Monday, December 29, 2008


Well, it's list-making time. Here are a few of the songs that I played endlessly in 2008:

"Campbell Lock" - Don "Soul Train" Campbell

A funky dance number from the creator of "locking" (soon to be paired with "popping"). Campbell was a founding member of The Lockers, a pioneering dance troupe that also featured a young Fred "Rerun" Berry and a pre-"Mickey" Toni Basil.

"Thrills and Chills" - Helene Smith

This is one of my favorite tracks from the Eccentric Soul: The Deep City Label compilation. There's something about the insistent beat and reverberative organ that makes this track instantly memorable.

"The Shadow of Your Smile" - Jack McDuff

Speaking of reverberative organ, this song oozes with sensuality thanks to Jack McDuff's fluid mastery of the Hammond organ. I first heard this on the What it is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves box set, but it's originally from McDuff's Tobacco Road album. If you love soulful jazz, pick it up.

"Ice Cube Island" - Merrell Fankhauser & H.M.S. Bounty

I read about Merrell Fankhauser in high school (Richie Unterberger's Unknown Legends of Rock and Roll, again) but his stuff is so obscure that I didn't hear much of it until recently. "Ice Cube Island" is from the 1968 Things album, which is really just a great folk-rock record with slight psychedelic tinges here and there. This song, however, embraces the album's druggy subtext with a dreamy, sighing vocal and gloriously vague lyrics. (Why, for instance, does she "hate us all?") I also love the sunshine pop-esque backing vocals.

"Yokomo" - Yamasuki

I learned about this record from Oliver Wang's Soul Sides blog. Yamasuki was, apparently, a bizarre French project aiming to fuse Japanese culture with funky soul. There's a whole album of this stuff, most of it really freaking awesome. This is my favorite track from the record.

What did you keep on repeat this year?

La Monte Young & Marian Zazeela - The Black Record

This is an incredibly rare record from one of the original minimalist composers. La Monte Young was a little more out there, a little less formal than Philip Glass, or even Steve Reich. He spoke in interviews about the first sounds he remembered hearing. He was a pretty far out there guy.

This record, however, is captivating. The first track is the real reason to download it. It's very eastern influenced. In certain ways it's almost a space rock record, but it's also so completely stripped down to the basics. The second track is very much a noise composition. It's almost an early incarnation of industrial (think Einsterzende Neubauten, not nine inch nails). Anyway, download this gem and enjoy it, because God knows none of us can afford to buy it (I've seen copies go for as high as $650!).

download "The Black Record"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Rising Storm.

One of the books that I tore through as a teenager was Richie Unterberger's Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll. I learned about oodles of obscure and wonderful artists from this book. It pretty much established me as a record geek. It's worth getting.

Anyway, the book has a chapter dedicated to sixties garage rock. One of the groups that Unterberger profiles is Andover, Massachusetts' the Rising Storm. Composed of six prep school students, the band recorded and pressed an album just before their graduation. Recorded in a week for $1000, the record largely consists (typically) of covers.

Calm Before, however, also contains a few original compositions which are truly sublime. One of these cuts, "Frozen Laughter," was included on the CD that came with Unterberger's book. Quiet, mysterious, and vaguely gothic, these folk-rock originals sound otherworldly - especially for 1967. I've included three of them for your listening pleasure:

"Frozen Laughter" - the Rising Storm

"To L.N. Who Doesn't Know" - the Rising Storm

"The Rain Falls Down" - the Rising Storm


Edit: Updated links. Apparently two of them weren't working. My bad.