By Martin Smith | 3 July 2014
One of the most profound statements on music I’ve ever heard or read was made by the saxophone player Charlie Parker, he said:
“Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.”
I believe that more now, than I did when I first read those words over 30 years ago. Hopefully this collection of my favourite records of the month is testimony to that.
1. Theo Parrish, Footwork (Sound Signature 2014) 12” record
This is Theo Parrish’s first single from his new album ‘American Intelligence’, which will be released later in the year. The track itself owes as much to funk and soul as it does to break beat and techno.
If this twelve is anything to go by ‘American Intelligence’ is going to be a ‘contender’. The video is shot in the urban wilderness that characterises huge swathes of post bankruptcy Detroit. If you have never seen ‘footwork’ (Juke) dancing then watch this video and be prepared to be mesmerised.
2. Leon Ware, Leon Ware (Elektra 1982 reissue) CD
One of Marvin Gaye’s best, but lesser known albums is ‘I Want You’. It was jointly written by soul singer and songwriter Leon Ware. Ware is loved by soul aficionados and pretty much ignored by everyone else. During the ‘rare groove’ scene of the 1980s, his albums would always be found in DJs record bags and one his prize album, is this classic on Elektra. If you don’t have it, you can now get this reissue – If ‘Why I Came to California’ does not move your toes then soul music is not for you (apologies for the stupid commercial at the start of the video).https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwRp3CkJpGc&feature=kp
3. Norma Jean Bell, Come into my Room (Peacefrog Records 2001) CD
Norma Jean Bell is a Detroit legend, she originally played saxophone in Frank Zappa’s band and later on a number of jazz fusion albums. Norma works closely with Moodymann and in my opinion as a producer she ranks up there with Carl Craig, Mike Banks, Theo Parrish et al.
This is Bell’s breakthrough solo LP ‘Come Into My Room’ it is techno with a big nod to John Coltrane, disco and funk. This is an earlier more soul infused track which she technofied 25 years later.
4. Francis Bebey, African Electronic Music – 1975-1982 (Born Bad Records 2014) CD/vinyl
Cameroonian musician Francis Bebey is a rarely talked about musical genius. He first entered the scene with his ‘African’ compositions for classical guitar. In the early 1970s he wrote pop songs (many of which were based on the novels he had written), which became big hits in the French speaking countries of Africa.
But he also delved into electronic music – his experimentation with electronic keyboards and drum machines can finally be found together on this wonderful compilation album. Ignore the ‘tribal exotica’ front cover, this music was way ahead of its time – Manu Dibango meets Kraftwerk.
5. Bobby Womack, The Poet (Beverley Glen Music 1981) CD/Vinyl
A number of wonderful musicians have died this month; I felt it was only right to pay tribute to two of them, the first is soul legend Bobby Womack.
Where do you start with a person who started making music in the 1950s? He was as lead singer in his families band the Valentino’s and then joined Sam Cooke’s band as a backing singer and guitarist. Since then Womack has made a whole range of musical styles including R&B, soul, doo-wop, gospel, rock and country music. Almost everything he has recorded is worth checking out.
Womack had little commercial success during the 1990s-2000s but his resurrection began in 2010, when Damon Albarn, got Womack to lend his voice to the electronics project Gorillaz.
Everyone knows his opus ‘Across 110th Street’, but the old soul boy in me still comes back to this wonderful album and this passion drenched track ‘If you think your lonely now’.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbbZ_k1Z8gU
6. The Horace Silver Quintet plus J. J. Johnson, The Cape Verdean Blues (Blue Note 1965) CD
Another great loss, this time its jazz pianist and composer Horace Silver. One of the key musicians behind the Hard Bop/Soul Jazz movements, he has recorded with many of the greats including Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley and the Adderley brothers.
There is very little written about him but there is a nice little autobiography titled ‘Let’s Get to the Nitty Gritty: The Autobiography of Horace Silver’ which is well worth digging out.
All of his Blue Note albums are of exceptional quality.
7. Hyper Dub, 10.1 (Hyper Dub 2014) CD/Vinyl
Home of Cooly G, Burial, DJ Rashad and Kode 9, in my opinion this record label can do no wrong. If you don’t know their stuff, this is as good an entry into the oeuvre as you are going to get. This is Kuedo’s – Mtzpn.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aov7rvuBXgc&feature=kp
8. Wildest Dreams, Wildest Dreams (Smalltown Supersound 2014) CD
I don’t like rock music that much, but this acid drenched psychedelic monster is brilliant. I know very little about the band other than their music is inspired by the LA landscape and clearly the music of the Doors, The Byrds and Love. I’m afraid there is no video to go with this, so you will have to buy it to try it.
9. The The, Soul Mining (CBS Records 1983) CD/Double Album
Walking into my local record shop I spotted a reissue of Soul Mining by The The. When I got home I dusted down my old copy of the record. Over 30 years on I had forgotten what a gem of an album it was. The music has real depth and beauty a post punk and electro hybrid. It features a raft of musicians, including JG Thirwell (aka Foetus), Zeke Manyika (Orange Juice), Thomas Leer and a wonderful piano solo by Jools Holland.
Either find your old copy, nick your parents copy or go and buy the reissue.
Here is a link to the track ‘Uncertain Smile’ I promise you will see Jools in a new light.
10. Langston Hughes: The Story of Jazz (Folkways 1954) CD reissue
Create digging in Detroit last month, I unearthed an original copy of Langston Hughes narrating a story about Jazz. It cost me a dollar, not bad for a sublime piece of musical history.
Divided into two sides, Langston explains the history of the ‘Blues’ and on the second side he discusses the characteristics of early jazz. In the background you hear tracks by the early jazz pioneers – Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington etc.
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings was and still is a non-profit record label of the national museum of the United States. The mission of Folkways was to document ‘people’s music, poetry and sounds”.
I’ve been collecting Folkway’s records for years, they never cost much and they say so much about the human condition. You don’t have to spend half your life looking in dusty record shops, you can also buy many of the Folkways Recordings on CD from: www.folkways.si.edu
Thats all folks!