There’s only one reference to Jesus in my iTunes folder. that’s Jesus on a Greyhound by Shelby Lynne, whereas there’s 29 where the first word is Jah. Jesus is not of any interest to me musically or otherwise but when I became involved with reggae I quickly realized that it was a socially conscious music with a strong Rasta religious component. I’m very interested in the music and in Rasta but I must say that I have a hard time with the Selassie/Jah reverence but I accept it and I enjoy the music as much as I enjoy a lot of European religious music, in most cases having no idea what the songs are about but appreciating the overall sounds, case in point, Faure’s Requiem.
Having said that let me offer a sample of alternate variations on the theme of Jesus et.al. Jah is Jehovah, Jehovah is Yarwey from the Hebrew old testament, many Rasta believe that Selassie is the second coming of Christ and they accorded him the name Jah Ras Tafari. Here’s some Jamaican songs of praise.
1. Jah Live – Bob Marley
2. Rivers Of Babylon – Ronnie Davis
3. Nyah Bingi – Jimmy Riley
4. Hold On To Jah – Reggae George
5. A Yah Weh De – Barrington Levy
6. Give Thanks – Johnny Clarke
7. Jah Jah Give Us Love – Cornell Campbell
8. Give Thanks And Praise – Bob Marley
9. Have Faith In Jah – Michael Palmer
10. Praise Jah With Love And Affection – Don Carlos
11. Jah Praise – The Maytones
12. Jah Oh Jah – The Viceroys
13. Forever Loving Jah – Bob Marley
I just came across this excellent short film online, it’s worth seeing. The cities you see are LA and SF, beautifully shot, edited and to the perfect piece of music. Hit play, HD and full screen, raise the volume.
Lloyd Parks, one of Jamaica’s hottest bass players and leader of ‘We the People’, the onstage group backing many of the artists in this playlist. I became obsessed with reggae in 1972 with the release of Bob Marley’s first album, ‘Catch a Fire’ and the almost simultaneous release of the Jimmy Cliff film, The Harder they Come. It was not easy to find reggae in California in those days but the audience slowly built so that by the early 80′s there was a decent sized group of us that had become friends as we’d regularly met at the various reggae events. Tom, one of that group ran a travel service and he had the brilliant idea of offering a group price for those of us that would like to go to Jamaica for the new event there, ‘Reggae Sunsplash’ in Montego Bay. The price included airfare and hotel plus a 2 day stay at a luxury beach resort in Negril, we grabbed at it so fast that he had a planeful in no time. It became an annual event. Sunsplash was a four day event, it ran from Wednesday through Saturday, theoretically from 8pm ’til midnight at Jarrett Park, a cricket ground. On my first day there I was walking in town and I saw a sign over the door of an outer office at a hotel, the sign said ‘Sunsplash Media Office’; I decided to take a look. I’d always photographed every reggae event and I gave my friends who ran a small LA based magazine called ‘The Reggae Beat’ free access to any they wanted plus I wrote an occasional piece for them. There was a lady sitting at a desk in the media office, when she saw my Nikon plus my camera bag she asked ‘Who are you shooting for?’ I said ‘The Reggae Beat’ in LA and that was all it took, she filled out a form, added my name to her list and handed me one of those ‘All Access’ passes that you hang round your neck plus a dozen free tickets! The best part of all was that I was now on their books and known and for the next 10 years I always had an ‘All Access’ pass without even asking! And I returned every year through the ’80′s. As I mentioned Sunsplash ran four nights, never from 8-12 but usually from 11-12 until past dawn, usually about 7-8am! With six to eight acts per night times four, that equals approx 50 per year, times ten, well you figure it out, but what it came down to was that over the decade I probably saw 99% of all of Jamaica’s reggae artists and as a result of all that back stage access I got to know many of them! And I have literally thousands of photos to show for it. I started out to do this as a podcast with a narrative track but the way I edited the music it would be intrusive so instead I’ll treat it as one long playlist.
Here’s a list of the artists in sequence.
1. John Holt – Sweetie come brush me,
2. U. Roy – Wear you to the Ball tonight.
3. Big Youth – Every Nigger is a Star.
4. Toots and the Maytals – Pressure Drop.
5. Judy Mowatt – Black Woman.
6. Gregory Isaacs – Oh what a Feelling.
7. Eric Donaldson – Sweet Jamaica.
8. Alton Ellis – I’m still in Love.
9. Dennis Brown – It’s Magic.
10. Big Youth – I Pray Thee Satta Masagana.
11. U. Roy – Rule the Nation.
There’s quite a few videos of Sunsplash ’82 at youtube, if you go to the one of Toots and pause it at 28 seconds, the handsome chap with the red, gold and green cap slapping hands with Toots, that’s me!
There has long been a tradition in Jamaica of three part vocal harmony trios, particularly during the classic era and before. The Wailers started out this way as did Burning Spear and Israel Vibration plus many more but the traditional groups include such names as Culture, the Congos, the Abyssinians, Black Uhuru, the Wailing Souls, the Meditations, the Paragons and of course, the Mighty Diamonds.
The Diamonds comprise Tabby [Donald Sharp], Bunny [Fitzroy Simmons] and Judge [LLoyd Ferguson]. They sing frequently of militant topics set to sweet musical reggae tunes always using the best musicians on the island. One of their first hit singles in about 1974 was ‘Shame and Pride’ and then the following year they hit with another, ‘Right Time’. Bob had legitimized rasta and Right Time’s message appealed to the youth; ‘Natty Dread will never run away’ registered with the chosen. Their repertoire ranges from love songs to militant to silly pop, Pass the Kutchie was a huge pop hit in 1981, the ‘kutchie’ was a bit of patois for ‘pass the bong’, they probably made more money off that one than some entire albums. That beautiful voice that you hear singing lead on every cut is Tabby, he’s a really nice handsome guy, open and easy to talk to with lots to say. The backup is by Judge and Bunny and they have figured out exactly where and when to come in. I sorted through my six vinyl Diamond’s albums and made the following selections, I even discovered a second one with my pictures on the cover that I’d forgotten about. My career shooting reggae started before I met the Diamonds but they were the first to ask if I had any decent photos for their upcoming album, of course I did and through that connection I met many groups and musicians. I shall be eternally thankful to the Mighty Diamonds.
This drawing was by a close friend and Diamonds fan, Donna George, she is an artist who loved the Diamonds.
1. Reggae Street.
2. Right Time.
3. One Brother Short.
4. 4000 Years.
5. Pass the Kutchie.
6. Party Time.
7. Shame and Pride.
8. Tamarind Farm.
9. Them never love poor Marcus.
11. I’m Hurting’ inside.
Sakura’s posting the Mighty Diamonds on Earworms sent me looking for them on youtube, sure enough they are there plus lots more artists from that era. There was one guy, Oku Onuora, he’s a Jamaican poet who initiated the dub poetry concept, poetry performed with reggae; the forerunner of Linton and Benjamin Zephaniah and Muta and many more. He and I were good friends back then, we usually spent some time together whenever I visited. One day we were sitting in his house in Kingston chatting about this and that and he mentioned that he’d been in jail, that was news to me and perked my interest so asked him ‘for what and when?’ His answer made my jaw drop. ” I was so angry with the oppression and the poverty and the system that I took up a gun!’ he said. ‘I took up a gun’, that phrase has been locked into my memory ever since, ‘To do what’ I asked him, ‘to rob banks to finance the revolution’ he said! Jesus, this was serious revolutionary shit. ‘Give me the details’ I asked , so he did, he told me the story of buying a rifle and holding up banks and living the life of a wanted man on the run, living in the hills, but of course he was caught and tried and sentenced to 15 years in 1970. He was confined in the harshest prison in Jamaica, Fort Augustus, from where he tried to escape twice and where he was shot five times by the warders. He began writing poetry in prison and came up with the dub concept when Cedric Brooks and his band visited the prison and Oku performed with them. His poetry was published and in 1977 the attorney general of Jamaica, a poet himself, pardoned Oku.
He told me of a specific poem he’d written titled ‘Last Night’: he was confined in a single windowless cell in solitary for three years and when he was eventually transferred to a cell with a window he saw the moon for the first time and he wrote this poem, I’d recorded all of our conversations and when I recently played the tape it made me weep.
got a peek
at the moon
and didn’t think of lovers
got a peek
at the moon
a man with a load on his back
got a peek
at the moon
why me black brother why – The Mighty Diamonds
This week is the anniversary of Jamaican independence plus it’s the week of track and field at the Olympics and Jamaica is expected to do disproportionately well, consequently there’s several major articles about Jamaica on the front page of Sunday’s Guardian. I had very mixed reactions reading them and they caused me to to reflect on some of my own experiences there, most of which took place in the ’70′s and ’80′s. In 1982 I took my VW camper there and travelled throughout the island for 3 months, as I reflected on that trip this morning I found myself thinking of a man I met in the north coast parish of St Anne, he was just a very simple young rasta fisherman.
The Blue Mountains rise from the caribbean up to about 7500ft on the north shore, they are generally covered with what might simply be described as rain forest and are typically inaccessible. You know what a sheet of plywood looks like, it’s 4ft by 8ft; the man I’d met wanted to show me the house that he’d built and where he lived, I followed him up a trail through the woods. We came to a leveled area where he’d placed a sheet of plywood, it wasn’t new, it was well worn and when I asked him where he’d got it and how he’d transported up there I didn’t understand his patois answer, I don’t think he wanted me to. He’d cut and trimmed 4 slim trees and used their trunks for his corner posts and then cut more similar trees for the cross pieces which were lashed into position. When he had a sturdy box frame he then started covering the walls and the roof with ferns until he had an impervious layer. He’d framed a doorway which he’d covered with a piece of fabric and he had a ‘mattress’ against the back wall and a simple chair; that was his home.
Up the hill from his house was a small spring of water bubbling up out of the ground, he’d created a pool about 2ft diameter which the spring filled, he’d then ‘acquired’ about 150ft of half inch garden hose and inserted it into the pool and on the other end at his house he had a stopcock; running water on tap! He was so proud of that, he told me that this was the purest drinking water anywhere in Jamaica. We went for a walk and it started to rain, with his ever present machete he cut two stems from a plant, the stems were about 2ft long and each opened to a single leaf that was about 24″ wide; natural umbrellas! As we walked he pointed out numerous plants and described how they were used for common ailments and others that were commonly eaten. He also had a small vegetable garden at his house. The only clothes he had were a pair of cut-off levy shorts, he went barefoot.
I met him because I was living in my van on the beach in that part of Jamaica, another person that I met there and became friends with was an old rasta woman called Sister Mommy, she was probably in her 70′s, she had waist length dreadlocks and she ran a roadside stand on a country road where she sold cigarettes [individually] soft drinks, and some vegetables, plus she always had ganja. Sister Mommy used to tell me stories of how it was as a rasta under British rule and about country life during the 30′s and 40′s. Times were always hard, the small amount of money that she made at her stand was all she ever had and I always saw several small children hanging around her, I never discovered who they were; grandchildren perhaps? One night I was at her house, a pathetic structure, it was a tiny two room concrete block house and it looked as though it had survived an earthquake. There was a large crack which was in places about 4″ wide running from floor to ceiling. She sat across a table from me with her back to the wall, no electricity just a candle on the table as we sat chatting. Suddenly I heard a voice, Sister Mommy motioned me to be quiet and she said ‘who’s dat?’ the voice responded and sister Mommy said ‘Show yer hand’. A hand appeared through the crack with a Jamaican dollar bill in it, she took the money and replaced it with a small amount of ganja pre-wrapped in newspaper, that’s how she made her living.
With Sister Mommy and a Redstripe.
A short distance along the coast road there was a curve with a wide spot on the ocean side of the highway, many years earlier another rastaman who’s name was Bongo Sylly and who made his living as a basket weaver had set up a stall there to sell his baskets to passers by. The edge of the road was a cliff that dropped about 60+ feet down to a pure white beach where there was a very de-luxe hotel. I don’t know the details of how, but over a period of years Bongo built a house at the top of that cliff looking down at the hotel! He told me the story several times and the only thing that remains in my memory is ‘squatter’s rights!’ Apparently, possibly from the British rule era, there existed in law a rule that if someone occupied a place that wasn’t being used then after a period he was able to claim ownership, and that’s what Bongo did! Much to the consternation of the hotel owners who hadn’t noticed what was happening up above their heads.
What Bongo did was amazing, he created a large 2-3 bedroom house, bathrooms, kitchen, living rooms, everything ENTIRELY woven out of bamboo and basket canes! plus there are carved wooden sculptures throughout, he even has hanging armchairs suspended from the roof. It’s an amazing structure, nothing cheap or insubstantial about it, it’s first class all the way. Being obviously aware of the significance of the lion in rasta culture he called his house ‘the lions den.’
I met Bongo when I pulled over to take a look at this fantasy and we hit it off, he like to talk and I liked to listen so I’d usually stop in whenever I was passing. One day he told me a tale about this rich French woman that he knew, she wanted to take him to Europe and show him all the sights and he really wanted to go but he was afraid that if he left his house something terrible would happen, he didn’t trust the government nor the owners of the hotel so he was stuck. That is until one day he came up with a solution, he proposed that I should take over the house and move in thereby maintaining occupancy, I had to tell him no, it wasn’t possible, I’d come to explore Jamaica and I couldn’t be tied to one spot no matter how beautiful it happened to be.
On impulse I just Googled Bongo Sylly and found the following item:
“The Lion’s Den is a fascinating bar and restaurant embellished with elaborate wickerwork and intricately carved columns created by the former proprietor, the late Bongo Sylly.”
Bongo’s gone and his house is now a bar. So it goes.
Here’s a song written to celebrate independence in 1962, unfortunately it was written by a Trinidadian calypso singer, but still, it’s a good and appropriate song.
And then there’s Briggy, a favorite of mine from years ago, here he takes you on a tour of all the Jamaican parishes.
In 1956 I was living in Suffolk; I had subscriptions to both the MM and the NME and one of them reviewed an LP by Joe Turner, it was titled ‘The Boss of the Blues’ on the Atlantic label. It was such a rave review that I immediately bought a copy and it was indeed as good/great as the reviewer said it was. If I had to choose a top 10 from my entire collection of records this one would definitely be in there.
A little background: When the ban on American musicians performing in England was lifted in the early 50′s the Count Basie band was a regular visitor, they probably came at least once a year, sometimes twice. I loved the Basie band and went to see them whenever possible, consequently I was familiar with all of the musicians. It turned out that the backing band on the Joe Turner album were almost all Basie-ites so for me that was a double treat, the king of Kansas City blues plus all those guys I’d come to love.
Just a word re. Kansas City; when the US Navy shut down the brothels in Storyville in New Orleans in 1917 they eliminated the places where all the jazz musicians worked, hence they all hit the road, highway 61 heading north for NY, Chicago, LA and Kansas City. Each city absorbed them and there they evolved different styles of jazz in each, Kansas City being perhaps the most unique. Kansas City jazz is more blues based and more swing oriented than any of the others and it has the longest list of superstar musicians who started life there; they include, Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Count Basie, Jimmy Lunceford, Pete Johnson, Ben Webster and dozens more, it was the most fertile jazz source in the country and in 1936 Columbia record producer John H. Hammond launched his career by discovering Kansas City talent starting with Count Basie who he heard on a radio broadcast from a KC club.
Another side note, Robert Altman was a fierce Kansas City jazz fan, in 1996 he produced and directed a great film which is totally based on the KC jazz scene of the 30′s, well worth seeing, it’s title, ‘Kansas City’. It was nominated for a Palme d’Or. Plus In 1979 there was a documentary film starring Basie and Big Joe Turner, and featuring many performers from the original era. It’s titled ‘The Last of the Blue Devils’. If you haven’t guessed by now, Kansas City jazz is the style I’m most addicted to and what much of my vinyl jazz is comprised of.
So when I departed England for Los Angeles in 1958 I packed just a few personal belongings, my LP’s and about a dozen books on the subject of jazz plus whatever clothes I had. Boss of the Blues was absolutely included and it’s still played fairly regularly and the books are still on my bookshelf. Many years later, possibly in the early 80′s, I met Joe Turner and I asked him to autograph my album, he did so with a black felt tip, right across the cover BIG JOE TURNER FROM KC. He died in LA in 1985 and I went to his funeral as did several thousand others.
It came as a huge surprise to recently find several cuts from the album on youtube, though as the poster commented it is very rare and almost impossible to find so rather than my usual post of one cut I’ll post three.
Here’s Joe Turner, The Boss of the Blues and here he sings Kansas City Jazz.
The personnel are:
- Lawrence Brown – trombone
- Pete Brown – alto saxophone
- Freddie Green – guitar
- Pete Johnson – piano
- Cliff Leeman – drums
- Joe Newman – trumpet
- Jimmy Nottingham – trumpet
- Walter Page – double bass
- Seldon Powell – tenor saxophone
- Big Joe Turner – vocals
- Frank Wess – tenor saxophone
Back in the early ’60′s jazz was my music of choice and had been for near twenty years but as that decade progressed I found myself ignoring jazz which was becoming stilted and repetitive in favor of the newly emerging ‘pop’. There was so much creativity in so many of the new pop groups that I wound up becoming seriously addicted and spending a lot of time in the various LA clubs that featured all the top groups; it was a brand new music compared to the rock’n roll of the earlier Bill Haley era. That pattern continued ’til the early ’70′s. Throughout that period I was a grad student at the UCLA film school and consequently I was regularly seeing just about every foreign film that was released, French, German, Swedish, Italian, English, Spanish, the lot! Until one day my local Art theater advertised that the following week there’d be a Jamaican film, hell, I didn’t even know that they made films in Jamaica but of course I went to see it.
It was ‘The Harder they Come’, a film by Perry Henzel and featuring Jimmy Cliff; I absolutely loved it, I thought it was the best film in recent history! And on top of all that it had a fabulous musical soundtrack, something new to my ears, Reggae!
I became an instant obsessive, not just of the music but the whole culture. I found LA’s Jamaican community and started buying my records in their shops and eating in their restaurants and I also started visiting Jamaica, in short, I was hooked!
And then six months later the Wailers released their first album, ‘Catch a Fire’, that did it, my days of listening to jazz and pop were basically over, or at least substantially reduced, from here on and for the next twenty odd years my life changed, I became a total obsessive regarding all aspects of Jamaican culture, frequently visiting there, photographing and writing about every aspect of it, the music, the art, the literature, the language, the history, everything! The majority of the creative people that I met were either full on Rasta’s or were very sympathetic, Bob had made Rasta acceptable and apart from the religious component I found myself very much in agreement with their philosophy, several of my Jamaican friends used to call me Tony, [Toe-en-ee] Him a baldhead rasta!
So 1972 was a very dramatic fork in the road for me and this week I have two youtube musical choices, the first is from the film The Harder they Come, it’s ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’ by the Melodians and the second is the Wailers, the original Wailers, Bob, Peter, Bunny, the Barrett Bros and Wya, all assembled in the BBC studio to record a clip for ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’, the song is from their then new album Catch a Fire, it’s Concrete Jungle. A classic piece of film, look how young Familyman is, I saw him last year, he looks like me now.
In later years I was to meet and spend time with both Perry Henzel and the Wailers in Kingston, some years ago I wrote a piece here about my relationship with Basil Keane who played the roll of Preacher-man in the film, very interesting times and this music’s bringing it all back home. Such happy and interesting days.
If anyone hasn’t seen the film I noticed that youtube has it, it’s well worth a look and Spotify has both the soundtrack album for ‘The Harder they Come’ plus the Wailer’s album ‘Catch a Fire’, also both worth a listen.
Here’s another from my 1960′s vinyl collection, I assume that everyone has heard this perhaps dozens of time as I have but I wanted a cut that was representative of that period Dylan. Like a Rolling Stone and Desolation Row were both first choices but there are dozens/hundreds more, all wonderful so I poked around with ‘Freewheelin’, ‘ a Changin’, ‘Bringing it all Back Home’ and ultimately I settled on ‘Highway 61 Revisited’. If you were not there you can’t imagine the effect that the release of this album had, it was unlike anything that you see today, the times were indeed a changin’. It contains so many great songs, all recorded right after the fiasco at the Newport Folk Festival where he ‘went electric’, it contains both of my initial choices, it starts with ‘Stone’ and finishes with ‘Desolation’ but I decided to choose another favorite, “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”, a real slow country blues that relates directly to the album’s title, Highway 61. That’s the highway that runs from Minnesota to New Orleans running parallel to the Mississippi much of the way; there’s a lot of blues connections on Highway 61, it’s also the route that many black Americans took to escape the poverty of the Delta and how jazz migrated from New Orleans to Chicago.
Musically, “It Takes a Lot to Laugh” has a lazy tempo driven by session drummer Bobby Gregg, a barrelhouse piano part played by Paul Griffin, a raunchy bass part played by Harvey Brooks, an electric guitar part played by Mike Bloomfield and a harmonica part by Dylan.
By 1965 Dylan was into his sixth album, a huge archive of great music but here I wanted to select just one cut to epitomize that era, an impossible task: which cut would you have chosen?
A few years ago I did occasional posts of some of my favorite albums from my vinyl collection, generally they were from the 1960′s/70′s. The advent of so much great music on YouTube prompts me to try again, this time with a single YouTube selection which will hopefully point you towards more offerings at YouTube or to Spottify if you want more. I have several on my desktop so if this works I’ll keep it going with a rather diverse set of selections, all favorites from long ago.
The first is a showcase for one of my all-time favorite guitarists who sadly didn’t stay very long, another victim of the needle at an early age, his name, Michael Bloomfield, he’s joined by Elvin Bishop and the the album is East West by the Paul Butterfield Blues band.
The title cut East-West is a remarkable oddity. On the one hand, it was a ’60s pop-music hybrid, combining the disparate musical styles of blues, jazz, modal and Eastern musics in a way that appealed to rock listeners. On the other, it was a virtuoso display that challenged the very notion of “popular” and pushed the limits of how pop music was heard. In some ways it bears comparison to the Miles Davis album, Kinda Blue and Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, both of which challenged standard musical ideas.
The piece was recorded in the summer of 1966 in Chicago at Chess Studios, the personnel were:
Here’s East West, enjoy.
Is anyone else looking at the morning star, it’s Venus and she’s very visible in the eastern sky before dawn. I often wake up between 3 and 4am and there she is right above the foot of my bed. Double click on the picture for a better view or better yet, set the alarm clock if the forecast is for clear skies.
Venus was known to ancient civilizations both as the “morning star” and as the “evening star”, names that reflect the early understanding that these were two separate objects. The Greeks thought of the two as separate stars, Phosphorus and Hesperus, until the time of Pythagoras in the sixth century BC. The Romans designated the morning aspect of Venus as Lucifer, literally “Light-Bringer”, and the evening aspect as Vesper. The Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa, dated 1581 BC, shows that the Babylonians understood that the two were a single object, referred to in the tablet as the “bright queen of the sky,” The planet is named after Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky,
Venus is one of the four solar terrestrial planets, meaning that, like the Earth, it is a rocky body. In size and mass, it is very similar to the Earth, and is often described as Earth’s “sister” or “twin”. The diameter of Venus is only 650 km less than the Earth’s, and its mass is 81.5% of the Earth’s.
I was very pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic reaction to my recent blues post here, during which there was some discussion of a follow up with female blues singers. This weekend I started scanning my female blues vinyl for suitable cuts and I came across this album, I haven’t played it years, I’d forgotten that I had it but you can tell from the surface noise that it once got lots of play, I’ve had it for over 50 years. At the 1960 Monterey Jazz Festival Jon Hendrix put on a Sunday afternoon performance that was a history of blues music and it was directed towards a young audience, it was performed onstage as shown in the album cover, with Jon addressing a group of children who sat around him. So before we proceed with the female blues I thought this might be of interest, I’m sure it’s no longer in print so possibly most of you have never heard of it. On the album cover Jon wrote about how the piece came about, here’s what he wrote:
“It was Jimmy Lyon’s idea that we do something extended for a Sunday afternoon at Monterey and that it be about the blues. Ever since composer George Russell had kindly invited me to write some words and speak them on his “New York, New York” album I have been waiting for the opportunity to do something within that format just talking and letting the music speak for itself, following the advice of my mentor, Professor Milton Marx, of the English department, of the University of Toledo, Ohio: “Write about what you know.”
So I wrote about my people, about my great-grandmother who came from Guinea, Gold Coast, West Africa, about my father, Alexander Brooks Hendricks who ran away from the master who sold his father, mother and sister separately, came into West Virginia, married my mother, Willie “Sweet Will” Carrington, and moved to Ohio by covered wagon, where he became a minister, known as a circuit rider.
“Write about what you know.” So I wrote about the music they sang all through their lives, the spirituals, which they gave freely to America and the world. I didn’t stop there, because the spirituals didn’t stop there, but went outside the church to become the blues, and through horns to become jazz.
“Write about what you know.” So I wrote about the sun, the source of all light, heat and life in this universe, about all men on earth being the same man, all light the same light, all life the same life.
“Write about what you know.” So, buried deep in this story, yet never given word, is the heartfelt lament that some who play jazz have forgotten the spirituals that gave them their music, as they have forgotten the Lord who gave our ancestors the spirituals, have become corrupted by the surroundings to which jazz has been relegated, have become arch,, worldly, spiritualless, intellectual, demoralized, material, wealthy – and lost.
“Write about what you know.” I know that children are born into this earthly life with all knowledge, that the devil is an adult, that children are corrupted by adults too adult to realize that childhood is the kingdom of heaven, so I wrote my history for children, because they will understand. Above all, thank you children everywhere, and blessings on you all”
The album comprises both sides of a disc and runs about 44 mins. so I’ve added it in two parts.
A couple of weeks ago I asked in another post ‘Who in music had made the most important contributions to pop culture’, I was looking for personalities but Amylee suggested that it might not be a person but rather a musical form; the blues. I hadn’t considered that but when I thought about it I realized that it was a significant thought.
The blues, an American twentieth century contribution has played such a significant role in much of the world’s pop music especially since the introduction of international music distribution and radio/TV post WW2. So I started creating a playlist of blues artists from my vinyl collection but it wasn’t working, what I was creating was a list of only classic delta blues, basically fairly primitive voice/guitar songs. I know that’s how it all started and that those are the roots but my interest in the blues extends a long way beyond there and so I started re-shuffling the list and adding some examples of other styles. Suddenly it was getting out of hand and I saw that following Maki’s flamenco lead might be the answer, a multi part series that dealt with all aspects of the blues but I wasn’t sure if there was enough interest for that so I condensed it back to a reasonable size and included a selection of my favorites to create a fairly comprehensive list. One form that I didn’t include but that might be the subject for a separate post was female blues artists, another was instrumental blues, jazz is in large part based in the blues and there’s thousands of wonderful examples so that might be another, and a third is the commercial ‘pop’ style, Bing Crosby sings the blues etc, what I chose are all pretty close to the roots. Here’s just a bit of background on some of the artists and the tunes.
Joe Turner, Boss of the Kansas City blues, a distinct style unique to that city, heard here on Piney Brown with an all star backing group from 1956, I brought this album with me from England when I came to California and I got Joe to autograph it for me. Joe Turner’s the guy who introduced ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’ in the 50′s, a forerunner of rock ‘n roll.
Big Bill, one of the all time greats, a pioneer of delta blues who also in the early 50′s spread the influence of the blues to Europe, I saw him several times in England and he was one of the most imposing men I’ve ever seen, a musical giant.
Taj, a farmer as a young man with a talent for music, he quit farming and moved to southern California where he formed a group with a young friend, Ry Cooder, another great bluesman. Taj, perhaps more than anyone has kept the blues in the public eye since the 60′s.
Basie; of all the popular big bands Basie’s was always the one most strongly blues based, he always had one or more blues singers in the band, Helen Humes, Jimmy Rushing, Joe Williams, Joe Turner et al. Google Wiki for the interesting story on Harvard Blues and check the delicate Lester Young solo on the into.
John Lee, the Hook, One of the most recognizable sounds in the blues, the Hook is unique. The Hook abides!
Lambert, Hendrix and Ross – [Dave, Jon and Annie] An imaginative vocal trio that in this case took the arrangement and the instrumental solos from a Basie classic, Going to Chicago and wrote and sang lyrics to it; the entire album ‘Sing along with Basie’ is in this format.
As an afterthought I thought it would be fun to include the Basie original of Goin’ to Chicago with Jimmy Rushing doing the vocal for comparison purposes, it’s the classic Basie band from April 1941.
Duke Ellington often strongly blues influenced but rarely full on vocal blues, here it’s with Al Hibbler from 1949.
T Bone, A Texas blues pioneer who influenced BB King’s and Chuck Berry’s guitar styles.
Mose Allison, Mose started playing blues piano and singing the blues while he was still in school in Tippo Mississippi in the ’30′s, this is from his debut album ‘Back Country Suite’ from 1957.
Jimmy Witherspoon: AKA ‘Spoon’, A guy who always performed with a jazz backing, often with the big names of jazz, here he’s accompanied by Gerry Mulligan and Ben Webster from 1959 and it doesn’t get much better than that.
Muddy Waters, this one’s from very early in his career, 1948, he already had that strong guitar style.
Keb Mo, another contemporary artist, he started out playing with Papa John Creach in the Jefferson Airplane days but went on to a solo career, a strong Robert Johnson style player.
Memphis Slim, A blues pianist who early in his career, 1940, wrote a song that went on to be recorded by all the great blues singers, ‘Everyday I have the Blues’, it’s on this playlist by Joe Turner.
John Hammond, his father was John Hammond Snr. the well known producer at Columbia who signed Billie Holiday, Basie, Aretha, Springsteen and Dylan to that label. He was raised by his mother and began playing blues guitar in the 60′s as a part of the folk revival in NY, he’s still going strong.
And we finish with another Taj song from the same album, Sweet home Chicago, this time with backup singers the Pointer Sisters.
Jimi‘s a bonus track, what’s there to say about Jimi except this is the track that drew me to him way back then.
In the edit there were many names deleted who should still be here: Buddy Guy, BB King, Jimmy Reed, Albert King, Albert Collins, Little Walter, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Lowell Fulson, Robert Johnson, Josh White, John Mayall and more, they were in the initial list but I felt it was too Delta/Urban and needed to be broadened.
Please feel free to add to the comments via the magic of youtube any favorites that you have. Enjoy.
From the top the photos are: BB King, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Albert King, John Hammond and Taj Mahal, Willy Dixon and BB King.
The cuts in order are:
1. Taj Mahal – Corina
2. Joe Turner – Piney Brown Blues
3. Muddy Waters – I’m Ready .
4. Allman Bros – Statesboro Blues.
5. Big Bill Broonzy – In the Evening
6. Basie/Rushing – Harvard Blues
7. Elmore James – Dust my Broom
8. John Lee Hooker – I’m in the mood
9. Lambert, Hendrix and Ross- Goin’ to Chicago
9a. Jimmy Rushing – Goin’ to Chicago.
10. Sonny Boy Williamson – Frogs for Snakes
11. Basie/Turner – Everyday I have the blues
12. Duke Ellington – Good Woman Blues
13. Bo Diddley – I’m a man
14. Jimmy Rushing – Good Morning Blues
15. T Bone Walker – So Low Down
16. Basie/Williams – Key to the Hwy.
17. Mose Allison – Blues
18. Jimmy Witherspoon – Every Day
19. Muddy Waters -Rolling and Tumbling
20. Keb Mo -Perpetual Blues Machine .
21. Little Walter – Key to the Highway
22. Memphis Slim – Havin’ Fun
23. Joe Turner – Stormy Monday
24. John Hammond – Two trains running
25. Taj Mahal – Sweet home Chicago
26. Jimi Hendrix – Red House.
Bob will be 70 this week, he’s catching up on me.
Some time ago I toyed with the idea of a post here that was based on the question of ‘who’s the greatest contributor to pop music of the 20th century’, when I posed the question to my wife she instantly said ‘Bob Marley’ and I had to agree with her but Dylan also came strongly to mind. I’ve enjoyed his music right from the start though I did miss out on some of his middle period. I titled this piece ‘Alternate Bob’ because the music playlist is comprised of alternate takes of some of his best known songs. I didn’t keep track of the titles as I assembled them so let it come as a surprise.
Question: If Dylan is not the ‘greatest contributor, who is and second, what’s the best song Dylan ever wrote.
Don’t miss the article by Stephen Moss on page one today and also scan the comments.
Happy Birthday Bob.
It’s pretty widely known that reggae is a male dominated medium, sure there’s well known women artists but numerically they represent a fairly small percentage of the whole genre, though I suppose that’s not unusual in music generally. Anyhow over the years there’s been a small group that I’ve enjoyed and listened to regularly since back in the ’70′s.
Probably the best known women artists are the iThrees, Bob’s back-up singers, they all had musical careers before and after the Wailers and they’ve all recorded independently. They are, Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffith and Bob’s wife Rita.
Judy, also a successful songwriter had a hit with her 1980 album ‘Black Woman’.
Marcia who in the ’60′s teamed up with Bob Andy for a worldwide hit with ‘Young Gifted and Black’ released a steady stream through the 80′s.
Another female group who had some early success were Althea and Donna who’s 1978 single ‘Uptown Top Rankin’ was featured by John Peel and went to #1; the tune started out in 1967 as ‘I still love you’ by Alton Ellis, was then co-opted my Marcia Aitken in ’70 for ‘I’m still in love with you boy’ and it wound up as Uptown Top Rankin, you can’t keep a good tune down.
Bob discovered and encouraged a 12 year old girl who he thought had talent, Nadine Sutherland, she cut her first singles in Bob’s Tough Gong studio within her first year; I have photos of her there in her school uniform.
A singer who I liked a lot was Sophie George, she was a real ‘roots’ girl, she was from the ghetto and she sang about it.
There was a young woman in LA who I thought was a great reggae talent, her name was Barbara Paige, she had a 1981 album ‘Hear me now’ that was recorded at Tuff Gong with the best of the Jamaican talent.
Carlene Davis is another Jamaican artist, she had an early success with ‘Stealing Love on the side’ but that conflicted with her ‘christian’ values and she ultimately rejected reggae and became a gospel singer; she’s married to Tommy Cowan, a very successful producer and DJ and has since earned a PhD.
When I first met J.C.Lodge she was a beautiful young woman living with her boyfriend Errol in a small apartment in Kingston, she made her living as an artist. Joe Gibbs heard her sing and asked her to sing ‘Someone loves you honey’ a big hit for Charlie Pride in Memphis, she did and he liked it so well that he recorded her and released it and it went to number one in Jamaica and in Europe. She’s since gone on to much bigger and better things.
Hortense Ellis is the sister of Alton Ellis, she started singing professionally in the Ska era with her brother for Coxone Dodds, she’s on his ‘I still love you’ cut. She had several successes through the ‘lovers rock’ era in the 80′s.
Sister Carol is a Jamaican who emigrated to NY, Brigadier Jerry heard her sing and encouraged her to take it seriously, she did and has released several albums. She’s also a very accomplished actress, you may have seen her in several Jonathan Demme films, like Married to the Mob and Rachel Getting Married.
The pictures are of Judy Mowatt.
Those are the women artists that we’ll hear and the cuts are:
1. Many are called – The IThrees.
2. Black Woman – Judy Mowatt.
3. Stepping out of Babylon – Marcia Griffith.
4. One Draw – Rita Marley.
5. Someone loves you honey – J.C. Lodge.
6. Tenement Yard – Sophie George.
7. Until – Nadine Sutherland.
8. Everything I own – Carlene Davis.
9. Uptown Top Rankin – Althea & Donna.
10. Jah Mysterious Works – Hortense Ellis.
11. Babylon must fall – Barbara Paige.
12. International Style – Sister Carol.
Well since we seem to be going off-topic a bit these days , here’s another and if we have to use categories, lets call this one ‘books’, subcategory; ‘Egyptology’. Actually we don’t have books so it becomes ‘literature’.
I don’t want to make this a book review except to say that it all started when I recently read ‘Cleopatra’ by Stacy Schiff, a wonderful book recommended to all even if you think you’re not interested in history, Egypt or biographies. In a sentence, Cleopatra was fantastic, starting at age 18 she ruled the known world and dealt intimately with Mark Antony, Julius Caesar and the Roman empire, but that’s not what this is about. That book triggered another Cleopatra biography which I’m now reading, in it there was a one-line reference to the ‘SAITE CANAL’, ring any bells? Thought not, I’d never heard of it either. In ancient Egypt it ran from the Nile due east to the Red sea, [look at the map above to see what was involved] it predated the Suez canal by several thousand years! It was built in the Ptolomaic period to give the Egyptians sea access to India, they grew huge quantities of grain and they traded it with India; ’til the canal they’d used camels to ship it to the Red Sea and thence by ship.
Herodotus the 5th century BC Greek historian travelled the canal and writes about it, it’s not a secret, but I’ve been interested in Egypt all my life and I only just found out about it! I found out about it by googling that one reference, ‘Saite canal’, there’s not a huge amount there but there’s enough, there’s reports of archaeological research to locate where the canal was located and theories as to why mother nature redeemed it. I’m just amazed by this find, to me it’s as significant as the Pyramids at Cheops and no-one has heard about it, anybody here know more about it or are interested? Any other significant book finds to report?
I mentioned here recently how I enjoyed the way iTunes stacks your music so that you can search by title or artist or album; I usually keep mine organized by title and it’s always a pleasant surprise when I come across the same title by multiple artists that I’d forgotten that I owned. I recently noticed this set whilst looking for something totally different, it’s four versions of the same song and I was amazed by how differently each artist handled it and by the backing in each case. The song is ‘Cold Cold Heart’, it was written by Hank Williams in 1951 and reached number one on the country music singles charts. Over the years it’s been covered many times by a variety of artists and the four that I’ve accumulated are; Aretha Franklin [early 60's], Norah Jones , Dinah Washington  and I’ve included the original version by Hank Williams just to show what a great cover can do. They play in the following order:
Time magazines Man of the Year and Putin calls for him to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, for once I’m in agreement with the Kremlin. I’m ashamed and angered by the treatment Assange has received at the hands of British justice, similarly for the US’s position, though that’s to be expected. This week has been interesting in the way it has revealed government’s hypocrisy; we get so used to hearing the party line on China’s abuses etc. now we have some of our own. He’s been held without charges and without bail for over a week whilst another inmate at Wandsworth who is wanted by the South African police, charged with murder was granted bail without question on his second day.
Here’s the Basie band to celebrate his final bail.
OK, here’s the beginnings of chapter one. I asked Maki to give me his list of instructions for posting music and then I added my thoughts and re-wrote it all, hopefully in a manner that’s foolproof. I’ve tested this and it worked. If this is acceptable we’ll continue and add instructions for posting titles, artists, pictures, videos, youtubes, text, links etc, plus posting links, pics and music into the comments area. For the benefit of potential new users or current ones who’re not clear about Dropbox I thought it would be helpful to start there.
Before I start to try to do a posting for the Spill I find it useful to place all my MP3 music cuts, JPG pictures and pre-written text into a labeled file on my desktop, it makes it easier later on. There’s another advantage to this, you’ll be copying & pasting http code for each cut into the ‘new post’ page at WordPress, it’s handy to also paste it into this folder for reference in case you need to come back to it, WordPress has been known to cause frustration by occasionally not not playing by the rules and it’s handy to have those html codes handy if you need to start over.
Begin by registering with Dropbox, [https://www.dropbox.com/home#:::] thereafter you’ll be asked to log in. You can upload music to Dropbox and anything you upload will be kept in your ‘My Dropbox’ file, next to that you’ll see ‘Public’: to use music on the Spill you need to have it in the Public folder so transfer it from your dropbox into Public. If you’re considering multiple cuts it’s a good idea to keep them in a labeled folder.
Having got this far, now click on one of your titles in Dropbox and you’ll notice a blue downward arrow off to the right, click on this and you’ll see a dropdown menu that has ‘Copy Public Link’ as one of it’s options, click on this and a window will open that contains a line of http code with an option to ‘copy to clipboard’, do so.
Now open WordPress [you may be required to log in] and on the left you’ll see a column that includes ‘Posts’ and below it ‘Add new’, click on that. A window will open that contains a rectangle with ‘Visual’ and ‘HTML’ at the top right corner, choose HTML. Now is the time to decide how you want your post to look, ie the placement of text, pictures and music, for now lets say that the music player goes at the bottom and you’re only having one tune. Type
If you now click on ‘Preview’ [top right] you should see a player icon situated at The Spill which if you click it should play your tune!
If you want to add more tracks:
1. Do not close the player – ignore the bit about closing the code with another square bracket.
2. Place a comma and a space after the first code.
3. From the public folder in Dropbox click your second piece of music and repeat the instructions above re. copying and pasting it into WordPress.
4. Paste it immediately after the comma after the first code, add a comma and a space and repeat ad-nausium ’til you have all the music cuts pasted.
5. When you have added the last html code don’t add a comma, just close it with a square bracket.
6. For 5 cuts it should give you a player that looks like this:
All these commas, spaces and square brackets are crucial, miss any one of them and you’re doomed to failure.
I mentioned here recently that I was having delusions of grandeur, I was thinking of doing a regular reggae post, but not just a regular post, what I was fantasising was something like a radio broadcast plus a continuous slideshow of images relevant to the music and perhaps multiple audio tracks overlapping and me blathering on. Well an extended period of frustration trying to just post this pitiful effort and assisted by Maki knocked the shine off some of that.But, I did spend quite some time investigating GarageBand and of course got sidetracked, instead of learning how to assemble multiple tracks etc I found myself playing silly games, even thinking that somewhere I had hidden musical talents, I composed my masterpiece! Well actually it was opus 1, my first ever effort, but I found it quite intriguing and even thought ‘That’s not bad for a beginner”. So, here it is, I call it Reggae Jam.
Just got this in today’s post, should interest everyone here.
October 10, 2010
After listening to the nearly 50 songs on The Witmark Demos 1962-1964, it slayed me to think that Bob Dylan wrote and recorded these songs before he was even 24. It’s one thing to write “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” or “Blowin’ in the Wind” by that age, but add “Ballad of Hollis Brown,” “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” “Boots of Spanish Leather,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and other bits of genius to the list, and it really hits hard what a phenomenal talent Dylan was at such a young age. Sure, many of them were riffs on other folk songs, but they were topical, courageous, surreal and sometimes damn funny.
Most of the recordings on The Witmark Demos 1962-1964 were made for the M. Witmark & Sons publishing company. Artists would record their songs for publishing companies so they might be heard by other artists wishing to cover their songs, or maybe for TV or movie use.
Witmark had a small 6×8-foot studio, and it’s there that these songs were recorded and then transcribed into sheet music. So what you get is a fairly relaxed and young Bob Dylan playing his newest songs at the time. You hear flubs, forgotten verses, inspired playing and brilliant songs. Many of these tunes you already know, even if you’re just a casual Dylan fan. But you’ve probably never heard “Mr. Tambourine Man” on piano, or the roughly 15 songs never released in any official form.
And you get to hear Dylan grow from a Woody Guthrie-inspired folksinger to a songwriter and vocalist with a voice that becomes his own. Remember that Dylan’s first album only contained a few of his own tunes. At this time, he was coming into his own as a songwriter, and it’s fascinating to hear that evolution here.
Hear an exclusive preview of almost two dozen of NPR Music’s favorite tracks from the two-disc set until the release of The Witmark Demos 1962-1964on Oct. 19. Please leave your thoughts on the recordings in the comments section below.
Here’s the site to listen to ‘em all.
Here’s some photos requested by Maki & WilliamB on the earworm post this week, no idea why they disappeared from my blog, I tried to post them into the Earworm post comments but I seem to have forgotten how to do it, they’re all related to a Taj concert from some years back. The story’s at: http://goneforeign.blogspot.com
I might well be the only person here who’s even slightly interested in the following, but on the offchance, here goes. The Mercedes C111, shown above, was an experimental car that was used to attack a series of world records for diesel powered cars back in 1978. It was fitted with a standard 5 cylinder, 3 litre diesel engine, similar to those found in all those cabs and passenger cars that you see everywhere, I’ve owned three. I’ve long been a diesel fan and ever since this event I’ve been curious about it and some years ago I wrote this piece; what intrigued me was that though they came incredibly close, they were never able to break the 200mph average speed record though they came within .0055mph of doing so, but that record eluded them.
Now pay attention back there, this is dull and uninteresting and it might require a little concentration, turn on the music if it helps. It’s a piece from that era that the drivers might have been listening to, assuming someone thought to fit a cassette player in the car.
Autobahn – Kraftwerk
The 1978 Mercedes-Benz C111-III in pursuit of diesel world records at Nardo.
Daimler-Benz set out in 1978 to demonstrate the power potential of the diesel engine on the lightly banked 12.6-kilometer circuit at Nardo, Italy on April 29/30. The C 111-III car, which had been optimized not only in aerodynamic terms, with a sensational drag coefficient of 0.195, was fitted with a three-liter five-cylinder diesel engine developing 230 hp with exhaust turbocharger and intercooler. Nevertheless, it consumed an average of only 16 liters of diesel fuel per 100 kilometers. In the course of the 12-hour record-breaking run, six world best performances were clocked up over distances from 100 kilometers to 1000 miles, with a further three best performances over 1, 6 and 12 hours. Over the entire 500-km distance, an absolute top average speed of 321.860 km/h was measured for this record-breaking car which was designed for speeds of up to 325km/h.
The drivers were Rico Steinemann, Paul Frere, Moch and Dr. Hans Liebold and records achieved during the 12-hour record drive were:
100 km at 316.484 km/h
100 miles at 319.835 km/h
500 km at 321.860 km/h — ie 199.99453 mph.
500 miles at 320,788 km/h
1000 km at 318.308 km/h
1000 miles at 319.091 km/h
1 hour at 321.843 km/h
6 hours at 317.796 km/h
12 hours at 314.463 km/h
Some technical data:
Manufactured in 1978, a 5-cylinder inline OM 617 A, placed before the rear axle, longitudinally and standing upright, a four-stroke diesel with pre-chamber injection, a mechanically operated Bosch injection pump, turbocharger and intercooler, bore x stroke 90.9 x 92.4 mm, 2999ccm = ca. 183.2 cu in, compression 1:17.5, maximum power output 230 PS (NOT 320 PS!) = 169 kw at 4.200-4.600 revs, maximum torque 403 Nm at 3.700 revs, engine block made from grey cast iron, cylinder head made out of light alloy, detachable, 2 valves per cylinder, one overhead camshaft driven by duplex-chain, firing order 1-2-4-5-3, one glowplug per cylinder, electrical Bosch starter, vented disc brakes front and rear, rear-wheel drive, double plate dry clutch, ZF 5-speed manual transmission with integrated axle drive, central floor shift, recirculating ball steering, length 5380 mm [17.6ft], width 1715 mm [5.62ft], height 1045 mm 3.42ft], car weight 1400 kg [3086 lb], engine weight 244 kg [538 lb], one seat place, fuel tank 140 litres [37 gal], top speed 325 km/h = 202 mph, ((other sources report a top speed of 327.3 kmh = 203.4 mph)), drag coefficient 0.183, another DC source says 0.195, diesel consumption was ca. 16 litres/100km = ca. 17.6 mpg UK = ca. 14.7 mpg US.
You will notice that all those records were above 314.463 km/hr [195 mph] and that the highest average speed attained was for 500 km, 321.860 km/hr, ie 199.99453 mph. The average speeds declined after that to 198.273 mph for 1000 miles and to 195.398 mph for 12 hours. No matter how hard they tried, their lap speeds dropped every lap ’til the end, they were unable to break the 200 mph average speed barrier.
So the question is why were they not able to do so even though the cars max speed was 325 km/hr – [202 mph] and the car constantly lost substantial weight due to fuel usage and what simple modification to the engine would have allowed them to break the elusive 200 mph average barrier?