Thursday, September 18, 2008

Herbie at 45

Jazz isn't really a format that lends itself well to single-ness. Of course what the no introduction necessary Herbie Hancock was doing in the late 70s and 80s isn't really considered jazz at all - at least not by those who consider themselves strictly jazz fans. Whatever, we're not really into labels anyways. What we are into is synthesizers, and so is Herbie. Although he had already used them very extensively on earlier 70s fusion work like "Sextant" and "Mwandishi," its these largely unwelcome post V.S.O.P. recordings that really set the stage for his like, fourth or fifth commercial golden era in the eighties working with the likes Bill Lazwell and GrandMixer D.St. Check him out on the rear of the first album in the series, "Sunlight." Definitely a harbinger of things (synths!) to come.

Herbie Hancock - Stars in Your Eyes This was also released as a 12" that goes for a lot because it is a special extended version unavailable anywhere else. More bubbly synths. I'm personally happy to own just the 7... it fits in well with a 7 inchers only set and the brevity is a refreshing even in a slightly neutered way.

Herbie Hancock - I Thought it was You This was also released on 12" and its also a tough one to find. Fortunately the album and 7" are quite a bit more common... I got both of these singles for a dollar each. Not that I wouldn't pick up either one if I saw them, but come on, do you really need 12 minute versions of these tracks?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bold Songs: Wanna Be Startin' Something

Echoing Green is having this great contest that I just found out about. The deadline is just a few hours away, but if any of you readers have time I highly encourage you to check out the contest and also their great organization.

For awhile now I've been half-heartedly brainstorming ideas for applying to Echoing Green for one of their fellowships. Send good ideas my way and I'll share the credit with you.

So I submitted my entry to the contest and am waiting with fingers crossed 'til monday when they announce the winner.

Here's my 10-song entry:

A musical journey of self-empowerment designed to motivate you to take a closer look at the world we live in, define our own personal passions and commitments and ultimately to make the world a better place.

1. Michael Jackson - Wanna Be Startin' Something
A call to action to commit to what you stand for whatever it may be

2. Ray Barretto - Together
Uplifting and unifying Latin-Funk anthem from the streets of Harlem, NYC

3. Della Reese - Compared To What
Great cover of the Les McCann/Eugene McDaniels song that was made even more famous by Roberta Flack. This song challenges you to really try and understand the world we live in and make personal decisions that are true to ourselves.

4. Sergio Mendes & Brazil '66 - For What It's Worth
Another cover, this time of Buffalo Springfield. Sometimes hearing an oldie but goodie in a different version lets you listen to the words as if they were new.

5. Dr. John - Patriotic Flag Waiver
Ironic or straight-shooting? Either way, Dr. John reminds us that our personal convictions and affiliations are entirely unique and may embody contradictions.

6. Marvin Gaye - You're The Man, Part 1
Single-only release from Marvin challenging listeners and politicians to "talk to the people" and get involved in our community.

7. Smokey Robinson - Just My Soul Responding
Smokey's most political song and another personal statement about how to live in the world and make it a better place.

8. Richie Havens - Going Back to My Roots
Yet another cover, this one originally by Motown producer/songwriter and solo artist, Lamont Dozier. Richie's legacy as a voice for the marginalized and disenfranchised makes this song a great fit for him with his highly individual style and the song's message of inward searching to make yourself a better person.

9. The Beach Boys - Long Promised Road
The only non-Soul song on here, but penned by brother Carl Wilson who was always the most "soulful" in his writing and performing. This is one of the most empowering and motivational songs I've heard.

10. Stevie Wonder - Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away
One of my all-time favorite Stevie songs. I love his metaphor of the soul as the universe where the outward journey our society needs to make to improve our world is really just the same as the inward journey we all need to make to realize our individual goodness and righteousness.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's September . . .

They say that September is one of the best months in the city of San Francisco, following on the heels of the city's chilly summer months. It doesn't quite look like the picture above, but that image was taken from the California Department of Motor Vehicles' calendar.

September is one of my favorite months, partly because I was born in it. The 30th to be exact. The day that all of the summer sweepstakes end . . . "Offer good until 09/30" . . . you've all seen it before. I must not be the only one because there are a surprising number of songs featuring this special month in the title or lyrics. One of my favorites I decided not to post because it's just too ubiquitous . . . Earth, Wind & Fire's "September". I did pull out a few gems that speak to the back-to-school, leaves-turning, end-of-summer, not-quite-cold-but-getting-there vibe that makes September so "sweet", in the words of The Honor Society.

Johnnie Taylor - It's September
One of my favorite jams from this classic Stax singer. This is from his 1974 album with the horrible name and cover. In my opinion, it's the guitar line that makes the song and gives it that slightly nostalgic feel that is somewhat intrinsic to the month of September.

The Honor Society - Sweet September
This is a rare one. I found this on the second Ademir compilation called "La Bateau Ao Vivo 1 1/2". I wasn't able to find an image of the band, their records, or even of the Ademir comp, so I substituted an Ademir logo for an image. This sold on eBay recently as part of a large 45 lot for over $50. Wish I had bid now . . . This single NEVER shows up. Funky rock like only the Brazilian DJ Ademir Lemos can find!

Deodato - September 13
I know we're a couple days early, but what a treat for those of you who will check this on Saturday! This is one of the better album tracks from Deodato's US debut. My friend Hugh put this on one of his tapes he gave me following the inspirational vibe of "sleazy funk". Not sure the significance of the date, but sounds like a perfect soundtrack to city strutting in the month of September.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm back with some moody Jazilian Brazz

Finally! I have an apartment, I have my records and last but not least I have internet connectivity in the form of DSL. I am ready to resume my duties as host of Soul Spectrum.

During my off and on hiatus many a blog idea has been thought of and then duly forgotten, but today we're gonna start back up with some Brazilian Jazz tracks inspired by my introduction to this incredible album by Pedro Santos called "Krishnanda." Photographer and music empresario Brian Cross, aka B+, turned me on to this record during the post-Azymuth BBQ/Party at his pad. He threw on the record, who's cover looked vaguely familiar from the blogosphere, and friends in tow Brion and Chris, as well as myself were blown away. I'm not the only one. The photo at the top of this post is Pedro with guitarist Sebastio Tapajos. Brazilian record collecting superman, Ed Motta, also has a liking for the record.

Pedro Santos - Agua Viva
To believe that this record was recorded in 1968 is astounding to me because the studio effects are used so subtly which was hardly common in 1968. I credit the ingenious merging of traditional Brazilian styles with advancements in studio technology and production, all under the helm of musician and producer Helcio Milito. According to B+, who's friends with Helcio, this album was made because Helcio secured a production deal with CBS records in Brazil and wanted to put his maestro in studio and cut loose. The album is utterly unclassifiable and when I played some tracks for fellow SS contributer Josh Nice he remarked (after picking his jaw up off the floor) something to the effect of, 'this is why I love music, because just when you thought you've heard everything worth listening to, you hear something like this and it renews your faith in music.' Maybe I overstated his sentiments a bit, but nonetheless its a great album and you can find the download here.

Moacir Santos - Coisa No. 10
I'm following that one up with another timeless Brazilian Jazz piece by another lesser known maestro, Moacir Santos. This is from a few years earlier, 1965. Listening to Pedro Santos I was reminded of this album and its effortless blend of North American traditions with Brazilian styles.

Baden & Vinicius - Canto de Ossanha
I like three songs in a post so I included this classic track from this classic album. Coincidentally, or not, Pedro Santos often played on Baden Powell's albums and Baden even had a song called, "Ao Amigo Pedro Santos."