The Oriental Music
"unknown" The Oriental Music LP (Fung Hang Records Co., 19??)
The liner notes say that "The most popular Cantonese music has been selected to be played in most popular Western new style in Stereo sound recording makes this very special record for everyone." And, damn if that isn't the truth. While Dream Rythm, Dance Music is a good Asian pop instrumental album, today's selection The Oriental Music is nothing short of exceptional. Three things make this stand out: First, the percussion. The beats aren't just an approximation of Western pop or Latin. Instead they combine a multitude of rhythms, even exploring polyrhythms, which is unusual for this kind of music. Second, not only does the band really deliver on the "Cantonese" melodies, but they mix in Western pop, Latin, and even Celtic sounds. And, third, the songs are just damn good. Listen to the intros and breaks. How the piano subtly compliments the guitar and violin on "Silent Night," one of the best Asian noir songs I've heard. Or the way the guitar strays off the obvious in "The Memory." This is really a fantastic record from start to stop.
"So, Soriano, how did you come about this gem?" One buck at a radio station record sale. "Did you know about it before you bought it?" Nope, and I had no idea what it was going to sound like either. If I was to guess by the record cover I would have gandered that is was Oriental Music that made peacocks want to strut their stuff. But, really, I had no idea. But I did have a few dollars burning up my pocket book and a hankering to find out what kinda Oriental Music peacocks dig so I bought it. Once again, a blind buy that paid off. Get that? Blind buy. That means I didn't look for a sample on line in order to hear it before I bought it. Fuck that. There is no fun in previewing shit. I'd rather live dangerously and blow a god damn dollar on a record that might just suck. It also might be great like this one is. You see, the point of being a music freak is to jump into the unknown, to let the sound massage you and nothing else. The point of being a record hound is to get lost in the thrill of the hunt, to be a Louis Leakey of the vinyl world. And when you are talking about a buck here, five dollars there, why be careful? The internet is a wonderful thing. It enables me to share these sounds with you. However it has also given people an excuse to be timid and lazy. That isn't what creating things or digging creative things is about. Really, if there is one thing you take away from my rambling let it be the desire to seek things out for yourself, to get your hands dirty digging for records, and to be willing to take a chance on something you've never heard of, without a guide or a mediator.
Dream Rythm, Dance Music
Dream Rythm Dance Music Band Dream Rythm, Dance Music LP (Asia, 19??)
Ahhh there is part of me that would love to trade all my rock & roll records for stacks of Asian noir, exotica, and pop from the 1950s and 60s (and I am sure that there is some Japanese record collector who would gladly take me up on it - no deal!). Whether the tunes are from Hong Kong, Tokyo, or Bangkok, the mix of Asian rythms (sic), melodies, and instruments with American jazz, soundtrack music, pop, and rock & roll is one of the best collisions in modern music. While some of these records are done by name artists, in the tradition of the cheapie labels that inspired them, many of these disks are done anonymously. Such is the case with Dream Rythm, Dance Music.
A collection of rock & roll, lounge jazz, and Latin interpretations, Dance Rythm is fairly typical of the Asian noir genre. There is an eerie quality to the music, a feeling something like dull sorrow. The playing is not exactly "right." And the instrumentation is atypical for a Western pop record...unless that record was made in the 1940s by the Three Suns, a band who seems to hold sway over many of these groups/producers. The only information on this record in English is the name of the record and song titles. And other than telling you that Asia Records is out of Taiwan, there isn't more to say. Enjoy.
The Unusual We
The Unusual We s/t LP (Pulsar, 1969)
Raved about by collectors of 60s sunshine pop, the Unusual We's first and only record is quite shitty. A weak mix of Free Design and Up With People, this Harold Battiste production would be disposable if not for the funky and stylistically jarring song, "My Bag." The flute/drum intro reminds me of Manfred Mann Chapter III or Stark Reality, and I would be surprised if someone somewhere hasn't sampled it. The groove established and Free Design style group vocals come in. It is an odd mix of sounds - stoned, slinky funk and straight, uptight vox - but it works. The second song I'm laying on you - "Little Sister" - makes the cut only because "My Bag" is so good and I don't want to leave you with just one song. The band? I have no idea. The sleeve notes suggest that it is made up of four couples - loving couples and, if the front cover is photo is any hint, swingers. Chances are that the couple are props or at least not couples but session players, as usual with these kind of sounds.
While wasting time on the internet, searching for cover versions of the song "Freebird," I stumbled on this very charming duo. Mo and Jo are age 9 and 7 and play great versions of classic songs (plus one original). If they were just kids playing music they would barely pass the cute test. However, as you will hear, their reverb drenched renditions are worth repeated listenings. Enjoy.
Helene Martin Amazonie EP (La Fine Fleur, 1966)
It seems as if though interpreting French poets in song was quite common among the madamoiselles. From 1960 on, Helene Martin made a career out of putting poems to music, starting with (drum roll please) an album of Paul Eluard. She followed that by another LP of Apollinaire, and then tackled Aragon, Genet, Giono, Queneau, Cocteau, and others. Here she tries Luc Berimont (Amazonie), Aragon (Le Feu), and riffs off a line from one of my favorite poets, the Russian Vladimir Mayakovsky (L'Amour a Casse sa Pipe).
If the music here sounds a bit like that on the Solleville EP, well, it is because guitarist Jean-Francois Gael is also behind this.