If We Only Have Love

David Lampson If We Only Have Love b/w Who 45 (Tower, 1970?)

Now for something a but absurd, a one-off by David Lampson. If Lampson sounds like an old fashioned, melodramatic, character actor it is because he was. In the late Sixties and early Seventies, he appeared in movies such as The Return of Count Yorga and on TV shows like It Takes a Thief and Garrison's Gorillas. He also had a brief marriage with the actress Eileen Brennan. Somehow someone at Tower thought it a good idea to put Lampson's voice to song and not just any songs but a couple of songs that were hits in France. So the producers dredged up a couple cornballs from Charles Aznavour and Jacques Brel. Not only were Aznavour and Brel were riding pretty high in France at the time, they both had considerable buzz in the states. A few years later, Brel's name splash big in the states thanks to the play Jacques Brel is Alive & Well in Paris, as well as Terry Jacks' hit Seasons in the Sun (originally Le Moribund). While one would like to think that Lampson's single was the building block to Brel's international success, I fear that Brel himself is responsible for that.

Though this record is a promo (and I've seen nothing but promos) and ebay listings claim that it is "rare," I got mine for one dollar. You can probably find one of less than five. And if, by the way, you are interested in the works of Aznavour or Brel, their records are often found in used stores for very reasonable prices. In France, they are nearly as common as baguettes.



Leo Kottke Mudlark LP (Capitol, 1971)

Leo Kottke is one of the Great American Guitarists. His 1969 record on John Fahey's Takoma label is legendary, some of the best acoustic guitar work this side of the great Fahey himself. Like Fahey, Kottke developed an idiosyncratic playing style that draws from bluegrass, blues, folk, and jazz. One thing that makes Kottke's playing even more amazing is that he is partially deaf. When he was a youngster he had an unwelcome encounter with a firecracker, damaging his hearing in one ear. The injury was later furthered by sessions at the gun range during his duty in the US Navy Reserves.

Mudlark is not a record most Kottke fans would lay on you if they were told to pick one (that would probably be his Takoma album). In fact, I wouldn't have bothered with it if Tim Matranga hadn't handed one to me at a record sale with the words, "Kim Fowley" and "You have to hear this." What Tim was referring to is the cut Monkey Lust, a song to which the vocals are credited "Juke Box Phantom" and the writing credit shared between Kottke and Fowley. How Fowley wound up on a Kottke record is probably as absurd a question as "How has Kim Fowley wound up on any record?" Let us agree that the man is a legend - in his mind and others - and capable of appearing anywhere. On Monkey Lust, Fowley rambles while Kottke rips up the fret board. The monologue is as whacked as the guitar playing is amazing.

Not one to let a record settle with one track, I listened to the whole set and picked a couple more songs for you. Like Monkey Lust, Standing in My Shoes and Bumblebee feature vocals, but this time it is Kottke singing. While it is obvious that vocals are not his forte, his style has enough of an everyman aspect to it and the music behind the vox is great. Standing in My Shoes has such lightning quick guitar work that it comes off as quasi-psychedelic. When I heard Bumblebee I was immediately drawn to it, but I didn't know why. I racked my brain and something clicked: While the voice is different, the song, the phrasing, the music reminds me of early Lou Reed.

Once again, I want to stress that Mudlark is not a typical Kottke album, at least not one that he would want to be remembered for. It came at a time when his record label was trying to mold him into a major folk act, saddling him with a band and slick production. A more representative listen can be had with the early records on Oblivion, Symposium, and Takoma or his later stuff on Private Music (though I would go with the early work if I was you).


Deanandpa (or Marashi Kathy)

Marashi Kathy Deanandpa Pt 1 & 2 acetate (Duodisc)

As noted below, I pick up random acetates. The problem with them is that many are recorded at 78 rpm and I lack the turntable to play them. Actually, I do have a fancy "audiophile" turntable that plays 78s, however it is a piece of crap, so it is in a box at the bookstore. So until a day ago, I hadn't had the pleasure of hearing many of the acetates that I've gobbled up. Now I am going to go hog wild.

Acetates are a real crap shoot. For many years they were the main medium for home recording, so like the cassette and CDR the format was used to record everything from speeches to sermons to original music to radio broadcasts to records. More often than not the acetates that I find are recordings of records or a song off the radio. Every once in a while I come across a gem like Edna Kantor or something fascinatingly strange such as today's offering, Marashi Kathy's Deanandpa.

Of course, there is no information on Marashi Kathy or Deanandpa. That isn't surprising as this is a one of a kind recording. The lack of info leaves me to guess about this one. On first listen I started with what I now thing is Part 2. I thought it was a kid playing sax. Not so. Flipping it over and Part 1 reveals that this is someone singing, or, as the title suggests, chanting. I don't believe the chanting to be sincere or rather intended as chanting. I think that a parent probably heard their kid singing in a moaning style, thought that it sounded like those crazy "rag heads", recorded it for kicks, and came up with "clever" name for the kid and the song. The name Marashi Kathy suggests a misspelling of Maharishi, the Hindu title for an enlightened one. And perhaps Deanandpa is a bastardization of Dhammapada, one of the central texts of classical Buddhism.

Then again, there is a strong case to be made that the artist is Dean and Pa (though why the long a at the end of pa?) and the title is Marashi Kathy. In that case, we have a duo of vocal improvisers and my theory about this being some kind of mystical spoof is nothing but horseshit.

Whatever the reality, I hope you appreciate the strangeness of today's selection.

(Extra special thanks to Derek Gerry of Hear It Wow for cluing me in on the magic of making 78 rpm acetates play at the right speed via turntable and Audacity. Forgive the quality of the recording. Acetates were low quality to begin with and 50 years of wear does not do them well. Attempts to "clean" the recording up via noise reduction filters just resulted in the selections sounding like tinny crap.)



Lumumba s/t LP (A&M, 1974)

American major labels have always had a difficult relationship with African music. While the majors flooded the market with Miriam Makeba, Olatunji, and Hugh Masekela, monumentally important artists such as Fela Kuti were ignored (the closest Fela got to a proper American release was a few on Celluloid, the French label with a New York branch, as well as a few under Ginger Baker's name). King Sunny Ade saw some US releases but that was after two decades of releasing records in Africa and on American indies and major subsidiaries. And then there are a few oddballs and one-offs that puzzle me. Manu DiBango's Soul Makossa and Makossa Man, Buari's self titled album, and, today's pickings, Lumumba's debut are a few that defy explanation. Yeah, sure they have good songs on them, but why Soul Makossa and not Fela's Expensive Shit? (Okay, I know why.)

I don't know the story behind Lumumba. All the musicians except for two are credited as coming from Ghana (the two non-Africans, West Indies and Los Angeles). Though the group is named after the singer Lumumba, it seems as though a fellow named Rim Kwaku Obeng is the leader of the band. Obeng has records under his own name and they are sought after by Afrobeat collectors. The record was recorded in Los Angeles, which is rare for an Afrobeat record. How is the album? Spotty and sometimes suspect. I am not sure if the musicians were cobbled together by A&M looking to break Afrobeat or if some American producer stumbled upon them in Africa, brought them to the States and put them in a fancy studio. Many of the songs are over produced and some sound very studio musicianish. The two I donate today are the best two cuts, both featuring the borderline schmaltzy poetry of Lumumba.


My Bible is Right

The Bethlehem Gospel Singers My Bible is Right LP (HSE, 1973)

Summer has finally hit Sacramento and what that means is 100+ days and a hot apartment. I've got an air conditioner in the front window, right above the records, but it does little to cool anything more than the vinyl. Which is fine, the Sky God in his infinite wisdom gave me sweat glands, and dammit if I ain't gonna use them! Actually, the older I get and the more time I spend in temperate San Francisco, the more I bitch about Sacramento summers. But, really, the bitching is literally letting off steam. I don't mind the heat. It just means I am up late and that blues, soul, and gospel music gets more platter time.

Right now the apartment is in the high 80s and in a few minutes I'll be laying on the couch, drinking a tall, cool glass of lemonade while listening to The Bethlehem Gospel Singers again. Perfect for a sluggish warm Monday night, The Singers, second album, My Bible is Right, is stripped down, no frills, Black gospel. This North Carolina quartet has no need for a big band or slick production. They believe and that is it.

The Bethlehem Gospel Singers were not an obscure group. They had a national TV show, toured regularly, and sold thousands of records. This is widely regarded as their best, though their first is also damn good. While all four singers share lead duties, only three take center in the songs I have for you today. James McLean sings My Bible is Right Parts 1 & 2. Lorraine Mack carries the load on The 23rd Psalm. And Retha Smith belts it out on Give Me a Little Bit Longer.


Where Are You Edna Kantor?

Unknown Artist Where are You, Edna Kantor (Audiodisc, no date)

There is a fellow who I see several times a year at record sales. Our individual obsessions often lead us to the same boxes. I am looking for the odd 45 & 7". He is on the hunt for acetates. Over the years we have come to recognize each other and know what the other is looking for. So when I find an acetate, I hand it to him. When he finds a box of rare punk 7"s, he slides it over to me. It works out fine and I will honor our unspoken arrangement, though, I gotta say, I've been finding more acetates while hunting around and there have been some good ones, so when I run into this chap, handing over acetates will come with a moment of hesitation.

Acetates are a total crap shoot. Because they are pretty much one of a kind, if you score a good one, you have found something that is unbeatable. Before I go further, perhaps I should explain what an acetate is for those who don't know.

In the 1940s, electronic manufacturers wanted to come up with some kind of home recording device. Since the vinyl record was established as the recorded medium most people enjoyed, they decided to devise a way for a person to make records at home. The first home recording machine of this ilk was the Recordio. It looked like the turntables of the time, however the needle on it was a vibrating needle designed to cut into disc, making grooves that generated sound when played on a standard record player. Most recording machines were designed to record sound off the radio or via a microphone. The recordable discs were made of glass, aluminum, or cardboard discs coated with lacquer that was turned into a plastic with the help of castor oil. Those discs once recorded on are generally referred to as acetate.

Recording an acetate is a one shot affair. Those who use the microphone to record generally record something that was going on live. I have acetates with people singing Christmas songs, kids doing drama, a child speaking its first words, speeches recorded off the radio, and people playing music. Because the castor oil makes the acetate unstable and pretty fragile, the recordings do not age well. Most of the time acetates have a lot of surface noise. I have some in which the lacquer has separated from the cardboard. Of the handful of acetates that I have those recorded on Audiodiscs tend to be the most hardy (probably because the base is aluminum). A lot of acetates were recorded at 78 rpm, which is the speed that most machines were designed to record at. As record players at the time played 16, 33, 45, & 78 RPM listening to them at the proper speed is not problem. I have close to dozen that are recorded at 78 but right now lack the means to listen to them.

Due to the lack of sound quality and when these things were recorded, when you stumble upon a song, it sounds other worldly. Many regular records do not sound like they came from a different time and place. Acetates always do. The one that you get to hear today has no name to credit it to. The only thing that identifies it is the title. The song is played by a man on a piano. The song is about a lost love. It sounds like if was recorded a long, long time ago.

Originally posted 3/26/06 (I usually do not go back and repost things but I stumbled across this one again so I decided to give it another go)



Anan s/t LP (Discos Fuentes, 1973)

Here is a record that has been hanging around my place on the strength of one song, La Pava Congona. The record and the artist are from Columbia. Anan also goes by the name Anibal Angel. I know nothing of Angel or this record. The other cuts on here are much more festive, though not in any remarkable way. They also have a canned percussion track and the keyboards are really dorky. It actually comes off as a really bad, kitchy moog record - the kind that really have no listening value.


En Hollywood

Azuquita y Su Melao En Hollywood LP (E & G, 1973)

I first got into Latin music by pillaging the record collection of the father of a now-long gone girlfriend. On the way to Southern California, we dropped in on her pop's ex for a short visit. She found out that I was record fiend and pointed to her ex's old records and said, "Help yourself." Normally, I'd never cop another man's vinyl, but this gal's dad was an asshole, and a rude one at that, so I figured, "Fair game!" The catch was that I had no idea what the hell I was looking at. All the records were Latin. Actually, I did recognize Tito Puente, but beyond that I was lost. So i just took what looked cool: Willie Colon's The Hustler, Fania All Stars, a couple old Celia Cruz, a Joe Bataan, Ray Barretto's Hard Hands - you know, a few odds & ends. Ha! What I blindly picked out were some of the best and most important salsa records ever made. The first record of the batch that I listened to was Colon's The Hustler. My mind was blown. Latin? Where? No record store with a "Mexican" or "Ethnic" section was safe when I stepped into it. I became a salsa vacuum. If a record looked like it was Latin and was made between the late 50s and mid 70s, I was game. Picked up a lot of crap, but also had some serious scores - like cleaning out the Latin section at Car City in Detroit or hitting an antique store outside of Bloomington, Indiana and walking out with a stack of prime 60s albums on Seeco or, in today's case, hitting a new Sacramento thrift store a friend hipped me to and finding ten Latin records stacked on the floor in an aisle. I looked 'em over. Azuquita's En Hollywood has a cover that you can't pass up, so I bought it (along with the other nine).

Azuquita is the stage name of Luiz Argumedes Rodriguez. From Panama, Azuquita started singing in Peru at the age of 15. In 1961, he released his first record and continued to record and perform throughout the 1960s. In '68, at the behest of Tito Puente, he made his way to New York City and hooked up with musicians in that great scene. Over the next few years, he made his home in New York and Panama and then Los Angeles, where he recorded En Hollywood. Since then he has continued his career and is one of the biggest artists in Latin America and draws crowds around the world.

En Hollywood is a great record from start to finish. The music is funky, the band is smooth, and the grooves burn.


Robert Charlebois avec Louise Forestier

Robert Charlebois avec Louise Forestier s/t LP (Gamma, 1969)

I discovered Robert Charlebois through the back door. In the early 90s, I was in a record store in small town in Canada and the clerk asked me if I was looking for something in particular. I told him French 60s stuff - Francoise Hardy & Jacques Dutronc, pretty much the only two names from that time in place (aside from Claudine Longet) that I knew. He showed me a Dutronc LP ($5 Canadian), a couple Hardy LPs ($8 Canadian), and then said, "You might like this", handing me a double album best of by Louise Forestier. I bought a stack, put them in the box in the truck, and drove for two more weeks before I got to listen to the stack. The Forestier was good, just solid Ye Ye, until I got to the track she did with Robert Charlebois, the amazing La Marche du President. I flipped. I played it for whomever I could. Put it on mix tapes. And the next time I was in Canada, I got more copies...and stuff by Charlebois.

Robert Charlebois is not French, neither is Forestier. They are both from Quebec. Charlebois has been active in the Montreal music and theater scene since the late 50s, releasing records, acting in plays, and being a thorn in the side of the powers that be. In 1969, the year this record was released, he founded the Rhinoceros Party and ran for president of Canada. His party's manifesto promised that, if elected, Charlebois would do nothing. It is with that kind of absurdism that Charlebois music makes the most sense. At times when it seems a bit hokey, there is a good chance that Robert is being a smart ass. His mish mashes, like La Marche..., are more like surrealist pop collages than run of the mill psychedelia. As with Charlebois, Forestier divided her time between music and theater, though she tended toward more conventional song and act than her brief singing partner.

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