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Demon Fuzz – Afreaka!

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Feb 222015

I always have one or two albums I play so often I start to feel like I am neglecting the rest of my collection, especially new additions. Currently this is the case with the exceptional, Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath and the album I am speaking of here, Demon Fuzz – Afreaka!

This is the classic long lost British psychedelic funk album by Demon Fuzz

In a just world, Demon Fuzz would have been very successful. Sadly, however, the only real success they enjoyed is the fact that many club DJs now use their samples frequently. Although the band played most of the British underground festivals in the early seventies, Demon Fuzz were simply too way-out to make a significant impact on the college crowd and as a result they broke up after 18 months on the scene. Released in 1970 the band’s only album, the extraordinary Afreaka!, demonstrates their excellence in playing psychedelic soul, dub-heavy funk, progressive rock, Afro-jazz and black acid rock. Demon Fuzz these days are amongst the most bootlegged and sampled bands from the early 70s British underground. This re-release, which includes the stunning and rare EP that at the time was released along with the album, tells the band’s full story for the first time ever.

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Bob Dylan – Shadows in the Night

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Feb 222015

I understand why a lot of people really can’t stand Bob Dylan, I know he had a pretty long patch of garbage in the middle of his career but he has been at his best musically for the last 15 or more years.

I didn’t come across many reviews that had anything nice to say and to each of them I disagree wholeheartedly about what this album is and how much emotion Dylan brings to these songs.

Rolling Stone said:
Bob Dylan’s new album Shadows in the Night is hitting shelves on February 3rd, though you can hear his rendition of “Stay with Me” right here. The track, written by Jerome Moross and Carolyn Leigh, is one of 10 songs associated with Frank Sinatra that will appear on the album, alongside “That Lucky Old Sun,” “Autumn Leaves,” I’m a Fool to Want You” and “Full Moon and Empty Arms.” Dylan posted his rendition of the latter song on his website last May.

“It was a real privilege to make this album,” Dylan said in a statement. “I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time but was never brave enough to approach 30-piece complicated arrangements and refine them down for a five-piece band…. I don’t see myself as covering these songs in any way. They’ve been covered enough. Buried, as a matter a fact. What me and my band are basically doing is uncovering them. Lifting them out of the grave and bringing them into the light of day.”

“Stay With Me” is the only song from the collection that entered Dylan’s live repertoire. It was the set closer throughout the final months of his 2014 tour, which culminated with a five-night stand at New York’s Beacon Theater. He has no dates on the books right now, but he is set to be honored at the pre-Grammy MusiCares concert on February 6th in Los Angeles. There, his songs will be covered by a cast of musicians that includes Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Eddie Vedder, Willie Nelson and Jack White. Jimmy Carter will present Dylan with MusiCares Person of the Year award, but it’s unclear whether or not Dylan himself will perform at the event.

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Ohio Players – Gold

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Feb 222015

Feeling like getting my funk on with Ohio Players – Gold

Do you agree with what AllMusic says about the Ohio Players below?

When it gets right down to it, the Ohio Players’ albums were as memorable for their risqué album covers as they were for their music. Sure, there were some seriously funky individual tracks, but the Players couldn’t keep the momentum up throughout the course of an entire album. And that’s why Gold is such a useful collection, even in light of more comprehensive latter-day collections. Gold has the good stuff and absolutely no filler. From the scorching “Fire” and the wild “Love Rollercoaster” to the sly “Jive Turkey” and “Who’d She Coo?,” nearly every one of the group’s finest songs is present and accounted for on Gold. Naturally, there are some omissions — “Funky Worm” really should have been on the collection, especially since it was their first number one R&B hit — but this album should satisfy most listeners who just want the hits. If you want to dig a little deeper into their catalog without sampling their albums, try Funk on Fire: The Mercury Anthology, but otherwise, stick with the Gold and you’ll reap its rewards.

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Selwyn Birchwood – Don’t Call No Ambulance

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Feb 052015

Getting through some of the backlog albums and I shouldn’t have waited for this one – This guy is really good.

Explodes with fresh, inspired takes on lowdown juke joint romps, gut-wrenching blues, tear-jerking soul and modern blues rock. Birchwood’s raw, urgent vocals and sparkling guitar and lap steel playing drive the music, and the songs are simultaneously fun and thought-provoking.

“Don’t Call No Ambulance (is) the remarkable debut album by young guitarist/singer Birchwood… a damn fine listen through and through. (He is) a powerhouse player and emotive performer whose work respects blues tradition but could not be more contemporary. His band, his material, and both his skilled guitaring and soulful vocals are the essence of fully-formed; Birchwood is a major player…. Highly recommended” – Rolling Stone

Milton “Bags” Jackson – Wizard of the Vibes

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Feb 052015

Milton “Bags” Jackson seemed the perfect spin for a quiet Sunday morning. Wizard of the Vibes has long been a favorite but always seems to get passed by. I have to remember not to wait so long next time.

AASJ Says:
The pairing of the Modern Jazz Quartet and Blue Note Records seems somehow incongruent. Blue Note was the home of hard bop—blues- and gospel-influenced, down to earth and funky. The MJQ navigated the Third Stream—sophisticated, refined, classically oriented and formal. They even performed in tuxedos.

But there was a hefty dose of blues to the MJQ’s Bach, most of it courtesy of vibraphonist Milt Jackson. Jackson’s masterful blues-oriented improvisations are on fine display here on his only Blue Note outing.

The entire membership of what would eventually become the MJQ is present on these recordings. Pianist John Lewis, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Kenny Clarke provide excellent support for Jackson. Filling out the lineup is a young Lou Donaldson playing very Bird-like alto sax.

Jackson is a well-recognized innovator on his instrument—the vital link between the swing era’s Lionel Hampton and post-bop’s Bobby Hutcherson. And those in the know hail him as a genius-level improviser. Even those who haven’t recognized that fact when listening to the MJQ—where Jackson’s improvisational powers were sometimes reined in by Lewis’ compositions—will find it hard to miss in this context.

These sessions came early in Jackson’s career—1952—but his playing style is exceptionally well-realized and mature. He plays blazingly fast, his melodic imagination keeping perfect pace with his mallets. His MJQ cohorts provide excellent accompaniment. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable session and the only, minor, let down is Lou Donaldson. This was his first of a zillion sessions for Blue Note and his youth shows. Nothing wrong with his Charlie Parker imitations—who better or more difficult to emulate?—but his improvisational skills pale next to Jackson’s. Still, only a nitpicker would fail to enjoy these sides, which appear in crystal clear sound thanks to remastering by famed Blue Note engineer Rudy Van Gelder.

The tunes include a few originals by Jackson including the lovely ballad “Lillie” and an early version of his signature tune “Bag’s Groove.” A highlight is a very swinging take on Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” featuring Donaldson’s best playing on the date.

This entertaining session is augmented the same disk by Jackson’s historical July 2, 1948, recording date with Thelonious Monk. The pair, joined by John Simmons on bass and Shadow Wilson on drums, play the earliest versions of Monk’s best-known compositions: “Evidence,” “Misterioso,” “Epistrophy,” and “I Mean You.” On two standards—”All the Things You Are”and “I Should Care”—the group plays backup to stilted, croonerish vocals by Pancho Hagood. Those tunes seem out of place alongside Monk’s still very modern-sounding works of genius.

Hearing Monk and Milt work off each other is a true pleasure. What a fascinating contrast—Monk’s stop-start, playful quirkiness trading with Jackson’s flowing bop blues.

Because it’s Monk, and early Monk on Blue Note at that, this CD is a must for those who don’t already own the music. It’s a vital piece of jazz history and it’s a blast to hear.

The only disappointment, to some ears, may be the sound on the Monk portion of the disk. Van Gelder remastered the session from lacquer and there’s quite a bit of surface noise. But at the same time all the instruments—bass and drums included—sound very clear and distinct, which might not have been the case had Van Gelder used a heavier hand when cleaning up these recordings. It may be that it’s not possible to improve them any further. I certainly trust Van Gelder’s ears and judgment. So, if you can listen past some hissing and crackling (I’m probably making it sound worse than it is) you’ll enjoy some very fine, very important music.

Track Listing: Tahiti; Lillie; Bag’s Groove; What’s New; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; On The Scene; Lillie (alt.); What’s New (alt.); Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (alt.); Evidence; Miserioso; Epistrophy; I Mean You; Misterioso (alt.); All The Things You Are; I Should Care; I Should Care (alt.)

Personnel: Milt Jackson (vibraphone); Kenny “Pancho” Hagood (vocals); Lou Donaldson (alto saxophone); John Lewis, Thelonious Monk (piano); Percy Heath, John Simmons (bass); Kenny Clarke, Shadow Wilson (drums).