Soul Connection – Rough & Ready

The first of two full-lengths from Toyin Agbetu and Earl Meyers. Toyin Agbetu was the owner of four independent dance labels, including Intrigue, the label who released all of Soul Connection’s output; and between his work with these labels and his work as a musician and producer across a slew of groups, he’s been a defining figure of UK street soul. Still, his Wikipedia page doesn’t even mention his musical body of work, as he has risen to global prominence as a Pan-African human rights activist, artist, author, filmmaker, and community educator.

Rough & Ready is an unusual instance of ballooning rare record prices on Discogs that feel somewhat justified. It’s consistent and excellent all the way through, with slinky R&B grooves, housey drum loops, and slick vocals courtesy of Thomas Esterine. Some have called this an ideal makeout soundtrack, but personally I think it’s night time driving music: discrete, minimal, tasteful, monotonous (in a good way), and although it’s technically dance music, it never picks up too much speed.

Update: Thank you PAM for sharing a higher quality rip!

download

[Mix for NTS Radio] Getting Warmer Episode 9

I spent the weekend after the inauguration at the New York Women’s March and finishing this mix. I wanted to use all American dance music as a way of recognizing the enormous creative debt we owe to people of color and the LGBTQ community. Since I’m not great at cross-genre mixing (yet!), this veers mostly towards disco. As such, I was also thinking a lot about the recently departed David Mancuso as I worked on it. I recorded this live, so I hope you’ll excuse some imperfect mixing and enjoy some very perfect songs. If you like it, you can download an mp3 version of it here. Thanks for listening!

Tracklisting:
1. GQ – Lies
2. Finis Henderson – Skip To My Lou
3. Scherrie Payne – I’m Not in Love / Girl, You’re In Love
4. Vincent Montana Jr. & The Philly Sound Orchestra – That’s What Love Does
5. Kenix ft. Bobby Youngblood – There’s Never Been (No One Like You)
6. Karen Carpenter – My Body Keeps Changing My Mind
7. The Pointer Sisters – Telegraph Your Love
8. Mariah Carey – Make It Happen
9. Curtis Hairston – I Want You All Tonight
10. George Benson – Give Me The Night
11. Krystal Davis – So Smooth
12. Sharon Redd – Never Give You Up
13. Lace – Can’t Play Around
14. George McCrae – Rock Your Baby

[Mix for NTS Radio] Getting Warmer Episode 7: Voices Special

I made a two hour mix for NTS Radio of songs with vocals that are significant to me. I had originally set out to focus on experimental vocals, but I realized that so much of what might sound experimental to western ears—Tibetan chant, Inuit throat singing, Chinese folk—is deeply traditional, not experimental at all. Instead, I approached this as two hours of vocal milestones, be they from technical, stylistic, or emotive standpoints. It’s not possible to make a two hour comprehensive survey of strong vocal traditions, nor of the most important singers, though there are quite a few of both categories in here. Putting this together was hard, and while I could easily have spent years digging and rethinking, I set a month time limit to ensure that I would finish it at all.

As I was making this I also thought a lot about how Björk framed her almost entirely vocal record Medúlla as a response to September 11th–both the event itself and the subsequent wave of patriotism and xenophobia that she experienced as a foreigner living in New York. Making an all-vocal album was, for her, a coping mechanism and a means of trying to reconnect with what it means to be a human.

Lastly, a note that this isn’t as listenable or poppy as the mixes that I typically make, though I did try to arc it in a way that feels good. I’m not really sure what its ideal listening environment is–it probably involves headphones–so I hope that you enjoy it all the same! If you’d like an mp3 version you can download it here. Thank you for listening 💜

Tracklisting:
1. The Impressions – For Your Precious Love
2. Meredith Monk – Strand (Gathering)
3. Geinoh Yamashirogumi – Genesis (abridged)
4. Bessie Griffin & The Gospel Pearls – Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
5. Philippine Madrigal Singers – Pamugun (comp. Francisco Feliciano)
6. Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes – Jusqu’à Ce Que La Force De T’aimer Me Manque (excerpt)
7. Emma Kirkby & Gothic Voices – O Euchari (comp. Hildegard von Bingen)
8. Björk – Pleasure Is All Mine
9. The Ronettes – Baby I Love You (Isolated Vocals) (excerpt)
10. David Hykes & The Harmonic Choir – Arc Descents
11. Unknown Artists – Sumi Yeinyo (Hani Crying Song) (Southern China)
12. The Beach Boys – Surfer Girl (Alternate Version)
13. John Jacob Niles – Go ‘Way From My Window
14. The Tallis Scholars – Spem In Alium, Motet for 40 Voices (comp. Thomas Tallis)
15. Geinoh Yamashirogumi – Doll’s Polyphony
16. Young Thug – All Over
17. Ghédalia Tazartès – Une Voix S’en Va
18. Yma Sumac – Taita Inty (Virgin Of The Sun God)
19. Arthur Miles – Lonely Cowboy, Pt. 2
20. Angkanang Kunchai With Ubon-Pattana Band – Isan Lam Plearn (excerpt)
21. The Hilliard Ensemble – Viderunt Omnes (comp. Pérotin)
22. Ustad Ghulam Ali & Asha Bhosle – Salona Sa Sajan Hai Aur Main Hoon
23. Patti Page – Confess (excerpt)
24. Monks of Gyütö Tantric College – Sangwa Düpa (excerpt)
25. Amália Rodrigues – Gaivota (excerpt)
26. Unknown Artist – Akazehe Par Une Jeune Fille (Burundi)
27. Anna Homler & Steve Moshier – Sirens (excerpt)
28. Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir – Stani Mi, Maytcho (Get Up, My Daughter)
29. David Hykes & The Harmonic Choir – Rainbow Voice
30. Lucy Amarualik & Mary Sivuarapik – Song Of A Cooking Seal Flipper
31. Dr. Octagon – Halfsharkalligatorhalfman
32. Judy Henske & Jerry Yester – Rapture (excerpt)
33. The Hilliard Ensemble – Sabbato Sancto – Responsorium 5 (comp. Carlo Gesualdo)
34. Linda Jones – Your Precious Love (excerpt)

David Astri – Do It Right, 1983

Very mysterious record! The only release from Baltimore artist David Astri, and also the only release (I think) from PCM Records. Rereleased (I think) in 2014 on now-defunct Award Records, and not much information available about any of it.
This is essentially a boogie funk record, and for fans of the genre, it doesn’t get much better than “Get Down To It” and “Do It Right” (RIYL George Benson, RAH Band, etc.). The song that I immediately fell in love with, and has since wound up on an embarrassing number of mixes that I’ve made, is “Safe and Sound,” which sort of reads like a slow funk ballad, but between the inadvertently creepy lyrics delivered with saccharine little girl breathiness, the unexpected moments of warped dissonance, the impeccable percussion details, and the oddly muffled production, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard. The seven minute closer, “Dancing Digits,” is an ecstatic instrumental disco stomper, but with what sounds an awful lot like an acid house synth line riding on top. Oh, there’s also a five minute tropical steel drum interlude that sounds like it could score a ride at Disneyland. In a good way, sort of.

I really, really wish this record were 15 minutes longer. And speaking of, apparently there are four unreleased tracks floating around from these sessions–if anyone has them, I’d really love to hear, will bake you cookies, etc.

Li Garattoni – Find Out What I’m Dreaming, 1982

I’ve been dragging my feet on this one for two years, both because it’s very dear to me and because I have no idea how to talk about it. There’s also very little information available about it anywhere, but from what I can cobble together, this is the only release from Jutta Li Garattoni. She produced Find Out What I’m Dreaming herself, and it features her husband Jean-Pierre Garattoni on drums alongside a slew of other musicians. As none of the listed credits suggest otherwise, I assume both piano and vocals are Garattoni. She passed away in 2004. She was a Taurus. That’s about all I know.

The range on this thing is remarkable. It opens with “Dornröschen,” a flanged-out synth lament featuring whispery, Blonde Redhead-esque vocals and a whole lot of doom. We then move through a piano jazz-rock ballad (“Lonely”), sing-songy pastoral (“Find Out What I’m Dreaming”), dusty electronic soul (“Friends,” which would have been perfectly at home on the Personal Space compilation), and some loungey art pop in between, before closing with a short reprise of “Dornröschen.” Garattoni’s vocals are similarly diverse, ranging from girlish naïveté to full-blown belting. Unabashed, capricious, sweet, a little unhinged. Even writing it out now, it doesn’t sound like much–there’s something quietly brilliant going on here that’s hard to identify. The only thing I can think to compare this to is Kate Bush. Has Kate Bush heard this? I see all y’all UK readers on our traffic stats; can someone please ask her?

Four of these tracks appear on a compilation called Relax Your Soul which has some very good album art and can be purchased on Amazon (linked below)–other than that, this is long out of print and fetching triple digit prices on the rare occasion that it surfaces on Discogs. Enjoy!

buy four tracks / (download removed)

Harry Case – In A Mood, 1989

An untouchable album from outsider American guitarist Harry Case. Clever drum machine programming and synth lines, effortless smooth jazz guitar, and a breezy, new age sensibility. Each song is uniquely crafted, hitting a funky hotel lobby samba on “Midnight Samba” and classical guitar/synth reggae on the album’s moody title track. “Chasing The Goon” and “Jam (At Your Party)” are high tempo party tracks where Case’s jazz guitar and drumming are in full force. The percussive new age-y “Native Drums” is reminiscent of Wally Badarou’s Echoes.

“Carry Me Home” (lyrics and song below) simultaneously gives me the chills and makes me smile, as it feels like the most positive song ever written. Just wish it were a bit longer..
I see the way to carry me home 
I see the way to home
Sometimes I am lost in sin I can’t find the power deep with me.
(I see the way to home)
I raise my voice up to the sky and things get better by and by.
(I see the way to home)
Don’t you know that I 
I see the way to carry me home 
I see the way to home
So don’t give up if you feel pain cause nothing ever stays the same
(I see the way to home)
If you think things are at an end, just turn around and start again.

I hope this album will be on lifelong rotation for you and yours. Many thanks to Contain Yr Brain for the tip. A perfect 10!

Seaside Lovers – Memories In Beach House, 1983

Today is a celebration of internet access to amazing things. This one-off collaboration of chiller-musical-god Hiroshi Sato and the relatively unknowns Akira Inoue and Masataka Matsutoya — appropriately called “Seaside Lovers” — is some of the most succulent fruit of this access. It’s a trophy of Youtube’s intercontinental ubiquity, and these three musicians are pressing all the right beachy chilltime buttons in all the right ways. Soothing flute, funky bass riffs, and sweeping synths, all saturated in reverb.
On the flip side, this is one of the rare times where we’ll post an album with a few questionable tracks. The majority of the album is ridiculously listenable, especially the new age/funky soul/smooth jazz tracks, but there are 2 or 3 that require a very specific mood. If you are a jazz fusion fan, though, you will be PSYCHED. Plus, just look at this album cover! Below is their most famous track, but download to hear so much more…

Womack & Womack – Love Wars, 1983

I know Love Wars isn’t news to many. Linda and Cecil Womack were soul royalty–Linda is Sam Cooke’s daughter and has been an established song writer since she was 11; Cecil was a member of The Valentinos, a protégé of Sam Cooke, and former husband to Motown legend Mary Wells. Linda and Cecil met as children and together their families constructed one of the most confusing family trees of all time, full of death, cheating, scandal, and intermarriage. They were married in the late late 70s after the dissolution of Cecil’s marriage to Mary Wells, probably because of her extramarital affair with his brother Bobby.
By the time they put out their debut record as Womack and Womack, Linda and Cecil were seasoned musicians, and bravely turned their own marriage and turbulent family histories into the subject matter of an album that looks unflinchingly at the more painful aspects of relationships. Fittingly, Love Wars is a family affair: Linda and Cecil co-wrote all the songs (with the exception of a cover of The Rolling Stones’s “Angie”), with additional co-writing cameos from both of Cecil’s parents and his brother, Curtis. As the title suggests, the music is full of paradoxes: sunny, funk-flecked songs that belie their subject matter and their shrewd lyrics, which, as critics have been quick to note, are most incisive when they’re dealing with pain and loss rather than with love and happiness. They approach their emotions with effortless, raw musicianship, and you can hear how much fun they had doing it–music-making was clearly family counseling for the Womack clan. Standouts include the foot-stomping, gospel-tinged opener, “Love Wars,” the sinuous, relentlessly grooving “Baby I’m Scared Of You,” and a hushed, heart-wrenching take on “Love T.K.O.,” a song they wrote for David Oliver that was made famous by Teddy PendergrassBy the time they arrive at rhe closer, “Good Times,” we can’t help but suspect that Linda is singing wistfully about good times that were probably not as good as she might have us believe, but that she’s still missing them just the same.

Eddie Kendricks – People…Hold On, 1972

People…Hold On makes me excited to have kids so they can remember growing up hearing this around the house. A former frontman of The Temptations, this was Eddie Kendricks’ second solo record and cemented his solo career: the (slightly problematic) “Girl You Need a Change of Mind” was widely circulated in east coast clubs, and Kendricks went on to release 13 full-lengths and record a live album with Hall and Oates. People…Hold On is an immaculate classic. Funky, disco-flecked soul, bathed in sunshine and wah-wah, with a slow-burning politically charged title track. Eddie Kendricks’ trademark falsetto is effortless. A perfect spring soundtrack. Enjoy!