Dr. Lonnie Smith (Soul’d Out Festival)

 

— winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

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The Bender: Monoshock & the Cynics

The Bender:
Monoshock & the Cynics


April 2013


Good Shit *****

Annual punk-rock fest, one of a few essential music events in Portland Town, three days and three nights, about a buck a band with a wristband, a few dozens outfits from around the country, video above featuring Monoshock and the Cynics, the end of the second night on Saturday.

           

— winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

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Scott Bradford: Rock Slides (LP) 1969

Scott Bradford
Rock Slides

Probe 4509

Recommended ****
1969

As the title suggests, this is rock-influenced jazz, soul-jazz with some heavy rock leanings,opens with two Bradford compositions, the group at first easing into it like a tank rolling over rocks, but the machine quickly kicks it into gear, pounding out some chunky rock-hard rhythms, the rhythm section creating a unique and muscular motor to power the thing along, two bass players, two percussionists, Phillip Catherine pick-axing away at the rock with his guitar, the horns helping punch it home.  While there’s a lot going on, the group is obviously working on one thing, driving the music like a bulldozer through a rock quarry.  Bradford’s organ helps establish that soul-jazz groove, and Nathan Davis offers some of the most wild contributions of his career, blowing his sax like he’s John Henry swinging his hammer, swinging and spinning around the rhythms.  If it sounds like it might run out of gas on the second cut, the whole thing climaxes with the third cut, a Davis number called “Mid Evil Dance,” a cat named Vinagre coming in on Afro-Cuban percussion to help deepen the groove so he can dance around in it.  Side two gets reflective and less interesting with Nathan switching to flute, but the pace picks up again for a second Davis contribution to close the set.
While jazz-rock fusion quickly focused on increasingly annoying music in the 1970s, this is another date to show that the fusion of these two musical styles at first created lots of interesting music.  Rock is just rock’n roll, and rock’n roll is R&B, but this album suggests that rock has its own sound, something that sounds like a boulder rolling.  This isn’t a great set, but it’s got a raw rock power that’s missing from the crystalized fusion that followed the 60s.  While that stuff was like polished sapphires, this rolls out chunks of raw granite.  — winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

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Roy Ayers Ubiquity (1975) A Tear to a Smile / Mystic Voyage

Roy Ayers Ubiquity
A Tear to a Smile

Polydor 6046
Produced by Roy Ayers
Arranged by William Allen

Noteworthy ***
1975

Most jazz/funk albums from this era ended up sounding forced and uninspired, commercial music patched together to make some bucks.  In contrast, this album sounds like Ayers was doing exactly what he wanted to do, and like he was doing it for all the right reasons.  The time and passion put into this clearly comes through the music.  Several cuts seem designed to go with the rhythm of the waves in a waterbed, and even much of the social-themed material has a sensual vibe.  While it’s a snap to spot influences, the music is completely Ayers.  The beginning and conclusion are especially strong, essential moments for fans of this group.  The lineup included Edwin Birdsong & Debbie Darby (vocals), Bernard Purdy (drums), and William Allen (bass, arp).  Allen and Ayers contribute most of the compositions.  
Roy Ayers Ubiquity
Mystic Voyage

Polydor 6057
Produced & Arranged by Roy Ayers

Recommended ****
1975

Ayers retains the Ubiquity moniker but pulls in quite a different line-up from A Tear to a Smile released earlier this same year.  The sounds of the albums are similar in many ways, both offering a variety of sounds and tempos, from full-fledged funk to jazz-influenced reflective numbers, but each album has its own sound.  This offers the reflection of the instrumental title track but has much more focus on the heavy thumping of the dancefloor funk. The changes in sound likely had a lot to do with the departure of William Allen, the bassist of the previous album who also arranged and wrote the majority of the cuts on that set.  While the funk of the previous seemed focused on the waterbed, this features plenty of numbers designed for the club.  If side one doesn’t grab you from the get-go, just flip her over.  If you have any doubts about Ayers delivering the funk, the proof comes to knock you out with the one-two punch of “Funky Motion” and “Spirit of the Doo Do.”  Both 1975 sets are recommended listens for fans of funk, but this one is essential for folks looking to get the party started.  This lineup included Calvin Brown (guitar), Chano O’Ferral (congas & bongos), and newcomers Byron Miller (bass), Chicas (vocals), and Ricky Lawson (drums).  Oddly the album doesn’t mention song credits.

— winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

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The Morells: Shake and Push (1982) LP

The Morells
Shake and Push
Borrowed Records 3302  
1982
good shit *****

Classic set from Springfield, Missouri, very much in the NRBQ style (which of course goes back to the beginning of time, or at least back to the early 1950s).  These folks get a bit more silly than NRBQ, opening the set with three originals, starting with “Gettin’ in Shape” (“Here comes Betty / She’s so sweaty / I wish we were goin’ steady”).  To make sure this ain’t some stale neo-rockabilly museum music, they go into the Village People at the end of the song, enough to send some roots-rock purists to their graves where they belong.  After that, the band launches into a song about food (the subject of some of the best songs ever recorded), this one about Red’s, the cafe that graces the sleeve.  (“The only thing that’s French on the menu is fried.”)  After that flavorful cliché, they go into some obscure covers, a song about the beautiful thing about “Ugly & Slouchy” women, and another about “Growin’ a Beard,” concluding with the instrumental “Bumble Boogie.” 





The fun continues on side two, starting with Roy Montrell’s 1956 “That Mellow Saxophone,” (this version referring to “watching Columbo” as well as Davie Crockett) and continuing with the obscure covers till the end.  Lots of folks did this sort of thing but few did it as good.  Most groups usually picked hit songs that should have been left alone, tried too hard to sound retro and pretended to be from the South.  In contrast, these folks weren’t pretending.  They poke fun at their hometown, the “recording capital of Greene County,” but if you’ve been to this area, you know it’s the South.  And in the South, you had standards.  If you’re going to make a record, you better have a tight band and some good songs.  This set fits that bill.

— winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

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