Guest Spot: Michael Barnes of Melting Pot

[Editor’s note: This comes to us from Michael Barnes who runs one of my favorite audioblogs, Melting Pot. Catch Michael on his weekly radio program, Melting Pot Radio every Sunday from 4-6pm on KPFK (90.7 FM Los Angeles / 98.7 FM Santa Barbara / Worldwide @ KPFK.ORG). Starting this week, for Southern California folk, Michael DJs every Tuesday night at the Virgil in Los Angeles. Per usual, he comes correct with choice cuts and great info. And congrats to Melting Pot for 3 years of keeping things consistent; definite two thumbs up!- DM]

“Daglar Dagladi Beni” by Edip Akbayram & Dolstar

At some point as I was buzzing through youtube videos looking for a track that was stuck in my head, I came across this video promising “Crazy Turkish Heavy Psych Funk Breaks.” The link did not disappoint, fuzzy guitars, heavy drums, cool singing in Turkish and, strangely, stills from Team America: World Police of turban wearing puppets. What was not shown or mentioned in the video was the name of the artist or the song. Having been led to youtube in an attempt to solve one riddle I had been led into another one and after hearing all those fuzzy guitars I was determined to figure it all out. Through some deductive reasoning (starting with the label, cross checking Ebay, moving to 1970s artists on that label and then back to youtube) I finally discovered that the artist was Edip Akbayram along with his group Dostlar.

The video featured excerpts from both sides of a 45 the band released in the early 1970s, “Daglar Dagladi Beni” on one side and the equally heavy “Ince Ince Bir Kar Yagar” on the flipside (each of these tracks are also featured on Edip’s super rare debut LP though they’ve also been compiled together by Shadoks, but even that collection is tough to find these days). As luck would have it the 45 was just waiting for me to get it on Ebay and I was more than happy to snatch it up. Whenever I hear the opening first minute of “Daglar” I immediately envision it being used in the soundtrack of a Quentin Tarantino film, as two characters are about to face off. It just has THAT kind of sound.

“Toe Jam” by Mount Rushmore

Recently ran into this at the Pasadena Flea Market/Record Swap. Having heard the Handsome Boy Modeling School’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll (Could Never Hip-Hop Like This)” I knew that “Toe Jam,” from the band’s second LP, had served as the primary sample. Mount Rushmore were more of a blues-oriented Frisco band and fans of that sound would dig most of the other cuts on the album. For me it all comes back to those drums and the fuzzy guitar and bass. It’s a super heavy sound, almost Black Sabbath heavy once the unsampled melody kicks in. The first three minutes are so good I don’t even hold it against them for speeding things up and losing the funk for the last half of the song.

“LaçoNegro” by União Black

One of the few exceptions to my “never buy a record recorded after 1976” quality assurance rule, at least as it applies to funk, are records out of Brazil. Things just didn’t seem to get quite so heavily disco-fied in Brazil as quickly as they did here in the US, so you can often find very heavy funk records from 1977 and even 1978. União Black’s self-titled debut from that year is a record that I bet a lot of people pass up just because of the cheesy graphics on the cover. This would be a total mistake because it’s also one of the funkier bits of Brazilian wax ever released. In addition to the funk, the influence of the burgeoning Brazilian Black consciousness movement is also clear in this music, with half of the album’s songs having either “Black,” “Negro” or “Africana” in the title. Of those (which are also the best tracks on the album), LaçoNegro is the one I chose to share with you, just because I love mid-tempo funky struttin’ quality of the beat and I’m a well known sucker for soul claps.

* Add Melting Pot’s FB Page for more of the like if you dig what you’ve heard!


Guest Spot: O-Dub on the BLC

By Oliver Wang

The “Black Label” collection (BLC) is nearly 250 MP3s that my old editor Tommy Tompkins hit me with back in 2004 or so. I forget where he got them from but whoever originally compiled the collection did a bang-up job: superb taste in R&B that range from the early 1960s through early ’70s. My original plan was to create a series of posts based on songs in the collection – I even created a custom image to go with such posts – but in the end, the momentum of writing on other songs ended up leaving the Black Label series ideas by the wayside.

Yet, I would be reminded of the BLC every so often because I’d learn about a new single, cop it, and when I’d go to digitize it, realize: oh wait, this was already in the collection. I’m slightly embarrassed how often this happens to me if only because I should really just sit down with the damn thing and go through it, song-by-song. But really, it speaks to the quality of the collection that over the last 8 years, I still am discovering the gems it holds, even if inadvertently. Here’s three 7″ singles that appear in the Black Label collection.

1) The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band: A Dance, a Kiss, and a Song (Warner Bros. 1968)

My original interests in Watts 103rd St. (pictured above) off of the Together album tended to gravitate more to the straight up funk instrumentals, especially “Giggin’ Down 103rd St.” (straight fiyah!) but I didn’t really catch wind to how incredibly great ” A Dance, a Kiss, and a Song” was until I started combing through the BLC. The songs features drummer James Gadson on vocals rather than Charles Wright and as I discovered the other month, not only is it on the flip side of “Do Your Thing” (one of their biggest hits before “Express Yourself”) but it has a cool European pic sleeve version which I was only too happy to drop a few bucks for.

2) Mike & The Censations: Victim of Circumstance (Highland, 1966)

This is one of those cases where I really appreciated how deep the BLC went, despite also having clearly slept on going through it to have discovered this single earlier than I did (which was 1-2 years ago). Mike & The Censations were lead by L.A.’s Mike James Kirkland who’d go onto bigger fame in the early 1970s with “Hang On In There” but this is back during his early career. Mike was actually a contemporary of a lot of the guys in the Watts 103rd, several of whom worked studio gigs for the Censations (and Wright went to the same high school as Mike’s brother). “Victim of Circumstance” is one of several superior singles the group recorded (and licensed through the Highland label). The horns are awesome here – what an opening! – and the song itself is on some classic, late night dedication, firm rola tip.

3) Jackie Ross: Selfish One (Chess, 1963)

While Jackie Ross didn’t have a massive career, this was her biggest hit and should have been a single I was up on years ago. Instead, I only copped it a few weeks back, only to learn – once again – that it had been in the BLC all along. Great Northern tune (that borrows heavily, arguably shamelessly, from the Motown sound). Am I crazy in thinking it also briefly borrows from the jazz standard, “Tenderly,” before Ross swings in? Either way, hand-clapping soul at its finest.

Guest Spot: J-Zone’s Favorite Forty-Fives

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be rolling out guest spots from some of my favorite music lovers. These dudes (all of whom usually come correct in their respective fields) typically get us geeked so the prompt was simple: grab a few of your favorite records, talk about them and share. I’m flattered by the response but also eager to unleash these thoughtful and funny, top-notch submissions.

First up is one of our favorite personalities, J-Zone. You might know him by 2001’s Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes LP, his work with Ego Trip, or his stellar musings for Dante Ross’ blog. He penned this post for us shortly after obliterating one of the Bay Area’s best parties, The 45 Sessions. His new book, Root For The Villain, is available now. Thanks J! -DM

Soul Suspects’ “Handle It” [Black Prince, year unknown]

This was one of many 45s I got off an ex-DJ turned drug addict in 1994. I worked in Vance Wright’s (Slick Rick’s DJ) studio in high school; one day the dude rolled up in there trying to sell his entire 45 collection. He wanted like $100 but Vance and I talked him down to $50 and split the bill. There was all types of good shit in there, like rare good shit. Pazant Bros.’ Chick-A-Boom,” Ricky Williams’ “Discotheque Soul,” some General Crook, Ramrods, Joe Quarterman, JB and early Kool and the Gang 45s…it was a nice box of shit. I got all the joints with mean breaks and this was one of the meanest. It’s got the same song structure as Sly & the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music,” as did most funk 45s from about ’68 through the early ’70s. There’d be a groove, then each instrument would get called out for solos. Then they’d groove to the outro.

It was a popular format for early funk shit, but this one was always particularly funky and I always liked really fast funk records because they’re good for the dance floor (as opposed to just being used for sampling) and remind me of shit that Big Daddy Kane would rhyme on. This one really builds at the end with the horns and special effects – it always stuck out to me. And when I found out that it was pretty rare, I began treating it better than other human beings. One time after a gig I put the 45 on the passenger seat and made the girl I was dating ride in the trunk.

Sam and the Soul Walkers’ “Soul Walk” [Transcontinental, 1968]

There was a rap song from 1990 that sampled this. (Don’t wanna snitch; these past-the-statute-of-limitations lawsuits are getting out of control.) Anyway, I loved the beat and it drove me crazy that for 20+ years I never knew what the original was. Nobody I asked knew either. It’s rare that I don’t find out the original sample of something I want to know, especially in the internet era and with all the diggers and producers I know. But this one stumped me. Earlier this year I was in Big City Records (NYC) listening to 45s and pulled this out not knowing what was on it. It’s a dope, uptempo joint and I was gonna buy it to spin out anyway, but then the fuckin’ break came in!

Solving the mystery by surprise like that was like touching a live wire. That was just a diggin’ throwback from the ’90s because that’s how you discovered samples back then. I’m learning to play drums now and I practice to this one a lot, too. I love that raggedy, late ’60s-era, four piece Slingerland drum kit with one mic on it sound. Then the female singers and piano twinkles add this subtle touch that make it a little less predictable than the average funk 45. It’s a multi-purpose funk / soul 45 and the b-side is a decent straight ahead soul joint.