Cassiano – Imagem e Som (1971)

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IMAGEM E SOM
Cassiano
1971 RCA Victor
BSL 1551
Reissue 2001 on BMG/RCA ‘100 Anos de Música’ Series

 

1 Lenda
(Lula Freire, Marcos Valle)
2 Ela mandou esperar
(Cassiano, Tim Maia)
3 Tenho dito
(Cassiano, Tim Maia)
4 Já
(Cassiano)
5 É isso aí
(Cassiano)
6 O caso das bossas
(Zil Rosendo, Dabliu Namor)
7 Eu, meu filho e você
(Cassiano)
8 Primavera (Vai chuva)
(Silvio Rochael, Cassiano)
9 Minister
(Cassiano)
10 Uma lágrima
(Cassiano)
11 Canção dos hippies (Paz e amor)
(Professor Pardal)
12 Não fique triste
(Cassiano)

Genival Cassiano was one of the architects of Brazilian Soul music, although his work is eclipsed (and rightly so, in my opinion) by his friend Tim Maia. Tim was actually an admirer of Cassiano’s vocal group Os Diagonais and drew inspiration from them for his own sound, and the two soon came to be friends and collaborators. Os Dianonais provided backing vocals for Tim’s records and live shows in the early days. Not only does Tim have a few writing credits here, but he is also singing backup, uncredited, as part of Os Diagonais. (NOTE: I do not have any proof of this, yet, other than my own ears. I have been searching through Nelson Motta’s biography of Tim, “Vale Tudo”, for some evidence, but as yet have found none. While its an entertaining read, it is kind of sloppy in terms of presenting his recorded work, so I don’t consider this a *denial* of his participation). Likewise, Cassiano played guitar on several of Tim’s albums.

But how to consider this album on its own terms? Well, it was his first album under his own name, and is a bit uneven, but it has its transcendent soul moments. Oddly, for the man who is credited as being so adept at creating the vocal harmonies of Os Diagonais, his voice takes a while to grow on me — he lacks the swagger and charisma of his friend, Tim Maia. The first track, the Marcos Valle song Lenda, is to me an odd choice to open the album, as there are a lot of other tracks that grab the attention more. The album picks it up a notch with two collaboration with Maia and by the time it hits “Já”, credited solely to Cassiano, the album has found its pace. The orchestrations on this album stand out — meticulous, full brass and string arrangements in the same style as those on Tim’s records of the same period, all of this goes to distinguish what was truly a ‘movement’ in Brazilian music, and a rogue one at that, going against the grain of what the critics of the time thought was worthy of praise. Other exemplary stand-out tracks here are “Eu, meu filho, e você”, “Canção dos hippies,” and “Não fique triste.” I should also point out the prominent use of vibraphone on this record — another thing in common with Tim’s records, alas – that is a particular delight to me.

A historic and somewhat-rare album of the Brazilian Soul scene, I hope you enjoy this!

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V/A – Studio One Soul, Volume 2 (2006)

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Released 2006 on Soul Jazz Records #SJRCD 128

1. Jacob Miller — Westbound Train
2. Hortense Ellis — People Make The World Go Round
3. Horace Andy — Ain’t No Sunshine
4. Soul Vendors — Swing Easy
5. The Heptones — Choice Of Colours
6. Jackie Mittoo & The Brentford Disco Set — Choice Of Music Part 2
7. Prinze Jazzbo — Fool For Love
8. Cornell Campbell — Ten To One
9. Winston Francis — Don’t Change
10. Jackie Mittoo — Jumping Jehosophat
11. Tony Gregory — Get Out Of My Life Woman
12. Dub Specialist — Darker Block
13. Little Joe — Red Robe
14. Devon Russell — Make Me Beleive In You
15. Jerry Jones — Compared To What
16. Ken Boothe — Thinking
17. Anthony Creary — Land Call Africa
18. Jackie Mittoo — Fancy Pants

All tracks produced by C.S. Dodd

————————-

A wait of five years for a second volume of Studio One Soul might have created unreasonable expectations, but regardless of that it is hard not to see this collection as weaker than the first. Although I wouldn’t exactly say they are scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel, I am not sure how “Norwegian Wood” (given dub treatment here on “Darker Block”) qualifies as soul music, unless it is because it was on an album called “Rubber Soul.” The opener, Jacob Miller’s “Westbound Train,” steals its guitar line directly from Al Green’s `Love and Happiness` in spite of Dennis Brown getting all the credit. Some highlights on this one include yet another version of Bill Wither’s “Ain`t Know Sunshine” (by Horace Andy, and Prince Jazzbo, The Heptones, and Cornell Campbell all turn in an appearance. Jackie Mittoo has no less than three credits on this record, making for too much Mittoo for me. I would say that my two favorite tracks are from the wonderful Hortense Ellis, doing The Stylistics “People Make the World Go Round,” and Jerry Jones doing the Eugene Daniels tune “Compared to What” in a version that sounds more inspired by the Roberta Flack version that the hit version by Les McCann that preceded it. This may not be an essential collection but it is well worth checking out for yourself.

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V/A – Studio One Soul (2001)

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Various Artists – STUDIO ONE SOUL
Released on Soul Jazz Records (SJRCD 050), 2001

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Leroy Sibbles – Express Yourself
Norma Fraser – Respect
Leroy Sibbles – Groove Me
The Sound Dimension – Time Is Tight
The Heptones – Message From A Black Man
Otis Gayle – I’ll Be Around
Jerry Jones – Still Water
The Sound Dimension – Soulful Strut
Richard Ace – Can’t Get Enough
The Chosen Few – Don’t Break Your Promise
The Eternals – Queen Of The Minstrel
Norma Fraser – The First Cut Is The Deepest
Ken Parker – How Strong
Ken Boothe – Set Me Free
Senior Soul – Is It Because I’m Black
Jackie Mittoo – Deeper & Deeper
Alton Ellis – I Don’t Want To Be Right
Willie Williams – No One Can Stop Us

Produced by C.S. Dodd

Some artists whose material is interpreted here: The Impressions, Barry White, Aretha Franklin, Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Syl Johnson, P.P. Arnold, The Delfonics, and more
————————

I am sick with a winter cold and need to conserve my voice, so I will try to keep my words here brief and succinct for once… Besides, I think everybody already has this collection, don’t they? If you haven’t heard it then you are in for a real treat. It’s a Friday. This is a great Friday record. As Honest Jons highlights in the accompanying booklet, the music on this collection is all about transculturation and the flow of ideas, politics, and music circulating around the waters of the Black Atlantic. These songs are not just “covers”, but reinventions, “responses” (as Jons calls them) from soul to soul. No disrespect to Aretha or Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd — but for me at least the original recordings of “Express Yourself” and “Respect” are kind of ‘played out’ — classic and brilliant, of course, but I’ve just heard them so many times that they usually fail to inspire me at this point in my life. The versions here breathe new life into those cuts. About the only track that doesn’t shine much (again, my personal opinion) is Norma Fraser’s take on “The First Cut is the Deepest”. It a nice enough treatment, and the song’s beauty can’t be contained (although sadly the song was murdered by one awful American singer in 2003 who shan’t be named..). It’s just that I feel Fraser’s doesn’t really add much to it, and her reading is almost bereft of any emotion compared to the P.P. Arnold recording, which for my money is the definitive version. Perhaps the song is so transcultural that the vibe actually gets lost somewhere: a song written by Cat Stevens (whose own cultural biography is deliciously rich), made famous by an American singer and former Ike & Tina backing singer P.P. Arnold, who relocated to England and recorded for the Immediate! record label and began hanging out with the likes of Steve Marriot and the Small Faces, and given a Caribbean reinterpretation here. It’s cool and and I can dig it (baby) but I just end up wanting to hear P.P. Arnold sing it again.

Leroy Sibbles is a bad-ass.

But the great thing about this compilation is that it reminds us just how incredible the songwriting really is in classic soul music – a song like The Supremes “Set Me Free” could receive equally-inspired and utterly different interpretations from the likes of Vanilla Fudge and Ken Boothe and still be instantly recognizable. Jamming on for seven minutes, it should be pointed out that the Boothe version actually has the instrumental track just repeated twice in its entirety, almost like having a dub version tacked on to the full vocal version. Senior Soul’s reworking of Syl Johnson’s “Is It Because I’m Black” is also great (Ken Boothe would also cover this tune, incidentally. I’ll leave it up to you which one is the stronger..)

THIS COLLECTION NEEDS MORE WOMEN ON IT. That’s about my only gripe, though.

A nice feature of the packaging is that Soul Jazz took the trouble to give us some notes on the original tunes, including details about their composition and production that add additional depth to their Jamaican recontextualization. There is a second volume to Studio One Soul and, if you are nice, who knows…

Isaac Hayes – At Wattstax (1972)

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Isaac Hayes
At Wattstax
Recorded August 20, 1972 in Los Angeles
Released 2003 on STAX (SCD-88042-2)

1. Theme From “Shaft” 4:38
2. Soulsville 4:37
3. Never Can Say Goodbye 5:16
4. Part-Time Love 5:55
5. Your Love Is So Doggone Good 8:18
6. Ain’t No Sunshine/Lonely Avenue 17:06
7. I Stand Accused 6:24
8. If I Had A Hammer 9:23

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Today is two years to the day that Isaac Hayes was killed by Scientologists and left us on earth without his benign presence. Even though he had not recorded much music for quite some time, the world just felt like a warmer, groovier place by having him in it, and the news of his death shook me up more than I would have expected. In the world of musical celebrities I have never actually met, there are musicians who when they pass away we can say “their time had come” with some acceptance. Isaac Hayes was not one of these, at 66 years old it seemed too young.

I had planned to post this last night in the hopes of having a 2-part tribute to Mr. Hayes, but my car was totaled by an asshole truck driver in the wrong lane who didn’t feel like slowing down for a stop light. This was an unexpected interruption in my blogging habits… We will see, I just might post the second half today as I have resolved to celebrate the fact that I walked away without a scratch by doing as little serious work as possible today. It is quite likely Part 2 will be up before midnight.

Let`s move on to talking about this album

isaac hayes

I was really excited to find out that this album had even been released — issued a few years back by the resuscitated Fantasy/Stax franchise, it documents Isaac Hayes at the landmark festival that he headlined, Wattstax, which spawned the famous and award-winning documentary. Promoted as “the black Woodstock”, the iconic Hayes stalked the stage draped in gold chains and thrilled the expectant crowd that had waited all day for him. I had always thought that the film contained precious little of Hayes’ performance, as did the soundtrack, and wondered if a live album had been planned by Hayes and his management. Well, now that the previously-unreleased material from the rest of the set (or most of it, I am not entirely sure) has been issued, I rather suspect that it was kept “in the can” for other reasons. I won’t call it a mediocre performance, because it is still quite good, but it pales in comparison to his live album to be released the following year, Live at the Sahara Tahoe. But this is still an essential document for any fan of Isaac Hayes.

As the album booklet and tray state, the track “Part Time Love” is missing the lead vocal during to the master tapes being damaged, which make the tune sound like a weird demo. The backing vocals come in at the end, making the whole thing kind of odd. The extended take on Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” is amazing, but still once again just not as good as the version on the Sahara Tahoe album. The CD closes with Jesse Jackson’s famous speech, a high point of the film, and a rendering of “If I Had A Hammer.” This release may not be the place to start for new Isaac Hayes fans, but for those already converted it is pretty essential listening.

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Baby Huey – The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend (1971)

baby huey

Baby Huey & The Babysitters
“The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend”

Original release Curtom (LP CRS-8007) 1971
This pressing Water Records 2004 (WATER 142)

1. Listen To Me 6:35
2. Mama Get Yourself Together 6:10
3. A Change Is Going To Come 9:23
4. Mighty, Mighty 2:45
5. Hard Times 3:19
6. California Dreamin’ 4:43
7. Running 3:36
8. One Dragon Two Dragon 4:02

Produced by Curtis Mayfield

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I came across this album from James T. Ramey, aka Baby Huey, due to digging into the Curtis Mayfield discography and finding that he had produced this sole album by the Chicago soul heavyweight (*cough*). It’s heavy deep soul that does not disappoint for a single moment. (The last track here is a bonus track tagged on to the original album, and is pretty disposable.) The original LP is damn near impossible to find, so big props to Water Records for making it available again. In fact this is also the best-sounding reissue I have yet heard from that label, whose remasters often sound a little harsh to my ears. But not this — Mayfield’s trademark tight production sounds full, warm, and punchy as always. The vibe runs the changes from party, to strung out, to menace, and back to party again. I always wonder what Sam Cooke would have thought of Huey’s take on his civil rights anthem “A Change is Gonna Come.” The liner notes hit it pretty much on the head when they describe this tune as “epic, stoned, silly and heart-wrenching.” Turn it up loud enough and the room will fill with the purple haze of Vietnam-era exhaustion, conjuring images of ghettos overrun with smack and people knodding off to deep funk while King’s dream grew sour and white people retreated to the suburbs. Hell it is actually kind of blood-curling by the time it gets to the final chorus, Baby Huey’s screams drenched in echo-plex giving way to a final bar of nothing but a feedback loop of delay.

“There’s three kinds of people in this world. That’s why I know a change has gotta come. I said there’s white people, there’s black people, and there’s my people.”

“Might Mighty” is a Curtis Mayfield tune first recorded by The Impressions and would also appear on the “Curtis Live!” album. Here, it’s almost an instrumental with Baby Huey rapping over it, foregoing Mayfield’s lyrics of interracial harmony. “Hard Times,” one of the most sampled tracks ever cut, just scorches. It’s another Mayfield tune, one that he wouldn’t record himself until the album “There’s No Place Like America Today” where Curtis takes a decidedly more laid-back approach than this version, which is ferocious and frantic. “California Dreamin'”… goddamn a lot of people recorded that song. Do we really need another interpretation of it? Well, in this case, yes. It’s breeziness between these heavier songs is something of a counterweight but with the nagging feeling that it’s not to be entirely trusted — The Babysitters are just giving us a little breathing space before taking us on one last trip. That would be “Running,” which will leave blisters on your synapses. The bass guitar is pushing so hard it is only a decibel or two away from blowing the speaker in the Ampeg amplifier (I will bet my right arm its an Ampeg..). There is enough freak-flown swagger on this tune to make Funkadelic look like a bunch of amateurs. These guys were cued up to lead the congregation in Hendrix’s Electric Church if only both Jimmy and Huey had lived long enough. And only Curtis Mayfield could have produced this song — all the instruments are played hard and rough, no bullshit, all heart — drums, bass, guitar, organ, horns, all pushing the VU needles into the red and saturating the tape with funk, yet EVERYTHING comes out in the mix crystal clear. Who the fuck pulls that off? Oh that’s right, Curtis Mayfield. Mayfield, Huey, and the Babysitters were a perfect match. It is a damn shame that Huey died of a heart-attack at the age of 26 in a Chicago hotel while working on this record. We all missed this the first time around. Don’t miss it now.

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Al Green – Full of Fire (1976)

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Al GREEN
Full of Fire
Released on Hi Records, 1976
This pressing, The Right Stuff, 1996

Recorded at Royal Recording Studios,
1320 South Lauderdale, Memphis, Tennessee 38118.
Mastered at Audiotronics, Memphis, Tennessee.
Recorded, mixed, and produced by Willie Mitchell

Yesterday I took a four-hour bus ride with no headphones and this song (above) ran through my imagination repeatedly to keep my sanity intact. I never ever travel without some music to listen to, but then I had never planned to be leaving a huge music festival a day early and taking a bus home by myself. I am not the praying type, but only about 12 hours before I had muttered an oration to St. George asking for strength, protection, and courage to say some things that don’t come naturally to me. It didn’t work, as now I was feeling more or less like garbage: physically, spiritually, emotionally like garbage, and feeling as naked as the day I was born. But while the saints may have hung me out to dry, Al Green never fails. I let this song play on `repeat` for most of the four hours, as well as I could remember it in details which tend to be fairly accurate.

My musical ruminations were interrupted by long conversations with near strangers. I could say to you simply that “I love meeting new people!” and leave it like that, but the truth is that I love meeting new people because once they get to know me better they usually don’t want anything to do with me. I move from one city to another, wearing out my “welcome mat” at each as I go along. New city, new mat. The result is a life filled with long conversations with near strangers. I am always on the verge of a disappearing act. And I never felt more like disappearing than I did on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Enter, alas, the Church Of Al Green, where you are always truly welcome.

After the bus ride I had lunch with the less than total stranger and then went to get my car. More conversations with closer strangers who almost feel like family to me, although I know too well that this can never be. But where my car was parked, the woman who lives there simply can’t let you pass by her door without inviting you in for coffee and conversation. I accepted because, with closer strangers who feel like they could be family, there is no other choice. And besides, it lifted my spirits for an hour and made it easier to get behind the wheel and actually drive home as opposed to driving off a cliff. But there are no cliffs here, so once again the choices were fairly limited anyway. We talked of geography and inequality, of Belém and Detroit, of history and health. Feeling less alone, less strange.

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After the uplifting conversation I drove home in my car that currently lacks even a simple radio. A hour, hour and a half of driving through a major city, some small towns, and some very dark highways through the countryside. I would be lying if I said I still had Al Green on replay. The concentration required puts me into a state of attention almost like meditation, sliding into reflection, pensiveness, but always coming back to the moment because, well, it is rather necessary when you are behind the wheel of a large automobile. (My automobile is not large but David Byrne was once my spiritual adviser). I drove slowly in the light rain, letting those with less patience pass me as they saw fit. What reason did I have to hurry when I live alone and had nothing in particular to do when I got home besides sleep for eleven or twelve hours.

Upon getting home I was not sleepy and instead put on this Al Green record. And I ended up playing this song, “As Soon As I Get Home,” ten or eleven times in a row. This is a common habit for many people but I very rarely if ever find myself fixated on a song like that. This record sees Al Green entering his religious period but before he started recording straight-up gospel. The lyrics are less direct, more sensuous, often romantic, and remind me somehow of the Qawwali music of the Sufis. With the difference that I can understand the lyrics. This particular song, co-written with Michael Allen whose electric piano rings cascades of texture around the gentle arrangement, is quite possibly Al Green’s most underrated composition. The whole album overflows with the incomparable work of the Hodges brothers — Leroy, Charles, and Teenie on bass, organ, and guitar respectively – who were collectively the stealth missile of Hi Record’s arsenal of sound. These guys make musical understatement into a declaration of virtuosity. One of the last collaborations with producer Willie Mitchell, this record gets buried by his more famous albums from earlier in the decade. And it’s a shame, because this one belongs right alongside them.

There are times when we all feel our soul slipping into darkness. For some of us, we wonder if it even exists or belongs with other fairy-tales like love and God. Enter then, ye of little faith, the Church of Al Green, and find your way home.

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