Choice Cuts Vol.8

It is once again time for me to reach back in the refrigerator for some "choice cuts". Each time, I will be featuring sizzling and succulent morsels that are grabbing my ear right now that range from funk to country, from afro-beat to garage rock, etc. Sometimes there will be a theme to these songs that ties them all together in a nice bow, but other times the songs featured will just be a musical hodgepodge of eclectic delights. Without further ado, lets see what "choice cuts" the vinyl butcher has prepared for us today.

Luther Allison- Bloomington Closing- Early Version #1 (Bonus track from CD Reissue)
From: Luther's Blues [Motown, 2001]

As I was shuffling through CD's to play in my car the other day, I stumbled upon this Luther Allison reissue from 2001. Back when I was working at Music Millennium, I was turned on to countless blues artists by Bill Rhoades, the resident blues expert and finest harmonica player in the Pacific Northwest. While I can't remember the details exactly, I vaguely recall him telling me to give this record a listen. Of course, with so much music at my disposal at the time, it alluded me until now. Luther's Blues is an eclectic mix of gutsy electric blues, funk, soul and heartfelt ballads but the highlight for me is an instrumental track called "Bloomington Closing- Early Version #1" that was left off the record when it was initially released in 1974.

This track starts cooking with grease right out the gate with a funky chicken-scratch guitar that immediately sets the upbeat tone.  After about 15 seconds, a finger-snapping break-beat is introduced, and shortly after a horn section and piano player hop aboard to get this track moving like a freight train. While the horns and piano take center stage at first, it's clear that something special is just around the corner. At just about one-and-a-half minutes, Allison enters with a guitar solo so electric it could power the third rail. He goes up and down the frets like a madman with an itchy trigger finger, while the rhythm section holds it down nicely. There is a moment at about the 2:45 mark where the solo is so intense that it's reminiscent of something Thurston Moore might play on one of his experimental records.  After Allison's extensive solo wraps up, the horns are re-introduced during the last thirty seconds of the track, and the track fades out with Allison still plucking away at the strings. I would love to see some live footage of Allison performing this song, because then I could actually witness how it's humanly possible for him to move his fingers so fast and sustain this level of intensity for over three minutes. If you haven't heard anything from Allison, I strongly encourage you to download and listen to this track.

Bob Downes Open Music- Walking On
From: Electric City [Vertigo, 1970]

Lately I've been on a kick of discovering new music played on radio shows like WFMU, House of Sound and XRAY. During my lunch break one day last week, I came across a show on WFMU called JA in the AM. He was playing some things I'd never heard before, including this electrifying jazz-rock track taken from the debut album by Bob Downes entitled Electric City. The fact that I'd never been exposed to Bob Downes up to this point was a great reminder that even though I might feel that I've heard everything, there are still plenty of diamonds in the rough left for me to discover. 

The first thing I noticed about this track is that it doesn't sound like a typical jazz-rock song.   A chugging rhythm section combines with horns to create a sound that has one foot firmly planted in the past, while continuing to break the existing boundaries in Jazz-rock. If I hadn't known any better, I would have thought that this was a new track from punk stalwarts The Ex or the flying-off-the-handle, caterwauling free jazz outfit The Thing. After the first twenty-five seconds of the track, it kicks into a fervent saxophone solo which directly leads into the first verse of the song. Then, it explodes into an even more unhinged sax solo that continues to play underneath the falsetto whoops and hollers of the vocalist. Shortly after this, the guitarist kicks into a frenzied solo that lasts almost a minute, finally yielding to the excitable vocal gymnastics of the singer that sound like a mental patient who has fallen off the deep end. While the tempo of the song is effortlessly maintained by the rhythm section, the singer comes back for the second and final verse of the song. It all culminates at the end with the jittery vocals, bass, horn section and guitars simultaneously firing on all cylinders, making for an incredible aural experience.

I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Choice Cuts, and would love to hear what you think of these tracks!


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