A Consumer Guide to the Trailing Edge: April, 2013

Recycled Goods (#107)

by Tom Hull

Short month. Not only did I not work on this much during the month, I put virtually no time into topping it off. Given more focus, it might have grown more. I noticed the Leon Thomas sets in my metacritic lists, and was prepared to dig up more like that. And the Baobab comps finally showed up on Rhapsody, making me wonder if more sets like that lurk somewhere. But I got sidetracked, taking a look at Spin's "alternative" 1960s list, and holding my first reviews there back for May. So short, scattered month this time. Big 1960s theme next time. Balances out, more or less.

Note the ACN this month. In particular, Supersnazz is probably the best truly "alternative" album left off Spin's list (look for "Spin - Alternative 1960's" toward the bottom). Another new reissue that I won't be writing about because it's an old (A+) record to me is Swamp Dogg's 1970 masterpiece, Total Destruction to Your Mind, on Alive Natural Sounds. Had it come out a year earlier, it should have come close to topping Spin's list.

Machito and His Afro-Cubans: Ritmo Caliente (1941-51 [2005], Proper, 4CD): Born Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo, probably in Havana, Cuba in 1908, moved to New York in 1937 and founded his big band, singing and playing maraccas, in 1940 with trumpeter Mario Bauza. The first disc here covers 1941-42 before he got drafted. The second disc picks him up in 1947 playing with Chano Pozo, and follows him through numerous live shots (Royal Roost, Birdland), running through a long list of singers and bouncing off such notable jazz musicians as Howard McGhee, Milt Jackson, Brew Moore, and Zoot Sims. Not as clear or consistent as his later 1951-57 Mambo Mucho Mambo: The Complete Columbia Masters (Columbia/Legacy), but important in its time, the flip-side to Dizzy Gillespie's Latin-leaning bebop. B+(**)

Leon Thomas: The Creator 1969-1973: The Best of the Flying Dutchman Masters (1969-73 [2013], BGP): In a simpler time, he would have been a classic blues shouter. In the late 1960s he was networking with Louis Armstrong, Johnny Hodges, Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, and Oliver Nelson. He got his fluke hit with Sanders, "The Creator Has a Master Plan," and a record contract that ran five years and six albums, all long out of print. Early on he tried to continue the cosmic-black-power-funk vibe from Sanders and Shepp, to which he added a yodel that sounds weirder now than it did then, and when he ran out of new ideas he reverted to shouted blues and soft soul moves. I've sampled these records lightly, and always imagined that someone could pull a great compilation out of them. But this isn't it. I don't know whether that's because they avoided both the political cuts -- no "Dam Nam (Ain't Goin' to Vietnam)" -- and the long ones -- no "Pharoah's Tune (The Journey)" and a shorter "Umbo Weti" -- or they just failed to look beyond his headline albums to the side credits where he made his mark. B+(*) [R]

Briefly Noted

Bettie Serveert: Palomine (1992, Matador): Debut album for a still-extant Dutch guitar band fronted by Carol Van Dijk; they later developed their knack for pop hooks as well as guitar depth, but the straightforward presence of the singer wins out here. B+(**)

Samuel Blaser Quartet: Boundless (2010 [2011], Hatology): Swiss trombonist, reprised this group -- Marc Ducret (guitar), Banz Oester (bass), Gerald Cleaver (drums) -- on the new As the Sea, interesting enough to want to work my way back; one suite in four parts, much less up front, especially from the guitarist. B+(*) [bc]

Dur-Dur Band: Volume 5 (1987 [2013], Awesome Tapes From Africa): From Somalia, a few years before the civil war, the Bush mission, "black hawk down," Al-Qaida, the Ethiopian invasion, piracy and drone warfare turned the country into such a shithole; recorded at Radio Mogadishu, presumably after other volumes which seem to have disappeared without a trace; not groundbreaking or earthshaking, but catchy, danceable, pleasing, peaceable, and picks up its game a bit when a female singer takes over. B+(***) [R]

Mac Gollehon: La Fama (1980-96 [2012], self-released): Live big band shots from early in the trumpeter's career, backed with lots of Latin tinge percussion, setting up trumpet which is, to use the leader's favorite word, smokin'. B+(**)

Scott Healy-Glenn Alexander Quartet: Northern Light (1991 [2012], Hudson City): Alexander is a light fusion guitarist with three albums 1987-96; Healy is a studio pianist associated with Conan O'Brien who decided to get ambitious and launch a label behind his big band project; this is an old tape dusted off to flesh out the label catalog. B

Moreno and L'Orch First Moja-One: Sister Pili + 2 (1977-83 [2012], Sterns Africa): Four cuts from Batamba Wendo Morris, born in the Congo and emigrated to Kenya as did the guitar-driven soukous of his 1983 album, here padded out with some 1977 tracks from Tabu Ngongo not notably different in any way important -- more irrepressible groove from the guitar paradise of East Africa. A- [R]

New Order: Lost Sirens (2003-04 [2013], Rhino): Outtakes from the sessions that produced Waiting for the Sirens' Call -- the last New Order album, or at least the last one with bassist Peter Cook; nothing extra memorable, but it all sounds right, and maybe half hits the groove/grind that made them legends. B+(**) [R]

Orchestra Baobab: La Belle Époque (1971-77 [2009], Syllart, 2CD): Discographical experts worry about how much of this intersects previous comps On Verra Ça and N'Wolof, so caveat emptor; this promises a deeper history of Senegal's second greatest band, completist enough to start with a handful of crappy live tracks, but they're forgotten by the time they hit their stride. A- [R]

Orchestra Baobab: La Belle Epoque Volume 2 (1973-76 [2012], Syllart, 2CD): Much more, and without recourse to the booklet or an authoritative discography, much more obscure, the early sides deeper voiced, the later sides thicker with guitar, both louder than the previous volume; a bit less essential, I'd say, but it still feels like a major band. [NB: Rhapsody also lists a Volume 3, with the same cover art, and a song list matching the second disc of Volume 2.] A- [R]

The World Needs Changing: Street Funk & Jazz Grooves 1967-1976 (1967-76 [2013], BGP): Never politically explicit enough to qualify as a "black power" compilation, even on the Gil Scott-Heron cut, while the jazz grooves tend toward perfunctory -- Groove Holmes, Lonnie Liston Smith, leaving the musical highlight Little Eva Harris medleying "Get Ready" and "Uptight." B+(*) [R]

Legend: B+ records are divided into three levels, where more * is better. [R] indicates record was reviewed using a stream from Rhapsody ([X] is some other identified stream source; otherwise assume a CD). The biggest caveat there is that the packaging and documentation hasn't been inspected or considered, and documentation is especially important for reissues. But also my exposure to streamed records is briefer and more limited, so I'm more prone to snap judgments -- although that's always a risk.

For this column and the previous 106, see the archive. Total records reviewed: 3616 (3179 + 437).

Additional Consumer News

I ran across a company called Culture Factory which makes what it calls "Compact-Disc Deluxe Vinyl Replicas": compact discs with single or gatefold cardboard jackets matching the original LP cover artwork (except much smaller), the discs themselves black finish as if vinyl. So far they have 96 releases, mostly 1970s reissues. I went through the catalog and picked out the items I have database grades on their original issues. List follows:

  • John Cale/Terry Riley: Church of Anthrax (1971, Columbia) B
  • John Cale: Fear (1974, Island) A-
  • John Cale: Slow Dazzle (1975, Island) A
  • John Cale: Helen of Troy (1975, Island) A-
  • Flamin' Groovies: Supersnazz (1969, Epic) A+
  • Flamin' Groovies: Flamingo (1970, Buddah) B+
  • Flamin' Groovies: Teenage Head (1971, Buddah) A-
  • David Johansen: David Johansen (1978, Blue Sky) B+
  • Mink DeVille: Cabretta (1977, Capitol) B
  • New York Dolls: Too Much Too Soon (1974, Mercury) A
  • Robert Palmer: Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley (1974, Island) B
  • Robert Palmer: Some People Can Do What They Like (1976, Island) B
  • Robert Palmer: Double Fun (1978, Island) B-
  • Quicksilver Messenger Service: Happy Trails (1969, Capitol) B+
  • West, Bruce & Laing: Live 'n' Kickin' (1974, Windfall) E+

Other artists reissued by the label: 38 Special; Bob Welch, Chris Spedding; Diana Ross and/or the Supremes, Hot Tuna, James Taylor, Jean-Patrick Capdevielle [label appears to be French-owned], Kim Carnes, Kim Wilde, Martha Davis, Martin Circus, Moon Martin, Murray Head, Paul Collins, Rare Earth, Starshooter, The Motels, The Romantics, Triangle, Variations, Walter Egan, Wang Chung, Wishbone Ash, plus they have three original soundtracks.


Copyright © 2012 Tom Hull.