Disco Rhapsody

The Magic City Band Disco Rhapsody LP (Magic City Band, 197?)

Hell, I can enjoy a funky disco song as much as the next funky disco guy, especially when the vocals are nearly non-existant and when they do come in, the funky disco dude ups it a register ala Earth, Wind & Fire. It's too bad that this is as funky as the Magic City Band gets. The rest of the record is dull dull dull.

Why would I pick up a disco album? Why not? The record cover is so low-tech that it was worth a chance and, here's a tip, low tech cover sometimes means raw & funky. Forget all you learned in Classic Rock 101, there is good disco out there and it is the between the crack, small label stuff. Remember many a "disco" band was a funk band that called itself disco when disco was the rage - kinda like the pub rock bands claiming to be punk when punk hit in 1977 UK.

Where these guys are from, I don't know but I assume Miami (it has a Miami funk sound to it, plus it is an obvious "Magic City"). No date but probably 1976 or 77.


I'm a Lover Man

Jimmy J. & the Mark-Lee Sound I'm a Lover Man 45 (Mar-Jo, 196?)

What do I know about Jimmy J AKA Jimmy Jones? Well, I think he is a piano player, as that is the lead instrument here and there is a Jimmy Jones who played piano. The Mar-Jo label is from St Louis so I assume that Jones is also. I also assume that the label might be partially his, the "Jo" in Mar-Jo being short for "Jones" (and the "Mar" short for the "Mark" that is in the Mark-Lee Sounds). If this is indeed Jimmy Jones, the piano player from St Louis, there is a good chance he also played and recorded with
Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, & Duke Ellington. He might have also co-authored Sweet, Hot, and Blue: St. Louis' Musical Heritage, a book on St. Louis jazz, blues, & R&B. Of the Mark-Lee sound and Mar-Jo records, I know that they both did a 45 with the Continentals. I have never heard it. There is a inscription on the record label from a one Roland Clark (sax). My digging finds that he is a member of the St Louis Jazz Hall of Fame. Because there are thousands of Jimmy or James Jones and plenty who played music, I am stumped for any more info than the guesswork above. Perhaps Larry Grogan knows more?

Forgetting the "who is it" for a while, let me rap about what a great song this is: A R&B groover with an nice extended intro, topped by a rippin' guitar solo and backed by sharp, short horns. This is the kind of tune that sweats up a dance floor (providing you aren't DJing for a bunch of idiots who want to hear The Breaks for the 80 gazzilionth time). I can't say I am disappointed over spending the $4 on this that I did.


The Soul Goes On

Jerry Butler The Soul Goes On LP (Mercury, 1968)

I think that this is the most accessible thing I've ever posted. At least it might be the easiest to obtain. But I am posting it nonetheless, because after years of having a thrifted copy, one beat to shit, I scored a much cleaner one. Besides, Jerry Butler is one of my top ten soul singers of all time and this record is a classic.

Like most folks, I first heard Jerry Bulter sing with the Impressions, a group that should need no introduction. However the first time I put a name to his voice was when I dug up a 45 of I Stand Accused. A perfect R&B ballad if there ever was, I Stand Accused had me tracking down not only everything by Jerry Butler but ever version of the song. Eventually I found a copy of The Soul Goes On and was reacquainted with a song I heard many times as a kid during couples skate at King's Skate Country, on Bradshaw in suburban Sacramento. Whenever I hear Never Give You Up (or Al Green's Tra La La) I am taken back to pre-teen me working up the nerve to ask some cute girl if she would hold my hand as we skated around the rink during couple's skate. I believe I batted .500 in those days, though not too difficult to do when you overcome your fear of rejection a total of 4 times! (The only other song that brings up a strong memory is T-Rex's Bang a Gong, a song that transports me to the back seat of my dad's Opel, rolling out of the parking lot of the Rosemont Cabana Club, hot air blowing through the windows, my dad whistling along with the song, tapping out the rhythm on the steering wheel.) Never Give You Up also reminds me of hanging out at William Land Park as a teen, watching the lowriders cruise by, old dowop and Sixties/Seventies soul pouring out their windows. It is perfect summer music.


Ron Eliran s/t

Ron Eliran s/t LP (Polydor, 1968)

If you would asked there was such a thing as Zionist funky drum, pop psych, I would have replied, "Oh sure, Ron Eliran, Israel's Ambassador of Song and the writer of the Broadway musical Don't Step on My Olive Branch." Not that I am a Zionist funky drum, pop psych expert. Rather I found this promising looking album at a radio station record sale for a buck and discovered a gem.

Eliran was born in Haifa, a native of Israel. He had already established himself as an entertainer in his homeland before appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show in the mid 1960s. He played for Israeli troops in the first Sinai and Yom Kipper Wars, where he wrote patriotic songs. He has toured the world and wrote musicals for Broadway and Off Broadway.

Eliran's debut is as far out as he gets and, truth be told, Ron isn't a psych king. What Eliran has mastered is a fusion of pop, Yiddish music, funk, Middle Eastern melody, Vegas production, and LA session horn arrangements. Ron Eliran could be thought of as the Lee Hazelwood of Israel. Fire in the Jordan Valley has a nice Brit Beat Them/Yardbirds thing going on in it. My favorite, High in the Desert is a fantastic blend of the elements listed above. I've played it at dance parties and people dig it. Honesty is funk Yiddish style. It kind of reminds me of Robert Charlebois.

What Eliran is singing about, I don't know. Hell, I don't even know if this is inappropriate to post given the fact that Israel is stomping around Lebanon again and Hezbollah rockets are littering Eliran's hometown. What I do know is that the two countries directly involved in this war (and it is a war) have turned out some great music and that is what I chose to celebrate rather than debate which camp's bloodletting is "justified" or not. Personally, I think they are all a bunch of murderers and goons - and you can extend that to any state you want to, not just the two (or four or six or...) involved in this one. Forgive my lack of subtly - I am impatient with the bloodshed and people surrendering their reason to the dictates of some Sky God. Arm them with guitars, I say.

I scored this over five years ago and have been looking for a second copy. Never seen a reliable listing of or have stumbled upon another.



Kevin Dunn Nadine b/w Oktyabrina 7" (dB, 1979)

Atlanta is the home of Kevin Dunn and that is where I found this terrific 7". In the 3 times of been to that wretched town, I've found two records worth noting The Brains' Money Changes Everything 7" and this great record. Nadine is a cover of the Chuck Berry classic and it features a great monstrous synth by Brains-member Tom Gray. The flip is a song about the Soviet era underground comic character, Oktyabrina, and equally as cool.

Dunn was in the Fans and, after this 7", the Regiment of Women. He did some other records including a pretty good 12".


Goodbye Syd Barrett

True West Lucifer Sam 7" (True West, 1982)

It says a lot about the state of commercial radio and the vitality of college radio,that the first time I heard anything written by Syd Barrett was through True West. By the time I hit my teens, FM radio had just started to get gobbled up by corporate entertainment. What was to be called "Classic Rock" is what ruled the airwaves - Styx, Foreigner, The Eagles, Molly Hatchet, and, as a sop, the Yardbirds and the Stones. The Pink Floyd I grew up on was Roger Waters' band. It was Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. Even good Waters' Pink Floyd, like Meddle and More, never hit the radio dial. That Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd was (and still is) absent the same frequencies isn't a surprise, but it does explain what the "classic" in Classic Rock means. Classic Rock is the rock that sells. It is the feel good sound of a generation, much like Mitch Miller or Paul Anka. Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd did not sell, at least not the quantity that The Wall did, and it is certainly not comfortable. However, it is classic in sense that classic means of quality and timeless. The playfulness of Bike and Effervescing Elephant doesn't get grumpy with age. As far as love songs go, Terrapin is one of the best. There are few riffs as great as the one that anchors Interstellar Overdrive. Challenge me to come up with one that strong and I'll say Lucifer Sam.

As stated above, True West's version of Lucifer Sam was my first exposure to Syd Barrett. My first exposure to True West was through KDVS, the college station in Davis and the epicenter for a scene that was True West, Dream Syndicate, Game Theory, and Thin White Rope- all profoundly influenced by Barrett.

True West's Lucifer Sam single was released in 1982 and was produced by TW's Russ Tolman and Dream Syndicate's Steve Wynn (both of who were in 15 Minutes). The song was recycled on a number of different True West releases and a couple of comps. It is a great version of a great song. I figure that there will be a hundred blogs with Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett tracks on them, so I'll post something different, my first look into the man's mind.

In memory of Syd Barrett, who died this week of complications from diabetes. He was 60 and left a nice basket of great songs. May he ride his bike in peace.


Devils Angel

The Klemares Devils Angel 45 (GG's, 1971)

Ack! I did a search on this record under "The Klemares" and the only "substantial" result was something I wrote months ago! I did a few other terms and I found this record under "Bunny & the Klemares," "Bunny & the Kiemanaires," "The Kiemanaries," "and "The Caymanairies." And under those listings all I get is that the record is for sale. I can't tell you if this is Bunny Wailer or Bugs Bunny singing, though it doesn't sound like either to me. And if the Kiemanaries and Caymanairies are just spelling variations than can I assume that the band is from the Cayman Islands? I am afraid I am at a loss here. And I would call my younger brother, who is an expert in Jamaican music, but he's got a new phone number and the lazy bastard hasn't given it to me yet.

Devils Angel reminds me of the first time I heard reggae, which like most young punkers was through the Clash's Black Market Clash. It was their cover of Pressure Drop that hooked me and anyone else that heard it. It certainly inspired a local band called Mod Philo (one 7" released in 1981), who played at my high school and was roundly booed by the jocks. It wasn't punk rock in a pure sense but five white kids playing ska in 1981, in the quad of a Sacramento high school might as well have been. Part of the Mod Philo sound was the klunky, barely togetherness that you hear in the intro of Devils Angel. While Devils Angel slides into a groove a bit in and becomes a sweet listen, the Mod Philo never quote got there. That was fine. They were young and angry and I am not sure if they were after a groove or knew what to do if they found themselves in one. Maybe some day I will dig up that Mod Philo 7" and post it.

I know there are lot of great reggae 45s that deserve some run, but this little number and the awkward funkiness of it is what is hooking me right now. Enjoy the Klemares (or whatever they are called).


The Backbone of America is a Mule and Cotton

Abner Jay The Backbone of America is a Mule and Cotton LP (Brandie, 1976)

On the 230th birthday of the United States of America, I figured I could present you with Toby Keith, Jessica Simpson, an essay on the glories of football (American of course), or a speech by President George W. Bush. Instead, I will celebrate the America that I hold dear, one that is worth fawning over, and that is the America that births people like Abner Jay.

Of Abner Jay, I can tell you the same thing you read all over the internet: Abner Jay joined Silas Green's Minstrels in the 1930s and then Macon, Georgia's WMAZ's Minstrels in the 1940s. In the 1960s, he went out on his own and played the South as a one-man band act. During that time he released his own records, some of which were comped on a CD collection a few years back called One Man Band.

While Jay never hit the mainstream, he did not toil in total obscurity. He was known by people who took a serious interest in what is now called "root music," by collectors of outsider art, by serious fringe record fiends, Black cultural historians, and avant guarde musicians such as Anthony Braxton.

This LP, one of his last, I found in a record store that is like too many stores. It prices Beatles' records high and ignores the odd, private press disk that might come through. For me this is good: I find great records for next to nothing. However, it is a pet peeve of mine. You'd think that people in the business of music would know something about music. You would think that dealing records every day for 20+ years would mean an accumulation of record knowledge. You would think that someone who has chosen to make vinyl records his profession would take some interest in a record with a crudely assembled sleeve of a man drinking from the Suwannee River - maybe put the damn thing on just to see how it sounds. Nope. Pisses me off but, again, these people's comfort in their ignorance leads to my pleasure.

Here are two songs from a fantastic album. Each side of the record names about 8 songs; however the songs are all strung together. At times it is very difficult to tell where one song ends and another begins as all are anchored with one or two beats. I've faded the ends of the songs.

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