“Midnight Rider” another year of riding dirty…

(Shouts to Aja West for this great post; a look at the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider” and its many incarnations. Joe Cocker’s take especially kills but all versions highlight different traits of the original. Really, they’re all great. Word Aja! -DM)

By Aja West

The Allman Brothers Band: “Midnight Rider” off Idlewild South [1970]

I love these blue-eyed soul men for their harmonizing voices on this escape and chase caper. The simple guitar pattern that grows in strength with the low end throughout this country funk song works well as hell. For all those riding dirty this ones for you!

Stephen Stills: Thoroughfare Gap [1978]

Still’s guitar lick led version rolls “smooth as strawberry ice cream” down the side of a waffle cone. Stephen loads his falsetto crossbow carefully palming his high-pitched “ace in the hole” arrows, guarding the audience against how he’s about to funk them up.

Joe Cocker: Classics Vol. 4 [1987]

Smoking. A slow opening with Cocker testifying then: congas, bass, drums and a mean Bruce Lee cymbal pattern. The Female backline rocks the Kasbah. I have subtle memories of a “Doobie Brothers” style break beat on this track but I was riding dirty at the time so who knows?

The Wood Brothers: Up Above My Head [2009]

The Wood Brothers version carries a unique jazzy arrangement. I especially like the upright bass changing the whole groove significantly and not just the low end. This is the poorest recording of the pile, at times verging on distortion and I simply don’t want these fools to fix it.

Gregg Allman: Laid Back [1973]

The original inspired voice renders a rock version featuring beautiful Rhodes electric piano work that keeps with the deep good old boys root feeling of the original track.

Classics and Obscure versions for the whole family Continue reading ““Midnight Rider” another year of riding dirty…”


Synth-thesis: Interview With Aja West of The Mackrosoft


“Three Views Of A Secret”, S.E.M.E.

Aja West controls The Mackrosoft, a label and group that for the last 9 years has released piles of funky, jazz-fusion projects. Their tracks have hip-hop sensibilities (as teenagers, Aja and his brother, Cheeba, interned for The Dust Brothers) yet their music’s quite varied, squeezing R&B, rock, and electronic into textured arrangements—think synthy, erratic Bob James with hard drums.

Mackrosoft Records is 15 albums deep since starting up in 2000. This year, they’ll add a trilogy of works that might be their most intricate; Shirts and Skins, S.E.M.E. , and Upgrade. Colorful and uncluttered, Aja’s arrangements show his composing prowness. He doesn’t read music or write music, but plays most of the instruments himself. He’s surrounded by notable musicians (Money Mark), some of them legendary (Headhunters’ Paul Jackson and Mike Clark). And they all follow his lead, coming in to replay parts, enhance others, or as Aja puts it, “fill in the gaps”.

I spoke to Aja recently while working on an article and found him genuinely eccentric and funny. Here’s a guy who openly takes mushrooms and cuts records, all while orchestrating musicians and running a label. Here are parts of our interview along with standout tracks from his upcoming trilogy.

What exactly do you do?
I make funk jazz, funk soul, funk rock, and all styles of funk that be. I’m Aja West and you’re rocking with the best.

You still take mushrooms while working on your music? How do they affect what you do and others around you?
Absolutely. Over the years, I’ve worked a third of the time in The Netherlands allowing me to use many species of fungi in many unusual but legal environments such as zoo’s, great museums, and red light districts. Altering one’s perception of the world through plant psychedelics will usually give you what you need not want. Psychedelic and mystical catalysts had already provided me with a direct experience of simple joyful noise infused with a plethora of meaning at a fairly young age. Continue reading “Synth-thesis: Interview With Aja West of The Mackrosoft”