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Loving every night with the feeling of the moon?

July 30, 2013 Leave a comment

114680186“Moliendo Cafe” may not actually be a schlager, but the way the song has been covered, translated, and re-interpreted by global cultures over the years places it squarely into the schlager bracket of songs.  Originally created by Venezuelan composer Hugo Blanco and his uncle, Jose Manzo Perroni, wikipedia claims that over 800 recorded versions exist.  Having done a comparative analysis of a few versions of “Body And Soul” during university, and recalling how long that paper was, it’s clear that at this point I’m not brave enough to attempt to reconcile all of those versions of “Moliendo Cafe.”*  However, there is one version I’d like to highlight, and that is the version by the Italo Disco group Cheaps.

Existing squarely in Italo Disco’s sweet spot from both a musical (pulsing rhythm and lots of synths) and release year (1983) viewpoint, “Moliendo Cafe” was a one-off – an artist called Antonello Gabelli** has been stated to be the actual artist behind Cheaps, and it’s his name that appears with Manzo Perroni’s as the composer.  What’s especially interesting about it is that these lyrics seem to have been created by Gabelli specifically for this release.  They bear absolutely no relation to the original “Moliendo Cafe” lyrics in any language, in fact.   Gabelli’s new lyrics are effective at transporting us to some alternate reality where the cure for broken-heartedness is a trip back to the Cafe Moliendo, and “dancing every day to the rhythm of the compass” is a regular facet of life in Brazil, even if that phrase and the lyrics themselves make no sense.

I also want to call out the possibly-intentional screw up that occurs at 2:08-2:11, where half of the vocals seem to come in too early.  Shades of “Louie, Louie” across the decades!  It’s oddities like this that make Italo Disco records so charming and unique***, especially in the 1982-1983 time frame.  By the time you get up to the M&G “When I Let You Down” era in ’86, the homebrew aspect was lost, and even great tracks like that one are dead ringers for major label pop in production quality.  Time marches on, but we’ll always have the talented amateur era of Italo Disco to hold dear.

This track is digitized from the original Baby Records Italy 7″, sorry for a few pops here and there but I’m not a big believer in post-processing.

[audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/24331131-7f0.mp3]

download

*one person braver than myself has an interesting take on a couple versions here.

**also co-writer of JD Jaber songs, as well as Chris Luis’ great “Heart Of The City,” but Gabelli was also an artist in his own right, with at least three releases under the “Duke Lake” pseudonym according to Discogs.

***See also Awesome Hall Of Fame’s post on Block Sistem and the dodgy tape edits that define the instrumental version.

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Categories: Italo Disco

One of rock history’s dumbest decisions.

July 26, 2013 Leave a comment

album coer

Originally posted April 17, 2010.  Some edits/additions to content and a new playback link for “I Stand To Blame.”  and, as a bonus, “Colors.”  Note that some original CROW tracks, including “Colors” are available on iTunes, on the COLORS compilation.  Assuming that it is the artist making money from these, please go and support the artist by picking up the compilation!

Crow began life as a Minneapolis bar band called South 40 in the late 60’s, putting out at least two singles and one live LP on the regional Metrobeat label (which I don’t have, although I regret passing on the LP at Cheapo’s a few years back).  They were apparently successful enough that the national record companies came a-knocking.  Nothing unusual about that, except what happened next: they turned down industry heavyweight Atlantic Records in favor of the new label Amaret.

Now, if you’re not familiar with Atlantic, they are the most successful independent label in history.  They were pivotal (along with Motown) in bringing black music to a white audience.  They broke Ray Charles, Bobby Darin, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding (they distributed Stax Records until he died in ’67), and distributed Cream and a host of other British bands through a distribution agreement with Polydor UK.  Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones specifically signed with them because of the credibility of their roster of black artists.

Bringing this back to Crow (and, it should be noted, paraphrasing the band’s story that I recall from a K-TEL compilation I used to have and stupidly sold), Crow was being actively courted by Atlantic in 1969.  Instead of running headlong for what was their best shot at national stardom, the band’s management felt that Crow would be lost in the sauce at the “large” Atlantic.  (Never mind that Atlantic had the best A&R minds in the business and gobs of money for promotion.)

Crow signed instead with little-known Amaret Records, which proved to be a disaster for the band.  Amaret stands for “AMerican Association of REcorded Talent,” which sounds to me more like a lobbying group than a record label.  They allegedly weren’t much better operationally than nomenclatorially  – with the label unable to master even the basics of distribution, seemingly nobody could find Crow’s LP in a store after seeing the band live.  It’s no surprise, then, that Amaret went bankrupt, with MGM (no great shakes itself at the record business) halfheartedly picking up the pieces. Unfortunately Crow’s demise soon followed.

So remember – if you magically appear in 1969-1970 with a hit song in your hand, and can sign with Atlantic – don’t hesitate.

Crow put out a few singles, three LPs and a greatest hits collection, and their lead singer later put out an album called DAVE WAGNER D/B/A CROW, making history as the first cash-in on a band that wasn’t a success to begin with.  They are most famous, actually, for Black Sabbath covering “Evil Woman” on their first single for Fontana UK – which later appeared on the UK version of their debut album.

Today’s selection, which surely will be the first of several, is called “I Stand To Blame.”  It comes from Crow’s second album, CROW BY CROW, and I reproduce the back cover blurb here for your enjoyment:

“CROW is as a crow…savage!  CROW is tough, hard-driving, fast-paced.  The swift delivery is like a crow lighting on its prey.  The sound is undistorted [a couple of tracks are named here].  CROW can also become cautious and offering…[a couple more track names].  The sound is CROW, a musical informality that is easy to get into and hard to get out of!  “CROW BY CROW” is that total intercommunication of individuals[band member names and instruments], each contributing his talent…that is CROW!”

Bet you ten bucks the “writer” never heard the band.

Though by Cal Schenkel, who did design for Frank Zappa, the cover is also a bit literal for my taste.  I’m sure it’s Amaret’s fault.  The cover of the first album had a motorcycle photo shot in a dark alley – wonder what the A&R guy was trying to make up for.

“I Stand To Blame” should have been a huge hit.  It’s a kind of rolling boogie blues, and the singer has a really deep voice with bravado, except in the chorus, where he sounds more like Janis Joplin here than Howlin’ Wolf.  My inner producer would have made a slight alteration – killing the “Jailhouse Rock” break in the middle.  I can see how that would be entertaining live, but no way should that have made the studio version.  Might try to do an edit at some point.

Anyway, in spite of the inexplicable middle, I think it’s a great song.  If you’re wondering about provenance, I’ve recorded it to digital from my white label promo LP.  Enjoy!

I Stand To Blame: [audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/24311235-ecb.mp3]

Colors: [audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/24311278-f59.mp3]

 

Categories: Blues, Rock

Freda Payne – The Easiest Way to Fall (7″ mix)

July 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Edit: originally published April 14 2010.  Some edits to content and new links.

Everyone loves Motown, right?  Or at least, everyone’s mother and father do.  Being the offspring of one Motown-obsessed mama*, I have heard some of the most famous Motown product too many times to be entertained any more.

That doesn’t invalidate the concept, however – in fact it’s the basis for the whole Northern Soul movement.  If you like Motown but don’t want to listen to the 25 Motown or Motown-style songs played on oldies radio – Northern Soul is the genre for you.  And thank the Brits for their dogged pursuit of funk nuggets of all persuasions, otherwise these bits of American culture might have slipped beneath the waves.

Speaking of this song in particular, it is the B-side of one of those 25 songs played on oldies radio, at least when I was a kid – “Band of Gold.”  By the way, having read the liner notes of the recent Freda Payne on Invictus CD compilation, I was required to re-evaluate the context of “Band of Gold” – I always thought it was a jilted lover pining, but apparently it’s a sexual complaint (“that night/on our honeymoon/we slept/in separate rooms”).  Call me naive if you must.

“The Easiest Way to Fall” is possibly even more heartbreaking than its A-side.  “The easiest way to fall/is lean on someone you love” – Bill Withers, eat your heart out, I guess.  It’s remarkably emo considering the genre – this is the jilted lover tale that I thought “Band of Gold” was, but it’s really driven home with repeated protestations of how badly the protagonist was hurt.  Not just “I used to gather roses/now there’s thorns in my hand” but also “when you cut me down that day/I lost it all.”  Ouch.

The song also appears on the LP “Band Of Gold” and the Invictus compilation, but at a different speed – I don’t know whether they slowed down the 7″ mix for the LP or vice versa.  I do know that, like so many Motown and Northern songs,  the only one worth listening to is the 7″ single mix, presented here direct from the cleaner of my copies.

(note: my divshare died a long time ago, so for expediency’s sake, I’ve substituted a youtube link which probably isn’t equal quality.)

 

Freda Payne – The Easiest Way To Fall (7″ version)

*Fun fact: the first concert I ever went to was The Four Tops in 1991 at Snowbird’s Cliff Lodge.

Categories: Funky

Now, if I could just track down some conch salad…

July 24, 2013 Leave a comment

ronnieramblersEdit: originally published April 23, 2010, some edits to text and new links.  I have been back to the Bahamas since this post.  (In fact, in a truly odd coincidence considering where I now live, both the first and last stamps in my 2005 passport were from the Bahamas.)  I ate more conch salad, amongst other activities in and on the beautiful and impressive Exuma Islands.  But more relevant to the blog, I had a few years back located a 45RPM copy of Shot Gun Weddin’ by Ronnie Butler and the Ramblers, which I have digitized and linked to for your amusement.  Interestingly, later in the same recent Bahamas and Florida trip, I saw a second copy in this wonderful place, but since I respectfully disagree with the owner’s pricing system, I did not buy everything I could have.  If you need a copy, call him.

I only spent three days in Nassau way back in 2005, but a few things have stuck with me from that holiday – lust for fresh conch salad, and the mystery of a song called “Shotgun.”  Not too often that you hear the hook from a song once after a few beers and can hum it to yourself five years later – but that was the case here.  Very vivid memories, actually, considering the number of Kaliks I probably consumed that evening at the beachside shanty.  Maybe the chili in the conch salad helped.  Anyway, after getting home, I broke up with the girlfriend I was there with, and Lazy Sunday hadn’t come out yet, so Youtube wasn’t available to help with the search.  So I gave up, more or less.

Today I was delivered a compilation record that I ordered for a completely unrelated reason (i.e. for another post coming soon to a blog near you).  This LP, entitled “This Is Sue,” has a song called “Shotgun Wedding” by Roy C.  Not having heard it before I thought it might have been THE “Shotgun” I was looking for.  Not the case, but it inspired me to do another search (on Youtube this time) – and I found it!  I’m proud to present “Shotgun Wedding” by Ronnie and the Ramblers, one of the Bahamas’ preeminent calypso groups.

Great song, especially if you imagine a bar full of Nassau locals singing along – and pausing perfectly before Ronnie says “shotgun.”   I’m not sure whether this is the same version that I heard in the bar, but searches in all the usual haunts haven’t produced an alternate.  I don’t have the record it came from, and unfortunately it’s tough to track down these calypso records considering how few copies were usually pressed (some ridiculous people online would like to charge over 175USD for a copy, but that’s appalling).

[audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/24310913-5e9.mp3]

download

PS: here’s another funk nugget from Mr. Ronnie Butler – Bahama Rock.

Categories: Calypso, Funky

202 Machine – Get Up (Rock Your Body)

July 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Get Up (Rock Your Body) 7"Originally Posted March 30, 2010.  I have learned in the intervening three years that this was a in fact a NYC production.  No matter, it’s still killer, and the intro to Italo Disco is relevant for other tracks on the blog.  I have updated the linkage and made some text edits.

When I mention Italo Disco to the uninitiated, a variety of responses ensue, but all hew to a similar theme.  “Why disco?” and “Italian?  Does it sound like ‘O Sole Mio’?”  are symptoms of an incurious mind aided by some historic reactionary propaganda.  Disco, in particular, got absolutely killed in most of America as Saturday Night Fever overkill set in – ever hear of Disco Demolition Night?  In fact it’s not been until the recent emergence of Lady Gaga that pure dance music has become socially acceptable in the US again.

Meanwhile the Europeans were taking back genres like disco, house, and electronic that had roots on the continent (ahem, Kraftwerk).  They had picked up some black influence (via the undergrounds of Detroit and Chicago mostly) while popular in the states, and the Europeans took them and ran, with sometimes-unrecognizable results.  All the stuff you love to hate in a European disco – the five million subgenres of techno – fall into that category.  (Well, except schlager night.)  And yes, a lot of it has had all the soul sapped out of it and drug influences dumped back in.

How does that line up with today’s track?  Well, discogs.com says its first release was 1979 (I had thought it was 1981), and this would put it on the absolute launching cusp of Disco’s appropriation by a bunch of unknown Italians.  Giorgio Moroder had, of course, put out his epic From Here To Eternity a couple years prior, but the independent scene really seems to explode starting in 1980-1981 (based on my records purely, I wasn’t there!).  Drum machines, vocoders, and fake “bands” that actually consisted of the two producers are all hallmarks of the genre – sometimes, as in the case of Kano, they would later add a singer to try and broaden their audience.

202 Machine didn’t actually get that far.  They put out just one 7″ single, and it turns out the B-side is awfully schlagery (appropriate since the Italian label Baby Records has about equal numbers of terrible Italian pop songs and Italian disco gems).  Producers Arnell and Loeb are credited with very little else on Discogs.  Wait – Arnell and Loeb?  Those don’t even sound like Italian names, you’re probably screaming.

My rationale: even if they aren’t Italian (and mind you, I’m not sure), their song fits into the genre so well that I’m going to ignore the actual provenance.

[audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/24310897-95a.mp3]

download

Categories: Italo Disco

Tony Drake > Diana Ross (but probably just this once)

July 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Love Child

 

I had this one hanging out in my collection for a while before transferring it – and realizing that the days I owned it and did not have it available to play were wasted days of my life.  This cover of the Diana Ross ultra-drama-fest wastes the original – just hands down destroys it, and not just because of the superior instrumentation.

No, it’s also because Diana Ross never really sells herself as someone capable of sexual activity in the original song, and arguably never did in her career until “Upside Down.”  She really comes across as someone who is trying to talk her wanna-be lover out of trying to get past first base.  No fault of hers really – she just has a more distant manner than some other R&B singers, which makes it tough to keep it real on tracks like “Love Child”.*

On the other hand, THIS guy actually sounds relatively conflicted about the whole prospect of knocking up his bird, totally neurotic about his poverty-stricken past, and he retains a slight edge of cheesy drama which really helps sell it.

And yeah, about that arrangement…whoa, Nellie.  With its totally unfiltered bass walking under everything, a heavy reliance on the tambourine for percussion**, and an organ that sounds like it may need to be taken in for a tuning (ahem!), it smokes like a French movie star and will absolutely compel you to the dance floor.  And then…the break.  What. The. Drama.  Doesn’t matter how conflicted the words are – this guy is going to lose the battle against unprotected sex, because that music is seriously earthy and funky in all senses.

If the original song is a reality show, this one is reality – like ACROSS 110TH STREET reality.

 

(note: my divshare died a long time ago, so for expediency’s sake, I’ve substituted a youtube link which probably isn’t equal quality.)

Tony Drake – Love Child

*The immortal Vermettya Royster is Ross’ antipole, especially on “Give Me Your Love” – one of the few tracks that can match “Love Child” for sheer lust.

**I totally dig the Funk Brothers drums in the original, but I can get that fix in a few different places.

Categories: Funky