Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rodriguez - Sugar Man

Rodriguez has been a household name among the white population of South Africa since the early 70s. Cold Fact has become a cult classic in South Africa, but unbelievably Rodriguez was unknown elsewhere except for other Commonwealth nations and I personally don't know anyone who doesn't know the lyrics to every track on Cold Fact and that includes my grandparents. David Holmes and his band The Free Association covered Sugar Man after Holmes, famous for scoring a wealth of Hollywood films including the Ocean's 11 films, had included the track on a mix CD a few years ago that I forget the name of but I'm sure that Ashley Kanter will remind me of. His influence on South Africans and particularly those in the national service during the turbulent 70s and 80s was immense as this quote on the Sugarman forum exemplifies.

Sixto Rodriguez - fifty-something-year-old failed Detroit politician and (in his own country) unknown singer songwriter - is part of our shared cultural heritage. In the deadly SA '70s, his songs of harsh political complaint, of the power of sex and the lure of drugs, awoke something in untold thousands of young (white) breasts. He stoked rebellion and - who knows - helped children of suburbia wake up to the need for change in their own country.
- Guy Willoughby, 9th March 1998

I remember my wife telling me that her friend, Matt Smith - producer for the likes of Slumber Party, the Volebeats, early White Stripes, the Dirtbombs and many more, was surprised to hear how big he was in South Africa as he sat in on sessions with Rodriguez in dive bars in Detroit and would never have in a million years have thought that he was known outside Cass Corridor let alone all the way at the southern tip of Africa. He toured South Africa in 1998 due to the efforts of a few dedicated fans and by all accounts he was overwhelmed to be performing in front of thousands in arenas, which is quite a step up from playing at a dive bar in front of a barman and a few stragglers. I went to the concert at the Bellville Vellodrome and it was immense even if he did forget the words to a few songs but that didn't matter as every word was sung by the mesmerized throngs at an almost ear-splitting level. It was easily one of the best live experiences of my life.

There is a timeless, almost ethereal quality to his right on tunes and if I were forced to pick a desert island record Cold Fact would most certainly be in the running. I love this record and I never grow tired of it. Enjoy.

Rodriguez - Sugar Man

The Heliocentrics - Winter Song

Good luck trying to categorize The Heliocentrics' music. Led by the relentless drummer Malcolm Catto, the UK collective's reside musically in an alternative galaxy, where the orbits of Hip-Hop, Funk, Jazz, Psychedelic, Electronic, Avante-Garde and Ethnic music all collide.

A listen to Winter Song reveals no small influence from the funk universe of James Brown but there's also the disorienting asymmetry found in the music of the number one cosmic brother, Sun Ra. Throw in the cinematic scope of Ennio Morricone and the sublime fusion of David Axelrod and you have a new form of music that transcends boundaries and rips up the rule book and starts again. The Heliocentrics' music is by no means retro, it's brand new. With well-placed fans such as the likes of Madlib, Catto was featured on his Shades of Blue album and on various Yesterdays New Quintet releases, and DJ Shadow, the band backed him on the song This Time I’m Gonna Do It My Way from his The Outsider album, this is a band that has the consistency and musicianship that seems to have been lost somewhere in the analog to digital shuffle over the past thirty years. Buy their album Out There immediately, press play, turn the volume up to 11 and take a large drink of their timeless excellence.

The Heliocentrics - Winter Song

Friday, March 28, 2008

Motor City Drum Ensemble - Raw Cuts #2

A solo outing here from Stuttgart's Danilo Plessow of Inverse Cinematics fame who has produced an incredible record that is, as promised, raw as fuck and is guaranteed to take the roof off some of the more discerning dancefloors around the world.

As Inverse Cinematics, Danilo and partner Joachim Tobias were the more electronic end of the broken beat spectrum and had a lot more to do with the sound of record labels such as Soul City and Prescription than the West London flavas coming from labels such as Bitasweet and 2000 Black, and as a result their records have held up a lot more over time for me than anything Bugz-related. What I really like about Danilio's work is that he's always got that swing that is needed to get people bouncing around on the dancefloor. Check Detroit Jazzin', Slow Swing and Create My u-Inverse for more rolling cuts that will still work in clubs today. For a deeper more esoteric cut check the superb Shoot The Pianist, which you could easily file next to your Pepe Bradock records, it really is that good.

Under his Motor City Drum Ensemble guise, Danilo is giving respect to his influences such as KDJ, Mike Huckaby, Larry Heard and Chez Damier all while at the same time adding his own distinct style to the Mid-West house and techno blueprint set by those great producers. With EPs out on Compost Black Label and his own Four Roses imprint and with support from everyone from Gilles Peterson to Laurent Garnier it looks like we're going to be treated to a few years of deep electronic Detroit-inspired house music and I, for one, am not upset by that at all. Raw Cuts #2 is almost certainly going to be in my end of the chart and hopefully I won't have worn out the grooves by then, it's all about the progression through the groove with the keys and live bass adding to it and then some. I'm not sure what the sample source is but I'm almost certain I've got it in the collection somewhere - when I have a bit of a dig over the weekend and if I find it then I'll add it to the post.

Motor City Drum Ensemble - Raw Cuts #2

Thursday, March 27, 2008

One Hundred Project : Liam D (Feelmusic)

What is on your stereo at the moment?

The LP that's really melting my face at the moment is the new 'Computer Incarnations for World Peace 2' LP on Sonar Kollectiv. A beautiful collection of downtempo house, balearic vibes and soul-filled melodies. Better than volume one

3 records that changed your life. Why?

Parallel Universe by 4Hero
ground breaking drum and bass that stands the test of time.

Talking Book by Stevie Wonder
Enough said.

It Take a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back - Public Enemy
A rallying call, with conscious lyrics and legendary beats.

What are you looking forward to?

Festival season in Europe. Partying on Croatian beaches or dancing round a tent in the English countryside. Cannot be beat.

What couldn't you live without? Why?

The obvious answer is music, the less obvious answer is my MacBook.

Most memorable gig?

Chaka Khan, Hammersmith Odeon London, 1985. Unreal hearing "I Feel 4 U" live.

Who/what are your influences?

My folks, my friends, pirate radio DJs and anyone / anything unflinchingly positive.

What is the best and worst thing about the city that you live in?

Best thing: My apartment. Worst thing: attitudes and knife crime.

Given the accelerated pace of modern culture, what are we due a revival in?

Capes. Superheroes save the world and everyone wants to be a superhero. So buy a damn cape.

Hero? Why?

Herbie Hancock. Musical genius, a figure as important as Stevie in advancing black music.

Is there anything else that you feel that we should know?

I love toast and Nike Air Max

A London-based boy who loves sound, partying and life in general. Occasionally makes tunes and does the odd mix.

Japan Diggin - Osaka


Erykah Badu - Honey
Georgia Ann Muldrow - Lavender Blue
DJ Spinna - Dilla Is The G.O.A.T.
Up Hygh - Acid
Dabrye - Get Dirty
? - Small Circle of Friends
Skymark - My Life
Michael Henderson - Going Places
MC Kinley Jackson - Love Overture
Tom Browne - Midnight Interlude
Tammy Payne - Take Me Now
The Players Association - Let's Groove
Mass Production - In A City Groove
Tarika Blue - You'll Be With Me

Download the mix here.

Check Liam's blog here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

One Hundred Project : Geoff Bowling

What is on your stereo at the moment?

Erykah Badu – New Amerykah
Eric Lau – New Territories
Coultrain – Adventures of Seymour Liberty
Some very good disco mixes from million dollar

3 records that changed your life. Why?

Get on the good foot – James Brown
Like most youngsters I used to listen to my parents records. My mum had lot’s of Motown stuff and compilation tapes from people like Al Green, Otis Redding etc. Soul music which had made the charts. My mum was also a member of the Brittania music club and if you ordered a certain amount of tapes you got a free one, I was allowed to choose this once and because I’d developed an interest in all this old soul music I chose a James Brown compilation. The Please, please, please, It’s a mans world, Think etc was cool but it was the FUNK that caught my imagination and Get on the good foot especially. I think this set the tone for my musical tastes ever since. December the 25th will always be remembered for different reasons now!

I know you’ve got soul – Eric B and Rakim
At the time my fascination with James Brown was developing most hip hop records sampled his music. This being one of the best examples. I love hip hop from this period, still do like hip hop but I’m very choosy now. I’m a bit of an old fart when it comes to hip hop……”you call this hip hop” I’ll say to the youths.

You can’t turn me away - Sylvia Striplin
Not so much this record on it’s own but the genre it represents i.e. rare groove. It’s a slow record that people can rave to, I don’t need high bpm’s to make me want to dance. The rare groove scene taught me that lots of quality music gets discarded and you have to dig deeper to get to the good stuff (it also taught me too look after your music you don’t know how much it’ll be worth in the future)

What are you looking forward to?

The summer!

What couldn’t you live without? Why?

As a carbon based life form I can’t live without oxygen.

Most memorable gig?

From a playing out point of view I used to dj a lot as a student. No dj then no buy records. After starting working this was no longer a motivation. I did get to dj at my favourite club in Nottingham though, the Kool Kat. Alistair Whitehead played the main room, the Buddha Brothers played hip hop and there was another room which had funk, soul and rare groove. I arranged for myself and two friends to play the third room which was good because I enjoyed going to the club so much. Didn’t last long because one of the guys shafted me whilst I was away for the summer, taught me that some people use dj’ing to boost their ego and status rather than express their love of their type of music.

Who/what are your influences?

Zammo off Grange Hill, he stopped me from being a smackhead.

What is the best and worst thing about the city that you live in?

Manchester is big enough to be interesting but small enough to be social. Because of it’s size you can’t just stay within a limited musical clique and you get to appreciate a wider variety of music. I won’t change my tastes in music but it’s good to understand better where other people are coming from. A lack of quality live music in Manchester depresses me, the only time I want to go to London is when I see who is on at the Jazz CafĂ©. Also the parochial nature of the North West in general. I grew up close to Liverpool but had loads of family in Manchester. I’ve never understood the Manc / Scouser hatred thing. I see myself as a citizen of the North West of England and try and enjoy what both great cities have to offer me.

Given the accelerated pace of modern culture, what are we due a revival in?

I’m not interested in revivals. I’ll find the soul and funk I’m after in music. It will always be there. I’m sure when I’m 70 I’ll be listening to the Erykah Badu equivalent of that era.

Hero? Why?

Jan Molby, because of the way he took Everton apart in the second half of the 1986 FA cup final

Is there anything else that you feel that we should know?

I used to be a woman.

Geoff Bowling is a rugby playing black music enthusiast and if you drew a Venn diagram then I'm sure that he would be the only person in the overlap of the two circles. His musical influences range everywhere from James Brown to Jean Carne to GangStarr to Blaze and all points in between and he's a great addition to the One Hundred Project.


D’Influence - Good Lover (touch mix)
Shades of Soul – Give it to me (4 Hero mix)
Soho – Hot Music
Marcus Valle – Para de Fazer (4 Hero mix)
Players Association – I like it
Funkhouse Express – Chase your blues away
Mass Production – Welcome to our world
James Brown – Don’t tell it
Restless Soul – Turn me out

Download the mix here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Letta Mbulu - Kiliminjaro

Born and raised in Soweto, Letta Mbulu is alongside Miriam Makeba and Sibongile Khumalo one of the greatest singers that has ever waded out of South Africa's turbulent waters and made a mark on the international stage.

Having fled South Africa for New York in 1965 she quickly fell in with other exiles such as Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Jonas Gwangwa and would grace the stage of the famed Village Gate club where a young Cannonball Adderley was so taken with her distinct style that he invited her to tour with him, which she did for the remainder of the decade.

Cannonball wasn't the only musical legend to fall under her spell and the enigmatic David Axelrod convinced Capitol that she would make a fine addition to their stable, one which at the time boasted the likes of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Lou Rawls and, of course, Cannonball Adderley. Unfortunately due to poor sales and a distinct lack of airplay due to the language barrier Letta Mbulu Sings was far from a success and she was subsequently on the verge of beng dropped from the label when David Axelrod again stepped in and convinced them to give her another chance and what emerged from those sessions was the sublime Free Soul, which for my money is some of the best work done by either David or Letta. Both Letta Mbulu Sings and Free Soul would make very welcome additions to anyone's collections and if you don't have them and you have an appreciation for soul, funk, jazz and a huge dollop of spirituality served up then you can't go wrong with either.

She then went on to record for the short-lived but much loved Chisa imprint run by Hugh Masekela and Stewart Levine, of which you can buy a compilation that was re-issued just over a year ago through BBE, but unfortunately Chisa ceased to exist in 1971 but from her self-titled album you can feast your ears on the glorious Mahlalela and I Need Your Love, which are both huge favourites of mine and judging by the amount of times people have come up and asked me what they are when I've played in various venues I'd wager that I'm not alone in appreciating their distinct charms.

In the years that followed Letta went on to tour with Harry Belafonte, star in a Sidney Potier film and record albums for Cannonball's Fantasy Records imprint. Her work was starting to be the true amalgamation of township pop with American R&B and she proved herself to be an utterly unique voice on what was an overcrowded marketplace of indentikit soul records. The legendary Herb Alpert jumped at the chance of signing Letta to his A&M Records label and her work There's Music In The Air made her a household name around the world and as a result people were starting to take notice of the queen of Afro-pop.

Quincy Jones then fought tooth and nail to get her to be the voice of his much vaunted Roots mini-series that even somehow made its way onto South African television at a time where if you were on the white side of the colour divide you had no idea that you were the minority, which is the most absurd thing ever but I'll save my perceptions of the blatant idiocy of the privileged back home for another post.

Kiliminjaro is probably her biggest hit and can be found on the grooves of her first record of the 80s, Sound of a Rainbow and it is this record that I thought that I'd share with you. Play it as loud as possible and take a drink of the full range of her vocal abilities.

To be honest, I don't know much about Letta's career post Sound of a Rainbow mainly due to the fact that I haven't been able to find any records of hers from this period, which is strange as normally you find the stuff produced in the 1980s/1990s and struggle for the usually superior 1970s-era cuts. I know that she was involved in the A Color Purple soundtrack and that she returned to South Africa when the hatred and injustices of apartheid were abolished in 1991. If anyone knows of what happened after this period or has any recommendations for albums of hers that I should be on the look out for then please let me know.

I fill with a sense of pride whenever I hear a Letta Mbulu track as through all the travesties and injustices perpetrated by the Nats in South Africa they weren't able to silence a soul as talented and blessed as Letta Mbulu. Viva!

Letta Mbulu - Kiliminjaro

Here she is performing Diphendule with her husband Caiphas Simenya, I'm not sure from when but it must have been in the early 1990s.

Latimore - Lets Straighten It Out

I've been looking for a copy of Latimore's superb Lets Straighten It Out since I first heard it on a cassette back in 1994/1995 that thankfully made its way into my grateful possession courtesy of a school friend's brother who had just returned from a year in England. If I remember correctly it was taped off one of the specialist shows on KISS FM, possibly Patrick Forge's, and this was the first track on the second side of what otherwise was a forgettable set of music. The tape didn't last long and tragically it was mauled by a faulty tape deck, which almost left me in tears as distraughtly I had to cast its unsalvageable beauty towards the big cassette player in the sky. (Yes, yes I know that is probably a bit too much of a poetic/cringeworthy way of saying 'I got a bit mardy and chucked it in the bin' but I'm setting a mood, see?)

I have spent the last 12 years describing it, and even in some cases singing it, to record dealers the world over with no dice but a few months ago I had a bit of luck when Fabric resident DJ, Craig Richards, stuck it on his podcast and the moment I heard those first few bars I was beaming, my quest for arguably one of the greatest records I have ever heard was about to come to a satisfying end. A quick scan on the net and within minutes I had a copy for the not too princely sum of $16, but truth be told I would've easily paid 10 or 20 times that much for it.

We can all sympathise with Latimore's need to find out what is going on with his girl and especially the immortal line, "How in the hell do you expect me to understand when I don't even know what is wrong?', which we've all uttered in one or two relationships. Whatever Latimore did to her must have been rough as he put up with the cold shoulder for five long days and nights and only then did he feel the need to plead with her for forgiveness or answers. On the cover Latimore looks like a bit of a pimp, so I'm assuming either he got caught with a bit of fluff on the side or maybe she cheated on him and was trying to raise the courage to tell our hero. Either way I'd be willing to bet a Grant or two (that's a $50 bill to you non-Americans) that they didn't last much longer but if the song was the legacy of their relationship then from where I am sitting in the cheap seats it was worth every bit of heartache they may have had to endure.

As you can tell I've clearly listened to this track a few times too many and I can't see my daily plays dissipating anytime soon. Superb doesn't even begin to describe it. You need this.

(I have no idea what the video is about and it's probably best that you don't watch it)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Kris Needs' Disco List

Kris Needs - Journalist, DJ, production artist and living leg end is primarily known for his writings on the music scene from the 1970s onwards.

After running the Mott The Hoople fan club in the early 70s, Kris started contributing to Zigzag, horrifying the old guard with his coverage of the nascent punk scene. Founder-editor Pete Frame ran his interviews with groups like the Sex Pistols, Clash, Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers, Ramones and Flamin' Groovies before, acknowledging the new movement, asking Kris to take over as Editor in June 1977.

For the next five years, Kris led Zigzag to punk's front line but also placed himself with everyone from Siouxsie and the Banshees and Blondie to Motorhead, Keith Richards, Chic and Kate Bush. He interviewed a new band called U2 in return for what turned out to be the last UK interview with Bob Marley. There was also an enduring relationship with John Lydon, recently recalled in the Stories Of Johnny compendium.

Throughout this period, Kris contributed to Sounds and NME while acting as New York Rocker's UK correspondent. He also fronted a band called the Vice Creems, who boasted half of The Clash for one single. After Zigzag became the victim of shady publishers, Kris helped run the Bat Cave club and became UK correspondent for Creem, moving to New York in '86 and becoming their man in Manhattan.

Arriving back in the UK in 1990, Kris dived into the club scene for the rest of the decade, writing for NME, Mixmag, Echoes, DJ and Muzik. He made records as Secret Knowledge and Delta Lady, produced around 100 remixes and DJed around the world with Primal Scream and Prodigy. After forming a disco group with Irvine Welsh, running Creation's dance arm Eruption then ending up resident DJ and pole-dancer at Ibiza's notorious Manumission club, Kris chose writing over an early grave and wrote his autobiography Needs Must [currently being revamped], then formed the ongoing Bunnymad69 with his missus Michelle.

Since 2002, Kris has written books: The Scream: The Music, Myths & Misbehaviour Of Primal Scream; Keith Richards: Before They Make Me Run; Joe Strummer & The Legend Of The Clash and Trash! The Complete New York Dolls with Dick Porter. He also contributes to MOJO, Clash, Record Collector, DMC Update and Trakmarx punk webzine, the spiritual son of Zigzag.

I just found this article posted on DJ History from the much missed Jockey Slut magazine that covers Kris' favourite disco records. It's as definitive a list as you'll get and the proof is that a lot of our Scandinavian cousins and their followers have pretty much taken scissors to tape, or mouse to icon to be more accurate, to most of them and more often than not ruined some great records in the process but that is obviously a personal gripe of mine. Dive in and seek out any of the records you haven't heard of, trust me your ears and soul will be blessed.

Posting next week might be slow as I'm going to be in the studio designing a t-shirt for Nomadic Wax and I'm off to Newport Beach for a few days of R&R. Have a good one.