Monthly Archives: December 2006

Office Naps Psychedelic Pop mix, 2006

Dreamy pop psychedelia, soundtrack gadgetry, and ’60s electronics: my version of the holidays. Merry Mix-mas!

Office Naps Mix 2006

Johnny Harris Orchestra, Footprints on the Moon (7″, Warner Brothers)
Scott Walker, It’s Raining Today (Scott 3, Smash)
West Minist’r, Carnival (7″, Razzberry)
John Barry, Something’s Up! (The Knack… and How to Get It, soundtrack, United Artists)
Buffalo Springfield, Expecting to Fly (Buffalo Springfield Again, Atco)
Sound Vendor, Mister Sun (7″, Liquid Stereo)
13th Floor Elevators, May the Circle Remain Unbroken (Bull of the Woods, International Artists)
Electric Flag, Peter’s Trip (The Trip, soundtrack, Sidewalk)
Peepl, Freedom (7”, Roaring)
Chad & Jeremy, Distant Shores (Distant Shores, Columbia)
Oracle, Don’t Say No (7”, Verve Forecast)
Bruce Haack, Super Nova (The Electric Lucifer, Columbia)
George Harrison, Greasy Legs (Wonderwall Music, soundtrack, Apple)
Moon, Brother Lou’s Love Colony (Without Earth and the Moon, Imperial)
Societie, Bird Has Flown (7”, Deram)
Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, Celebration of the Sunrise (Stillness, A&M;)
John Wood, Maiden Voyage (Turn of the Century… And I’ll Come Back, Ranwood)
Poppy Family, There’s No Blood in Bone (Which Way You Goin’ Billy?, London)
Phil Moore, Jr., A Now Thing (Right On, Atlantic)
Organ Grinders, Mirror Images (7”, Smash)
Fred Weinberg, The Keen Machine (The Weinberg Method of Non-synthetic Electronic Rock, Anvil)
Hooterville Trolley, No Silver Bird (7”, Lynnette)
United States of America, Clouds (United States of America, Columbia)
Electrosoniks, Orbit Aurora (Electronic Music, Philips)
Quincy Jones, Threadbare (The Slender Thread, soundtrack, Mercury)

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Thank you to everyone who’s written, commented, contributed to, complimented, recognized, criticized, linked to, and otherwise read and enjoyed Office Naps in 2006!

-Little Danny

Posted in Garage Bands, Miscellaneous Flotsam, Mixes, Now Sound, Psychedelic/Pop | 21 Comments

Soul woman

This week: Late ’60s R&B; records, that fertile medium where the cross-over popularity of soul music and the voices of female empowerment and social consciousness were all beginning to intersect in a profound way.

1. Jean & The Darlings, How Can You Mistreat the One You Love (Volt)
Jean & The Darlings were a group of Arkansas-based, gospel-raised singers. They included sisters Jeanne and Dee Dolphus, Jeanne’s daughter Paula, and family friend Phefe Harris. In addition to their service as background studio singers at the seminal Memphis soul label Stax, they released six 45s of their own on Stax’s sister label Volt in the late 1960s.

The boundlessly energetic “How Can You Mistreat the One You Love,” from 1967, was the first of Jean & the Darlings’ Volt releases and it must have given the Stax producers some pause, too, after it only barely grazed the charts.
2. Erma Franklin, Change My Thoughts from You (Brunswick)
Being a relation of the famous comes with its own weird sort of curse: your accomplishments and aspirations are invariably judged against a fame which has preceded you.

Erma’s relative obscurity can probably be attributed somewhat to the inevitable comparisons to her sister Aretha. Though perhaps more, simply, to the whims of the music business.

Erma Franklin grew up singing with her younger sisters Aretha and Carolyn (also an overlooked singer). Like Aretha, she recorded a few tentative major label albums in a poppier vein, none of which aroused much notice upon their release in the early ‘60s. Erma began hitting her stride around 1967, though, with strong, soul-oriented fare for the Shout record label and, a year or two later, for the Chicago-based Brunswick.

From its elemental piano and drum introduction, “Change My Thoughts From You” is one of Franklin’s highlights on the Brunswick label. Her voice sexy and unequivocally in control, it works flawlessly with the production of veteran studio whiz Carl Davis. This is a quintessentially big, Chicagoan swirl of Motown-style hooks, sweet harmonies, and snappy drums.

Erma Franklin recorded “Change My Thoughts From You” in 1969, unfortunately the penultimate year of her recording career.

3. Ruby Andrews, You Made a Believer (Out of Me) (Zodiac)
Detroit songwriting team Fred Bridges, Richard Knight, and Robert Eaton appropriated the metaphor of religious rebirth for this selection, swapping the language of the devout for the language of the love.

This is all part of secular soul music’s basic shift from gospel, but it does take the right singer, to keep lyrics to a song like 1969’s “You Made a Believer (Out of Me)” from sounding merely overwrought. And that’s exactly what Ruby Andrews does – her voice soars, cutting through the song’s low center of gravity and its funky, off-kilter rhythms.

Born in Mississippi, Ruby Andrews’ recording career took shape in Chicago in the late 1960s with a series of 45s and two full-length albums for the Zodiac label, hitting her commercial zenith early on with 1967’s “Casanova (Your Playing Days Are Over).” Since a brief return in the late ‘70s with more disco-oriented fare, Andrews has only recorded infrequently, alas, her voice in fine form but generally heard in bluesier settings.

Posted in Soul | 10 Comments

Biker fuzz

First commercially available in the mid-‘60s, the fuzzbox was the earliest mass-produced means for distorting your guitar tone. The unassuming device was heard memorably on the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” and the countless American garage bands who styled themselves on the Stones seized upon the noisy, harmonic sustain of fuzztone distortion and its ability to smooth over the inadequacies of cheap guitars, and the inadequacies of the guitarists who played cheap guitars.

Possibly because it bore some analogy to the sound of a rasping exhaust pipe, fuzz also became, thanks to one musician – Davie Allan – officially identified with biker movies, an fleeting B-movie sub-genre which briefly captured the late ‘60s adolescent American male imagination. Marauding gangs of outlaw bikers might outrun The Man, but they could never shake the fuzztone guitars that followed them from exploit to sleazeball exploit.

Only “Cycle-Delic,” the first of this week’s selections, is biker music proper in that it was deliberately produced to cash in on the biker phenomenon. The other selections, however, conform to the basic aesthetic: big, brimming with testosterone, and guaranteed to lower your IQ by a point or two.

1. The Arrows featuring Davie Allan, Cycle-Delic (Tower)
He got his start in the ‘60s as a for-hire session guitarist but, after an odd 45 or two and a fairly straightforward album of surf-ish guitar instrumentals, Davie Allan, along with his group the Arrows, transformed himself into the undisputed king of ‘60s biker soundtracks, single-handedly defining the genre with anthemic, fuzzed-out contributions to film classics like Devil’s Angels, Born Losers, The Glory Stompers, and The Wild Angels.

Featured famously on “Blue’s Theme” a bona fide hit from the soundtrack to Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels, Davie Allan’s guitar sound – a rich, searing fuzztone – was instantly identifiable. It’s the mutated psychedelia of 1968’s “Cycle-Delic,” however, with its especially strident form of fuzz, which stands out amongst Allan’s work.

Cycle-Delic (excerpt one)
A funny thing starts to happen if you examine “Cycle-Delic” more closely: let’s just slow that record down a bit. Does Davie Allan control the fuzztone or does the fuzztone control Davie Allan? Man vs. Machine!

Cycle-Delic (excerpt two)
Get really close and “Cycle-delic” confirms what you’ve always suspected.  With enough magnification, you can actually hear fuzz breaking apart into its individual molecular components, proving incontrovertibly that fuzztone distortion is a living, breathing organism.

Davie Allan is still active today. Do check out his website, especially its excellent and exhaustive discography, including Allan’s own annotations.

2. Flower Power, Stop! Check It! (Tune-Kel)
From 1969, “Stop! Check It!” is the last of five releases by the group known as Flower Power. Their name suggests peace, love, and understanding, but the energy levels and agitation of “Stop! Check It!” suggest something more along the lines of meth lab. This is just one of those transcendent records that defies description.

The Flower Power hailed from Gulfport, Mississippi. Tune-Kel, their record label, was a New Orleans based operation better known for its soul and R&B releases.

3. Collision, I Gotta Know (Side Three)
I still have yet to turn up anything conclusive on Collision, or the Brothers Lopez. The best thing about “I Gotta Know,” though, is that it’s one of those records that could have been released anywhere between 1969 and 1982. This has something to do with the fact that it originated in San Antonio, but just as much to do with the eternally satisfying combination of big amplifiers, Harley choppers, and that deep-seated, eternal urge to plow through a case of Pearl brew on a Saturday night.

Posted in Garage Bands | 11 Comments

West Coast Latin jazz

Latin jazz on the West Coast was something different than it was on the East. It was something that percolated its way down through California’s diffuse network of musicians, attracting its adherents from the Mexican-American and African-American communities, the scattering of Cuban and Puerto Rican percussionists who’d made their way to the Bay Area and Los Angeles for work, and the jazz musicians who’d already established themselves there. Cooler-toned, more studied, and more exotic, it was, very broadly, the work of jazz musicians playing in a Latin style, and sort of the inverse of what’d developed organically in the Puerto Rican neighborhoods of New York City, where musicians like Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri might play Latin jazz without it ever dominating their broader repertoires of mambos, boleros, cha cha’s, etc.

Three choice examples of the West Coast variety of Latin jazz this week, lined up for you like so many Venice Beach head shops. See also these previous posts on Roscoe Weathers and Latin jazz vibes.

1. Carmello Garcia, Trane (R.A.H.M.P.)
Carmelo Garcia, often cited for his ‘60s work with Mongo Santamaria, played the loud, compact Latin drums known as timbales, and enjoyed a long career as a freelance session percussionist. His name deserves mention amongst the greats of West Coast Latin percussion, but 1971’s “Trane” seems to have been his only release as a bandleader.

This is Garcia’s tribute to John Coltrane (before the Coltrane tribute became an annoying cliché).  Much of the credit on “Trane” must be given to the excellent Latin jazz pianist Mark Levine, who composed and arranged it. That’s Levine’s piano we hear, and, of course, Garcia on percussion, and they’re joined here by Luis Gasca on trumpet and Pete Christlieb on saxophone. (Thanks to Mark Levine himself for that information!)

Producers Don Christlieb (brother of Pete) and Julian Spear, renowned bassoonist and bass clarinetist respectively (and themselves seasoned studio musicians), do not play on this, however.

This was the first release on what seems to have been Don Christlieb’s pet label project, and boy do I love the R.A.H.M.P. astrological insignia. There are other R.A.H.M.P. releases, actually, including 1972’s Jazz City LP by Christlieb’s son Pete, and, more recently, bassoon recordings by Frederick Moritz, and Don Christlieb himself.

2. Les McCann, McCanna (World-Pacific)
His recording career culminated commercially with 1969’s funky “Compared to What,” a genuine jazz hit, but “McCanna” better captures the great Les McCann, a Los Angeles-based jazz pianist capable of more complexity and sophistication than he’s sometimes given credit for.

Pulsing with dark, lovely energy, and, propelled by an extra bit of the Brazilian batucada-style percussive flair, “McCanna,” like California’s best Latin jazz, builds up a roiling boil without ever losing its cool. Recorded in 1964, “McCanna” is the title track from the first of two Latin-ish albums McCann recorded in the ‘60s (the second, Bucket O’ Grease, had a boogaloo theme). This version of “McCanna” was edited down for 45 rpm release from what was originally the 4:32 LP version.

In addition to McCann on piano, this selection featured Victor Gaskin (bass), Paul Humphries (drums), and Willie Correa (Latin percussion).

Les McCann’s releases tapered off somewhat in the ‘70s, but he is still active today.

3. Plas Johnson Quartet, Caravan (Tampa)
Composed by Juan Tizol, a trombonist for the Duke Ellington orchestra, “Caravan” rarely fails to bring out the demoniac energy of those who perform it, and this version, a barely restrained flurry of jarring piano chords and runaway percussion, is no exception.

Tampa was an obscure West Coast jazz label that existed for a few blips in the ‘50s. As a label they must have sensed their own impermanence – this same recording of “Caravan” was hustled out at least three other times: on Latin percussionist Mike Pacheco’s Bongo Session (on Tampa records), on the album Hot Skins: The Jazz Afro-Cuban Beat (essentially a repackaging on Interlude records of Bongo Session), and on drummer George Jenkins’ Drum Stuff album (also on Tampa). More confusingly, this version never, in any capacity, features Plas Johnson, the otherwise in-demand Los Angeles studio jazz saxophonist known for his work on Henry Mancini’s “The Pink Panther Theme”.

Either way, this was recorded in the late ‘50s. In reality, it featured Mike Pacheco (bongos), Shelly Manne (drums), Carlos Vidal (conga), Robert Gil (piano), Julio Ayala (bass), and Frank Guerroro (percussion).

Posted in Latin | 16 Comments