24 July 2008

Rootical Vibrations

Crab Race by the Morwells, from Crab Race (Burning Sounds, 1977) Bird in Hand by the Upsetters, from Return of the Super Ape (VP, 1978) I couldn't hold back any longer from an all-reggae post. I love a wide variety of music, but reggae is always where I come back to... my true favorite. And of all types of reggae, none is better than the dreader-than-dread sounds coming straight from yard in the late 1970s. "Dread" is a hard sound to describe, but it's deep and rootsy, and conjures in the mind images of hot, smoky studios filled with rasta vibrations. 1977 brought us "Crab Race" by the Morwells, a Channel One/Randy's product. Super drum and bass reggae legends Sly & Robbie are one of two rhythm sections credited to the album in general, and it sounds to my ears that it's them at work here. The throbbing heart-like bassline and insistent snare patter gives me that clue. The following year, 1978, saw the release of The Return of the Super Ape album by Lee "Scratch" Perry. Scratch is a master, and at his peak he was simply untouchable. The album became a classic, and you should really go get it if you don't already have it. This song features a chorus sung in Amharic, the language of Ethiopia, and an uncredited singer whose identity has never been revealed...

17 July 2008

Political Mumbo-Jumbo

Rockin' Funky Watergate by Fred Wesley & the J.B.'s from Breakin' Bread (People, 1974) Mr. President by the Heptones with Jah Lion from the Upsetters-Turn and Fire Upsetter Disco Dub (Anachron, 1977) Don't worry, it's not a blog about politics at all! It's an example of what I love about doing this audioblog... I can link songs by the slenderest of threads... So here we have two policaly-themed, or at least related, songs. The J.B.'s were, of course, James Brown's backing band and had some of the most bad-ass musicians of the era. This one's a fine workout, with Fred Wesley wailing from about the middle to some truly sweet rhythm guitar from beginning to end. Songs like this show why I'll always prefer rhythm guitar to lead. And the political side? Just a then-current shout-out to tack on (and chant) to a funky instrumental. Next we leave the US altogether to get a Jamaican perspective on things. It's the classic Heptones track Mr. President, in a devastating dubwise reworking by mad genius Lee "Scratch" Perry at the controls - and this is in '77, the prime of Black Ark Studios. This versions sees Jah Lion adding the hoarse-throated toasting. The dread beat, Scratch magic and Leroy Sibbles' vocals demonstrate why this is an all-time great.

13 July 2008

Antipodean Covers

Jive Talkin' by Spiderbait, from Andrew Denton's Musical Challenge (??) Comeback by Regurgitator, from Crush the Losers (Warner Brothers, 2000) This is a pure fun post, hatched late at night with many chuckles. We're focusing on Australian bands covering unlikely songs in an ironic manner... and I've come up with two prime examples. Let's start off with Spiderbait, a 3-man (OK, 2 man and 1 woman) band from NSW that can kick some serious ass with some industrial strength riffing. But here instead, we have Kram, the drummer and vocalist, singing a disco cover over a drum machine beat... gotta love it. And not to be out-roboted, we have Quan and Ben, aka Regurgitator, the current title holder of greatest band on Earth, weighing in with a track dripping with irony as always. This is from the band's EP dedicated to the Sydney Olympics entitled "Crush the Losers", and this particular song is a cover of an old 80s chestnut that I won't reveal here but I think you'll recognize.

08 July 2008

Riffs Across the Atlantic

Always Love by Nada Surf, from The Weight is a Gift (Barsuk, 2005) Dejame vivir by Jarabe de Palo con La Mari, from Adelantando (Warner Brothers, 2007) I'm kicking off the soundbombing with a comparison of killer pop songs built off the same riff. It's one of those simple riffs you get into right off the bat and doesn't get old after that. These aren't samples or EXACT copies, but you'll see what I mean.... The first use came in 2005, in Always Love by Nada Surf. This is a group my friend Dave Marony, who had moved away from San Diego to Colorado by the time this hit the radio, always loved... so it always reminds me of both him and SD. Always Love is a great example of the delayed satisfaction that really hooks me into the songs I like best (and is the primary reason reggae is my favorite type of music, btw), as the super-ULTRA-killer "I've been held back by something..." bridge waits a long time to come in. Once you've heard the song once, you'll be waiting for that moment. The first time I heard Dejame vivir, I expected the Nada Surf vocals to start and was shocked to hear Spanish vocals instead. But this is a different animal entirely, with nice lyrics-the title means "let me live", and it's an ode to freedom in general-and great vocal interplay between Pau Dones & La Mari. The song's by Pau's band Jarabe de Palo (literally "stick syrup", but meaning a whipping or beating) with the guest shot by La Mari, who heads Chambao, a huge band in their own right. Which song is better? You decide... but I say BOTH. Create, recycle, chop, remix... whatever the case, as long as the result sounds good the rest doesn't matter.