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.


password: vibes

Wolfmoon – Wolfmoon (1973) (featuring Swamp Dogg)

 

Wolfmoon
Wolfmoon
1973 Fungus FB 25149

01 Cloak Of Many Colors
02 If He Walked Today
03 My Kinda People
04 If I Had A Hammer
05 People Get Ready
06 Proud Mary
07   God Bless
08 What Is Heaven For
09 Treasures That I Found
10 The Artist

Artwork By – George Reeder Jr
Coordinator – Yvonne Williams

Deadwax matrix runout info:
SIDE A: F-25149-A-RE-1-11-1
SIDE B: F-25149-B-1-11-1 p@ D PR T-2Producer – Jerry Williams Jr.

Lineage:
Fungus 25149 LP; 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 light settings, manually auditioning the output; Stereo->Mono fold down in Click Repair; 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.


A look at this cosmic album cover art leads you to speculate excitedly about the contents. Who is Wolfmoon? Is he some kind of psychedelic superhero who goes bowling with planets amidst the stars? What does his music sound like? You put the record on your turntable, half expecting squalls of Echoplex feedback guitar to fill the room and fulfill your urge for uncovering some lost psychedelic funk treasure, but what meets your ears is… slightly off-kilter southern soul. I think I use the phrase “slightly off-kilter” a lot whenever I try to describe the work of Swamp Dogg to the unfamiliar. Swamp Dogg, the musical persona of one Jerry Williams, Jr, produced this album, wrote all the songs that aren’t cover tunes, and possibly played half the instruments. And his approach, his musical gestalt if you will, has always struck me as what it would sound like if an arranger for Muscle Shoals Studio ate a quarter ounce of psilocybin mushrooms at 8 a.m. right after getting to work, and continued on as if it were just a normal day at the office. The song structures are more or less traditional, the elements all familiar to the universe of southern soul music of the 60’s and early 70’s, but there is always just enough strangeness – odd lyrics and titles, occasional embellishments of inter-dimensional lysergic audio production creeping through an arrangement like kudzu overtaking a barbecue stand – to alert the listener that something is a little bit “off.”

Williams/Dogg’s production work for other artists usually plays it a little more straight than on his own records, and Wolfmoon is no exception. So I’ll confess to some mild disappointment when I discovered that the sounds emanating from the grooves did not sound like a collection of early Funkadelic outtakes thrown into a blender with some of Otis Redding’s ashes and some paint chips from the discarded scepter of King Floyd. This is high quality soul music, but with the exception of the expansive take on “People Get Ready”, there are no ‘freakouts’ here. Since I have no idea what Wolfmoon actually looks like beyond the comic-book style cover art, I found it helps to visualize an animated film with him “in character” singing all these songs.

Almost half the songs are infused with an idiosyncratic gospel-soul religiosity, and a look at the song titles will probably help you guess which ones.  “If He Walked Today” speculates on the second coming of Christ in a way that uncomfortably reminds me of a truly awful assignment I turned in for a drama-writing class when I was a teenager in which I attempted to cast Jesus as a hippie in Greenwich Village or the Haight (can’t remember which) in 1970.  I mean that was pretty much the whole “plot,” I don’t think there was much else to it.  Wolfmoon’s track is better than my dramatic script, which for some reason I still haven’t burned in a bonfire but refuse to actually reread.  Another track, “God Bless,” is a cute observation of little kids offering nightly prayers to Deputy Dog, Elmer Fudd, and Tweety Bird.  Talking about the “off kilter”, funky gospel-soul tunes among the original compositions is a good segue-way to the cover songs.  While “If I Had A Hammer” wins my praise for being the funkiest version of that song you’re likely to come across, it’s the eight minutes of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” that is truly the centerpiece of this whole album.  I mean, all the other songs clock in at under 3 minutes, meaning that “People Get Ready” here is nearly 4x as long as any other track, so I have to believe we are meant to regard this as THE highlighted show-stopper.  With a long intro and outro vamp on one chord sandwiching Mayfield’s spiritual civil-rights anthem in the middle, it largely works.  But it is one of those things that is probably more impressive the first couple of times you hear it.  It’s a restrained kind of psychedelic freakout leading into the main tune, and I mostly applaud Swamp Dogg’s decision to remain understated rather than taking the easy approach to such an idea and just adding squalls of feedback and tape delay.  But then other times I wish there were in fact a swelling tsunami of feedback and tape delay, leading up to a crescendo that cuts off suddenly, yielding to the stately D-major / B-minor / G major progression of this immortal, uplifting tune.  Instead, the opening vamp just kind of chugs along for a few minutes and then just kind of collapses on itself.  They give the song a worthy treatment, and I’m 99% sure that it’s Jerry Williams himself doing the spoken rap of the lyrics in the middle of the track rather than Wolfmoon.  If I were grading it, I’d give it an A but not an A+.   An A+ for this kind of idea would be reserved, for example, for Baby Huey’s take on Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” which is a truly staggering  achievement of raw psychedelic soul.  Given that Baby Huey’s one and only album was produced by Mayfield, and how that track kind of stands out as a centerpiece there, I can’t help but wonder if Swamp Dogg / Jerry Williams Jr. was actually inspired to arrange “People Get Ready” this way by hearing that album, that it planted the idea of “I want to do something kind of like that!”  If so, good for him – but he doesn’t really get close to that kind of brilliance.  But really, saying that any soul/funk artist falls short of Curtis Mayfield is less of a criticism than a compliment, like saying any pop/rock artist is not quite as brilliant as Lennon/McCartney.  I’m excited to see Swamp Dogg getting more recognition in the last few years, manifesting in unexpected ways – for example, The Isley Brothers and Carlos Santana just covered his song “Total Destruction To Your Mind” on their recent collaboration, and Santana has incorporated into his live set!

As I was putting the finishing touches on my vinyl transfer of my Fungus Records original copy, I discovered that this had actually been reissued a few years ago in a very limited edition.  It was done by ‘Alive Records’ on a series of Swamp Dogg-related reissues, which I know he was personally involved with and fully endorsed.  In fact he wrote personalized liner notes for this and other releases in the series, and I’d love to see them someday – perhaps they would help shed some light on the enigma of Wolfmoon.  If you like this stuff, go and get yourself one and pick up the other Alive Records reissues while you’re at it — I have only one at the moment but it sounds pretty great.  The original Fungus Records version of this was distributed by BASF Records, the famous tape company who briefly had their own label in the 70’s. And in spite of having hardly a scratch on it, my copy is a bit noisy, which indicates cost-cutting somewhere in the laquer-cutting or manufacturing process (although it maybe have been cut at a Preswell plant, based on the matrix info).  So rather than breaking the bank to get an O.G. copy, I’d encourage folks to check out the reissue.  Plus, maybe you send me a pic of those liner notes, I’d like to read ’em.


password: vibes

Charles Wright – Rhythm and Poetry (1972)

Charles Wright – Rhythm and Poetry
1972 Warner Brothers – BS 2620
Vinyl rip in  24-bit 96 khz |FLAC |Artwork at 300 dpi

A1 Soul Train 5:03
A2 Run Jody Run 13:10
B1 Good Things 5:55
B2 Here Comes The Sun 5:05
B3 Girl, Don’t Let Me Down 4:20
B4 Just Free Your Mind 4:00

Produced by Charles Wright
Engineers: Ami Hadani (Soul Train, Good Things); Ami Hadani and Robert Appere (Here Comes The Sun, Girl Don’t Let Me Down); Lewis Peters (Just Free Your Mind); Lewis Peters and Ami Hadani (Run Jody Run).

Album edited by Nye Morton

Album cover design by Paul Bruhwiler, Inc.
Art direction by Ed Thrasher
The cover painting, “Winged Victory,” was created by scientist-artist Delbert Venerable II

 

Charles Wright – Vocals, drums on A1, A3, guitar, piano, organ
Robert “Sugarbear” Welch – guitar
Thomas Terry – Bass
Johnny “Guitar” Watson – piano on A1,
Garbriel Flemings – Trambourine on A1, piano on B3
Bobby Lexing – Tambourine on A1, maracas on B3
Bobby Sheen – Maracas on A1
Billy Richards – Maracas on A1
Harold “Peenie” Potier – drums on A2
Joe Banks – trumpet, cabasa
Gabriel Flemings – trumpet, drums on B2
James D. Meredith – trombone, horn arrangment on B3
Bobby Forte – saxophone
Yusuf Rahman – tambourines, horn arrangment on B2 and B3, clavinet on B3
Yusuf Moore – clavinet on B2
John “Streamline” Ewing and Richard Leith – trombones on B2, B3
Jackie Kelso – saxophone on B2
Freddie Hill, Melvin Moore, and Sal Marques – trombones on B3
Vanetta Fields – piano on B4
Maurice Miller – drums on B4
Clydie King, Venetta Fields, and Julia Tillman – backing vocals on B4

All rhythm arrangements by Charles Wright

Recorded at T.T.G. Recording Studio, Clover Recording Studio, and Paramount Recording Studio, Hollywood, CA


What do you do when your ensemble (The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band) loses one of the best drummers in the business, James Gadson? Well, you try and play the damn things yourself I guess. The result, on Charles Wright’s Rhythm And Poetry, is a bit like the first Funkadelic album with a concussion. It’s a fun ride but it’s loose.  Very loose.  If brain-damaged, synaptically-fried funk is your thing, you’ll love this record.  The first track, “Soul Train,” is actually jarring in the sloppiness of the drums, and before looking at the credits on the album jacket I just assumed the drummer was too inebriated to keep time.  Then when I saw it was Charles himself playing, I got a chuckle out of his emotive grunts while he did a drum fill worthy of your 12-year old cousin who just got his first trap kit for Christmas.  Thankfully drums on the second track are handled by the  more competent Harold Potier, but things remain strange when after a minute or two of sharp grooving, Charles bursts into a chorus of “Happy Birthday” for no apparent reason.  The next thirteen minutes are a wickedly dirty jam with only a smattering of lyrics about the folkloric “Jody”, the guy always running around with other men’s ladies, and some great low-key fuzzed-out guitar solos from “Sugarbear” Welch.  He uses one of my favorite guitar tones here – the sound of a stomp box pedal with a dying 9-volt battery in it!  You know Hendrix used to save those things up just to have a supply of almost-dead batteries for his favorite pedals, or so I’ve been told.  Charles is back on drums on “Good Thing,” but he redeems himself on this mid-tempo funk number.  Of course there is also a curtain of incidental percussion to mask any mistakes.  The “set a mood and see what happens” aesthetic of this “Rhythm” A-side of the album is typified in one instant on this song, at the very beginning: somebody barks at Bobby Lexing to ‘lay out’ on the maracas, and Charles, in a slow stoned drawl, retorts with “Let him shaken ’em the way he want to shake ’em…”  Brilliant.

Things do get a little more coherent on the second “Poetry” side of the LP, with more structured pieces, actual songs.  “Here Comes The Sun” is wonderful but then again George is my favorite Beatle.  Purists might chafe at Charles’ raspy vocal, but the exquisite horn arrangement is downright regal.  The closer,  “Just Free Your Mind,”  dedicated to the backup singers, is light and uplifting.  In fact the entire “Poetry” side is light and uplifting, which seems almost necessary after the relentlessly raw grooves on the “Rhythm” side.  As one of my online pals  put it when I introduced them to this record – this one is a slow-burner that just keeps on burning all the way to the end.  And I appreciate the rough edges a lot here, because in 1972 that roughness was about to slowly become an endangered quality, as funk bands tended to get tighter and tighter, outdoing each other with their instrumental chops and show-stopping arrangements.  This record is really music for the sake of it, and we’re just lucky enough to be a fly on the wall.


320 kbs

16-bit and 24-bit FLAC

password: vibes

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Magnets? How do they work?

 

 

Prince – Batdance / 200 Balloons (1989) (12″-remix)

Prince – Batdance / 200 Balloons
Vinyl rip in 24bit 192 khz |  Artwork at 300 dpi
Original release 1989
This Record Store Day release, April 22, 2017
Warner Brothers 21257-0

Scout’s honor, I swear I was already preparing this long before the news that Adam West, who introduced me and a lot of my generation to Batman and Eartha Kit with its campiest iteration, had passed away.  I was going to share it anyway because Prince would have turned  59 years old this last Wednesday,  and the 1989 Batman soundtrack  has such a mixed legacy that I imagined Robin Williams pranking him with it in the afterworld:  “Happy birthday, Prince.  I called the house DJ and asked him to play ‘Batdance’ on repeat all day long….”   The record was hyped up a lot as a “comeback” by the fickle music biz press, ironic considering that he had been putting out some of his most interesting and creative work with albums like Lovesexy and Sign O’ The Times, but those ambitious records did not take the world commercially by a Purple Rain-style storm.  When word got out that Tim Burton – who apparently was listening to those aforementioned albums while working on his Gothic reinvention of the Batman mythos – had asked Prince to put together a soundtrack, the hype machine began heralding that this high profile film was going to put Prince back in the “biggest star on earth” slot.   In the end the truth is probably best encapsulated by the phrase, “THROW IT!” from Shaun Of The Dead, when Prince’s Batman is separated from Shaun’s record collection, including several Prince LPs set aside as worth saving during a zombie apocalypse, and chosen instead to be used as a projectile weapon.  It’s a kind of distinction. Continue reading

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