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.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Be sure to check out my brother Aaron's new podcast with fellow Go-Fi buddy James:

I Said, Yeah!

It's the only podcast on the web (so far) that calls me an asshole. Seriously though, they discuss and play some great stuff, including an insanely flanged track from the Poppy Family.

And speaking of flange, this song has it in spades. If I compiled a list of the most warped dubs ever, I'm pretty sure this would be near the top:

"Financial Business" - the Mighty Two

Friday, April 23, 2010

Naming Names, Part 1: Females

One of the grand traditions of pop songcraft is the "direct address" lyric: songs dramatically emoted to a specific person, whose name is typically found in the title of the piece. Although the following selections are from a wide variety of genres, they share an overwhelming sense of affective urgency. Love songs on the verge of obsession, they plead with the addressee (us, by means of interpellation) to come around to the speaker's point of view. Enjoy:

"Sadie" - the Fun & Games

A surprisingly minor-keyed, slightly creepy track from the folks who brought you "Elephant Candy" and "The Grooviest Girl in the World."

"Jennifer" - Junior Soul

Jennifer, darling Jennifer/Please don't leave. Beautifully plaintive reggae from the future Junior Murvin.

"Cathy, Come Home" - the Twilights

An everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production from the year of same, 1967.

"Alison, Please" - Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band

Geno's recorded output is uneven, to say the least, but this lovely piece of bubblegum-soul deserved a greater hearing back in 1971.


Stay tuned for our next installment.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Jingle Jangle.

I've been sifting through the early Upsetters catalog lately (thanks to You and Me on a Jamboree) and I came across an interesting cut on the Many Moods of the Upsetters album. "Soul Stew" is a nice instrumental piece--somewhat uncharacteristically driven by a lead guitar--but it uses the exact same backing track as one of my favorite Lee Perry productions, "Check Him Out" by the Bleechers.

"Check Him Out" is quite literally an advertisement for Perry's Upsetter record shop in Kingston. As you'll hear, the tune conveniently includes directions and the shop's street address. Perry obviously designed the cut for radio play, so he pared its more functional aspects with a sprightly reggae riddim. The shop's gone, unfortunately, but luckily we've still got the song. Take a listen:

"Check Him Out" - the Bleechers

"Soul Stew" - the Upsetters

Thursday, February 11, 2010

2010 International Reggae Conference in Mona, Jamaica.

In a few days, I'll be flying out to Jamaica to present some of my research at the International Reggae Conference. (More info here.) Much of my scholarly work focuses on the phenomenology of dub, so I'm very excited to (finally!) see the island and hang out with my academic peers. The conference is not exclusively academic, however - it also features live reggae performances and a dancehall fashion show. Check it out even if you aren't in JA - you'll be able to watch online. Speakers this year include David Katz (author of People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee "Scratch" Perry), Olivia "Babsy" Grange (Jamaican Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports) and Edward Seaga (former Jamaican Prime Minister). Should be awesome.

In honor of the IRC, I thought I'd share some of my favorite dubs. Enjoy:

"Rainy Night Dub" - Lee "Scratch" Perry

"Dub the Right Way" - King Tubby & Soul Syndicate

"Angolian Chant" - Joe Gibbs & the Professionals

"I'm All Right" - Keith Hudson

"Red Shift" - Scientist

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Various Things, Vol. 2.

I have a folder on my computer entitled "For Go-Fi." This is where I stick all of the music for half-formed posts, tossed-off ideas, and various other unsuccessful ventures. So, in an attempt to clean house after 2009 and offer some excellent (if disparate) tunes, I present to you the contents of that folder.

First up is a quasi-cover of the Electric Prunes' "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night" from Mozambique. This track is featured on the first volume of No Smoke's Cazumbi compilation of African garage rock. Check it out:

"Suspensa A Un Filo" - Conjunto de Oliveira Muge

Believe it or not, I was a huge theatre geek in high school. I've been wanting to do a post of Jesus Christ Superstar covers for a while, but frankly - I couldn't find many of quality. So here are the best of the bunch. Sam Taylor slows down Judas' opening solo into a funky soul number, while Roy Ayers strips Mary Magdalene's trademark torch song into the sort of intimate, sensual jazz he's known for:

"Heaven On Their Minds" - Sam Taylor (from Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal)

"I Don't Know How to Love Him" - Roy Ayers (from He's Coming)

And finally, here is a nice blue-eyed soul platter from the Joe Meek-produced Honeycombs. This track is mostly notable for being remarkably un-Meeklike. It's quite straitforward, actually, with a soulful instrumental break featuring a jazzy sax solo and an echoed guitar. Enjoy:

"I Can Tell (Something's Up)" - the Honeycombs