Charles Mingus – Mingus at the Bohemia
Recorded December 23, 1955, at Cafe Bohemia, NYC Released originally on Debut Records* (*Listed usually as a 1955 release, I don`t see how this is possible given the recording date…)I am a bit humbled and dumbstruck when it comes to the prospect of writing anything about Charles Mingus. To tell you what a genius the man was at this point would be like telling you the world is round. More learned men than I have stoked the fires of musical curiosity by hurling superlatives on this jazz giant. So I will leave you, for once, with just the music. This record is a precious live document of Mingus’s Jazz Composer’s Workshop. The liner notes from pianist and workshop member Mal Waldron give a fairly detailed synopsis of what is going on in terms of composition and improvisation that — should your ears fail you in this respect – give you a better idea of just how progressive this `progressive jazz` ensemble really was in 1955. Bebop, big band, avant garde, tuneful, dissonant, weaving simultaneous melodies, committing acts of creative plagiarism. In listing the lineup below the tracklist, I have noted some of the musician’s other credits outside the Workshop in order to further illustrate the vast scope of this project. The work of Mingus truly bridged entire universes of sound.
Serenade In Blue
All The Things You C-Sharp
alternate takes of “Jump Monk” and “All The Things You C-Sharp”
Trombone – Eddie Bert (Stan Kenton, Benny Goodman, Thelonious Monk, Stan Getz)
Tenor Sax – George Barrow (Oliver Nelson)
Piano – Mal Waldron (Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Steve Lacey, Abbey Lincoln)
Drums – Willie Jones, Jr. (Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Lester Young, Sun Ra)
Special guest Max Roach (everyone) on “Percussion Discussion”
Frederick Knight “I’ve Been Lonely For So Long” Stax Records 1973 (STS 3011)
I’ve Been Lonely For So Long This Is My Song Of Love To You Take Me On Home Witcha Friend I Let My Chance Go By Your Love’s All Over Me Pick’um Up Put’um Down Now That I’ve Found You Lean On Me Trouble Someday We’ll Be Together
This is a lovely lost classic of an album by Alabama native and soul music underachiever Frederick Knight. It’s not his only album but it might as well be, as its the one that people remember, and (though I could be wrong) he didn’t record again until the late 1980s except for one more single in 75.
The record leads off with what is probably the strongest song here (always a risky move), the singular “I’ve Been Lonely For So Long.” It’s one of the those tunes that everybody has heard but not many know who sang it. The instrumentation lacks a drum kit, which is part of its signature sound – high-hat, tamborine, and a wooden plank equalized to sound like a kick drum make up the rhythm. Prominent acoustic guitar and electric slide guitar parts give some country-soul twang; Knight sings the lead melody entirely in falsetto but also did all the overdubs including bass vocal parts. He tries to replicate the vibe of this song on the album’s second single, “Trouble”, with a similar structure built around kit-less drums, falsetto and bass harmonies, and a rap in the middle of the tune. But the single was a flop, as lightning rarely strikes twice. Still a good song though. The formula is also used on “Now That I’ve Found You.” The first few times I spun this record, this formulaic approach irritated me, but eventually I came to think that they are all quality songs regardless of the repetition and/or attempt to cash in on a successful single. And one of the things that stands out about all of the them is the blend of old-skool doo-wop vocal harmonies with early seventies Stax and Hi Records textures.
There is plenty of really strong material here. Requisite nods to Philadelphia and Motown are scattered about, but everything is done in a funky southern soul approach that makes the album sound original. Probably more original than it actually is in truth. Other highlights are the mellow “This Is My Song of Love To You,” the rolling midtempo “Friend” which has a truly breathtaking arrangement of Wurlitzer electric piano and acoustic guitar balanced against strings and horns. A lot going on here but never overbearing, and the minimal lyric is interesting in a weirdly cinematic and cathartic way, like it ought to be playing loudly at the end of a bittersweet, deep, coming-of-age buddy film. It’s one of my favorite tunes here and if I ruled the world it would have been a hit single. Some heavy funk comes in with “Your Love’s All Over Me,” which features an unfortunate Jimmy Castor impression in the middle of it (which, fortunately, only lasts for a few seconds), and the party continues with “Pick ‘Em Up and Put ‘Em Down.” The closer of this record is an interpretation of The Supremes hit, “Someday We’ll Be Together”, which falls only a few inches short of totally transcendent. It really gives an original reading to the tune, and if you aren’t paying close attention you might not even catch it until the first chorus. By the time the bridge of the song comes along you will want to get out of your seat and yell “Amen!” it soars so much. This song and the title track make the warm bread (perhaps a croissant, perhaps baguette) that sandwiches the meat of the album. And the result is oh so tasty. The one clunker here is “Lean On Me”… I am not sure what Stax was thinking when they produced this tune only one year after Bill Wither’s had a huge hit with a better song with the same name. The money, perhaps?
It’s a damn shame that this record wasn’t the smash it could have been. Particular as Frederick couldn’t make the payments on the coat he wore for the cover photo and eventually had to mail it back to Sears and Roebuck.
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.
Various Artists – STUDIO ONE SOUL Released on Soul Jazz Records (SJRCD 050), 2001
—————————————— 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…
1 Será que eu vou virar bolor?
2 Uma pessoa só (Mutantes)
3 Não estou nem aí
4 Vou me afundar na lingerie
5 Honky tonky (Patrulha do Espaço)
6 Cê tá pensando que eu sou loki?
8 Navegar de novo
9 Te amo podes crer
10 É fácil
All songs by Arnaldo Baptista except “Uma pessoa só” by Mutantes.
Recording in 16-tracks at Eldorado Studio (SP)
Produced by: Menescal/Mazola
Audio technician: Marcus Vinicius
Album cover by Aldo Luis, photo by Leila
Featuring: Dinho, Liminha, Rogério Duprat, Rita Lee, Rafa, and Arnaldo Baptista
The world of popular music is full of mythic figures whose eccentric reputations unfairly obscure and overshadow their actual contributions. Arnaldo Baptista is one such figure. In my younger days when I had just discovered them and was gripped by Os Mutantes “fever” (Mutant Mania?), I sought out this record with high expectations, knowing only that it was Arnaldo’s “nervous breakdown album” after which he took a long, um, “rest” and a break from the public eye. I admit I was slightly put off by the fugly album jacket design but I kept hope alive.
I brought it home full of eagerness, put it on the stereo expecting “The Madcap Laughs” and instead I got “The Madman Across the Water.” This is not a slam or a dis, as I will defend early Elton John and challenge anyone who wants to argue about it to a duel. Not a duel to the death with pistols or sabres, mind you, but maybe with a fencing foil. But still, Sir Elton doesn’t even rank in the realm of ‘loony’ tortured souls. So I was rather shocked to find myself listening to a subdued album of piano-driven rock music (hell, there isn’t any guitar on the whole record until the very end), rather than the Brazilian equivalent of “Oar,” “Easter Everywhere” or the aforementioned “Madcap.” What “Loki?” offers us is a piece of reflective pop music, a fragmented narrative of a life in the midst of post-psychedelic fragmentation of identity and doubt, of struggling with the ambiguities of celebrity and modernity, a “concept album” whose concept continually eludes the listener. For sure, the album is peppered with oddball, beguiling lyrics in praise of fruits and vegetables (“xuxu beleza, tomate maravilha”), lingerie, or an unexplained aversion to Alice Cooper, and his vocal delivery occasionally bursts into an odd Screamin’ Jay Hawkins warble, but for the most part Baptista’s stream-of-consciousness tales bring us a mix of the quotidian and the transcendent moments that made up a life lived to the limits of mental, spiritual, and physical exhaustion. For my money Baptista was the driving force behind Mutantes — I have never been terribly impressed with Rita Lee’s solo work, even the first two albums that Baptista produced. For me, those records are listenable largely by way of Arnaldo’s involvement; In fact her record “Hoje é o primeiro dia do resto da sua vida” is sort of a counterpart to this one.
But “Loki?” is far more tranquil and pensive; it’s occasional prog-rock flourishes never become cloying or annoying. Some of the songs flow one into the other in true rock-opera fashion. Mileage may vary, however, for the non-Portuguese speaker, as the music here is very much driven by the lyrics. Some of the tunes are self-referential to themselves; in other words, conjuring phrases and images already dealt with in other places on the album. I particular love his occasional use of an English lyric thrown in seemingly at random that matches perfectly the rest of what is going on musically and discursively. There are metaphysical musings – We are all one and the same person, I am the Alpha and Omega, and so on. “Uma Pessoa Só” is graced by the lush arrangements of Rogério Duprat, cradling Baptista’s explorations into the inner cosmos. And then there are moments of raw, confessional tenderness and intimacy — “Desculpe” and “Te amo podes crer” are both too plaintive and profound, too human and eternal, to suffer any hackneyed translations at my hands. My favorite song in the whole bunch is “Navegar de novo” which mixes reminiscence of going to the cinema with his girl, lamenting that the car he bought six months ago is already out of fashion, the tough impersonality of São Paulo; with musings about humanity, the speed of light, the conquest of space, of Brazil as being still a child, and, um, urban planning (I think..) Rita Lee sings backup on “Não estou nem aí.” The album ends with two minutes of an open-tuning 12-string solo guitar piece whose only lyrics, “I love myself like I love you. It’s easy. It’s easy,” his hushed voice mixed into the left channel as if he is whispering in your ear, before he ends the tune banging out guitar chords that rock out more than anything else on the record, giving way to a heavily-flanged fade out. The end. Like one of his more obvious anglophone parallels, one Roger Barrett, the album leaves me with the persistent feeling that there was (is) much more to the man than the “loony” tales and stories, the idiosyncratic behavior, the health problems. Don’t let the legend and the myth distract you from what this album is – a beautiful swan-song.
Additional info contributed by blog friend CK:
I love this album, which I bought back in the days of vinyl records. I’d
like to comment on the so-called Rita albums produced by Arnaldo. The
story that I’ve heard is that her first album, Build Up, was not
originally Rita Lees idea. Os Mutantes went into a forced recess due to
her husband Arnaldo deciding on an adventurous vacation with a friend
traveling by motorcycle from São Paulo to New York. Hitting into some
difficulties along the way (I think he made it to Panama), Arnaldo gave
up on the idea and returned to São Paulo to find Rita midway into an
album. So it was agreed that he can produce some of the remaining
recordings. So yes, he did have a hand in it, but its not like he was
the mastermind behind the helm of the whole thing.
so called second album, ‘Hoje É O Primeiro Dia Do Resto Da Sua Vida’,
the story of this album is quite well known. Mutantes informed their
record company that they have enough material for, and intend to,
release a double album. The record company explained that Mutantes did
not sell enough to warrant a double album. The compromise was to have
the second album out as a Rita Lee album, because she was always the
bands main pull or main attraction in minds of the populous. Arnaldo was
the musical genius, Sergio the guitar wiz kid, but it was Rita’s charm
and charisma that made Mutantes television friendly. So, this is really a
Rita’s album at all although it is officially credited to her.
Loki the album, one of the important things to know about the album is
that it was recorded after Rita and Arnaldo split up. Almost all the
songs are directed to Rita in one way or another. Será Que Eu Vou Virar
Bolar questions his musical future without her (venho me apegando ao
passado e em ter você ao meu lado // trans.: I’ve been getting attached
to the past and with you by my side). Uma Pessoa Só is a rerecording of a
Mutantes composition form their 1973 album O A E O Z (The A And The Z),
that was shelved until the nineties. In Não Estou Nem Aí he shows
himself unwilling to deal with the pressures in his life; rather get
high every morning (Não estou nem aí pra morte, nem aí pra sorte/ Eu
quero mais é decolar toda manhã). Rita Lee and Lucy Turnbull, who at
that time were working as a duo called ‘Cilibrina do Eden’, sing
background vocals on this and the following Vou Me Afundar Na Lingerie.
Arnaldo jokingly tuants them (or maybe it’s a shout-out?) on Cê Tá
Pensando Que Eu Sou Loki? (Cilibrina pra cá / Cilibrina pra lá / Eu sou
velho mas gosto de viajar). Descuple is an obvious open letter to Rita
Lee that warranted her to write and record her answer Agora Só Falta
Você on her 1975 album Fruito Proibido. Certainly not the answer Arnaldo
was hoping for. Desculpe is heart breaking in it’s vocal
interpretation, and has Limninha and Dinho giving us pure Mutantes power
in its execution, with only brother Sergio absent. Te Amo Podes Crer
follows Navegar de Novo, both stream of conscience type lyrics, and
follows the pattern of woes for the person identified as ‘you’ that left
and doesn’t want to return. Its a sad record thematically, but
beautiful in it’s playing. The Last song É Facil, Arnaldo amazes me as
how good a guitar player he really is, although he hardly plays the
instrument, up to that point in his carrer.
NOTE #1: There is noticeable noise / digital drop-outs beginning at the 1 minute and 20 second mark on the track “Uma pessoa só”. You may only notice them if you use headphones or a accurate speakers for playback. I compared two different CD copies of this first pressing, and the noise is in the exact same place. Quite likely damaged master tapes. I recently came across a new remaster of this album released on by the Universal group. I have not heard it and am not too inspired to pick it up, since the first pressings on Philips typically sound better than the newer remasters.
NOTE #2: There is a documentary about Arnaldo Baptista also called “Loki.” To my chagrin and consternation I still have not managed to see it. I am sure it has some lovely anecdotes about this album. Hopefully nothing that will make my commentaries look silly (or sillier..).
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
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
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.