Claudja Barry – Sweet Dynamite (1977) (Salsoul SRZ-5512)

Claudja Barry
Sweet Dynamite
1977 Salsoul Records SZS 5512
US Pressing

A1 Love For The Sake Of Love 7:53
A2 Sweet Dynamite 7:22
B1 Dance, Dance, Dance 6:43
B2 Live A Little Bit 3:28
B3 Why Must A Girl Like Me 7:21

Phonographic Copyright (p) – Salsoul Record Corp.
Manufactured By – Caytronics
Distributed By – Caytronics
Mastered At – Frankford/Wayne Mastering Labs

Credits

Backing Vocals – Claudia Schwarz, Roberta Kelly, Stefan Zauner
Bass – Dave King, Gary Unwin
Drums – Keith Forsey
Keyboards – Thor Baldursson
Percussion – Jorg Evers, Jurgen S. Korduletsch
Saxophone – Pepe Solera

Arranged By – Jorg Evers
Mastered By – Jose Rodriguez
Mixed By – Tom Moulton
Photography By – Michael Doster
Producer – J. S. Korduletsch
Written-By – Evers, Korduletsch
Engineer – Jurgen Koppers, Peter Ludemann

 Notes
An original Lolilipop Recording.
Manufactured and Distributed by Caytronics Records.
A Cape Music Company.

1977 Salsoul Record Corporation

Deadwax inscriptions:
SZS 5512A-REV1 TM/JR
SZS 5512B-REV1X TM/JR

LINEAGE INFO
Salsoul SZS 5512 vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; AUdioquest King Cobra cables; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair on very light settings, manually auditioning the output, and often turned off for large sections of this record; further clicks removed with Adobe Audition 3.0; dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.


Forgot protest music, forget Eminem – disco is the best weapon against your classic-rock / “new” country-listening Trump supporter neighbor and his or her dreams of a white ethnostate. It has all the right elements to churn their schizo-paranoid, alternate fact-fueled persecution complex – this music was a conspiracy of people of color, The Gays, women, and Europeans to threaten their hegemony and prevent bands named after notorious concentrations of normative whiteness, like Boston or Kansas, from reaching the top of the Billboard charts.  Absent an explicit political message, it espoused an ideology of equal parts tolerance and hedonism, of the pure physicality of getting everybody off their sofas and away from watching the squares on Hollywood Squares, commanding them to get up and mix all their sweaty limbs together in one gelatinous mass of grooving, gyrating joy over the simple gratitude of still being alive after Vietnam, surviving Nixon, and paying obeisance to unrelenting 4/4 beats and the deliverance of music.  Sure, the Khmer Rouge was committing genocide with the complicity of agents of “Western Democracy” and the CIA was preparing itself to try and crush the Sandinistas, but for a few hours every night, in cities around the world, DJs would spin records like this almost defiantly funky debut album by Claudja Barry – a Jamaican-born, Canadian raised singer, professionalized in London before winding up in West Germany, where she married this album’s producer and principal songwriter, Jurgen Korduletsch.

And what a hard-hitting debut record this is, thanks in no small part to the aggressive mixing of Tom Moulton, who worked closely with mastering engineer Jose Rodriguez. Their work is a great example of judicious and creative use of compressors and limiters to create records where everything seemed crisp, loud, and punchy but without squashing everything to bits, still leaving room for the dynamics to breath.  The way the mix on a song like “Love For The Sake Of Love” is built up layer by layer is very satisfying.  Not especially innovative, but satisfying – it could be a didactic example in an audio production class of how to make  music that is as pleasurable  for listening as it is dancing. It is notable that the US pressing has a different track sequence from the European release and is missing several songs found there, such as the questionable cover of Steely Dan’s “Do It Again.”  I don’t know what the story is but I can imagine Donald Fagen litigating against Salsoul or something. Surely a disco-funk version of his song drove him nuts, and they even messed with his lyrics!  It was released as a single, so without knowing the chronology I suppose it could have been added to those Euro releases later (I don’t think it was mixed by Moulton, either), but given the 31-minute running time of the US version, it sure feels like it was cut.  In my personal opinion, you’re not missing much.  The first four tracks on this album are all monsters, with the solid and steady drum work of Keith Forsey (who worked with Giorgio Moroder among others) laying down the bedrock.  The instrumental track “Live A Little Bit” seems to be intentionally reminding us of Claudia’s island roots.  It’s pleasant but doesn’t really go anywhere.  “Why Must A Girl Like Me” is the weakest cut here, eschewing the hard edge of the earlier tracks for a more pop sound.  Mileage may vary and I would forgive you for stopping the record and putting on something else at this point.  And hey, if anybody knows who played guitars on this record, leave a comment – the rhythm guitar work here is excellent, as are small tasty but tiny lead lines on the album’s opener.  The band (as credited on reissues, no personnel is listed on the LP jacket) is comprised of a hodgepodge of US and Berlin-scene musicians as well as Italian sax player Pepe Solera.

The CD format in general has not been kind to Tom Moulton – most of the Salsoul catalog has recently been manhandled by reissue labels who brickwall the shit out of everything they release.  This album may have been spared the so-called ‘loudness wars’, at it seems it was reissued once in 1993 (before everything began to be mastered for iPods or car stereos) and then only in Japan in 2014, where people still care about sound quality.


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Gap Band – The Gap Band III (1980)

The Gap Band – The Gap Band III
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/96kHz |  Art scans at 300 dpi
Genre: funk, disco | 1980
Mercury Records ~  SRM-1-4003

When I Look In Your Eyes     4:58
Yearning For Your Love     5:41
Burn Rubber On Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)     5:16
Nothin’ Comes To Sleepers     5:34
Are You Living     4:24
Sweet Caroline     3:21
Humpin’     5:06
The Way     4:46
Gash Gash Gash     5:18 Continue reading

Patrice Rushen – I Was Tired Of Being Alone (1982) [12″-inch single]

Patrice Rushen – I Was Tired Of Being Alone
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/96kHz | FLAC |  Art scans at 300 dpi
353MB (24/96) + 107MB (16/44) + 48 MB (320) |  Genre: funk / soul / disco | 1982
Elektra Records ~ K 13184 T

While I had been meaning to upload some more Prince extended 12″ singles in time for the anniversary of his passing last week,  I’ve been busy with other things and I had “Around The World In A Day” ready and in the queue.  As it turns out, I also picked up a couple 12″-inchers of his that I was missing at the latest Record Store Day along with other goodies in my first time visiting that crazy debacle in several years.  However, I’ve also been wanting to do a run of Patrice Rushen material for a very long time as well, and had this single simmering on the proverbial stove.  I got this from an independent seller at Camden market in London, because for me every day is record store day.  Why am I rambling on, conflating these two seemingly different people?  There’s an interesting link – Patrice helped Prince program his analog synths for his debut Warner Brothers album, is rumored to play on a couple tracks, and his song “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad” from his second LP was allegedly pitched to her, and she turned it down.  The young Prince may have had a bit of a crush on her, and who can blame him?  He was taller than her, and that didn’t happen too often…  In any case, she was destined to get together with me instead, and be my wife after Gal Costa dumped me.  And she would be too, if the mailman didn’t have a secret agenda against me, hoarding all my letters in a basement next to his stockpile of C4 that he bought off the dark net.  I would say something, but I’m too scared of him.

Continue reading

MFSB – Summertime (1976)

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MFSB – Summertime
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/96 kHz | FLAC | m3u|  Artwork
800 MB (24/96) + 330MB (16/44) + 105 MB (320 kbs)| Funk, Disco, Soul| 1976
Philadelphia International Records ~ PZ 34238


Picnic in the Park (Gamble & Huff) 4:10
    Summertime (George Gershwin) 4:53
   Plenty Good Lovin’ 4:33 (Gamble & Huff)
    Sunnin’ and Funnin’ (John Whitehead, Gene McFadden, Victor Carstarphen) 4:14
    Summertime and I’m Feelin’ Mellow (John Whitehead, Gene McFadden, Victor Carstarphen) 4:00
   I’m on Your Side 3:30 (Gamble & Huff)
   Hot Summer Nights 4:25 (Gamble & Huff)
    We Got the Time (John Whitehead, Gene McFadden, Victor Carstarphen) 4:41

Bobby Eli, Norman Harris, Reggie Lucas, Roland Chambers, T.J. Tindall – guitar
Anthony Jackson, Ron Baker – bass
Leon Huff, Lenny Pakula, Eddie Green, Harold Ivory Williams – keyboards
Earl Young, Karl Chambers, Norman Farrington – drums
Larry Washington – percussion
Vincent Montana, Jr. – vibraphone
Zach Zachary, Tony Williams – saxophone
Don Renaldo and his Strings and Horns
Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson, Evette Benton, Gene McFadden, John Whitehead, Victor Carstarphen – backing vocals


Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair, manually auditioned, and individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.


02 - Back

Even when I attempt a timely, topical post, it’s still kind of late.  I mean, I could be posting a Bobby Hutcherson album recorded by Rudy Van Gelder (two birds with one stone), or something from my stash of calypso and soca in solidarity with Notting Hill carnival (happening right now).  But instead I am bringing a soundtrack for the summer, which in the 24/7 stress culture of over-planning and anxiety in the United States is unofficially drawing to a close, even though there’s nearly another month of it.   But then again, we have a pretty strong South American readership at this blog, and quite a few friends in Australia, and they’re summer hasn’t even BEGUN yet, so really I’m just trying to cover all the bases here.

M.F.S.B. is most famous for having given us the immortal theme song to the show Soul Train (whose title was another acronym, T.S.O.P, for The Sound of Philadelphia), but you’ve also no doubt heard them on dozens of hits since they were the studio house band for Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International label.  Sharing members with the Trampps and the Salsoul Orchestra, the ensemble has had as many as forty people pass through its ranks.  Aside from the Latin disco-tinged spin on the Gershwin tune that gives the album its name, the songwriting and production credits are nearly evenly split, with Gamble & Huff taking half and Gene McFadden, John Whitehead, and Victor Carstarphen providing the rest.  Of the latter, McFadden and Whitehead had given us the O’Jay’s ‘Backstabbers‘ and would deliver their own ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now‘  a few years later, while Carstarphen gave us “Wake Up Everybody” from Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, among others.  The first cut, Picnic In The Park, was a minor chart hit off this record.  To me it seems like a strange choice for a single, but that’s because I find the song better suited for the impending doom of a tense movie scene, setting up a child abduction or drive-by shooting, rather than a soundtrack for a relaxing summer day.  I guess I’ve always been one of those glass-half-empty types?  It’s a cool tune though, and the guitar riff engages in some accidental ska rhythms. (Incidentally, the name of my band in high school was Accidental Ska…)

While not as memorable as, say, their Music Is The Message album, it’s a fun spin of summer-themed tracks.  And you can populate them with your specific memories and meanings, as their almost-instrumental format – featuring choruses with vocals, but no verses – lends itself to daydreaming.  In fact, as with some of their other LPs, I can’t help feeling like some of these were half-finished tunes intended for singers on the Philadelphia International label which never came to fruition.  In an parallel universe, then, some of these songs were massive smash hits that everyone knows, and you are using this record for your next karaoke party (because it is a known fact that karoake is popular all throughout the multiverse).


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Mass Production – Believe (1977)

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MASS PRODUCTION
Believe
1977 Cotillion Records SD 9918

Free And Happy     5:20
I Believe In Music     6:46
Being Here     6:20
We Love You     0:40
Keep My Heart Together     3:58
Cosmic Lust     5:53
Superlative     4:33
People Get Up     5:43

Bass – Kevin Douglas 
Drums – Ricardo Williams   
Keyboards – Tyrone Williams
Lead Guitar – Rodney Phelps
Lead Vocals – Larry Marshall , Tiny Kelly 
Percussion – Emanual Redding  
Rhythm Guitar – Coy Bryant
Saxophone – Gregory McCoy
Trumpet – Otis Drumgole

Producer – Ed A. Ellerbe
Engineer – Dave Whitman, Michael Frondelli
Design [Logo] – Gerard Huerta
Mastered By – Dennis King
Photography By – Anthony Loew
Art Direction – Abie Sussman

Produced for Pepper Productions
Recorded & mixed at Electric Lady Studios, New York
Mastered at Atlantic Studios, New York, N.Y.
Manufactured by Atlantic Recording Corporation


Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed manually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.


I know I am badly overdue for some Brazilian posts, but I feel a responsibility to write stuff and give half-informed commentary on those, and I’ve been just barely treading water in real life and unable to give the kind of TLC that the blog deserves.  So I’m opting to post one or two things that are just good fun while I catch up on work.  I don’t know why I’m worried about making sloppy half-assed posts of Brazilian music, since the Olympic committee doesn’t seem too stressed about things like preparing rooms for the athletes or non-toxic shit-free water, but let’s not get off track here.  Except that I will take the opportunity to say, if any Olympians are reading this, I have a friend with a kitchenette to rent out in Rio, right in the Copa a few blocks from the train.  He’s a really great guy.  Gymnists are preferred, not because of any fetish or anything, but because y’all are small and he can fit more of you in there.  Just call +55 21 2224-4607 and ask for Eduardo.

02 - Believe back

Now on to this record from this ten-piece band from Virginia.  Any “disco sucks” people who stumbled on this blog can just click through this and move on, unless of course you are willing to open your mind and trust me that this record will neither turn you gay nor black (the root fear of most disco-phobia).  Mass Production was also a solid funk and soul outfit but they had their own approach to rescuing dance music from the blahs, and that was to show ’em how it’s really done.  A couple of these cuts are unarguably disco, and they jam so much you’ll want to call them Smuckers.  I don’t know if maybe its the difference between a band playing a disco groove, and a bunch of session musicians assembled by a producer, but I like it.  On this record Mass Production reminds me of Gary Tom’s Empire on the upbeat cuts and maybe Frankie Beverly & Maze on the mid-tempo material (their Firecracker-era stuff often gets compared to Brass Construction).  Singer Tiny Kelly adds a nice touch, especially to “Being There”, salvaging a schmaltzy ballad with genuine feeling (“long as you’re here/nothing matters” is wonderfully succinct).  She’s no Minnie Ripperton, and tends to go off pitch when reaching for some of the high notes, but in this age of Auto-tuned everything, this imperfection is actually kind of refreshing.  Note: I’m referring to the original use of the Auto-tune plug-in, and not the modulated effect that sounds like a malfunctioning Vocoder that was on every modern R&B song for a while.   The actual purpose of Auto-tune was to correct the pitch of vocalists in the studio, to greater or lesser degrees depending on their skill and on just how sterile and slick a production was desired.  I’m only some anonymous voice on a blog, but to my ears, when literally everything sounds “perfect” all the time, I find myself profoundly bored in about two minutes flat.    So, bring on the slightly sharp or flat high notes, Tiny Kelly, and remind me that you are all living and breathing humans making these glorious sounds.  I can handle it.

Most people are going to gravitate to the rump shakers on the disc, though.  I am pretty sure the first track, Free and Happy, was the inspiration for one of Weird Al Yankovic’s early pastiche singles, Gotta Boogie.   The secret weapon of this album is the instrumental cut called “Cosmic Lust,” which nowadays sounds like it could be a brand of synthetic cannabis (melon-flavored and with aphrodisiac properties), but in 1977 was actually a hit single off this record and huge club favorite.  Love these warbly analog synths from the space age, and the saxophone solo by Gregory McCoy (who wrote the song) is nice too.

Cosmic Lust

Mass Production’s first album was in 1976, but the idea for the band was actually hatched during some house parties thrown by Frankfurt school theorists Max Horkheimer (d.1973) and Theodore Adorno (d.1969).  The two were renowned for throwing wild get-togethers involving Hollywood celebrities, music luminaries, piles of cocaine, and stag films on 8mm.    Reportedly after hearing Eddie Kendrick’s 1973 solo album, Horkheimer confessed from his death bed that one of his main regrets in life was that he was about to miss one of the crowning achievements of human creativity, the efflorescence of disco funk.  Entrepreneur and producer Ed A. Ellerbe, a regular attendee of the Frankfurt exiles’ bacchanals,  assembled the group Mass Production in his honor.

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B.T. Express – 1980 (1980)

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B.T. Express
1980
Released 1980, Columbia JC 36333
 
 
 
Takin’ Off     3:52
Heart Of Fire     3:52
Does It Feel Good     5:43
Give Up The Funk (Let’s Dance)     6:25
Closer     3:35
Have Some Fun     5:23
Better Late Than Never     5:33
Funk Theory     4:22
 
Produced for Mighty M Productions
Mastered at Sterling Sound, N.Y.C.
Recorded and mixed at Counterpoint Studios, N.Y.C.
Additional recording at Music Grinder Studios, L.A.
Additional mixing at The Hit Factory, N.Y.C.
B.T. Express is:
Carlos Ward – Alto Saxophone, Flute, horn arrangments on ‘Give Up The Funk’
Rick Thompson – Guitar
Wesley “Pike” Hall, Jr. – Lead Guitar, Vocals
Bill Risbrook – Tenor Saxophone, Vocals
Dennis Rowe – Percussion, Vocals
Jamal Rasool – Bass, lead vocals
Additional musicians:
Buddy Williams – Drums
Gary Scott –  Arrangements and conducting, keyboards, synthesizer
Howard Westley “Butch” Stevens – keyboards
Recorded and mixed by Alan Meyerson and Gary Chester
Additional recording engineers – Gary Skardina, Ryan Ulyate
Assistant engineers – Ben Wisch, Karl Westman, Michael Ruffo
Mixed by – Gerry Block
Mastered by Greg Calbi
Additional production and arranging – Morrie Brown
Concertmaster – Marcy Dicterow
Executive Producer (supplied the coke) – Fred Frank
Barcode and Other Identifiers
    Matrix / Runout: AL 36333
    Matrix / Runout: BL 36333

If you’ve never listened to a record by B.T. Express, this probably isn’t the place to start.  Not that it is a bad album, it’s just not a really good album – but the good cuts on it are pretty damn good.  The quintessential 1970s funk sound of the band’s classic years is being “updated” for a new era here, complete with futuristic themes in the cover art and a little bit of the music.  Take the opening cut, “Taking Off!”, which appears to be about getting an aerobic workout in outer space.  It’s important to stay healthy in zero gravity, after all.   This song only becomes listenable after about the two-minute mark, when a blast-off of delay on the vocals signals that it’s time for the Express’ best asset, slinky horn lines.  Over all, though, the song is pretty awful, flirting with a “yacht rock” sound that is absurdly becoming hipster-trendy and undergoing a “revival” by certain contemporary music artists  who want to argue for it’s musical sophistication while they tell their audiences not to yell out during concerts or show up in football jersey’s because that’s too low-rent for their wine connoisseur pretensions.  Seriously, “yacht rock” and AOR are the new crate-digging frontier?  What’s next, Madlib remixes of Barry Manilow tracks?  Sorry but I’ll pass and wait for the next fetish they come up with, I ain’t biting on this revival.

Oh right, I was discussing a B.T. Express album.  Well, the Michael McDonaldisms get put away and things get more enjoyable.  There are a lot of non-band members on this record, most likely assigned to it by Columbia  after their previous album failed to do much on the charts.  There is something shameless about the interference in the band’s work ethic here, and the attempts at FM-crossover hooks in the choruses doesn’t always work for me.  I mean the second track is called “Heart Of Fire,” for Pete’s sake.  It’s almost like it was intended to confuse a slightly drunk person at a jukebox looking to for Earth Wind & Fire’s “That’s The Way Of The World” aka Hearts Afire.  Aside from the title, though, the similarity ends there.  It’s a good disco-funk burner, and has subtle poetry in lines like, “But my love for you, it keeps on comin’ and comin’ and comin’ and comin’…”    The third song, however, sounds to my ears like almost a direct theft of the tune “Don’t Hold Back” by Chanson to a degree that would even embarrass  Robin Thicke and Pharell.  I can’t objectively say anything about this tune.

The big track that people remember from this album, the one that charted, is “Give Up The Funk,” which sports another profoundly unoriginal title.  Thankfully there are no Parliament ripoffs to be found here, and no references to “the bomb,” as the sound is 100% B.T. Express with an updated sound, including the ray gun ‘pew pew pew’ of electric tom tom drums.  The tune also brings back the Express’s best trademark:  long, darkly-hued horn phrases used to punctuate the jams in a an understated  way, as if Maceo Parker took a few Valium and was trying not to be noticed off somewhere near the back of the stage.  Sax player Carlos Ward may have shunned the spotlight, but it’s the big failing of this record – and evidence of typical major label short-sightedness – that the one and only track that he arranges is also the only one to be a hit.  The others are all arranged by outsiders Morrie Brown and Gary Scott.  It should be noted that this cut contains an unusual spelling, “F-F-U-F-U-N-K”, which the band determined was the way our Alien Overlords were going to spell their favorite genre of music, due to their leader having a chronic stutter.

Side Two opens with the ballad “Closer,” the first ballad of the album.  I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago about how so many albums from this period would open with a tight, upbeat song for four minutes to get you dancing, then on the second track they would go all Barry White.  Too soon, man, not even Barry moves that fast.  So bonus points to B.T. Express for holding back until the second side.  This track is melodic and smooth, but not overdoing either one of those qualities.  The best thing about it is a completely nonsensical saxophone solo at the end, which begins each bar all Grover Washington but ends all Eric Dolphy.  What would Barry think of that?  Barack?

“Have Some Fun” is a good mid-tempo roller-skating tune, and the only time they dust off the old Hammond organ that featured so prominently on earlier albums.  Again, the chorus sounds written by committee, a formulaic hook that is pretty forgettable an hour later.   It has a nice breakdown with cool riffing on flute, organ, and guitar that makes me pretty happy, though.  It’s probably been sampled a bunch of times.   The next song, “Better Late Than Never,” probably could have just gone with “never,” I don’t have much to say about this tune either.  In fact you could probably just stop the record after “Have Some Fun” and preserve a better memory of this album, because the closer “Funk Theory” is pretty bad.  While  putting together this post I noticed that it seems reasonably popular on YouTube, so what the hell do I know?  The title sort of says it all, it’s as if a bunch of number crunchers wrote a program in DOS that would churn out FM-friendly funk hits, with lyrics that would look better on a chalk-board written a hundred times by an errant, unfunky student.

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