Wednesday, September 19, 2007


* Raw and Alive: The Seeds in Concert. This was recorded a couple of years after their mid '60s short-lived heyday, but Sky Saxon and his band sound as gloriously seedy as ever. Lots of snarling fuzztone and proto psychedelic Farfisa.

Their hits are here -- "Pushin' Too Hard," "Can't Seem to Make You Mine." There's a 9-minute "Up in Her Room" in which they repeat those Louie-Louie chords over and over, proudly basking in the tease and the sleaze. They push even harder into the astral plane with "Gypsy Played His Drums," which, thankfully, isn't a drum solo. The Seeds still sound wild and vital. Like the overwrough DJ ("Humble Harv") says in his introduction, they'll "make your feet move and your head spin."

*Live In London - The BBC Recordings 1972 - 1973 by Judee Sill. Just a few years ago you couldn't find hardly anything about Judee on the Internet. There even was dispute about when she actually died. (It was 1979 -- a goddamned heroin overdose.)

But since the Rhino Handmade releases of her two albums, especially the immortal Heartfood, a few years ago, more and more people are being initiated into the strange and alluring world of Judee's music. Last year Warner's re-released both the albums and various outtakes and alternate versions as Complete Asylum Recordings (also released under the title Abracadabra: Asylum Years.) And the year before, Water Records released Dreams Come True, consisting of recordings for her never-completed third album, plus other stray demos and live tapes.

Now comes a live album, also released by Water. These were recorded during a British tour. It's stripped-down solo versions of songs from Judee Sill and Heartfood. If you haven't heard those albums, get them first to hear the songs as God, or at least Judee, intended them to be remembered. But if you are already a Sill fan, you'll want this record. While I prefer Heartfood's full-blown version of "The Donor," the solo version here also will infest your soul.

*Petey Wheatstraw - The Devil's Son in Law by Rudy Ray Moore (actually, Nat Dove & The Devils). When the Allmusic Guide says to "Avoid at all costs" a CD and I've kind of liked the audio clips I've heard from it, I have to take that as a challenge. Sure the theme song is a super disco-y, but hell ... This soundtrack is tons of fun. I just wish more old bluesmen got the Blaxploitation treatment. "They say Mississippi John Hurt is one bad mother ... HUSH Yo' MOUTH!" (In reality, this movie apparently has nothing to do with the actual bluesman Peetie Wheatstraw, whose real name was William Bunch. Bunch took his stage name from an African American legend of "the Devil's Son-in-law." ) Plus I might want to adopt the blues-soaked "Steve's Den" as some kind of theme song. Now I've gotta Netflix the movie.

*Foot Hill Stomp by Richard Johnston. Though not as powerful as his live performance (I just saw him earlier this month at the Thirsty Ear Festival in Santa Fe), this record by the one-man band from Beale Street, still is a hoot.

This album is loaded with tunes by R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. This might be the greatest Fat Possum album that's not on Fat Possum.

Here's a true case of saving the best til the last: The late Jessie Mae Hemphill joins Johnston on the final track "Chicken and Gravy."

*Good Bad Not Evil by The Black Lips. This Georgia band proudly is carrying the Nuggets torch. I first became acquainted with them earlier this year when I stumbled across Los Valientes Del Mondo Nuevo, a live album they recorded in a Tijuana nightclub.

This new one is a studio effort and it seems more solid, while not losing a bit of that Tijuana spirit. The BLs step back from their Count Five/Seeds/Swingin' Medallion fuzztone bop for a moment and actually play some decent cowpunk on the twisted country spoof "How Do You Tell A Child That Someone Has Died."

*Conversations by Archie Shepp & Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio. This seven-song 1999 effort teams saxmaster Shepp with drummer El'Zabar's group (Ari Brown on piano and a little sax and bassist Malachi Favors Maghostut.)

Songs like "Revelations" and the opening Conversations 1" remind me of John Coltrane's classic quartet, the music going from brooding to celebratory. There's also some downhome vocals on "Big Fred" (the album is dedicated to the late bassist Fred Hopkins) and "Brother Malcolm," a joyful ode to Mr. X.

*Spike's Choice: The Desco Funk 45' Collection by various artists. Here's some fine samples of one of those soul revivals I wrote about a few weeks ago. I already had the four Lee Fields tracks. Besides Fields, a proud disciple of James Brown, a belter named Sharon Jones is one of the main draws to this album. She's got six tracks here, including the funky "Hook And Sling Meets The Funky Superfly (Part 1)."

The biggest surprise is Ravi Harris & The Prophets. The lead instrument here is the sitar. East Indian music never sounded so funky!

PLUS ...

* Keeper of the Secret - A Sampler of Dionysus Records Empire . This is a compilation from a cool little indie label based in Burbank that records garage, punk, soul, exotica, and even country. Nothing that has made me crave more, at least so far. (Except maybe the loopy "How to Keep Your Husband Happy" by The Comopolitans, which has a nice early B-52s sound). But it's great to be able to check out this stuff for free.

* African Roots by Various Artists - Frochot Music Yes, another FREE African Compilation from eMusic -- at least it was free earlier this month. Some of these sound almost like field recordings rather than the rock 'n' soul-soaked sounds of modern African dance music. There's lots of the kora and other acoustic instruments. The only name I recognize here is Saif Keita from Mali, who sings a mournful tune called "Mono." Things get more interesting with Bembeya Jazz National from Guinea in the early 1960s. Their song "Wisky Soda" sounds almost like early ska.

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