Posts Tagged ‘Soul’


No, I’m not going to name the band or the bar, which would give it away.

They were incidental to why I went up to the local dive to watch the ‘9ers game. Unfortunately, the band came on during half-time, so I had no choice but to listen to them.

All of them were good to very good players (the bassist), and I haven’t heard so much wrong with a band (maybe three bands combined) in ages.

Here’s what was wrong:

  • They were way late setting up, the earliest of them arriving half-an-hour before they were due on; (normally you want to be there at least an hour before);
  • The drummer didn’t arrive until 20 minutes before they were due on;
  • He was so late they didn’t do a sound check;
  • They didn’t have monitors;
  • All they were miking was the vocals;
  • And as a result, the mix was way off during the first set, with the snare way too loud during the first three or four numbers;
  • Because they didn’t do a sound check, the vocal mics were feeding back, sometimes painfully, for half the set, and they didn’t have anyone riding the board so they didn’t adjust for it;
  • Despite the feedback problems, the vocals were too far down in the mix (yes, it is possible);
  • It sounded like the vocals were dry (i.e., no reverb or other FX);
  • On the final two or three tunes, they had some idiot sitting in playing claves badly — think the clunk, clunk, clunk of “Magic Bus” rather than the
    clink, clink, clink that you want — and just enough off the beat, and irregularly so, that it was annoying as hell;
  • They had two — not one, but two, count ’em, two — keyboard players, and on many of the numbers the keyboard player playing lead was using a soul-sucking artificial synth sound a la The Cars that was abandoned for good reason back in the early ’80s;
  • I didn’t like the guitarist’s tone (too muted in an attempt to be pretty — but that’s just me);
  • And (a more general whine) they advertised themselves as a “soul” band, but they didn’t do soul — they did lounge, the closest thing to soul being their closing number, Al Green’s “I’ll Be There”;
  • And, of course, just covers, no originals — it ain’t that hard to write originals, but writing good ones is another matter; why most musicians don’t even try it is beyond me.

At the break, they finally did a sound check. I had to sit through their first couple of numbers in the second set before the ‘9ers kicked the winning field goal in the final seconds. (Go ‘9ers!)

What I noticed was:

  • The feedback was finally gone;
  • The balance was a bit better
  • The vocals were still too far down in the mix;
  • They were still dry;
  • And their material was almost as awful, non-soulful ands non-original as in the first set.

The lessons here are pretty obvious:

  • Get there early enough to do a sound check;
  • Do a sound check;
  • Use monitors;
  • Mic everything (and I mean everything);
  • If you’re not competent to do a good mix, have someone along who’s competent to do the sound;
  • And above all deliver what you promise: if you promise blues, play blues; and if you promise soul, play soul.

 

 

 

 

 


It’s always fun to see what other folks include on their “desert island discs,” so here you go. Since most such lists are for single genres and usually encompass ten discs, I’ve allowed myself more leeway here — listing all types of pop music — and am listing 25 discs, which seems fair given that they cover the following genres (jazz, blues, soul, funk, country, latin jazz, rock, and punk). I’m cheating by adding a list of “honorable mentions.” Whatever. Here ya go: my desert island discs, in no particular order:\

Desert Island Discs

  • James Brown Live at the Apollo (1960) — the seminal early funk disc. If you only listen to one cut off this, check out “I’ll Go Crazy.”
  • Kutche, by Saib Khaled and Safy Boutella — the best Rai disc. Incredibly good musicianship combined with intricate syncopation. Nothing else in the genre comes close.
  • La Cuna, by Ray Barretto — not for Afro-Cuban purists, this disc features a mix of genres (latin jazz, latin rock, funk, soul) with amazingly good musicianship by some of the best musicians of the late ’70s and early ’80s (including Barretto, Steve Gadd, John Tropea, and Joe Farrell). The next time you’re impressed by some guitarist playing fast scalar passages, listen to Tropea’s solo on “The Old Mountain.” That’ll put it in perspective.
  • Songs for a Tailor, by Jack Bruce. Impressively inventive song writing, and better than competent execution.
  • Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.  The best, most driving rock album of the ’70s.
  • The Harder They Come soundtrack. Pretty much every great tune from this mind-numbingly boring, awful genre on a pair of discs. Huge fun and great lyrics.
  • Repo Man soundtrack. Minus the Sex Pistols, the best punk from the early ’80s all in one place. Iggy Pop’s title track is a gem.
  • The Sermon, by Jimmy Smith. My favorite type of music — hard-driving blues-jazz with great solos (especially those by Smith and guitarist Kenny Burrell).
  • Jacaranda, by Luiz Bonfa. Not available on CD, this ’70s Brazilian-jazz-rock album features great songwriting and very good musicianship. Not for those who expect sambas or bossas.
  • Tied to the Tracks, by Treat Her Right. A great, hard-driving blues-rock album by the forerunner to Morphine. The lyrics are twisted, the harp playing is mind boggling, and this disc is better than anything by Morphine.
  • Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis. Beautifully executed, the perfect background for a 3:00 am beer out on the patio.
  • Everlastin’ Tears, by Willie Edwards. Great contemporary blues. Edwards got totally screwed with this one, signing away the rights to all the songs to the producer. I can’t re-record any of this shit without dealing with the vampire who’s sucked Willie dry.
  • Are You Experienced?, by Jim Hendrix. Need I say more?
  • Strange Days, by the Doors. Every song is great, including two hard-to-play masterpieces, “Love Me Two Times” and “Moonlight Drive.”
  • Inner Mounting Flame, by Mahavishnu Orchestra. Great musicianship and proof that odd-time and compound-meter songs can drive. A whole lot of fun.
  • Are We Not Men?, by Devo. The best and by far funniest new-wave album. Contains the best cover ever recorded: Devo’s version of “Satisfaction.”
  • The Last Real Texas Blues Band, by Doug Sahm. Great, greasy R&B — a reminder of an era.
  • Sugar Thieves Live. Both a wonderful contemporary blues band and a throwback to classic material.
  • Losin’ Hand, by Al Perry and the Cattle. Well produced and very funny alt-country.
  • Ah Um, by Charlie Mingus. Probably the best, most intricate blues-jazz album ever recorded.
  • That’s The Way I Feel (Thelonious Monk tribute by various artists.) An absolutely fantastic, mind-boggling, at times hilarious (via Todd Rundgren!) tribute to the greatest jazz composer who ever lived (and, yeah, I’m counting Duke).
  • Bringing It All Back Home, by Bob Dylan. The first album that helped me focus my rage at the atrocities being committed to others and to me by the government and the corporations.
  • Barbeque Dog, by Ronald Shannon Jackson. A brutal, dissonant LP with one of the cuts simultaneously in different keys. Thirty years on, it sounds fresh.
  • How Shall the Wolf Survive?, by Los Lobos.  The first album by my favorite live band. A whole lotta fun, with uncomfortable things to think about.
  • Exile on Main Street, by the Rolling Stones. Not their best LP by a long shot, but the one I want to hear after having a few beers.

Honorable Mentions

  • Revolver, by the Beatles (best songwriters of the 20th century)
  • Abbey Road, by the Beatles. (see above)
  • The Doors (eponymous album).
  • L.A. Woman, by The Doors. Like so many other albums of this time, the first side was great and the second side sucked.
  • Beggar’s Banquet, by the Rolling Stones.
  • Let It Bleed, by the Rolling Stones.
  • Battered Ornaments (eponymous)
  • Harmony Row, by Jack Bruce. Damn near as good as “Songs for a Tailor” — the songs he saved up while being the bassist in Cream.
  • Thousands on a Raft, by Pete Brown. Fun stuff by Cream’s lyricist.
  • Raw Sienna, by Savoy Brown. Kim Simmonds’ attempt to match the Beatles. Not anywhere close to successful there, but a very good album in its own way.
  • Science Fiction, by Ornette Coleman.
  • Guitars Cadilacs, by Dwight Yoakam. Best country album of the ’80s.
  • In a Silent Way, Miles Davis.
  • Jack Johnson, Miles Davis.
  • Bitches Brew, Miles Davis.
  • On the Corner, Miles Davis. A great early genre-bending LP.
  • Jerry Reed’s Greatest Hits, most of the soundtrack from Jerry’s by-far best album, Smoky and Bandit II, plus the novelty hits (“Amos Mose,” etc.)
  • Junior High, Junior Brown. Huge tongue-in-cheek fun from maybe the best current guitar player.
  • Gravity, by James Brown. The best funk album of the ’80s.
  • L.A. is My Lady, by Frank Sinatra. I still can’t decide whether this is deliberate or inadvertent self-parody. Fun either way.
  • Birds of Fire, Mahavishnu Orchestra.
  • Treat Her Right (eponymous album). Contains a fantastic cover of Harlan Howard’s “Everglades.”

 


"H.L. Mencken" - NARA - 559126

“H.L. Mencken” – NARA – 559126 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The belief that man is outfitted with an immortal soul, differing altogether from the engines which operate the lower animals, is ridiculously unjust to them. The difference between the smartest dog and the stupidest man–say a Tennessee Holy Roller–is really very small, and the difference between the decentest dog and the worst man is all in favor of the dog.”

H.L. Mencken, Minority Report

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Quoted in The Heretic’s Handbook of Quotations

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