Give the Drummer Some's
Favorite Downloads from the MP3 Blogosphere
For more than two decades now, a regular listener of my radio program, a fellow named Mel Wright, has been calling me up during the broadcast to hip me to some lesser-known artist, or an overlooked album, or a particular song by some cat he knows I'll go ape over. And with very few exceptions, Mel's recommendations have been revelations. So why, then, despite numerous proddings from Mel over the years, did I deny myself the pleasure of Kenny Rankin's rich songcraft? It's a mystery. I guess I thought I knew what Kenny's music sounded like and wrote him off without really listening.
Recently, Private Press, a terrific blog with an impeccable track record, posted an album of Kenny's and I went ahead and gave it a shot. Well, as I sat there by myself with headphones aloft and iTunes working its way through the tracks, I was overcome equally with chagrin and delight. One of the great appeals of doing freeform radio, I find, is having the opportunity to demolish my own foolish prejudgments and biases about artists, genres, sounds. A casting off of sins, if you will. A celebratory unburdening. The list of music I once loathed that now thrills me is a mile long. Like a reformed addict, I sometimes proselytize even more passionately about music I'd previously rejected. No fire and brimstone here, though. Just go check it out.
Can I get a witness...
Kenny Rankin ~ "Like a Seed"
(Blog: Private Press)
Let It Grow on You
Though Kenny was cherished for his affecting versions of other artists' songs—Paul McCartney asked him to sing a medley at his and John Lennon's induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame—this 1972 LP contains nothing but originals. At the time of its release, Rankin was one of three artists signed to Little David Records. The other two: Flip Wilson and George Carlin!
Lincoln Chase ~ "Chase 'n You"
(Blog: El Reza)
Wooshp, Oom, Sff - Ahhhh!
Lincoln Chase, manager for and songwriting partner with Shirley Ellis, was the "Lincoln" name-checked in Ellis's playlful, rhyming evergreen The Name Game (remember the lyric: "Lincoln, Lincoln, bo-Bincoln, Banana-fana fo-Fincoln, Fee-fi-mo-Incoln, Lincoln!") Chase also scribed hits for such headliners as Ruth Brown ("Mend Your Ways"), LaVern Baker ("Jim Dandy") and Big Maybelle ("Rain Down Rain"), but familiarity with any of these R&B tracks won't prepare you for this 1973 album—Chase's lone release—of twisted soul/funk oddities that sound inspired equally by Melvin Van Peebles and Eugene McDaniels.
Bismillah Khan ~ "Shehnai Nawaz"
(Blog: Anthems for the Nation of Luobaniya)
You're Gonna Blow It
The quadruple-reeded shehnai, the shorter, higher-pitched Northern cousin of the South Indian nadaswaram, is often referred to as the Indian oboe. (For a stunning example of nadaswaram playing, check out this previous Mining the Audio Motherlode.) Notoriously difficult to master, the shehnai has known no greater master than Ustad Bismillah Khan, as demonstrated by this 1964 recording (which is every bit as gorgeous and enchanting as its cover art.) Just can't get enough Bismillah? Go here, here, here and, yes, here.
Various ~ "Gimme Dat Harp Boy: Roots of the Captain"
(Blog: Weirdtown Stuff )
Where's the Beefheart?
What's not to love about a compilation that includes performances by Sidney Bechet, Lord Buckley, Kanui & Lula, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Nervous Norvus, Blind Willie Johnson, etc., etc. Similar in spirit and conception to The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead, this assemblage spotlights the genius musicmakers whose creations percolated in young Don Van Vliet's head. A smattering of Beefheart "rarities" were tossed in with the rest of the music in this collection, but the essential fan site Captain Beefheart Radar Station pooh-pooh's this (read this). What do you think?
Various ~ "Songsters & Saints: Vocal Traditions on Race Records, Vol. 1"
What a Fucked-Up Term: Race Music
Released as a companion to Paul Oliver's book Songsters & Saints (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1984), this two-record set is a glorious audio museum of archival African-American roots recordings. All recorded between 1927 and 1931, the three dozen performances on display here are smartly grouped in four categories: Dances and Traveling Shows; Comment, Parodies and Ballad Heroes; Baptist and Sanctified Preachers; and Gospel Soloists and Evangelists.
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