Hugh Masekela – The Chisa Years (2006)


Hugh Masekela
THE CHISA YEARS (Rare and Unreleased)
2006 BBE Records

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Review by Thom Jurek

Hugh Masekela and Stewart Levine met in 1961 at the Manhattan School of Music. They became friends, roommates, and collaborators. They began experimenting with putting together groups of African singers, studio musicians, and a fusion of South African township jive and urban gospel. The two started the CHISA label together in 1966 just before the pair scored big with Masekela’s smash, “Grazin’ in the Grass.” After the success of that track, they put more money into their label, and scored a distribution deal with Motown. The 14 sides here, on Chisa Years: 1965-1975 (Rare and Unreleased) are little known or forgotten tracks from the CHISA years. It’s true that the Crusaders recorded for CHISA in this period, but there are no tracks by them on this set — though most of the band appear here in one form or another. None of Masekela’s hits are here either. And it’s just as well. What is collected on this disc is a vibrant slew of cuts recorded by the pair. First there’s the smoking “Afro Beat Blues,” by Masekela and his band Ojah, who hailed from places like Nigeria and Ghana, that had been recruited during a successful African tour in 1973. The players had been introduced by Fela Kuti in Lagos. Other cuts here include the stunning “Mahalela,” “U Se Mcani,” “Macongo,” and “Melodi (Sounds of Home),” by Letta Mbulu. These are unreleased cuts from her debut and second albums from 1970 and ’73, respectively. The band includes four members of the Crusaders, Arthur Adams, Wayne West, Masekela, and Francisco Aguabella on percussion. The latter track is one of the most joyous and successful attempts to pull together the world of soul and township jive ever. Elsewhere, on “Amo Sakesa” by Baranta (featuring the great vocalist Miatta Fahnbulleh) funk grooves meet the music of the Soweto street in glorious aplomb. The four selections by Baranta are the most adventurous on the set. (Check the fuzz guitar, Nigerian funk bass line, and staggered drum breaks in “Ahvuomo.”) There are three tracks here by the Zulus. All of these register from the earliest sessions. This group included Mbulu as well as Caiphus Semenya, and contained seven vocalists as well as a rhythm section. Dig the hard-driving hand drum grooves in “Za Labalaba.” The polish and sophistication of the sounds in this song are literally astonishing, and prove a perfect, seamless meeting of American gospel and South African street music, but a close second is “Aredze,” with breezy Les Paul-styled guitar by Bruce Langhorn. The gospel piano in “Awe Mfana,” by the Johannesburg Street Band sidles up magnificently to the horns played by Masekela, the Crusaders’ Wilton Felder, and Wayne Henderson, and Al Abreus with tight Steve Cropper-styled guitar by Arthur Adams. In sum, there isn’t a weak moment on this entire collection. It’s appeal is wide and deep and one can only hope this is the first of many volumes of this material to appear. BBE Records has done a stellar job in making this slab available.

Bollywood Funk

Various Artists – Bollywood Funk (2001)
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Little is known about this compilation of Bollywood soundtrack cuts. The liner notes are not helpful at all – they don’t even reference the films these are from, let alone the artists. Even the discogs website has no idea. There is a review over at AMG but I prefer not to put it here because I don’t like to support their hack music journalism over there, and the review is particularly bad in it’s smarmy indie-boy kind of way. This is a great compilation, not necessarily “funk” but definitely funky and also pretty psychedelic, ranging (I’m guessing) from the mid-60s through the early 70s. Anyone who can help out with more info, please leave some comments!

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Jorge Ben – Africa Brasil (1976) [320]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some great funk here and a classic still going strong! I´ve enjoyed this album so many times and I was thinking there might be some not listened to it yet. Now´s your chance!

Review by Phil Jandovsky, All Music Guide
This 1976 album is undoubtedly one of the greatest classics of Brazilian popular music, with Jorge Ben mixing funky samba, Afro-Brazilian beats, and crunching guitars to create one of the most fascinating sounds ever recorded in Brazil. The album kicks off with the raw, energetic “Ponta de Lança Africano,” and from there on it never slows down, but continues to pile up one fiery, funky gem after the other. The samba soul and samba funk scenes of the ’70s in Brazil produced many great artists and many great recordings, fully comparable with the best soul and funk music recorded in the U.S. during the same period. Jorge Ben was the most prominent figure of this scene and África Brasil is probably the most famous of his ’70s recordings. For any person who is interested in the music of Jorge Ben, or indeed Brazilian funk in general, there is no better sample of it than África Brasil.

1 Ponta de Lanca Africano (Umbabarauma)
2 Hermes Trimegisto Escreveu
3 O Filosofo
4 Meus Filhos, Meu Tesouro
5 O Plebeu
6 Taj Mahal
7 Xica da Silva
8 Historia de Jorge
9 Camisa 10 da Gavea
10 Cavaleiro Do Cavalo Imaculado
11 África Brasil (Zumbi)

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password: vibes

Bo Diddley – The Black Gladiator (1970) Japanese press

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It’s never too late to commemorate the passing of the great Bo Diddley earlier this year. And what better choice than this little-known piece of fuzzed-out gutter funk, “The Black Gladiator.” OK, now the first thing you’re thinking is, “What’s going on with this cover art?” Don’t ask me. Maybe Bo (and not Hendrix, or Miles Davis) was actually the subject of Betty Davis’ infamous tune, “He Was A Big Freak.” But we’re not interested in fogging the memory of the renowned Mr. Diddley here, no sir. Maybe he’s just a gladiator, in addition to being a gunslinger and other occupations, and I’m reading too much into that. I am notoriously guilty of over-interpretation. This record speaks for itself. Is this a desperate attempt for an artist fifteen years into his career to “keep up with the times,” to ‘update’ his sound? Maybe. Do I care? Not really. Recasting his thang in a new musical landscape of black pride and consciousness, of psychedelic funk, does not bother me one wit. And the music is unmistakably Bo Diddley. One thing about the early 1970s, for me the apex of quality of all recorded music in every imaginable genre around the world (I’m not kidding folks.. I will take this claim to my grave and wager money on it) is that keeping up with the times wasn’t such a bad thing. The sounds of the decade age well — if they didn’t, why are the beats, textures, and tones from the 70s continually recycled, resampled, and reinvented, every decade hence? @#$% the 80’s revival. I’m staying in 1975 with my Curtis Mayfield records and this copy of The Black Gladiator. From a Japanese limited edition pressing with LP-sleeve artwork dupes. Enjoy! (My apologies for the misogyny of “Shut Up, Woman.” I tried selling Mr. Diddley on a song titled “Bo Diddley is a Radical Feminist Deconstructionist” but he refused to record it.)

P.S. Some people really hate this record. They loath it alongside Muddy Water’s “Electric Mud,” which I also like. Different strokes.

Bo Diddley – The Black Gladiator (1970) Aqui!!

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An “obituary” of sorts that circulated on a email listserv I belong to, upon news of his passing.

“No, goddammit, no. That grouchy genius can’t be dead. He was a
fucking Gunslinger. He fought monsters. He was loose, he was a surfer, he was
a man, he was a lumberjack, he would not be accused, he was looking for a
woman, he could bounce, he could twist, he was cookie-headed, he was powered by
heart-o-matic love, he was bad, he did the crawdaddy, he let them
bring it to Jerome, he shot tombstone bullets, he wore a fucking cobra snake
around his neck, he had a rock and roll nurse who gave him pills, he stopped
mumbling and talked out loud, he was my dearest rock and roll darling.

He was a lot of things, goddammit, but he can’t be dead. There’s no
fucking “Bo Diddley’s Dead” in his catalog.”