Friday, February 08, 2008

eMUSIC FEBRUARY

* What's For Dinner by The King Khan & BBQ Show. Guitarist King Khan is a Canadian of East Indian descent who has recorded on the Voodoo Rhythm label with a hopped-up soul band called The Shrines. (I was lucky enough to nab the album Three Hairs and You're Mine right before Voodoo Rhythm pulled out of eMusic.) BBQ, aka Mark Sultan, is another Canadian who performs as a one-man garage band (think King Automatic, Bob Log III).

Together these two make spirited, stripped-down lo-fi raunchadelic magic. There's raw Yardsbirds/Count Five rave-ups and primitive blues. But what makes this collaboration special is the sweet doo-wop sounds on several tunes. Sultan and Khan aren't afraid to let their inner Frankie Lymon shine.

* Problems by Lee Fields. Fields is one of the leading lights of the current soul revival. Though this proud follower of James Brown started out back in the '70s, about 10 years ago he was one of the major dudes at the influential Desco Records. More recently he's recorded with Sharon Jones.

This is a cool, funky album, not quite as electrifying as Let's Get a Groove On, the album that turned me on to Fields nearly 10 years ago. But there's some great tracks. "Rapping With Lee," with his advice for good relationships, reminds me of those old Joe Tex talking songs. And "Bad Trip" should have a movie scene written around it.

* The World's Rarest Funk 45s by Various Artists. I can't swear these are the "rarest" funk tunes, but I do know I hadn't heard of any of these artists or any of the songs until I stumbled upon Lenny Kaye's monthly column in e-Music.

These funksters -- bands like Tony Bowens & the Soul-Choppers, The PCs Ltd., and Shades of Black -- might not have achieved fame, but they got the sound down. If you like the cool, obscure soul and funk you find on the Funky 16 Corners blog, you'll like these funk 45s.

Unfortunately there's no liner notes available (one of eMusic's weaknesses), but I'm guessing most of these were recorded in the late '60s or early '70s. My favorites so far are "Funky Thing" by Larry Ellis & The Black Hammer (great chugging organ and swampy guitar) and "Eggroll by The M&S Band (hard-charging horns led by a baritone sax.)

* Feels by Animal Collective. I'm a newcomer to this cult. I recently was turned onto Panda Bear -- one of the animals in this collective -- and his solo CD Person Pitch, which was on loads of critic Top 10 lists last year. (It's also available on eMusic.)

This is AC's 2005 album. It's spacey and out-there, but very melodic and accessible. And it rocks without ever getting cheesy. Both Panda and Animal Collective are influenced greatly by Smile-era Brian Wilson. They also remind me of a techno-version of early Mercury Rev.

While I was writing this blurb, I came across a live version (from Lisbon) of Panda Bear's "Bros," a show-stopping 11-minute tune also on Person Pitch. I couldn't resist I just wish there were more live Panda tunes here.

* Evangelista by Carla Bozulich . I've been a Carla fan ever since the night back in the early '90s when I saw The Geraldine Fibbers open for Mike Watt at Club Alegria in Santa Fe. This album, released in 2006, isn't as accessible as The Fibbers or Carla's 2003 take on Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger. Aided by former Fibber and current (I think) Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, Carla on this album sounds much closer to her earlier band Ethyl Meatplow.

The album starts out with a 9-minute existential cry ("Evangelista I") that I can only described as "bruised gospel." It sounds like a tortured sermon from the very pits of Hell, harsh and naked. The next song, "Steal Away," is gentler, though still infused with despair. It sounds like a lost Bob Dylan gospel song. Then with "How to Survive Being Hit by Lighting" she's back in the fires -- though this one sounds like an electrical fire. There's never a moment that's not intense on this album. On "Baby, That's the Creeps," when Carla, backed by a spook-show organ, sings "I won't go now into your dark room ..." you get the feeling she's about to be ensnared by a serial killer.

Evangelista ain't easy listening by any stretch of the imagination. You have to be in the mood -- and that's a pretty strange mood -- but it's powerful stuff.

* Everything is Possible: The Best of Os Mutanates. (The eight tracks I didn't already have from Technicolor.) Imagine a mash-up of "The Girl from Ipanema" with Santana's "Evil Ways," mix in a goofy Beatle-y sense of humor and you've got a start on comprehending Os Mutantes, Brazil's best known "psychedelic" band from the late '60s and early '70s. They were playing their unique style back when it was dangerous to do so under the military regime of the era.

At first the softer edges of these Mutants put me off a little. But their melodies, pretty, Sergio Mendes side gets to be addictive. It hooks you in and before you know it, you're being sideswiped by some craziness.

* Mind of Fire by S.T. Mikael. I guess I've been in the mood for foreign psychedelia lately. Mikael is a Swede who's been cranking out strange and sometimes wonderful rock for years. Released last year, this is his first album in 11 years.

The first tracks are lengthy studio tracks, lots of fuzz-heavy guitar and Deep Purple organ sounds, recorded with other musicians. But the last 10 are bedroom recordings made during the last decade, which in the "Bonus CD Intro" track Mikael describes as a time of loneliness and feeling lost. There's lots of meandering LSD rock rock, but also some disturbing slow acoustic doom passages in which Mikael sounds like a Scandinavian Jandek.

DENGUE FEVER*Venus on Earth by Dengue Fever. Speaking of foreign psychedelia, if you're not familiar with Dengue Fever, change that now! They're a southern California band featuring the vocals of Cambodia-born Chhom Nimol. They specialize in surf/garage sounds colored by the type of American-influenced Asian rock that young Cambodia loved in the '60s and '70s until it was wiped out by those most evil Commie maniacs, the Khmer Rouge, who took over in the mid '70s, doing their best to wipe out all vestiges of "corrupt" Western cultural influences. Pol Pot is dead and discredited and Dengue Fever lives. Long live rock 'n' roll ! (See my full review of this album HERE)

Plus:

* "Rockin' Chair Daddy" and "Rock a Little, Baby" by Harmonica Frank Floyd. This is the original version. After downloading the latter-day Harmonica Frank album last month, I had to get some of his original stuff. The first one is from a Sun Records compilation, the latter from an obscure compilation, Memphis Rockabillies, Hillbillies & Honky Tonkers, Vol 2 from a just as obscure label, Stomper Time. Unfortunately, in each case it's the only Harmonica Frank cut included.

* "Cheney's Toy" by James McMurtry. This single from McMurtry's upcoming Just us Kids was a free track from eMusic, so I snatched it, even though I have the advance CD. It's a diatribe against the current chief executive, which I don't mind, though I have trouble with the truism that forms the premise of the title. McMurtry's written far better protest songs. This comes nowhere near "Can't Make It Here" or even "God Bless America" (the McMurtry song, not Kate Smith's), which is on Just Us Kids.

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