Good Music We Can Know

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hawaii Calls: Webley Edwards Presents- Fire Goddess (1959), Exotic Instrumentals (1961)

Recently, I've seen "Hawaiiana" referred to as the poor man's Exotica, and I have to say I nodded my head in agreement with the sentiment. Not because Hawaiian music is intrinsically lame--anyone who's ever heard someone like Sol Hoopi knows this-- but because there's such a glut of "Hawaiian" records devoid of inspiration, conviction, or anything even resembling effort. Cash-ins on a trend. A trend largely kickstarted by a Mr. Webley Edwards, in fact.

Mr. Edwards is not a musician, but rather a radio personality. His career spans decades, and in fact he was not only the first to announce the attack on Pearl Harbor, but also the first man to interview the captain of the Enola Gay after Hiroshima, and the chief announcer for the Japanese surrender ceremony.

America's fascination with Hawaiian and Polynesian music predates both the war and the 1959 acquisition of Hawaii as a state (Edwards himself had lived there since 1928, and had started broadcasting the influential "Hawaii Calls" radio show as far back as 1935), but there's no mistaking the post-war scent in 1950's Hawaiiana. So it's rather fascinating that this one individual managed to play such a role in archiving and promoting pre-war Hawaiian music, reporting the WWII Pacific theater, and the post-war Hawaiiana boom. Considering the man's bona fides, it ought to be no surprise that if any Hawaiian record belongs in your Exotica Library, it was generated by him.

And Fire Goddess does indeed. Released in the same year Hawaii became a state, it was the fourth in a series of "Hawaii Calls" LPs released under Edward's name (in this case, "Webley Edwards with Al Keoloha Perry"), and featuring a variety of Hawaiian performers. I cannot attest to the authenticity of the music here, or account for which musician contributes what (the back cover scans do list the individual musicians, thankfully). I don't even know who lovingly ripped this LP and scanned the front and back cover art (thank you, ripper). I can tell you that I love this record.

Space Age Pop characterizes the Hawaii Calls series as a "pretty uninspiring assortment of chants and songs". I haven't heard every installment, so perhaps this is a general truth, but Fire Goddess (and 1961's Exotic Instrumentals) are, to me, anything but. Fire Goddess's deep, atmospheric, almost spooky vocal Hawaiian music with heavy overtones of classic Exotica immediately strikes me as something very special. Not your usual collection of chipper versions of "Hawaiian War Chant" and "Aloha Oe", the songs here are mournful, mythical, bonfire magic.
Grab this gorgeous 320 rip and please do enjoy on a balmy night.


Exotic Instrumentals is nowhere near as weird or dark. Hell, it opens with "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific. While that may be a fairly mainstream, inauthentic selection, it actually has a resonance to Edward's place in the zeitgeist of America's relationship to the "Exotic". His legacy and South Pacific's are twins, an appeal to the beauty and fantasy of the Islands and their redemptive possibilities juxtaposed with wartime realities and earnest attempts at bridging difficult cultural barriers. The undertone of blissful colonial obliviousness and white-man escapism lurks, of course, just below the surface, but perhaps not offensively so.

Lest I get ahead of myself: it's also just a really good version of "Some Enchanted Evening", the next best song from South Pacific after "Bali Hai", and certainly one much less seen in the Exotica canon. I love a good rendition of "Bali Hai" and it's one of the most significant examples of popular proto-Exotica but damn there are a lot of dead-eyed takes on that song.

As the back cover notes, "Hawaii is a melange of the exotic", and so we find Webley focusing (in a move ever-so-slightly daring) more on the "exotic" aspect than the Hawaiian. In addition to Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Some Enchanted Evening" and of course several Hawaiian selections, there are compositions described as Chinese, Japanese, "Oriental Hawaiian", Polynesian, Filipino, and Tahitian. The atmosphere is typically idyllic: vibraphone-and-slack guitar paradise music for beach hammocks, tiki cocktails, and palm frond fans. But it's especially good in this regard. Not as surprisingly, rewardingly weird as Arthur Lyman can be in this mode, just very good. The production values are quietly excellent, and there's not a bad track. You can't lose.

320 rip from the same wonderful ripper. I cannot for the life of me recall where I picked this up, and can't seem to find it anywhere else on the blogs. I hope I'm not stepping on anyone's toes, but thank you again, original ripper.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Jeep's Bleeps and Film Jazz: Piero Umiliani- Ode to Duke Ellington, La Legge Dei Gangsters, Mondo Inquieto

Today we focus on the jazzier side of Mr. Umiliani, and on that note there couldn't be a better starting point than Ode to Duke Ellington. Ellington was Umiliani's hero from a young age, so the versions of his compositions found here, strange as they are at times, are heartfelt and intimate.

And they are rather strange, arranged to include ARPs, Moogs, and other blooping and woozing sounds in addition to a conventional jazz orchestra. Over the years, there have been countless versions of "Caravan" and "Sophisticated Lady", some dreadfully faithful and unoriginal, many rather daring. Archie Shepp's "Sophisticated Lady" (from Blasé) is a radical example, and "Caravan" has been done well so many times one starts to wonder if it's harder to do a bad version than a good one-- so it's not like we've never heard these songs re-imagined-- but Umiliani still manages to surprise and thoroughly delight here (and avoid any gimmickiness, to boot). It's a fitting, and thankfully none-too-reverent, tribute to his spiritual mentor and one of the greatest composers of all time.

All the Ellington covers on this record were originally recorded for Jazz A Confronto, pictured above (one of my least favorite sleeve designs, ever), then recompiled for Ode with additional tracks, composed by Umiliani more or less in an Ellingtonian style: "Dreaming of Duke", "Ode to Duke Ellington", "My Man Duke", etc. The newer compositions don't have the space-age trimmings but they're really quite excellent. The only copy of Ode I've found is 192 kbps, whereas the rip of A Confronto is 320, so I've reassembled Ode using the 320 tracks. So, all the Duke tracks are 320, and the five Umilianis are 192. If you please.

ODE TO DUKE (320/192)

Here we have a very jazzy soundtrack to a film (lightly featuring Klaus Kinski) by the name of La Legge Dei Gangsters ("Gangster's Law"). The record is a mix of more "soundtracky" tracks in an Italian gangster movie style, and some more jazzy compositions, including the title track and the sublime 12-and-a-half minute "Genova P. Zza de Ferrari Dalle 2 Alle 7". This one was recommended to me recently by Library music expert and artist Christer as one of his favorite Umiliani records, and I couldn't believe I'd never heard it before. You can grab it here, at fellow Umiliani enthusiast's (excellent) site, Sleazy Listening. Say thank you while you're there.


This is the least jazzy of the set but one of my favorites. It popped up over at the Growing Bin a while back, just before the Great Megacide, so I've re-upped it here. This one is so good. As the cover indicates, this is some dark shit, rich with a sense of dread, full of creeping danger, escape schemes and plaintive saxophones in the forboding mist. Usually when I come across one of the many library LPs whose purpose is to describe "tension" or "danger" or the like, I steer clear, as they often contain more aimless dissonance and industrial drone than anything else, and don't really work for me as music. This is a big whopping exception, a thing of startling beauty.

One of Umiliani's single best compositions can be found on Mondo Inquieto, listed here only as "track 13" (although it pops up, in a slightly lesser form, on the Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso OST as "Free Minore"). Spare, thick with dread, a lone saxophone pierces the atmosphere like a howl or lament. It's so so good, and reminds me a lot of Badalamenti's best work with David Lynch or the end of Bowie's "Neuköln". It's not all so stark, however, there are a few awesome danger jams with pseudo-motorik rhythms or exotic synths. This one is really really good- many many thanks to the ripper, whoever you may be.

Thanks to all the original rippers, good god men you're doing important work.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Forgotten Islands: Piero Umilani- La Ragazza Fuori Strada, La Ragazza Dalla Pelle di Luna, Il Corpo

Today we have three records from one of my favorite composers of all time, Mr. Piero Umiliani. In the coming days and weeks, I'll try to put up all my favorite Umiliani records, but I had to start with this trio. These three records are the soundtracks to an erotic trilogy of skin flicks directed by Luigi Scattini. I don't know much of anything about the films, but the music contains some of my favorite soundtrack/latter-day exotica work, ever.

I'm going to fall seriously short of adequately describing the majesty of these records, so I apologize in advance. Trust me that this is amazing music that you simply must hear.

We begin with La Ragazza Fuori Strada, the cover for which you see above. Jazzy, funky, exotic as hell, with those classic Umiliani pulsating strings (at times edging into Jean-Claude Vannier territory, or perhaps Stringsonics), and adorned with the occasional electronic flourish or wonderful female vocal (by Zeudi Araya, the woman from the covers and star of the films- as well as Miss Ethiopia 1969), there just isn't a bad track here. And with 24 tracks in all, there is a lot of variety on this record, from psychedelic sex chuggers to not-of-this-earth romantic ballads.

Luigi Scattini, Zeudi Araya, and Piero Umiliani

La Ragazza Fuori Strada (192, not bad at all)

This second installment might actually be my favorite. Actually, while I've seen it described as the second, I think it's actually the first film. No matter.

Of the three, this is the most heavily exotic- the strings are lush and drippy, the vocals have an alien/Polynesian sound, and the whole thing has a narcotic sense of pleasure and paradise. This is music for lotus eating. Where Fuori Strada had plenty of highway anthems and planet-sized psych jams, La Ragazza Dalla Pelle di Luna (The Girl From the Skin of the Moon, I guess) spends most of its runtime wafting languidly like the scent of hibiscus and sex on the breeze of a hidden island. And where Fuori Strada achieved a remarkable diversity of sound and style, Pelle di Luna uses a somewhat consistent approach to tell a sonic narrative, frequently recycling motifs and transforming compositions as it shifts and morphs from track to track. It's not all loungy either, lest you think such a thing; even the jazzier tracks are deeper than that, especially when he returns to a motif and dismantles it a bit. At other times it becomes very experimental and sparse, or goes to a really hard explorer's sound, like a track from Continente Nero. I really can't impress on you the greatness and stunning beauty of this thing with enough fervor.

I think Zeudi contributes vocals on this record as well, but I know that some of the singing here is done by the great Edda Dell'Orso. Ms. Dell'Orso was a frequent collaborator of Mr. Umiliani's, but she's perhaps most well-known for her contributions to Ennio Morricone's work, including some of his most famous stuff, such as soundtrack to "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly".

Get it and love it, friends.

La Ragazza Dalla Pelle di Luna (Again at a not-bad 192)

Il Corpo (The Body), the final installment in the trilogy. So very good, and naturally not unlike the others preceding it. Probably closer in tone to La Ragazza Fuori Strada, and in all honesty the least of the three, but I'm just splitting hairs at this point. Some cool drum machine-type sounds on a few tracks. All of these albums are total masterpieces, breathtaking in their beauty and remarkable in their creativity. Get them all and enjoy.

IL CORPO (320)

All files re-upped. Same goes for all the rest of the Umiliani stuff here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Once Again From the Bosom of Loronix: Henrique Simonetti- Panorama Musical (1956)

Some more gorgeous instrumental music from Brazil, brought to us by Loronix. Truly precious work by Simonetti here, crystalline and idyllic and romantically cinematic. Check out the Original Post.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

From the Bosom of Loronix: Radames Gnattali: Joias Musicais Brasileiras (1954)

Continuing to resurrect what little I can of Loronix, here's a wonderful slab of Brazilian instrumental music by Radames Gnatalli, a very good composer whose work can also be found here, bolstering the bottomless voice of Nelson Ferraz. The tunes are orchestral with a hint of jazz, a strong sense of film score, and just a smack of exotica. Check out what morsels of info there are at the wellspring. INFO&Source

Musicais Brasileiras (320)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Flash Strap Presents: Jungle Shadows (Mix #1)

On the one-year anniversary of the first Grzimek Safari mix (give or take some days), here's a new adventurous musical excursion for this savage new year, already so darkly under way. Deep grotto jazz, exotica soul, jungle pop, and anthems for amphibious cars. Perfect for the tape deck in your Safarimobile, or the upholstered mahogany stereo in your Explorer's Room.

There will probably be a volume two next month if you like. Enjoy. Download Both Parts. Follow the links if you're curious. (Mediafire seems to feel that "part one" is in violation, weirdly enough, so I've swapped that link over to Wupload for your downloading pleasureAND WUPLOAD IS GONE so I've just gone and put it on rapidshare.)

*This mix has been included in the esteemed Doug Schulkind's new edition of Mining the Audio Motherlode, focusing on blog mixes. Check it out, there's more great great mixes from the foggy depths of the blog bog.

And never fear to comment, friends!

1. Candy Clouds (Part I)- Hans Dulfer & Ritmo Natural
2. Blackground- Duo Ouro Negro
3. Seabird- The Alessi Brothers
4. Blue Shadow- Alan Parker
5. Bolivia- Gato Barbieri
6. Nubian Queen- Michael Angelo
7. State of Independence- Jon & Vangelis
8. Loch Ness Monster Stomp- Ferrante & Teicher
9. Flamingo- The Charades
10. Martha Au Clair [bolero]- Orchestre Jamel
11. Nature Boy- Nat King Cole
12. The Phantom- Duke Pearson
13. In the Jungle- Michael Farneti
14. I Don't Like- Lee Jung Hwa (w/Shin Joong Hyun)

15. Chromatique- Vangelis
16. Do You Feel It?- The Alessi Brothers
17. Take Me With You- Lyn Christopher
18. Young Lions- Adrian Belew
19. Exotic Nights- Dieter Schütz
20. New World In The Morning- Roger Whittaker
21. Bahia- Bing Crosby & Xavier Cugat
22. Joshua Gone Barbados- Bob Dylan
23. Canto Karabali- Trio Los Panchos
24. Without Her [vocals]- Harry Nilsson
25. News From The Exchange- Sven Libaek
26. Every Night- Paul Anka
27. Your Dream Like a Stream- Kim Jung Mi (w/ Shin Joong Hyun)
28. Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair- Arthur Lyman
29.Five Grams Of The Widow- EmbryoNNCK
30. April Rain- The Latin Jazz Quintet (with Eric Dolphy)
31. Apocalypse Now: Voyage & End Credits (Flash Strap Mix)- Carmine Coppola & The Rhythm Devils
32. Theme from Hatari- Henry Mancini
33. Seasons in the Sun- The Kingston Trio


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fantastic Man: William Onyeabor Atomic Post (*UPDATED&COMPLETED*)

The Onyeabor Library has been completed, largely due to the efforts and generosity of Feq'wah. I present to you now the fully-updated William Onyeabor Mega-Post.

If you don't have a thank-you in your heart for Feq'wah then get outta my house!

This fine Nigerian master has made many an appearance on the blogosphere, but in the interest of continuing to vigorously spread the very good word of Mr. William Onyeabor, I offer this post. To the best of my knowledge this represents nearly the complete Onyeabor discography, give or take some rarities and whispered-about myths. Please share any additional information you might have, dear reader.

Here is a brief biography of the man, lifted from the liner notes of the Nigeria 70 comp "The Definitive Story of 1970's Funky Lagos":

William Onyeabor studied cinematography in Russia for many years, returning to Nigeria in the mid-70s to start his own Wilfilms music label and to set up a music and film production studio. He recorded a number of hit songs in Nigeria during the 70s, the biggest of which was ‘Atomic Bomb’ in 1978. ‘Better Change Your Mind’ is taken from the same album, and, as well as slating the power-crazed nations of the world, the second half settles into a unique slice of stripped down spacey, lo-fi funk which is unlike any other Nigerian music being made at the time. William has now been crowned a High Chief in Enugu, where he lives today as a successful businessman working on government contracts and running his own flour mill.

Let's start with 1978's Atomic Bomb, his second record (which I believe I originally came across at the excellent blog Big Head Stevenson). Here we see the first example of the definitive Onyeabor sound: repetition, gorgeously simple electronics and synthesizers, a tradeoff between his own laconic vocals and unmistakable-yet-never-credited female backup singers, and uncomplicated, uplifting messages of positivity, world peace, or everyday emotions. This album contains one of his best songs (the perfect little funk-run "Atomic Bomb") and one of his most well-known ("Better Change Your Mind", featured on the World Psychedelic Classics 3: Love's a Real Thing comp). There's not a bad song here, but another highlight worth mentioning is the charming ode to lifelong fidelity "I Need You All Life", a smile in song-form, bubbling over with gurgling synth sounds of the most optimistic variety and one of the most winning examples of his patented back-up vocals in action. Not to be missed.


Next in line we have Tomorrow (1979), which I believe I found at Feq'wah's now-defunct Fishtail Lion. All the same elements are in play here, which is for the best. In this case, more of the same means another little masterpiece- if anything, the beats and compositions are slightly stronger. One of my very very favorite songs of his is here, the fantastic "Fantastic Man", which finds his singers cooing to him "you loook soooooooooooo good.... fantastic man." This is an essential record.


1980 brought an LP entitled Body and Soul, the entirety of which was once difficult to find- until Feq'wah dragged it out into the light. It's a great one, really grand. Long, funky tracks with awesome sounds.


Not long ago, Feq'wah graced the comments here one-half of this 1983 Onyeabor joint, Good Name. The title track is a 10-minute joyride of a jam, with a really full, rushing, sci-fi funk sound. Sometime later, another friend o' mine sent me the second half (which may have come from this interesting blog), with the request that I put it out there for all. The track is but another jewel in the Onyeabor sky. It's a glory and a pleasure: seven-and-a-half minutes of crunchy robobeats, wide synths, the classic lead/backup back-and-forth, and (somewhat unique in Onyeabor's catalogue) a great deal of heroic saxophone soloing. So very very fine.


We jump ahead now to his final record, Anything You Sow (1985). In a lot of ways, it's my personal favorite. The sounds are a little fatter, a little goofier, and it's just a damn fun record. Fun as hell. Honestly, it's not all that different from any of the others, but the electronic factor is upped considerably. I guess it's extra-bubbly? With more handclaps, perhaps? Trust me, you're gonna need it, because it's amazing.

This excellent quality rip came, too, from the now sadly gone Fishtail Lion blog and the bosom of Feq'wah.


Crashes in Love
is Onyeabor's 1977 debut. Very little electronics present here- in many ways it's not atypical Nigerian soul/funk- but the specific genius of Sir William is very much in evidence. Were this his sole release, it would likely still be hailed as a lost masterpiece of Afro-funk. As it is, it stands as a bit more of a minor effort in his canon- just not one to be overlooked. Its marvellous, low-key funk sound lays out a loose narrative of, as the cover explains, "a tragedy of how an African Princess rejects the love that money buys." Don't tell me you don't need to hear this now. It's groovy as a jeep on a dirt road, too.

This rip came from the womb of the great Music City- home to many other treasures and more than worthy of your gratitude and respect.

Apparently, there is another, more electronic, version of this record- can anyone confirm this? Has anyone heard it?


Now we check out the Onyeabor-produced 1979 N'Draman Blintch record, Cikamele, for Oyeabor's own label, Wilfilms Records. The jams are super, super awesome, funkier and nastier than anything on a proper Onyeabor joint, although Blintch's vocal style is far less intriguing than Sir William's. It used to bother me more, but this record has been growing on me more and more everyday.

To clarify: It's pretty awesome.


Now we pick up a straggler, 1982's Hypertension, which is good but not a favorite of mine. There's a slightly undignified Caribbean flavor doesn't add much to his usual minimalist funk genius, pushing his typical goofiness a tad too far. It's definitely worth a listen, since he's always at the very least good.

Again, this is Feq'wah's rip.


Aaaaaaand once again, Feq'wah has come up with some additional Onyeabor treasures.It started with this lone track from 1981's Great Lover, found over at Art Decade, called "Love is Blind". Thankfully, wonderfully, the Fish Tailed Lion himself has magically managed to scare up the full LP. It's not in the top five Onyeabor LPs, but it is good stuff, friends. This may be the final piece of the puzzle. Be very certain to thank Feq'wah- I'm sure it was much effort and expenditure to acquire these treasures, and he is most definitely Lion-Hearted to share his booty.


And if you have a line on anymore Onyeabor stuff- anything at all- I would love to know about it, and the world, I think, is ready for it. If you've got anything to share, let us spread William Onyeabor's love.

9/27/13: all links removed (except N'Draman Blintch) at the request of Luaka Bop records, in anticipation of their new comp reissue, Who Is William Onyeabor?, as well as a proposed reissuing of the entire Onyeabor catalog.