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

Posts tagged ‘Spinners’

Musical Road Fuel

Music inspires me and motivates me. It’s not a cliché to say that it also makes me move, seeing as how I will frequently get up out of my seat and do a jig of some sort when a particular song strikes me. Whether I’m at work or at home, I always have music playing. The only time I turn on the TV might be when my Thai friends from the motorcycle taxi stand come to visit. Otherwise, it’s all music, all the time. And whenI take an MP3 player on trips, the music provides a memorable soundtrack to my travels.

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Here are some of the albums (and that’s what I play, entire albums, not a random bunch of singles) that I listened to during my recent trip to Myanmar. It’s a seemingly weird mix of musical styles, but it suits my travelling mood most well. Whether I was cycling around the chaotic streets of Mandalay, gliding past the lush green rice fields around Nyaungshwe, or exploring old ruins in Bagan, these were the albums and songs that kept me moving and grooving.

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Lynn Lynn – Iron Butterfly

One of my favorite albums in recent years is Sin Za Ba by the Burmese singer and guitarist known as Lynn Lynn (I’ve also seen his name written in English as Lin Lin and Linn Linn). No, I don’t understand all of the lyrics but the emotions that his songs exude are magical. Whenever I’m in Myanmar, I play either this album or Sin Za Ba every single day!

Peter Bruntnell – Peter and the Murder of Crows

The Jackson 5 – Anthology

J. Geils Band – Blow Your Face Out

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Various Artists – Guitars of the Golden Triangle: Folk & Pop Music of Myanmar

The music on this compilation CD is described as “Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar (Burma)” on the cover, but in the liner notes that come with the CD there is a much better description, calling it an “unbelievable collection of garage and psychedelic rock, raw folk, blues ballads, and country-western styled music … a product of Shan and Pa-O musicians hailing from the early 1970s.” I’m not sure if “unbelievable” is the best term to describe this music, but it sure is a lot of fun to listen to. If the lively strains of “A Girl Among Girls” by Lashio Thein Aung doesn’t get you out of your seat and dancing on the nearest table, then all hope is lost! Seriously, the songs on here are a blast, all of them exuding an irrepressible zest and vitality … the same sort of spirit that you’ll find amongst the people in Shan State.

The Hollies – The Best Of

Iron Cross – Acoustics

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Couldn’t Stand the Weather

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Whiskeytown – Strangers Almanac (Deluxe Edition)

This was the band that Ryan Adams cut his teeth with back in the 1990s and this album remains one of his best efforts. This deluxe 2-CD edition includes some amazing bonus tracks and cover versions. The frenetic pace of “10 Seconds” gets my bike pumping in a faster gear every time.

Tinariwen – Emmaar

Lee Scratch Perry – Arkology

Various Artists – Moody Bluegrass

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Various Artists – Miami Sound: Rare Funk & Soul

Wonderful collection of 1970s rare soul treats, including songs by unheralded artists such as Timmy Thomas, Gwen McCrae, Clarence Reid (aka Blowfly), and Little Beaver. Song that gets me singing: “I Get Lifted” by George McCrae.

The Marshall Tucker Band – The Best Of

Toots and the Maytals – Reggae Legends

Tinted Windows – Tinted Windows

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Charlie Daniels Band – Fire On The Mountain

Another underrated band that recorded consistently good albums in the 1970s, this one includes the coon-ass classic “Trudy.”

Cut Copy – Free Your Mind

Dan Fogelberg – Captured Angel

Velvet Crush – A Single Odessey

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NRBQ – Kick Me Hard

One of America’s greatest bands — ever! — and it qualifies as a crime that they still aren’t better known or appreciated. But ain’t that the way of the world! Fun and fantastic, this album is packed with musical treats such as “Wacky Tobacky” and “Hot Biscuits and Sweet Marie.”

Tonio K. – Amerika

Tom Robinson Band – The Gold Collection

Leroy Hutson – Lucky Fellow: The Best Of

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America – Here & Now

A very nice comeback album for an unfairly maligned group. Sweet harmonies and songs with hooks; what’s not to like? The 2-CD set includes a brilliant cover of Nada Surf’s “Always Love.” Sing it again!

Wet Willie – Drippin’ Wet

Empire of the Sun – Ice on the Dune

Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy

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Gordon Lightfoot – Gord’s Gold

This one is always a trip staple for me. I make it a point to have “Carefree Highway” playing whenever I’m on the road to Mandalay — or at least the drive in from the airport!

Bruce Hornsby – Greatest Radio Hits

Ronnie Lane – Kuschty Rye: The Singles

Shoes – Present Tense/Tongue Twister

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Spinners – Spinners

This still ranks as one of the greatest soul albums of the 1970s. Plenty of hits and no filler. “One of Kind (Love Affair)” gets me every time.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Skynyrd’s First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album

Linkin Park – Minutes to Midnight

Dwight Yoakam – 3 Pears

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Translator – No Time Like Now

Great 1983 album by the underrated San Francisco rock band. The reissued CD includes bonus tracks such as the blissful instrumental “Cry For a Shadow.”

Dawes – Stories Don’t End

A Flock of Seagulls – The Best Of

The Stylistics – The Very Best Of

 

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Soul Music Legend: George Jackson

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One of the legends of soul music, George Jackson, passed away on Monday this week. If you never heard of George Jackson, that’s not really surprising. He earned most of his fame as a songwriter during his long career in the music business and released only a handful of songs in the 1960s. But many of his old recordings were unearthed and released for the very first time in recent years and reveal that in addition to being an ace songwriter, he was also an outstanding singer and performer.

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Reading online obituaries, it’s not clear how old George Jackson was; Wikipedia and All Music list him as 78, while the New York Times and several other wire services gave his age as 68. However, most sources give his birthdate as 1936, so if that’s the case he’d certainly have been in his late seventies. But what is undisputed is how talented this man was. While he was signed to Fame Records in the 1960s, Jackson only released two singles, but he spent most of time at that label as a songwriter and producer.

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Whether you realize it or not, if you are over the age of 35 you’ve probably heard some of the songs that George Jackson wrote, most notably “Minnie Skirt Minnie,” “One Bad Apple” (a hit by the Osmonds), “Old Time Rock and Roll” (a huge hit for Bob Seger), and “The Only Way is Up” (a hit for the electro/new wave act Yaz). He also wrote hit songs for Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, Z.Z. Hill, Candi Staton, and other artists, most of who recorded for the Fame and Atlantic labels. As a singer, he recorded more than 100 solo tracks for Fame, but strangely, those recordings were never released and sat in the archives for nearly 40 years until they were finally put on various CD compilations by the UK reissue label Ace/Kent.

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The first release of vintage George Jackson material came in 2009 with In Memphis: 1972-1977, a CD containing 21 tracks, some of which were recorded for the legendary Hi Records label. But, like his 60s output for Fame, these excellent songs also sat on the shelf for several decades. As a music fan, I’m both shocked and saddened that music of this quality went unheard for so many years. But luckily the music junkies at Kent Records realized what a goldmine they had, and continued to release more George Jackson compilations. The second in their series, released in 2011, was Don’t Count Me Out: The Fame Recordings, Volume 1. This collection contained 24 tunes, all of them delicious soul gems. Last year Kent followed that one up with another compilation, Let the Best Man Win: The Fame Recordings, Volume 2. Like the previous set, this one also contained 24 songs rescued from the vaults, every single one of them an expertly crafted soul gem. Honestly, the quality of these recordings is extremely high and the tunes are thrilling. But what elevates them all to a higher level is Jackson’s scintillating vocals and soulful performance. He sounds a bit like Percy Sledge with some Tyrone Davis thrown in the mix; heartfelt southern soul with an irresistible backwoods country vibe. I’m telling you, this guy should be ranked up there with Otis Redding, James Carr, Wilson Pickett, and other great soul vocalists of the era. He was that outstanding. Obviously, he had the rep as a great songwriter, but hearing him sing these songs it’s painfully obvious that he was also a first-rate singer. All the more shameful that these songs were never released and promoted when they were first recorded.

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In addition to those solo collections, a few more George Jackson songs can be found on recently issued compilations such as Hall of Fame: Rare and Unissued Gems from the Fame Vaults and Lost Soul Gems from Sounds of Memphis, both put together by the fine folks at Kent/Ace. Lost Soul Gems has two wonderful Jackson tunes, one of which is a rough mid-80s demo, just Jackson on piano and singing, an achingly beautiful tune titled “It’s Hard to Say No.” Once again, I find it mind boggling to think that music this special was shelved for so long. Did someone once say that the people running record companies were idiots? Well, here’s the proof.

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For an interesting interview with George Jackson, check out this link:

http://www.soulexpress.net/georgejackson_tribute.htm

Sadly, George Jackson wasn’t the only soul music legend to pass away in recent months. Last month we lost Bobby Smith, one of the main vocalists for the Spinners. He’d been singing with Spinners since their days with Motown in the 1960s, and of course during their hit run with Atlantic in the 70s. In February we lost soul-jazz pioneer Donald Byrd, the unheralded singer-guitarist Lou Bond (check out his self-titled CD that was recently reissued by Light in the Attic, the same label that revived the career of Rodriguez, the singer/star of the “Searching for Sugar Man” documentary), Cecil Womack (brother of Bobby, and member of Womack & Womack with his wife Linda, who was Sam Cooke’s daughter!), two members of the Temptations (Richard Street and Damon Harris), and the oldest sister in the Staple Singlers, Cleotha Staples. Back in January, Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner of the Ohio Players also passed away.

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