Thursday, March 12, 2009


Blind Willie Johnson, "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" (c. 1927-1930)
Here, audibly, is the bridge between field song, raw gospel, and country blues: Johnson's titanic evocation of Jesus on the cross forbids and engenders words in equal measure, demands that one either keep silent or spend one's life in the pursuit of the vast unknown realms toward which it crawls and scrapes. On the very short list of the great accomplishments of the United States government, having sent a virtually indestructible pressing of "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground," along with instructions for its playing, outside this solar system surely ranks as among the most perceptive.

Los Bravos, "Black is Black" (1966)
One of the great early efforts in what would come to be called brown-eyed soul from this pan-European Madrid-Berlin group. Everyone with a cheap radio and the electricity to operate it has almost certainly heard this track, but note the really rather incredible alacrity with which these young men laboring under Franco's fascism in Spain and the hypocritical, self-serving double-bind of American and Soviet posturing in post-war Germany tap into the hard-guitar-harder-horns Stax deep soul sound. Proof positive, as if we needed any more of it, that "rock'n'roll" began as a taxonomical means of occluding the fact that good clean Yanquís and gabachos were finally getting hip to rhythm and blues.

War, "The World Is a Ghetto" [edit], The World Is a Ghetto (1972)
El alma de los ojos marrones reached perhaps its peak in the early post-Eric Burdon records by War: like George Clinton's Parliament and Funkadelic stable, they were performing a scathing social critique, a new communitarian ethos, and an astonishing recombinant alchemy of popular and folk forms, and like George, they were eventually written off and taste-publick'd into a one-hit joke (for them, "Low Rider"; for GC, the "Atomic Dog" bassline and regrettable frat-boy bullshit). Unfortunately, Papa Yanquí persists in his limitation: the full 10 minute version of this remarkable track received the great illegal crackdown from the record label (and as we move further and further toward the destabilization of the copyright paradigm, it becomes increasingly important to educate oneself as to the actual substance of American Fair Use law: Walt Disney was essentially responsible for the bureau-kapitalist mess in which we presently find ourselves, but let's take a look at the limits of the law, courtesy this video's You Tube poster--

FAIR USE NOTICE: These pages/video may contain copyrighted (©) material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available to advance understanding of ecological, POLITICAL, HUMAN RIGHTS, economic, DEMOCRACY, scientific, MORAL, ETHICAL, and SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES, etc. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior general interest in receiving similar information for research and educational purposes.

--know yr rights), but you can at least get a taste. And once you do, remember: by any means necessary ...

Henry Mancini, "Lujon" (1959)
Oh my god but this is greasy. Abuse and Henry Mancini make natural bedfellows, and I fervently do not celebrate the entire catalogue, but as the absolute apogee of poisonously slick casino steelo, this is admittedly pretty immaculate. You may remember it from Jackie Treehorn's place in The Big Lebowski.

Matthew Larkin Cassell, "In My Life," Pieces (1977)
Rapidly becoming one of those digger's-dream records; the nod goes to Dylan, proprietor of Cosmic Cheese for hipping me to this shit. We're in the proximity of serious Mystery White Boy material: Cassell put out two records in the late '70s on which he played everything but the drums and bass and promptly quit music (a digger who got in touch with him in a moment of high-powered Geek Enthousiasmos revealed that MLC "hadn't been in a recording studio since the early '80s"). Apparently the original LP fetches well over $1,000 on a regular basis; that, of course, is absurd, but were this standard of quality to be maintained, the dopenuss would be considerable--'70s corduroy reflective without being solipsistic or sappy, paisley and airy without being precious or anemic, white-funky without being a garish caricature. Only Steely Dan's best--that is to say, its least cocaine-glossy--moments have, to my knowledge, really approached such excellence in this kind of mood.

Laboratorium, "I'm Sorry, I'm Not Driver," Quasimodo (1979)
My one pseudo-claim to digging fame: I didn't discover it by any means, but goddamn if I didn't course through the narrow byways of YouTube uploading for it. I know almost nothing about it: ostensibly it's some state-sponsored arts-funding steez from the Communist era in Poland that combines heavy, not to say porn-y, funk with Pharoah Sanders/Leon Thomas-style spiritualist ecstatix (slap-pop delight bassline + Marek Stryszowski vocal solo with Auto-Harmonizer = plaese to taste my RAER).

1 comment:

Natasha Rosen said...

Someone should do a documentary on Laboratorium. How did they develop such an un-Marxist-Polish sound? Who were their influences? How did they get hold of the kind of music to become who they are? My skeptical self wonders if they really are even Polish?