Here are some of my favorite cuts from 2009. Please click the links to the band and label websites and buy their music direct!
01 Brownout...Con el Cuete (from Aguilas y Cobras--Six Degrees Records)
Grupo Fantasma's latin funk baby brother finally got to tour to the East Coast and I couldn't have been happier seeing them rock the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain. This is probably going to get my vote for Album of the Year with such a funky album of sick psych-funk grooves influenced by Santana, Funkadelic, Harvey Averne and others. This song has some nutty percussion changes (Cuba to Brasil to American funk) and hard rock guitar. The gorgeous group vocal is a bonus to an already heavy tune.
02 Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings...Take Me With U (from Purplish Rain compilation, Spin)
One of the highlights for me in all my radio daze was being blessed with the opportunity to interview Sharon Jones live on clandestino! Although she really interviewed herself...eager to tell stories and share her philosophies. A real joy. Here Sharon and the Dap Kings present a cover of "Take Me With U" by Prince, from a digi-sampler presented by Spin Magazine. We had to include this one...Sharon herself requested it!
03 T-Bird & the Breaks...Stand Up (from Learn About It, self-released)
A band from Austin, TX who I had never heard of until WMUA's Phloyd Rice handed it to me. I'm glad I listened because half-way through their disk is this hard funk number with a sick rhythm guitar line and gutbucket baritone sax. Totally retro, but a groover for sure.
04 Cronk Family Enterprises...Wganda Kenya (limited CD-R)
This is actually a remix of "Tifit Hayad" by one of my favorite bands, Colombian supergroup Wganda Kenya. Essentially faithful to the original but with some new additions, notably more polyrhythmic and some extra keyboards...and indeed some phase effects. A fine slice of Afro-Latin house music by these UK folks. They were nice enough to send me a copy of this and it is much enjoyed.
05 Joe Bataan con los Fulanos...Mestizo (from The King of Latin Soul--VampiSoul Records)
A nice album of Joe Bataan songs re-interpreted in 2009 by Joe Bataan! Joe is still at it, after his classics of the 60s/70s and the late 70s disco. His first album on Vampisoul, Call My Name, gave us an absolute classic-to-be. Here he teams up with Barcelona's Los Fulanos who give him a nice sweet and funky backdrop on some of his much-loved songs from his classic repertoire from back in the day.
06 Fort Knox Five...Papa Was Stoned (from Radio Free DC--Fort Knox Recordings)
Out of DC come this fun crew. A cool nod to the Norman Whitfield/Temptations funk masterpiece, and one of many soulful jams I've heard by these guys.
07 Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens...What Have You Done My Brother? (from Daptone)
Another beautiful throwback jam from the Daptone organization. Sublime, gorgeous gospel with members of the Dap Kings backing Naomi's wonderful scratchy voice. Cool organ too from Cliff Driver. This song may save you.
08 Kokolo...Mind Power (from Heavy Hustling--Record Kicks)
One of my favorite bands attacked strong in 2009 with another heavy funk scorcher, the James Brown-inspired Heavy Hustling. Some of the hottest and hardest funk music appears on the Italian label Record Kicks and Kokolo stands as the best of an excellent bunch. Ray Lugo and company lay down a jam you could go to school on. A JBs blueprint of funky drummer/organ backdrop/wailing sax topped with Ray dropping some knowledge. NYC is still Soul City and these guys continue to keep it deep.
09 Orquesta Dee Jay...Mi Son live and unreleased
Orquesta Dee Jay were an excellent band on the NYC salsa scene in the early 70s. They released a couple of extremely scare LPs and to much enthusiasm have since re-formed. This son originally appeared on their 1971 Forget It LP, since reissued by Andres Padua's Latin Soul Recordings. This version was recorded by the new band and features some tasty trés licks. The track was sent to me by Dee Jay trombonist Jerry Hernandez and dosn't appear on any albums. I recommend that somebody put these guys in a studio to produce a nice analog salsa dura recording and press that shit to VINYL!
Below is a photo taken of them at the Iguana Lounge in March...
10 Debo Band...Adderech Arada (from Debo/Demo)
This Boston-based ensemble pay tribute to Ethiopian's fantastic music, with a unique line-up consisting of accordian, violin, sousaphone, french horn and several other instruments. Already having visited Ethiopia, the band will soon be embarking on a journey to Zanzibar, Tanzania. And congrats to Debo's Danny Mekonen on the birth of his daughter in October!
Below Debo are seen live in Addis Ababa...
11 Dengue Fever...One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula (from Sleepwalking Through the Mekong, M-80)
This LA based band has gotten more flipped through the years and I'd have to say that this new album from them, the soundtrack to Sleepwalking Through the Mekong, is their finest. A true fusion album, they've gone from a Korean-pop base to expand into absorbing all kinds of music. A true fusion album, I had a hard time choosing between this or their Mulatu cover. But this funky psychedelic number with heavy reed arrangements and trippy vocal effects is a lifter every time.
12 Omar Souleyman...Shift Al-Mani (from Dabke 2020--Sublime Frequencies)
I first heard Omar Souleyman on the first CD (Highway to Hassake) that Sublime Frequencies released featuring the Syrian artist a few years back. Thanks to Josh at Mystery Train for the high recommendation! The Iraqi-style machine gun drums and one of the best keyboard-assaultists I've ever heard drive things along. The poetry of Mahmoud Harbi (who smokes cigs onstage and whispers the words to Omar) and the delivery of Omar himself send us into worlds we've never experienced. "Shift Al-Mani" translates to "I Saw Her". I'd hire this band for my wedding!
13 DJ Spooky...Azadi (the New Complexity) (from The Secret Song--Thirsty Ear Records)
This was sent around courtesy of Spooky himself (AKA Paul D. Miller). A truly gorgeous song, this marries a late-night hiphop beat to the soul-stirring Rumi intrepretation by Iranian vocalist Sussan Deyhim. "Azadi" translates to "freedom". This is lifting. That Subliminal Kid is offering free downloads of his music here.
Above is the album artwork, below the cover of the 12".
14 Andy Narrell & Relator...Food Prices (from University of Calypso--Heads Up)
American Steel pan player Andy Narell pays tribute to classic calypso tunes on this fantastic album with Trinidad's Willard "Relator" Harris. It's probably my favorite album I've heard from Narell, with so many street stories in island fashion. This tune is probably the most universal ever recorded, as Relator runs down the injustice of "Food Prices". Sometimes, indeed marijuana is cheaper than vegetables. Relator won the 1980 Monarch (Trinidad's Best Song) competition with this cut, redone with Narell in 2009.
15 El Michels Affair...Shimmy Shimmy Ya (from Enter the 37th Chamber, Fat Beats)
This Staten Island combo brings a dark and funky sound and here are interpreting the production style and beats of Wu Tang Clan's RZA (a fucking genious!). Ol' Dirty Bastard was the original rapper on this hiphop classic. Since he has left the planet, why not let a chorus of kids bring the ruckus? El Michel's self-dubbed "cinematic soul" is a moody head-nodder with clarity of sound. The group has toured with another Wu-presentative, Raekwon, and recorded a tribute album to the late Isaac hayes.
16 Alice Russell...Crazy (from Pot of Gold--Little Poppet/Six Degrees)
I first heard Australia's Alice Russell when she was a collaborator Quantic for a series of funky soul recordings that may well rate as classics ("Pushin' On"!). She has since made some records under her own name, most recently the Pot of Gold album, distributed worldwide by Six Degrees. Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" is one of my favorite pop songs of the last 10 years and Alice offers a grand performance on a stripped-down arrangement, perfectly displaying the feeling she pours into her singing. A fresh take on a modern classic, this version proves a hit with us.
01 Clutchy Hopkins...Turtle Rock (from Music is My Medicine--Ubiquity Recordings)
The ever-mysterious Clutchy Hopkins showed up in 2009 with the fine funky Music is My Medicine release. This tune from it sounds like what might happen if Shawn Lee found a time-machine to Lee Perry's Black Ark circa 75. Good stuff.
02 Tony Allen...Secret Agent (from Secret Agent, World Circuit)
Approaching 70 years old, the Nigerian rhythm master and co-creator (with former employer Fela Kuti) of afrobeat does not seem to be slowing down in any way. He seems to be jumping into so many different musical settings and contributing equally with folks half his age that he would have to be considered among the vanguard of contemporary music. This song is a re-interpretation of a tune he first recorded on "Variations" (made with Soul Ascendants). Tony himself contributes the distinctive lead vocal while directing the band from the drum kit. For more info on Tony Allen check my review here or our Tony Allen/Fela inspired Rough Guides CDs here.
03 Nickodemus w/Ismael Kouyaté...N'dim (from Sun People--Wonderwheel Recordings)
DJ Nickodemus is the Turntables-on-the-Hudson don, as well as a record producer, remixer, promoter and all around super nice guy. His tunes always seem to blend the magical elements of Eastern European, Middle Eastern, afrobeat, latin, funk, disco, house & reggae sounds to a fine earful. This is an uplifting and shaking cut with Guinea's Ismael Kouyaté on vocal.
04 Ramin Rahimi & Tapesh...Familiar (from Iranian Percussion--Arc Music)
Ramin Rahimi is the drummer in Iranian metalheads AngBand. Here we find his percussion album for world music label Arc. A very swinging and funky mix of Arab instruments and the jazz kit. Thanks to WMUA's Phloyd for the recommendation.
05 los Chapillacs...Recordando a Marion (from 45--Mass Tropicas)
Mike P and DJ12XU pointed me to this Peruvian band who are obsessed with classic chicha. Looking at drummer Renato's psychedelic sleeve you can almost smell the potsmoke wafting from the grooves. Punk-cumbia rolls on! Purchase the 7" at DustyGroove.
06 Sofrito...La Rosa (Frankie Francis edit) (from 12"--Sofrito Specials)
One of the loveliest records I've heard all year is this 12" that Frankie Francis handed me when he was in the States in late summer. A love song will always be welcome in a world gone mad, especially with harp and flamenco guitar and handclaps. This is a heart-melter for the tropical-house set. Or you.
07 Oumou Sangaré...Wele Wele Wintou (Seya, World Circuit)
Oumou Sangaré is a major figure in Malian music (for starters...she is very much a world presence) as a performing star and feminist voice. This is a song against forced marriages, a strong call for women's independence. This song is an afrobeat-inspired jam that will make all stand up. World Circuit is certainly in prime time with nice records in 2009 by Oumou Sangaré and Tony Allen.
08 Ray Lugo's LES Express w/Elani...I Dream of Bahia (from 45--Record Kicks)
Ray Lugo has certainly had a good year. His group Kokolo released a heavy funky album, a brand new 45 with Jojo Kuo, did a live interview on clandestino (!),rocked us at UMass (thanks to everyone at WMUA!), toured Africa and all of Europe. On top of that he recorded a bugalú album, which will destroy us in early 2010. But here is his 45 for Italy's Record Kicks label! A gorgeous and danceable Brazilian-inspired tune featuring a grooving jazzy guitar lick from Jake Fader and a lovely vocal from Brazilian singer Elani.
09 the Boogoos...the Journey (from 12"--Perfect Toy)
Here we have a German afrobeat/funk band with a 12" that has a sleeve that reminds me of an African LP that I saw but can't place in the catalogue card of my mind. On the disks A-side, they cover the most-coverable composition by perhaps my all-time favorite band Art Ensemble of Chicago. And the B-side is this afrobeat scorcher. Heavy.
10 Rob Symeon & Ticklah...One Way Road (from 12"--Concent)
I like this heavy roots/dub 12" by Antibalas keyboardist Ticklah, with some dread vocals by Rob Symeon. I brought this to Western Mass champion sound I-Ganic and what do you know? Camilo had this in his box...so you know it's quality! This record will beat down the Babylon of your daymares. Ticklah was also heavily involved with the now-legendary Dub Side of the Moon album.
11 Ocote Soul Sounds & Adrian Quesada...Cara De Yo No Fui (from Coconut Rock--ESL Music)
Thanks to everyone who came to hear Ocote at Hampshire College in October. The band was amazing and soulful. Out of Austin TX and New York NY, these guys are spearheaded by Antibalas founder Martín Perna and Grupo Fantasma bandleader Adrian Quesada. I think that may be a clavinet or something behind those afro rhythms and spacey reeds. This beautiful album is highly recommended.
12 Menahan Street Band...the Wolf (from 45--Dunham Records)
I picked this up on a 45 on the Dunham label. This features several guys from the Dap Kings and El Michels Affair and rolls in an Ethio style.
13 the Heliocentrics & Mulatu...Cha Cha (from Inspiration Information Vol 3--Strut Records)
In this series on Strut Records, several contemporary artists commission musical heros to create inspired collaberations. UK psych-funk heavies the Heliocentrics chose Ethio-jazz king Mulatu Astatqe for a wonderful LP. Malcolm Cotto and company spent some time crafting ideas with and for Mulatu and this track is a great example of many to display the afro-latin tendencies Mulatu helped birth in the late 60s.
14 Quantic & his Combo Bárbaro...Enyere Kumbara (from 45--Tru Thoughts)
Will "Quantic" Holland is one of my favorite producers. The Brit is now permanently based in Cali, Colombia. Coming up on funk, the man is now designing some of the finest latin/funk fusion music in the world. With an international band featuring a drummer from the UK, pianist from Peru, a few American collaberators and a cast of Colombian homeboys and homegirls, Quantic and Co. present us with a spirited soulful bugalú jazz cut that resides only as a B-side to his "Linda Morena" 7".
left to right: Nickodemus, ?, Andujar, Fernando, Quantic, Bongohead
15 Kids in Tracksuits w/Mr Lif...Zone (from 45--Fluid Ounce)
A late arrival in my crate, but Boston rapper Mr Lif (pictured below) has never ceased to amaze me with his insight, delivery and honesty. With a nasty grinding track from the UK's Kids in Tracksuits, we have a bonafide jam on 45(!). That sweet flute sample reminds me of that post-humous Eric Dolphy album Other Aspects.
16 Budos Band...Nobody's Bulletproof (from 12"--Daptone Records)
The Budos Band always brings great-sounding and well-executed funk numbers like this afrobeat-inspired jam. Even a 12" of odds and ends by these guys makes for a crucial release. I advise you to pick it up before it's gone.
17 Nomo...Nocturne (from Invisible Cities--Ubiquity Recordings)
Nomo follows up 2008's amazing Ghost Rock with another forward-looking gem of an album. This lullabye is a very nice mix of the band's custom-constructed kalimbas, some wacky synth sounds, afrobeat drums and a Sun Ra inspired chant. Have a wonderful night.
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