the (good, good) blossoms


The picture says it all—these ladies sang. Often dubbed as the “West Coast Sweet Inspirations”, The Blossoms might be the most overqualified session singers in history. They played the background for Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Bobby Darin and, also like the Sweet Inspirations, worked closely with Elvis. They were produced early on by Phil Spector and recorded for small labels (Flip, Flair) as well as bigger ones (Capitol, MGM). Their history mingled with many marquee names of the day, namely The Shirelles, Gloria Jones, Shelley Fabares, The Ronnettes, The Crystals, and Darlene Love. Read more about their long, interesting (and overlooked) career HERE.

“Good, Good Lovin’” by the Blossoms is a beauty that grabs you right when the vocals start. Peace to Cutso for hipping me to this one.


Anonymous Exuberance (part 2): Interview with Ken Shipley


Some re-issues are stunning discoveries, some certainly weren’t meant to be heard. And in this arena of labels and collectors elbowing their way towards the next big find, Numero has quietly released comps flooded with what would be called “lost masterpieces”. And the packaging, the photographs they use, the people they examine, are almost equally impressive as the music itself.

The Numero Group is founder Ken Shipley, and his partners Tom Lunt and Rob Sevier. They, along with a dedicated team scour the country for forgotten music, but more than that, they uncover intimate histories of labels, cities, weirdos, regular folks, and document them with astounding respect and detail. We’re big fans and are lucky to have Mr. Shipley show us his “terribly unglamorous” operation, explaining exactly how and why, he does what he does. You get the feeling these guys would be looking for records, even if it weren’t their jobs—maybe not to this extent—but obsessed and looking nonetheless. Here’s to Numero for sharing so much music and otherwise forgotten histories.

Please introduce yourself for fans wondering who you are and what you do?
Ken Shipley, the Numero Group’s minister of information. Continue reading “Anonymous Exuberance (part 2): Interview with Ken Shipley”

Sugar On My Tongue: Sugar Simone

I’ve been meaning to post about Sugar Simone for a while. Love this guy.


Born in Jamaica, Keith “Sugar” Simone rose to local prominence as a gospel singer and left for Britain in ‘61 to further his schooling. He then worked as an engineer while singing on the side, juggling both worlds until 1963 where he auditioned at Old Planetone Studios. Here, he met Alan Crawford, a radio exec who signed Simone to Carnival Records. After cutting a half-dozen singles for Carnival, Simone signed to Island Records where he recorded some of his most well known works as Sugar Simone (he would also record under the name Tito Simon, but those are forgettable).

Simone was always more popular oversees than in the states, touring Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland until the ‘70s. As far as I know, he only cut one LP as Sugar Simone (Alive & Well, kinda lackluster, shown above), profited slightly off a handful of dope 45s, and later signed to Beacon Records where he made more singles and released a few LPs as Tito Simon. But his late ‘60s singles are the most sugary. Here are his best 3 songs:

1) His first and most famous single, “King Without A Throne”, for Island Records in 1967. Notice the jacked “Stand By Me” bassline. HEAR IT

2) “Take It Easy”, another nice late ‘60s cut—rhythm, horns, and nice vocals. Super sweet, no saccharin. HEAR IT

3) “I Want To Know”, a crazy slick 45 Simone did for Trojan. HEAR IT

Old School Wrap Up: Interview With Slug of Atmosphere

I did this piece semi-recently for URB. Check it out if you’re into these cats:

“Road To The Riches” (G Rap Cover) by Atmosphere

Originally published for URB

Sean Daley, Slug of Atmosphere, has been on the road for the last ten years, performing and introducing himself to a young generation of hip-hop fans; a generation that often cites him as their favorite rapper. In a few weeks, he’ll clock more mileage for a Spring tour that’ll take him to ballrooms, clubs, music festivals, and tiny theaters across the US and Canada to celebrate the reissue of Atmosphere’s ‘02 release, God Loves Ugly. And while the 36-year-old emcee doesn’t “give a fuck about being the best”, he’s surely revered in a culture that has embraced him, a culture that “empowered” his own youth.

Here, Slug talks hip-hop, its dominant affect on him, who his favorite rappers are, working with DOOM (an admitted hero of his) and ultimately, the legacy he hopes his music will offer. You don’t get good without knowing your roots, which Slug proves, as we kick it on this old-school discussion tip.

Talk about your exposure to hip-hop and how it affected you as a kid growing up in Minnesota.
When I was first exposed to it, I was like ten or eleven-years-old. It was just stuff that was on urban radio. I didn’t know it was a new movement or anything. It wasn’t until RUN DMC where I was like “this is something else!” and that’s when I felt like it wasn’t my dad’s music. I mean, by the time RUN DMC happened, my dad was probably like “these motherfuckers are yelling at me!” where as the earlier stuff, the Sugarhill style was still like Disco, R&B, and Funk. The RUN DMC records sounded like people were smacking the side of houses made out of aluminum. Continue reading “Old School Wrap Up: Interview With Slug of Atmosphere”

the eleventh hour: interview with dj eleven


Partyrocker DJ Eleven is, above all things, a workhorse. The Oakland native plays all over the globe, sometimes even gigging alongside icons like DJ Premier and Grandmaster Flash. He’s also written for Waxpoetics and XLR8R, and contributes a monthly column for a UK rap publication, Hip-Hop Connection. His mixtapes have been touted by The Village Voice and The New York Times, respectively. And to top it off, The Rub, a booming website he works on (with DJ Ayers and Cosmo Baker) gets heaps of readers daily for the mixtapes and podcasts they put together.

Eleven hustles hard, but was kind enough to lend us some time for an interview. Here’s our talk after he had just gotten back from playing Europe. Bay Area represent!

Let folks know about your Bay Area roots.
I was born in Redwood City but grew up in Oakland. My parents & all of my siblings live in the Bay. I came up DJing in the Bay Area with my crew, Local1200. And, I moved to New York almost 9 years ago. But, I try to get back to the Bay any chance I can.

What mistakes or misunderstandings do you often see young DJs doing?
The three most common mistakes I see young DJs making, are all kind of based on the same thing Continue reading “the eleventh hour: interview with dj eleven”

tiger uppercut: new shawn lee joint(s)


Ubiquity’s recent releases have been real nice, one of which is multi-instrumentalist Shawn Lee’s Soul In The Hole, a throwback project that chronologically follows the evolution of soul music through its various trends and stages. The guests spots are interesting too, including Darondo, Paul Butler (of The Bees), and the following track, featuring Nicole Willis.


I’m a sucker songs like “Jigsaw”; steady beat, hand-claps, female-vocals, real catchy.

***Go on Shawn’s site to hear some more of his music, inlcuding his instrumental take on “Hey Ya”. To buy this record or get more info, please visit Ubiquity’s website.

Anonymous Exuberance (part 1): The Numero Group is Killing It


By Nate LeBlanc

Chicago-based archival label The Numero Group has emerged as one of the most reliable record labels in the world in the past five years. This post will focus on their Eccentric Soul series, which is exactly what it sounds like; lovingly detailed reissues of below-the-radar soul sides that have never been widely available outside of their respective localities. My curiosity was initially piqued by their stark packaging (one picture on the front, a number, and a plain white back cover with no further info, track titles, or clues as to the contents) yet deterred by high price tags (generally $20 or so for CDs and around $25 for wax). However, now that I’ve had a taste, I feel like I’m addicted to these comps, scouring eBay for originals I can’t afford, re-reading liner notes, and finding things to like about the tracks that didn’t initially stand out. My personal history with the label goes a little something like this (hit it!):

Continue reading “Anonymous Exuberance (part 1): The Numero Group is Killing It”

mighty mo: being without you

Maurice Williams is known for his one-hit “Stay“, which is said to be the shortest song ever to reach #1 on the charts. It reemerged again and was immortalized on this Swayze soundtrack decades later (don’t front like you don’t know.).

Snappy and gruff, “Being Without You” is a forgotten number from Maurice that’s not as known as it should be. In typical style, it’s a short, killer cut. Enjoy!


prolyphic beatmaker: interview with reanimator


2004’s Music To Slit Writs By showed a capable producer with nice sample selections, sequencing know-how, and solid overall song construction. The project (filled with touches of old-school rap) easily held up against other ballyhooed beat-tapes of ’04, but somehow slipped under the radar. Four years later, and with a new project, The Ugly Truth, having been out a while, NERDTORIOUS spoke to Reanimator about beatmaking, his history, and current well-kept career.

You sound has a lot of old school rap influences. Who are some of your all time favorite producers?
In no particular order…Marley Marl – I cringe at some of his scratching, but the production was always great. Bomb Squad – The true masters of piecing together lots of samples in an innovative way. Dr. Dre – Some people are surprised that I cite Dre as an influence, but his studio mixing skills and attention to getting timing right always seemed a step ahead of everyone else.

Give our readers some background on Music To Slit Wrists By. How long did it take to complete? What are you most proud of regarding that record?
Music To Slit Wrists By is a record that I originally released in 2002. I had about 2 years worth of songs that, over the course of a year, I pieced together to create this 80-minute mix of music. The thing that I’m probably most proud of is the fact that people enjoy it. I get comments from people who aren’t necessarily into hip-hop say how much they enjoy listening to it, which is nice.
Continue reading “prolyphic beatmaker: interview with reanimator”

The Whatnauts vs. ultimate force


“Girls. I like ‘em fat, I like ‘em tall, some skinny, some small, I got to get to know them all…”

Besides the classy lyrics, you gotta love guys with an album cover like that (look at dude in the middle!). The song, “Girls”, was an inter-label collaboration between The Whatnauts and The Moments, both of whom recorded for Stang throughout the ‘70s. The song’s a silly (and kinda offensive) homage to women [“…lovely and good lookin’, the kind that does the best cookin’…”] but it’s goofy in an unintentional way and the production’s catchy. The banter between the groups make it even more fun.



Joseph Kirkland grabbed the record years later. Better known as Diamond D, he used it for a track he so originally also named, “Girls”. It’s off Ultimate Force’s lost full-length, I’m Not Playin’ (slated for 1990, released in ’07). Ultimate Force was Diamond D and MC Master Rob. But I’m Not Playin’ got shelved (along with Rob’s boooooring raps) when Diamond’s solo career took off. I’ve always dug Diamond D’s work, and this is an early cut of his. It has a melodic feel that D.I.T.C. would abandon on their later efforts for a much darker sound.


do you have to let it minger?


By Nate LeBlanc

As a child, shooting hoops in my driveway, I knew every angle off the backboard, every crack in the pavement, every boundary real and imagined. Though I had a group of neighborhood kids I regularly played with, I spent a lot of time shooting, dribbling, and daydreaming out there by myself. On the days when I had a particularly good day shooting, I felt like I could play with, and maybe even beat Michael Jordan. I’d practice last-second buzzer-beaters, high-arching shots over his outstretched fingers, and I could practically hear the applause when I, a short, chubby kid with minimal skills, improbably succeeded in beating the best to ever pick up a ball. I would relish the fantasy until the streetlights came on, take a long drink from the hose, and then go inside, eat dinner, and do my homework. What I didn’t do was spend the rest of those idyllic evenings stitching a crude replica of my imagined uniform, forging elaborate scorecards of the epic one-on-one battle, and recording my own Sportscenter-style highlight tapes documenting the historic event. If I had done all of that for about fifteen or twenty years, without telling anyone, all the while diligently shooting threes from the sidewalk and waiting for the moment when a wayward NBA scout came trolling for talent down Edenwood Drive, I might have been a sort of basketball version of Mingering Mike.

The strange saga of “Imaginary Soul Superstar” Mingering Mike, familiar to readers of Soulstrut and Wax Poetics but basically unheard of in the world at large, has gotten much more interesting in the past months with the release of a definitive book-length account of his career and the 45-only release of one of his few recordings.

Continue reading “do you have to let it minger?”

King Khan vs. Bo Diddley


King Khan’s, The Supreme Genius of King Khan and the Shrines (a quasi-best of comp from Vice), is a mix of garage, psych, soul, and punk. The Shrines, and Khan himself, were able to pull off various genres without sounding too derivative at all. But the best song off the album is the incredible, “Crackin’ Up”, lush with catchy melodies and a slumpy groove.

“Crackin’ Up (cover)” by King Khan and The Shrines

Little did I know, “Crackin’ Up” was originally written and recorded by the great Bo Diddley. Diddley’s version rules, sounding at once defeated and pissed-off. Everything about the recording is magic. Easily one of my favorite songs ever.

“Crackin’ Up” by Bo Diddley

freelance rydah: Interview with o-dub

Oliver Wang, aka O-Dub, a well-regarded writer (and the mind behind took time from his activities to answer questions about his varied output. Aside from freelancing for esteemed publications, Wang also teaches courses at Long Beach State University, curates exceptional music compilations, DJs when called upon and, probably most importantly, is also a daddy. As busy as he may seem, he was kind enough to humor us here at NERDTORIOUS— a site that is admittedly indebted to O-Dub for the precedent he’s set and the advice he’s given.

Below is a short Q&A where O-Dub gives advice to aspiring writers, explains the historical cultural significance of Boogaloo, talks about his Bay Area roots, and responds to other random queries. Thanks for your time, kind sir.

What would you tell aspiring writers who want to get published in music publications, blogs, journals and the like?
Find a new line of work! Abandon ship! Ok, seriously…the advice I’ve always given is that start by asking. People don’t realize how relatively easy it can be to get a foot in the door simply by asking. Obviously, you also have to deliver – meet your deadlines, turn in good copy, be flexible (the last is key, especially when freelancing). What you ideally want to do is show yourself to be – at the very least – competent and dependable. Most editors would kill to have someone be at least one of those things. Be both and you’re golden in most editors’ eyes. The reason: at the end of the day, editors have pages to fill and even if you aren’t the next coming of Lester Bangs or Greil Marcus, if you can meet deadlines and turn in solid copy, that’s someone they can depend on. It’s those relationships that can help you build toward steady work (as well as bigger/better opportunities). Continue reading “freelance rydah: Interview with o-dub”

Letter from home

By Nate LeBlanc

“From time to time, excellent material is recorded but, for one reason or another, is never released. This is a case in point.” Jac Holzman, founder, Elektra Records

Today we have a gem from forgotten folk artist Clarence Cooper. His version of “900 Miles” has been a mixtape secret weapon of mine for years. To me, it’s a perfect song, powerfully delivered and unusually dynamic for a traditional folk ballad. Cooper had a brief but interesting career, delivering his lone album in 1955 when Elektra LPs were still released on 10″.


He was also in the Tarriers, a folk combo founded by the actor Alan Arkin. I discovered Cooper and this incredible recording through this Elektra sampler record from 1957 that I pulled from my grandfather’s collection after he passed.

This is the only picture I could find of Mr. Cooper, from a 45 released in France containing his “Negro spirituals.” Any further information or copies of his other recordings would be greatly appreciated.


Here’s the song, I hope you enjoy it. Dig the way the guitar augments the whistle, the active bass, and the palpable sense of longing in the lead vocal.

LISTEN TO “900 Miles”

re:Discovery – Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto

I was stoked to contribute to Waxpoetics’ Re:Discovery series recently. Besides being a fan of the series (which always exposes me to lost, overlooked albums), writing-wise, it allowed me to contextualize the music however I chose—which was freeing and really fun. If you haven’t heard Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto, and you like ’70s Philly soul, go check it out.

(Originally ran in Waxpoetics issue #33, The Philly Issue)

Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto
(Philadelphia International Records) 1977

The planets were aligned for change in 1977. The Vietnam debacle had ended and President Carter begun issuing pardons for nearly ten thousand draft evaders. In the postwar glow, America’s War on Poverty surfaced with renewed boldness. Politicians were reinvigorated and, more importantly, listening.

A wail came from Philly by way of Let’s Clean Up the Ghetto, a Philadelphia International Records comp featuring elites of “The Sound of Philadelphia,” a style that had long dominated R&B charts. Kenneth Gamble (owner of Philadelphia International Records) combined his biggest acts—The Three Degrees, Billy Paul, the O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Lou Rawls, and others—to raise concern about Philly’s growing ghettos. Gamble is quoted on the back as saying: “Anything physical has to first start as a thought…there’s a message in the music.”

Bobby Martin’s arrangement of “Ooh Child”, performed by Dee Dee Sharp Gamble, is pessimistic, dark, and nowhere as sunny as previous recorded versions. The Intruders’ resounding “Save the Children,” paired perfectly with Archie Bell and the Drells’ “Old People,” showed the generational effects of diminished opportunity. And Billy Paul’s buoyant “New Day, New World Comin’” wove some hope into the record’s ten-songs.

Yet the title track is the project’s real centerpiece. Written by Gamble & Huff and Carey Gilbert, “Let’s Clean Up the Ghetto” is a posse cut of epic proportions. The Philadelphia International All-Stars consisted of Lou Rawls, Billy Paul, Archie Bell, the O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, and Dee Dee Sharp Gamble. Rawls pleads for “cleanliness” and “safety” on the opening dialogue sequence, followed by each artist echoing the sentiment, each in their own distinct fashion. Aesthetically, hefty bass and washes of harmony usher the song along for eight-minutes. And while it’s hard to measure the effect of a single recording, it certainly voiced concerns of a voiceless minority, as all the profits from the record went towards local community development as promised.

Kenneth Gamble went on to redevelop South Philadelphia for decades, and Let’s Clean Up the Ghetto marked the start of his community-minded efforts. The project is a timely battle cry given that education, affordable housing, and job creation remain dominant hurdles in many communities of today. With Obama now at the helm, let’s hope populist issues will no longer be approached with elitist policies.

Riddim & Blues: A Look At David Isaacs

David Isaacs (no relation to Gregory Isaacs) is said to have been responsible for launching the Trojan label into worldwide acclaim with his debut LP, A Place In The Sun. Mr. Isaacs recorded between the late ‘60s and early ‘80s, releasing five albums and numerous singles, many of which were produced by Lee Perry. During this time, he recorded one of the saddest songs (in the history of love songs, I think), “Just Enough To Keep Me Hanging On”. The aesthetic of the recording; the slight echo of the vocals, the lonely feel, the chorus, everything about the song, is totally heartbreaking.



Mr. Isaacs also did a killer cover of Stevie Wonder’s “A Place In The Sun”, the title track to his beloved first album (also produced by Lee Perry). Wonderful stuff, dig it!

Letter From Egon: Conrad “Prof” Johnson

Conrad O. Johnson, bandleader of the Kashmere High School Stage Band from 1968-1978 and owner of Kram Records, the label that issued the Band’s legendary eight albums and three 7” singles of Texas jazz, funk and soul music, died in Houston February 3rd at 92 years of age.

World-renowned Kashmere Stage Band reunited February 1st in Houston for the first time in over 30 years and played a tribute concert for their leader, the legendary Conrad “Prof” Johnson. Below is a letter from Egon Alapatt, owner of Now Again Records, the label responsible for the release of the Kashmere Stage Band Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974.


He received one hell of a send off. On Friday, the Kashmere Stage Band reunited for a performance at the High School’s auditorium. Filmmaker Mark Landsman, who is producing and directing a documentary on the Band, worked with Johnson’s foundation and Kashmere High School to set off the event for his crew’s cameras. But the reason that the Band’s members, many of whom left the music field after their departure from Kashmere High, reunited and rehearsed, daily, for a month prior to the concert, was to give Johnson the respect he deserved and had fought for, for so long.

The Kashmere Stage Band’s story can be found here (link to the Now Again Section of Kashmere). But in a nutshell, here it is: Johnson, known by those close to him simply as “Prof” took the reins of the Band in the late 1960s and worked with his charges to perfect the idiom that they understood most: funk. Heavy funk at that. By the time that the band recorded their third album, Thunder Soul, they were funking like a mini-JBs. And, by the time they won “Best Stage Band In The Nation” in 1972, they were funking as hard as the JBs themselves. Continue reading “Letter From Egon: Conrad “Prof” Johnson”

Gonna work out fine: Interview with Mayer Hawthorne

Like the rest of you, we’ve got Mayer Hawthorne’s insanely catchy debut single on repeat. “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” is an example of everything that’s good about contemporary soul music. Built on the “Get Out My Life, Woman” drums and Hawthorne’s homespun harmonies, it’s a doo-wop inspired breakup song that’s oddly uplifting and decidedly endearing. The single has already become a sought-after collector’s item not only for the quality music, but the killer format: Stones Throw released it as a strictly limited heart-shaped 10″ reminiscent of the Manhattans’ version of “You Send Me”. We’re looking forward to big things from the talented Mr. Hawthorne in the coming year, (no album til at least spring, plenty of time to practice your falsetto) so we decided to ask him a few questions.

What’s your musical background? When and how did you first get involved in music? What instruments do you play?
My Dad is a great Bassist and he taught me how to play when I was young. My Mom made me take piano lessons which I hated and quit. Now I wish I woulda stuck with it! I love playing the Drums too. I try to play as many instruments as I can on the album.

Talk about your upbringing in Michigan and how Detroit’s music scene affected you.
Detroit breeds many of the best musicians / artists in the world. I’m very fortunate to have grown up in a place with such a rich musical history, and with so much soul. Hopefully that soul comes through in my music.

What soul music are you listening to lately; any direct influences on the sound of the track?
Lately I’ve just been going back through the Motown catalog and discovering a lot of amazing songs that weren’t very popular when they were released but are just as good as some of the biggest hits. A lot of Smokey Robinson, Martha & The Vandellas and The Marvelettes. Continue reading “Gonna work out fine: Interview with Mayer Hawthorne”

Fleeting Sweet Thing: The Incredible Tammi Terrell

Tammi Terrell collapsed onstage in 1967, falling into Marvin Gaye’s arms while performing at Virginia’s Hampton-Sydney College. She was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and died shortly after. She was 24.
Born Thomasina Montgomery, she caught the eye (and ear) of Mr. James Brown in 1962, recording “If You Don’t Think” and “I Cried” for his short-lived Try Me imprint. A year later, a charmed Barry Gordy signed her to Motown records. This began her collaborations with Marvin Gaye, who, in a haze of depression, was said to have stopped recording for two-years after her death. But it would be their iconic duets (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “Your Precious Love”, “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”) that Terrell would be most remembered by today.

Tammi also recorded several 45s under the name Tammy Montgomery before her career took shape. It’s unsettling to know she passed so shortly after recording these killer songs.
CLICK TO HEAR “THIS TIME TOMORROW” , my favorite Tammi track.

**BONUS CUT: “HOLD ME MY DARLING (solo version)”

Meet Ophir “Kutiman” Kutiel

I had to wait to post this link because it crashed due to the overwhelming number of visits it (immediately) received. Kutiman and his camp didn’t get to properly launch the video, but now they’re keeping up with crazy demand, and here it is.


I interviewed Kutiman a few months back when he released his debut full-length on Melting Pot Music. Read to find out more about him, his background, and musical influences.


(Originally ran in Waxpoetics issue #29)

Rhythm has a funny way of crossing borders. After all, you wouldn’t expect the streets of Tel Aviv to pound funk and afro-beat rhythms well into the night. But the large Israeli city, situated on the Mediterranean coastline, has been bustling with drums Tony Allen would approve and grooves The Meters could’ve dug.

“The groove scene here is great and is positively growing each day,” says twenty-five-year-old musician, Ophir “Kutiman” Kutiel. “But I have nothing to compare it to. I’ve never lived anywhere else, or seen any other music scenes. I know we have some great musicians here, and at the same time, people are discovering music filled with flavor and rhythm,” he says proudly.
Continue reading “Meet Ophir “Kutiman” Kutiel”

Perfect Pairing: Alton Ellis & Phyllis Dillon


Not much more can be said about the great Alton Ellis. Ellis was a giant of his genre and his career has been rightfully celebrated up until his recent passing last year. His career produced huge collaborations with many producers and singers, one of which is with the always sweet, always enjoyable, Phyllis Dillon.

“I’m Just The Guy”, recorded for Studio One in 1967 is, needless to say, a killer collaboration between the two. I like that the song is about soon-to-be lovers warning eachother about themselves. Both Ellis and Dillon deliver, sounding at once vulnerable and directly confrontational. Shouts to my girl for schooling me on this one.

CLICK TO HEAR “I’M JUST A GUY (Feat. Phyllis Dillon)”

***BONUS CUT: “MAKE ME YOURS” by Phyllis Dillon. Not only is this my favorite Phyllis Dillon song, but it shows how her voice and cadences can accent an otherwise simple arrangement.

Obsessive Compulsion: Interview with Mike Davis


By Nate LeBlanc

Maybe I’m just extra-susceptible to the power of suggestion, but from the first spin, I’ve been obsessed with Obsession, an incredible compilation of funky international psych. The project was put together by Mike Davis (no relation to design genius/DJ/2600 Kid Mike Davis) owner of successful NYC record shop Academy Records and released by the ever-reliable Bully Records. The sounds contained within its grooves are nothing less than bugged-out, fuzzed out, surprisingly DJ-friendly goodness. I had never heard of a single tune or artist featured on the comp, so I decided to contact Mike and get us all a little bit more information on his collection and the origins of the project.

How long have you been collecting records?
Mike Davis: I’ve been collecting since I was about 8, which was 1970 for me.

What was the first record you ever bought?
It was a 45 of “Venus” by Shocking Blue. Still have it. That was when I learned the B-side is sometimes better.

The most recent?
The “Space Traveling” 45 by Robert Starks and the Geniuses.

What genres and/or time periods are you particularly interested in?
That’s a tough one. I have a tendency to go for raw, primitive examples of all kinds of things, but I can also appreciate some slick stuff as well. Any thing that catches my ears, really. I go from the early 1900’s till now.

Owning a record store, you must be exposed to a massive volume of titles. Do you find yourself sacrificing your personal collection in order to keep the store stocked, or the other way around?
When I first opened my own store I put about 300 records from my collection out for opening day to spice things up a bit. I still occasionally thin out things from my collection but I’ve never had to get rid of anything I wasn’t willing to part with for the store’s sake. Both stores have been profitable since opening so I never had that pressure.
I’ve gotten some nice records as a result of owning the stores, but a lot of things I’ve been getting recently, weird psychy stuff from far off lands, isn’t ever going to come in to the store too often, so I’ve had to make an effort to track them down. Continue reading “Obsessive Compulsion: Interview with Mike Davis”

Rock It Real Good: Etta James Gets Down



Most of Etta James’ songs are sweet, soulful tunes that highlight her warm voice (see: “At Last”). But on her Rocks The House record, Ms. James gets down (several times) over grimy, uptempo rhythms. I recently came across “Seven Day Fool”, a delightful track** from said album that’s totally drum-driven, and needless to say, very charming. I’m sure I’m a latecomer to this, but it’s here for your enjoyment nevertheless.


**The version above is the studio recorded version of “Seven Day Fool” and isn’t the version off Rocks The House (a live album) where it originally appeared.

The Gaylettes vs. El Perro Del Mar

The Gaylettes were a female trio from Jamaica in the late ‘60s to early ‘70s made up of Beryl Lawson, Merle Clemonson, and Judy Mowatt. The group disbanded when Lawson and Clemonson left for America in the early ’70s. Mowatt remained, and went on to join Bob Marley’s famous backup troupe, The I Threes (below, left, alongside Bob). Mowatt continued to record for decades after, including a prolific spree of gospel albums between 1998-02.


Like a lot of pre-dub, rocksteady tunes of the era, The Gaylettes were minimal and have touches of soul, and even doo-wop at times. They have some real sly 45s on the Hour Glass label, including a nice cover of “Son Of A Preacher Man”, and this, one of their best songs, “Here Comes That Feeling”.


El Perro Del Mar’s first self-titled album included a cover of “Here Comes That Feeling.” The greatness of the remake is because the original is sooooooo good to begin with. Check it out.


The Marketts vs. Four Tet

The Marketts were a Hollywood-based group that gained slight fame during the surf craze of the 1960s. In fact, they weren’t really a band, but a group of session musicians gathered and guided by Joe Saraceno (producer of The Ventures, Gene Mcdaniels, The Sunshine Company, The Routers, Bobby Vee). Their songs were mainly instrumentals, most of which had strong rock, soul, and weird sci-fi touches. Though not terribly memorable, they made some great tracks between 1961-1977.


If Marketts sound somewhat familiar, it’s because they appeared on the popular Pulp Fiction soundtrack. The song, “Out Of Limits”, was #3 on the charts in 1964 and remains their highest ranked single. My favorite of theirs is “Bella Dalena”, and is actually the b-side to the famous single. It’s short and succinct, has a steady groove, and is guided by some really great drums***. It’s the kind of song you can hear twice in a row.


***The drums you hear at the beginning were lifted and used on the Four Tet track below, “Carmella”.

“Carmella” is from the Four Tet: Remixes album, and uses a song by Beth Orton. The track builds slowly and the layering is superb (typical Four Tet), but is also about 6–minutes too long (typical Four Tet). Who would’ve thought Four Tet, Beth Orton, and The Marketts would mesh so well?

Affair To Remember: Interview with Leon Michels


If you’ve heard Menahan Street Band’s Make The Road By Walking (one of the year’s best!), then you know the horns are a major part of the album’s feel—if not the most important. The horn-lines entirely anchored the songs, adding texture to the already colorful arrangements but could also serve as its centerpiece. The horns were the product of Leon Michels, founder of Truth&Soul Records and frontman of El Michels Affair.

Menahan’s bandleader, Tommy Brenneck, has said that he thinks Leon is currently one of the top horn arrangers in the business, which is tough to dispute if you’ve heard either Make The Road…or Sounding Out The City. I spoke to Leon last year for a piece I was working on, and afterwards, he graciously shipped us a box of records to help sponsor San Jose’s Dig Dug. The year’s young, and Truth&Soul are gearing up to drop more heat this year. Here are some parts from the series of interviews we did a while back. Thanks again Leon, looking forward to the coming year.

Sounding Out The Scene


What was the response when you guys first played live?
It was first with the Mighty Imperials. At the time, we were sixteen and played hard funk songs to audiences of twenty-something hipsters in New York. People usually had a hard time wrapping their heads around the experience. It was a novelty act of sorts. With the El Michels Affair, it is different. Aside from the Wu-Tang shows we played, our original music is entirely instrumental. So the shows, depending the audience, are hit or miss.

Do you see your band expanding and playing different types of music, or just sticking with what you’ve already established?
Most of the stuff we do at Truth&Soul is produced and written by myself, Jeff, and some of the guys from El Michels. So we are consistently changing our style but attaching different band names to the music.

How did that Amy Winehouse remix come about? Continue reading “Affair To Remember: Interview with Leon Michels”

Tapedeck Sprained: Interview With Edan


Beauty And The Beat (one of the few truly great rap albums of recent years) blew me away then and continues age well. Like me, you’re probably waiting for another Edan release, another glimpse of his advancement as an emcee/DJ/producer. He could drop a purley instrumental project right now and I’d be more than interested. Yet he’s only done a few things sparingly since Beauty And The Beat, no full album, not even an EP, just random cameos via singles, remixes, and guest spots.

I interviewed him a couple years ago for Slap Magazine where we spoke about his career up to that point. This is a side talk from that conversation, us nerding out to old rap records and their respective eras. Here, Edan explores “Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme”, a track from Beauty where he identifies his influences by name. He shows a lot of respect—and knowledge—for hip-hop’s foundational sound, which is perhaps why his work is so textured. This interview really gives a glimpse of where his influences and tastes come from. Plus, I really dig how he answers the last question. Here’s to your next album, Mr. Donavexxxxxx.

So why’d you write “Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme’’?
In my mind, just being a fan, I realize that I had assembled some sort of chronology. I felt like, in some ways it’s a good way to show respect and just it makes for a nice constructive song. I also had the sample for the main chorus loop and that basically posed the question of what would be a good embellishment for that hook? In other words, what would the verses have to be for that chorus to be the cherry on top? And that led me to do some emceeing, rather than kick some battle bullshit.

Describe the lyrics. Was it hard to pick and choose who to overlook and who to keep?
I basically took the opportunity to cite cats in order. And a lot of people are gonna say Biggie was the best, Ice Cube was the best, Jay Z is the best, but those aren’t the types of emcees that make me want to rhyme. They’re great, don’t get me wrong. But for whatever reason, the cats that made me want to rhyme had minds that were more like jazz musicians or like a sax soloists.

Explain that a bit more.
Their control of rhythm reminds me of Jazz. So cats like Rakim, or how [Big Daddy] Kane finesses it, they all are very conscious of what is going on. Emcees that I have an affinity for have dope voices or flavor that aren’t usually not mentioned. I also upped T La Rock because he was a pioneer that used big words and tried to sound futuristic. That became very popular during the ‘84-‘85 era, so he’s kind of a pioneer in that thing. Continue reading “Tapedeck Sprained: Interview With Edan”

Moving sucks….


The blog is not ready to be seen. But if you’re here (sorry…), we’re in the process of extracting material from WTTM RADIO (RIP) to lay some groundwork before NERDTORIOUS goes live!

Expect tons of original interviews, articles, and music over the next fews days. Thanks for your patience.