Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Melange of Musical Pipedreams and Pandemonium

While the title of this post sounds like one of my own mix-tape creations, it's actually the title of the latest encyclopedic, music-reference tome from the prolific author Vernon Joynson. Over the past several years, I've been intrigued with the plethora of music reference books available which highlight the most obscure artists in the pantheon of music.  The first books I heard about that were written by Vernon Joynson were Fuzz, Acid and Flowers and The Tapestry of Delights, but the price of these has always been so exorbitant that I could only hold the vision that there would be a new pressing that was more affordable. Recently, I discovered that he had released a revision of one of his earlier books Dreams, Fantasies and Nightmares from Far Away Lands Revisited that would showcase music coming out of Turkey, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia and the Middle East. After doing some research about the cost of landing a copy of the aforementioned A Melange of Musical Pipedreams and Pandemonium, I determined that it would be a necessary investment in my creative well-being. It arrived yesterday, so while I haven't had a chance to delve into it extensively, I can already tell that it contains a wealth of information about undiscovered gems.

Mansion- The Love Song and Devil Woman
From: Devil Woman [Clover, 1976]

For today's post, I'm featuring a couple rare track from the Nigerian band Mansion, first discovered in A Melange of Musical Pipedreams and Pandemonium. Devil Woman was released on Clover records in 1976, a label featuring records by other head-spinning afro-rock artists like The Doves, Aktion and The Apostles. From the cover of the album, you would probably peg this as another African high-life record akin to the classic sounds of King Sunny Ade. While the record does feature sunny melodies that ride the intoxicating rhythm of high life, it also features a strong funk and psychedelic vibe that elevates these songs to a higher level.

The first track I'm featuring today is appropriately titled "The Love Song", and it's almost exactly what you would expect to hear.  From the chiming organ and upbeat rhythms throughout this track, you are in for a serious hit of aural sunshine. Every single instrument is perfectly in synch, especially the way the catchy vocals blend with the organ and shuffling rhythm. If you can sit still while listening to this track, then you probably need to make sure your heart's still beating. I simply can't stop bobbing my head and tapping my feet while listening to this song, and I can almost say with a certainty that you will find yourself in a positive head-space after listening to it.

The second track that I'm featuring from this record is called "Devil Woman". I'm definitely getting a groovy Fela Kuti Afro-beat vibe from the beginning of the track, but it quickly switches gears into an acidic guitar solo that slowly develops into the first verse of the track. It's another tasty tune with catchy vocals laid over a bed of funky rhythms, stinging guitar and complex percussion. I especially love the slightly fuzzed out solo towards the middle of the track, and the overall insistent groove of the song. It gives the listener the feeling of a groove that never stops until the break of day.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and I look forward to sharing more music with all of you on a more regular basis.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Influences of DJ Shadow

As I sit here this morning, bleary-eyed and staring at this blank screen, I realize that it's been another four months since my last post. When things were going well, it seemed like the words flowed effortlessly out of my fingers like a running stream. Now, I can barely muster up a small puddle of words, tangled up in regret and uncertainty of what the future holds for me.

Recently, an old friend and frequent visitor of Eclectic Grooves sent me a message on Facebook saying that he was sorry to hear of all of my troubles, and that he figured that the blog was defunkt. Upon hearing this from a person who had visited the blog many times, and regularly posted comments, it was the shot in the arm that I needed to reignite my passion for writing about music again.  I want to thank this person for shaking me out of my creative funk and essentially waking me from my slumber.

Now, on to the music..

One of my main sources for discovering new music when I first started the blog was the retro-leaning, vinyl enthusiast magazine called Wax Poetics. It was a revelation to me, as its contents overflowed with recommendations of old records, new interviews with funk, soul and rock artists from the 60's and 70's who are still prevalent and a smattering of interviews and reviews of new artists that were presently making waves. About three years ago they drastically changed the format of the magazine: making the pages have a more newspaper feel to them instead of the glossy format from the beginning, featuring more mainstream artists like Michael Jackson and Prince on the cover and doing away with one of my favorite sections of the magazine called Re: Discovery that mined the underground archives for music that was practically unheard of and definitely not celebrated when it was originally released. These reviews were insightful and entertaining, and they made you want to find these albums in any way, shape or form.

Although they haven't brought back the Re: Discovery feature, I am happy to report that the last couple issues of Wax Poetics have gone back to featuring classic artists like James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone and David Axelrod, and the glossy print has also returned.

Today, I want to focus on a few artists and tracks that were influential to DJ Shadow (the cover artist for the latest issue of Wax Poetics) when producing his instrumental hip-hop masterpiece Endtroducing.

DJ Shadow- Endtroducing
[1996, Mo' Wax]

Giorgio- London Traffic
From: Son of My Father [Dunhill Records, 1972]

Before Giorgio Moroder became a household name in disco, he was busy crafting quirky pop gems like this. I love the way the drums kick in from the beginning, and that it uses synthesizers sparingly enough that they don't drown out the rest of the instrumentation.  As much as I don't like synthesizers, sometimes they serve a purpose to set the tone of the song. In this case, there is a synthesizer solo featured prominently in the middle of the song that sets the light and airy tone of the song. This is actually perfect summer music, so sit back and relax with a cold one while enjoying the wistful sound of pre-disco Giorgio Moroder.

Dennis Linde- On the Run
From: Linde Manor [Intrepid, 1970]

Based on the cover of the record, you would think that this is another sleepy singer-songwriter record from the 70's.  But, from the first couple seconds of the funky bass on this track, you realize that you couldn't have been more mistaken. There is a somewhat sappy bridge that takes the track in a different direction midway through the song, but it quickly finds its legs again with a short instrumental break replete with punchy horns and fuzz guitar.  At the end of the song, there is a great effect that makes his voice sound like it's going down a deep well while the horns and guitar fade in the distance. Overall, another deep cut taken from the seemingly endless archives of DJ Shadow.

Osanna- Variazione 1 (To Plinius)
From: Preludio Tema Variazioni Canzona [Fonit, 1972]


This is one of the best album covers of all time, but I have no idea what it's supposed to be depicting. It was clearly influenced by the swirling, trippy album covers from the 60's psychedelic era without coming across as kitschy.  The infectious bass and drums intro to this song is a hip-hop sample waiting to happen, so it makes sense that DJ Shadow was influenced by it. I love the way the perfect little guitar solo sets the tone for the guitar and horn sections that maniacally play off each other. This is a very fast-paced cut that doesn't let up until it slowly fades out with chanting vocals over an orchestral tone that is reminiscent of the sounds you hear when something bad is about to happen in a horror flick. This track has a lot going on, and will reward repeated listens.

That's it for now, but I look forward to sharing more music with you soon.