaquim Paes Henrique – drums
Alfredo Bessa – percussion

Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply) > Creek Audio OBH-15 -> M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Soundcard -> Adobe Audition 3.0 at 24-bits 96khz -> Click Repair light settings -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Tags done with Foobar 2000

This is a truly breathtaking album, one of the most progressive records I’ve heard by the great Baden Powell. A lot of the album is instrumental, but the vocals from Janine de Valeyne truly take those tracks to another sphere of existence, giving a baroque twist to the compositions (although I do have one friend who finds her vocals too operatic, I politely disagree with him). Baden’s own voice is technically-less-than-perfect but in other ways it is a perfect foil for his guitar playing, which is almost TOO perfect — his voice reminds us that he is human and not a machine! When the two of them sing together, the mixture is like sand and silk, and I fully approve. This is a unique record in Baden’s discography but it is a good example of why his music can be so hard to categorize, pushing boundaries between bossa nova, samba, jazz, classical. It is Baden Powell, and that’s all that needs to be said. For me, the monster cut on this album is “Blues à Volonté” where everyone just cuts loose in a 9-minute groove, complete with scat singing from both Baden and Janine. This tune convinces me that Baden Powell is the only Brazilian guitarist to actually understand the blues of black North America. And then there are other tracks full of ethereal beauty, like Sentimentos Se Você Pergunta Nunca Vai Saber, and Canto, the latter of which receives a good musical analysis in the review references below.

This album has been repackaged and reissued in a variety of ways: as “Images on Guitar” in Germany, in a double-CD set that includes all the MPS label recordings he made, and as part of an expensive 13-CD box set that is no longer in print.

There exists a wonderful German website devoted to Baden Powell that is a unparalleled resource for those interested in his massive body of work, which can be confusing to get a grip on since his recordings were issued in different countries with different titles and different album artwork and on different labels (often on different labels in the SAME country, it should be noted), then repackaged over the years in even more permutations. The site – Brazil On Guitar which you can find here – helps make sense of all this but also has attentive, serious reviews of the music. I have taken the liberty of reproducing the review for this album in its entirety. Not only did I learn a few things from it, but I concur completely with its aesthetic assessments:

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After his japanese studio recording in April 1971, this record was the third and last recording for MPS in cooperation with the Japanese Canyon label in October 1971. BP found a new quartet with Ernesto Ribeiro-Goncalves, Alfredo Bessa and the drummer Joaquim Paes Henriques, the last one would accompany him in studio and on stage until 1974. However, after this recording the quartet split up. The following recordings three weeks later were recorded without them. In 1990 Baden, Ernesto and Alfredo would work again together on the re-recording of the “Afro Sambas”.

BP’s Images on Guitar is conceptionally one of the best records of the seventies. Hardly any other record sounds as thematically closed as Images on Guitar or Canto on Guitar. While the last Quartet recordings had their focus on Afro-Brazilian music he was now playing his own compositions. Elaborate themes used elements from Jazz, Baroque, Blues and Funk. These combinations would remain unrepeated. Many of these themes were only recorded once.

Ate Eu can be seen as an continuation of the three last Quartet recordings of December, 1970. However Petite Valse seems to be the true introduction to this record. This title would be the first in many of his concerts.
While Baden Powell (1971) was an hommage to Garoto and Pixinguinha this record can be seen as an hommage to Janine de Waleyne. The complete title can only be found on the MPS cover: Images on Guitar / Baden + Janine.

In four duets BP gives his favourite singer the necessary space for her impressive voice. The dynamics of these compositions increase and culminate in Blues a volonte. It is a powerful and cheerful improvisation and the best example of the inspirational work of everyone involved in the recording. Conversa Comigo Mesmo (dialogue with myself) seems like a well-done extension of his 1966 recording Invencao Em 7 ½.
E de Lei, in an instrumental and accurate arrangement, is followed by the inspiring and evocative Canto.

Canto: the guitar takes up the theme of the vocals. In an short rhythmic part this seems reversed. The guitar gives the impulse. The last note of the vocal remains unaccompanied and is followed by an altered D-minor chord (Dm9/#11). This chord shows great tension. The powerful quint on the bass strings is eased by guide tones as chord extensions (Bb and E) on the higher strings Finally the motiv of descending perfect fifths is repeated, played only by the guitar. The piece ends with a straight quint sound (D,A,d). This seems like a confirmation or easing. Maybe Canto tries to show the importance of the voice as the original instrument, the instrumental player trying to imitate the voice.

The cover art of the German release is one of the most beautiful of BP’s covers.
The Japanese CD release lacks a reprint of the gatefold cover. The record was released as E De Lei in Brazil in 1972, with a release on CD in 2003.
The Japanese CD release is from 1998 (POCJ 2556), in 1997 the record (except for one track) was released on the CD: Jazz Meets Brasil
(MPS 533 133-2). A re-edition with the original cover art remains to be released.

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Vinyl rip is from a first pressing in VG+ condition with light surface noise in places but very dynamic and robust. As usual, I prefer to leave a potential click or pop alone when in doubt, rather than remove ‘wanted’ audio (in particular, the very last track, “Canto”). Single clicks were removed after Click Repair, but very sparingly and I am sure I didn’t get them all. There are other vinyl rips of this floating around the interwebs but I happen to think mine is “special”. There is also a 24-bit/96khz fileset available if anyone is interested.

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Eumir Deodato – Os Catedráticos 73 (1973)

Eumir Deodato
“Os Catedráticos 73”
originally released 1973
This reissue 2008 on Atração Fonográfica (ATR41066)

Remastered by Cláudio Abuchaim
This album is no stranger to the blogosphere, being posted about on quite a few blogs featuring Brazilian music and rare groove delights. This post highlights a recent reissue on the label Atração Fonográfica that has given us a new remastering and fancy fold-out digipack graphic design, the same they have used for their other Deodato issues. I suspect that this album is so popular among rare groove enthusiasts because it has the same musical sensibility of post-bossa Brazilian jazz fusion infused with North American soul and funk that characterized his more famous recordings for CTI, but here they shine completely free of the sterile and sterilizing production prison of Creed Taylor. One other difference, however, is that Deodato almost exclusively plays the Hammond organ on this disc, with some occasional electric and acoustic pianos hanging back in the mix on a few cuts. An ignorant reviewer at AMG (which I realize is a redundant phrase..) talks about this record as some revolutionary marriage of the organ with Brazilian music that hadn’t been done before, which is of course utter bullshit — Walter Wanderley and Ed Lincoln were exploring this territory long before Sr.Eumir. But Deodato definitely takes the funky factor up a notch, and also incorporates the rhythms and cadence of other Latin American musical traditions — something he most definitely picked up in multicultural North America, and *not* in Brazil. And like all of Deodato’s work, there is a dose of “lounge” in the sound that is either an asset or a detriment depending on your orientation, but this album manages to swing pretty hard even when it gets ‘light,’ and anyone in their right mind has to give props for the arranging skills shown here. It should be mentioned that Os Catedráticos was also the name of a jazz-bossa combo that Deodato put together in the 60s, but as far as I can tell this record is a total reinvention with completely different musicians involved.The lineup on this album is rather crowded and confusing, so I have taken the liberty of using Doug Payne’s breakdown of it which is the most thorough I have seen, albeit a little tricky to read. It’s worth noting the presence of drummer Mamão from Azymuth and percussionist Orlandivo. Payne has also given a release history of the various labels this has appeared on (minus this more recent reissue on Atração). The album has also been issued as ‘Skyscrapers’ in some countries, with different song titles in English, and there has been at least one bootleg version on vinyl with the original cover according to Discogs.com. Note also the writing credits on two tracks to the Brothers Valle.

from the website of dougpayne.com

Eumir Deodato (p,org,arr,cond); Durval Ferreira (g, el-g); Zé Menezes (12 string g); Sergio Barroso (el-b); Ivan Conti (Mamão) (d); Bebeto (cga); Helcio Milito, Orlandivo (perc).

overdubbed in New York City: September and October 1972
Marvin Stamm, John Frosk (tp,flhrn); Phil Bodner (ts, c-flute); Romeo Penque (bs, g-flute); Eumir Deodato (el-p,arr,cond).

a. Arranha Céu (Skyscrapers) (Eumir Deodato) – 4:49
b. Flap (Marcos Valle/Paulo Sergio Valle) – 3:17
c. Rodando Por Aí (Rudy’s) (Eumir Deodato) – 3:09
d. O Jogo (Soccer Game) (Pacífico Mascarenhas) – 2:28
e. Atire A 1a Pedra (aka The First Stone) (Ataulfo Alves-Mário Lago) – 3:18
f. Puma Branco (The White Puma) (aka Elizeth)
(Marcos Valle/Paulo Sergio Valle) – 3:30
g. Passarinho Diferente (The Bird) (aka The Byrd) (Eumir Deodato) – 1:52
h. Extremo Norte (The Gap) (Eumir Deodato) – 3:52
i. Tô Fazendo Nada (Down The Hill) (Eumir Deodato) – 2:55
j. Menina (Boy Meets Girl) (Eumir Deodato) – 3:10
k. Carlota & Carolina (Carly & Carole) (Eumir Deodato) – 3:12

Issues: a-k on Equipe (Br) EQS 100.001, Ubatuqui (Sp) UBCD-105 [CD], Bomba (Jap) BOM-22068 [CD]. a-k also on Irma (It) 509563-1, Irma (It) 509563-2 [CD] titled SKYSCRAPERS.

Samplers: b & f also on Irma (It) 507901-2 [CD] titled SUMMER SAMBA.

Producer: Eumir Deodato. Executive Producer: Oswaldo Cadaxo (Equipe (Br) EQS 100.001). Eumir Deodato, Arnaldo DeSouteiro. Executive Producer: Carl Rosenthal (Ubatuqui (Sp) UBCD-105 [CD], Bomba (Jap) BOM-22068 [CD], Irma (It) 509563-1, Irma (It) 509563-2 [CD]).

Engineer: Ary Perdigão & Walter, George Klabin

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Cal Tjader – Solar Heat (1968)

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Cal Tjader
“Solar Heat”
Released 1968 on Skye Records (SK-1)
Reissued 1994 on DCC Jazz Compact Classics (DJZ-618)

1. Ode To Billy Joe 2:55 (Gentry)
2. Never My Love 2:48 (D. R. Addrissi)
3. Felicidade 2:35 (Jobim , De Moraes)
4. Mambo Sangria 2:38 (Tjader)
5. Here 3:25 (David MacKay)
6. Fried Bananas 2:36 (McFarland)
7. Amazon 2:25 (Donato)
8. La Bamba 2:56 (Tjader)
9. Eye Of The Devil 2:16 (McFarland)
10. Solar Heat 2:30 (Tjader)

Arrangements by Gary McFarland

This is a short but sweet record by the still-under-appreciated Cal Tjader. Two things happened to me this week in relation to this album. I found myself listening to this in my car, twice on the same day (a rarity in itself), and then later received an email from a blog follower who mentioned that he first came to this blog expecting to find lots of albums featuring the vibraphone. And that got me reflecting — DAMN! There really aren’t that many records featuring the vibes at Flabbergasted Vibes. How did that happen? And particularly – Cal Tjader has been on my “short list” for a post since the beginning, but alas, that list has grown ever longer since then.

So here it is, the first of several Cal Tjader posts, and this one is a solid winner. Just look at the lineup of musicians, to start with:

Vibraphone – Cal Tjader, Gary McFarland
Upright Bass – Bobby Rodriguez
Electric Bass – Chuck Rainey
Electric Piano, Harpsichord – Mike Abene
Organ – João Donato
Percussion – Orestes Vilato , Ray Barreto
Drums – Grady Tate (who is left off the album jacket, but credited in the liner notes…)

“Solar Heat” was the first of a handful of albums that Cal recorded and released (in rapid succession) for the short-lived Skye label, for which this record was the inauguration. The title cut is one bad-ass piece of soul-jazz groove that does everything exactly right in performance, production, conception, and pure coolness. I almost feel like you don’t deserve to preview the track before hearing the whole album, that you have not earned the right… But then I discovered the tune was released as a 7-inch single anyway so my sanctimonious fanfare comes crashing down. Check it out and watch the record spin:

Still not convinced you need to embrace this record like a lost orphan? Well then check out this uptempo version of Vinicius & Jobim’s “Felicidade.” It shouldn’t work as well as it does – it’s upbeat happy foot-tapping buoyancy is practically the antithesis of bossa nova, enough to make João Donato’s comadres back home roll their eyes and make jokes about him as a male piano-tickling Carmen Miranda. (*note: I have no proof that this ever happened.)

Speaking of things that don’t work, I always hated the song “Never My Love.” For the first few bars of this version, I held out a hope that Cal Tjader could rescue the tune from the schmaltz graveyard in the sonic netherworld to which it has been banished in my universe, but even he is not powerful enough to inject integrity into this godawful tune. This would be more forgivable if the song didn’t follow a good version of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe” which is a GREAT song that nobody can ruin. Well you can’t have everything, I suppose.

Other noteworthy nuggets are João Donato’s own ‘Amazon’, another smoking jazz-bossa, and the two Gary McFarland compositions “Fried Bananas” and “Eye of the Devil,” which was written about McFarland’s membership in and subsequent disillusionment with Anton Lavey’s Church of Satan. But what is more demonic about all this is – DOUBLE VIBES PENETRATION! Two vibraphones, at the SAME TIME!

Did I mention that Ray Barreto and Bobby Rodriguez are on this album? Those guys are great. I really like those guys. Oh, and Chuck Rainey. He is a swell guy too.

This album’s rarity was briefly alleviated by VampiSoul issuing it together with “Cal Tjader Sounds Off on Burt Bacharach”, but if I am not mistaken that disc is out of print. I have never had that pressing but this DCC reissue almost certainly sounds much much better in terms of audio quality.

Gil Evans – Gil Evans & 10 (1957)

Gil Evans – Gil Evans & Ten (1957)
Original release, Prestige 7120
This release Fantasy/Prestige (OJCCD 346-2)

Remember
(Irving Berlin)
Ella Speed
(Ledbetter , Lomax)
Big Stuff
(Leonard Bernstein)
Nobody`s Heart
(Lorenz Hart , Richard Rogers)
Just One Of Those Things
(Cole Porter)
If You Could See Me Now
(Sigman , Dameron)
Jambangle
(Gil Evans)

Bass – Paul Chambers
Bassoon – Dave Kurtzer
Drums – Nick Stabulas
French Horn – Willie Ruff
Piano – Gil Evans
Saxophone – Zeke Tolin (Lee Konitz) , Steve Lacy
Trombone – Jimmy Cleveland
Bass Trombone – Bart Varsalona
Trumpet – Jake Koven , Louis Mucci

Drums – Jo Jones (tracks: 1)
Trumpet – John Carisi (tracks: 1)

Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in Hackensack, NJ, September and October 1957

Remaster by Phil De Lancie in Berkeley, 1989

A casual look at the composition credits might tend to assessment that the listener is in for no big jazz surprises on this 1957 record, treading the songbook stalwarts of Gershwin, Rogers and Hart, and Cole Porter. But then there is the inclusion of Leadbelly, and Leonard Bernstein’s “Big Stuff” which he wrote for Billie Holiday. And the inclusion of an 11-piece ensemble on the record utilizing instruments like French horn, bass trombone, and bassoon. If Gil’s arranging skills aren’t enough to entice you, there is the buoyant bass of Paul Chambers, and great sax riffing from Steve Lacy and Lee Konitz (playing under the pseudonym of Zeke Tolin.. not sure why, contractual issues perhaps?). Jimmy Cleveland’s trombone is a treat, and Gil’s parsimonious piano never sounded sweeter. And I do mean SOUND too – Van Gelder works all his magic here, and the muted piano tones that Evans favored float nicely atop the lush sonorous carpet. Thanksfully, this is an original CD issue of the Prestige OJC pressing with Phil De Lancie’s mastering work, so we aren’t left at the mercy of Rudy’s recent travesties in remastering his own recordings… Thanks to ****** for providing the original rip of this one to me. (You know who you are.) 1957 was a very busy year for Gil Evans, and this album is among his best work.

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Hugh Masekela & The Union of South Africa (1971) (with The Crusaders)

Hugh Masekela and the Union of South Africa
Originally released on CHISA records (Chisa 808)
This reissued, Motown / MoJazz (31453-0329-2) from 1994

01 – Goin’ Back to New Orleans (5:07) (Hugh Masekela)
02 – Ade (3:47) (Caiphus Semenya)
03 – To Get Ourselves Together (2:52) (Hugh Masekela)
04 – Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive (3:57) (Eric Songxaka-Jonas Gwangwa)
05 – Mamani (5:23) (Caiphus Semenya)
06 – Shebeen (4:02) (Jonas Gwangwa)
07 – Dyambo (3:49) (Caiphus Semenya)
08 – Caution! (5:41) (Caiphus Semenya)
09 – Hush (Somebody’s Calling My Name) (3:34) (Joe W. May)

In my morning ritual of working on this blog over some coffee, I decided that the way I was going to show my support for Brazil in today’s World Cup match would be by posting this album of anti-Dutch liberation music from Hugh Masekela & The Union of South Africa. It’s a great record and should make for a cathartic listening experience no matter how things turn out today.

It was hard to decide what songs to include on this little sample below, since they really are all excellent. I decided on one vocal number and one instrumental, because in a way the album almost sounds like it can’t decide which way to go in that respect. The instrumental numbers sound a whole hell of a lot like the early Crusaders material (unsurprisingly.. see below), while the vocal numbers are something else. Although described by some as an “Afro-rock” album, these tracks have more in common with the pop sensibilities that made Masekela an international superstar with the song “Grazin’ in the Grass.” Tightly arranged harmonies that draw as much or more from United States gospel, soul, and blues musics than from ‘traditional’ vocal styles of the Motherland. And there is absolutely no problem with that – the result is a beautiful album. Except for the tunes “Ade”, with its boogie funk and fuzzy guitar, and “Dyambo” (another funky number… can anyone out there tell me if the lyrics to this are in Swazi or Zulu, or any of the other ELEVEN “official languages” of South Africa???), there is little to be called “rock” here, unless its to be understood in the sense that The Crusaders are sometimes called “jazz rock”.

So, as I was saying… Two songs here to give you a taste – the vocal number “To Get Ourselves Together,” souljazz with a slow-funk backbeat (hmm, well the ‘turnaround’ between verses here is kind of rock-like in a delicious way); followed by “Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive” which is kind of a High Life song as played by The Crusaders. If this doesn’t whet your appetite for more, then I simply don’t know what to say and you probably close this page on your browser and go back to listening to whatever floats your musical boat.

Although not credited anywhere on this Chisa / Motown reissue, this record (recorded entirely in Hollywood, California) relies heavily on members of the mighty CRUSADERS as the backing band, with the album jacket listing only the horn players Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa (trombone) and Caiphus Semenya (alto sax) as comprising “The Union.” I am not sure if The Crusaders members on these sessions (Joe Sample, Wayne Henderson, Wilton Fedder, Stix Hooper) were listed on the original Chisa vinyl, but if not I am sure there must have been good reasons – they were willing collaborators and had recorded for the label (even changing their name at Masekela’s suggestion).

Recording in a cluster of sessions spanning April 5 – 9, 1971, exactly who played on what is rather confusing. Thanks to Doug Payne’s excellent website, we know the following details (note that a bunch of these tracks did not appear on the original album presented here):

HUGH MASEKELA & THE UNION OF SOUTH AFRICA
Hugh Masekela
Hollywood, California: April 5, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl).
overdubbed in Hollywood, California: April 9, 1971
Hugh Masekela; King Errison (perc).

a. Ade (Caiphus Semenya) – 3:47
b. Dyambo (Weary Day Is Over) (Caiphus Semenya) – 3:49

Hollywood, California: April 5, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl).

c. Ku Ku Di

Hollywood, California: April 7, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl).

d. Mabasa
e. This Stuff Is Killing Me
f. To Get Ourselves Together (Hugh Masekela) – 2:52

Hollywood, California: April 9, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl); King Errison (perc).

g. Mamani (Caiphus Semenya) – 5:23

Hollywood, California: April 7, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl).

h. Goin Back To New Orleans (Hugh Masekela) – 5:07
i. Railroad
j. Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive (Eric Songxaka/Jonas Gwangwa) – 2:52
k. Caution! (Caiphus Semenya) – 5:41
l. Shebeen (Jonas Gwangwa) – 4:02

same or similar.

m. Hush (Somebody’s Calling My Name) (Joe W. May) – 3:34

Note: Dudu Pukwana, a member of Masekela’s Union Of South Africa around this time, later authored and performed a song titled “Baloyi” on his 1973 recording IN THE TOWNSHIPS (Caroline 1504, Earthworks 90884-2 [CD]) that bears notable similarities to “Shebeen” above.

Issues: a, b, f, g, h, j, k, l & m on Chisa CS 808 (issued May 1971), Rare Earth (E) SRE-3002, MoJazz 31453-0330-2 [CD] (issued August 1994).
Singles: b (2:35 edit) & l (4:00 edit) also on Chisa C 8014F [45]. l also on Tamla Motown (SA) TMS 373 [45].
Samplers: a also on Hip-O B0007383-02 [CD] titled THE BEST OF HUGH MASEKELA – 20th CENTURY MASTERS – THE MILLENNIUM COLLECTION. a, f, g, h, j & m also on Spectrum (E) 9810227 [CD] titled THE COLLECTION. b also on Tapecar (Br) LPS X0-4 titled SOM ECODINAMIC PART TWO, Motor (Ger) 525 444-1, Motor (Ger) 525 444-2 [CD] titled MOJO CLUB PRESENTS DANCELOOR JAZZ VOLUME 4: LIGHT MY FIRE and Strut (E) STRUTLP007, Strut (E) STRUTCD007 [CD] titled CLUB AFRICA 2. b, g & j also on Verve (Ger) 06007 5328250 [CD] titled HUGH! THE BEST OF HUGH MASEKELA – PRESENTED BY TILL BRÖNNER. b, b (stereo promo version) & l also on Hip-o Select B001157902 [CD] titled THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES VOLUME 11A: 1971. l also on ? (SA) ? [CD] titled MESH MAPETLA PRESENTS JAZZ IN SOUTH AFRICA VOLUME 1.
Producer: Stewart Levine
Engineer: Lewis Peters

Rabbits & Carrots – Soul Latino (1969)

Rabbits & Carrots
“Soul Latino” 1969
Reissue on Vampisoul 2007 with extra tracks (Vampi CD 088)

1. Pais Tropical
2. Hip City
3. Romeo Y Julieta
4. Funky Chicken
5. Jarabe
6. Las 4 Culturas
7. Everyday People
8. Oh Calcuta!
9. Los Pelos Tiesos
10. Workin’ On A Groovy Thing
11. Spill The Wine
12. We Got More Soul
13. Sex Machine
14. Express Yourself

The first time I heard this all-instrumental record I was skeptical. Why bother, I asked myself, covering James Brown and Sly Stone in the late 60s when those artists were still putting out great music at incredible levels of productivity? The second time I listened to this, I asked myself, “Why the hell not?” This record is a lot of fun, even if the hype from Vampisoul about the hip DJ’s who spin it doesn’t do anything to excite me (in fact its more likely to make me ignore it..)

How can I *not* like a record that opens up with a soul-jazz take on País Tropical with a slightly-overdriven pseudo-Wes Montgomery guitar lead playing the vocal melody? If you can’t find that catchy then you’re hopeless. On first hearing this record I had thought that maybe these guys were Nuyorican because of the emphasis on black American music. Imagine my surprise to find out they were a bunch of Mexicans. Rabbits & Carrots were basically a nightclub / bar band in Mexico City, founded by Salvador Aguero with his brothers, that included mostly a lot of anglophone contemporary hits in their repertoire. But whereas there were tons of Mexican rock bands at the time with fuzzed-out guitars playing psychedelic or progressive rock with long wanky guitar solos, English lyrics, and beards, these guys were enamored with soul and funk music. Jorge Ben, Rufus Thomas, Kool & The Gang… Neil Sedaka.. Oddly enough the liner notes mention that the song “Las Quatras Culturas” is the one original composition on the album, somehow “about” the May 1968 massacre of students in Mexico City, when really the song is a blatant James Brown rip-off. But no matter, it’s still pretty cool albeit a little too upbeat for a song ostensibly about state repression. My favorite tune on here is an arrangement of a traditional tune, “Jarabe” that shows off just how well this band could cut loose in a style that really did blend a Latin rhythmic sense with soul from its northern brothers. On the whole this record has a lounge lizard, rather cheesy quality that must be what the ironic hipsters are enamored with, but the band approaches their material with enough inspiration (and some serious jazz chops from saxophonist Ramón Negrete) to make them stand apart from just a generic bar band.

 

The last four tracks on this disc come from an EP released years later by their label Musart. The band rather tragically abandons the exclusively instrumental approach they had adhered to in favor of incorporating a singer, identified only as “Max” in the typically ramshackle liner notes provided by Vampisoul. Although I can appreciate the effort of attempting to translate “Sex Machine” into Spanish, this guy is no James Brown. The results are kind of hilarious, but still doesn’t qualify as “so bad it’s good.” In fact I would have to say that these four tracks are just fucking godawful. Repeated listens only confirm how awful they are. The version of “Spill The Wine” just makes me want to pull out my Eric Burdon & War LP from my dusty archives. These songs require a vocal swagger and charisma that the singer just lacks, and I must say the results of the translation are questionable. They fall flat, and are rather embarrassing, and I think Vampisoul would have done these guys a service by leaving them off the album. But they are kind of a sketchy label anyway, seemingly consulting with nobody on these reissues (they have even been sued by Fania, for example), but they have been unearthing some nice treasures from the musicial seen of D.F., Mexico, for the rest of the world.

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