Good Music We Can Know

Friday, May 4, 2012

Soul Vibes and Harp Funk: Dorothy Ashby- Afro-Harping (1968)

I first got tipped to Dorothy Ashby over at Ghostcapital, and when I saw that she was jazz harpin' I got excited for more of that Alice Coltrane Journey in Satchidananda sound that I love. Alas, Ms. Ashby could never live up to those unreasonable expectations. And I have to say, I don't die for any of her albums in their entirety, but there's always some truly excellent moments. The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby is particularly hit-or-miss, but only because the "hits" are so phenomenally awesome.

Afro-Harping may not be all that hard to find on the blogosphere, but I don't seem to hear a lot of chatter over its considerable merits, so I thought I'd throw up a link and do up a post on it.

If you heard my last mix, Jungle Shadows II, which featured a track off of Afro-Harping ("Soul Vibrations"), you may already have impossibly high expectations for this record. That track is killer, in my opinion, a perfect piece of library-style exotica theremin funk. I hate to say this, but nothing else on the record sounds as immaculately awesome as "Soul Vibrations". Still, this is a really strong LP. A few easy-listening Bacharach or Billy Vaughn-style covers (including a surprisingly cool version of "Look of Love"), a few more funky numbers, some notable breakbeats, laid-back harp-jazz, a smattering of exotic notions... this is one of her better records, all told, even if it is rather slight. The playing throughout is generally laid-back dynamite. There's a really killer exotic jazz tune, "Life Has Its Trials," that makes the whole record worth it, just on its own-- a rollicking safari anthem with mallets and harp and a rhythm to die for.

Check this out, it's a damn good one.



burntoutsavannahs said...

you beat me to the punch buddy. i was going to post this one when i got home from work in an hour. one of my favorites. i grabbed this one off of rappamelo a while ago, a classique gem.

dee es said...

I think you're exactly right about this album's pleasures and limitations. One of its other merits, though, is that the Cadet pressing sounds soooo good. I've found a few Cadet records from the mid-sixties to early seventies and they all sound amazing—big, bright sounds with really dynamic spatial arrangements. Ramsey Lewis records are easy to find and make a good example.

Flabbergast said...

Soul Vibrations has a theremin on it, doesn't it? Definitely the orgasm of the record and the rest it just sort of idle afterplay but still cool. The title cut has a nice Herbie Mannish groove to it.

Flash Strap said...

@burntoutsavannah: Sorry I outdrew ya, Tex

@dee es, flabbergast: you guys are spot on

Jonathan said...

Wow! That's some groovy stuff. Thanks for the post!

Muff Diver said...

I had a copy, once. Then it was gone. Now I have a new-ish copy and I"m happy again! Thank you for posting this LP, and for keeping the links open.