Well, WMUA.org (one of my radio stations) asked me to compile a best-of list for 2008. Truthfully, I really don't like “ranking” things but I gave it a go anyway. I apologize if I didn't get to hear yr music. You can send yr sounds to the address below. I'm sorry also if yr album didn't make the year-end list.
I encourage all readers to let me know their faves from '08. I'll post yr list!
*****01 Nomo "Ghost Rock" (Ubiquity Records, nomomusic.com)...This large midwest ensemble really put together one of the most unique and genre-busting albums of the year. Featuring heavy horn charts, Don Cherry/"Brown Rice" world grooves, multiple percussionists (including custom-built thumb pianos), and a dash of electronic elements (a brain-wave monitor?!), Nomo were already one of my faves with their Sun Ra-inspired afrobeat/jazz/funk recordings prior to "Ghost Rock", but here they really created one to be topped. Highly recommended...album-of-the-year!!!
*****02 Grupo Fantasma "Sonidos Gold" (Aire Sol Records, grupofantasma.com)...The best live show of 2008 for me was Fantasma rocking the Iron Horse to heavy acclaim. And if you weren't there, you get another chance on January 11th! "Sonidos Gold" is up for a Grammy, the band toured Iraq, played as Prince's backing band, jammed with Willie Nelson, and even released a fantastic side project (see Brownout below). A mix of hard funk, cumbia, boogaloo, salsa, samba, son and even dub, this puppy is a monster jam. Featuring guests such as Larry Harlow, Maceo Parker, and Black Joe Lewis, and a seriously bad (i mean, baaaaaaddd!!) cover of Irakere's "Bacalao Con Pan", this is well worth your immediate pick-up, in time for the show on the 11th!
*****03 Bio Ritmo "Bionico" (Locutor Records, bioritmo.com)...Virginia's top-ranking salsa band adds so much flair that even people who don't listen to salsa can find something in there to appreciate. A slick (not-overly) sound with a lot of retro vibes keeping things interesting. Bugalu, disco, cop movie themes to go with nasty horns, tasty synths (trust me)...this is creative salsa. Very funky indeed. And singer/bandleader Rei Alvarez (whose nasally voice and soulful flow remind us of Angel Canales) is a visionary graphic artist, as evidenced by the album's design! Explore this band!
*****04 Kaleta & Zozo Afrobeat "Country of Guns" (Tramp Records, zozoafrobeat.com)...Composer, vocalist and guitarist Leon "Kaleta" Ligan-Majek used to play with the likes of Fela, Shina Peters and King Sunny Ade, as well as releasing his own music and playing in acclaimed NYC afrobeat band Akoya. "Country of Guns" is a heavy afrobeat/funk album in the vein of Fela Kuti. Solidly world-conscious in the message to the lyrics, this album even has an excellent tribute to Bob Marley ("Get Up"). In addition to being one of our top selections for 2008, this album will be available in '09 as a bonus downloadable album to come with our "Afrobeat Revolution" cd compilation, due out on World Music Network out of the UK. Zozo lost a band member, Greg Inverso, in 2008. RIP Greg.
*****05 William Parker "Double Sunrise Over Neptune" (Aum Fidelity, aumfidelity.com)...Musical visionary William Parker first burst onto NYC's free jazz scene in the early 70s, recording with the late Frank Lowe on "Black Beings" for ESP-Disk. Between then and now, William has worked his way into the canon of the great jazz bassists, alternating between deeply searching bowed improvisations and fat, heavy grooves (kinda how Henry Grimes used to play them). However, he has not stopped there, picking up several new instruments along the way (dson'goni, reeds, zintir, and more), written books of poetry, put out his own records, created and organized the wonderful Vision Fest (with his wife, Patricia), and organized several concert bands, including Little Huey--a band in which he conducts every instrumentalist to full sound value (like Ellington!). An increasing interest in various forms (african, middle eastern, merengue, Curtis Mayfield) brings us to "Double Sunrise". A grand sound world with heavy reeds (hear Sabir Mateen freak out!), gorgeous strings, Indian vocals from Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, multiple percussionists and thick Parker-inspired basslines from Shayna Dulberger. This is a killer record. William releases several gorgeous records a year...keep an ear out for his "Petit Oiseau", also on Aum Fidelity.
*****06 Flying Lotus "Los Angeles" (Warp, flying-lotus.com)...Instrumental hiphop goodness. Soulful and techy at the same time, Steven Ellison mixes cryptic loops with simple drum programming to create a blissed-out electro-hop sound. Perfect record for a late and rainy night. Reminds me of Prefuse 73 or Ammoncontact, but more to my liking.
*****07 Orchestra Baobab "Made in Dakar" (World Circuit, worldcircuit.co.uk)...Senegal's all time greatest dance band, these legends reunited a few years back and splashed into heavy touring. A true musical joy, Baobab never fails to make me feel good, whether at their concerts watching them give everything to their audience or listening at home to Bartholomy Atisso's sweet guitar leads. "Collette" is my fave, a pleasant bugalu. These major stars can do no wrong in my book.
*****08 Brownout "Homenaje" (Freestyle, brownoutmusic.com)...This band is known more famously as Grupo Fantasma (see above). This is the latin funk side project of theirs. Lots of cool shit here, including a Manu Dibango cover ("African Battle") and a song that reminds me of Chepito ("Con El Brownout No Se Juega"). Of course, the timbalista is Chepito's nephew. And check that cover photo for more of Chepito's vibe. This is a funky, funky, fonkay album.
*****09 Bronx River Parkway & the Candela All Stars "San Sebatstian 152" (Truth & Soul, truthandsoulrecords.com)...A melding of Puerto Rican rhythms and NY soul—sound familiar? Yes, it's bugalu! And quite tasty and updated for the hiphop generation! Guarenteed dancing here! Thanks to the kind folks at Truth & Soul for keeping us fit with the funk.
*****10 Jesus Pagan y su Orquesta "Salsa de la Mata" (EGJ, myspace.com/jesuspaganysuorquesta) ...thisis old school Salsa Dura! In my opinion, they are the best local band. Extremely tight, timbales loud, classic vocalizing, great dancers, heavy sound. This disk will bring you back to the 70s. And even more bonus points for Jesus showing his appreciation for old vinyl on the cover. Salsa is back from the dead!
*****11 Ocote Soul Sounds & Adrian Quesada "The Alchemist Manifesto" (ESL Music, ocotesoul.com)...Ocote is a collaberation between Martin Perna (Antibalas) and Adrian Quesada (Fantasma). This is like a beautiful collage of folk elements and warm technology. A beautiful folk song inspired by Toto la Momposina ("Pescador") is my fave, but the whole record is gorgeous simplicity with folk tales to tell. And possibly the year's best design too (by Pete Neonakis). Adrian is probably musician of the year with three amazing records on the list.
*****12 Seun Kuti & Fela's Egypt 80 (Disorient, mrbongo.com)...Fela's son Seun may carry the torch for pure, unalderated afrobeat. He certainly leads the band (along with Baba Ani). Like his old man, Seun plays sax, keyboards and is the lead vocalist. Shorter songs than Fela's epics, but still with a lot of force and power. Crucial lyrics. Watch out for our "Afrobeat Revival" comp out soon with a track from this album.
*****13 Karl Hector & the Malcouns "Sahara Swing" (Now Again, stonesthrow.com/nowagain)...Psych-jazz-funk? Members of Europe's great funkateers Poets of Rhythm, this baby brings you all kinds of places. Like labelmates the Heliocentrics, it seems that hard funk, Sun Ra, Mulatu, and hiphop all make it into the stew. This is seriously grooving shit.
*****14 John Santos y el Coro Folklorico Kindembo "La Guerra No" (Machete Records, johnsantos.com)...Fiercely independent Bay Area percussionist and bandleader John Santos, in addition to his fine "Perspectiva Fragmentada" (surely the first latin-jazz album to have songs dedicated to the Art Ensemble of Chicago AND Noam Chomsky!), also released this year, "La Guerra No" is an album full of traditional folk sentiments from all around the americas. An activist, composer, record producer, and all around citizen, John has been on the scene for years but continues to remain a cult hero.
*****15 Gilberto "Pulpo" Colon "Pulpo's Hot Bread" (The Mambo Project, pulpomusic.com)...Playing a Steinway concert grand piano (he even lists its stats in the credits!), Pulpo cut his teeth with folks like Hector Lavoe, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, and Machito. Descargas up the wazoo here! This is the kind of record your dad may appreciate too! A bright, full sound that is just perfect and piano runs that rival Charlie Palmieri. Lots of crazy changes thrown in, this is totally solid and deserves the rep its garnered so quickly. Salsa at its best. Fave cut: the cover of "Sonero Mayor".
*****16 The Dynamics "Version Excursions" (Groove Attack, thedynamics.free.fr)...This band from Lyon, France are in a battle "against crap music" (they say). I have to admit, i had a hard time seeing how a European reggae/soul band doing covers of huge hits like "7 Nation Army", "Lay Lady Lay", "Rockit" and "Whole Lotta Love" (and more) was going to appeal to me. But this one kept growing on me with the year and in the end it was "Miss You", done reggae, that won me over as a contender for dancefloor song of the year.
*****17 Misled Children "People's Market" (Porter Records, porterrecords.com)...Supposedly the folks behind the mysterious Clutchy Hopkins project, this is just chock full of funky piano and lute bits, crisp drums, and a cryptic vibe throughout. The album gets better and better as it plays. A left-field instrumental hiphop hit that will probably go largely unnoticed. Check it out if you can.
*****18 Quantic Presenta: Flowering Inferno "Death of the Revolution" (Tru-Thoughts, tru-thoughts.co.uk)...Will "Quantic" Holland delivers us another gem of funky caribbean sound fusion. Equal parts reggae, soul, and latin...Quantic plays most of the instruments himself here, with some tasty piano (as always) from the legendary Alfredo Linares (look for a Quantic-produced new album from Alfredito soon!). This will appeal to reggae and soul fans alike. While a bit simpler in concept than the previous "Tropidelico", this album nonetheless is another gem of an opus from Mr Holland. Nice Dennis Brown version too! As they say, "Make Dub Not War".
*****19 The Problemaddicts "The Dark Side of Oz" (Mystika Music, mystikamusic.com)...What a great band name! This is Western Mass hiphop that is ready to bust thru. An excellent album built from Wizard of Oz and "Dark Side of the Moon" samples. The drums sound good, it's funky, and the raps are well-done. With two albums for Mystika Music under their belts, they've become one of my favorite rap groups of the moment. And they are certainly one of our area's finest groups.
*****20 The Lions "Jungle Struttin'" (Ubiquity Records, myspace.com/lionsbread)...Among LA's finest, these cats mix up dub, funk, cumbia, and some ethiopian flavas into a soul stew. Some excellent cover versions here too. Check Lyn Collins/James Brown's "Think".
*****21 Pete Rock "NY's Finest" (Nature Sounds, nature-sounds.net)...Pete Rock can never do wrong. The dude could make an easy-listening record and it would still rock with soul. Pete's stamp is here in the funky drums and fantastic sound production. However, he broadens his rep here with the first reggae production i've heard from the maestro "Ready Fe War" with Chip Fu. A blast of militant dancehall power that could stand with Anthony B. Surely, among the songs of the year.
*****22 The Alchemystics "Live" (Northfire, thealchemystics.com)...Another excellent Western Mass band (and a great name here as well!!), this group actually shares members of the Problemaddicts (see above). Demse Zullo is among the best drummers around and the bass is heavy and groovy. Lots of dancehall/hip hop here with reggae flavors. Recorded at the Iron Horse music hall, this sounds great. The group spends a lot of time on studio sound, so its a nice change to hear something raw with live warmth. "I Got Your Number" is the pick of the disk.
*****23 Thievery Corporation "Radio Retaliation" (ESL Music, eslmusic.com)...The world's favorite chill-out band has always been a hit-or-miss affair with me, depending on the "hard" or "soft" of their concepts. I can proudly say that these citizens have made a fine album here with some strong reggae vibes. Guests this time around are Seu Jorge, DC go-go godfather Chuck Brown, and Femi Kuti, among others. A fine mix with afrobeat, brasilian, steppas, latin, eastern, dub, and more. Sure to rock the crowds.
*****24 Parts & Labor "Receivers" (Jagjaguwar, partsandlabor.net)...One of the unique bands of the indy scene, these guys (and gal) make a beautiful sound with lots of noise bursts within a decidedly pop song structure. A big part of this one is all the samples contributed by fans and friends manipulated into an unusual catalog of noise. The actual songs are well written and this record will do a lot to expand their fanbase given that it is their most accessable album. But, in my opinion, its also their best. And BJ's vocals sound better than ever. Contribute to the next LP by calling 888-317-5596 and leave a message for the band!
*****25 Pimps of Joytime "Funk Fixes & Remixes" (Wonderwheel Recordings, myspace.com/pimpsofjoytime)...Brooklyn's Pimps essentially sound like a latino jam band, but a REALLY funky one. Lots of melodies to go with the hard rhythms. They have a sound that can be easily adaptable to various different input and contributions, as evidenced here. This is a batch of tracks that have some remixes of cuts from the "High Steppin" album, as well as a few new goodies. It's really like a PJT EP, but the rhythms are harder here. "Funky Brooklyn" is the jam for us. But the whole thing is pretty groovy. And the afro horns show on Nickodemus' remix of "Street Sound". Someone should get these guys out here because the college crowd would eat this shit up! Everytime I play these guys, someone has to ask about it.
the best of the rest:
26 Andrew Raffo Dewar "Six Lines of Transformation & Music For Eight Bamboo Flutes" (Porter Records, porterrecords.com)
27 DJ Shadow/Cut Chemist "The Hard Sell" (djshadow.com, cutchemist.com)
28 P-18 "Mambo Chambo" (Tabata Tour, p18international.com)
29 Dan Friel "Ghost Town" (Important Records, danfriel.com)
30 David Hurley "Outer Nebula, Inner Nebula" (Porter Records, porterrecords.com)
31 Chicha Libre "Sonido Amazonico" (Barbes Records, barbesrecords.com)
32 Menahan Street Band "Make the Road By Walking" (Dunham Records, dunhamrecords.com)
33 DJ Dolores "1 Real" (Crammed Disk, djdolores.com)
34 Think of One "Camping Shaabi" (Crammed Disk, thinkofone.be)
35 Royal Hartigan Ensemble "Blood Drum Spirit: Live in China" (Innova, royalhart.com)
36 Erykah Badu "New Amerykah Part 1: 4th World War" (Motown, erykahbadu.com)
37 Illa J "Yancey Boys" (Deliscious Vinyl, illajmusic.com)
38 3 na Massa (Nublu, nublu.net)
39 Roots Manuva "Slime & Reason" (Big Dada, rootsmanuva.co.uk)
40 Ray Santiago Afro Cuba a la NYC "Latin Up" (raysantiago.com)
best comp: "African Scream Contest" (Analog Africa, analogafrica.com)
best 7": Duck Tails "Pizza Time" (Breaking World Records, breakingworldrecords.com)
best local production: "X-Plural-Us" (Mystra Records, myspace.com/mrtreetrain)
AND ON THE REISSUE FRONT...
and some labels sent me some cool reissues/anthologies...most notably:
Fania Records (fania.com)...tons of great cds, including Eddie Palmieri “Echando Pa'lante”, La Sonora Poncena “Desde PR a NY”, Ray Barretto “Barretto”, Joe Bataan “Subway Joe” and “Gypsy Woman”, Lebron Brothers “Criollo”, Mongo Santamaria “Live at Yankee Stadium”, Roberto Roena y su Apollo Sound “Volume 2” and “3”, Ismael Rivera “Traigo de Todo”, Cortijo “Sorongo”. And lots more!
We're also grateful to Andres at Latin Soul (hardsalsa.com) for sending out some cool reissues of 70s underground salsa, including “Papo Felix Meets Ray Rodriguez”, Orquesta Dee Jay, La Fantastica, and others.
Spain's howling Vampisoul label (vampisoul.com) continues to supply us with the funky goods. Some favorites from them this year include the Fela “Lagos Baby” anthology of the man's early recordings. Also a couple of other good african comps from the Vampis include “Afrobeat Nirvana” and “Highlife Time”. A great Eddie Bo anthology “In the Pocket” kept the party rolling all year. I also dug that reissue of “The Champ” by the Mohawks.
Homeboy DJ Bongohead selected the best from Miami's Spam All Stars (spamusica.com) for the Introducing Spam All Stars set. Afro-cuban rhythms and flavas meets hiphop culture. Congrats to Mercedes on her new addition! For more info check worldmusic.net for this disk and their whole series of Rough Guides, including several by Bongohead. They'll be releasing a couple from he and I in 2009 as well. More news on those later.
Barbes Records are really doing right by reissuing old chicha recordings. Try Juaneco's anthology “Masters of Chicha”. Barbesrecords.com
Ultracool label Porter Records is doing a bang-up job in the field of eccentric free-form jazz, avant-garde, and other sounds. In addition to the number of new releases that made our list above, they really let loose in the reissue dept as well. Essential underground classics from Byard Lancaster, Ted Daniel, Joe Chambers and others can be had at porterrecords.com.
If weirdo sound is yr thang then check out Urthquake's “Discograph” cd anthology put out by Spooky Tree (spookytreerecords.com). Now digitized from cassette releases thru the yrs, this bad boy brings you into soundtrack-world, with crazy sounds influenced by the likes of Goblin, Coil, Mayhem, Earth, Techno Animal, Merzbow, and more! A “black ambient” 7” is on the way.
Well, that about sums it up! Overall, it wasn't a bad year. Fuck those people that say music is dead. They can live in the past form all I care.
2009 looks to be good already with the advances i've got my mitts on from Kokolo, The Pavones, Femm Nameless, Urthquake, and others. Keep sending in yr sounds. We'll let ya know what we think.
Vinyl rules, cd is ok, MP3 sucks!
Send promos to:
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amherst, MA 01003
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2009 for andujar will see the release of 2 comps I compiled with bongohead, a website, a podcast, and more good things. Stay tuned.