12 February 2009

Should-Be Classics

I´m taking a trip into that alternate universe where the best music gets recognized and the crap sinks to the bottom... where Ken Boothe is as famous as Sam Cooke... where a group´s worst song doesn´t become their most popular (the Cars´ "Drive, the Police´s "Every Breath You Take", etc.)... and where the three songs below are known and loved as the true classics they are. But in our world, sadly, they´re obscure, or at least unfairly overlooked. Time to rectify that. The Journeys By DJ series is a fantastic one, with at least one other classic release, 1996´s Coldcut JDJ. Desert Island Mix is a two-disc set that gives one disc each to Norman Jay and Gilles Peterson. I´m a huge Gilles Peterson fan as he´s got one of the two best radio shows in the world at the moment, currently airing on BBC Radio (the other is the Swami Soundsystem in San Diego). Peterson´s a genius at picking great music, and here he´s got a sweet Roy Davis Jr. track. This one´s a complete contrast to the frenetic funk of my last post, being a simmering slow burner in every way. The voice is flinty but smooth, the production is subdued and insistant, and those horns... perfect. Gabriel by Roy Davis Jr. with Peven Everett, from Gilles Peterson Desert Island Mix (Journeys by DJ, 1997) In one of the weirder twists of musical fate, Seke Molenga & Kalo Kawongolo, two musicians from Zaire, somehow found their way to mad genius Lee "Scratch" Perry´s legendary Black Ark studios (before he burned it down himself) in 1977. Scratch got behind the boards to work his twisted magic on a simmering stew of mostly reggae ingredients, but with a healthy helping of African flavor as well. This whole album is fantastic, and it sat on my want list for over ten years before I finally got my hands on it (having been issued in small numbers only on the SonAfrica, Jolie Zaire, and RuNNetherlands labels in Africa and Europe). The one featured here is a song now called "River Stone", but only because it is mislabeled... it´s true title was to be "Love Can Run Faster". Not only that, it´s a tack on... various financial problems prevented the completion of the album so this was added to fill out the set. If you want to hear the African stuff... and you should hear it, you´ll have to check out the rest of the album. The vocalist here is Robert Palmer-yes, THAT Robert Palmer. He´d cut several tracks at Black Ark with Scratch in ´76, in the heady days that saw the likes of the Stones and the Clash heading to JA to check out the exploding scene. His voice and Perry´s production make for a hugely satisfying combination. River Stone by , from From the Heart of the Congo (Jolie Zaire, 1977) This last track is not exactly obscure, but it certainly isn´t sufficiently recognized. I heard it for the first time in one of the tents at the Coachella festival in Indio, pumping out of huge speakers. It´s hard for me to say exactly why I love this song so much... it doesn´t really go anywhere. But I think that´s part of the appeal, as the result is a kind of delicious, suspended tension. The instrumentation is minimal, built primarily around a funky guitar strum and a single, 5-note sequence. Sunshine shows her man the hand and we all get to benefit. I´ve Heard It All Before by Sunshine Anderson, from Your Woman (Atlantic, 2001)

1 comment:

Mom said...

OH, my GAWD, Kris! How do you KNOW about all this! I read ll of your reviews. They were insightful. You are just incredible- so multi-talented. I'm so glad you have such a beautiful life.