Happy 2018 from the Peace & Rhythm crew!!
We had a great year! We got to work with some awesome bands, did some touring and heard a lot of great music. Thanks for your support! 2018 is already shaping up to be a banger. We've got several wonderful records on the way and will be finally debuting our P&R podcast (with help from our homeboy Rec), as well as some cool events and surprises planned. We'll also be launching our subscription service (details on that TBA).
We wanted to share some music we heard this past year. We'll be doing this in two different posts. This one you are reading will discuss and list albums and the next one (found here) will feature singles, 12"s, punk & noise, cover tunes and a few other tidbits. Please support the artists and DIY labels directly!! Cheers!
Fave albums of 2017, selected by Andujar, Bongohead & Studebaker Hawk. (In no particular order):
JF is 100% legit, pura candela, mofongo funk. If the percussion section can’t turn on a dime or do tight breaks, if the brass is limp or out of tune, if the bass has no tumbao, if the players don’t know their roots or let the orishas take them, well then don’t bother trying to play it for me. If, on the other hand the band has ‘saoco’ and ‘afinque’ – two idiomatic Afro-Latin music expressions that sum up what I’m talking about (spirit and graceful in-tune tightness) – órale, pues, I’m all about it. And Jambú has saoco and afinque in abundance! There’s plenty to celebrate on this jam-buya, from the upbeat numbers like ‘N.U.S.A.U.’ and ‘Mofongo’ (mashed plantain) to the more dark and chill grooves heard on ‘Efori’ (which means "headache" in Yoruba), ‘Bele Bele’ and ‘Lamento Momposino’ – the diversity and cohesiveness make for quite a heady tropical sancocho (Caribbean stew), like something your Puerto Rican cousin might bring to the table at a stoned-soul-picnic in the park. Note: Colemine Records also released a killer JF 45 this year.
What happens when Chico Mann and the son of Herbie Mann get together to make a Afro-influenced fuzz-metal record? You get Here Lies Man. The drummer in the band is Geoff Mann, son of world music/jazz stylist Herbie Mann and the "Chico Mann" is of course the talented Marcos Garcia guitarist for Antibalas, Ocote Soul Sounds and others. The Los Angeles-based band is described as "Afrobeat meets Black Sabbath". Whoah! Two of our favorite sounds! How could we not have ears open on this one?
-Alice Coltrane - The Ecstatic Music... (Luaka Bop)
I've been a huge Alice Coltrane fan since my teenage self dug up a 25 cent original LP copy of Huntington Ashram Monastery back in 1993. Her stature in the music world has only increased ten-fold, giving birth toboth "new age" music and so-called "spiritual jazz". In her case, both these terms are seriously and truthfully applicable. These recordings were floating around on cassettes in the devotional world (and hardcore Alice fans) for decades. No matter the problems of your or any other world, this music can help you deal with it. Whether you choose the meditative/spiritual angle or the cosmic/creative artistic side or you just want to be entranced, this is the stopover for you.
-Sun Ra & his Arkestra - Exotica & Thunder Of The Gods (Modern Harmonic)
As a longtime and massive Ra-head, I've succeeded in converting dozens upon dozens of people toward the Alter-Destiny. Sun Ra is both a head-scratching out-music psychedelic jazz phenom as well as deeply intense scholar, so much so that modern musicologists are still marveling at all the directions this man and his music went in. 25 years ago, shortly after Ra left the planet, I predicted that Ra's music would be quite popular in future times. That time is now. There is hardly a rock, jazz, psych or beats head that has not been drawn into this interplanetary music.
Sundazed imprint Modern Harmonic has been doing a heck of a job presenting new and worthy items into the Ra canon. I've chosen two out of many exciting releases from 2017. Thunder of the Gods is some mind-blasting stuff from Ra's most psychedelic and wiggy period (arguably, I suppose) - that of the mid-'60s to the early '70s. Exotica, a RSD title, is quite tasty, despite the fact that much of the selection has been reissued over and over again. You see, I got into Sun Ra back in the early '90s, around the same time I was discovering the music of Les Baxter and Martin Denny. And while I went down those roads for far different reasons (Denny & Baxter for the wild cheese I initially saw it as; Ra as a representative of the kind of free jazz that I had developed as taste for), I immediately could hear some similarities in the wacky arrangements of "creative world music". So it is a true joy that someone finally put together a comp of some of that strand of Ra's music, from deep and ancient African and Asian influences to playful, even lightweight, melodies. I'm still awaiting that feature on Sun Ra vocalist June Tyson though.
Our old friends in Super Hi-Fi have delivered another treat! The Brooklyn-based heavy dub/jazz outfit have been rumbling their way into our ears and hearts for a few years now. An instrumental ensemble (at least on recordings), their unique twin-trombone attack adds a jazzy melodicism to their bass-heavy dub attack with rock power. The new joint from the group, Super Hi-Fi Plays Nirvana, is an instrumental affair of all tunes associated with Nirvana. It's released as a cassette for the physical (grab it from Very Special Recordings) and available as a digi-DL. Hits like "Polly", "Something In The Way" and "Heart Shaped Box" get the sweet treatment, with dubsters like Prince Polo, Victor Rice, Doctor Sub and 9 Lives on hand to mix & remix the tunes. They also do what is an old Appalachian folk tune called "In The Pines" that has mutated its way through Leadbelly ("Black Gal") and found a version on Nirvana's Unplugged album with the title "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?". In the hands of SHF it becomes a squishy Vin Gordon-inspired number that would make the Super Ape proud. And there's also two versions of an original tune, penned by SHF bandleader/bassist Ezra Gale (Aphrodisia, Beninghove's Hangman, Molly Tigre, etc), called "Space Needle" that is a riddim as tuff as dreadlocked bred'ren smoking collie weed atop the Needle, overlooking the city of Seattle and hearing grunge guitars upon inhaling. A perfect meeting point between different worlds.
-Roy Roberts - Experience anthology (Perfect Toy) I first came across Roy Roberts a few years back on a 45 reissue for Cultures of Soul (which I glowingly reviewed back on the old P&R blog). The Southern soul-blues artist seems to still be working out of the Carolinas. He's a beach music legend who has toured in the backing bands of Solomon Burke, Stevie Wonder and others while also leading his own outfit. The early singles they waxed are on offering here. His music can be gritty or smooth, bluesy or funky (even some country influence) and he challenges James Brown on "I'm Number One". "You Move Me" is countrifried psych-soul with congas that makes the diggers drop their pants these days. The multi-tracked vocals on "Bee Hive" combined with the ultra-funky guitar makes for one of his best tunes. A disco influence pops up on "Let's Wrap Up Tonight". On a couple tunes he seems to have been listening to Barry White. There's a lot of angles Roy takes with his music and it's quite good. We're glad it's available.
-The Haggis Horns - One of these Days (Haggis) / Take It Back 7" (Haggis)These folks have been around for a long while now but this may be their best album. The opener "Curse of the Haggis" is no curse at all, unless you hate horns. "All Fuzzed Up" just begs for a funky mustachioed '70s cop on the chase. "The Long Way" showcase some fantastic male vocal chops from John McCallum. "World Gone Crazy" would fit right alongside Tanika Charles or West End Blend (two other contemporary funk bands featured elsewhere within this article). Good one.
-Georgia Soul Council - What's For Breakfast (DIG Records) This Atlanta outfit deliver superb jazz-funk with some nice organ grinding. A lot of this is instrumental but there's a vocal on the wicked JB-style funk jam "Hot Fun". The horn heads on "Gravy Flavored" are just lovely. Some tasty percussion and guitar across the wax help seal the deal. Next time I roll through Atlanta I should look them up.
-Elastic Bond - Honeybun (Nacional) Some sweet Miami sounds. The range on this runs from funk to boogaloo, a little afrobeat, some electro touches and some harmonically blissful pop-soul. It's pretty nice stuff from this "elastic" group that can stretch from a trio to a larger ensemble for their gigs. Recorded at DJ Le Spam's City of Progress studio, with contributions from producer Adrian Quesada and some of his Brownout compañeros. Bilingual lyrics make for a plus. A nice little platter!
-Hurray For The Riff Raff - The Navigator (ATO) Bronx Boricua comes out with a dynamic folk-rock album full of soul, personal and topical searching lyrics and a killer band and live show. There's enough variety here to win over many fans. Need a funky place to start? Try one of my favorite songs of the year, "Rican Beach", whose lyrics are ever so relevant since the Trump administration's willful neglect of their future fancy beach resort island of Puerto Rico. "...you can take my life but don't take my home." Powerful stuff and a widely acclaimed statement of an album.
-Kind & Kinky Zoo - Released! (Légére) Another good European funk project, this time it's the flute that soars above everything, (Think Harold Alexander, Brian Jackson or Rahsaan Roland Kirk for the funky spirit here). Even beyond the flute the grooves and tunes are tremendous with ace drumming, fuzzy bass and some additional knob twiddling from Lack Of Afro. Afu-Ra makes an appearance on "Jump The Gun". Recommended funk!
-V/A - Praise Poems vol 5 (Tramp) Funky German label Tramp has been delivering the goods in rare grooves for many years and they've delivered another fun compilation with this one. First off, let me tell you how much I love "Chocolate Puddin" by the obscure soul band Gate. From a 1972 7" (reissued also on that medium by Tramp), this is a danger-zone journey into ridiculous stoner funk (with horns) that provides a cautionary tale about addiction to chocolate pudding. As someone who has dabbled a little in chocolate pudding (but never developed an addiction) I can proudly say I've never "taken down my pants for chocolate pudding". Honestly the most head-scratchingly insane tune on this year's docket. As far as the rest: Keither Florence & The Associates remind me of Eugene McDaniel but with some wiggy synth sounds. Orange Lake Drive provides a nice jazz-funk jam with flute and silky sax. Plas Johnson's groovy "Buck Dance" shows another side of the "Pink Panther" sax man. The rest of it detours into folk-funk, gospel and organ-jazz. But that Gate tune...damn.
-SJOB Movement - Friendship Train reissue (Cultures of Soul) C.O.S. on the Afro-reissue trail! I loved the first SJOB album and this one brings us a few years later to '77 but the joints are still smoking. I love the phaser effect I hear on a lot of African music of the '70s and the rhythms are banging. (Conga player: "Friday Pozo"). Influences of funk, highlife, afrobeat and rock are all here, plus a ballad. Led by veteran Nigerian guitarist Spark Abiloye, this band and album are recommended if you are a freak for '70s West African music like I am.
-Timothy McNealy - Funky Movement anthology (Now Again) We did a fun RSD thing at a cool shop in Vermont and I took the opportunity to buy an RSD title that I was scopin'. I've been a fan of Timothy since the '90s when I was first exploring the world of underground funk. His "Funky Movement #2" (here, along with the not-quite-as-nasty "#1") was a mind-blowing raw funk jam that had the rager in me ready to give up hardcore punk for hardcore funk. The man released a few singles in his old days, many of which are here. "Sagittarius Black" is another legendary deep funk single with a psych burner and some ridiculously funky guitar slinking behind the chords of the piano. Two cover tunes are memorably done in high quality, tunes by Al Green and Marvin Gaye. Some of the slower numbers on this collection don't quite do it for me but the real point of this release is to shine some light on a Texas soul legend who deserved more exposure. Big book o' notes and everything. Great job by Now Again.
-Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath vol 2 (Ubiquity)
This is the highly publicized Black Sabbath tribute from members of Brownout and Grupo Fantasma. I have seen both of those bands several times and have been continually amazed by their tight live shows with swingin' horns and rippin' grooves. Intrigued further, I decided to gain access into their world and tried to find out what makes them so sick.
I was told to meet them in some late night Texas heat (I took a left at the longhorn, vultures circling). When I arrived on the scene there was a wicked feeling that came over me. The entire area was reeking of witches' herbs and I was told to sit tight and wait for a Brownout rep. I could see the flickering night sky and lots of smoke from fires burning just yonder. As I was led into the Brownout camp I felt the chills as we walked past a boiling pit of something. Seems they cooked up a concoction of goat blood, wax and the boiled remains of record industry do-wrongers. "That Brown Sabbath record you have? It is made from this stuff." Wow. I took warning.
Making out some voodoo rhythms I could see the trance the percussionists were in, playing batás, congas and drumkit to awake the evil spirits. One of them in particular was scary with his burning eyes and his beard totally on fire. These dudes looked like serious mad men! And I spotted a black-cloaked figure over on the side. On closer inspection it was none other than Adrian Quesada, mixing the Brown Sabbath music by torchlight! This whole scene was giving me the heebie-jeebies. "This is how we get ourselves ready for all the shows we do. We have to sacrifice animals and sometimes people too so that we can get the vibe right. In fact, just last night we nearly sacrificed our trombonist Speedy until he stepped forward and blew a tremendous solo. It was that action only that allowed himself to be saved from slaughter." I heard evil laughs all around. As the band moved toward me I got the feeling that I should escape. I took off running, trying to get off this evil ranch. I sped past zombified cattle and petrified cacti. The only time I even dared to look back I saw guitarist Beto Martinez with a bat head hanging in his mouth and vowed from that day on I would never, ever inquire about a band's pre-gig rituals ever again.
The best part about this awesome concept is that it remains very Sabbathy, not some gimmicky funk bullshit trying to force someone else's music into what it is not. The guitars are still heavy (Beto said he started playing guitar because he wanted to be in a metal band: this is the closest he's come.) This is very clearly a work of appreciation, not novelty. And perhaps making it lifestyle might be the ticket to better understanding the black (or brown) arts. I am glad I got to see this monster project before the true darkness prevails on all of us.
Here is a stunningly gorgeous album from Mali-based artist Luka Guindo, who makes music as Luka Productions. A nice blend of roots percussion and deft use of electronics, this is unique and pretty. Luka is a veteran of the Bamako hip-hop scene and has produced tracks for Supreme Talent Show and dozens of other local artists. This shimmering beauty of a record, however, is of a different mood. Fasokan is available from the amazing Sahel Sounds, digitally or 500 press LP.
-Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears - Backlash (self released)
It's legit to have the Honeybears back on the scene with a new album. The veteran Austin TX-based band has several raucous records and are an entertaining live act. Boozy & garagey, they mix R&B, punk & blues with Daptone-esque horns, a concoction that is groovy and nasty. "PTP" (Power to the Pussy) is a sexually charged romp of a song that sounds like Stax-gone-garage. They've made a fun animated video for the tune as well.
various titles on Soundway...
I didn't get to hear all the great stuff that Soundway put out (who can keep up?) but I'll share with you a few (also of note: the Lord Echo joints, mentioned elsewhere in the article). All through the years, since release #1, Soundway has been one of my favorite labels and a true inspiration on us here at Peace & Rhythm. Check them out for amazing compilations of classic African, Latin and Thai music, as well as cutting edge fusions of today.
Other recommended albums:
-The Mavericks – Brand New Day (Mono Mundo)
-Red Baraat – Bhangra Pirates (SinJ)
-Bomba Estéreo – Ayo (Sony Music Latin)
-Chico Mann & Captain Planet – Night Visions (Bastard Jazz)
-V/A - Pop Makossa - The Invasive Dance Beat Of Cameroon 1976-1984 (Analog Africa)
-Esther Suarez – La Bolognesina reissue (Little Axe)
-Flor de Toloache – Las Caras Lindas CD (Chulo)
-Rico Pabón – And Still The Sun Rises CD
-Sunka – Colombian Party CD (Galletas Calientes)
-Ìfé – Ìfé CD (Discos Ifá)
-The Spy From Cairo - Nothing New Under The Sun (Wonderwheel) CD / 7"
-Chicano Batman - Freedom Is Free (ATO)
-V/A - Tokyo Nights: Female J-Pop Boogie Funk, 81-88 (Cultures of Soul)
-V/A - Synthesize The Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica From Cape Verde (Ostinato)
-Hard Proof - Stinger (Modern Outsider)
-Afro Latin Vintage Orchestra - Morpheus (OfficeHome)
-Beny Moré - El Bárbaro Del Ritmo: Mexico & Cuba Recordings 47-62 anthology (Grosso!)
-V/A - Andina: Huayno, Carnaval & Cumbia - The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 68-78 (Tiger's Milk)
-V/A - Agrim Agadez (Sahel Sounds)
-Afous d'Afous - Tenere (Sahel Sounds)
-Nicole Mitchell - Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds CD (FPE)
-Souljazz Orchestra - Under Burning Skies (Strut)
-Tony Allen - The Source (Blue Note)
-Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology (Fire)
-V/A - Spiritual Jazz vol 7: Islam (Jazzman)
-Annie Anxiety - Soul Possession reissue (Dais)
-La Misa Negra - s/t (NAM Entertainment)
-Lord Echo - Harmonies (Soundway)
-Funkadelic Re-worked By Detroiters (Westbound)
-Smackdab - This Way (self released)
-V/A - Function Underground: The Black & Brown American Rock Sound 69-74 (Now Again)
-Alfonso Lovo - Terremoto reissue (Vampisoul)
-Pat Patrick & the Baritone Saxophone Retinue reissue (Art Yard)
-V/A - Calabar-Itu Road (Comb & Razor)
-101 Strings - Astro-Sounds From Beyond The Year 2000 reissue (Modern Harmonic)
-Jean Paul El Troglodita - Vudú reissue (Vinilisssimo)
-Village Callers - Live reissue (Vinilisssimo)
-V/A - !Un Saludo! Mexican Sound System Cumbia in LA (Dutty Artz)
-Voodoo Love Orchestra - Inglorious Technicolor
-Aliya Cycon Project - Prayer CD
-Fruko - A La Memoria del Muerto & Tesura reissues (Vampisoul)
-V/A - Rough Guide To Cuban Rare Groove (World Music Network)
-Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - Soul of a Woman (Daptone)