Hullo. It may be winter outside, but in my heart it’s spring and that’s reflected in this weeks crop of hand picked choons. From sunny Californian pop to soleil worshipping jazz fusion from that feller up the top there, there’s plenty to thaw the ice and keep your blood pumping throughout this big chill.
Paul joins in with thoughts of more clement times with a stone cold classic from one of the biggest acts of all time. My very good friend, bandmate and the original choice for the part of George Roper in the Paraguayan version of Man About The House has gone gold. Solid gold I tells ya!
Ok, without further ado, let’s jump in the pool…
Track 1. Me And Your Mama by Childish Gambino.
Actor, writer and comedian Donald Glover’s star has been rising rapidly for the past few years. Along with film roles (including the announcement that he will feature as the young Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Han Solo movie), TV appearances and stand up specials he has released three albums under his alter-ego Childish Gambino. This is the lead single from his latest, slated for release today titled ‘Awaken, My love!’ and it’s a lush Gospel funker with shades of Flying Lotus. The man gets to fill the young shoes of Billy Dee Williams and he can knock out fantasticness such as this. Some guys are just born to be the coolest man in the galaxy…
Track 2. Sun Goddess by Ramsey Lewis.
The title track from our cover stars 1974 crossover hit LP which reunited him with his former quartet member, the late, great Maurice White who brought along his Earth, Wind And Fire bandmates along for the ride, Phil Bailey providing the scat vocal refrain. I was lucky enough to catch Mr Lewis perform the album in full in Manchester a couple of years back, and, despite an altercation with a grumpy old bastard in the audience, (I won’t bore you with the details), it made for a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable evening. Below is a live version from 1980.
Track 3. This Strange Effect by The Shacks.
We featured this NYC band last week and mentioned their inception as part of a collaboration with El Michels Affair. Here they are with their debut release in their own right and a Ray Davies penned song which is the lead track on ‘The Shacks EP’. Shannon Wise provides a whispered vocal, giving it a breathy classiness which is absent from Dave Berry’s, ploddy straightforward take in 1965. Below is the Full EP for your consideration.
Track 4. Eastern Jam by Country Joe And The Fish.
The penultimate track on the San Franciscan psychers 1968 sophomore LP ‘I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die’ does exactly as it’s title suggests. Dim the lights, turn on your oil projector, light the incense burners and lose yourself in four and a half minutes of noodly guitars. Kaftans optional.
Track 5. Going To California by Led Zeppelin.
****PAULO’S PICK OF THE WEEK****
We stay in the Golden state for this weeks PPOTW and a track from Led Zeppelin IV. With just Page and his DADGBD tuned guitar, John Paul Jones on Mandolin and a 22 year old Robert Plant pouring his heart out to Joni Mitchell, this is a welcome slice of acoustic gorgeousness that provides respite between the wilfully abstract ‘Four Sticks’ and the bombast of album closer ‘When The Levee Breaks’.
Track 6. Take Me Back To Baltimore by Elizabeth Cotten.
Elizabeth ‘Libba’ Cotten (née Nevills) began playing banjo at the age of seven before moving on to guitar at 11. As a natural left hander, she would play the instrument upside down which required her to play the bass lines with her fingers and the melody with her thumb. Her signature alternating bass style has become known as ‘Cotten picking’. After marrying at age 17 she gave up playing and concentrated on raising a family. It wasn’t until the 1950’s when she reached her sixties that she began to play again after she was discovered by the folk-singing Seeger family while she was working for them as a housekeeper. Mike Seeger began making bedroom reel-to-reel recordings of Cotten’s songs in her house. These recordings later became the album ‘Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar’, which was released by Folkways Records. Since the release of that album, her songs, especially her signature song, ‘Freight Train’—which she wrote when she was 11—have been covered by Peter, Paul, and Mary, Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Devendra Banhart, Laura Gibson, Laura Veirs, His Name Is Alive, Doc Watson, Taj Mahal and Geoff Farina.
Track 7. Wilding by Moon Duo.
San Francisco has a psych heritage stretching back to forefathers The Grateful Dead and fellow NL act from this week Country Joe And The Fish. Carrying on this tradition is bay area band Moon Duo who are actually now a trio with drummer John Jeffrey joining husband and wife team, Wooden Shjips’ Erik ‘Ripley’ Johnson and spouse Sanae Yamada. Their suicide inspired psych drones have graced seven albums to date, this particular track is lifted from their latest release, last years ‘Shadow Of The Sun’.
Track 8. The Lady At The Gate by The Aggregation.
This Californian combo were playing as a house band in Disneyland when they were discovered by Lee Hazlewood. He was impressed enough to offer to produce a long player for them, 1967’s Concept album ‘Mind Odyssey’ which was their one and only release. This is the first track from the LP.
Track 9. I Like It by The Emotions.
Sisters Wanda, Sheila and Jeanette Hutchinson enjoyed their biggest success with ‘Best Of My Love’ the superb track which has previously featured in NL and was written and produced by Maurice White who gets his second mention in this weeks selection. Prior to their disco reemergence they were part of the Stax roster releasing superb Supremes-esque smooth soul such as this which featured on their debut LP, 1969’s ‘So I Can Love You’ and was later sampled by Ol’ Dirty Bastard for his track ‘Shimmy, Shimmy, Y’all.
Track 10. Leaky Tunnel by The Fiery Furnaces
Former NL cover star Eleanor Friedberger next and a track from the band she formed with her brother Matthew in 2000. This is taken from their debut LP, 2003’s ‘Gallowsbird’s Bark’, a record which was never far from my ears at the time. Whenever I listen the album it instantly takes me back to our small flat in Horsforth and the first months of our new life in Leeds. Happy, care free times.
Track 11. Seven by Psapp.
‘Toytronica’ pioneers Psapp are probably best known for their song ‘Cosy in the Rocket’, the main theme on the medical-drama TV series Grey’s Anatomy. This comes from their fourth, and last album to date, 2013’s ‘Things That Make Us Glow’ and is an easy on the ear gypsy jazz number. Below is a charming live performance of the track.
Track 12. When She Made Me Promise by the Beginning Of The End.
This late sixties/early seventies funk band from the Bahamas scored a big hit in ’71 with the title track from their debut LP, ‘Funky Nassau’ which you may recall was sampled on The Prodigy’s ‘No Good (Start the Dance)’. This track closes the album and is a sunshine drenched instrumental which first came to my attention around fifteen years ago on an anonymous compilation tape I found in a second hand shop.
Track 13. The Ghost at #1 by Jellyfish.
It appears we’ve made a number of stops in San Francisco on this weeks playlist. Our latest brings us to the mid nineties and a band that existed for a too brief five years from ’89-’94 releasing two fantastic LP’s brimming with sunny Californian power pop. This particular track was the first single release from the second of those two albums, 1993’s ‘Spilt Milk’ and carried on with the successful template employed on their debut ‘Bellybutton’. Harpsichords, vocal harmonies, chimes and lyrics which belie the jolly, Beach Boys influenced production.
Track 14. Groovin’ With Mr Bloe by Mr Bloe.
We have an instrumental triptych next beginning with this famous single from 1970 which reached number two on the UK charts, denied the top spot by Mungo Jerry’s ‘In The Summertime’. The harmonica which dominates the track was played by Harry Pitch who then went on to perform the theme tune for the tedious, long running comedy Last of the Summer Wine. Please note, the version featured on the spotify playlist comes from one of those seventies comps that used session players to record hits of the day, the below version is the original.
Track 15. Bye-Ya by Thelonious Monk.
Our second non-vocal selection comes from the pianists 1962 Columbia LP ‘Monks Dream’. This track is dominated by the tenor sax of Charlie Rouse before the man takes over with his keys and accentuates the piece’s Caribbean-inflected rhythms.
Track 16. Diamond In The Rough by Carlton Melton.
Rounding off our trio of instrumentals is this track from Californian trio Carlton Melton. A simple, guitar led drone jam that doesn’t really go anywhere and is all the better for it. The track, which is lifted from last years ‘Out To Sea’ LP, is a transitional piece which allows you to ride its sonic wave to your next point of destination before opening the doors to let you disembark while carrying on its endless trip.
Track 17. Like Always by The Association.
A large chunk of this weeks playlist comes to you from sunny Californ-I-A. I’d like to say that’s by design, but it’s all a happy accident really. I’m not that clever. This band opened the famous 1967 Monterey pop festival and managed to appeal to both the masses and the blossoming counter culture of the time due to their ambiguous songs which may or may not have been about narcotics. This track featured on their 1968 LP ‘Birthday’ and is a classic piece of sunshine pop.
Track 18. Keep An Eye On You by Don And Stevie.
Guess where our next stop is? L.A. husband and wife duo Don & Stevie Gere recorded an albums worth of acid folk songs such as this in the late sixties which remained on a shelf for over forty years before renewed interest in Stevies soundtrack for cult movie ‘Werewolves On Wheels’ led to a clamber for his other work. No video, our first duck this week. Nearly made it!
Track 19. I Will Miss The Jasmine by Shannon And The Clams.
Oh well, in for a penny..You’d be forgiven if you mistook this song from the Oakland CA garage punk trio as a lesser known track from sixties producer and genius Joe Meek, such is its authentic vintage sound. In fact, this comes from Shannon And The Clam’s latest LP released last year. It really captures a ‘Runaway’ era Dion And The Belmont’s vibe while still managing to maintain a contemporary air. Splendid stuff.
Track 20. Doggin’ Around by Jackie Wilson.
Man oh man. That Voice. Jackie could easily take our soul slowie closer slot every week. Listen to it at 2m 20s and that ‘I’m’ alone. Goosebumps on goosebumps. Little Mickey Jackson also recorded a version of this 1960 minor hit for Mr Excitement, and while he makes a pretty decent fist of it, his debt to Jackie and his effortless interpretation is palpable.
Ok then, hope you enjoyed our little bit of unseasonable sunshine and your frozen cockles are duly warmed. Don’t forget, you can thaw your extremities with my daily dose at the facebook group Here and make sure you join us next week for the last playlist of 2016 before I take a winter break.
Until then, get yourself in the cool clear water.