musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘George Jackson’

Burmese Songs of Passion and Harmony

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One of my very favorite recording artists in Myanmar is a singer-guitar player known as Lin Lin (or sometimes spelled Linn Linn, or even Lynn Lynn). I have a couple of his albums, one of which, Sin Za Ba, is without a doubt one of my very favorite albums in any musical genre. I don’t profess to understand all of the lyrics, but the songs are bursting with melody, passion, and power. Last year when I was in Mandalay I picked up the newest recording by him, Mee Ein K’Byar, roughly translated as “Lantern Poem”. There is a woman pictured on the cover of the CD, and she apparently is the female voice who sings on several of the album’s songs too. I asked my waiter friends at Aye Myit Tar restaurant in Mandalay who this woman was and they knew right away: she is Chit Thu Wai, a talented singer who also happens to be Lin Lin’s wife. Once again, Lin Lin has written another memorable batch of tuneful songs. I like the addition of Chit Thu Wai’s vocals on this album too. She has a very pleasant voice, one that meshes well with Lin Lin’s own expressive vocals. In addition to Lin Lin’s deft guitar playing, there are more piano parts on this new album. Clearly, this is a match made of passion and harmony.

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Meanwhile, back in Bangkok, amidst the droves of idiots who are dazed and mesmerized by their “smart” phones, here are the other most excellent CDs that are keeping me sane lately:

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Hailu Mergia and the Wallas – Tche Belew

Ron Sexsmith – Whereabouts

Various Artists – Look to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited

Johnny Hammond Smith – Gamblers’ Life

Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams

 

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Isley meets Bacharach – Here I Am

Wilton Felder – We All Have a Star/Inherit the Wind

Caribou – Our Love

Royksopp – Junior

Isaac Hayes – Presenting Isaac Hayes

 

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Jerry Williams – Gone

Various Artists – Love and Jealousy: The Deeper Side of Southern Soul

Deep Purple – Come Taste the Band (35th Anniversary Edition)

Various Artists – Tommy Guerrero: Another Late Night

Bembeya Jazz National – Classic Titles

 

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George Jackson and Dan Greer – At Goldwax

Gato Barbieri – Bolivia

Various Artists – MGMT: Late Night Tales

Mark Ronson – Uptown Special

Brinsley Schwartz – Nervous on the Road/The New Favourites

 

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J. Mascis – Tied To a Star

Gary Bartz – Harlem Bush Music/Taifa/Uhuru

Durutti Column – LC (Expanded Edition)

Curtis Mayfield – We Come in Peace with a Message of Love/Take It To the Streets

Fitz and the Tantrums – More Than Just a Dream

 

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Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey/Garvey’s Ghost

The Fatback Band – Let’s Do It Again

Sister Sledge – The Definitive Groove Collection

Marc Cohn – The Very Best

Elbow – Seldom Seen Kid

 

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Rosanne Cash Returns!

My worship of Rosanne Cash began in 1980 when I heard her debut album, Right or Wrong. I was working at a branch of Record Mart in Orlando, Florida at the time and we had a promo vinyl copy of that album that I played every day. I was totally smitten and have since bought every album that she’s recorded. I cherish them all. Last month she released her long-awaited new album, The River and the Thread. This one is another jewel. I need to give it more time to digest, and time to reflect, before offering a final judgment, but this could be her finest work yet. And that’s saying something!

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On the new album Rosanne’s voice sounds as effortlessly warm and comforting as ever, the lyrics are poetic and moving, and her astute song choices, mostly originals plus a couple of “bonus” covers (including Jesse Winchester’s classic “Biloxi”) are once again brilliant. This woman takes her time between albums, never content to churn out “product” on an annual basis. The quality and craft that goes into every album, this one included, is always impressive. Being the daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash must have felt like a huge burden at times, but Rosanne has courageously forged her own career path, never watering-down her music or trying to be something she’s not. It’s difficult to categorize her music, and I like that about her. You can’t pigeonhole her as “country” any more than you call her “folk” or “pop.” She has that unique ability to both straddle and transcend specific musical genres. No matter how you want to label her music, Rosanne Cash continues to be one of America’s greatest musical treasures. For those of us that still enjoy the thrill of “real” packaging, as opposed to sterile downloads, the deluxe version of the new CD comes with a beautiful 36-page booklet that contains song lyrics, photos, and comments from Rosanne about the new project. Well done!

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Meanwhile, here are a few other marvelous CDs keeping me company during Bangkok’s recent turbulent days of political protests and “mob” mentality:

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Jaco Pastorius – Punk Jazz: The Anthology

Jules Shear – Longer to Get to Yesterday

Various Artists – Soul in Harmony: Vocal Groups 1965-1977

Change – Greatest Hits & Essential Tracks

Aimee Mann – @#%&! Smilers

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Two Things In One – Together Forever: The Music City Sessions

Cut Copy – Free Your Mind

Tommy Keene – Excitement At Your Feet: The Covers Album

Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: The Forte Label

Brendan Benson – You Were Right

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Various Artists – King Northern Soul Vol. 3

Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott – We’re Usually a Lot Better Than This

Brass Construction – Movin’ & Changin’

Hank Mobley – Workout

Babyface Willett – Mo Rock

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George Jackson – Old Friend: The Fame Recordings Vol. 3

Merry Clayton – The Best Of

Gram Parsons – The Complete Reprise Sessions

Chumbawamba – Readymade

Peter Green – In the Skies

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Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – Live at the Haunted House

Terry Edwards – Cliches

Andrew Bird – Hands of Glory

Van Morrison – Common One

Bread Love and Dreams – Bread Love and Dreams 

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Nils Lofgren – Acoustic Live

Guided By Voices – The Bears For Lunch

O.M.D. – History of Modern

Fitz and the Tantrums – Pickin’ Up the Pieces

Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt – Soul Summit

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Skids – Sweet Suburbia: The Best Of

The Bongos – Phantom Train

Mikal Cronin – MCII

Dead Boys – We Have Come for Your Children

Pete Donnelly – Face the Bird

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Various Artists – The Divas From Mali

Prince Phillip Mitchell – Make It Good

J.J. Jackson – The Great J.J. Jackson

Antena – Camino Del Sol

Camera Obscura – Desire Lines

Neil Young Never Sleeps

I just finished reading Neil Young’s autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace. I can’t say that it’s a great book — too many clichéd phrases and repetitive references to Neil’s various side projects  dampen the “wow factor” — but for any diehard Neil Young fan, it’s still a must read. Like the man’s music output, you never know what expect from one chapter to the next — and that’s part of the fun. If you can tolerate Neil’s copious references to his car collection and the “PureSound” audio project he is obsessed with launching, you’ll enjoy reading most of this book. It’s packed with fascinating anecdotes and honest recollections of his life, both inside and outside of music. Particularly touching are the passages in the book that reveal Neil’s love and devotion to his handicapped son Ben, and also to his wife, Pegi. At times I think this book could have used a strong editor, one who could have cut out some of the weaker and sillier parts, but then again those parts are just Neil being Neil, staying true to his soul, and this book gives the reader a better idea of what he thinks and cares about. And in that context, the book hits the mark.

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Last year Neil released two excellent albums with his longtime band Crazy Horse. The first one, Americana, was billed as “a collection of classic American folk songs.” That may have been the case, but in the hands of Neil and his band, those songs were turned inside out and re-energized. The album included songs such as “Oh Susannah”, “Clementine”, “Tom Dooley”, “This Land is Your Land” and “Waywarin’ Stranger.” But these were definitely not laid back, traditional arrangements of these old songs. Each one was electrified and transported by Neil’s new arrangements and the presence of Crazy Horse. There was also a clear social and political slant to the song selection, all of which made the album even more of a vital listening experience. If that “comeback” (it was the first Neil Young and Crazy Horse album in nearly 9 years) wasn’t enough, Neil and the Horse returned later in the year with Psychedelic Pill, a two-CD set of all new material. Not only was this a double album, but the songs themselves were sprawling opus-like creations. The opening track, “Driftin’ Back” was 27-minutes of electric guitar bliss, enhanced by Neil’s wacky lyrics. Pure genius. There are several other tracks that break the 10-minute barrier, so don’t go expecting a bunch of short, sweet folk tunes or a reprise of Harvest. All in all, there is nothing ground breaking on Psychedelic Pill, following familiar Crazy Horse territory. But if you are a fan of Neil’s other Crazy Horse recordings, you’ll love this one too. The energy and raw power is both thrilling and comforting. These guys, even in their 60s, can still deliver the goods!

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In addition to Neil Young’s Psychedelic Pill here are the other CDs I’ve been playing in heavy rotation lately:

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George Jackson – Let the Best Man Win: The Fame Recordings Vol. 2

Todd Rundgren’s Utopia – Live at the Hammersmith Odeon ‘75

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Live from Alabama

Various Artists – Titan: It’s All Pop

The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh

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Daryl Hall – Sacred Songs

Lee Morgan – Lee-Way

Jim Boggia – Safety in Sound

UB 40 – Signing Off

Jackie Leven – For Peace Comes Dropping Slow

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Ronnie Dyson – One Man Band

Roy Harper – Songs of Love and Loss

Miracle Fortress – Miracle Fortress

Alabama Shakes – Boys  & Girls

Fun. – Aim and Ignite

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Aimee Mann – Charmer

Cannonball Adderley – Money in the Pocket

Cabaret Voltaire – The Original Sound of Sheffield: Best of 1983-87

Elvis Costello – Kojak Variety

Lyle Lovett – Release Me

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Alphonse Mouzon – Mind Transplant

Robert Glasper – Black Radio

Larry Young – Locked Down

Dr. John – Unity

Etta James – Rocks the House

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Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: Outskirts of Deep City

Freddie Hubbard – First Light

Bill Fay – Life is People

Groundhogs – Thank Christ for the Bomb

Augustus Pablo – Skanking Easy

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Taj Mahal – Hidden Treasures: 1969-1973

Miles Davis – The Birth of the Cool

J. Tillman – Year in the Kingdom

Hank Crawford – Roadhouse Symphony

Dusty Springfield – A Very Fine Love

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Chris Difford – Cashmere if You Can

Various Artists – Hip Hammond & Soulful Grooves

Eddie Money – No Control

Bloomfield/Kooper/Stills – Super Session

Ken Stringfellow – Danzig in the Moonlight

 

Neglected Southern Soul

Here are yet more examples of immensely talented soul singers who have mysteriously remained under the radar for far too many years. In the case of Candi Staton, she actually enjoyed a bit of success with the 1976 hit single “Young Hearts Run Free” (later covered by Rod Stewart, among others) but for most of her recording career she has been ignored by the titans of the music business. Part of that may be by choice — at one point Candi Staton dropped out of the pop world to record gospel music — but there’s no doubt that over the years, her labels dropped the ball in promoting her songs to the masses.

 

A few years back I picked up a copy of The Best of Candi Staton (part of the Warners Archive reissue series) that I found in the sale bin of a shop in Bangkok. That compilation contained “Young Hearts Run Free” along with 14 other tracks, including goodies such as “Six Nights and A Day” and “Victim.” The material on this album runs the gamut from sultry soul to funky disco. This is a strong collection of songs, mostly culled from her mid to late 1970s Warner Brothers period. But recently I bought a new Candi Staton compilation that is even more stunning; Evidence: The Complete Fame Records Masters. Spread out over two CDs are 48 tracks of heartfelt southern soul that she recorded in the 1960s and early 70s, songs positively dripping with love and heartache. In one review I read, her vocals were called “achingly vulnerable,” which I think is a very apt description. To my ears, Candi Staton’s voice sounds as soulful and powerful as that of Aretha Franklin. Really, she’s that damn good. Songs like “I’d Rather Be an Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than a Young Man’s Fool)” and “You Don’t Love Me No More”, as well as covers of famous tunes like “In the Ghetto” and “Stand By Your Man,” are nothing short of brilliant. If you like Aretha, Etta James, or southern soul in general, you should treat yourself to this CD. This set includes 12 previously unreleased tracks, and they are all strong ones. Another excellent reissue from the folks at Kent.

 

Many of the songs on Evidence were written by George Jackson, a very talented songwriter whose songs were covered by a staggering variety of rock, pop, and soul artists in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Jackson also recorded some very fine albums of his own during those years. I recently found a copy of a George Jackson compilation called In Memphis: 1972-77. It was also compiled by Kent Records, so you can trust the quality is top-notch. But the songs themselves are what is worth raving about: 21 tracks of superb southern soul, ranging from smooth ballads to more funky numbers. I hear this album —as well as the Candi Staton compilation — and marvel at how music this amazing could have been ignored for so long. But hey, it’s never too late to discover incredible artists like these. Kent released another George Jackson collection late last year; Don’t Count on Me: the Fame Recordings. I’m already salivating just thinking about getting that one. Can’t get enough of that sweet soul music!

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