Thursday, March 30, 2006

Thrift Store Adventures: March 27, 2006, Richland, Washington

I normally don't visit thrift stores once a month, but life can be that way sometimes. But with a few dollars in my pocket I asked myself this question: McChicken or records? I chose the latter.

I visited Goodwill in Richland, Washington and lately the selection has been junk. But there were a few things worth picking up.

Hubert Laws-Carnegie Hall (CTI)
This is a live album I had never seen or heard of before, but this was Hubert Laws, and on CTI. The album also features Ron Carter, Bob James, and Billy Cobham among others. It's an interesting approach too, the album consists of two songs. That's it, two side-length tracks, with a classical piece getting the jazz treatment, and a medley of two songs (Chick Corea's "Windows" and James Taylor's "Fire And Rain") getting the classical treatment. There are some amazing moments, and anytime you hear James' do his thing on the electric piano, you know it's going to be a ride. Trippy.

(This has not been released on CD in the U.S., but a Japanese import is available through CD Universe)

Siddhadas And Freddie-Morning Star (S.Y.D.A. Foundation)
Two friends who became a part of the Krishna faith decide to celebrate their guru with an album of acoustic folk songs. It is amazing to see how many people in the 70's did albums like these, not only custom/private presses but even Pete Townshend, Carlos Santana & John McLaughin had albums for their gurus. Nothing too amazing on this, but the songs are nice.

Clyde Beavers-That's You (And What's Left Of Me)/Old Tree (Hickory)
I had taken a chance with this. Yes, it's on a Nashville label so almost by default it should be country. Plus, the artist is named Clyde Beavers. Being much more of a soul and funk fan, it is safe to say a soul singer could not get away with being called Clyde Beavers. Sly Beavers... maybe, but some double entendre would be involved.

In this case, it's country. No date given but most likely from the early or mid-1960's. The A-side is a glider, but the B-side had a bit more pep to it. Makes me wish I knew how to play a guitar.

Clyde Beavers-Old Tree (2.35mb)

Railroad Sounds-Last Train To Waterloo (Quadraphonic) (Warner Bros.)
This was a quad 8-track, I had to buy it, even though I have no means of hearing it. This was an album made by Brad Miller in 1972, consisting of nothing but the sound of trains. If the Miller name is familiar, it should be. He had a hand in the creation of the Mystic Moods Orchestra (later shortened to Mystic Moods, and signed to Warner Bros.). Miller was an audiophile and would often feature natural sounds on the Mystic Moods records, from birds to rain to random train sounds. He decided to just release an album of trains, and he was allowed to do so. On a major label no less. Miller would eventually form his own audiophile label, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL), and he was very successful in that venture. Miller passed away in 1998, but not without leaving behind a collection of records and compact discs that helped enhance the listening experience for anyone who wanted to hear more.

Just the thought of hearing railroad sounds in surround sound... THAT'S HOT!!! I'm also a fan of sound effect records, which can be interesting.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Box Of 45's: Miles Davis

Image Hosted by Miles Davis is now in the Rock'N'Roll Hall Of Fame, which might be odd for some considering he was known as a jazz musician. Yet any Miles fan will tell you that by the late 1960's, he was changing his approach, wanting to try out new things while wanting to bring his music to a wider (or some might say "whiter") audience. According to many articles and interviews, he loved the appeal of Sly & The Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix, and seeing himself with almost twenty years of music behind him, maybe he felt what he was doing was outdated, and that could have made him outdated too by mainstream standards. Jazz was no longer "the most popular music", yet Miles knew that he could easily turn on those goofy hippies if he tried to move forward with something new.

That first sense of new was heard in In A Silent Way, but the world was not prepared for his next album, the immortal Bitches Brew. It brought forth a new type of jazz: fusion. It had been explored a number of times by everyone from Ornette Coleman to Roland Kirk, but this also featured some outside influences, namely rock and soul. It was a double album that sold like crazy, a double album which featured songs with durations of 15 minutes or more. It was a marathon, and either you were with him or you weren't. No inbetween, and Miles probably didn't care if you weren't with him.

Bitches Brew sold millions, a rare feat in itself for jazz. Not many jazz albums sell over 100,000, yet alone 500,000 or a million, but to think that people bought that album in the same way people bought Norah Jones' Come Away With Me is, in perspective, amazing.

What's even more amazing is that Columbia Records made an attempt to market the album to a younger audience by releasing a 45 of "Miles Runs The Voodoo Down" and "Spanish Key". On the album, "Miles Run The Voodoo Down" goes for 14:01 while "Spanish Key" runs at 17:32. When you locked into the album, you were ready for anything. The single for it, however, seems to pick a random section of each song and then someone said "okay, that's the single". Really? This wasn't an edit of "So What", or something fairly simple as "Someday My Prince Will Come", these were songs that were meant to be listened to as a whole. It's easy to create 45 edits of songs like Rare Earth's "Get Ready", Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", or anything with a traditional verse/chorus/verse format, but this was free form jazz.

Image Hosted by In truth, nothing is impossible, but this was not the kind of music that was meant to be heard at three minutes or less. With FM radio being the way "true music fans" heard music, I am sure the album got a lot of play. Yet it's hard for me to imagine a time when someone could fit "Miles Runs The Voodoo Down" right between Freda Payne's "Band Of Gold" and Ringo Starr's "It Don't Come Easy". Then again in 1971, radio was like that, nothing was impossible.

Miles Davis - Miles Runs The Voodoo Down (Single Edit) (3.8mb)
Miles Davis - Spanish Key (Single Edit) (3.8mb)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Box Of 45's: Larry Coryell

Larry Coryell is a jazz guitarist who may be known these days for his smooth jazz stylings. In the early 1970's however he was known for his fusion work, up there with John McLaughlin. He released one album in 1971 on the Flying Dutchman label (in the U.S. via Atlantic), Barefoot Boy, at the same time Miles Davis was unleashing his Bitches Brew. It was a very unique time for jazz, as some artists were having crossover success in the rock world. Jazz guitarists were becoming heroes in their own right, and Coryell was one of those that many were talking about.

In recent years, the Barefoot Boy album has become sought after not only by jazz fusion fans, but also by hip-hop cratediggers who discovered that one of the songs on the album was sampled by a well known group from Los Angeles, the same group that also sampled the Scratch 45 that was in the first installment of my Box Of 45's section.

It is an amazing album, three tracks in total, including the side-long track on side two, "Call To The Higher Consciousness", which came from the teachings of his guru, Sri Chinmoy (Who guitarist Pete Townshend also sought guidance through him in the early 1970's). So it comes as a surprise to me that Flying Dutchman, or at least Atco, went out of their way to release a 45 for two of the songs here. "The Great Escape" is a Coryell original, while "Gypsy Queen" is a Gabor Szabo composition that became famous a year before by Santana when they teamed it up with their cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman". "Gypsy Queen", in its released form, is just over eleven minutes, while "The Great Escape" is about nine. In 45 rpm form, both are just under three minutes. It's hard to imagine any radio stations, especiall AM sstations, giving this devoted airplay, when jazz fusion was a bit more sophisticated than the average pop song. It seems they just listened to a portion of a song and said "okay, let's begin... HERE! La la la and okay, the clock is almost to three minutes so let's fade right... THERE!"

As a collector, I'm a huge fan of the Atlantic label and all of its subsidiaries. Atlantic distributed Flying Dutchman briefly in the early 1970's, and at this point Led Zeppelin was bringing in more money for Atlantic than Aretha Franklin. Atlantic were also about to have massive success with The Allman Brothers Band's Live At Fillmore East, it was a different time and it seemed everyone was progressing forward with their music. While the Barefoot Boy album might be considered "on the fringe" by jazz purists, it is more interesting that someone even considered to release a 45 in support of this, when most people who were attracted to this were in praise of the album format. If anything, a nice curio, radio edit style.

Larry Coryell-The Great Escape (Single Version) (4.1mb)
Larry Coryell-Gypsy Queen (Single Version) (4mb)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Box Of 45's: 1776

1776 were a rock band from Detroit who came out with a self-titled album in 1971. From the album on Palladium Records was a cover of an old gospel song called "Jesus Is Just Alright", which was released as a single. However, it was The Doobie Brothers' hit version that most people are familiar with.

Here is the B-side, an original track called "Memories". It's a bit of power pop with an emphasis on Crosby, Stills & Nash-like vocals, with an emphasis on Graham Nash.

On a slight historical note, there had been rumors recently that "Jesus Is Just Alright" on the A-side featured the vocals of Bob Seger, a fellow Detroit resident. It was proven to be just that, a rumor, as Seger had no involvement with 1776.

1776-Memories (6.8.mb)

Digging In The Magazine Box: Ice Cube vs. NWA

There was a time when Public Enemy ruled hip-hop. Then the West Coast wanted to get some shine. N.W.A's time had arrived. Were N.W.A a threat to the fabric of America, a threat to the New York-centric mentality of rap music, or all of the above? Hip-hop had always been about NYC and the celebration of the boroughs, yet here was a group from a section of Los Angeles who were wanting to be known for their boom bap.

Attention towards NWA was at an all time high, and people knew Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren, and DJ Yella (as well as Arabian Prince for you diehards) as much as they knew their favorite pop, rock, or metal bands.

Looking back at the era, this was when the bubble had burst, rap music was no longer just about New York City and a few "outside areas". The music was worldwide, and so would be its contributors. At what seemed to be the height of their success, Oshea Jackson left the group. That's what this interview is about, the departure of Ice Cube, and the status of N.W.A. This was taken from the April 1990 issue of Spin magazine.

Hounded by the FBI and acclaimed as the new, new Sex Pistols, NWA's rise has been rapid and sensational. But now that chief spokesman and lyricist Ice Cube has left the band, has the soul and intelligence of these Niggers With Attitude gone with him?

Article by Frank Owen
Photo by Dorothy Low

The numbers alone are impressive. Both NWA's Straight Outta Compton and NWA member EazyE's solo album Eazy-Duz-It have sold over one and a half million units each without radio play, MTV support or major record company promotion.

Equally impressive is the $650,000 that NWA grossedon tour last year, of which manager Jerry Heller took $130,000. Ice Cube, meanwhile, whom many regard as the group's chief spokesman, went home with $23,000. When Ice Cube asked about profits from NWA merchandise being sold on the tour he was told it was none of his business. That was about par for the course, according to the man who either wrote or co-wrote approximately half of the raps on the Eazy Eand NWA albums. This significant contribution to over three million records sold has so far earned Ice Cube $32,000.

Now that the disgruntled rapper has left the band, the question arises, has the soul and intelligence of NWA walked out of the door with him?

SPIN: Why did you leave NWA?
Cube: Financial reasons, man. I wasn't getting paid. When you contribute to the sale of three million albums, you expect more than $32,000. Jerry Heller [NWA manager] lives in a half million-dollar house in West Lake, and I'm still living at home with my mother. Jerry's driving a Corvette and a Mercedes Benz and I've got a Suzuki Side Kick. You know what I mean. Jerry's making all the money, and I'm not. Jerry has no creative input into the group: he just makes all the fucked-up decisions and gets all the fucking money.

What do you mean "fucked-up decisions"?
Like refusing to do the Jesse Jackson chat show because there was no money involved. Jesse Jackson wanted to do an interview with NWA for his new show "Voices Of America." The topic of the show was the controversial music that kids are listening to today. There's no way on this planet that NWA shouldn't have been on that show. With the exception of Public Enemy, there's no group more controversial than NWA. We should have been on that show, getting nationwide exposure and getting people on our side.

When you turn down something like that, you've gotta think that the man doesn't want it for the group. He's just in it for the short term so that he can make as much money as quickly as possible.

Jerry told me that one of the reasons you left NWA was that your publicist, Pat Charbonet, was filling your head with notions that you were a big star and you would be even bigger on your own.
The only thing Pat Charbonet told me was to get a lawyer. They got mad when I did that. Jerry told me that lawyers were made to cause trouble. But lawyers only cause trouble if there's trouble to cause.

What about the future?
I'm doing a solo album with Priority Records. [Public Enemy's] Chuck 0 and [PE producer] Hank Shocklee are going to produce it. It's going to be called America's Most Wanted. There's gonna be tracks like "Endangered Species." Young black teenagers have now been added to the endangered species list.

There's another track called "Turn Off The Radio," which is about how black radio still doesn't play a fair share of hip hop. NWA has gone platinum with little help from black radio. That song is telling kids, be your own programmer-turn off the radio and make your own tapes.

I was talking to Luke Skyywalker [of The 2 Live Crew] recently about the media's moral panic about supposedly obscene rap lyrics. He said that as long as hip hop remains solely a black thing, it could be as dirty as it wanted: it's only when white kids start apeing black styles that the authorities get concerned.
Yeah! It's like with the gang problem in Los Angeles. As long as the gangs stay in South Central Los Angeles, the authorities don't mind. But when they move into Beverly Hills and Westwood-that's when it's a problem, that's when the authorities kick in, that's when the police come down to South Central and harass every black man in a T-shirt.


"We-tried to settle this dispute diligently," says Ice Cube's lawyer, Michael Ashburn. "We bent over backwards to try and make a financial agreement that was acceptable to both sides. I was surprised how indifferent they were when it came to settling this dispute. It was like Jerry Heller didn't care whether Ice Cube - someone who unarguably had made a major contribution to the group - left or stayed. Ice Cube would still be with NWA if our very reasonable financial demands had been met. They gave us a statement showing that Ice Cube had been advanced $32,700. He's owed at least another $120,000, plus his publishing royalties, which he hasn't received a cent on so far. Ice Cube wanted to continue with NWA, but he just wasn't getting paid."

"Jerry Heller says I encouraged Ice Cube to leave NWA," says publicist Pat Charbonet. "That's the first time I've been accused of inciting slaves to riot."

"The real reason that Ice Cube left NWA was that he was incredibly jealous of the notoriety and success of Eazy E," says Jerry Heller. "He wanted to be Eazy E. He was jealous because not only is Eazy a key member of NWA with a successful solo career, he's also the president of his own record company. Eazy Eis a m­jor star and a successful businessman. Ice Cube isn't."

A white-haired music biz veteran with an abrasive manner, Jerry Heller is an unlikely choice as the manager of a hip-hop group. In his heyday he ran Heller For Show, a booking agency that handled tours by top acts such as Elton John, Pink Floyd, REO Speedwagon, and ELO. By the 80s his star was in decline.

In October of 1987 he met Eazy E, a former drug dealer with bags of cash and two very talented friends - Dr. Ore and Yella - who would become the NWA production team. Together they set up Ruthless Records and scored a big pop hit with the corny electro hip hop jam "Supersonic" by JJFad - released on the associated label Dream Team.' Heller tells the story of how, on receipt of a six-figure check from Atlantic (the major record company that licensed the song from Ruthless), he took Eazy to the bank and taught him how to open a checking account.

Today, Ruthless is living largely, as one of the most successful hip hop companies around, with a roster that includes (as well as NWA and Eazy) such new signings as Above The Law ("They're pimps and players," says Eazy, "rolling and clocking ho's"); New York female rappers Bitches With Problems ("They make NWA look like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," jokes Jerry Heller); R&B Diva, Michel'le ("She talks live a five year old and sings like a thirteen year old," says Eazy), and The D.O.C., whose rapping career is undiminished by a recent car accident in which he flew through the back window and crushed his vocal chords.

"We've got the makings of a company that's going to be to the 90s what Berry Gordy's Motown was to the 60s," says Jerry Heller. "And the creative nucleus is Dr. Ore, Yella and Eazy." It's difficult to imagine Eazy Ebehind the trigger of an AK-47. A slight figure with processed hair and the brattish demeanor of someone to whom success has come too quickly, Eazy is inevitably described as an angry young black man from the ghetto. But in reality Eazy is the type of guy who only really gets mad when someone messes with his jheri curl. Public Enemy's Chuck D tells a story about being on tour with NWA in Chicago where Eazy refused to leave the hotel room in case his hair got wet. Fellow Los Angeles rapper Ice-T tells a joke about what he imagines an NWA recording session is like -­ Ice Cube in the corner scribbling down lyrics while Eazy chides him, "Make me sound tougher. You're not making me sound tough enough."


Is the departure of Ice Cube a big loss to the band?
Eazy: No, it means we get more money.

How would you assess his contribution to NWA?
No comment.

Well, Ice Cube has got comments. He says he wasn't getting paid. He says that you and Jerry got all the money.
On to the next subject.

Let's talk about "Fuck Tha Police." Did you follow what was going on in Boston in January, where Chuck Stuart apparently murdered his wife and blamed it on a black mugger and everyone believed him? Is that what you meant on "Fuck Tha Police"?
No, I don't know nothing about all that. We were just talking about what happens to us in Compton.

But racism isn't something that just happens in Compton.
The black police in Compton are worse than the white police. Chuck D gets involved in all that black stuff, we don't. Fuck that black power shit: we don't give a fuck. Free South Africa: we don't give a fuck. I bet there ain't anybody in South Africa wearing a button saying "Free Compton" or "Free California." They don't give a damn about us, so why should we give a damn about them? We're not into politics at all. We're just saying what other people are afraid to say.

Tell me about the FBI letter accusing you of advocating violence against the police.
It was juice.

We liked it.

Do you think it could hurt your career?
What are they gonna do? Put us in jail for making a record?

Did you get hassled by the police growing up in Compton?
Every day. They stereotype you and mess with you because you got a beeper, a little gold and a nice car. They figure you're a drug dealer or gang member.

Some people say that NWA glamorize black-on­black crime.
So what? They can say what the fuck they like. We're not telling anybody to join a gang or do drive-by shootings or to rob, steal and kill. We're just telling how it is in Compton.

Other people say you disrespect women.
We're not disrespecting women, we're disrespecting bitches.

What's the difference between a bitch and a woman?
A woman is a woman. A bitch is someone who carries herself in a stuck-up way. A bitch is someone who fucks everybody except me.

At the start of the interview, I presumed that Eazy E's laconic, don't-give-a-shit manner was merely a case of the rapper playing a game of pin-the-tale-on-the­honky. By the end of our session, I realized that with the departure of Ice Cube, NWA's 'collective IQ now barely makes it above room temperature.

But this is part of NWA's appeal for some. Funkenklein of Red Alert Productions - a man whose opinions I normally trust implicitly - sees NWA as a welcome reaction against "all that righteous, political bullshit in hip hop at the moment. They don't give a fuck. And that's why they're cool"

Attempting to explain the differences between the more cultural type of hip hop you get in New York and what passes for rap music in Los Angeles, Greg Sandow - music critic of Entertainment Weekly and a strong supporter of the band - explains: "They're two completely different societies. Try and find a credible black leader in Los Angeles. Even an AI Sharpton. Everything that happens in Los Angeles happens in a vacuum. There's no political consciousness being developed, because there's little community activism."

There's no doubt that Compton is a violent, troubled neighborhood, but from the outside, despite the gangs and drugs, it looks surprisingly bourgeois. "It doesn't look like Germany after World War II," says Jerry Heller. "It's all houses with nice little lawns."

Last year, Ice Cube's comfortable, middle-class home was fired on in a drive-by shooting: the bullets were supposedly meant for a neighbor's house. And Jerry Heller tells a story about signing a Compton rapper called E Rock on a Friday, who by Sunday had been shot dead. And Michel'le, on a recent visit to the hairdresser, was held up at gunpoint, her car hijacked, and her money stolen in broad daylight.

There's been a lot of nonsense written in the media about NWA and their neighborhood. Typical was a piece in a recent edition of Option which talked about the band's "threat to middle-class ideology" and the way they provide "a glimpse into the conditions of the inner-city, where poor or non-existent housing and little legal economic advancement have led people to extreme means."

There is an element of documentary realism about NWA's music, but that is largely overshadowed by the gleeful delight the band takes in demonstrating their supposed toughness. In reality, NWA have more in common with a Charles Bronson movie than a PBS documentary on the plight of the inner-cities. The media myth that US crime is black is peddled daily in newsprint and nightly on the networks. Sadly, it's a myth that NWA do little to dispel. Niggers With Attitude? Niggers With Activator, more like.