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.”

Gil Scott-Heron – Free Will (1972)

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This is, plain and simple, essential listening.

Gil Scott-Heron – Free Will (1972) – aqui

Side one

All songs written by Brian Jackson and Gil Scott-Heron.

1. “Free Will” – 3:43
2. “The Middle of Your Day” – 4:32
3. “The Get out of the Ghetto Blues” – 5:12
4. “Speed Kills” – 3:18
5. “Did You Hear What They Said?” – 3:32

Side two

All songs written by Gil Scott-Heron.

1. “The King Alfred Plan” – 2:47
2. “No Knock” – 2:12
3. “Wiggy” – 1:37
4. “Ain’t No New Thing” – 4:36
5. “Billy Green Is Dead” – 1:30
6. “Sex Education: Ghetto Style” – :51
7. “…And Then He Wrote Meditations” – 3:16

Donny Hathaway – These Songs for You, Live! (2004) Vbr

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I mistakenly thought I had posted this over the weekend, but I had not. It might be because I was listening to it over and over again and only *thought* I had shared it here.

This is a beautiful record, aside from the legitimate complaints from Hathaway fans that his legacy as a live performer has yet to receive proper documentation. What this record does is combine tracks from 1972’s “Donny Hathaway Live!” with tracks from “In Performance” (recorded in 1973 and released after his death), so the end result is somewhat confusing indeed. It’s a sandwich of music recorded live before and after his magnificent 1973 album ‘Extensions of a Man’ was made, and it’s fantastic. Even if you already grabbed the ’72 live record here earlier, give this one a try — the sound has been remastered by Rhino and the extra songs are well worth it. ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ still gets me weepy every time. ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,’ and “I’ll Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” are also highlights missing from the other collection, and of course the Leon Russell-penned tune ‘A Song For You’ is a classic. (Thanks to Cristina, a loyal fan of The Carpenters, for reminding me of the confusing legacy of this song.. I probably should have looked it up first — Leon did in fact record it first on a 1970 record called ‘Leon Russell and the Shelter People’, which I own, but it’s been covered so many times I actually thought he had written it from someone else. I’ve seen Willie Nelson perform it live (also recorded it on a 1973 record) and it fits him perfectly, so I’d begun thinking Leon wrote it for him.. wrong! For a history of the song, look here)

Donny Hathaway – These Songs For You, Live! (2004) VBR

FULL ARTWORK

1 Flying Easy [#] Hathaway 3:11
2 Valdez in the Country [#] Hathaway 4:08
3 Someday We’ll All Be Free [#] Hathaway, Howard 5:30
4 You’ve Got a Friend King 4:34
5 He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother [#] Russell, Scott 7:49
6 What’s Going On Benson, Cleveland, Gaye 5:27
7. Yesterday [#] Lennon, McCartney 5:24
8 Superwoman [#] Wonder 6:42
9 A Song for You Russell 5:48
10 Sack Full of Dreams McFarland, Savary 5:30
11 Little Ghetto Boy Hathaway, Howard 4:33
12 I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know Kooper 5:55
13 The Ghetto Hathaway, Hutson 12:22
14 Interview [#] 2:58

Bill Withers – Still Bill (1972) Soul classic with bonus tracks!

This is just pure magic from start to finish. Lets forget about Bill’s amazing story for a moment and just focus on his music, his unique sound, and immediately identifiable voice and writing style. The fact that he was a ‘music business outsider’ of sorts no doubt contributes to all of the above, but in many ways its beside the point. This is some of the most soulful music ever committed to wax. It’s in the rare cadre of records that is simultaneously sad and joyful, youthful and mature, with Bill belting out lyrics that can be dryly biting but never never bitter, sung from a place of pains and sorrows suffered with an eye towards the warmth of a future yet unlived, sophisticated and yet disarming in its forthright matter-of-factness. Familiar yet with a new twist around every measure, this is Still Bill…