Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Fela Kuti drew admiration and aggression with the wicked political satire of this explosive Afrobeat exposition. 'Zombie' took Kuti's polyrhythmic funk to the next level by comparing the soldiers of the brutal Nigerian regime to mindless monsters. His anger is focused into a humorous metaphor with a contagious groove that was embraced by the people; but the government was extremely displeased. Very soon after the release of the album, one thousand soldiers marched on the Kalakuta Republic commune where Kuti and his band Afrika '70 recorded the album and burned the place to the ground. In the process the soldiers threw his elderly mother from a window causing fatal injuries and nearly beat Kuti to death. Fela delivered her casket to the barracks and demanded that the army bury her body. He would later write the song 'Unknown Soldier' as a response to the result of the official inquiry that determined that the attack was committed by an unknown soldier. A year later, Kuti married tweny-seven women to mark the anniversary of the attack on the Kalakuta Republic. Many of these women were his dancers, composers, and singers. As part of African tradition, he married them to offer them protection from being destitute. He was banned from performing in Ghana after a riot broke out during a live performance of 'Zombie' in 1978. Later that year, Afrika '70 broke up after a show in Berlin. In 1979, he ran for President as head of the Movement of the People party he started and continued to record his revolutionary music and tour up until his death from A.I.D.S. in 1997.  'Zombie' stands as a defining work of defiance and determination from Kuti's extensive catalogue.

Kuti would later say of his life of hardship and imprisonment:   "Oh, as a matter of fact, I don’t think anything negative ever happened to me. It looked negative to the materialistic world, but in my spiritual life, which was now exposed to me or to other people, every suffering that I went through was like I was buying powers, I was buying health from higher powers. Every time I went through my sufferings, like they burned my house, beating, everything, every time I was in punishment it was not pleasant. But any time I went through it, I was always happy that I was able to stand it. And I would never regret that I went through it. I was out good, so you know, it’s beautiful. So every experience like this prison I went to, although it was terrible for punishment, after I was in I didn’t think I could really go through 18 months of prison and come out fine. So every stage of my difficulties was like what people call a 'blessing'."


Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Zombie o, zombie (Zombie o, zombie)
Zombie no go go, unless you tell him to go. (Zombie)
Zombie no go stop, unless you tell him to stop. (Zombie)
Zombie no go turn, unless you tell him to turn. (Zombie)
Zombie no go think, unless you tell him to think. (Zombie)
Tell him to go straight. A joro, jara, joro.
No break, no job, no sense. A joro, jara, joro.
Tell him to go kill. A joro, jara, joro.
No break, no job, no sense. A joro, jara, joro.
Tell him to go quench. A joro, jara, joro.
No break, no job, no sense. A joro, jara, joro.
Go and kill! (Joro, jaro, joro)
Go and die! (Joro, jaro, joro)
Go and quench! (Joro, jaro, joro)
Put him for reverse! (Joro, jaro, joro)
Joro, jara, joro, zombie went a one way.
Joro, jara, joro, zombie went a one way.
Joro, jara, joro, zombie went a one way.
Joro, jara, joro.
Attention! (Zombie)
Quick march!
Slow march! (Zombie)
Left turn!
Right turn! (Zombie)
About turn!
Double up! (Zombie)
Open your hat! (Zombie)
Stand at ease!
Fall in! (Zombie)
Fall out!
Fall down! (Zombie)
Get ready!

Mister Follow Follow"  

bonus tracks
"Observation Is No Crime"  

"Mistake" (Live at the Berlin Jazz Festival, 1978)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


George Michael made us all believers when he came through a major depression to produce the biggest album of his career with the mature themes and diverse musical sophistication of this revelatory pop phenomenon.   'Faith' was born out of the breakup of Wham! and the end of a personal relationship.  Michael considered:  "In terms of lyrics, I guess the theme of the record is my life over the past couple of years.  And I suppose sex has been a major theme...I have a very strong tendency to go for people that I know I can't ever fully have. And that tendency became a full-blown fact once I could have anyone, basically, that I wanted. It became totally unattractive to me to have anyone and everyone I wanted - because for a while I did. I mucked around a lot for about eight months to a year, really. And then you realize that you are a bigger mug than they are, because you're the one that gets talked about in their office the next day...The actual Wham! split was definitely provoked by my emotional distress around that period.  It's hard to tell whether or not it would have happened at that time had it not been for that relationship failing. Maybe if I'd felt more secure, I would have felt no need to shake things up. But at the time I just wanted to make a clean start. Basically, I didn't want to be a star anymore, because I was feeling so sorry for myself ... The one person I really wanted, who I thought my life should revolve around, didn't want me. It hit me hard. There is a real pathos having to be part of a group such as Wham! when you are at your lowest ebb. The relationship fucked me up because I am usually the one who does the leaving. It was messy and I am used to being loved. I was spoilt in so many ways - going straight from school into the band, having no money problems, being able to sleep with whoever I wanted to whenever I wanted to, my career going exactly as I wanted - and then someone pulled the carpet away...I drank myself stupid for eight or ten months.  I was in a very bad way...I thought - I have finally woken up. I have sussed it out and it is all a pile of shit...I have friends who are good enough friends to say to me - if you carry on like this then you are a complete asshole.  But I just didn't take notice of them."

In the midst of this boozy haze, Michael began a new relationship with DJ and makeup artist Kathy Jeung; but it was his old partner Andrew Ridgeley that helped him the most:  "Andrew was so great. I used him as a sounding board for everything that I thought was wrong. It was like an exorcism. He was very worried about me and he had to leave LA the next day. But when I woke up the next morning the cloud had lifted and, though I should have felt incredibly hungover, I felt brilliant. That black time ended after I had it out with Andrew. Now I am back in control."

Michael wrote, arranged, and produced all of the songs on 'Faith' with the exception of a shared writing credit on 'Look at Your Hands' with David Austin.  Apart from the vocals, George Michael played keyboards, bass, drums, all of the instruments on "I Want Your Sex Pt 1" & "Hard Day", and most of the instruments on "Monkey".  Robert Ahwai, J.J. Belle, Hugh Burns, and Roddy Matthews contributed guitar; Chris Cameron added piano, cathedral organ, keyboards, and backing vocals; with Betsy Cook and Danny Schogger on keyboards; Deon Estus on bass; Ian Thomas on drums; Andy Duncan on percussion; Steve Sidwell, Jamie Talbot, Rick Taylor, Paul Spong, Malcolm Griffiths, Mark Chandler, and Steve Waterman on horns; and Shirley Lewis on backing vocals.  

'Faith' was an international smash hit, going to number sixteen in Japan; five in France; four in Sweden and Switzerland; three in Austria, Germany, New Zealand, and Norway; and number one in Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, and the US.  It also became the first album by a caucasian artist to top the US R&B album chart, where it made its debut. 'Faith' also won the Grammy award for Album of the Year.  It has sold over twenty million copies worldwide.  Michael says:   "It's very important to be popular. I love pop music and I'm totally fascinated by it. I love what it does to me emotionally, and the way that individuals can affect society as popstars - which they do, unbelievable as that may seem. I find it fascinating because it's such a contemporary form of art; the only totally immediate artform. But I do like to be thought of as a craftsman; however, I don't like the idea that that somehow detaches from what I do."


'I Want Your Sex' was banned in many places, but it still became a huge hit.  

'Father Figure'

'One More Try'


'Kissing a Fool'

full album:

All songs written and composed by George Michael, except where noted.

Side one
"Faith" – 3:16
"Father Figure" – 5:36
"I Want Your Sex (Parts I & II)" – 9:17
"One More Try" – 5:50
Side two
"Hard Day" – 4:48
"Hand to Mouth" – 4:36
"Look at Your Hands" (Michael, David Austin) – 4:37
"Monkey" (Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis)– 5:06
"Kissing a Fool" – 4:35
bonus tracks
"Hard Day" (Shep Pettibone Remix) – 6:29
"A Last Request (I Want Your Sex Part III)" – 3:48

Monday, October 29, 2012

raising sand

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss found unlikely success with this mesmerizing and eclectic melding of folk, blues, rockabilly, bluegrass, country, and rock. 'Raising Sand' was produced by T-Bone Burnett with sessions that took place at Sound Emporium in Nashville, Tennessee; Electro Magnetic Studios and The Village Recorder in Los Angeles; and Sage & Sound in Hollywood. The album features Robert Plant on vocals and Alison Krauss on vocals and fiddle; with Riley Baugus on banjo; Jay Bellerose on drums; Norman Blake on acoustic guitar; T-Bone Burnett on acoustic, electric, and six-string bass guitar; Dennis Crouch on acoustic bass; Greg Leisz on pedal steel guitar; Marc Ribot on acoustic guitar, banjo, dobro, and electric guitar; Mike Seeger on autoharp; and Patrick Warren on keyboards, pump organ, and toy piano.

The collaboration between the rock icon and country star seemed strange to many. Krauss remembers:   “When I first met him, at a Leadbelly tribute, I saw that big hairdo, I said 'Robert,’ he turns around, he’s got these glasses on, and he goes 'There you are.’ And the first thing he starts talking about is Ralph Stanley. He’s very passionate about music. We were riding around making the record and he goes, 'Do you think something’s wrong with me? My kids say, 'We want a real dad, can’t you be a normal dad?’ and I’m like, 'They’re going to be waiting a long time.’ He’s like 'Listen to this, this Egyptian singer, can you believe it, blaaaah…’ Just crazy.That’s a really infectious, wonderful thing to be around.”

'Raising Sand' went to number forty-five in Australia; thirty-three in Switzerland; twenty-six in Germany; five in Canada; three on Australia's country chart; two in Sweden, the UK, the US, and the US country chart; and number one in Norway and on the US rock album chart. In the US, it made its debut at number two. 'Raising Sand' went on to win Grammy awards for all of the catagories for which it was nominated: Album of the Year; Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album; Record of the Year (for "Please Read the Letter"); Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals (for "Rich Woman"); and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (for "Killing the Blues").   Plant admits:   "With all small pools of beautiful music, there is a sort of sacrosanct, almost hallowed, area, of where the audience and musician become one in this closely guarded secret. It’s bullshit, absolute bullshit. Music is for every single person that walks the planet. In the end, if it gets you, it gets you. So terminology, terms, parentheses, I think that they’re irrelevant. I think what happened was Alison and I made some great records with a producer who was right on the top of his gig, and some great people were playing around him. And the songs were chosen really, really well. I wanted to bring in some smoky sort of stuff I thought I could never get at with anybody else. But I think the great thing is that there’s a promising and more and more progressive marriage between artists under a flag like that."

'Raising Sand' 
full album:

1. "Rich Woman" Dorothy LaBostrie, McKinley Millet 4:04
2. "Killing the Blues" Roly Jon Salley 4:16
3. "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" Sam Phillips 3:26
4. "Polly Come Home" Gene Clark 5:36
5. "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" The Everly Brothers 3:33
6. "Through the Morning, Through the Night" Gene Clark 4:01
7. "Please Read the Letter" Charlie Jones, Michael Lee, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant 5:53
8. "Trampled Rose" Kathleen Brennan, Tom Waits 5:34
9. "Fortune Teller" Allen Toussaint 4:30
10. "Stick With Me Baby" Mel Tillis 2:50
11. "Nothin'" Townes Van Zandt 5:33
12. "Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson" Milton Campbell 4:02
13. "Your Long Journey" Doc Watson, Rosa Lee Watson 3:55


Sunday, October 28, 2012

talking book

 Stevie Wonder expanded his sound and his audience with the synthesized soul of this funky classic.  'Talking Book' was recorded at Air Studios in London, Electric Lady Studios inNew York, and at Crystal Studios and the Record Plant, both in Los Angeles.  As with 'Music of my Mind', Wonder co-produced the album with Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff of electronic duo Tonto's Expanding Headband.  Wonder said in an interview in Rolling Stone: "For the most part I've just listened to what's in my head, plus Bob Margoloff and Malcolm Cecil - they just build a new synthesizer you should see - they have their own company, Centaur, and they did an album, 'Tonto's Expanding Headband'.  They are responsible for programming and I just tell them the kind of sound I want.  I hadn't got tired of strings or horns or anything.  It's just another dimension. I'd like to get into doing just acoustic things, drums, bass, no electronic things at all except for recording them."

For the sessions, Wonder sang lead and background vocals and played Fender Rhodes, Hohner clavinet, Moog bass, piano, T.O.N.T.O. synthesizer, harmonica, and drums; with Jeff Beck, Ray Parker Jr., and Howard "Buzzy" Feiten on electric guitar; Scott Edwards on electric bass; David Sanborn on alto saxophone; Trevor Laurence on tenor saxophone; Steve Madaio on trumpet; Daniel Ben Zebulon on congas; Jim Gilstrap and Lani Groves on lead vocals and background vocals; and Gloria Barley, Deniece Williams, Shirley Brewer, Debra Wilson, Shirley Brewer, and Loris Harvin on background vocals.  

Wonder drew lyrical inspiration from history:  "The most interesting to me was about civilizations before ours, how advanced people really were, how high they had brought themselves only to bring themselves down because of the missing links, the weak foundations.  So the whole thing crumbled.  And that's kind of sad.  And it relates to today and what could possibly happen here, very soon.  That's basically what 'Big Brother' is all about.   I speak of the history, the heritage of the violence, or the negativeness of being able to see what's going on with minority people.  Seemingly it's going to continue to be this way.  Sometimes unfortunately violence is a way things get accomplished. 'Big Brother' was something to make people aware of the fact that after all is said and done, that I don't have to do nothing to you, meaning the people are not power players.  We don't have to do anything to them 'cause they're gonna cause their own country to fall.  'My name is Secluded; we live in a house the size of a matchbox.'  A person who lives there, really, his name is Secluded, and you never even know the person, and they can have so many things to say to help make it better, but it's like the voice that speaks is forever silenced.  I understand that when you don't hear anything and you hear this very high frequency, that's the sound of the universe...I want to reach the people.  I feel there is so much through music that can be said, and there's so many people you can reach by listening to another kind of music besides what is considered you only kind of music.  That's why I hate labels where they say 'This is Stevie Wonder and for the rest of his life he will sing 'Fingertips''...Maybe because I'm Taurean and people say Taureans don't dig change too much.  I say as long as it's change to widen your horizons, it's cool."

'Talking Book' was not only his first album to break the top ten on the US album chart, peaking at number three, it was also his first to top the R&B album chart, staying there for three weeks.  It also charted at number sixteen in the UK and sold gold in Canada.  'Talking Book' earned Wonder three Grammy awards: Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "You Are the Sunshine of My Life", and both Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song for "Superstition".

 "Superstition"  was Wonder's first number one pop single since 'Fingertips' in 1963.  He had promised the song to Jeff Beck; but Motown insisted on releasing it as a single.

'Talking Book'

full album:

All songs composed by Stevie Wonder, except where noted.

Side one
"You Are the Sunshine of My Life"– 2:58
"Maybe Your Baby" – 6:51
"You and I (We Can Conquer the World)"– 4:39
"Tuesday Heartbreak"– 3:02
"You've Got It Bad Girl" (Yvonne Wright) – 4:56
Side two
"Superstition"– 4:26
"Big Brother"– 3:34
"Blame It on the Sun" (Wonder, Syreeta Wright) – 3:26
"Lookin' for Another Pure Love" (Wonder, S. Wright) – 4:44
"I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)" (Wonder, Y. Wright) – 4:51

Saturday, October 27, 2012

never mind the bollocks

The Sex Pistols changed the face of popular music with the filth and fury of their outrageous punk rock manifesto.  The band started out as the Strand with Steve Jones and Paul Cook.  They convinced boutique owner Malcolm McLaren to be their manager and recruited Glen Matlock; one of the employees at McLaren's store Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die; to be their bass player.  John Lydon was brought into the group when he began hanging out at the store.  Jones recalls: "He came in with green hair. I thought he had a really interesting face. I liked his look. He had his 'I Hate Pink Floyd' T-shirt on, and it was held together with safety pins. John had something special, but when he started talking he was a real asshole—but smart."

Lydon brought a dark and intense lyrical perspective to the band that was drawn from the dismal economic times:  "Early Seventies Britain was a very depressing place. It was completely run-down, there was trash on the streets, total unemployment—just about everybody was on strike. Everybody was brought up with an education system that told you point blank that if you came from the wrong side of the tracks...then you had no hope in hell and no career prospects at all. Out of that came pretentious moi and the Sex Pistols and then a whole bunch of copycat wankers after us."

Lydon adopted the name Johnny Rotten and the band became the Sex Pistols.  They built a dedicated following (called the Bromley Contingent, which included such future luminaries as Siouxsie Sioux, Steve Severin and Billy Idol) with their explosive live shows and scored a contract with EMI.  The incendiary politics of their iconic debut single 'Anarchy in the UK'  became a top forty hit in the UK.  A live interview on the local 'Today' show with Bill Grundy brought national attention and outrage over the profanity used by members of the band.  The incident led to cancellations of most of the shows on their Anarchy Tour of the UK with The Clash and The Heartbreakers.

EMI dumped the band and deleted the single; but had to pay fifty thousand pounds for the pleasure.  Matlock left the band (or was fired because he "like the Beatles") and replaced by Lydon's friend Simon John Ritchie, who had been the drummer for  Siouxsie & the Banshees and The Flowers of Romance and had invented the pogo dance at Sex Pistols gigs.  Lydon dubbed his friend Sid Vicious after his hamster (named for Syd Barrett) and Lou Reed's song from 'Transformer'.  

The new lineup began recording at Wessex Sound Studios in London with producer Chris Thomas and engineer Bill Price.  Matlock was approached to play bass on the sessions because Vicious' skills were not up to par; but Jones ended up playing bass because Matlock did not receive the advance payment he requested.  The Sex Pistols signed a deal with A&M and the band immediately trashed their offices and abused the staff.  This led to them being dropped from the label only six days later, with a payment of seventy-five thousand pounds.  Recording continued as McLaren tried to broker another record deal.  Eventually, the band signed with  Virgin Records and finished up the album with Johnny Rotten on lead vocals; Paul Cook on drums; Steve Jones on guitar, bass guitar, and backing vocals; Glen Matlock on bass guitar on "Anarchy in the UK"; and Sid Vicious on bass guitar on "Bodies".  

The album release was rushed because of bootleg versions and it made its debut at number one on the UK album chart, despite being banned by major retailers.  'Never Mind the Bollocks' also went to number twenty-seven in New Zealand, twelve in Sweden, and eleven in Norway. It only charted at number one hundred and six in the US and one hundred in Spain; but it has since been certified platinum in the US as well as the UK.  It was the only studio album the Sex Pistols ever released.  They would break up only three months later during their American tour.  'Never Mind the Bollocks' was a major flashpoint in the development of punk rock and is one of the most influential albums of all time.   Cook admits:   "I’m not tired of hearing it really. I think it stands the test of time and it still sounds great when you hear it on the radio. It’s not like I play it all the time but I was proud to be a part of that, being a part of what happened with the Pistols and the influence it had on everything. I don’t dwell on that; it’s good to listen to it now and again. It’s nice that people say that they were influenced by all the Pistols stuff; it’s pretty good that we influenced a whole range of people. I don’t dwell on it or glorify it."

"Anarchy in the UK"

Sex Pistols ~ Anarchy In The UK from sofarsoShawn on Vimeo.

"God Save the Queen"
SexPistols - God Save The Queen

'Never Mind the Bollocks'

full album:

All songs written by  Cook/Jones/Rotten/Vicious

01. Holiday in The Sun 00:00
02. Bodies 03:18
03. No Feeling 06:20
04. Liar 09:08
05. God Save The Queen 11:47
06. Problems 15:05
07. Seventeen 19:15
08. Anarchy in The U.K. 21:16
09. Submission 24:47
10. Pretty Vacant 28:58
11. New York 32:13
12. E.M.I. (Unlimited Edition) 35:19

Friday, October 26, 2012


Prince broke through into the mainstream with the funky electronic explorations of this double album of dance pop new wave magnificence. '1999' was recorded at Kiowa Trail Home Studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota and Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood, California. The sessions were produced by Prince with minimal imput from his new band the Revolution:  Dez Dickerson giving the co-lead vocal on "1999" and "Little Red Corvette" and guitar solos on "Little Red Corvette"; Wendy Melvoin giving background vocals on "Free"; Lisa Coleman giving co-lead vocal on "1999" and "Little Red Corvette", background vocals on "Delirous", "D.M.S.R.", "Automatic" and "Free", handclaps on "D.M.S.R."; J.J. giving co-lead vocal on "1999", background vocals on "Automatic", "Free" and "Lady Cab Driver"; Vanity giving background vocals on "Free"; and Jamie Shoop, Carol McGovney, Peggy McCreary, Brown Mark, Poochie and "the Count" giving background vocals and handclaps on "D.M.S.R.". All other vocals and instruments were done by Prince.

Prince explained:  "The reason I don't use musicians a lot of the time had to do with the hours that I worked. I swear to God it's not out of boldness when I say this, but there's not a person around who can stay awake as long as I can. Music is what keeps me awake. There will be times when I've been working in the studio for twenty hours and I'll be falling asleep in the chair, but I'll still be able to tell the engineer what cut I want to make. I use engineers in shifts a lot of the time because when I start something, I like to go all the way through. There are very few musicians who will stay awake that long."

The album featured a wild fusion of different musical styles ranging from pop, soul, gospel, and rock to the synthesized extended funk jams that kept people dancing until they dropped. Prince would exclaim: "What's missing from pop music is danger. There's no excitement and mystery - people sneaking out and going to these forbidden concerts by Elvis Presley or Jimi Hendrix."

'1999' went to number thirty five in Australia, thirty in the UK, twenty-five in Canada, nine in the US, and number six in New Zealand. It has been certified platinum in Canada and the UK and quadruple platinum in the US. The lyrics of the album rose eyebrows for their explicit sexual imagry. Prince considers:   "I guess if there's a concept, it's freedom—personal freedom—and the fact that we all have to do what we want to do. I think I say exactly the way it is. I don't particularly think what I sing about is so controversial. My albums deal with being loved and accepted. They deal with war. They deal with sex. When a girl can get birth control pills at age twelve, she knows just about as much as I do. My mom had stuff in her room that I could sneak in and get...books, vibrators. I did it. I'm sure everybody does...It could be that I have a need to be different."

The single for the apocalyptic title track hit twenty-one in Ireland, fourteen in the Netherlands, twelve in the US, six in Canada, four in New Zealand and on the US R&B chart, two in Australia and Switzerland, and number one on the US dance chart.

"Little Red Corvette"
This racy number drove its way to number sixty-one on the US dance chart, fifteen on the US R&B chart, twelve in New Zealand, eight in Australia, six in the US, five in Canada, and number two in the UK.

"Delirious" went to thirty-three in New Zealand, twenty-seven in Canada, eighteen on the US R&B chart, and number eight on the US pop chart.

 "Let's Pretend We're Married"  
charted at number fifty-five on the US R&B chart, and number fifty-two on the US dance and pop charts.

"dance music sex romance!"

full album:

All tracks written by Prince. 

Side one
1. "1999"   6:15
2. "Little Red Corvette"   5:03
3. "Delirious"   4:00
Side two
4. "Let's Pretend We're Married"   7:21
5. "D.M.S.R."   8:17
Side three
6. "Automatic"   9:28
7. "Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)"   4:02
8. "Free"   5:08
Side four
9. "Lady Cab Driver"   8:19
10. "All the Critics Love U in New York"   5:59
11. "International Lover"   6:37