Monday, July 28, 2008

Gospel Disco- NYCC

I first heard the New York Community Choir via The Ambassador himself, rocking "Express Yourself" off their self titled album on RCA. For this release they seemed to have shed a few members as well as shortened their name to simply NYCC. I've never heard the album this beautiful cut hails from, "Make Everyday Count," but would love to. This was a favorite of several influential DJs including Larry Levan and David Mancuso. NYCC also got a ton of love from the DJ/remixer Walter Gibbons who after finding religion himself wouldn't play tracks he deemed had a negative message. Doesn't get much more positive then this! Enjoy:

NYCC - I'll Keep My Light in My Window

Friday, July 25, 2008

(Do the) Hot Pants!

Here's a jam. One of my favorite instros. As far as I can tell this is Mr. Jim and the Rhythm Machine's only output. I actually can't find anything else out there on the Wizdom label either. If any readers out there can help me illuminate this one I'd be grateful. I was djing a party last Friday and some drunk dude actually tried to LICK this record he was so into it. Solid.

Mr. Jim and the Rhythm Machine - (Do the) Hot Pants

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Silly Love Songs

I'm about a week away from moving into my new apartment, which means finally having access once again to my computer/iTunes library as well as my vinyl. So, for today's selections I dug through my lovely companions' iTunes in hopes of finding something good to post. I noticed a playlist that I had made for her when we first started dating, charmingly called "Silly Love Songs." It was Valentine's day and we were falling in love and I had the clever idea of secretly sneaking on to her computer, loading a playlist that I had made and putting it on to her ipod without her knowing. She was leaving on a trip, so I made sure she had her freshly loaded ipod with her and then gave her a card as I dropped her off at the airport, telling her to check her ipod for something special. I have to say I was pretty proud of myself and wonder what I can do now, more than a year in to top that . . .

The whole mix is great and deliberately sentimental. Out of the many favorites are these two Motown tunes from 1970 (Stevie) and 1971 (Smokey) that are both unmistakably Stevie and Smokey, respectively, but also kina uncharacteristic of both of their styles.

Stevie Wonder - Sugar
This Stevie song rules! Those drums are so huge - I wonder if he played them. And that hook. The song is nothing BUT hook. Hearing it for the first time I immediately knew it was Stevie, but also I was also bewildered that I had never heard it before. The title is perfect as it's about the sweetest bit of pop confection that Stevie ever laid to wax.

Smokey Robinson & the Miracles - Crazy About the La La La
I think my brother, Charlie, might have tipped me off to this one. Once again William Robinson is a genius with lyrics, telling the audience about this "thing" that he's crazy about without ever saying what it is, just "la la la." The way he sings you get the impression that the "la la la" might be something that the conservative Motown execs (himself being VP at this time, I think) wouldn't want uttered on the pop charts. Knowing Smokey's predilection for women and illict substances, it really could be either, or maybe he's talking about "toast and jam."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Presenting... Mr. Webster Lewis

Now I don't really know if this is modern soul or what, but it really intrigues me. This was the first Webster Lewis album I got, and from the language on the back I had assumed it was his first. As it turned out it is actually his last album and only collaboration with the great Barry White and his Love Unlimited Orchestra. The other albums I have of his definitely have a jazzier feel - one is called Eight for the Eighties (1979) and sounds like slightly funked out eighties jazz (imagine that.) This album has its time and its place and it is definitely... different but I'm guessing there are those of you out there who will enjoy it. As I tell my roommate on an almost daily basis it doesn't have to be burning disco-funk wailers ALL the time. I know its a little bit hard to see on this webpage, but if you look at the upper right hand corner of the album cover, you can see the baton is being handed down to Webster from the sky. Is it Barry White or God? I'll let you the reader decide. From the 1981 album Welcome Aboard:

Webster Lewis - Welcome Aboard

Webster Lewis - Lift Your Voice and Say (United We Can Live in Peace Today)

Webster Lewis - Nightlife in the City

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dream Team . . . Complete!

A quick welcome to our newest contributor, Radio Rios, whose a friend through Wax Poetics. A couple years back when I had just published my second article in WP, the Black Rio one, I was popping into the WP office and ran into this young guy who was interning for the magazine. He asked me what I had written for the mag and when I told him my latest, he mentioned that he had been traveling through Brazil when that issue dropped and so he radioed home to NYC and had his Moms send the issue to him in Brazil so that he could read up on the names and sounds to look out for. Damn! You just hope people manage to make it through the lengthy prose, so that's a huge compliment. Rios and DJ Okay, aka Kevin, took over my regular night in Brooklyn upon my move to the Best Coast. I'm sure Rios will post a little something the next time he and Kev are throwing down in Brooklyn.

Welcome, Rios, and check out his blog which is in the blog roll here as Dibble Dabbling.

re: the dream team photo . . . no offense should be taken about who is who here, though x-ing out Karl "thug-life" Malone was no accident. Repping from Portland, we have no love for Malone and all that Jazz.

And hell, since I made it I get to be MJ.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sounds like Chic

Ah, Chic. Kind of the best band ever, n'est pas? If you're reading this blog you probably know all about how influential they are, their post-Chic work with Bowie and Madonna, launching the careers of Sister Sledge and Luther Vandross, etc. Good stuff. If you are truly interested (and nerdy) check out Daryl Easlea's lengthily titled biography "Everybody Dance: Chic and the Politics of Dancing" for a great (only) overview of their lives and careers. Formulaic has been a charge leveled at Chic and disco in general since the start but for me Chic's formula - great production, catchy minimalism, interlocking guitar/bass grooves, suits- is really what makes them great and so successful. As imitation is the sincerest form of flattery its inevitable Chic's massive fame would spawn well, imitators and here are a few memorable ones:

Change - A Lover's Holiday This was a pretty big hit on both sides of the atlantic actually. Luther Vandross sings on some songs on this album (including Larry Levan favorite "Angel in My Pocket") but not actually on this one. I love the synths that come in on the outro and the super Chic-y group vocals.

Bazuka - (C'est) Le Rock This song was kind of the inspiration for this post. Could this be any more of a Chic ripoff please? I mean, its called "(C'est) Le Rock" for crying out loud! When I dj this song, I cut it in from the breakdown that's about three minutes in so ripping it yesterday I kind of heard it for the first time as well. Holds up pretty well, I think.

Charanga '76 - Good Times For me, the genera of the non-english version of a disco hit has gotten a bit tired but I need to include this as well. Charanga '76 starts with a more or less faithful cover of Chic's monster hit but quickly turns it into a latin space echo freakout... come to think of it, thats kind of what they do on all their songs!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


First of all, this track "Visualize" by Mr. Complex is a totally underrated underground banger from like 1996, which deserves to be heard, if only for the farty synth effect, a sound that always gets me. Plus it's full of quadruple-entendre lyrics about trying to get laid.
Mr. Complex - Beat Junkies Mixtape

But then there's the DJ that's playing it. Just after the dumb jabber jabber from the guy introducing this mixtape, starting at 00:34, the DJ (Babu from the Beat Junkies, Dilated Peoples, et al) does the most INSANE beat juggle with this record, which only lasts like 15 seconds. He completely flubs it as he reintroduces the snare, but if you think about what he's trying to accomplish--dissecting one little part of the beat on the fly, turning it inside out and backwards, while holding on only to the little hi-hat hits--it's really impressive. And he almost pulls it off. What is it about California Pinoys and their turntables? It has to be genetic.

Which reminds me of another recent feat of DJ Babu's, wherein the dude gave the world a blazing rap track by a four-year-old child, namely his own kid. Granted, the track's really short, but imagine how many takes it must have required to get a small child to nail lyrics like this:

Skateboard, rip rhymes and draw/by the time I'm turning ten I'll probably be on tour

DJ Babu feat. Nico - Now You Know

From this 2007 comp. And the breezy Aloe Blacc song on the same record is a future classic. Is there anything Stones Throw Records can't do?

Aloe Blacc - Find a Way

New Member of the Soul Spectrum Team!

Hey faithful readers, my good friend Josh will be occasionally posting to Soul Spectrum much like Morgan has been doing in my absence. Josh is the same guy who I talked about in one of my very first posts on this blog. Yes, I am still holding on to Josh's African record stash, but he's managed to track down some great MP3s while living in Liberia, Thailand, and now Kenya!

The "Funky . . . Freetown?" post is also his, he just used my account to post it. Welcome, Josh!

Tim Maia in the 80s

Tim had a bad habit of releasing nearly every album as self-titled, which makes it a bit difficult for fans and collectors to know what's what. He also released albums on handful of labels during his career, but the ones to really look for are the releases on SEROMA, based on his birth name SEbastiao ROrigues MAia. This is the label that put out his two Racional albums, the first pressing of his Ela Partiu/Meus Inimigos single, his highly sought-after 1977 all English-language album and the album that we're gonna listen to today, Seroma.

By most counts Tim's quality output begins to suffer as soon as the dreaded 80s arrive with his albums for Odeon (Reecontro, 1979) and Polydor (S/T, 1980) keeping up the disco pace, but overall they're weaker than everything that preceded them. The story goes that Tim was upset about the direction is career was taking and the pressure to produce big hits, likely a result of his top-selling album from 1977 "Tim Maia Disco Club" which was on another label, Atlantic. In between his 1980 and 1983 Polydor albums, he decided to record an album on his time, with his own money and with his select group of friends and musicians. The album is called "Nuvens" and is the last great Tim Maia album.

What prompted me to post these songs was that: 1) I have a CD-rip of the album courtesy of DJ Greg Caz (seeing as most of my music is currently in storage until I move into my new apartment), and 2) my good friend Bradley sent me a copy of Nelson Motta's biography of Tim Maia. You can find the book here for purchase on eBay. The picture above is of Tim and Nelson soon before Tim's passing.

Tim Maia - Nuvens
A classic Maia ballad. Those outro horn lines just kill me.

Tim Maia - Ar Puro
Tim's environmental plea for "Pure Air" . . . kinda ironic given how much grass this guy smoked!

Tim Maia - Apesar Dos Poucos Anos
This is my jam! I love how the song cuts out for a bit longer than you think it would before picking up right where it left off.

All three of these songs are from Side 1 of the album and there were plenty more to choose from. Never on CD . . . cop the LP if you see it. It shouldn't set you back more than $30.


Tip: to find the most obscure grooves that nobody else is playing, try browsing your favorite genre of records on eBay, and then sorting the results by "completed auctions" and "highest price first". What you end up with are the records that people are paying the most for, AKA some of the hottest sh*t in the world! Most of the time, the sellers of such gems will post soundclips or even whole tracks in mp3 form, which you can conveniently download without dropping $800 on what is, after all, just a piece of vinyl.

Using this method the other day, I happened upon a painfully short little piece of obscure West African soul, a clip from a band called Geraldo Pino and the Heartbeats. Apparently this band is not obscure at all if you're 60 years old and from Sierra Leone, in which case you see these dudes as the local version of the Beatles.

While you'll find plenty of commentators calling this music afrobeat, I'd much sooner call it funky soul: way more Philadelphia than Lagos. Somebody made a comp a couple of years back.

Five minutes of web research into these dudes had me stumbling upon what turns out to be an amazing African vinyl blog curated by--get this--the Voice of America! Turns out that the VOA has a gigantic trove of African vinyl and tapes from its many decades of making radio in Africa, and props to them for mining it. (Now only if they could make a decent news show. Sheesh.)

Soul Spectrum trivia nugget: Allen worked at VOA in DC during college.
Geraldo Pino & the Heartbeats - Heavy, Heavy, Heavy [snippet]

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ok, Let's bring out the robots

I know this is a 180 from my last post and I kind of feel like I might catch mega shit from certain persons for dropping these tracks - after all the blog is called SOULspectrum, but whatever. I think these are pretty tasteful though and maybe even a confirmed techno hater could get into it. I don't own a ton of this kind of music, only really cuts I feel will mix well with my own disco oriented sound. A little vocoder never hurt a dance party!

Hipnosis - End Theme (Blade Runner) Yep, this cover of Vangelis's theme music is pretty catchy. I just got this in the mail off ebay yesterday so i'm excited about it. I found it on the cheap by searching for what I know to be the "A" side, Pulstar. Fortunatly for me, it had the right song on the other side!

Kano - I'm Ready This is an old favorite of mine. I even got some punks to dance to this once! Pretty futuristic for 1980.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Some interesting singles and an apology...

Yeah, I kind of fell off the wagon for a bit there... longer then I would have liked that is for sure. I'm going to have to blame it on the amazing weather we have been receiving here in Portland for the last three weeks. Between the swimming at the river, bike rides, fine wine and the ladies, blogging just kind of slipped through the cracks. No longer though! I am returning refreshed and inspired so stay tuned as I am planning on holding down the fort until the Ambassador can return. Anyways, here are a few more picture sleeve singles I bought from a well traveled dude at a garage sale. They were both manufactured in Spain but certainly not recorded there!

Sociedade Amigos do Mocoto - Mocoto Here's a groovy version of Jorge Ben's "Mocoto." The flip of this album is rather confusingly labeled but it seems to be not another cover but the song "Tributo Ao Sorriso" by Brazilian proggers O Terco but I thought we could all live without that.

Afrikanders - Tamba

Afrikanders - Africa
Outside of Fela, I don't really know a thing about afrobeat... for all I know this could have been recorded in Spain. It kind of gets me though- especially the trippy vocal arrangements and searing high-hat action. You also have to love the way the singer intones the word Africa. Makes me smile every time.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Technical Difficulties . . .

Hello SS readers, I want to apologize for not posting recently. As you may remember I recently embarked on a cross-continental relocation from New York City to the city by the bay, San Francisco. I have landed on my feet out here and even nailed down a killer apartment in the quaint and semi-gentrified neighborhood of Bernal Heights. However, I can't move in until August 1st and sadly I packed some of my computer cables into the storage unit which I cannot access until we unload at the end of the this month.

I have a few goodies on my girlfriend's computer, much to her chagrin, that I might post only after I feel I've made sufficient daily attempts to secure a real job . . . needless to say we'll be back up and running in August with some nice vinyl scores from the road trip.

Let's hope Mr. Morgan continues with his posts in the meantime . . .