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Mr Gene Anthony Gin "It's nice to be nice." (Lancashire, UK)

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Dick's Picks Vol. 29—5/19/77 Fox Theatre Atlanta, GA 5/21/77 Lakeland Civic Center Arena Lakeland, FL
Dick's Picks Vol. 29—5/19/77 Fox Theatre Atlanta, GA 5/21/77 Lakeland Civic Center Arena Lakeland, FL
Price: £64.34

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Hesitation to Celebration to Revelation., 6 Jan. 2014
It's difficult to give a positive review of The Grateful Dead without feeling that one has to defend one's aesthetic credibility. This is not a problem that one has if reviewing, say, Cabaret Voltaire or Autechre or Can, but, if ever a band lost in the so-called Punk Wars, it was The Grateful Dead.

The Grateful Dead didn't do much to help this situation, either. Their post-1970 studio albums are notoriously weak, with production values that make the wimpy muso likes of Steely Dan sound like Merzbow. And in 1977 - the year still viewed as a musical, cultural zero; when getting rid of the albatross was never more popularly pertinent - The Grateful Dead released the shocking "Terrapin Station", their worst studio album to date, where songs were dragged out, bleached to imperfection, over-orchestrated, tamed and capitulated into a bland, FM, progressive/classical-crossover-furrowed-brow-clichéd-aural-soup, giving the eager music fan of the time (and now) as much to scoff at as they would such contemporaneous nonsense as "The War of The Worlds".

Considering that a record was THE main introduction to one's opinion of a band, these albums would send many a potential fan fleeing to other warmer, funkier, aggressive, exciting, enlightening, or, let's be honest, just plain old better musical climes. That this introductory situation has changed to one of downloads and CDs is entirely in The Grateful Dead's favour. To release these concerts - and almost all were recorded - would have been impossible at the time. A vinyl album - even a triple vinyl album- could rarely contain a complete Grateful Dead concert. And a complete Grateful Dead concert is what is needed to fully appreciate the fun, frolics, freshness, eager, outré, rebellious, creative, aggressive, sensitive, communal and spiritual characteristic of the band. Fans argue about this date or that date so fervently because ten dates in The Grateful Dead's history is the band's ten best moments. With most bands and artists, fans will argue over the ranking of studio albums; with The Grateful Dead such arguments concern live shows.

As CDs dawned and The Grateful Dead became a purely historical concern, The Grateful Dead organisation (incorporated) went into overdrive releasing live shows, and there are literally hundreds of CDs detailing shows, runs of shows, and even whole tours. This is a blessed relief for those who don't want to search around murky self-pressed CDR's and the once-booming sonic gamble that was tape trading, but it does present the newcomer with a problem, to wit: If The Grateful Dead were Dead Grate (a ho-ho), and the studio albums are hit and miss affairs, and there are hundreds and hundreds of live CDs and downloads to choose from, where the hell do you start?

As you can probably guess - my answer is to start here. Don't end here - the 1969 Grateful Dead with their half-hour "Dark Stars" and Pigpen rave-ups are beautiful and need to be treated with a respect reserved for the already-revered - but start here nonetheless.

The great irony of Spring and Summer of 1977 is that, just as The Grateful Dead (and many others of their generation) were about to enter a period of intense unfashionable identity - and just as they were about to release a horrible studio album - they were simultaneously enjoying a peak in their performances. The gigs are full of fun, funkiness, swing, missteps, good times and intense, out-of-body delight. There are moments when The Grateful Dead collectively take flight and bottle time.

Assuming that you don't already know... A Grateful Dead live show would generally be divided into two sets. During the first half the band plays individual songs. The odd medley thrown in for good measure, a few covers, the odd forgettable one, some fun, some country-rock, some folk-rock, some dancing. The second half would generally be the more adventurous, with songs and transitions seemingly sewn on the spot; a tapestry made with intuition, purpose, serendipity and collective artistic endeavour. And whatever else they gave, The Grateful Dead gave good-value-for-money gigs: The two (and a bit) shows here cover six CD's (over seven hours long).

Practically every Grateful Dead show was unique - with songs and whole movements pulled out of the bag at a moment's notice; none of this rehearse-the-same-one-and-a-half-hours-with-the-same-three-encores-for-a-whole-tour that most bands deliver. The Grateful Dead shows are not just a rock/pop show I-was-there good, The Grateful Dead shows are entities unto themselves. Grateful Dead shows are instant albums, as the current keepers of the flame are all too aware.

The first three CDs cover a gig from 19th May, 1977. The first song is typically ragged, loose: a pub-rock-cover of a Chuck Berry song. The Grateful Dead's reputation would not lead one to think of them as a pub-rock-band, but, given half a chance, they loved to swing loosely - and sometimes humourously loosely - through a rock, country, Cajun or folk cover. The first set of May 19th brings a fair few examples: Chuck Berry, `El Paso', (the beautiful, subtle) `Peggy-O', `Samson & Delilah'. That the first set also includes a ripping, tripping, expansive two-chord workout (something of a Grateful Dead speciality) - the fabulous `Sugaree' - and their great, wah-wah-four-to-the-floor cover of `Dancing in the street' - along with sublime extended country-rock numbers like `Row Jimmy', `Loser' & `Ramble on Rose' - typify The Grateful Dead's almost bottomless well of material. Occasionally, they dreg weeds - `Looks Like Rain' is a terrible song attempted at numerous shows and it sounds equally rubbish here - but the rugged nature of The Grateful Dead is a part of their charm. And anyway, these gigs are long: such songs give you the chance to nip to the bathroom and/or get another brew.

Disc three contains the whole second set medley - and it's a cracker. `Terrapin Station' is the title track from the inexcusably bad album, but here - brief chorus excepted - its dark centre is given a chance to BE dark, with a ghostly cadence highlighted by a stunning Robert Hunter lyric (one of many) about a lost, retired, possibly injured soldier, and when the whole band self-fades before cracking the dawn-daylight-intro of `Playing in the band', the relief is pure joy. That this morphs into a sparkling mist of `Uncle John's Band' and the almost-indie classic `The Wheel' is further cause for celebration, but quite how they throw in a funereal-paced heartbreak called `China Doll' - and make it work - is beyond me or anything regarding sense. And yet, with collective poetry, The Grateful Dead jack-knife this real melancholy back to the sparkling, bouncy `Playing in the band' like they'd rehearsed these changes every day for years, somehow knowing that such an odd-but-perfect narrative was endlessly listenable.

But then, two days later, The Grateful Dead were back with a totally different second-set medley which worked just as seamlessly.

May 21st 1977 is one of The Grateful Dead's finest shows ever.

The first set opens with the bouncy pop treat of `Bertha' and includes some of their finest ever recorded material, like the weaving Americana sarcasm `They Love Each Other' and the nasty, sneering, misanthropic `New Minglewood Blues'. But - as is often The Grateful Dead way - just as you settle into even the slightest comfort zone, they pull the proverbial out of the equally named, and the first set climaxes with a sonic tour-de-force of bass-led groove - `Scarlet Begonias'/'Fire on the Mountain' - a genuinely mystic, beautiful, cosmic extension of interlocked multi-repetitive-rhythms, successfully instantly-designed to alter even the most pedestrian of perceptions.

The final disc - like the gold at the end of the rainbow - has the best music here, containing May 21st's second-set medley, a potpourri of delicate beautiful twists, and loud knotty turns.

It opens with the unique, odd, spectral `Estimated Prophet', where (the massively under-rated) Phil Lesh bounces a bass line equal parts Jah Wobble and Carol Kaye. The Grateful Dead had a seriously groovy, mean bottom end, and `Estimated prophet' is but one of their dub-bass-dark-dance killers. When the band slow the pace to form the wonderful searing soul-groove of `He's Gone' - one of many genuinely touching songs featuring Raymond Carver characters slow-boating their lives around each other's foibles - it forms a real sense of wonder that two such disparate, great songs can be pegged together at all. But then The Grateful Dead do the truly impossible and make this change seem almost prosaic:

They take the show to outer space.

'The Other One' is a Grateful Dead song from the late 1960's, and should therefore be tossed off like a cabaret band performing a ten year old greatest hit. It should not sound like a seer angrily demanding an answer from the heavens, and this should in no way be followed by the same seer denied (`Comes A Time'), facing his own humanity, lost, kicking the dust, dragged out to an awful length by a band in no hurry to do anything but stand and stare like sadistic voyeurs. And this should in no way be instantly followed by three songs which contain nothing but careless revelry. Changing moods cannot be conveyed this easily during a mere gig in front of a couple of thousand people by seven people with ordinary instruments, and yet the true wonder is that it WAS, and here is the evidence. `St Stephen'/'Not Fade Away'/'St Stephen' contains not a trough among its peaks, and when The Grateful Dead climax with an almost pub-rock `One More Saturday Night' it's a cause not just for celebration, but for revelation: That one has just been involved in so much light, so much dark, so much wallow, so much exuberance, and we're back to where we began all the way to disc one, all that time and feelings ago, recorded just two days before.

There are five extra tracks here, from a gig performed in October of 1977 - the most significant of which is `Wharf Rat', a song on a par with `He's Gone'. But considering that three of these extra tracks are included in the two main gigs, and two of those are equally extended versions of `Dancing in the Streets' & `Not Fade Away' - as great as these versions are - their presentation here seems merely superfluous. As previously stated, one needs a whole concert to truly appreciate The Grateful Dead. Dipping the toes just does not work.

Along with New Year's Eve 1976/1977 (released as `Live at Cow's Palace') and June 8th 1977 (included in the 9 disc `Winterland 1977' collection), Dick's Picks Volume 29 contains so much joy, wonder, imperfection and perfection that you wonder how you missed out on this band for so long, or how a band ever managed this at all. Yes, the price for this collection is plainly extortionate - especially considering both that The Grateful Dead approved of and encouraged bootleggers and that Jerry Garcia once stated that the fans were free to do with the recorded gigs as they pleased - but that this Americana trip through outer/inner space is available at all is probably good enough.

To take The Grateful Dead to one's heart is easier than you'd think. They fit in with a sphere of work from those you may expect, like Neil Young, Gillian Welch and The Thirteenth Floor Elevators - to those you may not, such as Miles Davis, Sonic Youth and Larajji - and there is a ton of stuff to listen to and try-before-you-buy all over the Internet.

It's probably best not to stay permanently Dead-headed, but The Grateful Dead created a remarkable musical vision, and Dick's Picks Volume 29 - along with James Brown's unbelievable `Love Power Peace' and Suicide's utterly anarchic '23 Minutes over Brussels' - is one of the best un-dubbed live albums ever made.

A rare exemplar of the live album's true artistic worth.


Super Rap (Peter Brown Presents...)
Super Rap (Peter Brown Presents...)
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £15.87

4.0 out of 5 stars Another Fine Slice of P&P, 24 May 2010
Early rap and hip-hop was a curious beast. Never quite sure whether to use funk, disco or electro samples/backings, it sometimes came up cold on all fronts, but just as often struck a new sound: not quite between all three, but a new sound nontheless.

The rappers were slower than they are today - you can hear all the words, sonny (which sometimes isn't such a positive). But when they cooked, man alive they cooked.

Take the CD in question. As a companion to the (genius) P&P comp Super Disco and an example of geniunely underground hip-hop from a time when The Furious Five were considered radical (and they were, briefly), it is almost astounding, let down only by one or two weaker raps and two tracks incongrous for their lack of anything much to do with rap or hip-hop.

The first five tracks are as brilliant as you could hope. Fly Guy's important drug tale backed by a curiously forward-sounding acid keyboard track, Sweet G's disco 'Boogie feeling rap' and a cheeky re-use (following the more-famous Sugar Hill Gang 'Rapper's delight') of Chic's 'Good times' to inform the amusing 'Rhapazooty Blue' are a treasure for enthusiasts and those of us who just dig good music. (Is early obscure hip-hop this decade's Northern Soul? Discuss.)

The almost fatal sag in the middle of the album saps this otherwise great release. Tricky Tee's endless rocking of the house, the astounding but supremely ill-fitting 'Super Jay Love theme' & 'Cloud One Patty Duke' (King Tubby meets Walter Gibbons?) spoil the theme and smell of filler.

That the last four tracks are of the same high standard as the first four are a saving grace, for one's soul as much as the album. And what fine tracks they are --- how a mix of 'Sweet Naomi Rap' and 'Gangster Rock' has never happened is a disgrace. The darling neivity of 'Sweet Naomi' with the assured disco-funk cockiness of 'Gangster rock'? Sir, Ma'am, I implore that you try such a cocktail.

That the last track 'Willie Rap' (Will someone please tell Americans the English school-boy meaning of this word! Didn't Will Smith once do an album called 'Big Willy Style'? Surely it would be less painful if the yanks actually knew...); that this track samples the aforementioned ill-fitting 'Super Jay theme' almost excuses the former track's inclusion. Well, nearly almost...

A P&P album is never going to be a wholly bad thing. Indeed, one suspects it's practically an impossibility. But a little more care and attention every now and then might stand them in good stead, the careless silly historically important under-rated geniuses...


Transcendence
Transcendence
Price: £10.18

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Beautiful Alice Continued..., 24 May 2010
This review is from: Transcendence (Audio CD)
Transcendence is truly an album of two halves. The first three tracks - Side One, as it were - comprise of Alice Coltrane playing harp against self-orchestrated strings (by this point an Alice Coltrane signature). The second half (side two) - is Alice playing the organ against a full percussion section and Hindu-prayer-chanting small vocal choir. Both sides are brilliant, at times even beautiful, but whether they qualify as a unified album is more contentious.

The first three tunes are the most characteristic of Alice, with threads running back to her superlative Journey in Satchindananda album. It's difficult to pick among the three, but Vrindavana Sanchara has a subtle interweaving spell-binding percussive track, while the title track has the most psychedelic, ever-decending-yet-curiously-uplifting string section.

The latter four tunes each has a groovy, understated funk - almost at odds with the spiritual content of the lyrics (translated within the booklet). But, taken as a whole, perhaps they don't QUITE have the power to hold one's full attention. A shame, as the best of Alice Coltrane's work (Universal Consciousness, Journey in Satchindananda, World Galaxy) never ceases to do just that.

In 1977 this album stood out like a sore thumb. When most had abandoned the spiritual road for new aural and production assaults, Alice simply looked within and expressed herself.

That Alice Coltrane followed her own path must be applauded, as her entire solo career makes astoundingly clear.

We should all be grateful.

Maybe some of Alice's other works made her point with a finer brush, but Transcendence is a gorgeous, subtle margin to frame her recorded work for the best part of the following two decades, and it allowed Alice a long, gracious bow.


Master of the Masterpiece Vol.2
Master of the Masterpiece Vol.2
Price: £16.48

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite a masterpiece the 2nd time around, 24 May 2010
For those who don't know, P&P records (and thier seemingly infinite myriad of offshoot labels) made some of the best, if not THE best soul/disco/dance music of the 70s and 80s. Unfortunately by the time they got to this one they'd already compiled most of the good stuff ...

Hence, Inner Life's peerless version of 'Ain't no mountain high enough', which is best experienced as the full 10 minute Larry Levan mix (on any number of SALSOUL comps) is presented here in a muddy demo (although Jocelyn Brown's vocal still rips shreds off the wall paper), and The Universal Robot Band's 'Dance & Shake your Tambourine' which isn't a GREAT record in any state is similarly presented in a half-baked form.

When it's good it's cracking --- the energy of SINE, the 80s professionaliam of DEBBIE TAYLOR and the early hip hop of THE 'P' CREW all give hints of Patrick Adam's Lee Perry/Joe Meek/Phil Spector-esque clout. But, truth be told, Volume 1 was better, a Greg Carmichael comp called 'Red Greg' filled the gaps, the P&P twin comps 'Super Disco' & 'Super Rap' were better than that and the P&P Suss'd comps by Danny Krivit, Keb Darge and Kenny Dope pretty much complete the set. This would be the only P&P comp I've got that's a little wanting.

Still, I guess there's only ever so much gold to mine, master of the masterpiece or not...


Get on the Good Foot
Get on the Good Foot

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars James Brown On The OK Foot, 24 May 2010
This review is from: Get on the Good Foot (Audio CD)
For years, the multitude of James Brown & James Brown-connected recordings (The J.B's, Marva Whitney, et al) from the late 1960s to the mid 1970s dominated my CD player. They are among the greatest records ever made. But as great as the individual songs are, JB often threw his albums together with an alarming lack of cohesion.

GET ON THE GOOD FOOT - originally a double vinyl album now on 1 CD - is a mixture of the great, the average and the slapdash. As the notes make clear, this is the first JB album where the tracks segue - a process that JB continued over the next few albums, reaching fantastic heights on 'THE PAYBACK' and Fred Wesley & The J.B's 'DAMN RIGHT I AM SOMEBODY'. However, with GET ON THE GOOD FOOT, even the usually effective technique of the 10 second segue can't create cohesion out of so much mess.

The album kicks off with three great tracks - the title track, THE WHOLE WORLD NEEDS LIBERATION and YOUR LOVE WAS GOOD TO ME, one of three genuinely touching ballads from a time when the Godfather was less known for his tender side. But the poor remake of COLD SWEAT and the once-heard-is-plenty (surely drunken) RECITATION BY HANK BALLARD are shocking. I GOT A BAG OF MY OWN is okay but by no means a classic, while NOTHING BEATS A TRY BUT A FAIL surely is. More limp remakes of LOST SOMEONE, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE (an especially terrible 10+ minute version) & AIN'T IT A GROOVE outweigh the good but overlong FUNKY SIDE OF TOWN (the nearest JB ever got to that FUNKADELIC heavy guitar sound). That the whole package finishes on a trio of the great - MAKE IT FUNKY PTS 3 & 4, DIRTY HARRI (FULL LENGTH) and the third gorgeous ballad I KNOW IT'S TRUE leave one feeling cheated; knowing that JB could pull out the goods when he wanted to (after all, this album is bang in the middle of the Godfather's peak).

This is never going to make the top ten of anyone's CD collection, and perhaps it's only ever going to be rated at all by JB enthusiasts.

But, minusing the bad leaves one with a great single album's worth of music - and don't forget that that's a great (if not classic) single album's worth of music by one of the best music makers of all time. And maybe that's enough.
Just maybe.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 20, 2011 1:15 PM BST


The Hits / The B-Sides
The Hits / The B-Sides
Price: £12.97

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Question That Plagues All Pop Academics, 24 May 2010
This review is from: The Hits / The B-Sides (Audio CD)
The question that plagues all pop music academics: Can there ever be a perfect compilation?

Can a 'Greatest hits' - even by a supernaturally talented musician like Prince - reach the heights of an original album? Or should that even be the aim of the compilation? Should the aim of the compilation be to gather songs for the fair-weather fans, those who'd always liked that odd tune but couldn't be bothered wading through an entire catalogue? Or should the compilation be for hard-core fans; the fan-a-tics, if you will?

'THE HITS/THE B-SIDES' attempts to be all of the above with an equal amount of success and failure.

On the one hand, the 2 CDs of 'HITS' contain pretty much all that the fair-weather fan could want from Prince's golden period: 'Purple Rain', '1999','U Got The Look', etc. However, the inclusion of several album tracks ('Adore', 'Do Me Baby') and a God-awful version of 'Nothing Compare 2 U' in place of the singles 'Girls & Boys','Batdance' & 'I wish U heaven' is perplexing. And the choice of some of the edits is equally confusing: Why the seven-inch mixes of 'Kiss', 'Sign o the times' & '1999', but the full-length versions of 'Alphabet St' & 'Purple Rain'?

For the obsessed, the rainbow pot was always going to be the 3rd disc, 'The B-sides'. An out-dated concept in this age of the download, but there was a time when the B-side was the true dip-stick of an artists worth. If he/she/they can throw something precious that may only survive optimistically for a matter of months (and only then if it was coupled with a big hit), then you knew you had the real thing. The 20 examples here, give or take the sappy 'I Love u in me', give fans more manna from Prince's untouchable period - before the name changes and nostalgia-only concerts. From the 'Around the world...' off-cut 'She's always in my hair' to one of THE all-time great Christmas songs 'Another lonely Christmas' - 'The B-sides' is the worthiest disc unto itself of all 3 CDs, and the only disc never seperately released. Hmmm.

If the compilers of 'HITS/THE B-SIDES' were using this 3CD box to turn the fair-weather fans into Prince-maniacs, then the seperate releases of the first two 'HIT' CDs scuppered even that bright idea.

Downloading may leave Greatest Hits compilations suffering more than any other type of traditional release, for better or worse. If you can download and burn your few faves why bother forking out for the whole raft of dross that goes with it? But this overlooks that, sometimes, those obscure little ditties - the 'Where the heart is', the 'Absolute beginners', the 'Bizarre love triangle'; damnit, the 'Take me with U' - they became your favourites, while the big hits grew tiresome with repetition.

Prince is one of the few truly great musicians, and is hopefully still capable of at least one more classic album (which the Daily Mail freebie, 'Earth', most certainly wasn't). Whether there'll ever be a classic Prince compilation is even more contentious - there could certainly be better than this confusing collection and the cheap compilations released since.

For what he's already done, Prince deserves every music lover's salute. He brought funk and melodies to an unfunky, unmelodious age. Just tread carefully, newcomers, try 'Parade' or 'Sign O The Times' first, and pray that we'll see Prince's like again.


Mixed With Love
Mixed With Love
Offered by johnny8640
Price: £19.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Them Polls Are Always Wrong, 24 May 2010
This review is from: Mixed With Love (Audio CD)
What is the best album ever made?

There is no such thing.

Seriously - how can there be a best ever album? It doesn't make sense. How can you quantify music (apart from in sales - in 'units' [urgh!])? How can the artful be rendered so artless? Yes, yes, yes these lists are fun, and yes they make for debate - but debate about what? Usually - because pop 'n' rock has a substantial body of work now - it's a debate about how one fairly average best selling album by a serious bunch of rock artists is better than another similar album.

Albums that are ALWAYS mentioned in such lists: 'Pet sounds' (fair enough - but I know it now, thanks) - 'Sgt Pepper' (not even the best Beatles record) - 'vu - banana album' (see 'pet sounds' comment, but ammend with - aye, but there was only mr peel who cared at the time).

Albums that HAVE been mentioned - 'Aja' (honestly, I'm not making this up), 'ok computer' (good voice, maybe two good songs, boring everything else), 'Astral weeks' (paint dryingly dull)

Albums that are NEVER mentioned: 'The Payback' (JB), 'Get up with it' (Miles), 'Diana' (ross) and now, ladies and gentlemen, another to correct the all-time list, 'Mixed with love'.

Apart from the 6 tracks from an album called 'Disco madness', these tracks are from 12" singles and the odd album track. They make for a surpisingly cohesive collection. They show, in fact, that Walter Gibbons was a genius.

Yip.

I said 'genius'.

For the beats he innovates, for the dub inflexions, for the re-edits and deconstructions, for the fun, for the inventiveness. That he was working with some of the best singers and artists (Loleatta Holloway) was his good fortune - that they were working with Mr Gibbons was their blessing.

Even when given a half-arsed track, the man spins gold. The euro-novelty nonsense of Cellophane sudenly becomes future house trance classics - TWICE - and this is from 1979!! The silly camp country covers of 'Stand by your man' & 'Your cheatin' heart' become epic, touching, spell-binding.

Every trick in dance over the last 25-30 years can be traced back to these tracks. How on earth he's slipped through the net I don't know. Perhaps because of prejudice - after all, disco sucks.

Disco sucks because it was gay.

Sorry, I forgot.

Wasn't rock supposed to do away with all that? Wasn't CSNY, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi et al, supposed to bring us all together?

Disco, sir, did all the things that rock was supposed to do but DIDN'T. Disco brought blacks, whites, Puerto Ricans, gays and straights together to dance, have good times and listen to some fine mind-blowing music.

None of which has ever been bettered than here. More consistent than Moroder/Summer, less uniform than Philladelphia, more inventive than Salsoul's other supposedly weird compilation 'Disco trance and cosmic flavas', this, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the greatest records ever made. If such things exist, which, of course, they don't.

But just in case they DO, try this:

The best record ever made.


Salsoul Presents: Crossover Flavas - When Northern Soul Met Disco
Salsoul Presents: Crossover Flavas - When Northern Soul Met Disco

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How Suss'd out-classified themselves, 24 May 2010
That the Suss'd label/website seems to have disappeared and/or gone bust is a tragedy. They re-released two of the greatest-ever record labels - Salsoul and P&P (and their infinite subsidiaries) - in great, new, arty packages. These generally came as Greatest Hits (see the beyond-genius Walter Gibbons collection 'Mixed with Love') or as themed compilations.

The comps are an entertaining but odd bunch. Usually called 'Flavas', they throw together similar tunes from a genre, much as you'd expect. But as Suss'd sought to fill so much from the same pool, the comps often have cross-pollination (see the first volume of Disco Funk Flavas and Essential Boogie Flavas for example, excellent as they are). These comps often have a wee bit of padding, too. But that Suss'd formed so many cohesive albums from tracks which mostly began life as singles or 12 inches shows just how much love for the source material they truly had (have?).

'Crossover Flavas' is stuffed with great tracks. In fact, there isn't a bad track on it (well, maybe one). Where it loses a mark is in how each track is supposed to represent it's 'northern soul meets disco' theme.

Now; no aficionado am I, but... I thought Northern Soul was all obscure '60s Soul 7-inches utilising Wilson Picket or Marva Whitney-esque vocals over Motown-like productions. And by this constraint, a lot of the tracks here just don't fit. Even allowing for the movement of trends through the 1970s - as dance music at first secretly (and then not too secretly as disco broke) became the most interesting and culturally important music ever; Even as The Soul began to incorporate The Funk; Darn it, even if you cross your Northern soul with a bit of disco, you'd STILL be hard pushed to call Loleatta Holloway a Northern Soul act. You'd more accurately define her as a Philly Soul artist, which is where this album comes a little undone.

In the same year as 'Crossover Flavas', Suss'd released 'Philly Soul Flavas', where no less than NINE of 'Crossover Flavas' 16 artists are featured (and usually with more accuracy).

But - genre classification nitpicking aside - 'Crossover Flavas' is uniformly excellent, with an attention to detail few record companies offer (honourable exceptions including Soul Jazz and Barely Breaking Even)

Moment of Truth's very brilliant "So Much For Love", Flashlight's "Beware She's Pulling My Strings" , Carol Williams' "You're So Much a Part of Me" nestle among other relatively undiscovered works of genius. And genius they are; heartstopping, sensitive, hopeful, tearful, beautiful, poetic... perhaps none more so than Double Exposure's Number-1-that-never-was, "Everyman" (a contender for the best record of the 1970's), represented here in it's original, most soulful 7-inch version.

On the other hand, the meandering 7 minutes of Skip Mahoney's "Janice (Don't Be So Blind to Love)" is not the best choice to kick the album off. And First Choice and Loleatta Holloway are represented all OVER the Suss'd catalogue without making ill-fitting appearances here. (And allow me to heartily recomend the Suss'd FIRST CHOICE Anthology while I'm here - a double CD of extra class if ever there was.)

Suss'd, should it still exist, needs to take a lesson from Soul Jazz and realise that a 60 minute CD of all good stuff beats a 79 minute CD with filler hands down. And if they've missed their chance to put together a Tom Moulton Salsoul collection while they had the chance they've committed a hell of a crime. It could have been 6 CDs long and still been too short.

Here's hoping there's still time. Fingers crossed...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 21, 2011 10:49 PM GMT


The Complete On The Corner Sessions
The Complete On The Corner Sessions

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How many box-sets would you listen to all the way through in one sitting?, 17 May 2010
Not many, I'll bet.

I once read on this here Internet about one mad soul who claimed that he'd played the entire 'Merzbox' through twice - but I didn't believe him. Because - as much as we'd like to - we don't usually have the time for such endeavours. With most box-sets - most Miles Davis box sets included (and there's AT LEAST twelve out there!) - this hardly matters. With 'The Complete On The Corner Sessions', you can't help but wish that time allowed for such luxuries on a daily basis.

These recordings - the final studio recordings before Miles jacked it in for a few years - showcase the mad genius of Miles, Teo Macero, Michael Henderson, Al Foster, Pete Cosey et al in a seamless, cohesive, superior package of design & devilish delight.

Yes, there's something of the times on display - it's a standard to mention the funk of Sly & The JB's and the repetitive experiments of '70s German bands such as Can - but these sessions shine in but their own galaxy, where the rhythm is fixed but fluid, the solos long but stabbing, the sound dense yet airy, and the feelings intense but joyful.

Most importantly, the 6 CDs here are packed with a wealth of ESSENTIAL unreleased stuff, easily the equal of 'On the Corner' and it's later superior 'Get Up With It'. How often can you say that? Even Miles box sets usually have the stench of filler about them (particularly the 'use every take' philosophy of the Miles/Coltrane, Miles/Gil & the 'Jack Johnson' box-sets). But every track here just adds to a continuity; to a feeling that Miles & co were reaching and reaching, pushing just that little bit further everytime, digging thier own creativity and, by 'eck, maybe having some fun too.

For the sake of some kind of balance there are two lesser tracks here: The Paul Buckmaster sessions 'Jabali' & 'Ife' sound a little like throwbacks to the lesser moments of the 'Bitches Brew Sessions' box set. But everything else simply shreds the rest of your music collection to waste until you wonder why anybody else has ever been rated or even attempted to make music even half this good either before or since. Because, trust me, alt rock is never this alt, jazz-rock and jazz-funk are never this rock or funky, far out is never this out and bloody good never gets this bloody.

Ignore the scholarly jazz fan (yer Wyntons and what-nots) who'll tell you that Miles had lost his roots and sold out with all this. Miles did more than enough for such people. I see no reason why you can't have the (brilliant) Miles Quintet 1965-1968 box set along with this one. And as if to illustrate the point even further, note that Miles went from the excellent but ultimately quiet conservative swing of 'My Funny Valentine' to the end of this box set in 10 years! Miles was a fearless and cool soul, particularly when nobody expected, or in some cases, even wanted him to be.

There's only one Miles, but there are plenty others in the wings just waiting for their permission to fly. The 'On The Corner sessions' show nothing less than just how far one can take the art of music.

An awe-inspiring ride; it's a cultural crime to keep it out of print.

One of the best things I own.
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Spirit Of Eden
Spirit Of Eden
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £13.00

80 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can music change your life? Discuss., 4 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Spirit Of Eden (Audio CD)
Can music change your life? Can music change anyone's life? I'm not so sure. Not directly, anyway. It's not like music can say, "Go for that job, support this policy, watch your cholesterol, have you ever thought of studying economics?" And if songs ever do say as much, then they're mostly pretty poor (U2, most solo Lennon, USA for Africa).

So: Did `Spirit of Eden' change my life?

I turned 17 at the end of 1988. For a present from a forgotten Auntie or Uncle - either for my birthday or Christmas (they're quite close) - I received a Woolworth's voucher. One of those lazy gifts you buy for a distant relative.

Now, before we all get rose-tinted about it, remember that Woolworth's always had a poor selection of music. Back when it was vinyl it had but a few rows of vinyl albums (and it never improved when CD's took over). Most of these were terrible albums too, but I went through them all anyway - we're only talking about a hundred at the very most - and apart from anything that I already had, `Spirit of Eden' stood out for two reasons. 1: It had/has a great cover sleeve and 2: It only had six songs on it. I had a fascination for albums with long & few songs on them. Plus, I had a vague recollection that Talk Talk had had a good song on the charts a few years previously. (When I bought `Colour of Spring' a year later I was immediately reminded: it was `Life's what you make it'.)

So home you go, put the record on, not expecting much and...

...Is there a better way to discover truly great music?

Nobody had told me, I hadn't read a review, hadn't heard a note, knew nothing of the record's existence `til I bought it and...

I could have shook; I wanted to shout. Did anybody else know?

No, actually. Nobody else did.

Talk Talk were my band; `Spirit of Eden' my album.

`The Rainbow' & `Desire' were my initial favourites. I didn't think much of side 2 for a while, I remember that. But then I did. Then I grew to like everything about the album. Then I grew to love everything about the album: That it was cut & spliced from hours of music recorded, rejected and reconstructed; that it was made in a disused church; that nocturnal habits were duly mentioned; that EMI were not happy bunnies, etc. But Talk Talk had done their own thing; Talk Talk had done absolutely their own thing. Slow, loud, quiet. That drum sound with the snare taken off, acoustic bass, a loud guitar, distorted harmonica, incredible Hammond, interlinked on side 1, long silences on side 2, all natural, beautiful and beyond.

The vinyl became so worn & scratchy as to be unlistenable, so I bought it again on CD. I'd never bought something twice before. Then I went backwards and got `Colour of Spring'. It had its moments - and is, of course, a bit of a masterpiece in its own right. But it's not the same. Could anything be the same?

So I started looking. Whenever the words Talk Talk got mentioned in a review, I sought it out. In this manner, I got `Bitches Brew.' I was initially disappointed. I'm not now, but I was right to think that it isn't much like `Spirit of Eden'. `In a Silent Way' is a more accurate descendant (and a better Miles starter to boot). Maybe Mark Hollis would disagree. Maybe Henry Lowther wouldn't.

And then I started looking into the lyrics, but I soon gave up realising that interpretation is open to itself (and I prefer it all to be a little vague anyway).

After Miles, it was Can. You can see the Can influence. (Compare the beats of Can's "One more night" from `Ege Bamyasi' to Talk Talk's "Ascension Day.") I'd never heard of Can `til then. Then there was John Martyn, Nick Drake, John Coltrane (although I latterly discovered that Alice Coltrane's albums - especially `Universal Consciousness' - are closer and, for me, the more beautiful for it). Then there was Robert Wyatt, Augustus Pablo, Ornette Coleman, even My Bloody Valentine. All new to me through this... unclassifiable art.

In subsequent years I went through umpteen musical phases, I discovered a whole host of different genres, bands, etc. I hope to continue to do so, but perhaps not at the cost of actually having a life as has been the case so often so far. But `Spirit of Eden' guided me towards a jazz, natural, open hearted manner that I still haven't achieved. The art seems to suggest that life can be as good as the art itself. So far, it hasn't been, and by quite a distance sometimes. But there've been some encouraging glimpses along the way, and it's a hazy aim which I've never quite managed to shake free from being my only true ambition. It's an aim I intend to stake out, clarify and attain.

When `Laughing Stock' came out in September 1991 I bought it on the very first day of release, the only time in my life I've ever done that. Another masterpiece. In fact it's even better, and possibly the most complete album ever made.

And STILL nobody else knew.

`Laughing Stock' got a great review in Melody Maker, but then it barely got mentioned ever again. I never once heard a second of it on the radio. Still haven't. In fact, out of the two albums I've only ever heard `I Believe In You' on the Mark Radcliffe/Stuart McConie show a year or two back, in connection with a brief-but-cool piece they did about Talk Talk & Mark Hollis. And after so much time and so many faces, I've still never actually met another living being who independently knows and loves these albums...

`Spirit of Eden' didn't entice me to start a rebellion, to cut my hair, to dress up, to blow up the Houses of Parliaments, to study harder, to find religion, to go on a march, to commit wanton acts or to join a cult. `Spirit of Eden' just encouraged me to look for different art and find what was suitable for me. I have managed this, mostly, with music, but at the cost of not sorting out my personal life or career to any great extent at all. I realise that this has to be my next phase.

So did the album change my life? Probably not, no.

Did it enhance my life?

In more ways than I could ever possibly describe, yes. Yes yes yes.

And now the rest is up to me...
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