Sunday, January 06, 2008

2007 - The Final Harvest

Rather than recap my favourite discs from 2007 - so, so late for that now - I'd like to show love to some discs that didn't make any of the neverending year in review lists, and that I never wrote about on this blog. My list-oriented picks were compiled for Exclaim, Eye Weekly , Ach Du Liebe and the Idolator poll (not yet published - stay tuned).

Robert Strauss - Mr. Feelings (BBE)

The deep house fire that once consumed my soul has been reduced to a mere ember these days, but there are always a few discs a year that stoke it real good. Toronto man-about-town Robert Strauss' disc was one such example. The wicked cameo by Leroy Burgess on one cut should tell you all you need to know about the aesthetic of Mr. Feelings - the soulful, early 80s sound of synth driven disco/house. There's a sunny mood throughout these relaxed and invited four/four stompers. At the very end things get a little cosmic, as if the final tunes were the afterparty for the disc. The frequent interludes on this disc actually encourage the flow but, for a change in this grossed-out world, their nasty humour is somewhat tongue in cheek.

Mr. Something Something feat. Ikwunga - Deep Sleep (World)

Couldn't really justify putting this on a year end list because it's only 5 tracks long plus radio edits. Of course, when you're dealing with Afrobeat, that could add up to well over 100 minutes, but that's not the case here. This is the Something's best disc so far and I'm glad I had the chance to write about it here.

Tony Wilson/Peggy Lee/Jon Bentley - Escondido Dreams (Drip Audio)

I gave this disc four stars in Eye Weekly and it may have gotten better since then.

Abassi All Stars - Showcase (Universal Egg)
As the dub turns... this was a dub companion to a disc from '06, and some rhythms reappeared on Zion Train's "Live As One" plus other assorted rhythms of the universal egg label. When I reviewed it back in February I had a few objections about the suitability of the pessimistic, paranoid vocals over the uplifting horn charts, but boy does this ever sound great at top volume, guaranteed to lift you out of your seat.

Bullwackies Allstars - Free For All (Wackies)

On the subject of all stars, this disc was rare even by Wackies standards, having originally been packaged in a stencilled cardboard sleeve. We have Rhythm and Sound to thank for all the reissued reggae from Mr. Lloyd Barnes who toiled in obscurity - even hostility - in the Bronx. His Perry-esque style is instantly identifiable by the American (as opposed to Americanized) soul licks found throughout his rhythm catalogue. Even though many of the backing tracks were recorded in Jamaica, the New York approach translated into music that always seemed always out of step with the times in the most wonderful way. Looking back at his deep, lo-fi dub garnished with analog synthesizers and slashing guitars, this dub sound is classic in its own way.

Can't forget my Vampisoul compadres in Madrid who continued to release excellent soul and Latin reissues this year. I would have given them more list love but many of their comps were merely solid "A"'s instead of the "A plus"es released by Soundway et. al. Nevertheless, if you picked up the two volumes of Gozalo, you'd have over 50 tracks of the smokingest Peruvian swingers of the sixties and seventies.

Pete Jolly - Seasons (A&M/Dusty Groove)

I posted about Dusty Groove's "in store" reissue series with regard to Jorge Ben's "Forca Bruta", and rushed out to buy the other volumes in the series. Seasons was recorded in 1970 and produced by Herb Alpert (!). Jolly wrings the depths out of an electric piano (Wurlitzer, apparently, not a Fender Rhodes) through simmering bossa-inflected grooves and muted soul structures. The whole thing sounds like one long Pete Rock interlude and barely makes it to 30 minutes, but it's a delightful, vibrato-laden ride.

Wailing Souls - Greensleeves Most Wanted 12" Collection 1978-84 (Greensleeves)

Greensleeves almost singlehandedly revived the early 80s Roots Radics sound this year, certainly laying the riddimic groundwork for my sometimes #1 pick Ticklah Vs. Axelrod. This didn't exactly get lost in the shuffle, but was overshadowed by year's end by other releases. I've always loved their lyrics and their tight harmonies are beyond reproach. This period featured their best songwriting, and these 12" versions tease every little nuance from the productions.

Group Doueh - Guitar Music From Western Sahara (Sublime Frequencies)

Tinariwen weren't the only desert bluesmen around this year (figuratively, of course). Western Saraha's Group Doueh's vinyl volume on Sublime Frequencies contained some of the most extreme guitar noises I've ever heard. These homemade recordings resemble Tinariwen's first recorded efforts, but are much more sonically provocative and ever so slightly funkier. Still, with the kind of EQing on these songs it would be a potentially harsh ride for the dancefloor.

Nublu Orchestra Conducted By Butch Morris (Nublu)

There's still a lot of vitality in jazz - it's not museum music yet. Quite a few trios are busy exploding the piano-bass-drum configuration, descended from the Bad Plus and Medeski Martin and Wood - see Triosk, E.S.T. The incorporation of global influences into jazz becomes more accomplished as the years go by - see Charles Lloyd and Adam Rudolph. This disc is yet another compelling electronic jazz project. Nublu as a different approach than Thirsty Ear, often more naturally funky, and perhaps not as free. With 'conductionist' Butch Morris, the freedom is pumped up, but the funk is not lost. Songs are whipped up live and effected, sometimes sounding incomplete, but with the same process-oriented orientation as free improvising that keeps you listening. Naturally, some ideas don't work, but this is some pretty solid future funk.

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