Good Music We Can Know

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"A Queer Tone Hovered in the Air- Could It Be a Girl?": Norrie Paramor- Amor, Amor! (1961)

This would have been an easy record to pass by.  My goodness, what an unappealing cover.  I ran into this one in a thrift bin somewhere and almost ignored it, but because there was definitely something unsettling about this gal's eyes, I lingered.  After taking a look at the tracklist, I figured it was worth 50 cents and took it home.

I'm glad I did.  It's no masterpiece, but it's actually pretty great.  It's a sort of late-period, exotica-lite LP of a rather common variety, centered on "Latin Standards" and padded out with the usual suspects (Lecuona, "Baia", etc.).  The sound is generally pleasant-- the string section isn't overly saccharine, and the percussion is tame but rather delightfully full, mixed to the front and sort of round and juicy.  Nice stuff, but if it were just that and nothing more, I don't know if I'd have mentioned it here.  The kicker on this album, for me, is that it features a really weird, naggingly off female vocal on some of the tracks (a commenter, der bajazzo, has pointed out that these vocals belong to a Patricia Clark)

There are no vocal tracks per se-- she's mostly employed as an accent or bit of punctuation at the end of the song (Latin rumbas used to do this a lot too, end an instrumental with a few bars of the vocal).  I don't mean she's a bad singer (this isn't an Ethel Azama or Sondi Sondsai situation), though she's not a conspicuously good singer either (in the vein of Yma Sumac or something)-- it's just that she's used really weirdly.  It's the kind of off-putting, slightly dissonant (but also decadent, exotic) accenting you see all over exotica, in the form of, say, bird calls, or ethnic instruments simplistically played for effect, or electronic sounds.  Come to think of it, this lady sounds like a less-shrill theremin, a quality that must have been noted by Norrie Paramor himself: on "Luna Rosa (Blushing Moon)", he seems to be doubling her creamily caterwauling vocals with a moog or perhaps another synthesizer (could be a weird orchestra effect, however).  The result is metallic, intriguingly dissonant, alienating, inhuman, and totally befuddling.  The first time I heard it, I remember doing a classic double-take.  The thing is, it's so subtle and out-of-place (even on what is a slightly bizarre record) that it just bugs you out, it makes you feel crazy.  It's definitely the highlight of the record.

At this point, I may have over-hyped Amor, Amor! somewhat.  It's no lost masterpiece, and it's hardly a significant oddity of any real heft.  I do enjoy playing it, however, and I've played it a lot.  So it endures. 

AMOR, AMOR! (320)

(Anybody holding a good copy of Gene Rains' Lotus Land or Rains in the Tropics which they wouldn't mind sharing?  I'd love to do a post on him but my rips are bad, just bad.)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Flash Strap Mixtape on Magia Negra Tomorrow *Updated*

In a follow-up to the interview at Magia Negra, I wanted to let you all know that they also asked me to put together a mixtape, and that that mix will be airing at 1pm tomorrow (that's 1pm Portugal time, so that would be, I think, 8am US East coast).  You can check it out here at RUC's site, or just go straight to the live feed.

I'll also post a link when they put an uploaded version on the Magia Negra site, but I thought I would do this post now for the benefit of those of you out there who are either invested in the magic of hearing live radio live, or whose schedules overlap at all with that time.  Thanks for listening, and I'll be back soon with new posts.

UPDATE: here's the link to that mix.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Flash Strap Interview with Magia Negra (now with link)

Magia Negra, the excellent black magic-and-music radio show on Portugal's RUC, just published an interview with yours truly.  Please check it out, if you like.  It's a sprawling chitchat across a wide range of subjects related to music, art, culture, and collecting.

And while you're indulging me, please check out my artist website.  It has just a few choice things on display now, but it will soon be bursting with content, once I finish fully documenting my book.

New music posts coming soon.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Flash Strap Presents: Exotiste•Control Car, The Jaws of the Pink Widow (Lalo Schifrin's Black Widow)

When I first heard Lalo Schifrin's 1976 disco-jazz LP, Black Widow, I was simultaneously excited and disappointed.  Schifrin's work is often amazing, and the idea that he might pack an album with exotica standards and tackle them with a heavy disco funkiness and complex jazzy interplay (replete with synths) is a potential promise of paradise indeed.  And it is a really cool album, in places-- depending on your taste for disco, it may well rank as a minor masterpiece-- but for my money, the disco was a little too far over that slick line, so polished and sleazy that it's hard to get a grip on that burnished and speeding surface.  It's not that the rhythms aren't deep and fat, nor that the musicians aren't doing interesting, invested work.  Maybe it's just me, but when I heard Black Widow I thought to myself, this pony needs to slow itself right on down.

So I did just that, as I have done before, both on the Exotiste series and Afrokraut•Control Car.  It may make for an interesting supplement to Lalo's own album, or just a great cruisin' soundtrack.  I like it a lot, myself.  The Exotica tracks (Quiet Village, Tabu, Frenesi, Flamingo, and two versions of Baia) were the draw for me, obviously, and they make up the bulk of the thing's runtime, but the biggest standout is "Jaws."  Lalo's own version is the jewel of the original as well (and a bit of a hit in '76), dark and funky and naturally very menacing.  The chopped-and-screwed version here is a lot of fun to my ears, stretched out to ten intense minutes of prowling danger: I picture an eyebrow-less Scwarzenegger from the first Terminator, on patrol in that cop car, on his way to meet up with that guy with the cowboy hat at the leather bar in CruisingAnd then a great pink shark collides explosively with a mack truck in an industrial setting ringed with palm trees underneath a nuclear sunset. This, I picture.

Allow me, then, to present The Jaws of the Pink Widow, the best tracks of Schifrin's album treated to the Exotiste•Control Car touch, a sludgy armageddon of exotica tracks retooled for Robocop funk and dangerous dancing.


And here's the original.  It's not my favorite thing ever but it's still a hell of a something.  If you're really into disco and damn-it-all you like your disco a little slick, then this is a holy grail.  Definitely highly recommended.