Friday, July 1, 2011

Midsummer Mix.

Midsummer Mix

1. "In the Heat of the Morning" - David Bowie
2. "Sunshine Rock" - the Upsetters
3. "Cumbia Tropical" - Marimba Orquesta Gallito
4. "Tropical Heat-Paseo" - Codallo's Top Hatters
5. "Sunshine" - the Archies
6. "Beach Bash" - Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band
7. "The Ice Cream Man" - the Tornados
8. "Sun" - Margo Guryan
9. "Summer Samba" - Brother Jack McDuff
10. "Breezin'" - Mickie Chung
11. "Virgenes Del Sol" - Orquesta de Juancho Vargas
12. "Summertime" - the Free Design
13. "Cool Ade" - Preston Love
14. "Come and Take a Ride in my Boat" - the Rare Breed
15. "Mar y Sol" - Lemaire y su Klan
16. "Tequila" - Jimmy McGriff
17. "Calor" - Afrosound
18. "Sand and Foam" - Donovan
19. "The Enchanted Sea" - Martin Denny
20. "By the Sea" - Wendy & Bonnie
21. "Fat Old Sun" - Pink Floyd

(An m3u is included in the .zip file.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Reading Polk Beats.

One of the things I resolved to do when I moved to the DC metro area was to keep abreast of the local news back home. "Home," in this case, is an adopted one; I moved to Lakeland in 2001 to go to school, stayed and worked there after graduation in 2004, remained living there while I got my master's degree, drank a lot of beer there, met my future wife there, got married there, and was generally sad to leave when I decided to do the PhD thing. I've always thought that Lakeland was a great little town overshadowed by two giants on either side: one steeped in history and old Florida mystique, the other, well, a simulacrum of the same. But like most places in Florida, Polk County is not without an uncomfortable history; segregation and racial discrimination, demolished juridically in the mid-20th century, are still deeply entrenched economically, politically, and culturally. In the local media, this history is less effaced than elided: it constantly buts up against the optimistic narratives of the contemporary south, sometimes subtly, often blatantly. Hell, a former Grand Dragon of the United Klans of America just ran for mayor of Lake Wales. (To the city's credit, he was trounced. Now let's kick him off the city commission!) Indeed, I would argue that the local press's unwillingness to confront the county's history is most evident in its cultural reporting, which--on the surface, at least--is little more than a promotional vehicle for the artists featured. Now admittedly, Polk County ought to promote itself, but the manner in which it does and the "selves" that get promoted are often tellingly ideological. This brings us to Polk Beats.

Polk Beats is a weekly feature in the Ledger's Timeout section. It comes out (nearly) every Thursday, and is actually a severely edited version of a much longer podcast conducted by local resident Mycah Pleasant. Typically, it includes a brief description of a local band or performer along with an interview with them. Now I don't know Mycah and I should state up front that my criticisms are not directed at him in particular. Rather, I think Polk Beats is merely indicative of the problematic manner in which the Ledger covers cultural production, and here's why.

A week ago, Polk Beats featured its first hip-hop artist, a local rapper named Leegit. Now at first glance, this seems commendable. The 863 has a burgeoning hip-hop scene--one that constantly interacts with much larger scenes in Tampa and Orlando--so it makes sense that Polk Beats would interview a representative of it. But Pleasant's interview and description is oddly divorced from the Ledger's previous hip-hop "reporting," which largely amounts to things like this:

"Slaying Shocks Suspect's Family" (wherein the Ledger "helpfully" includes some Dem Boyz and Wilson Boyz tunes in an article about how one of their members is being charged with first degree murder.)

or the follow-up:

"25-year-old Lakeland Rap Producer Convicted in Slaying of Girlfriend" (Can you imagine a headline that replaced "Lakeland Rap Producer" with "Lakeland Garbage Collector?" I didn't think so.)

The other major example of local hip-hop coverage includes the (eventually national) story of rapper T.O. (Antavio Johnson), whose song "Kill Me A Cop" got him sent to prison for two years:

"Lakeland Man Sent to Prison for Rap Song Threatening Police Officers" and "Lakeland Man Goes to Prison for a Song"

Johnson's case was an early example of Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd's puritanical, populist tendencies as well his perpetual overreach. Judd recently had a cameo in a laughably "positive" local music video, making sure to publicly declare afterwards that hip-hop was "not my type of music."

This video, which showed up in the local press not long before Leegit was featured on Polk Beats, represents the productive complement to the Ledger's negative coverage. It demonstrates the sort of hip-hop subject Polk County is comfortable with; that is, one that firmly believes in the individualist, neoliberal ideology that now permeates every facet of American life. The young black protagonist of the video leaves school, goes to his middle class home (unlikely), and studies all day, the implication being that--like the other children in the video--he is laying the groundwork for a future career. This is America's bootstraps theology in all of its incorrect and dangerous glory: enact the bourgeois and we'll let you into the club, honest.

Anyway, back to Polk Beats' interview with Leegit, "Lakeland Rapper Keeping It Clean." Leegit's been making music for years, but the article completely ignores his early work. The focus here is that he signed with a label requiring its artists to forego swearing--that's the puritanical, negative side (safe rap!)--but this is accompanied by a productive or positive implication: although his production is structurally hindered, "he knows he is a good enough lyricist to find other words to fill the gap." Despite his subaltern position, he'll make it after all through cunning, determination, and raw ability.

What I'm getting at here is that there's a southern dialectic of neoliberal subjecthood, constructed as much by popular religion and social conservatism (that is, negatively) as by productive secular representation, which is part of the reason why Polk Beats is so problematic. It's yet another example of the Ledger's depthlessness and remarkably context-free reporting, sure, but it also perpetuates the worst aspects of the stereotypical South--racism, economic inequality, social backwardness--while reinforcing the seemingly intractable hegemony of neoliberal ideology.

"That's a lot to put on some kid from Lakeland," you might say. Well, yeah, it is. But it took me about 5 minutes of Googling to reconstruct the history of the Ledger's relationship to local hip-hop. Even the most basic knowledge of local history adds a necessary critical component to the Ledger's worst promotional excesses. I don't think that's too much to ask of Mr. Pleasant or any of the Ledger's culturally-oriented writers.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Combat Rock.

My students this semester will be reading much of Rockin' Las Americas: The Global Politics of Rock in Latin/o America, an accessible and occasionally fascinating reader edited by Deborah Pacini Hernandez, Hector Fernandez L'Hoeste, and Eric Zolov. For, uh, background research, I've been doing a lot of listening this summer - and I've come across two covers en espanol that I thought I'd share:

"Combate a Kung Fu" - Wganda Kenya

The first is a largely instrumental cover of "Kung Fu Fighting" by Colombia's funky Wganda Kenya. I absolutely love the cheap, buzzy organ playing the melody - it works in tandem with the always-ethereal Mellotron to create a moderately psychedelic interpretation of the song. I'll take this over Carl Douglas's original any day.

"La Dama de Ojos Verdes" - The White Lines de Paco Sanchez

You'll immediately recognize this as a version of Sugarloaf's classic rock melodrama, "Green Eyed Lady." Sanchez and the White Lines pull it halfway out of the standard rock format - keeping the band electric but adding a booming brass section. Unlike the original, there's little jamming and improvisatory antics here - what you have is an intriguing, minor-keyed pop song stripped to its tension-filled essence.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Live, damn it! Live!

Most of the tracks compiled on the seemingly infinite volumes of Bubblegum Motherf***er are ridiculously obscure. Nearly all are digitized from vinyl - and somewhere out there is an incredibly obsessive collector with an unbelievably extensive collection of rare bubblegum 45s. Buried towards the end of BM Vol. 13, however, I noticed a somewhat out-of-place cover: the Merry-Go-Round's classic "Live" as recorded by fellow Californians the E-Types. Both bands were included on the Nuggets box set in 1998 and to this day are known mostly for those selections - "Live" and "Put the Clock Back on the Wall," respectively.

I know the garage/bubblegum divide can get pretty hazy, but I wouldn't really classify "Live" (in either version) as sickly sweet - at least not in the same way as, say, an Ohio Express track. It's really just a great example of mid-60s pop songcraft.

Here's the Merry-Go-Round's hit version (by way of a cheesy Youtube video):

"Live" - the Merry-Go-Round

And here's the E-Types' cover:

"Live" - the E-Types

As you'll hear, the E-Types drop the song's trademark jangling guitar and add a heavier backbeat. It isn't a huge departure from the original, but the cover definitely differentiates itself just enough to stand out.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Linstead Markets.

Ernest Ranglin's contributions to ska, rocksteady, and reggae are widely known and praised (rightly), but few people are aware of his jazz recordings for Merrifield in the mid-60s. Ranglin traveled to London in 1964, staying for 9 months as the resident guitarist at Ronnie Scott's. While there, he backed a number of jazz greats and recorded two LPs: Wranglin' and Reflections. Wranglin' opens with a fantastic jazz arrangement of the Jamaican folk song "Linstead Market," a tune dating back at least 100 years (and likely longer). Here is Ranglin's version:

"Linstead Market" - the Ernest Ranglin Trio

Now to give you some idea of the traditional approach to the song, here's a mento recording from the mid-50s:

"Linstead Market" - Lord Messam & his Calypsonians

Obviously Ranglin's version is much more harmonically dense, but (as you'll hear) it pretty successfully preserves the lilting, breezy feel of mento within a modern jazz arrangement.


P.S. You can find more info on Lord Messam here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


So I thought I'd piggyback on Gavin's post and share a mix that I picked up during my recent trip to Jamaica. The conference in Kingston was technically four days long, but I snuck out early (in the middle of Seaga's speech!) and headed to the northeastern part of the island. Anna and I spent two relaxing nights a few miles east of Port Antonio in the tiny community of Fairy Hill. During a day trip to P.A., we visited a few music vendors and I picked up the following mix. It's labeled "Studio 1/Old School Reggae," which is a fairly accurate description of the contents. Whoever mixed it did an excellent job - most of the stuff here is pretty obviously taken from a personal vinyl collection. The tracks were labeled (miraculously), so I've included the playlist at the bottom of the post.


The mind-bending fuzz guitar lead in Dennis Brown's cover of the standard "Perhaps."

The Heptones' version of "Why Did You Leave?" (as opposed to the more familiar Alton Ellis/Phyllis Dillon duet).

An alternate mix of "Dancing Mood" with some additional instrumentation (Harmonica maybe? I can't really tell what it is.).

The somewhat jarringly "stringsed-up" Bob and Marcia cut in the middle of the mix.

Sugar Minott's "This Old Man" followed by two toasts (Dillinger's "Dub Them Rasta" and Michigan & Smiley's "Rub A Dub Style") over the same riddim.

The use of Sound Dimension's "Real Rock" as an extended intro to a version of Willie Williams' "Armagideon Time" filled with laser-blast synth effects.


Click here to download the mix.


1. "Rain from the Sky" - Delroy Wilson
2. "I Don't Know Why" - Delroy Wilson
3. "Moving Away" - Ken Boothe
4. "Baby Why" - the Cables
5. "Perhaps" - Dennis Brown
6. "First Cut is the Deepest" - Norma Fraser
7. "Till I Kiss You" - Nana McLean
8. "Tell Me Now" - Marcia Griffiths
9. "Always Together" - Bob and Marcia
10. "Why Did You Leave" - the Heptones
11. "Little Green Apples" - Dennis Brown
12. "Dancing Mood" - Delroy Wilson
13. "Throw Me Corn" - Larry Marshall
14. "Party Time" - the Heptones
15. "Smile" - the Silvertones
16. "Wanna Be Free" - Horace Andy
17. "Come On Home" - Sugar Minott
18. "Way of Life" - Dennis Brown
19. "Hang On Natty" - Sugar Minott
20. "This Old Man" - Sugar Minott
21. "Dub Them Rasta" - Dillinger
22. "Rub A Dub Style" - Michigan & Smiley
23. "Jamaican Collie" - Dillinger
24. "Oh Mr. D.C." - Sugar Minott
25. "Conquer Me" - Delroy Wilson
26. "Real Rock" - Sound Dimension
27. "Armagideon Time" - Willie Williams
28. "Love Bump" - Lone Ranger
29. "Far East" - Barry Brown
30. "Swell Head" - Burning Spear
31. "Outro" - (Uncredited)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


(This is actually a re-post in honor of Caribbean-American Month.)

I went to an estate sale a while back and found a really strange album called Steel & Brass buried in a stack of (mostly) worthless records. I was moderately intrigued and it was in decent shape, so I bought the album, brought it home, and absolutely loved it. Turns out that the Steel and Brass Band was directed by this guy, an influential steel drum player from Trinidad. As you'll hear, the record contains steel drum versions of popular songs from the late sixties and early seventies. The tracks are both bizarre and really, really awesome. Enjoy:

"Everybody's Talkin'" - the Steel and Brass Band (Yes, the Fred Neil song.)

"Aquarius" - the Steel and Brass Band (from the musical "Hair")

"Those Were the Days" - the Steel and Brass Band (A cover of the Mary Hopkin's 1969 hit.)

And if you dig those, I'm guessing you'll enjoy this. I sampled the intro to "Everybody's Talkin'," combined it with a few other things, and built a funky little piece out of it:

"Everybody's Talkin'" - John Crayon


P.S. Head over to Unfashionably Late to download a free mix straight from the streets of Mexico City.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Riddim Mysteries.

I recently came across the song "Great Mu Ga Ru Ga" by instrumental reggae greats (and Studio One house band) the Sound Dimension. As you'll hear, it uses the main melody from the Rhine Oaks' "Tampin," a New Orleans funk side featuring some (if not all) of the Meters. Interestingly, Funky 16 Corners shared "Tampin" a few years back and a commenter pointed out that the melody shows up in a Lee Perry-era Wailers track, "Memphis." I'm guessing that "Great Mu Ga Ru Ga" appeared after "Memphis," but officially dating reggae tracks is next-to-impossible. In any case, it appears that this obscure American funk single had a decent following in Jamaica. Take a listen to all three:

"Tampin" - the Rhine Oaks

"Memphis" - the Wailers

"Great Mu Ga Ru Ga" - Sound Dimension

By the way (as if this post needed more complication), "Great Mu Ga Ru Ga" also appears on vinyl under the alternate spelling "Great Muga Ruga," attributed to the Boss.