Wednesday, March 24, 2004
glisten globally: week two
A trip to Miami put me in a state of mind for Latin music and big booty bass. Today's selection at the Hut is neither fish nor fowl on that list, but comes somewhat close to both.
Susana Baca is at the forefront of the fairly recent Afro-Peruvian revival; music that has its roots both in Andes folk blues and African percussion.
Baca was introduced to the international market by David Byrne on his Luaka Bop imprint with a performance on an Afro-Peru compilation. That disc was filled with quality music but Baca's contribution stuck out as particularly stellar and fueled public interest in a solo album.
She's since released three records for the "world" market, all very much in the same vein.
The worst anyone seems to be able to say about Baca's music is that it's repetitive and monotonous; I say it's hypnotizing and evocative, buttery beautiful and spicy hot.
You decide. Here's a heaping spoonful of Susana Baca.
This is as good a demonstration of Baca's vocal stylings as any.
The various chaotic warring lines of percussion and strings are unified by Baca's voice and woven into a mystery.
Purchase the eponymous CD from Amazon.
This is one of my favorite albums, period. Well worth it.
Baca's home at Luaka Bop has lots of realaudio music and this live video of Baca, John Medeski, Marc Ribot and David Byrne performing at Joe's Pub, NYC.
If you're not familiar with Luaka Bop records, you should be.
David Byrne's vanity imprint has put out a considerable amount of worthwhile work, most notably that of Byrne, Baca, Shuggie Otis, Cornershop and Jim White.
They specialize in styles for all tastes so why not stop by, pick up some music and peep the discography?
Love the laughing opening.
Overall, this is understated, smooth and cool like blue ice cream. Good slow sex music.
Purchase the CD "Gifted: Women of the World" from Amazon.
A very nice RealWorld compilation, but only one Baca track.
Extensive interview with Susana courtesy of Bomb Magazine.
Learn a bit more about the Afro Peruvian musical tradition.
Totally drum driven and relentless.
Don't know why I hear such disdain in Baca's voice on this track. Any of my bilingual listeners care to give me a lyric breakdown?
Purchase "Vestida de Vida" from Amazon.
Another brief interview
If you'd like to learn more about the new wave of afro-peruvian music, you could do worse than the Rough Guide CD available via Amazon.
(Really, Rough Guides are an EXCELLENT way to explore just about any musical genre. I want on their comp list something awful.)
A scary night alone out on the highway. Seems a natural for David Lynch, no?
Purchase the CD "Eco de Sombras" from Amazon.
A Roots World article about Susana with a link to a review of "Eco De Sombras".
Roots World offers great writing and sound clips of artists who would be right at home here on the glisten globally front. Go check 'em out.
Commenting on the potential "Westernization" of her work, Baca has this to say: "'My musicians--the Peruvian ones, and the ones who work on ("Eco De Sombras"), have open attitudes towards every kind of music,' Baca assured. 'It made me very happy that this album demonstrated it’s not necessary to have been born in one place to play music with the same emotions and good taste. These albums are proof that music has that universality.'
This was Baca's first big label recording and the first I heard of her, back in college.
This track mesmorized me the first time I heard it (on a mixtape) and I remember rewinding and playing it over and over again, unsure of who the singer was.
Five years later, I heard Susana Baca playing in an NYC Virgin Megastore and crashed the front desk demanding to know the artist.
Sadly out of print and being hawked for EXORBITANT prices on Amazon ($149.99?), the excellent "Afro-Peruvian Classics: The Soul of Black Peru" is worth tracking down secondhand at your local record store's bins.
If you simply MUST have a copy of this on CD, I can recommend "Luaka Bop 10th Anniversary: Zero Accidents on the Job", a very reasonably priced double disc compilation that looks more than worth your time.
A brief bio
Baca talks about the making of her most recent release, 2002's "Espiritu Vivo":
"Recorded before a small studio audience in an intimate studio in New York City during the surreal week of Sept. 11, Espiritu Vivo showcases Baca at her shiver-inducing best, and captures the fruits of a once-in-a-lifetime recording experience. 'In the days after Sept. 11, there was so much fear and uncertainty in the air that going into the studio was like going into a sanctuary, and the music was like a balm,' Baca recalls. 'When we recorded we had a small audience, and I could see their eyes through the glass. I could see John Medeski's wonderful facial expressions while he played, and I could see all of the musicians were connecting, and it was magical, this mise en scene of beauty that we'd created. The music seemed more important than ever.'"
Tomorrow it's back to Africa again. Tune in for Dorothy Masuka's special brand of bobbysox pop.
a little <big> bonus
The ride TO Miami was all about new music culled from the REVOLUTIONARIES over to your right: Leslie Feist, Wiley, Magnetic Fields, Reena Bhardwaj, Ludacris remixes and such; but the ride home belonged to Biggie.
Four hours or so of nonstop six year memorial NOTORIOUS tracks reminded me of why "the late great Francis" deserves to be remembered eternal, wackass Puffy and all.
Here's some early (pre-"Ready to Die") badass Freestyle on Funkmaster Flex.
This is unlikely to convert those of you who aren't hip hop fans. If you're genuinely curious to get a better sense of the appeal, may I recommend: "I Got a Story to Tell", "Gimme the Loot", "Playa Hater", "Dead Wrong"(with Em) and "Notorious Thugs"(with Bone).
In late breaking news, it looks like the FBI is FINALLY picking up the Suge trail, so we may still live to see that particular herring either verified or red. Here's hoping SOMEBODY finally gets charged; if it had been one of the cats in Oasis who'd got shot, this shit woulda been solved PRIOR to the new millenium.
EVERYBODY'S A CRITIC
Time for the part of the show where the audience runs the blog.
Here's how we do it: I offer a mix CD of my own making and then send it out for review by a Hut reader and then print said review uncut and uncensored but littered with my own italicized wit, sarcasm and bullshit.
Today's maestro/guest/victim is Scott from Seattle who writes:
"Thanks so much for the CD. I am loving it so far and here are some thoughts. I think a lot of these impressions will change over time, but the deadline calls."
I'm a stickler for quick responses to these things; as I noted in an email to Scott, "(t)he reason I'm such a pain in the ass about rushing reviews in is that i love to see what people's first reactions to music are. They're often so different than long term and fresh impressions (while often embarrassing later on) are really interesting."
Bearing all that in mind, let's look at the review of today's Mix Du Jour:
THE LETTER B
Have at it, Scott!
1. Blind Willie Johnson - "By and By, I'm Going to See the King"
I like the general feel of this track, but it's a little plain. Everything sounds a little too clean. Overall this song just fails to make much of an impression on me. I don't feel the singing very much--it seems rote. The guitar breakdown at the end totally redeems what for me was a mostly forgettable song. Each time I have listened to this track, I forget that it ends with that great little breakdown, and I am always pleasantly surprised.
Wow. Pretty harsh on one of the alltime greats there, but no accountin' for taste.
Hut listeners will get opportunity to draw their own opinion on the legendary Blind Willie Johnson in a few weeks when we do a multiweek blues selection.
2. BK "Black Ace" Turner - "Beer Drinkin' Woman"
I love the singing in this track--it's understated without being boring. This doesn't actually sound that old--is this even from a particularly old record? It sounds like a re-creation more than an old time recording, given how clean the separation is between the guitar and the singing, and the general clarity of the recording.
This track is at least 40+. Here's the dope, straight from Arhoolie Records:
"In the late '30s, a Texan by the name of Babe Karo Lemon Turner released a single called `Black Ace Blues.' A Fort Worth radio station started to use the cut as a theme song and soon Turner assumed the moniker. Long before Jeff Healy piqued the music world's curiosity by playing guitar on his lap, Black Ace was playing a National steel guitar on his lap with a slide. He was one of only a few bluesmen who used this technique, the others being Kokomo Arnold and Black Ace's mentor, Oscar `Buddy' Woods. After only a few recordings in the '30s he remained dormant until Arhoolie Records' Chris Strachwitz ventured to his Fort Worth home in 1960 and brought the obscure bluesman back to the public's ear. Those recordings were originally issued the following year on Black Ace's only LP. With the fortunate advent of compact discs, we now have the pleasure of hearing the slide guitarist again some 30 years later."
It IS an awfully crisp recording. Whole album is recommended.
However, I find the lyrics totally objectionable. Don't tell me that a woman that drinks gin is no good, much less a woman who drinks beer. This is just unforgivably bad advice.
Ah, ah, ah. Listen closely to the lyrics there; it's not that "she's no good", it's that "she don't mean YOU no good," which any man of experience can attest to.
3. Butterbeans and Susie - "T'aint None of Your Business"
I love the way this track opens--the ragtimey piano seems pretty standard before Butterbeans comes in at a completely different cadence than you would expect from the intro. He does a sort of slight speed up slow down routine with his opening verse, which serves in nice counterbalance to how straight ahead Susie sings on the track. Interestingly, it sounds like he sings his second verse in a more traditional way. Maybe Susie is straightening him out a little bit. This is also a remarkable track for how many spots the piano stops playing entirely, to great effect.
4. Beans Hambone - "Beans"
If I told you about two friends, one named Hambone, and one named Flippy, and told you that one of them loved dolphins...aww nevermind.
I'm sorry, what? I'm missing a reference here, clearly. Somebody hep me.
This is a great example of why it's sometimes better to not listen to the lyrics the first few times you listen to the song. I became totally hooked on this song as background music while I was working, just because the singing is so soulful and the rhythm of the thing is so perfect. I knew the song was called Beans, but in my head as it played and I half-listened, I assumed the song was really about something more. Maybe not sublime, just something more. Wrong. It's a song about beans. This is a song by a dude named Beans about Beans. But I already love it, love the soul of it, so I can really feel it, even though I personally don't want to sing about beans, or really hear a song about beans.
You got off lucky; I was considering making this a whole "bean" CD. Beans are, indeed, quite a musical fruit; you can find any number of songs about 'em.
This particular track is wildly off key and helter skelter and, yes, totally addictive.
You can hear Taj Mahal listening to this track and thinking "I am going to copy the shit out of that sound"
5. Brak - "I Love Beans"
Again, I do not want to hear a song about Beans. I don't really like beans.
Just not a big fan. Look, it's not about the farting.
Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.
Pass the blackeyepeas, the hotsauce and the Gas-X, Rufus; ahmina have me a time.
Yeah, high in fiber, low in fat, i DID know that, Brak. I don't care. I realize this is the second song I have objected to b/c I reject the central premise (the other being: women who drink cannot be trusted), and that that probably makes me some kind of over-literal fun crushing drone.
I just think you don't like BEANS, which is worse.
I still love the song, because I love Brak. I wonder if I would feel the same way if I wasn't already a fan of the Brak show, If I didn't know who the hell this was, and I just thought this was sung by a developmentally disabled parrot, would I still enjoy it? It's hard to say.
Eppy argues otherwise.
6. Badger Theater Movie Phone - "Weekend at Bernie's II"
This is great; it's not quite hilarious enough for me to think it's fake, and then once you realize it's not fake, it becomes more hilarious than any fake recording could be. Favorite line: "The sequel seems as hilarious of the first one...of these comedic shenanigans." Also, if laughter is therapeutic, as the recording suggests, I would recommend listening to this recording a few more times in lieu of seeing Weekend at Bernie's II.
I've forgotten where I found this; I want to say 365 Days. It IS special, but the "Secret Garden" promo is pure classic. Sadly, no B in "Secret Garden" so you must make do with the Badger Theater's moviephone info for "Weekend at Bernie's II" and a nasal and somewhat confused theater manager saying things like "enjoy as you munch on the best popcorn in the world... made with REAL... vicksburg butter."
7. The Sesame Street Beatles - "Letter B"
This is what I wanted to hear when I asked for the CD, and you delivered the goods. I was recently having dinner with friends and brought this up, and no one had ever heard of it. I had started to wonder if I had made it up, so I am glad you confirmed its existence. Classic.
8. Theme From Benson
Oh sweet lord did I love Benson when I was a kid. Whatever happened to Benson? He was on Sports Night for a while.
You did know he was The Phantom of the Opera for awhile, right?
We all know Spin City was a shitty Benson rip off. Why isn't this in syndication anywhere? It's probably an absolutely atrocious show, but that's not how I remember it from the good old days when the credits of shows featured the actors looking directly into the camera when their names came on screen. What's wrong with that? Why can't we bring that back?
I don't know why it's important to you, but you argue with such passion that I will go to war to allow this to happen. Ten hut.
9. Don Vido - "Boo Bah Bah" (Edited)
Fun...is this part of some obscenely longer or awful track? Why is it just an excerpt?
You were right the first time, on both counts. Trust me, four minutes of this is three too many.
Anyway, it sounds like Louie Prima, and is a nice little link back to the ba ba ba part of the Sesame Street song.
10. Branford Marsalis - "The Mo' Better Blues"
OK, I love Branford Marsalis, and think he is terribly under-rated, but this sounds just a step above the Benson theme song. The Rhythm section has an amazing groove going, but the main theme is just tiresome. Is this Alphonso Blackwell? No. Who is playing trumpet on this track?
Terence Blanchard, with Denzel fronting.
They have a couple of nice flourishes near the end. I think my biggest beef with the playing on this track is that the TONE just sounds so off--so cheesy and unambitious. But again, I do like the rhythm hook on this one.
11. Baaba Maal and Mansour Seck - "Bibbe Leydy"
Scott got this CD before I posted Baaba up in the Hut.
Mmmmm...West Africa. I think this is the first track on the CD from a record that I have owned (don't know where it is now). I know it's corny to refer to layers, but I just love the layers in this song. You really need to listen to this with headphones. The sound feels like it stretches back from you about 20 feet, with plenty of space, but instruments still calling you from the back of the room. Great stuff.
12. Britney Spears - "Breathe On Me"
I admit to being close-minded about Britney. Don't like her. Wasn't prepared to like this track. No, I am not a rockist; some of my best friends are pop stars. I just can't stand Britney, and I admit it has a lot more to do with the public image than with the music (and the fact that the traffic from her concert at the Key Arena last night caused me to be late for a movie). Sigh. But. This track is great.
I feel like I say this three times a day, but prior to the current album I woulda happily seen Britney fall into the ocean. Now? Can't get enough.
Love that watery bass; can't deny the voice sounds good. Sounds like the best of the 80s, just a little cleaner. Almost sounds like it could be a Tears for Fears song. The "Put your lips together and blow" line almost derails the song, but it recovers.
13. Basement Jaxx - "Breakaway"
Soundwise, a great transition from the Britney song. Sounds like its going to be pounding watery bass, and then, quickly, the horns come in. After listening to Kish Kash for awhile, it seems like these earlier records are just warm ups. I keep expecting the song to pick up like six more elements, but it never does. but the spacing of the different elements of the song is great--every time I start to feel like it drags a little, they tease me with the horns again. Good work.
I haven't heard "Kish Kash" yet, but I'm just about ready to buy it. If it's so much better than "Rooty", which I loved, I imagine it'll blow my gourd.
14. Count Bass D - "Beno"
Holy shit there are a lot of tracks on this CD. Am I really just over halfway?
We are nothing if not obsessive. Don't you hate when somebody gives you a CD with thirty minutes worth of space left empty? For chrissakes man, put SOMETHING on there.
This song is actually a good break for listening and reviewing, it's a nice little jazzy/soul/hip hop number, its good enough to hear, but I don't got nothin else to say about it.
Well, _I_ do. Check out this Count Bass D track over here. This track is off the excellent "Art for Sale" EP. Recommended highly.
15. BDP - "The Bridge Is Over"
Is KRS-One the most under-rated rapper of all time? I see his name come up in a lot of official books and lists, but I never hear anybody talking about him.
Sublime seems to like him.
When I was in High School, listening to his records was the first time I had that experience of wishing I was black.
Sorry son, I gotta call you on that one.
I wanted to be down with the Boogie Down crew so bad. And after I heard PE, I told my mom I wanted to be part of the nation of islam. She didn't think that was such a hot idea. Anyway, this track is so simple, so easy, how can I enjoy it so much? How can I love a song that steals the hook from a Billy Joel song? I do, so leave me alone. KRS-One has a voice that is just definitive. When he says something, it just sounds so right.
KRS is certainly one of the greats, but it's awfully hard to forgive "Radio Song".
16. Beenie Man - "Bossman"
Here is an example of my narrow-minded Americanism--I enjoy the derivative reggae elements of the BDP song much more than I enjoy the ACTUAL jamaican (I assume he is not lying) stylings of Beenie Man. I want to hear KRS mimicking this sound, I don't actually want to hear this sound. It's a good track, and the piano loop is great, but I am not getting into it. I do really enjoy the last verse, however, when the lyrics get so worked up they almost overtake the track.
17. Bilal - "Bring 2"
This sounded amazing when I was driving to work this morning with my windows down on one of the only sunny days so far this year. I love the backup singers calling " Bring Two! Bring Two!" after he asks his lady to bring a friend. Classic. How can this not bring a smile to your face?
Bilal is certainly hot. Old hotness, but hot. New album? Please?
What's up with all these Soulquarian cats takin' forever between albums?
18. James Brown - "Bewildered"
I am a huge fan of songs that start with the singer belting out the opening notes before the band steps in, and this is no exception. An absolutely GREAT James Brown opening--why have I never heard it before? I can just imagine a crowd going wild when they hear him call out "Bewildered!" to start the song. This early James, the more straight ahead soul, often gets forgotten, but its easily as good as his more funky later stuff.
19. Chuck Berry - "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
I love how many of Chuck's songs talk about flying. There is something so fresh and fun about "Flyin cross the desert in a TWA," just the act alone seems like freedom the way he sings it. One of the best things about listening to these early rock songs is you can just hear the exuberance. This is the kind of feel that so many indie bands try to re-create now, but it's so hard to get that genuine feel, which is why so many of them fail. But it just flows out of Chuck Berry. Hey! I have brown eyes! Maybe this can be my new theme song...
20. Bo Diddley - "You Can't Judge A Book By the Cover"
The exuberance continues to flow. The walking bass, so tiresome these days, just sounds fresh. This can't be recreated. If someone recorded this today it would just sound awful and stupid (and unfortunately there are those who continue to try). Another great track I haven't heard by a classic artist. Thanks.
21. Ben E. King - "Young Boy Blues"
Now here is a song for driving slow on a summer night. And the simple lyrics are actually very evocative--just how slowly time passes when you are young, and how much of youth is spent looking forward to the next thing. The next day, the next grade, the next game, whatever. I don't own a single Ben E. King CD, but this, which sounds like the best elements of Sam Cooke, makes me want some.
22. Billie Holiday - "Big Stuff"
It's hard to type when you are listening to Billy Holiday. The jaw slackens, the muscles refuse to work, you just have to close your eyes and soak it up.
23. The Bjork Trio - "Brestir Og Brak"
There are two things I love about this song. One is the Brak reference. I have no evidence that this song is NOT about Brak, so I am just going to assume that it is. Second, it helps me figure out exactly what it is I don't like about Bjork. Her overstated emotional range is reminiscent of the worst kind of lounge singer. I think they should use this song to overdub the Icelandic version of Lost in Translation when that awful woman is singing in the bar upstairs. This is probably the only track on the CD I will skip from now on. Hold on, I have to answer the door, the indie police are here to revoke my card.
24. Naftule Brandwein - "Bulger Ala Naftule"
I don't know what this song is and I don't want to find out. It brings a smile to my face when I hear it on this CD, but I do not think I want the whole CD. But this track is Klezmer-iffic.
Shout outs and STATUS! to Chris Pagan for turning me on to Naftule.
25. Beatles - "Because" (Vocal Track)
It's a great way to end the CD, which is weird, because I have a rule of NEVER putting any of the second half of Abbey Road on mix CDs. But without the accompaniment, its this great fade out to the CD--even more psychedelic than the original in some way. Ahh, I wish I was lying on the couch in the middle of the summer, with a gin and tonic melting beside me, drifting off into sleep. But instead, I am going back to work.
Great stuff, Scott; thanks again!
The other review of today's disc comes courtesy of a fellow musicblogger and will air next week, along with a few select tracks from the CD in question.
If there's something you see on here you DESPERATELY want to hear, put in your vote now to increase the chance that I'll post it.
Also, seeing as I'm down to my last review in the wings, it must be time for a new mix release. First two to leave email and a note saying they want a taste are gonna get a go at reviewing "THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT", a mix of music from the young and the young at heart.
Let me know.
There's a whole lot of bloggin' action goin' on that bears some discussion (including this), plus I'd like to respond to my comments (which this attention whore GREATLY appreciates) as well as get caught back up at MOFI and vent some clicky, but I've been writing for hours and I'm exhausted with work in the morning.
As such, shout outs and some conversation will follow tomorrow.
One special superduper shout MUST go out to mixup in the fine state of New York who dropped a LOT of music on me recently (talkin' gigs, not megs).
Mix is starting to dabble in short pseudo-fiction plus you'll definitely find a buncha Manhattan life-venting and politics going on there daily.
Drop by and tell em the Hut sentcha.