Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Cover From Another Mutha

So, another event I went to a few weeks ago was a show with The Sweet Divines and Eli "The Paperboy Reed" at Union Hall in Park Slope, Brooklyn. That's only the pretext for this post and I WILL post about the Sweet Divines very soon. Before the first act went on tunes were provided by The Honeydripper, an affiliate of the Daptone Records crew. She played this one song that took me nearly the whole duration of the song to place. I recognized the melody and lyrics, but the version I was listening to sounded nothing like the song I was familiar with. I finally placed it . . . it was a Stevie Wonder song from his underrated 1980 album "Hotter Than July." I'm gonna place the songs in the order that they came into my consciousness, so we'll listen to the Stevie version first . . .

Stevie Wonder - All I Do
This is easily my favorite latter-day stevie (post songs in the key of life) song. It's a tender, mid-tempo disco soul groover and Stevie just nails everything about it. Once again, I owe it to my brother to hip me to this one.

Tammi Terrel - All I Do (Is Think About You)
So, now that you're listening to the Tammi version, it's like, "wait, which one came first?" especially considering the song was written by Stevie along with some of the usual Motown song-writing suspects: Clarence Paul and Morris Broadnax. Stevie never recorded it back in 1966. He waited 14 years to record his own song. And more interesting yet, the only version prior to Stevie's that was released was performed by Brenda Halloway, but her version was actually Tammi's version with Tammi's vocals stripped off and Brenda's put on to the same rhythm track. Tammi's version was only released in 2002 on the compilation "A Cellarful of Motown." Needless to say, this is a dynamite song and listening to the two versions side by side, its illuminating how differently the artists took this song 14 years apart. Thanks Honeydripper for playing this . . .

Monday, February 25, 2008

One Degree Away From M.J.

First off, thanks to all of you came by the first run of "The Rio Deal" at Huckleberry Bar in Williamsburg last weekend. I had a really great time and it sure seemed like I wasn't the only one who felt that way. The next one is at the end of March, so I'll be sure to send around a reminder closer to that date.

Before I dissapear to the west coast for a long weekend, I have some updates to bring you based on some recent musical events I attended in Brooklyn. These are a bit belated, but better late than never, right?

As my friend Josh so astutely pointed out, I am now one degree removed from M.J.! At an event put on by my good friends over at Wax Poetics on February 13th over at The Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO, Brooklyn I was lucky enough to meet and briefly talk to Larry & Fonce Mizell, the Mizell Brothers. If you don't know who the hell I'm talking about, its because these gentlemen have never had a hit under their own names, just under the likes of: The Jackson 5, Donald Byrd, Bobbi Humphrey, Johnny "Hammond" Smith, A Taste of Honey, L.T.D., Mary Wells, The Rance Allen Group, Roger Glenn, Gary Bartz, and The Blackbyrds.

Aside from the Jackson 5 and A Taste of Honey, who had a hit with the Mizell Bros.-produced "Boogie Oogie Oogie," these brothers haven't seen much action on the pop charts, but boy have they made an impact on the R&B charts. The brothers (later to include brother Rod) were instrumental in revitalizing the careers of veteran jazz cats like Byrd and Smith and new comers like Humphrey and in the process they breathed life into the funkier side of jazz music during the 1970s. Their albums with Donald Byrd, Bobbi Humphrey and Johnny "Hammond" Smith are classics of the Jazz-Funk idiom and influenced dozens of musicians in both the jazz and R&B worlds. The more familiar I become with their discography the more I notice their trademark sounds in other bands/musicians' work. Their songs are sophisticated, intricate, beautiful, funky as a mosquito's tweeter and timeless. It's no wonder their work has been respectfully plundered by DJs and producers for the past three decades.

The brothers were honored at a recent event hosted by Fader Magazine and Giant-Step records where a veritable who's who of the DJ world came to pay tribute, including the gents over at Stone's Throw Records (left to right: J-Rocc - Madlib - Fonce Mizell - Larry Mizell - Karriem Riggins - Rod Mizell - Peanut Butter Wolf).

What we have here is a very special item that has recently been reissued by Wax Poetics' new record division as their second release. It's an extremely rare single by The Moments featuring Larry, Fonce and their good friend and partner Freddie Perren, who was a member of the Jackson 5 production team, The Corporation, along with Fonce. It's still not clear to me if this group is the same Moments that recorded albums for Stang and other labels a few years later. Regardless, this song is an energetic piece of classic Northern Soul and evidently the original 45 is so rare its recently sold for four figures. Either Fonce or Larry claims to have a box of these originals misplaced somewhere in his house. That box could easily be a college education. Imagine that.

The Moments - Baby I Want You (snippet)
Because this is but a single and I'm friends with the people putting this out, I'm just gonna give you a snippet of the song . . . just enough to know that you want to go and buy the vinyl here. It appears that the digital or CD version is not yet available, but I'm sure it will be sooner or later.

In the process of finding pictures of Larry and Fonce I came across these OTHER famous Mizell Brothers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This Saturday, The Rio Deal in NYC

After taking some time away from the bustling and hustling DJ scene of NYC, I am once again throwing my hat into the ring with a new residency. I am very excited about DJing at a new bar in Williamsburg that has been all the buzz as of late. This is the same place where we had the Frank Sinatra party back in December and the place has been in on the tip of everyone's tongue since then.

The bar is located on the most recent street to receive hipsterfication in Williamsburg, Grand Street (east side of BQE). I must say, they do it right at Huckleberry. You walk in this place and its like all the design flaws of every other bar are made apparent, because this place just "feels" right, down to the sunken lounge in the back and the classy DJ booth with ample space and even a little shelf for the DJ to place his immaculately made Manhattan (possibly the best I've ever had).

Check out their website here.

As for the music, it's gonna be a mix of Soul, Funk, Disco from North and South America. I'm gonna see what the people react to on the first night and play it by ear from there. No musical agenda other than making people shake, shimmy, head-nod or dance, whatever their preference might be. If I don't know you already, please come by the booth and introduce yourself. I'll be back every 4th Saturday of the Month, so mark those calendars.

I hope to see some of you there.

Allen aka 'the ambassador'

Disco Monster #1

So far I've laid low when it's come to my disco predilictions, but I can't hold it in any longer. I firmly believe that disco music is the best music ever made for dancing. Now, I'm no prize-winning dancer (though there was that one time at Marisa Rogoway's bapmitzvah in 8th grade . . .), but I do love dancing to great music and personally I've found that classic disco is my favorite music to dance to. It's got the predictable, yet funky beat, great vocal arrangements, extended percussion breakdowns and the spirit of disco is exactly the spirit that I try to tap into when shaking my thang: a certain devil-may-care debauchery and self-indulgence. The music was meant to be carefree and somewhat disposable, but its sole purpose was to make people dance. It's simple, it's beautiful and it worked and still works.

Brenda & the Tabulations - Let's Go All The Way (Down)
To start off the "Disco Monster" series, we have a recent addition to my crates, a song by Brenda & the Tabulations produced by a handful of classic disco producers: John Davis, Norman Harris & Bobby Eli. Eli wrote the song here, so I'll assume he also produced it. It's our first "Disco Monster" because of its stomping groove, killer vocals (especially the disco-chant hook at the beginning) and sexy subject matter . . . "all the way down" where? Oh yeah!

In the process of making this post, I found another blog I like called "Disco Delivery" where they also posted on this album, so stop by and check them out for all of you out there who aren't allergic to 4/4 beats and dancing . . .

Friday, February 15, 2008


These days you just don't have too many pop songs that attempt to tell a story or really get deep into an issue and explore it throughout the course of the three minute duration. The two songs we have here are both soul tunes from 1970 give or take a year and deal with some pretty serious subject matter, taking some pages from the Psychology 101 textbooks to explain themselves. The Four Tops get pretty deep in their analysis of personality development from generation to generation. For all you parents out there, listen attentively. Reggie Milner uses a concept that I wouldn't think of as being a household term, "habit-forming", and writes a love song using this idea to explain his attachment to the lady in question. Heavy stuff.

The Four Tops - My Past Just Crossed My Future
This first song by the Four Tops was one that picked up when I was in Portland over the holidays, but I had it on hold with a whole bunch of other joints that I was waiting to records from vinyl. It's a monster, let me tell you! The beat starts and doesn't stop for the full length of the song. There's kind of a chorus, where the song title is passionately delivered by the lead singer (any idea which "Top" this is?), but all the while the rhythm section just keeps on cooking. I couldn't find any references to this song being sampled, but that beat is begging for it. It might be because those tops never stop singing leaving no open drums from which to cop.

Fun fact: Levi Stubbs provided the voice for Audrey the man-eating plant in the film version of Little Shop of Horrors.

If you're interested, you can find a copy of the LP here.

Reggie Milner - Habit Forming Love
I found this promo-only 45 in Pennsylvania a couple of summers ago. It was white-label and on Volt, so I said what the heck. The groove on this is almost more reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield's Chicago-style soul arrangements than it is of something that probably came out of Memphis (the home of Stax/Volt). I can't seem to find anything else out about Mr. Milner except that he has only released a handful of singles in his career, another of which was included on the same Stax/Volt box set.

I like how close to the fade-out Reggie pleads with desperation in his voice that he's "got to be a part of this un-hooked generation." It's like Reggie sat down and read a Time magazine article about current thoughts in American pyschology and used his favorite buzz words in this pop-soul gem. Could be . . .

You can find this track on The Complete Stax/Volt Soul Singles, Volume 2 (1969-1971).

New Samba Cut with Seu Jorge

Alexandre GroovesAmanhã Eu Não Vou Trabalhar
Props to DJ Deca for pointing me to this song. It's from a newcomer Alexandre Grooves and features a guest vocal spot from one of my favorite contemporary Brazilian musicians/vocalists, Seu Jorge. Enjoy.

p.s. - this song doesn't play with the embedded Yahoo Media Player, so you have to separately click on the song to play it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Elis Regina - Ladeira da Preguiça
When I first visited Brazil in the summer (winter in Sao Paulo) of 2004 I was ostensibly there to do some research about the Landless Workers' Movement, otherwise known as the MST, and excited as I was to be doing that, I had ulterior motives.

I came to buy as many Brazilian records as my hard-earned student loans could afford. I wasn't even thinking too much about how I was going to get them home. That inevitability dawned on me about a week or two before leaving. I managed to pack everything that was not a record into an overstuffed "carry-on" leaving my checked baggage for my records. Two boxes of records at about 75 pounds each. And that wasn't all. I had to send another box through the mail, which despite my best efforts at packing it securely, arrived in the US in a completely different cardboard box with one record (that I can remember: Francoise Hardy) missing. When I landed at JFK in New York I stubbornly took the subway home, wheeling nearly two-hundred pounds of records and personal belongings through the complicated labyrinth that is getting from JFK to anywhere else in NYC.

This is all to say that I am still pulling out records from that first trip that I have yet to listen to. This Elis Regina album was one of those, until recently. I had heard the above song on the Elis Regina DVD that I just posted about over at Soul Spectrum Videos, but I never bothered to check if the song was available on any albums, let alone an album I had in my collection. Then, the other day over at Black Betty, Greg Caz played the same song early in his set and I had to know which album it was on. Doh, an album I already owned. This is not the first time this very thing has happened, particularly with Greg on the schooling side of the exchange. The good news is that I have it and that it's a great song written by Gilberto Gil for Elis Regina specifically. The band is headed by Elis's then-husband Cesar Camargo Mariano, formerly of Som Tres and later of Cesar Camargo Mariano & CIA.

The trio here is extremely tight and Elis is untouchable on her vocal delivery. It really sounds effortless the way she sings around the melody, speeding up and slowing down her cadence without ever missing a beat. The song title means something like "Lazy Slope" and without translating all of the lyrics, the title seems fitting the way she bounces along the duration of the song in a carefree, lazy fashion. The song is effervescent enough as it is, so it suits Elis' style perfectly as one of the most playful vocalists from Brazil, or anywhere for that matter. If you need a second piece of evidence, check out her duet with Tom Jobim on his classic "Aguas de Marco" from 1974 (top five songs of mine - all time) also posted over at Soul Spectrum Videos.

Seeing or hearing her perform in her bubbly, endearing style it's not wonder that she was the darling of the Brazilian public. With all that energy its also not too surprising that she had a wee-bit of a drug problem, which resulted in her premature passing in 1982.

You can't really lose with any Elis album. They're all good. She's was a world-class vocal interpreter and she picked superb songs to cover, which made for excellent albums, particularly the ones from the early seventies with her husband, Cesar, leading the band. We miss you Elis! Elis, temos saudade de voce!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Boogie Brasiliero

DJ Set: the ambassador - Boogie Brasileiro

This is my first trepadatious divulgence of my Disc Jockey skills . . . I got this really cool little device awhile back called iKey, which processes an analog signal into a digital recording which goes on a USB flash drive. You can use it to record just about anything and I use it to also record my records at home. I had some failed attempts at recording previous DJ sets, but for whatever reason it worked really well the other night at my friend Yasha's (aka Eleonore) farewell party. She loves her some Brazilian music and I was happy to oblige, so herein you have a 80 minute mix of Brazilian soul, funk, samba, pop and whatever else I brought in my gig bag.

The recording is far from perfect, but its very listenable and there are no embarrassing mixes or transitions. There ARE however the occasional tunrtable bump from an overly enthusiastic dancer and some general rumbles here and there from some serious dancefloor vibrations!

Enjoy and no, a track list will not be provided, but I imagine many of these songs will find their way onto the site before too long.

allen aka the ambassador

Moody Magic from Antonio Adolfo

Antonio Adolfo is difficult to nail down. He started his career as the pianist for a relatively unknown, but much admired instrumental bossa nova trio, Conjunto/Trio 3-D. Later, in the spirit of the times he grew out his hair and started writing songs with composer Tiberio Gaspar and leading a counter-culture-inspired group by the name of A Brazuka. This hippy-trippy band then gave way to Antonio Adolfo the solo artist and session musician and arranger extraordinaire. Now, Adolfo is back in the recording studio and recently released a new album "Bola da Vez" as Antonio Adolfo & Brazil Brazuka. Just click on THIS LINK to see all the references to Adolfo on Loronix just to see how often he comes up as songwriter or pianist or arranger.

Antonio Adolfo e A Brazuca - Transamazonica
This is the very first Antonio Adolfo track I ever heard, gleaned from the excellent "Blue Brazil vol. 2" compilation that I picked up early in my Brazilian obsession. The song stuck out as a monster from the get-go and I was curious about this mysterious band and band-leader . . .

Antonio Adolfo - Venice (1972)
Antonio Adolfo's first solo album is a moody masterpiece even among all of the other moody masterpieces that emerged from Brazil in this magical year of 1972. Competing among Milton Nascimento & Lo Borges' "Clube da Esquina", Caetano Veloso's "Transa", Marcos Valle's "Vento Sul" and Arthur Verocai's legendary solo album, Adolfo's solo record is still a revelation. Stripped of Brazuka's cacophony, Adolfo is left with his pianos (& keyboards), crack session musicians and some very sad songs. Venice is a heartbreaking sketch of a song that I've loved since first hearing the next version on his "Feito Em Casa" album. Listening to these two versions back to back shows them each to be magical. I prefer the keyboard effect on this one though.

Antonio Adolfo - Venice (1977)
This is the first Adolfo album I got and rivals his 1972 album for my top pick. This album is famous because it is basically the first independently produced and distributed record in Brazil (excepting Tim Maia's Racional records, which are BIG exceptions). The story goes that Adolfo was sick of working with the record labels and just wanted to do it on his own, which he did, and this marvelous album sold like crazy and went from having a hand-pressed cover and distribution out of Adolfo's car to mass production.
The version of Venice here is longer and more developed from the sketch it received on his 1972 album.

Antonio Adolfo & Brazil Brazuka - Luizao
This was the first song that I heard off of Adolfo's new album as it was first released on a 7" with a Daz-I-Kue remix on the flip. I missed out on getting the limited pressing of the vinyl, but successfully tracked down a MP3. This song is a dedication to Luizao, one of Adolfo's (among others) sidemen for many years on bass guitar. Basically, the lyric goes that there will be no more happiness without Luizao . . . a sad guy I know, but sometimes sad songs can be more beautiful than happy songs. You probably noticed that this is another Adolfo reinvention, this time of this post's first song, "Transamazonica". You can buy this digital album from Far Out Recordings here or online at Dustygroove.