Bama, The Village Poet – Ghettos of the Mind (1972)

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Bama, The Village Poet
Ghettos of the Mind”
1972 on Chess Records (CH-50032)
Reissue on Aware Records
A1 I Got Soul 4:46
A2 Welfare Slave 5:47
A3 Nothingness 2:26
A4 Thanksgiving 3:52
A5 Ghettos Of The Mind 0:31
B1 The Right To Be Wrong 4:17
B2 Blessed Marie 3:55
B3 Justice Isn’t Blind 2:35
B4 Social Narcotics 5:08
B5 Blackman, My Brother 5:35
B6 Drunken Sister 2:49

Poetry written and performed by- George McCord. aka “Bama”

Music composed and arranged by Jimmy “Wiz” Wizner
Featuring: Bernard `Pretty` Purdie , Cornell Dupree , Gordon Edwards , Richard Tee
Produced by Billy Jackson, Bacon Fat Music and ‘Those who believe Blacks deserve something better’.

TRANSCRIPTION INFO

Vinyl -> 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 24-bits 96khz -> Click Repair light settings, additional clicks and pops removed in Audition -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced -> ID Tags done in foobar2000 v.1.0.1 and Tag & Rename. No EQ or compression.

Confession, by the end of this vinyl transfer, I kind of stopped paying attention. The last two tracks have some clicks and pops I missed. Oh well, you can borrow my copy and do your own rip if you like, I don`t mind.

Album jacket photos and labels are from both the discogs archive and from my own repress copy. I used the original LP photo (which appears more of a cream color) above because I had trouble photographing my blindingly-white repress without it reflecting the sea-green paint of the walls in my house.

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Flabber review

Okay. Let me start off by quoting the blurb from my favorite record shop in the universe, “A lost classic in the funky poetry mode of the 70s – and right up there with the best work from the time by the Last Poets, Jim Ingram, or Gil Scott Heron! Bama’s got a rough-edged voice that works very well with the funkier backings of the set – handled by a team that includes Bernard Purdie on drums, Richard Tee on keyboards, and Cornell Dupree on guitar – and this rough vocal style also fits the themes of the tunes, which are still as political and righteous as other work in the genre, but a bit more down to earth as well. ..”

Now, I realize that Dusty Groove exists to sell records, aside from their pedagogical function of turning the people of the world onto righteous music. And they sometimes are guilty of a wee bit of over-hyping the rarities in their own stock in order to generate enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is a good thing. I rarely post about an album I am not enthusiastic about.

But let’s get something straight right here and now. Bama (George McCord) was no Gil Scott Heron or Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka), and can’t hold a candle to the flames of The Last Poets or the likes of Jayne Cortez. In my opinion, if it wasn`t for the players on this album like Bernard `Pretty Purdie` and Cornell Dupree, nobody would care at all about it at this point.

McCord has his moments, but its mostly the musical arrangements that keep you listening. The opening track “I Got Soul,” has integrity, dealing as it does with how suffering – even suffering the horrors of state-sponsored racial discrimination – can make an individual who he is, leaving him to say that if he had his life to live all over again he would still “do it black.” It’s a cool poem with great instrumental backing, that shows Bama in a light of a no-frills, sincere, and rough-around-the-edges street poet. So far so good. “Welfare Slaves” is another decent tune, a cynical slow rap over a suitably slow blues, and observations that should be required listening for those lost souls of the American Right-Wing who still go around thinking and saying that people actually *want* to be on welfare. So far so good. The next track, “Nothingness” is when things start to get a little shakey. Two and a half minutes of Bama philosophizing about nothingness over a spacey electric piano chord sequence, wherein he concludes “that after many years of nothingness, I have found nothingness to be something. But compared to something, it was still nothing. Nothing.” Deep, man. Deep.

Alright so one clunker doesn’t make me give up on a record. However, the next one was almost the final nail in the coffin-lid of my first experience with Bama. The next track, “Thanksgiving” is just Pretty Purdie giving a tom-tom-heavy drum solo while Bama recites his poem. Wherein Bama makes profound observations like, “Them pilgrims was a bunch of phonies.” He then goes on to give his counter-narrative to the white American vision of Thanksigiving, while simultaneously getting in some paternalistic condescending remarks about “the Indians were too slow to learn,” and some bitter critiques about the invasion of North America being an `indepedence` for some. Once again, Bama is sincere and means every word of it. But it’s just hard for me not to bust out laughing when he lets loose with poetic stanzas like:

“You give thanks for destroying an innocent people who weclomed you in when your own deprived you of a right to pray.
You give thanks for taking the land of a people who gave you a place to stay.

God have Mercy.
Eat your turkey.”

All of this delivered in his gravel-gargling voice that is very reminiscent of Red Foxx. Immediately on first hearing this track, the following image was born inside my mind`s eye:

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Side two of the album. Surprisingly, given everything I`ve written above, is that one of the best things on the record is the relatively unaccompanied “The Right to be Wrong” (which has only a heart-beat thumb of a drum machine accompanying it). A reflection on non-judging of our fellow humans that would be worthy of a Buddhist monk if it wasn’t for some latent homophobia (…”this would even give the homo a right to be wrong”). Next track – Blessed Marie, rather unremarkable and trite paen to falling in love with (and having married) a prostitute. Followed by “Justice Isn’t Blind,” which is by far the grooviest track here, both musicially and lyrically sharp, with the band laying down a latin-fringed funk of low-key atmosphere. But then when in the final eight-bars or so the band just works the groove with no restraint, I start wishing this was just an all-instrumental LP.. “Social Narcotics”… I can`t really comment on critiques so sophmoric as those on this track. It`s just kind of embarassing to listen to. “Blackman, My Brother,” is intense, however. Backed again only by Bernard Purdie, its a relentless rejection of white culture and its white-washing of American history, of its underbelly of violence, rape, and subjegation, and also shatteres any rose-colored glasses looking at a utopic, romantic vision of the Civil Rights movement, and an angry recuperation of self-respect and pride in blackenss. It’s delivered with the same directness and sincerity as the rest of the stuff on this album, but its got a sophistication that is lacking in a lot of the other poems.

The final track, `The Drunken Sister`… just kind of fizzles out compared to the previous track. Not much to say here, really. Nothing bad, but nothing too great.

So if you haven`t deduced it already I am ambivalent or perhaps just indifferent to this record. It has historical value but more for the people who played on it than for the poetry contained in it, although it might reflect a bit more realistically the spectrum of black urban poetry in the early seventies (I mean, it couldn`t ALL be brilliant, right?). But the next time I decide to reorganize my LP collection, I am going to have a tough time deciding whether this album belongs in the section with Gil Scott-Heron and The Last Poets, or is maybe better suited to the section with Richord Pryor and Red Foxx…

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The key to all your social justice needs is found in the commentaries. Read them and stop weeping.

Fritz the Cat & Heavy Traffic OST (1972-3)

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FRITZ THE CAT Soundtrack Released 1972 (Fantasy 9406)
HEAVY TRAFFIC Soundtrack Released 1973 (Fantasy 9436)
2-on-1 CD released 1996 on Fantasy (FCD-24745-2)

Fritz the Cat is also known as:

Fritz el gato
El gato caliente
Fritz – kova kolli
Fritz il gatto
Fritz le chat
Fritz, o ponirogatos
Katten Fritz
O Gato Fritz

It has been many years since I saw either of these films, and I never realized the soundtrack had so many great musicians on it back in those days. And then I ran across a CD pressing from Fantasy containing both soundtracks and, damn, what a surprised! First a little about the films. It took me a little internet research to find a review of this film by anyone who took it halfway seriously. Here is a link to the Wikipedia synopsis of the film along with some material on its production and reception as well, including Robert Crumb’s disowning of the film.

These are very pleasant soundtracks to listen to, and the first one for Fritz the Cat should be much better known : grooving soul jazz and funk instrumentals interspersed with classics from Bo Diddley, Billie Holiday. The list of musicians is filled with some serious heavy hitters: Charles Earland, Idris Muhammad, Pretty Purdie, Cornell Dupree, Melvin Sparks, Chuck Rainey — hell, even Cal Tjader appears on one tune. I suppose this could bear a similarity to a “Blaxploitation” soundtrack even though it is about a cat, but with more jazz riffing. With the exception of the inclusion of ‘cameos’ of famous recordings, the material on this album is not found anywhere else (as far as I know) and it is exquisite early-70s soul jazz / funk. If this material had been released on individual albums attributed to the artists themselves, it would be better known and probably have made for successful titles in their catalogs — if nothing else, at least with the recognition and cult-status of a (at one time) rare record like Purdie’s soundtrack for “Leileh” released in 1974. As it stands, this soundtrack seems relatively uncelebrated by the rare-groove crowd.

The soundtrack to Heavy Traffic is also good listening but features mostly uncredited musicians (with Merle Saunders a big exception). It follows the same formula of instrumental grooves but with a few famous artists thrown in (Chuck Berry, Sergio Mendes). It’s solid but not as creative or inspired as the Fritz soundtrack, although the theme of “Scarburough Fair” running through the record is a nice touch. The storyline of this film is equally odd, if not more so, than Fritz, and a synopsis can be found at this link.

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Gato Barbieri – Bolivia (1973) with Lonnie Liston Smith

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Gato Barbieri
“Bolivia”
1973 on Flying Dutchman Records (FD-10158)
This pressing 2001, BMG France

Merceditas
Eclypse / Michellina
Bolivia
Niños
Vidala Triste

Produced by Bob Thiele

Bass – J.-F. Jenny-Clark , Stanley Clarke
Drums – Airto Moreira, Pretty Purdie (Merceditas only)
Guitar – John Abercrombie
Percussion – Airto Moreira , Gene Golden , James M’tume* , Moulay “Ali” Hafid
Piano, Electric Piano – Lonnie Liston Smith
Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Vocals – Gato Barbieri

The corporeal memory of pleasures briefly known and longing barely quenched. Her skin still ageless, her scent rich in my lungs, we drifted off together in exhaustion. She left me there sleeping, a note on the kitchen table. She left me there dreaming the Bolivarian dream of an America united across the hemispheres. She left me a folheto she bought from a street hawker who recited it for us from beginning to end and offered to continue with more. She may have bought it just to silence him and send him on his way, a bribe to leave us to our own private somnambulist poetry. A crowded street in the old city, as he walked away from us I barely noticed that all sound faded into a steady hum of a single note in the dark regions of my awareness, hearing only her voice; of all color fading into a uniform grey, seeing only her pale skin in the half-light. All senses withdrawn into one still point of awareness. She left me lost in the Bolivarian dream as she went back to the arms of the beast that bore me, the colossus of the north yawning and stretching its million arms to every corner of this dying earth. Our homes were exchanged in a backroom trade between our saints arm-wrestling the invisible hand that feeds us. They lost. The body memory of longing never quenched and peace in the future conjunctive. Even the strongest of unions could barely hold out against the fading of that dream.

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This is another beautiful record from Gato Barbieri, making music quite unlike anything else going on at the time and with an ensemble that’s hard to beat. Lonnie Liston Smith receives co-billing on the front cover, and its no coincidence as his Cosmic Echoes band was putting out their first album on Flying Dutchman the same year. The opening track “Merceditas”, having no less than Pretty Purdy, Airto, and M’tume playing together, would seem to be a climax before foreplay, and in any other hands that might be the case. Barbieri pulls this off, though, as the strength of the rest of material is more than enough to carry the album. The title track is particularly rich, beautiful and terrifying. It is difficult for me to write about this record because the liner notes from Nat Hentoff, a much better writer than I’ll ever be, humble the movement of my pen. I will, however, freely quote from him:


“The life-affirming, surging spirit of these performances – with their supple range of colors, rhythms, soaring melodies – is the essence of that basic, visceral beauty that gives hope to lovers and revolutionaries and to all those who believe in real life before death. His music is an embodiment of perennial possibility that is made of blood and flesh rather than vaporous dreams. Gato, in sum, is among the the least abstract of musicians because he is so explosively, specifically alive.”

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Gato Barbieri – El Pampero (1971)

Jorge Ben needs a Jorge Break. And so I bring you…


Gato Barbieri
“El Pampero”
Released 1971 as Flyind Dutchman FD-10151

This reissues 2002 BMG France / RCA Victor Gold Series

1. El Pampero (Gato Barbieri)
2. Mi Buenos Aires Querido (Carlos Gardel – Alfredo Lepera)
3. Brasil (Aldo Cabral – Benedicto Lacerda)
4. El Arriero (Atahualpa Yupanqui)
5. El Gato (Oliver Nelson)

Tracks 1 through 4 recorded on June 18, 1971 at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland

Personnel: Lonnie Liston Smith, piano; Chuck Rainey, electric bass; Bernard Purdie, drums; Sonny Morgan, conga; Nana Vasconcelos, percussion, berimbau; Gato Barbieri, saxophone, vocal on track 4.

Track 5 recorded in May, 1972 at RCA Studios, NYC. Personnel includes:
Romeo Pengue, alto flute, English horn; Phil Bodner, flute, alto flute; Danny Bank, bass clarinet; Oliver Nelson, alto saxophone, conductor, arranger; Hank Jones, piano; David Spinozza, guitar; Ron Carter, bass; Bernard Purdie, drums; Airto Moreira, percussion.

Phenomenal live set from Gato Barbieri at the peak of his feline prowess and with an amazing ensemble that was essentially a pick-up gig for most of them. But not just any pick-up band, no siree! Bernand “Pretty” Purdie on skins along with Chuck Rainey on bass (playing the festival with Aretha Franklin and King Curtis) aren’t exactly some music-school hacks you pick up at the bus station on the way to the show. Lonnie Liston Smith and the one and only Nana Vasconcelos were the only regular band members on stage with Gato, and both give it everything they’ve got. In spite of being improvised by the seat-of-their-pants, the only time I notice the Purdie/Rainey rhythm section lag, if not quite falter, is in the beginning section of Brasil where Rainey comes in a measure behind Pretty Purdie’s triumphant drum entrance about three minutes in. Other than that, they sound like they had all been playing together for years. The ambient place-making of “Mi Buenos Aires Querido” is as evocative a piece as Gato ever played. But the highlight for me is “El Ariero”, a song by the very influential Argentinian composer and writer Atahualp Yupanqui. Gato had also recorded in the studio and released it on the album “Fenix” earlier in the year, where I think it has a little more *power* or some similar descriptor, particularly the vocal, but this version has a nice spontaneous intensity to it. The last track, written by frequent collaborator Oliver Nelson, is a bonus cut to this CD, having appeared on a Flying Dutchman compilation of the same name (El Gato) where it was the sole original, unreleased track. This reissue does us the favor of placing it here, and saving us from looking at the awful front cover design of Barbieri turning into a cat, werewolf-style. The lineup is a considerably augmented ensemble which now includes Ron Carter on bass and Airto Moreira on percussion in place of Nana. A beautiful tune, particularly the double flute arrangements.