Archival Music Releases

I wrote a piece about “archival” music releases for Diffuser. I discuss three different types of these albums. The first, Wheedle’s Groove, focuses on a specific regional scene–the soul and funk of Seattle. The second, Too Slow To Disco, is like a glorified mix tape you might make your friend. The last one, L’Amore, is a reissue of an album that was privately pressed and barely heard back in 1983. Below, listen to Lewis’ “Cool Night In Paris.”

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Soul Unsung: Reflections on the Band in Black Popular Music

If you look here, you can read my review of the book Soul Unsung, whichdiscusses the way black pop has changed over time by focusing on the men and women playing behind the singer. The author uses King Curtis’s “Memphis Soul Stew” to aid in the book’s organization. “Listen to the band move, watch the people groove.”

Nobody Knows

I reviewed the new Willis Earl Beal album Nobody Knows for Paste. Read the piece here.

NYT critic Ben Ratliff wrote about it too, he had stronger feelings. Check that here.

A video of Mr. Beal below, performing the song “Wavering Lines” without any instruments:

 

And here’s the late ’70s Lou Reed track I mentioned in my piece. Something similar to the string motif Reed uses appears in the album version of “Wavering Lines.”

Under The Influence

I reviewed a compilation of rare soul, funk, and disco — the third volume in the Under The Influence series — for Popmatters. Read the piece here. The album’s opening track, “Rather You Than Me,” below.

Don’t Count Him Out

Soul is a genre dominated by powerful and charismatic singers.  But a vital though often overlooked part of the foundation of 60s/70s soul was the songwriters, the guys who wrote a seemingly never-ending series of great tunes.  Some of these figures, like Isaac Hayes (who wrote for Stax), managed to have successful careers in the spotlight as well.  George Jackson was one of the many who didn’t.  Clarence Carter, Candi Staton, Wilson Pickett, and others recorded his songs in the late 60s and 70s, but he also recorded numerous songs on his own that were not compiled and released until recently.  In 2009, the Ace label – which specializes in reissuing old rock, soul, funk, and blues — put out George Jackson: In Memphis 1972 – 1977, which showed that Jackson excelled at writing r&b of the Southern variety (Listen to “Dear Abby“).

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Duck’s Soul

From left to right: Donald “Duck” Dunn, Booker T., Steve Cropper, and Al Jackson

On May 13, 2012, Donald “Duck” Dunn, who played bass on innumerable recordings for the Stax label in the 60s and early 70s, passed away.  Duck was born in Memphis, and along with his fellow Stax musicians, he personified the democratic possibilities of American music.  Dunn was a working class kid who loved music and worked tirelessly at the bass, often without expectation of reward or success, hoping merely to have fun in the local music scene and to make some extra money.  Ultimately, he went on to play bass on some of the best soul recordings in history, immortalizing Memphis and southern soul all over the world with his bass lines.

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