28 September 2007

The Soul Of Spring volume 2

I haven't had an Ace CD up here for a while but that's not because of any shortage from new Ace releases. Ace continues to chronicle soul labels and this 2006 CD is volume 2 to the 1997 "volume 1". Kent compiler Ady Croasdell doesn't know either why it took nine years to release the follow up.
New York based Spring and sub labels Event and Posse released music between 1968 and 1983, the bulk on this compilation is from the 70's. Compared to 60's soul, the sound on this CD is of better quality with more elaborate arrangements. Quite a few songs are slow, romantic soul, going towards that hot-butter-smooth Philly sound. Not all though, a few tracks have a rougher edge and the label also brought out some gospel material. The latter wasn't a successful niche for the label but is worth to mention here: The Internationals sound rough like a genuine church service where Jackie Verdell sounds very 1980's slick pop made with synthesizers (and appropriately one 'Houston E Whitney' in the backing vocals). They make up the extremes on this CD, most other material is friendly and positive soul; don't expect very deep and dark soul among the 24 tracks.
The booklet has a little info on the label, each song and artist and it features some pictures: in Ace style mostly from 7'' record labels but a few from the artists and Spring label people too. Nothing outstanding, standard Ace quality which is still ahead of numerous other labels. If you're happy with this, there's "The Soul Of Spring" (say, volume 1) and "The Spring Story" which also contains some more funk and disco oriented material, both on Ace.
Kent / Ace, 2006

The Soul Of Spring volume 2
part 1
part 2

19 September 2007

Morcheeba - The Antidote

I hope you don't notice it too much but this is in fact a blog. A personal place on the world wide collection of connected computers to store rants, trivia and distorted facts. The lost souls who do frequent this place know to scroll down immediately to the link but between the title and the link I have MySpace.
This Morcheeba album isn't the most likely candidate for this blog but I'll try to explain. It involves my personal view on the history of Morcheeba, in the categories rants, trivia and distorted facts. Scroll down, download the album, play it before continuing because it's a rather long piece of writing.
Morcheeba started as 2 brothers who were skilled enough to make music but not imaginary enough to make interesting music. It didn't hurt, they'd just smoke a couple of joints, make some music, smoke more joints, make more music, etc. and have a generally good time. Somewhere, after a joint too many, they figured that with their musical ability, they really needed to do something serious with their instruments, if only to pay for more joints. So they did and the results were pleasing but something was missing. A few joints later they figured that having vocals might well be the finishing touch.
Singers a plenty and it did improve their music. One singer in particular stood out, a girl with a voice that could make cursing like a sailor sound like the tenderest whispers of love. The music with vocals, in general and that girl's vocals in particular, provided the necessary inspiration to make awesome music. That, and having the right sound at the right time made Morcheeba even a big name in the music biz.
Success however had one downside and that is that it leaves less time for smoking joints. In fact, musical success and smoking joints don't go together at all. Proof? Look at the one exception: Bob Marley. Bob Marley traveled with a personal tribe including people who rolled his joints for him. Bob Marley supported a religion (no less) loosely based around smoking 'ganja'. Bob Marley could tell the greatest bullshit in interviews which was still dutifully published as wisdom rather than bullshit. No one ever is going to get away with that anymore so musical success equates to smoking a lot less hashish. Sure you can hire a personal aid, come up with a funky belief and tell bullshit in interviews but if you think you can do so successfully, you're on something a lot stronger than marijuana.
Morcheeba too found it increasingly difficult to have a decent addiction and success and they opted for success. You can tell when: their 3rd and subsequent albums sound less 'dope' than the first 2. I call it the "Pink Floyd effect" ("Dire Straits Syndrome", etc., make up your own) where success slowly leads to less interesting music. Not bad music but the initial spark goes missing.
That fabulous and very distinctive singer understood it first. She went for a solo career and left the band. What to do? Smoke weed! And find a new singer. Qualifications: unique voice, distinctive voice, good voice, everything the previous singer had and equally good but MUST. NOT. SOUND. LIKE. THE. PREVIOUS. SINGER. That last requirement is difficult and simple; the guys wanted to continue the band when the one thing that made them truly unique was missing and nobody was going to accept an attempt to merely copy their old sound. The easy part was that they probably wouldn't be able to find a voice similar to Skye Edwards anyway. The result was called Daisy Martey and she met the qualifications: superb vocalist, distinctive sound, not a copy of Skye.
The sadness of doing everything right on the first albums is that it's easy to deteriorate on following albums and attract a fanbase that basically wants you to make more albums like the first ones. Please no evolution or development. Success attracts even new fans who think the latter albums are good and *that* sound shouldn't change.
The new singer however brought new inspiration and a careful dose of mild mind altering illicit/decriminalized substance abuse later, Morcheeba turned out an album that sort of continued where the second album ended. The sound was vastly different of course, from a childlike innocent and soft main vocalist they now had a strong and commanding singer with a huge pair of lungs. And you guessed it: the 'fans' didn't like it. Unable to cope with the situation that Skye and the Godfrey brothers had split, they rejected the new Morcheeba and as a result of that, singer Daisy got axed.
The point of this all? Well, Morcheeba is set to release a new album, Dive Deep, (wrong: this month AFAIK) January 2008, see comment #2 (thx!). And you probably sensed that I find it a shame Daisy Martin wasn't kept as the main singer because in my rarely humble opinion The Antidote was a terrific album, not in the least because of the singer. I would've been contend if Morcheeba had continued to make albums exactly like Who Can You Trust and The Big Calm but The Antidote is a very favorite of mine too. Everything in between sits somewhere in my collection but just never gets played. From what I've heard of Dive Deep, it's not particularly bad but it's not really a band album; it feels like a loose collection of songs by a band that doesn't know its direction (I'll put a link in the comments to an 'advance' copy, no guarantees to its accuracy or quality).
This post is my opinion on the greatness of the voice of Daisy Martin, my complaint to the brothers Godfrey for listening to their fans (should be the other way round ;-) ) and the scratching of an itch. With this out my system, I'll move on and I'll probably buy every new Morcheeba disc without complaint. Perhaps though you want to give The Antidote a(nother) listen and agree with me that it was indeed a fantastic album with a fantastic singer.
Echo / Chrysalis music, 2005

Morcheeba - The Antidote

VA - Let's Copp A Groove

"Lost UK Soul - 1968-72". See this as the label compiler of the Beacon label, a small indie ran by one Milton Samuel. The "lost" part of the title I'm not sure I can explain, I mean, were these songs ever found? It's not really you'll find massive hits on this CD but I didn't grow up in the UK at the time, of course so I don't know. The "UK" part is correct in that the label was based in the UK but the CD features non-UK artists too. And finally, the "soul" is fitting but you'll hear it in different incarnations, smooth and rough, commercial, and bit funk here and a bit reggae there; the '68 to '72 time frame tells you what to expect.
Milton Samuel's real job was offloading large amounts of carbon paper to unsuspecting businesses, a practice called 'heavy sell' in which more carbon paper was sold than any firm reasonably could expect to use EVER. His passion was with music however and he started Beacon after he picked up a license for Ain't Nothin' But A Houseparty by The Showstoppers. It turned out to be the largest hit on Beacon and it's a shame it's not included on this disc. Anyway, Milton Samuel was some sort of character and it shows on this compilation in a great and diverse taste of music. The label went belly up in 1972, the masters were bought by a former associate and early 21st century they got out of the vaults again for this CD.
The music is diverse and pretty obscure, only if you dig deeper you'll find links to the better known world of music. The Showstoppers had some younger brothers of Solomon Burke in the band, The Clangers' organ was played by Jackie Mittoo (I read that on website somewhere), some tracks are written and produced by Eddy Grant and so on. It's not unique sounding but in my imagination this collection doesn't sound completely like a comparable American collection, I think the "UK" angle can be heard.
It's a reasonable neat package and the personal aspects make this a lovely release. The personality of the label owner but also the linernotes which consists of personal recollections by the guy who bought the masters and the former press officer of Beacon records. Buy it for the music though, the linernotes (the stories plus a few pics and song info) alone aren't sufficient reason.
RPM / Cherry Red Records, 2003

Let's Copp A Groove

17 September 2007

Links & re-uploads

About a year ago, I started using Rabbitscare.com. A few months ago, my rs.de account expired. That means that nearly every link from before October 2006 is gone.
Updating is slow going and extremely boring but I've started the job and I intend on finishing it somewhere before christmas. Not saying which year of course. More in detail:
- non rs links can be assumed to be dead anyway,
- rs.de links are dead,
- rs.com links should be working, please let me know when they don't.

So, besides posting a new link occasionally (yes, I have a few lined up), it's a case of replacing links. Options from likely to rare:
- I'll re-up "ASAP" because I have a link or CD available,
- I can't re-up now because no link and the CD is in storage, no idea when I'll re-up,
- I won't re-up: it's not worth it or there's a better but different source available.
I don't have enough CDs but still so many that space prevents me from having them all at home; the ones in storage are a bit hard to get to. The few posts I won't update are typically singles/loose track collections, sometimes I have a compilation CD with the same or better set of songs (for example: Loose set of Judge Dread songs: not going to be replaced. Personal compilation of Belle & Sebastian singles/EPs: replaced by 'Push Barman To Open...'). I don't think you'll miss a lot.

If you're eyeing a particular dead link, don't hesitate to comment and check in a month or so because I have a rather peculiar idea of "ASAP" ;-)

13 September 2007

Kissogram - Nothing Sir!

The thing I like best about this album is that it's something I like to listen to when I don't know what else to listen to. I find it interesting enough to play often but it's unobtrusive enough to not bother too much. That 'balancing act' characterizes this album imho. It's very poppy but trades in some hit potential for intelligence, it's light without being lightweight.
What I hear is a contemporary successor to the synth pop of the 80's, like OMD or Depeche Mode, without taking themselves seriously. They don't have that 80's synth sound either, fortunately. For sound is "electronic" a necessary description although inappropriate because it's nothing like artists who get their sound from house or hip-hop origin, the synthesizers are here used as instruments and there are plenty of analogue sounds added to the mix to mostly avoid an artificial feeling. Let's say they definitely don't sound like folkies but not like your average rockband either. With considerable force I can squeeze them into the New Wave category but they'll pop out of it immediately again. "Pop" indeed, perhaps not popular but I'd call them radio friendly.
Responsible for this CD are two Germans from Berlin who've made one CD before as Kissogram. They have a website and a MySpace page. I learned of the existence of Kissogram through the video of I'm The Morning After. See those links for more info about Kissogram; I don't know anymore. I'd like to put this in perspective though. 'German electronic music' can conjure different associations: from pioneers like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream to 'Techno'. In that respect, Kissogram is nicely boring. That IS a good thing as German music can be as diverse as Can versus Modern Talking and if you consider those as extremes then you'll find Kissogram somewhere in the middle.
Louisville records, 2007

Kissogram - Nothing Sir!

07 September 2007

Mavis Staples - We'll Never Turn Back

Mavis Staples doesn't get an introduction, she's been around long enough. This CD is a brand new production but with more links to the past than just the main artist. Its title for example refers to the racial inequality of a couple of decades ago and the progress being made since, and some of the songs are re-interpretations of the message songs associated with that civil rights struggle. The other theme of this CD is closely linked to that: inspiration for the civil rights movement was found in the church, where originally the Staple Singers performed too and Mavis hasn't lost her faith either.
Activism and gospel therefore characterize this album and that's probably what you expected anyway, the material is divided between classics/traditionals and new songs. Production and arrangements by Ry Cooder, a bit of vocal assistance by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, some more vocal assistance by famous names from those days the SNCC Freedom Singers Rutha Harris, Charles Neblett and Betty Mae Fikes and an all star cast of musicians. What I'm saying is, the album is limited in its scope but is top notch in its execution. You won't be surprised when listening to it but not be disappointed either. I emphasize this because it's the strength of this album, having a clear focus and, well, focussing on that focus. The alternative could be mixing Ry Cooder, Mavis Staples, excellent backing and band into something musically more daring, because how often do you get such an over abundance of talent working together? (*)
Perhaps that'll happen another time, for now I'm quite happy with the way Mavis Staples continues her career. The album is complemented with a booklet with some personal explanations and beautiful photography. Mavis Staples won't win new fans with this record but well please old fans.
Anti-, 2007

Mavis Staples - We'll Never Turn Back

(*) Expect a CD to be released later this month by Bettye LaVette with the Drive-By Truckers, 'The Scene Of The Crime', also on Anti-. "An over abundance of talent working together" again, except the Drive-By Truckers are not as obvious as I'd hoped. If I hadn't known they were contributing, I'd have guessed they were just anonymous session musicians. The album isn't out yet but with a bit of effort/luck you can find MP3s on the net and hear for yourself.