Good Music We Can Know

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tender Bird of Paradise: Les Baxter- The Primitive and the Passionate (1962)

Here's some Les Baxter. Is it phenomenal? Why yes. Yes it is.

To be clear, however: this isn't Mr. Baxter in a deep or mysterious mode, nor does this album find him tinkering too much in experimental ideas. It's just straightforward, phenomenal Exotica. Very upbeat and sunny, but still exotic and sensual enough to excite that fantasy of adventure & paradise. Bird calls, tiger growls, and the moans of a goddess abound, alongside cinematic strings and the classic Les Baxter sound. It may be a little "light" to qualify alongside his very best, but it's still top-notch, wonderful stuff. Really not all that far from Ritual of the Savage, at least at its best moments.

There are a few standards that hit a little weak-- "Via Veneto" is the low point, and "Laura" and "A Taste of Honey" are both pretty safe and easy, though it must be said that they still display the glory of solid Baxter arrangements, and thus sound pretty damn good-- but there's more than enough big winners on here to heartily recommend the record. "Fiesta Brava" starts as a big brash Latin horn thing, then wisely takes a deep turn into surprisingly sultry territory. "A Night With Cleopatra" does get a tad garish, but more than redeems with elegant undertones and a winning Italian soundtrack sensibility (it actually sounds a lot like Riz Ortolani's work on Mondo Cane). "Peking Tiger" is rock solid stuff. "Tenderly" is superb romantica. "Slave Ship" and "Bird of Paradise" are both utter Exotica classics, the latter pushing an echo of "Quiet Village" in a pleasing (if not exactly revelatory) manner.

Hey, I'm gonna say it: I actually love the version of "A Taste of Honey". I think it's a pretty great composition to begin with, and Baxter hits it, softly but deftly, out of the park. No apologies. Herb Alpert is pretty cool a lot of the time.

This is a good record, friends. Take it out in that old sun and enjoy your life.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Lion Passes Into the Final Winter: RIP Robin Gibb

My favorite Bee Gee has passed from this place and draws breath no more. One of the most incredible voices in the history of song has sunk into the dust, and can never be replaced. The finest of trios has been reduced to one. I am sad this day. Thank you, Robin Gibb, for your life.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Flash Strap Presents! Dub Hot Dubs Vol. 2: Krazy Kommand Kar

Here you are, my friends. Dub Hot Dubs 2: Krazy Kommand Kar. Please take this one on patrol, like a mystic skeleton krew, and burn a black light on the dark corners of creation.

There's a lotta Keith Hudson on this one, because good god he is the greatest.

Please make sure you nab both halves, and let me know how you like it.

1. Ordinary Version Dub- Impact Allstars
2. Man From Shooters Hill- Keith Hudson
3. Black Panta- Lee 'Scratch' Perry
4. Hunting- Keith Hudson
5. Marcus Garvey- Noel Ellis
6. Satan Side (aka Theme From Satan Side)- Keith Hudson & The Chuckles
7. Father Forgive- Cedric Im Brooks
8. Uptown Top Rank (MRC Version)- Althea & Donna
9. Flour Power- Naggo Morris
10. Reorganizing The Race- Phillip Fullwood and Winston McKenzie
11. Tapper Zukie In Dub- Tapper Zukie
12. Devaluation Dub- Twinkle Brothers
13. Dub With A Difference- King Tubby/Harry Mudie
14. Black Foundation- Augustus 'Gussie' Clarke
15. The War Is On- Bobby Kalphat & The Phil Pratt All Stars
16. Woman in Dub- Family Man Barrett
17. To Hail Salassie- Noel Ellis

18. Look At Me- Keith Hudson
19. Upsetting Rhythm #2- Lee 'Scratch' Perry
20. Hawks Theme- Carlton And Family Man Barrett
21. African Dub Version- The Silvertones
22. Fever Grass Dub- Lee 'Scratch' Perry
23. Dubbin An Wailin- Velvet Shadows
24. Save Out Dub- Glen Brown/King Tubby
25. Mountains Of Dub- Twinkle Brothers
26. Earthwire Line- Creation Rebel/New Age Steppers
27. Jungle Dub- Joe Gibbs & The Professionals
28. Stabiliser- Keith Hudson
29. Wicked She Wicked- Billy Boyo
30. Klu Bly Klan- Mickey Jarrett
31. Rocky River- The Upsetters
32. Rockfort Rock- Azul
33. Bali Hi- Scientist

NEW Link, Reupped

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Exciting Voice: Lilly Tchiumba- Angola, Songs of My People (1975)

I am a great lover of Duo Ouro Negro, but I'm not too proud to say that I am mostly ignorant of both the greater Angolan music scene of the 60's-70s, and its cultural and political context. I have only the most tertiary understanding of the fight for independence from Portugal, or the civil war that followed, and I know virtually nothing of the region's folklore and history.

But good lord, fellows, Angolan music can be so beautiful, so rich. You needn't be educated on the region to at least know that, and feel its power. It doesn't end with the sunny harmonies and deep pathos of Duo Ouro Negro, either. There is also (among others) the incomparable Lilly Tchiumba. Released, I think, in '75-- the same year Angola gained its independence (and the same year that saw the start of the civil war)-- this is a record of Angolan folk songs, sung in the Angolan language Kimbundu, in the most gorgeous, exuberantly sorrowful voice imaginable. Nearly every song is a rousing delight, yet nearly every song is deeply mournful-- full of mortality, suffering, and remembrance. The back cover of this record details the narrative of each song, and it's startlingly real-- dealing with stark subjects like death, memory and loss, and gender politics.

For "N'Zambi": A mother is torn between her reverence for God and her helplessness to save her sick child.

"N'Gongo Giami": A young man is dying and he does not know why. He asks his mother why this must be.

"Manazinha": A beautiful woman, however much she is dressed in luxury, is still the victim of colonialists.

Here's the actual back cover, do yourself a favor and read it (click to enlarge):

This is legitimately moving stuff, very sad obviously, but the marvel of it is how deeply beautiful, how ecstatic and transcendent, it is. You have to hear this. You have to. Her voice is a living river of mournfulness and human passion, the supporting chorus has the bottomless ancient sound of a ghost slave song, the guitars twinkle like a dancing wooden skeleton. Amazing.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Treasures Unearthed: Sven Libaek- The Music of Sven Libaek (1967)

Splendid news, fellows! The Music of Sven Libaek has turned up. It's been up and about since March 3rd, over at the relative newcomer and extremely promising blog, Urban Bowerbird. I don't know how this one eluded my discovery for those two months, but now I've found it I'm tickled pink. Tickled just entirely pink.

First, let me say that Urban Bowerbird is having a great start, popping up not only this elusive treasure but also some awesome Libaek 45s and an interesting selection of rare Australian records, including a great LP from John Sangster. So, I'd say this is a spot to keep your eye on, to be sure.

Now, I shall opine that The Music of Sven Libaek is awesome. It's great. Some of his earliest work, it features Nature Walkabout-esque compositions played in a simpler style more in line with The Set. You'll want to hear it, friends, for it is so fine. Head on over and have a listen, then thank the man for what he's done.


For more Libaek, check this out.

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.