Andy Bey – Experience and Judgment (1974)

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

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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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Tim Maia – Tim Maia (1973) (24-96 vinyl)

This post inaugurates a Tim Maia project that will hopefully inaugurate a separate Tim Maia page that will be a repository for all things Tim. In the meantime I want to register that this is in some ways a PROTEST for the disgraceful boxset that has just been issued by Universal records (shamelessly called ‘Tim Maia Universal’) that gives his hardcore fans absolutely NOTHING. No rarities or unreleased tracks, no material that was not released on Universal (which excludes at the very least three very important records), and I will bet you $20 that they also butchered the audio in the mastering by making everything as loud as everything else. It is a travesty that an artist as important — and as popular — as Tim Maia could have the majority of his catalog fall out of print for so long, only to be reissued in such a careless format in what is simply a money-making venture in time for the holidays. I had been hearing about this boxset being in the works for over a year now, and I had hoped that my doubts and reservations would be proven wrong. They weren’t. As with the Jorge Ben box, it is better than NOT having the music in print, but they could have done a lot better. (For Jorge Ben, we at least got 2 discs of hard to find and unreleased material). I am going to end up buying the damn thing anyway, because I am what it is called “a completist” about these things and am therefore cursed. But I ain’t going to like it.

With no further ado, here is…

TIM MAIA

Tim Maia”

Released 1973 on Polydor (2451 041)

1 Réu confesso (Tim Maia)

2 Compadre (Tim Maia)

3 Over again (Tim Maia)

4 Até que enfim encontrei você (Tim Maia)

5 O balanço (Tim Maia)

6 New love (Roger Bruno, Tim Maia)

7 Do your thing, behave yourself (Tim Maia)

8 Gostava tanto de você (Édson Trindade)

9 Música no ar (Tim Maia)

10 A paz do meu mundo é você (Mita)

11 Preciso ser amado (Tim Maia)

12 Amores (Tim Maia)


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, some isolated clicks removed using Audition -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Tags done with Foobar 2000

Musician credits:

Drums – Myro

Bass – Barbosa

Piano – Cidinho

Organ – Pedrinho

Lead electric guitar – Paulinho

Acoustic guitar – Tim

Twelve-string guitar – Neco

Conga and tumba – Ronaldo

Gonzá and tamborine – Roberto

Cow bell – MitaTrumpets – Waldir Barros, José C. Amorim

Tenor sax – Aurélio Marcos

Baritone sax – Maurilho Faria

Trombone – Edmundo Maciel

French horns – Znedek Suab, Carlos GomesVocals- Paulo Smith, Sheila Smith, Gracinha, Edinho, Genival (Cassiano), Amaro, Tim

Arrangements – Tim Maia (arranjos de base), horns and strings – Waldir A. Barros

Produced by Tim Maia

Recording engineer – Ari Carvalhaes

Assistant engineers: João, Paulinho, Luiz Cláudio, Jayro Gaulberto

Mixed by Ari Carvalhaes and Tim Maia

Rehearsed at SEROMA Studios and recorded at Phonogram Studios, Rio

This is Tim Maia’s fourth album, and it really seems as if the guy had the Midas touch, simply could not make a bad record. His third album (also self-titled) was a bit of a drop-off in consistency, although by no means a weak effort. This record, though, is a masterpiece from start to finish. It opens with “Réu confesso” which unsurprisingly was the huge hit of the summer when it was released. Written for a girlfriend with whom Tim had just separated. This song was his attempt to get her back. It didn’t work, but it ended up being one of the biggest hits of his career. The other huge hit off this album was “Gostava tanto de você”, written by Édson Trindade. Both are heavy-hitting soul classics. “Compadre”, with its loping but heavy beat, warm vocals, lyrics of friendship, and strummy acoustic guitar (left channel) balanced against a quietly-mixed Hammond organ (right channel) is yet another perfect track. “Over Again”, sung in English, would fit well alongside any of the soul hits on the US airwaves in 1973. “Até quem enfim encontrei você” is another uptempo, breezy love song, not all that different from ‘Réu confesso’ to be honest but I am not complaining. The melody is distinct and it may have been another hit for him.

The album has some lovely soul ballads: “New Love”, once again in English; “A paz de meu mundo é você” which has a church hymnal quality to the melody and chord progression; and the austere solo guitar-and-voice “Preciso ser amado” are all excellent, although I would like to hear an alternate take of the latter as it seems to lack a little bit of the emotion Tim usually puts into his voice. There are a few all-out funk soul workouts on this record — “O balanço” with its punchy horns and wah-wah guitar are contrasted by Tim’s mellow (nearly slurred) vocals and the drummer laying on the ride cymbal. The clean-tone of the rhythm guitar is delicious too, making this tune sort of my special ‘secret’ favorite among the more obvious things to love here; “Do Your Thing, Behave Yourself” begins as another mid-tempo melodic swinging piece with uplifting vocals about taking it easy and remembering that unhappiness doesn’t last forever, if you just do your thing and so on, and then what is a great song becomes even greater as it goes out on a rocking crescendo that should remind us that Tim had once been a leather-jacket wearing Jovem Guarda rock rebel. The albums closes on a solid funk instrumental, “Amores”, with some nice fuzzy guitar lines. I remember the first time I heard it, I kept waiting for the vocals to kick in, as it sounds like one long build-up to a vocal number. Perhaps the band used this jam to warm up the crowd before Tim got out on stage (when he decided to finally come out on stage..). In the context of an LP, it has the effect of making me want to flip the record over and listen to the whole thing again, which is just fine by me. “Gostava tanto de você”, as has already been said, was the other huge hit off this album, and for good reason. Kicking off with a very-sample-worthy snare drum and tom-tom intro and then ripping into a gorgeous arrangement with horns, strings, and timbales giving a triumphal lift to what are bittersweet lyrics. There are rumors and urban legends about what the lyric is about, most of them having been invented on the internet, and Nelson Motta does nothing to clarify the matter as he simply doesn’t mention the content at all.

In fact Nelson Motta spends almost no time at all talking about this album in his sloppy biography of Tim, “Vale Tudo,” merely mentioning that the two singles off it were a huge success and then going on to give us more details about what Tim had for lunch. It is unfortunate, because I for one would like more insight into the creative process in the studio, what the vibe was like, and so on. Tim was notoriously picky about sound — something which Motta does in fact devote a bit of time writing about – and this album is mixed unbelievably perfectly, it is as if he finally managed the auditory orgasm he had been building towards in his first three records. This is also something like the pinnacle of the first phase of Tim’s career — after this album, things would become a lot more complicated. In fact, exactly as the album was being released, Tim got out of his contract with Polydor and was only in communication with them to collect his royalties. He had been courted by RCA-Victor, and he had his sights set on putting out a double album.

It has been said (somewhere, not by me), that there is a mysterious curse surrounding the creation of double albums. They are usually the mark of hubris and overindulgence, and it seems something usually bad happens — The Beatles began their process of splitting up during The White Album being one famous example, but there are plenty of others. Often the results are artistically very gratifying but frequently the whole process is very taxing on the mental health of those involved and often the results end up financially a disaster. Such was the case with Tim Maia, who ended up turning his double album project into a work of religious proselytization for the Cultura Racional sect. But that story is for another post. Let this album, then, mark the `end of the innocence` for Tim Maia, and what a joyous sound it is.

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Dom Salvador e Abolição – Som, Sangue e Raça (1971)

DOM SALVADOR E ABOLIÇÃO
SOM, SANGUE E RAÇA
1971 CBS (137735)

First CD pressing – Sony Music (Brasil) / Columbia (2-495859) 2001

Reissue on Selo Cultura / Sony Music 2010

1 Uma vida (Dom Salvador, Abolição)
2 Guanabara (Arnoldo Medeiros, Dom Salvador)
3 Hei! Você (Getúlio Côrtes, Nelsinho)
4 Som, sangue e raça (Marco Versiani, Dom Salvador)
5 Tema pro Gaguinho (Dom Salvador)
6 O Rio (Arnoldo Medeiros, Dom Salvador)
7 Evo (Pedro Santos, Dom Salvador)
8 Numbre one (Dom Salvador)
9 Folia de reis (Paulo Silva, Jorge Canseira)
10 Moeda, reza e cor (Marcos Versiani, Dom Salvador)
11 Samba do malandrinho (Dom Salvador)
12 Tio Macrô (Arnoldo Medeiros, Dom Salvador)

Dom Salvador – piano and accordion
Luiz Carlos – drums and vocals
Rubão Sabino – bass
Oberdam P. Magalhães – Alto sax and flute
Serginho – trombone
Darcy – trumpet and flugelhorn
José Carlos – guitar
Nelsinho – percussion and vocal
Mariá – vocal

Artistîc direction – Ian Guest
Photography – Franklin Correâ

Reeissue project supervision by Charles Gavin
Remastered from the original tapes by Luigi Hoffer at DMS Studies, Rio

dom salvador

This is a huge album — and the ONLY album — from Dom Salvador e Abolição, who were part of the Brazilian soul music explosion in the wake of Tim Maia’s first record, performing at festivals alongside Tim, Toni Tornado, Antonio Adolfo e Brazuca, and others. Long forgotten about, perhaps because it was ahead of its time in its eclecticism and sophistication, it was reissued on CD for the first time some years ago — I am not sure when, unfortunately. This pressing is part of a brand-new series of reissues put out by my favorite book & recordstore, Livraria Cultura. (Think a Brazilian Borders or Barnes and Noble, but with occasional art openings, lectures, and live performances..) I bought it the same week it arrived, and found this review from Tarik de Souza (possibly my favorite Brazilian music critic at the moment) had been online for some time, indicating that it had already seen a CD reissue previously.

I have translated the first paragraph of that review into English. As you can see, this band contained the nucleus of Banda Black Rio, who would become icons of the funk and soul movement in Brazil. The rest of the review talks about pianist Dom Salvador’s background as part of jazz trios such as Rio 65 and Copa Trio, the latter of which provided backing support to both Elis Regina and Jorge Ben. He goes on to describe a few chosen tracks and their use of electric and acoustic piano, brass, cuíca and accordion in their mixture of funk, samba, baião, and jazz. Dom Salvador moved to the USA later in the 70s and has never left. He also has a website, which also includes a page with this sadly small discography on it but little else.

I can’t really add much to Tarik’s review as he is very good at what he does! Enjoy this one.
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Partial Flabber translation

This isn’t just a seminal album recovered by the meticulous work of researcher Charles Gavin (Titãs). It is an estuary. All the black rivers that would form Brazilian funk/hip-hop flow through it. Led by Paulista pianist Salvador Silva Filho – Dom Savlador – “Som, Sangue, e Raça” from 1971, one year after the explosion of Tim Maia on the scene, catalyzed the bossa nova and jazz background of its leader with the rhythm and blues of its members like saxophonist Oberdã Magalhães, newphew of samba-enredo master Silas de Olvieira and future leader of Banda Black Rio, who since the group Impacto 8 (which had, among others, Robertinho Silva on drums and Raul de Souza on trombone) had already been trying to reconcile MPB with Stevie Wonder and James Brown. Add to all this a mixture of samba, Nordestino accent, and even the black side of the Jovem Guarda represented by the authorial presence of of Getúlio Cortes (older brother of Gerson King Combo, our James Brown “cover”) in ‘Hei! Você’, one of the most-played tracks here. Alongside these elements and the preseence of Rubão Sabino (bass), who still called himself ‘Rubens’, drummer Luis Carlos (another member of Black Rio), the disc enlists the trumpet and flugelhorn of symphonic musician Darcy in place of the original Barrosinho (yet one more founder of Black Rio), who was traveling during the recording but would end up being a leading force of the band.

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Este não é apenas um disco seminal, recuperado pelo trabalho meticuloso do titã pesquisador Charles Gavin. É um estuário. Todos os rios negros que formaram o funk/hip hop nativo confluem para ele. Comandado pelo pianista paulista Salvador Silva Filho, o Dom Salvador, Som, Sangue e Raça, de 1971, um ano depois da explosão de Tim Maia, cataliza a formação bossa nova & jazz do lider com rhythm & blues de integrantes como o saxofonista Oberdã Magalhães, sobrinho do mestre do samba enredo Silas de Oliveira e futuro líder da Banda Black Rio, que desde o grupo Impacto 8 (entre outros Robertinho Silva, bateria, Raul de Souza, trombone) já vinha tentando agregar MPB com Stevie Wonder & James Brown. Entram ainda na mistura samba, sotaque nordestino e até o lado negro gato da Jovem Guarda representado pela presença autoral de Getúlio Cortes (irmão do posterior Gerson King Combo, o nosso James Brown cover) em Hei Você!, uma das faixas mais destacadas. Além destes elementos e da presença de Rubão Sabino (baixo), que ainda se assinava Rubens, do baterista Luis Carlos (outro que integraria a Black Rio), o disco arregimenta o trompete e flugelhorn do músico de sinfônica Darcy no lugar do original Barrosinho (mais um fundador da BR), que estava excursionando durante a gravação, mas seria o titular da banda.

Egresso do Beco das Garrafas e a caminho dos EUA, para onde se mudaria em definitivo ainda nos 70, Dom Salvador liderou o Copa Trio ao lado do baixista Gusmão e do batera Dom Um Romão. O grupo serviria de suporte para as decolagens de Elis Regina e Jorge Ben (antes do Jor), entre outros. Formou também o Rio 65 Trio com o baterista Edison Machado. O noneto Abolição (aí incluído o vocal de sua esposa, Mariá) foi uma saída para o desgastado formato trio da bossa nova. E não só. Cada faixa de Som, Sangue e Raça é diferente da anterior por conta de um cuidadoso trabalho de fusão de elementos sonoros até contraditórios como o pique folk de retreta de Folia de Reis moldado em acordeon, sopros (até tu, tuba?) e uma intrusa cuíca. Moeda, Reza e Cor tem um encadeamento de sopros que lembra os arranjos de Gil Evans para Miles Davis, mas logo desagua num solo de piano funkiado pelo baixo elétrico. Samba do Malandrinho levado pianinho (no elétrico digitar de Don Salvador) remete para a bossa nova com direito a improvisos jazzísticos.

Já Tio Macrô, repleto de reviradas de sopro e contraritmo sustentado por baixo engata num samba funk. Intercalando grandiloquencia e balanço, Uma Vida abre com declamação e uma longa introdução pianística depois picotada pelos sopros. E tome funk na veia como nas instrumentais Guanabara e Number One. O piano elétrico alicerça O Rio, um funk andante que desata em samba de escola com direito a apitos. Também a construção de sopros funkiados da faixa título acaba num samba, movido a cuíca. Com acordeon e costura acústica, Tema pro Gaguinho lembra o choro dos regionais, só que devidamente turbinado. Hey! Você (belíssima a condução de sopros) combina R&B com um ritmo de baião que antecipa a fusão de Burt Bacharach. A tamborilada Evo emoldura um funkafro com cuíca e coro. A riqueza das combinações torna o resultado muito acima da média do pop ralo das FMs, o que talvez explique o fato de o disco não ter estourado a despeito de tantos ganchos no recheio. Agora em CD remasterizado haveria até uma nova chance, se a situação não tivesse mudado. Para pior.(Tárik de Souza)

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The inside sleeve blurb by Charles Gavin:
The album ‘Som, sangue e raça’ paves the way for future generations of musicians and producers of the carioca scene at the beginning of the 1970s. The lyrics that dealt with the question of race and the explosive fusion of samba, soul, jazz and funk, elaborated by Dom Salvador and his troupe, Abolição, established the bases for the development of new sounds and tendencies in Brazilian music.

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Cassiano – Imagem e Som (1971)

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IMAGEM E SOM
Cassiano
1971 RCA Victor
BSL 1551
Reissue 2001 on BMG/RCA ‘100 Anos de Música’ Series

 

1 Lenda
(Lula Freire, Marcos Valle)
2 Ela mandou esperar
(Cassiano, Tim Maia)
3 Tenho dito
(Cassiano, Tim Maia)
4 Já
(Cassiano)
5 É isso aí
(Cassiano)
6 O caso das bossas
(Zil Rosendo, Dabliu Namor)
7 Eu, meu filho e você
(Cassiano)
8 Primavera (Vai chuva)
(Silvio Rochael, Cassiano)
9 Minister
(Cassiano)
10 Uma lágrima
(Cassiano)
11 Canção dos hippies (Paz e amor)
(Professor Pardal)
12 Não fique triste
(Cassiano)

Genival Cassiano was one of the architects of Brazilian Soul music, although his work is eclipsed (and rightly so, in my opinion) by his friend Tim Maia. Tim was actually an admirer of Cassiano’s vocal group Os Diagonais and drew inspiration from them for his own sound, and the two soon came to be friends and collaborators. Os Dianonais provided backing vocals for Tim’s records and live shows in the early days. Not only does Tim have a few writing credits here, but he is also singing backup, uncredited, as part of Os Diagonais. (NOTE: I do not have any proof of this, yet, other than my own ears. I have been searching through Nelson Motta’s biography of Tim, “Vale Tudo”, for some evidence, but as yet have found none. While its an entertaining read, it is kind of sloppy in terms of presenting his recorded work, so I don’t consider this a *denial* of his participation). Likewise, Cassiano played guitar on several of Tim’s albums.

But how to consider this album on its own terms? Well, it was his first album under his own name, and is a bit uneven, but it has its transcendent soul moments. Oddly, for the man who is credited as being so adept at creating the vocal harmonies of Os Diagonais, his voice takes a while to grow on me — he lacks the swagger and charisma of his friend, Tim Maia. The first track, the Marcos Valle song Lenda, is to me an odd choice to open the album, as there are a lot of other tracks that grab the attention more. The album picks it up a notch with two collaboration with Maia and by the time it hits “Já”, credited solely to Cassiano, the album has found its pace. The orchestrations on this album stand out — meticulous, full brass and string arrangements in the same style as those on Tim’s records of the same period, all of this goes to distinguish what was truly a ‘movement’ in Brazilian music, and a rogue one at that, going against the grain of what the critics of the time thought was worthy of praise. Other exemplary stand-out tracks here are “Eu, meu filho, e você”, “Canção dos hippies,” and “Não fique triste.” I should also point out the prominent use of vibraphone on this record — another thing in common with Tim’s records, alas – that is a particular delight to me.

A historic and somewhat-rare album of the Brazilian Soul scene, I hope you enjoy this!

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Jerry Butler – The Iceman Cometh / Ice On Ice (1969)

1. Hey, Western Union Man
2. Can’t Forget About You, Baby
3. Only the Strong Survive
4. How Can I Get in Touch with You
5. Just Because I Really Love You
6. Lost
7. Never Give You Up
8. Are You Happy
9. (Strange) I Still Love You
10. Go Away — Find Yourself
11. I Stop by Heaven

Reflections on the Romantic Darwinism of Jerry Butler
By Flabbergast

Tomorrow is “Dia dos Namorados” where I live, a day for lovers, Brazilian Valentine´s day. As a person with each foot on a different continent this means I have to suffer through this godforsaken holiday twice in one year. Fuck.

I’ve been told that you don’t get over a heartbreak until you meet someone new, someone special who comes into your life and on and on, that you don’t forget one love until you find new love. Alright, cool, that’s all good and well but my question is — What am I supposed to do in the meantime? My solution has been: listen to tons of classic soul music. And play it loud. And make a lot of it Jerry Butler.

So I am dedicating this post to all the other lonely people, and those lover’s we can’t seem to get over.

These two albums hail from the historic pairing of Chicago soul doyen Jerry Butler and Philadelphia writing and production team Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Had they continued this partnership I think they would have taken over the world, put an end to world famine, and brought down the Berlin Wall long before Ronald Reagan could take credit for it. “The Iceman Cometh” in particular is Jerry Butler’s finest hour, at his emotive best.

The ‘Collector’ Choice’ label reissue of these two albums is a mixed blessing. It’s criminal to think that they were ever out of circulation (they were packaged together for another collection called “The Philadelphia Sessions”, which I haven’t heard), but these albums deserve better in the way of mastering and presentation. There is however a decent set of liner notes based largely on recent interviews with the man himself that make me like the guy even more, in spite of the fact that he still won’t respond to my emails about *this album*… The sound is a mixed bag, and it’s hard to say why since all the songs were recorded around the same period in the same two studios. But a number of the songs were released as singles a year or so before they appeared on these long-players, so consistency becomes too confused for me to form an opinion about. The fact that “Ice on Ice” sounds MUCH more crisp and present makes me think they may have lost the master tapes for ‘The Iceman Cometh’, which would truly be criminal….

“Hey Western Union Man” is a nice, smart, upbeat number to get things moving. The attentive will notice its mixed in mono, as well. It’s clever and great and a lot of you have probably heard it at least once in your life. But things start really clicking for me in the confessional take of internal obsession and external denial that is “Can’t Forget About You, Baby”, which is just pure genius. A midtempo stride with beautiful, straightforward lyrics, kick drum and high hat intro with a short snap of snare drum, you know that Motown and Stax are feeling the heat from these guys after ten seconds of this magic. It basically tells my story for me. It probably tells yours, or will someday. Butler’s voice soars sweet one moment, turns a blue note the next ….. changed my life, completeleeeeeeeeeeeeeey. It all comes to a subtle climax with, “I’ve tried to fool everybody else…. ain’t no way to ….. fool myseeeelf..” Ah hells yeah. I feel like I am giving away the end of a good movie. It’s just too perfect of an arrangement. I just spoiled it for you, unless you started the song sample below before reading this.

This song gives way to another one, even more classic and eternal, treating the admixture of vulnerability and perseverance, of the contradictions of masculinity in the twentieth century, that make up Jerry Butler’s romantic darwinism. “Only The Strong Survive,” told from the position of a mother giving advice to her heartbroken son, has enough nuance to fill a thousand pages of analysis and enough simplicity to make all of that utterly unnecessary. What does it mean to “be a man” and “take a stand”? The emotional survival of the species is at stake, but am I evolved enough to really dig it?

The best thing about great soul music is that you can play it when you feel down and it makes you feel good. The other best thing about great soul music is that you can play it when you feel good and it makes you feel even better.

At this point I most draw your attention to the unbelievably ingenious production of Gamble & Huff on this record. To that end, I have drawn up a sophisticated diagram of the stereo field as you are listening to the song “Only the Strong Survive.” Please feel free to print this out and tape it to your wall while listening back to the song.

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From here out, every song will have slight variations on this, with the bass guitar moving mostly to the center of the stereo field (but the drums staying almost exclusively in the left channel throughout). It’s a mixing formula that works extremely well for these songs. Like baking a cake. A solid reliable base made with wholesome ingredients found in any kitchen (bass, guitar, drums), then topped with confectionary goodness (vibraphone, strings, horns), the icing, and of course a paraffin miniature of Jerry Butler standing on top of it all. Piano and organ, missing from “Only The Strong Survive”, are also present on a whole lot of it, usually piano in the left channel and organ in the right. This is all a very no-frills approach to a good stereo mix that foregrounds the SONG and not the arrangement itself, but if you are attentive to such things you will find yourself in aural bliss for the next hour.

“How Can I Get In Touch With You”
This song would have helped me out in a lot of situations where I was too timid to ask a girl for her phone number. Provided that I could break into song like Jerry Butler while asking her, everything would have turned out okay. Since that’s not the case I will have to resign myself to the timidity and loneliness. Still, I can revel in Jerry’s confidence. That is until he gets to “If you already have a lover… just let me be your friend.” aw c’mon Jerry, give me a break, do you really expect me to believe this? I expected better of you. After the last three songs you let loose with this hypocritical malandragem, macho double-standard bullshit disguised as sensitivity. Why, I’d sock you in the jaw, if I wasn’t so afraid of confrontation and all that.

“Just Because I Really Love You.” Love can make us into emotional masochists. Or perhaps emotional masochism leads us to love the wrong people. Or both. Or neither.

“Lost.” Another anthem, opens with blasts of trumpets heralding the arrival of an angel that is Jerry Butler’s creative genius. It’s enough to give me hope. Hope that three minutes later, there will be another great song.

These two albums are populated with classic songs that have been covered by other artists (Elvis, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield) but my favorite of these is by far “Never Gonna Give You Up”, which was given the Isaac Hayes Treatment on Black Moses. You can totally see what Isaac, with his arranger’s ear, was drawn to in this song. Slow but not dragging, that kick-drum-bass-note cardiac pulse propelled by the movement of melody and its judicious use of vibraphone and a Hammond organ just barely tucked away in the right corner of your awareness. Another narrative that makes you ask yourself if the protagonist is faithfully dedicated, hopelessly obsessed, or immersed in masochistic self-punishment. Not that that I would know anything about that.

The next song asks the profoundly basic question of “Are You Happy?” , a reflective epiphany prompted by a chance remark from a waitress at a diner. The arrangement and the lyrics are pure poetry. I’ll take the liberty of dedicating this one to all those sustaining themselves on the superficial, using their outward beauty to help them avoid looking inward. Listen closely to this song and you too can contribute to the emotional evolution of the species.

Strange, I Still Love You. Damn, these guys were seemingly incapable of writing a bad song. And every intro to every tune is just perfection, perfection.

Go Ahead, Find Yourself. For the one who doesn’t know what she wants. But it probably isn’t you. But still you would welcome her back with open arms. Perhaps. The last line hints that maybe the protagonist is wising up after all.

I Stop By Heaven. Jesus himself would weep at this one. If you happen to be celebrating these Valentine-type holidays you could do worse than just sing this one for your partner. Or call up Casey Kasem and dedicate to her or him. Played as a waltz, I could imagine Willie Nelson covering this and making me weep even more with it.

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12. Moody Woman
13. Brand New Me
14. Been a Long Time
15. Close to You Love
16. Since I Lost You Lady
17. What’s the Use of Breaking Up?
18. When You’re Alone
19. I Forgot to Remember
20. Got to See If I Can’t Get Mommy (To Come Back Home)
21. Don’t Let Love Hang You Up
22. Walking Around in Teardrops

Okay, the opening number, “Moody Woman”, tells you right away that this album is just not as strong as “The Iceman Cometh.” I don’t know, a lot of people like this song, but its too Tom Jones for me. The album treads a lot of the same ground as its predecessor, which is obviously not a bad thing. But after the heights of inspiration of their first record, it’s kind of natural that their second work together would have trouble keeping up the momentum. I don’t want to prejudice anybody against it, because it’s great in its own right. But like any drug, if you are coming off the high of “The Iceman Cometh” you may just keep on enjoying yourself with “Ice On Ice” following it immediately afterward, or you may find yourself sobering up a bit. But there is a lot of electric sitar (Danelectro??) on this one, for whatever reason, so maybe it’s time to light a joss stick and roll one for the road and forget about reading the rest of this post. There are real gems here like “Brand New Me”, “Close To You Love”, and “Walking Around on Teardrops.” And also some moves in more heavy funk directions like “Been Too Long” and “I Forgot To Remember” (not to be confused with “I Forgot to Remember To Forget”), and a frantic gospel boogie in “Don’t Love Hang You Up” that will leave you praying… for more Jerry Butler. And once again, the production on this album is always tantalizing and flawless, and for whatever reason much fuller and “present” in its mastering on this CD two-in-one collection than “The Iceman Cometh” is. But even though “The Iceman Cometh” was pieced together from different sessions and songs released separately as singles, it hangs together much more as a cohesive piece of art. It plays with the quality of having an hour-long conversation with a friend, probably a friend wiser than yourself, about the trials and tribulations of love and romance. “Ice on Ice” is a healthy dose of soul music but it simply can’t match it, in my ears anyway.

Both albums released on Mercury Records, 1969.

Happy “Dia dos Namorados,” you bastards.

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Jorge Ben – África Brasil (1976)

Jorge Ben
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África Brasil1976 Phonogram (6349 187)
2009 Reissue: Salve, Jorge! Boxset

1 Ponta de lança africano (Umbabarauma)

2 Hermes Trismegisto escreveu

3 O filósofo

4 Meus filhos, meu tesouro

5 O plebeu

6 Taj Mahal

7 Xica da Silva

8 A história de Jorge

9 Camisa 10 da Gávea

10 Cavaleiro do cavalo imaculado

11 África Brasil (Zumbi)

 

People keep asking me when this one is coming, and since it is my birthday today, I feel like giving back to the world. I could ramble on and on about how incredible this album is, or I could let it’s mysterious majestic funk speak for itself. The culmination of the preceding two albums’ forays into hermetic mysticism, alchemy, umbanda, and futebol, this album is a magnum opus and also something of a swan song — Jorge Ben would never again come anywhere close to making an album this good! I was astonished to learn last year that it has been out of print for a while. I have the old ‘Samba & Soul’ series pressing, and shared it once around the corner. I am fairly certain it has been here before too. This album is essential, essential, essential listening! And on this record, we get full musician credits:




Mirror 1 //

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