Roy Ayers Ubiquity – He's Coming (1972) Verve 2009

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Roy Ayers Ubiquity
HE’S COMING
Released 1972 (Polydor PD 5022)
This REISSUE, DATE UNKNOWN

1 He’s A Superstar 5:35
2 He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother 4:04
3 Ain’t Got Time 2:53
4 I Don’t Know How To Love Him 4:02
5 He’s Coming 6:20
6 We Live In Brooklyn Baby 3:43
7 Sweet Butterfly Of Love / Sweet Tears 5:20
9 Fire Weaver 3:40

Arranged By – Harry Whitaker, Roy Ayers
Backing Vocals – Carol Smiley, Gloria Jones, Victoria Hospedale
Bass – John Williams (8) (tracks: 1 to 5, 7 to 9), Ron Carter (tracks: 6)
Congas – Jumma Santos
Drums – David Lee, Jr.
Drums, Percussion – Billy Cobham
Electric Piano, Organ, Vocals – Harry Whitaker
Guitar – Bob Fusco (tracks: 6), Sam Brown (2) (tracks: 1 to 5, 7 to 9)
Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Sonny Fortune
Strings – Selwart Clarke
Vibraphone, Organ, Vocals – Roy Ayers

Producer – Ed Kolis (tracks: 6), Myrnaleah Williams
Engineer – Rudy Van Gelder
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This is probably the least ubiquitous of the Roy Ayers Ubiquity albums. Much raw than later efforts, and pretty trippy with a Jesus-freak vibe saturating a lot of the tunes It’s not really a concept album, though, but almost. It includes a cover of a tune from Jesus Christ Superstar (“I Don’t Know How To Love Him”) and the famous Hollies tune “He’s Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” which has been covered by seemingly everyone since it was first recorded, including Cher the year before Ayers. But Donny Hathaway also recorded in 1971, and I’d like to think Roy and Co. were listening to Donny and not Cher when they thought of this arrangement. Keyboardist Harry Whitaker also arranges two songs, including his own “We Live In Brooklyn Baby” which is the strongest, leanest, and song on the album.

And oh yeah, Billy Cobham is pounding the skins on this album. He is playing in stealth mode, however, almost hard to believe he had just joined up with the bombastic Mahavishnu Orchestra or that his own over-the-top ‘Spectrum’ was in the works. Here, he behaves himself. The whole records alternating frantic-mellow dynamic is a welcome holiday-season elixir, and the title track features dueling-keyboard work from Whitaker and Ayers that is undelicately precious.



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Doug Carn – Infant Eyes (1971)

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Doug Carn
“Infant Eyes”
Released 1971 on Black Jazz Records (BJ/3)

Welcome 1:15
Little B’s Poem 3:50
Moon Child 7:56
Infant Eyes 9:50
Passion Dance 5:58
Acknowledgement 8:45
Peace 4:30

Doug Carn – piano, electric Piano, organ
Jean Carn – vocals
Bob Frazier – flugelhorn, trumpet
George Harper – flute, tenor, saxophone
Al Hall Jr. – trombone, trombone
Henry Franklin – bass
Michael Carvin – drums

Produced by Gene Russell

Although he recorded a 1969 album in a trio setting for Savoy (which I’ve never heard), Doug Carn is of course most famous for his relationship with the independent Black Jazz label. His albums on that imprint may be single-handedly responsible for the label’s canonical status in Afrocentric spiritual jazz. They are remarkable for many reasons, not least of which is the presence of innovative lyrics sung by his then-wife Jean Carn, who not unlike Abbey Lincoln used her voice as part of the ensemble arrangements rather than as a vocalist with a backup band. The communal family vibe is accentuated by the beautiful album cover photography and the opening tune Little B’s Poem; together with the cover photo, I feel like I knew their daughter and wonder where she is now and how she feels about all the musical attention today. While the following albums from the Doug and Jean Carn would push further with original material, this first album is noteworthy for it’s reworking of compositions by jazz heavyweights that they admired – Bobby Hutcherson, Horace Silver, Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, and Wayne Shorter. In particular, adding lyrics to that material and making the compositions into something else is the big achievement here.

I have a repress vinyl of this that sounds pretty good and began to mess around with a digital rip of it, but am unsure whether or not to keep working on it. This CD pressing from 1997 sounds okay but the second side (of the original LP) suffers from nasty wow and flutter from whatever source tape they used. This was the first appearance of this album on CD and I am not sure if there has been any other remastered versions since, but I kind of doubt it. In fact last year somebody claiming to have a set of Black Jazz master tapes was selling the whole bundle on Craig’s List for a hefty sum; the auction was dubious as they were comprised of 1/2″ reels, which even for a studio on a budget in the early 70s would have been a substandard format, and claimed to come with full reproduction rights. Most likely the reels were production copies or just plain counterfeit, the listing was not online long before it was either met with an offer or taken down. Hopefully that doesn’t mean that we’ll be seeing a new series of reissues mastered from 1/2-inch tape.. Unfortunately a few of the other extant Doug Carn reissues have the same wow-and-flutter problem. Badly stored tapes, damaged playback equipment, sloppy transferring, or all of the above, it doesn’t really matter – the end result is that this precious, important music hasn’t received the treatment that it merits. But the most important thing is that it is still available and people can hear it. Since the reissued vinyls were most certainly just the CD master with an R$AA equalization curve applied, there isn’t much point in having both versions except for purely fetishistic reasons. Unless I can manage to get my hands on original vinyl pressings, they are however all we’ve got..

The liner notes by Doug Carn are a treasure. Written just for the reissue, they have a remarkable amount of detailed recollections for being composed more than thirty years after the recordings, showing just what a special time this was for everyone involved. While this is not my favorite of the Carn albums on Black Jazz, it is unique and on its own it is a great record. The title cut, which according to the notes was the first fruits of Doug’s experience with writing lyrics to other peoples’ music, stands out as the most fully realized work here.

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VA – Rubber Soul Clap, Volume 1 (2010)

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Various Artists – Rubber Soul Clap, Volume 1
Private pressing 2010
Flabbergasted Vibes Special Products (FBV-01)

This fun little compilation was something I had put together as a holiday gift for a friend last year, with promises to put together a second volume that is still unfinished. The idea should be pretty obvious – exploring the long arm of influence of the fabulous foursome into the furthest reaches of funkiness. They shall be named in the interest of this blog surviving a little longer, nor shall any song titles be listed here other than in the back cover art above. Some of the selections are well-known, even over-played, others much less so. Lots of cool stuff here, but I think The Crusaders probably steal the show. I hope you enjoy it, and – who knows? – maybe Volume 2 will see the light of day before year’s end…

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for complete liner notes and rare photos send a SASE to my PO Box in the Kayman Islands and a cashier’s check for $200.

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Juju – Chapter Two: Nia (1974) Strata- East – Black Fire 24/96khz vinyl

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JuJu – Chapter Two: Nia

Originally released on
Strata-East – SES-7420 in 1974
This repressing, Black Fire Records (date unknown)

To find peace, you must BE it.
– Ngoma Ya Uhuru, “Complete the Circle”

1 Introduction 2:40
2 Contradiction (For Thulani) 5:10
3 Black Experience 3:44
4 Nia (Poem: Complete The Circle) 8:36
5 The End Of The Butterfly King (Poem: Things Comin’ Along) 6:10
6 Black Unity 15:58

Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Percussion – Plunky Nkabinde
Bells, Vocals,Poetry – Ngoma Ya Uhuru
Congas – Simbo
Drums, Congas, Whistle – Babatunde
Electric Bass – Phil Branch
Piano, Shekere, Percussion – Al-Hammel Rasul
Vibraphone, Percussion – Lon Moshe

Engineer – Tom Williams
Liner Notes – Thulani Nkabinde

Arranged by Plunky Nkabinde
Art Direction, Photography, Layout – Collis Davis

Recorded June, 1974 at Eastern Recording Studios, Richmond, Virginia

Video Playback Equipment: Center For Puerto Rican Studies, New York City
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Video playback equipment?? I wish I know what that was all about. Presumably it involved some heady stuff at the The East, the collectively-run tiny jazz club / pedagogical outreach / Afrocentricity home base for so much great music that ended up released on the associated Strata-East record label. (The Center for PR Studies was and still is part of Hunter College and linked to the CUNY system).

“JUJU” was the name of the ensemble that would become the funk-jazz-fusion outfit known as ‘Oneness of Juju’. Their first two albums were made for the famed Strata-East label. The first one dipping from the well of free jazz outfits like the Art Ensemble of Chicago, while this album goes further into Afro-centric themes with layers and layers of percussion, a few unrelentingly-groove-based compositions, and poetry over a couple tunes, very much in the spirit of early 70s spiritual-jazz sociopolitical-revolutionary-love and political fire music. Their take on Pharaoh Sanders ‘Black Unity’ is frenzied — two electric bass guitars giving it a heavy fusion sound (although they are the only electric instruments featured). Drummer ‘Babatunde’ definitely has jazz chops but sometimes he sounds like Billy Cobham on on a tight budget, something about the way he tunes his kit and his heavy hands. The couple of drum solos he takes are a little weird to my ears but when all the rest of the percussionists kick in it starts to gel very nicely. You can actually hear the band transitioning from the more free-jazz, heavily AEoC-inspired first album to their leaner jazz-funk identify as Oneness of Juju, with this album acting as a spiritual bridge between them. The radical spaces created around The East saturate this album, and if anyone needed convincing that those messages are still relevant they need only open a newspaper or look out in the streets.

“A new day is coming. A new day is here. Seize the time … everything comes in time… I don’t believe in time. Only change. Change the time. It’s ours now brothers, sisters. It’s ours now if we use it. There is no time. Only rhythm and change. There is no time, only rhythm and change. Only change. Only change. Change.”

These Black Fire vinyl repressings are, like so many vinyl repressings, a bit inconsistent. You will definitely notice the surface noise in some of the quiet passages , which there is no way of removing without leaving digital artifacts much more offensive to the ear. But the majority of the album has the band playing fairly loud, and so the surface noise really doesn’t bother me much. If it bothers you, I’ll be happy to refund your money.

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Leon Thomas – Full Circle (1973) (24-96khz vinyl rip)

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Leon Thomas – Full Circle

1973 Flying Dutchman (FD-10167 A/B-R)

1 Sweet Little Angel (B.B. King, J. Taub) 4:59

2 Just In Time To See The Sun (Carlos Santana, Gregg Rolie, Michael Shrieve) 2:58

3 It’s My Life I’m Fighting For (Neil Creque) 10:10

4 Never Let Me Go (Joe Scott) 2:28

5 I Wanna Be Where You Are (A. Ross, L. Ware) 4:22

6 Got To Be There (Elliot Willensky) 4:27

7 Balance Of Life (Peace Of Mind) (Leon Thomas, Neil Creque) 7:02

8 You Are The Sunshine Of My Life (Stevie Wonder) 5:47

9 What Are We Gonna Do? (Leon Thomas) 5:56

incomplete credits from `Discogs` website — full credits are in the LP jacket

Bass – Richard Davis

Berimbau, percussion – Sonny Morgan

Drums – Pretty Purdie, Herbie Lovelle

Guitar – Joe Beck, Lloyd Davis

Percussion – Richard Landrum

Piano – Neal Creque

Saxophone – Pee Wee Ellis

Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Jimmy Owens

Flute – Joe Farrell

Vinyl original pressing ; 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 32-bit float s 96khz; Click Repair light settings, additional clicks and pops removed in Audition ; ID Tags done in foobar2000 v.1.0.1 and Tag & Rename. For 16 bit/ 44.1 khz version, additional processing in iZotope RX Advanced.

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This is probably one of Leon Thomas’ lesser-known albums, and I can see why. Not that it’s bad, it just completely bizarre by virtue of its utter normality. Putting this album on the turntable for the first time was a jarring experience for me, because I would never have envisioned the singer I know through Pharaoh Sanders’ band – the guy who innovated “jazz yodeling” as a technique all his own — covering songs from B.B. King, Santana, The Jacksons, and Joe Scott (writer of “Never Let Me Go” and also responsible for the classic “Turn On Your Love Light.”) The title of the album, Full Circle, might indicate a return to R&B and soul-music roots for Thomas. The album cover, which has him pimped out in bad-ass blaxploitation-soundtrack garb, does nothing to clarify this mysterious record.

The first time I played it, I thought it was a confused, incoherent mess of songs. It probably still is that, but over time I’ve come to enjoy it quite a bit for what it is. According to Discogs database, there were two versions released in quick succession with different track running order — according to this, I have the second of those two. They also seem to have been issued in the same year — it seems like maybe Flying Dutchman also didn’t know how to market this stylistic jumble of tunes and tried messing around with them. I would be curious to hear from somebody who has the other version, as I have one major gripe with the mix on some tunes: the songs that have strings have the strings mixed WAY too loud, overpowering everything else.

The album leads off with “Sweet Little Angel”, which oddly enough seems to have been the most played track on my copy if the surface noise is any evidence — I am thinking “college radio DJ at a southern university where they like their black men playing unthreatening, beaten-to-death blues standards…”. It’s not terrible, but its not terribly convincing. Thomas makes an okay blues singer. The next tune, a cover of Santana’s “Just In Time to See The Sun” is actually quite good, with no attempt to “rock” but instead given a full soul-jazz Latin-tinged treatment with Pee Wee Ellis on sax. So far, things are getting better. The next song is the first original tune and one of the highlights of the album for people who have followed and admired the rest of Leon’s career. “It’s My Life I’m Fighting For”, written by keyboardist Neil Creque, is driven by his Rhodes electric piano, its ten minutes of a soulful jam with `free` elements and, FINALLY some jazz yodeling! I never thought Thomas’ jazz yodel would sound so welcome to my ears. Herbie Lovell on the drums on this track really keeps things going, with great riffing from Joe Farrell on flute, solos by Creque and Jimmy Owens that keep this solidly chugging along. The song is then inexplicably followed by old-school R&B ballad “Never Let Me Go”…. the word “buzzkill” comes to mind. Leon redeems himself with “I Want To Be Where You Are,” a Jackson 5 tune that seems to have been in vogue with soul-jazzers in the early 70s: Gary Bartz also released an instrumental version around this time where he went all modal on its ass. Here, this is easily the most successful of the cover tunes on the albums, slowed down a notch, augmented with some choice Muscle Shoals slide guitar courtesy of Joe Beck, punchy trumpet from Farrell, and Leon just can’t help himself — he lets rip a few JAZZ YODELS here and there on the chorus. But they only last for a couple of seconds, as if he remembers suddenly that he is supposed to be a soul music balladeer on this song and must restrain his urges. Flip the LP over, and another Jackson-related tune, “Got To Be There”, is a huge disappointment, with Leon just taking it on as a straight interpretation with nothing particularly remarkable about it. “Balance of Life (Peace of Mind)” is another original tune and brings us back to more familiar Leon Thomas territory. Opening with the Brazilian instrument, the berimbau, accompanied by other urgent percussion that seemlessly gives way to a mellow jam led by Creque’s electric pianoa and congas by Pabldo Landrum and Sonny Morgan, it keeps the groove going for 7 minutes with a full-on percussion jam in the middle. Then, once more, the album shifts gears for a basically pointless reading of Stevie Wonders “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life”. It is almost a novelty song for its straightness, getting slightly trippy towards the end. The album closes with the somber and soulful “What Are We Gonna Do?” which is just Thomas on vocal and Neil Creque on acoustic piano. A meditation on ecology, peace, love, and violence, its a beautiful tune, reminding me of all the reasons to love Leon Thomas in the first place.

Perhaps this album was meant to `prove` that Leon Thomas could have been a huge figure in straight soul and rhythm and blues, which he probably could have been if he felt inclined. But the album is indeed a weird jumble. The three original tunes are the best here, followed by “I Want To Be Where You Are” and “Just In Time To See The Sun.”

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Pretty Purdie and The Playboys – Stand By Me (Watcha See Is Watcha Get) (1971) 24-96khz vinyl

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Pretty Purde & The Playboys
“Stand By Me (Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get) “
Released 1971 Mega Records (M51-5001) / Flying Dutchmen
This reissue — Year unknown

Stand By Me 4:55
Modern Jive 3:18
Spanish Harlem 3:29
Artificialness 3:05
Never Can Say Goodbye 3:00
Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get 5:13
It’s Too Late 4:30
Funky Mozart 3:00
You’ve Got A Friend 3:51

Vinyl repressing -> 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 32-bit float s 96khz -> Click Repair light settings, additional clicks and pops removed in Audition -> ID Tags done in foobar2000 v.1.0.1 and Tag & Rename.

* Bongos, Congas – Norman Pride
* Drums – Pretty Purdie
* Electric Bass – Chuck Rainey
* Guitar – Billy Nichols, Cornell Dupree
* Harpsichord, Tambourine – Neal Rosengarden*
* Horns [Reeds] – Billy Mitchell, Don Ashworth, Lou Delgatto, Seldon Powell, Warren Daniels
* Piano, Electric Piano, Arranged By, Conductor – Harold Wheeler
* Trumpet – Snooky Young*, Gerry Thomas
* Vocals – Carl Hall, Hilda Harris, Norma Jenkins, Tasha Thomas

Recorded at Atlantic Recording Studios, NYC, August 12 & 13, 1971
Producedy by Bob Thiele
Photography by Clarence (CB) Bullard, Ray Ross, Bob Thiele, Giuseppe Pino, Popsie
Design by Haig Adishian
Liner notes by Nat Henthoff
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This record inhabits a weird space of deep soul originals and funky covers of pop and Brill Building material. The actual 45 RPM hit single off this record was one of the former — the infectiously silly “Funky Mozart”, which begs for a promotional video with an afro-cut Amadeus at a Hammond B-3. But the rest of the repertoire sees Purdie interpreting Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector, Clifton Davis / Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye”, Carole King (twice!) and Ben E. King. In fact that opening title cut starts out sappy enough to make a person wonder whether or not they made a good choice putting this album on the platter, but those doubts are quickly dispelled. Thankfully, the album isn’t titled “Pretty Purdie Sings!” and this is the only vocal number than he handles himself, there than some scat, um scatting, Like all of Purdie’s albums under his own name – this is a ride based on fun, and if you can’t relax and enjoy yourself then you should probably get a job at AMG or Pitchfork or something.

One particular surprise on this one is an early cut from the recently-late, always-great Gil Scott-Heron, “Artificialness” in which he reads a poem relating domestic strife (and implied violence, incidentally) to the policies of the Vietnam War. Again, it’s humorous, but darkly so, and read over a blues groove that takes the song out swinging. Purdie had just finished playing on Gil’s “Piece of a Man” and http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifthis tune probably has its origins in that initial pairing up.

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