I have been listening to Solomon Burke today. Sadly, the eccentric showman credited for helping to keep the lights on at Atlantic Records in the early 60s has died. Burke had a subtle vocal style and wide eclectic influences that earned him respect from a range of artists. This has made his music wound tightly into the DNA of American Soul and Rock.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am often talking about how important it was for me that I had the opportunity to participate in a great high school music program. You can understand then how excited I am to see Thunder Soul – Mark Landsman’s documentary about the great Kashmere Stage Band from Texas and it’s innovative leader Conrad Johnson. This is the tightest, funkiest highschool band I have ever heard. I can’t imagine anyone not coming out of this film and demanding better support for the arts in ALL of our public schools.
One of the funk bass greats has left us today. Marvin Isley was responsible for laying down the law for the crossover hits that kept the Isley Brothers on the radio for much of the 70s. Here are some great live Soul Train performances from 73-4.
Before American child rearing became neurotic and consumerist there was a time when we produced some really sophisticated, whimsical children’s television. Hoagy Carmichael’s Music Shop is one of these strange and charming experiments. Hoagy Carmichael shares the music with the excellent funk band The Stark Reality and there is some seriously trippy animated musical notation and melancholy photographs of children playing. I find the whole combination very reassuring.
Listening to James Booker, half crazy and in the final years of his hard life make spine tingling music on this horrible saloon upright takes the term ‘it is a bad craftsman who blames his tools’ to a new level. These recordings were taken from hundreds of hours of tapes from Booker’s ‘77-82 solo piano performances at the Maple Leaf bar. He dances effortlessly all over the style map from Chopin-meets-gypsy to Spanish influenced boogies and seems simultaneously possessed by what seems to be both demon and angel these performances. Booker is a master at setting up seemingly untenable grooves and making them work without letting them box him in a corner. He creates a sublime paradox of lightness and rock hard percussiveness that seems to defy the laws of piano physics. There is only a smattering of drunken applause at the end of a lot these performances. Many great moments in music come and go without anybody noticing. It is the curse of an art form that exists so stubbornly in present time. Recordings are often bad representations of what was happening in a room – especially a live performance with a personality of this size. Despite all of that, we should be grateful that someone set up a cassette deck on this particular mixing board.
I have had this CD lying around for a while and finally listened to it. What a refreshing blast. This Brooklyn band is really doing oldschool soul/funk right. The band is as relaxed-tight and Tower of Power. There is neither ensemble overplaying nor any gratuitous displays of individual instrumental virtuosity. Sharon Jones is a powerfully musical soul singer who has not bought into the post-Maria Carey vocal ‘stylings’ that has made a whole generation of female R&B singers sound like they got signed out of the same wedding band. This CD is recorded warm and analog dirty – just like the old records. I am going to check out more of the stuff on the Daptone label because this is the real deal.