Flabbergasted Focus #2: Vintage soca and calypso

Just in time for Notting Hill carnival.  I’ve only been in London at the same time as that famous celebration once.  I caught some of the steel band showcase  with a good friend on the Friday before the real festivities get underway, and then it proceeded to rain all weekend, and I found myself doing other things.  I keep hearing it’s not the same as it used to be, but I hope to make it back someday anyway.  There’s a lot of history in that celebration.  In the meantime, I made this mix for our mutual edification.  I do hope you enjoy it in good health.

Tracklist

Ray Silvester and his Orchestra – Funk Calypso

Maestro – Reveller

Beckett – Oppression

Duke – Is It Groovy Now?

Singing Francine – She

Sparrow – Play You Mas

Shadow – Carnival Is Fete

Crazy – Back To Pan

Lord Kitchener – Dog Bite You (1978)

Lord Kitchener – Body Argument  (1965)

Ben Bowers & Bertie King’s Royal Jamaicans – Man Smart, Woman Smarter

Ray Silvester and his Orchestra – Statue

Sparrow – What Is Life

Penguin – Finger

Ed Watson – Love Is Not For Sale

Mighty Power – London Soca

Flabbergasted Freeform Radio Hour # 8

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FLABBERGASTED FREEFORM No.8
April 2014

Well it’s about time for another podcast.  I hope you enjoy it.  You can listen to it on either Mixcloud , or get yourself a direct download from these links.

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Playlist

Lord Nelson – Garrot Bounce
Alejandro Duran – Cumbia Costeña
Latin Fever – Chirrin Chirran
Sly and The Family Stone – Jigsaw Puzzle
Chubby Checker – Gypsy
Gabor Szabo – Theme From Valley Of The Dolls
Shorty Rogers and His Giants – Chega de Saudade
João
Gilberto, Miúcha, and Stan Getz – Isáura
Conjunto
Ajiruteua De Marapanim – Da Cacaia
Blue Mitchell – Flat Backing

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Nelson Sargento – Primavera
James Moody – You Got To Pay
Paco de
Lucia – Quizás, quizás, quizás
Jackson do
Pandeiro – Nortista quatrocentão
Raul Seixas, Sergio Sampaio, Edy Star – Quero Ir
Isaac  Hayes –
Chocolate Chip
Alberta Hunter – Sugar
Prince Buster – Don’t Throw Stones (or Rude Rude Rudie)
Olodum –
Vinheta Cuba-Brasil
The J.B.s – The Grunt Pt. 1
Golden Gate Quartet – Same Train
Som Três – Oh Happy Day
Maysa – Quizás, quizás, quizás
Ijahman Levi – Are We A Warrior

in 320 

Go to the PODCAST ARCHIVES PAGE

Sparrow – Sparrow Vs. The Rest (1976)

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Sparrow
Sparrow vs. The Rest
1976 Dynamic (DYLP 3001)

A1         How You Jammin’ So     4:50
A2         Music & Rhythm     4:00
A3         Saltfish     3:05
A4         Witch Doctor     4:15
A5         My Woman     3:10
B1         Fatman     4:10
B2         The Statue     4:45
B3         Pan Jam Fete     4:25
B4         We Kinda Music     4:05

Produced by Slinger Francisco
Arranged By – U. Belfast & Slinger Francisco
Backing Band –  The Troubadours
Photography – Aston Chin, Howard Moo Young
Recording engiener – N. Case
Remixed by B.Lee
Mastered by G. Goodhall
Album design – Moo Young / Butler Associates Ltd.

Recorded at Dynamic Sounds Studios, 15 Bell Road, Kingston 11
to C. Wear and J. Francique, special thanks from The Dragonaires

Manufactures by Creole Records, London

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; 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.

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Well it is too late for Notting Hill Carnival but not too late to still enjoy some calypso!

Sparrow aka Mighty Sparrow aka Slinger Francisco (with a real name like Slinger Francsico, why do you even need a stage name??) has been one of the kings of calypso music for half a century.  Although he is known for political songs too (see Capitalism Gone Mad for a great example) he is probably most famous for ribald, raunchy double entendre songs like Big Bamboo (which I’m not entirely sure if he wrote, but he definitely made famous).  This album has no political songs but a few choice cuts from the latter category, like Salt Fish and Fat Man.  Some songs just celebrate the power of good music (Music And Rhythm) and one celebrates the Afro-Caribbean folk religion of Obeah, albeit it tongue and cheek, the wickedly glorious “Witchdoctor.”   This record is also probably one of his last 1970s records of straight calypso music as he transitioned into also singing the popular Soca style, at which he is also fantastic.   His band The Dragonairres are in top form and the horn arrangements are especially great.

This album has been at the front of the stacks for a long time before I finally got around to this blog post – here’s hoping that I manage to post a couple more Sparrow albums sooner rather than later.  In fact this particular LP was a gift from the lovely Bertha Xique-Xique, to whom I owe much inspiration.  Have you noticed that this is also one of the most bad-ass album covers ever?

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24bit

password: vibes

Colombia! The Golden Age Of Discos Fuentes. The Powerhouse Of Colombian Music 1960-76

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Colombia! The Golden Age Of Discos Fuentes. The Powerhouse Of Colombian Music 1960-76
Various Artists
Soundway Records (SNDWCD008)
Every Soundway compilation is a labor of love and this one is no exception. This collection focuses on the Fuentes label of Colombia, which has been active there since the 1930s. Covering a mighty chunk of stylistic territory and a span of over fifteen years is no mean feat and it’s remarkable the collection holds together as well as it does. It has its flaws but they are relatively minor and far outweighed by the fact that Soundway is making this music available to a wider audience that to a large extent have not had much access to it.

Trust me when I say you do not want to be in the middle of a conversation between a Puerto Rican, a Cuban, a Venezuelan, and a Colombian about who was the best salsa music or, Lord have mercy, it’s origins. This release does nothing to clarify that contentious morass. In terms of the salsa and descarga jams on this collection, the influence of the Nuyorican sound is definitely in force, not too surprising given its enormous popularity during the time period, as well as merengue and mambo. And while these tracks are excellent, what really interests me here is the costeña music, the sounds from Colombia’s pacific coast with its heavily African and indigenous elements. Particularly cumbia but also fandango, mapalé and other variants, this stuff is the shit you want off this compilation. Unfortunately there just isn’t enough of it to satisfy me.

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And you thought Colombia’s finest export was.. oh, nevermind

The liner notes by Costa Rican music scholar Roberto Ernesto Gyemant start out beautifully with a compelling narrative of his experiences as a crate-digger and fanatic of Colombian music trying to track down some of these records and the people who made them. They provide a lot of historical and cultural context for which I am always grateful, and a fair amount of detail. Unfortunately that detail starts to bog the text down after a while, and is perhaps catering to musicologists and specialists. After the strong initial pages the text takes on a hurried, somewhat sloppy quality, as if the writer was rushing to meet a deadline. Exhibit A is the sentence appearing at the end of one paragraph that says merely, “Sentence about cienaguera,” obviously a note the author made to himself… I know I am an asshole for pointing that out but it cracked me up. Besides, I am dying to know what he was going to write about cienaguera, it keeps me awake at night, restless and anxious.

The text also spends a lot of time focusing on Fruku e sus Tesos (see photo below) and The Latin Brothers to the exclusion of other artists included on the disc. Some of the personalities involved in this part of Discos Fuentes story went on to have huge international hits, none of which are included on this collection. Thus in a way, for the relative outsider to this scene it is as if you are missing some important elements of “the big picture”, as I imagine that some of those smash hits are still generating royalty revenue for the artists and are were thus not available for inclusion on a comp such as this.

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The tracks included by Wganda Kenya (the farfisa-driven “Tifit hayed” and the highlife of “Elyoyo”) are pure delight but relegated in the text to the last paragraph, where we are told this sound was popular in the mid-70s but nothing else beyond that declaration. (Actually Wganda Kenya is described as relying on “a new generation of synthesizers”, none of which are present on these two tracks..) I would really, REALLY like to know more about the band Afrosound, whose sole track here closes out the compilation and brings a genuine creole fusion of African and Latin American musical greatness.

The album jackets included in the booklet are one of the best things here, a visual feast of kitschy contemporary design and layout. However the lovely sultry cover featured above appears to be unrelated to any of the music on the album, although I’m not about to complain about it’s inclusion.

On the whole this is not as organized and coherent a collection as Soundway’s Panama compilation (actually, there are three volumes now but I only have the first one and can’t comment on the others in the series). There is still plenty here to sink your teeth and ears into, so those who are interested should most certainly check this out.

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 in 320 em pee tree

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**P.S. There are typos in the archive folder that originated in the freedb (Free Database) information from which tracks and artists get downloaded within EAC. Thus, they are not my fault, I swear!! I know better than to spell Colombia with a “u”. However I will take the blame for not noticing it until now. I will probably rename the folder and rehost it, because I am obsessive-compulsive that way. Until then you can do it yourself. Just highlight the folder and press F2….

(password / senha in comments)

Arsenio Rodriguez & The Afro-Cuban Sound – Viva Arsenio! (1966) {vinyl rip}

arsenio

Released 1966 on Bang Records

The famous Cuban tres player in a post-mambo, boogalo-heavy album that seems to get better every time I listen to it. The rather goofy but fun rendition of “Hang On Sloopy” might be off-putting for some, but he follows it with one of his most popular compositions, “La Yuca.” The rest is just gold until the record stops spinning. There’s even some healthy descarga jamming on “El Elemento del Bronx.” The album is dominated by Rodriguez’s own material. The arrangements are tight, with beautiful playing and vocal work by…. by… well I have no idea who plays or sings on this, other than Arsenio. It´s a shame but the vinyl has no session information whatsoever. Aresenio’s discography is somewhat obscure to me (could it be because I am a citizen of the country that tried to destroy his through economic terrorism? hmm, could be…) , so I can’t even take a health guess as to the identity of the great female vocalist on some of these tracks. This is mostly an on-the-floor party record, but the ballad “Que No Llegue La Noche y La Pared” is a rest for your feat and a treat for your ears. Here are samples if you still aren’t convinced:

Side one:
Hang on Sloopy
La Yuca
Baila Con Migo
Que No Llegue La Noche y La Pared
La Bamba

Side two:
Tres Marias
Cielito Lindo
Para Baila El Montuno
Randy
El Elemento Del Bronx
Vaya P’al Monte

Wiki article on Arsenio –

Arsenio Rodríguez (born Ignacio Arsenio Travieso Scull, Gúira de Macurijes, 31 August 1911 – Los Angeles, 31 December 1970)[1][2] was a Cuban musician who played the tres (Cuban guitar), reorganized the conjunto and developed the son montuno, and other Afro-Cuban rhythms in the 1940s and 50s. He claimed to be the true creator of the mambo, and was an important and prolific composer who wrote nearly two hundred song lyrics.

Early life

Rodrígues was born in Güira de Macurijes in Bolondrón, Matanzas Province as the third of fifteen children, fourteen boys and one girl.[3] As a young child, Rodríguez was blinded when a horse (or a mule) kicked him in the head.

Rise to Fame

Later, he became a musician, and eventually became one of the most renowned bandleaders on the island earning him the nickname El Ciego Maravilloso (the marvellous blind man). His music emphasized Afro-Cuban rhythm as well as the melodic lead of the tres, which he played. In 1936 he played his own compositions with the Sexteto Boston, led by his cousin Jacinto Scull. This disbanded in 1937, and he joined the Septeto Bellamar of cornetist José Interián in 1938. From 1940 to 1947 he led a band in Cuba, Arsenio Rodríguez y su Conjunto.

He then went to New York where he hoped to get cured from his blindness but was told that his optic nerves had been completely destroyed. This experience led him to compose the bolero La Vida es un Sueño (Life is a dream). He went on to play with percussionist Chano Pozo and other great musical artists of what became Latin Jazz like Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, and Mario Bauza.

Arsenio’s bassist and close friend for eight years Alfonso “El Panameno” Joseph as well as other members of Arsenio’s band, such as Julian Lianos, who performed with Arsenio at the Palladium Ballroom in New York during the 1960s, have had their legacies documented in a national television production called La Epoca, expected to be released in theaters across the US in September 2008 and in Latin America in 2009. He had much success in the US and migrated there in 1952 one of the reasons being the better pay of musicians.[4]

Innovations

Rodríguez improved the sonority of the Cuban septetos by using two or three trumpets instead of one, and introduced a piano, and later a conguero (conga drummer). His bongo player played the cencerro during montunos, which raised the sound level still further.[5] These larger groups (8-12 musicians) were called conjuntos. Rodríguez also added a new repertoire and a variety of rhythms and harmonic concepts to enrich the son, the bolero, the guaracha and some fusions, such as the bolero-mambo and the bolero-son.[1] Similar changes had been made somewhat earlier by the Lecuona Cuban Boys, who (because they were mainly a touring band) had less influence in Cuba. The overall ‘feel’ of the Rodríguez conjunto was more African than other Cuban conjuntos.

Rodríguez’ claim to have invented the mambo is not really convincing, if by mambo he meant the big-band arrangements of Pérez Prado. Rodríguez was not an arranger: his lyrics and musical ideas were worked over by the group’s arranger. The compositions were published with just the minimal bass and treble piano lines. To achieve the big-band mambo such as by Prado or Tito Puente requires a full orchestration where the trumpets play counterpoint to the rhythm of the saxophones. This, a fusion of Cuban with big-band ideas, (plus some ideas derived from Stravinsky) is not found in Rodríguez, whose musical forms are set in the traditional categories of Cuban music: the bolero, the son, the guaguancó and their various fusions.[6]

Later life and death

At the end of the 1960s the mambo craze petered out, and Rodríguez continued to play in his typical style, although he did record some boogaloo numbers, without much success. As times changed, the popularity of his group declined. He tried a new start in Los Angeles. He invited Joseph to fly out to Los Angeles with him but died only a week later. Arsenio died in 1970 and his body was returned for burial to New York. There is much speculation about his financial status during his last years, but Mario Bauza denied that he died in poverty, arguing that Rodríguez had a modest income from royalties.[7]

Tributes

Of the many tributes to Arsenio Rodríguez four are of special interest. The first, in 1972, was a Larry Harlow LP Tribute to Arsenio Rodríguez, Fania 404. On this, five of the numbers had been recorded earlier by Rodriguez’ conjunto. Later, in 1994, The Cuban band Sierra Maestra recorded a CD Sierra Maestra: Dundunbanza!, World Circuit WCD 041. This had four Rodríguez numbers at full length. Jazz guitarist Marc Ribot recorded two albums made mostly of Rodríguez’ compositions or songs in his repertoire called Marc Ribot y los Cubanos Postizos and Muy Divertido!.

Arsenio Rodriguez is mentioned in a national television production called La época, about the Palladium-era in New York, and Afro-Cuban music.[1] The film discusses Arsenio’s contributions, and features some of the musicians he recorded with.[2] Others interviewed in the movie 840AM Interview include the daughter of legendary Cuban percussionist Mongo Sanatamaria – Ileana Santamaria, bongocero Luis Mangual and others.
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Technical information of vinyl transcription:

Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable / Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge / Pro-Ject Speedbox power supply -> Creek OBH-18 MM Phono Preamp -> M-Audio Audiophile 2496 soundcard. Recorded at 24-bit / 96 khz resolution to Audacity. Click Repair on very light settings to remove some clicks and pops. Track splitting in Adobe Audition 3.0. Dithered to 16-bit using iZotope M-Bit noise-shaping. Converted to FLAC and mp3 using DbPoweramp. ID tags done with Foobar2000.

n 320kbs mp3

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