Archive for the ‘Reissue Rebound’ Category

Label Spotlight – Medical Records (Seattle, WA)

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

This week we’re shining our spotlight on fellow Emerald City sonic archaeologists Medical Records. Officially launched in 2008 by Dr. Troy Wadsworth (yup, he’s really a doctor!), Medical’s bread and butter is minimal is all manner of synthezied music: Minimal Synth, Synth Pop, Cosmic Disco, Italo, Prog Synth, and Cold/New Wave. Sporting high quality 180-gram vinyl (usually colored, too), excellent sound and packaging, Medical Records is a label after our own heart. This week we sat down with Troy to talk about his process, Medical’s backstory and what’s coming up on the horizon for the label.

LITA: Tell us about Medical Records. What inspired you to start the label?

MR: The story of Medical Records probably begins somewhere around 2004-2005. I had been an avid collector and fan of early new wave, krautrock, and other synthesized genres of music for years. Early on, it seemed like this niche of music was really just appreciated by a small number of people, and it wasn’t impossible to find (or even stumble upon) rare records from that time period (late 70s/early 80s). As years went by, the fan base seemed to grow exponentially. All of the sudden, finding these lost gems became nearly impossible unless you were willing to spend unnatural amounts of cash to obtain them. Around 2005-2006, it seemed like a great time to get involved and possibly start a record label to help make some of my favorite records available again. Unfortunately, at the time, I essentially had no funds for this type of things as I was mired in debt from being in medical school. A few years went by and other labels were luckily reissuing this type of music (Minimal Wave, Vinyl On Demand, Anna Logue, and others). I was further inspired by these great pioneer labels, and once I had the funding, I actively began working on the label around 2008 or so.

LITA: Your releases range from Italo disco classics like Alexander Robotnick’s Ce N’est Qu’un Début to minimal synth pop of Guyer’s Connection. Besides the obvious use of electronics, what would you say is the common thread of the albums you’re reissued.

MR: I like to imagine the underlying theme of the label is based in deep, analog synthesizer-based music. Whether it be the passionate prog-tendencies of Chrisma, the kosmiche space odyssey leanings of Deutsche Wertarbeit, or the synth-punk of Lou Champagne System, the overall aesthetic is rooted in interesting, colorful, and unique synthetic textures all created by the instrument of instruments. Also, I like to mix it up a bit by presenting a cosmic disco burner followed by a synth drone LP possibly followed by a sweet and sensual synth pop hit. I don’t want to be thought of as being restricted to one sub-genre. I think the catalog illustrates this point well so far.

LITA: Tell us about your reissue process? How do you find these records and the people that made them? I’ve read that the first few records took years to obtain the proper licences etc.

MR: Most of the releases so far have been records that I own in my collection and have been enjoying for years. When I started the label, I had about 10 records in mind to possibly reissue. 5 of those were so important to me that I elevated them to “must reissue” status. 3 on that “must reissue” list have already been released (OGI, Chrisma, and Dalek I). The last 2 are Drinking Electricity Overload and Mathematiques Modernes Les Visiteurs Du Soir. Those last 2 are in the works and will be released soon. Getting back to the process, I optimally attempt to contact the artist/composer first. I do that by a number of means. I have contacted people through Facebook (and before that, Myspace). I have contacted people through a string of other artists I have talked to. Tyler, my artist who designs/retouches the covers also has been helpful tracking people down in the buried internet. If I contact the artist, and they do not own the copyrights, then I have to contact the copyright holder to obtain a license. This situation can definitely take months if not years. OGI was licensed this way as it took me. It all works out in the end as long as folks are receptive and willing to answer emails, etc.

LITA: Audio quality is something we care a lot about at LITA, and it’s clear that from your releases you go for original tape transfers for your sources and press on 180-gram wax. Any stories of the struggle to find long, lost master tapes? What’s the remastering process?

MR: As much as I would like the contrary, it has not been feasible to transfer from the original tapes on every release. When the original tapes are available (and able to be salvaged), I of course proceed in that direction. In some cases, the tapes are simply lost forever, and we have to work with what is available. Sometimes this is a high-quality digital transfer from the original tapes that the artist (luckily) has access to. Worse case scenario is there are no tapes or high quality transfers, and the LPs would have to be mastered from vinyl. This can still have a very desirable outcome if done well (in the right studio with the right talented engineer which I have access to). I have not been a huge proponent of remastering, per se. With Lou Champagne System, the original tapes were transfered and EQ’ed, however. The final product is superior to the original pressing. OGI is a simple, clean transfer from the analog tapes that sounds fantastic with the “remastering” treatment. So, as you can see, it is release-dependent completely.

LITA: Was just listening to the Lou Champagne System No Visible Means LP this weekend. Incredible. What’s the story behind that record? Some seriously whacked out and demented sounds on that record.

MR: Lou Champagne was a member of the Ontario music scene in the early 80′s. Being an electronic whiz, he was able to sync up his guitar, synth, and drum machines so he could perform and record as a one-man band. The record was originally self-released on Lou’s own Pterodactyl Records in 1984. Though very obscure, this record has quite a cult following. For years, you could buy original copies direct from Lou, but the demand overpowered the supply. I was proud to resurrect this synth-punk gem. We were able to spruce it up (as stated above) by transferring the tape, EQ’ing the sound, restoring the original artwork (and insert), and releasing it on high-quality 180gram white vinyl.

LITA: If you had to pick one dream reissue, what would it be? Doesn’t have to fit in with your usual oeuvre.

MR: Honestly, I was on a personal mission to reissue the seminal IKO ’83 LP. The record seems to demand outrageous prices (over 100 dollars usually), and it would have been a blast to reissue. Unfortunately, it was bootlegged recently which always changes the dynamics of the market related to a release. I had been in contact with the artist, but things seemed to have dissipated. I also know they were in negotiations with other labels too. I wish them and whoever is lucky enough to licence the record the best of luck!

LITA: OK this is going back a bit, but what do you remember to be the first record you ever bought?

MR: Haha, ok, well, that is easy. Micheal Jackson Thriller. I don’t remember how young I was, but I was definitely in Elementary School. The first cassette I bought was Weird Al Yankovic In 3-D. Weird, huh?

LITA: Any upcoming projects you can share?

MR: I would be thrilled to discuss them. The next release is the underground classic Axxess Novels For The Moons LP (MR-011). It is an painfully rare LP that was released in 1983. Axxess is Patrick Mimran who is a well-respected French multimedia artist and active today. At the time, he was the owner of Lamborghini car company. Patrick has a custom built complex synthesizer and recorded this instrumental album on that very interesting machine. This will appeal to lovers of proggy-style synth records, disco motifs, and complex sequencing patterns. Following Axxess is a first for Medical Records. MR-012 will be a full-length LP by Italy’s Gay Cat Park. In 1982, they had one hit entitled “I’m a Vocoder”. We contacted them and were delighted to discover that they had other unreleased music from the same time period on cassettes. They restored these tracks, and Medical Records will present these lost tunes for the first time. Very endearing, upbeat synth pop with heavy Italo disco overtones. We are really looking forward to that record (expect it around end of May or so). Other releases confirmed with future release dates include a Christof Glowalla 10″ (famous for the ultra-rare “Erde 80″ 7″), a Tony Carey double LP (ex-drummer of Rainbow who recorded the stellar disco-infused Explorer and Yellow Power LPs which will be featured on the release), and the holy grail Overload by Drinking Electricity which will also be a double LP with the LP and singles/B-sided included! 2012 is gearing up for another exciting year here at Medical headquarters…

————

More info about Medical Records can be found here and you may order their releases from us here. Be sure to check out more audio samples on their Soundcloud page and like them on Facebook.

AKA “Hard Beat” CD/2xLP & interview with MoSS from Strawberry Rain Records (plus special giveaway!!!)

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

As featured on Now Again’s Those Shocking Shaking Days compilation, AKA (an acronym of Apotik Kali Asin) started in the early 70s in Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya, East Java, and came to be known as one of the nation’s greatest rock bands. Starting off their careers as an infamous local band with notorious crowd pleasing antics, AKA regularly went through repertoires of Steppenwolf, Grand Funk Railroad, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Three Dog Night before finding a significant audience outside their home city. It was soon after that the band signed with a Jakarta based label, Indra Records that they started producing a steady release of albums, including 11 studio LPs and a couple of compilations.

Thanks to the supreme digging efforts of Jason “MoSS” Connoy (who, as you’ll see below, also compiled Those Shocking Shaking Days) our thirst for more heavy psychedelic & progressive funk from Indonesia is whetted with this new release–AKA Hard Beat (CD | 2xLP Strawberry Rain | SR001) available now from Light In The Attic. MoSS was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to talk with us a bit about his various reissue projects and the new AKA comp.

****DIG THIS****

We will be giving away ONE free copy (either CD or 2xLP) of AKA Hard Beat. Leave your name and email in the comment field below (email is kept private and not shared). We’ll announce the winner on our Facebook and Twitter pages on Friday at 12PM (PST). So be sure to follow us to see if you won!

Tell us about Strawberry Rain? What inspired you to start the label?

I have been helping various labels source reissue material for a few years now. A year or two ago I had the reels to an Iranian band (JOKERS) and while I was listening I started to wonder why I hadn’t tried my hand in the reissue market. I’ve put out releases in other genres of music, so it’s wasn’t a huge learning curve. I ended up putting out JOKERS with a friend of mine named Gholam on a label called Fading Sunshine. When the AKA contracts came about, my friend had other commitments so I decided to start another label named after a song from the group Ellison.

Your first release, the JOKERS album, got a lot of play around here. What was the story behind that project?

Well, a close friend of mine, Gholam, is a notorious psychedelic dealer, and has been for many years. He sourced all the Iranian stuff well before it hit eBay, including the Abbas Mehrpouya and Pari Zangeneh LPs and 1000′s of 45′s. He used to live in Tehran as a teen, and was a heavy rock head back then, which obviously wasn’t common there. He managed to preserve a lot of his collection, and kept contacts over the years. We ended up finding one of the engineers from one of the bigger studios in Iran, and got the reels out of there. Sadly all but one of the Jokers has passed, but the lone member was very happy with the result. We plan to have some other unreleased Iranian music in the future as well; it’s just a matter of timing.

Recently you curated and compiled the excellent Those Shocking Shaking Days comp on Now Again. When I first got that, I was immediately struck by how weirdly similar in vibe the Panbers track “Haai” was to Jane’s Addiction. A few weeks later I heard Henry Rollins play “Haai” on his KCRW show which he preceded with Jane’s Addiction’s “Stop” …he drew the same reference. A really great record.

Those Shocking Shaking Days was a great opportunity for me. Egon at NOWAGAIN and I have traded records over the years, so when he approached me about working on an Indonesian comp with him, it just felt natural. He’s very good on the marketing end of things, as well as discovering music, and sourcing bands. It took us a long time to get it all done, but we’ve had good feedback on it. Indonesia has a pretty interesting scene. I have 1000′s of LPs, tapes and magazines. TSSD was an intro to the scene as a whole, from a Western perspective.

Your new release is the first ever anthology of the Indonesian psych/progressive funk band AKA (also featured on Those Shocking Shaking Days). Tell us about this project.

I have been collecting AKA records for many years now. I discovered them early on when I got into Indonesian music, and really tried to collect all their LPs as quick as I could. Some of their albums are bloody rare and took me years to find. I haven’t seen a single copy in over 10 years. I always saw AKA as a group that had a couple of good songs per LP, and wished they had created a single “rock” album. They actually had one released in Indonesia with most of the songs on this comp, but it was only available on tape in the late 70′s. When we worked on the TSSD contracts, the opportunity came for me to create this record, and here we are.

Tell us about the re-mastering process. It’s a process that we spend a lot of time on and it’s great to hear when others do as well. What was the source material that you had to work with? Vinyl? Master tapes?

There are no master tapes in Indonesia outside of a small number of bands. The majority of the labels would erase the previous session after it was cut to vinyl. They didn’t want to import new reels, so they re-used existing ones. I used M- vinyl copies for all the masters. I can’t stress how long it took to get clean copies of their discography. It was hell. I had VG copies already, but didn’t want to ruin the sound quality from noise restoration. The transfers were done on a very high end turntable/stylus. I didn’t want to lose anything in the transfer itself. When I compare them to the originals, they’re unbelievably close on all fronts. The originals themselves vary in quality depending on label, and who mastered them at the time.

A bit about the design/packaging. The LP release a super nice tip-on sleeve (Stoughton?) and lots of great photos. Were you able to get in touch with the band or their family members for archive photos?

Photos came from old photographers and Rolling Stone Indonesia. The band themselves only had footage of SAS, the group that was formed post AKA. I’m looking into that reissue now, I’m not sure what will happen. I try my best to give customers something that feels good in their hands. I like the heavy sleeves.

What’s next on the horizon for you and Strawberry Rain? Can you divulge any details?

I have some Zambian albums I’m currently sorting out, and I’m also in talks with a few other bands that I need to keep quiet for now. I’m also looking to release another unreleased Iranian album in the next year or so if things work out.

Lastly, a spin on the oft-asked “what’s the first album you ever bought?” question. What’s the first reissue you ever bought or remember having?

I honestly don’t remember. Good question, I just have no clue.

___________________________________________

For more info, audio samples and to order AKA Hard Beat (CD | 2xLP Strawberry Rain | SR001) click HERE!

Interview by Patrick McCarthy. Thanks to LITA’s Josh Wright for setting up the interview. Special thanks to MoSS for doing the interview.

Label Spotlight: Masstropicas and the new comp “El Sonido de Tupac Amaru”!

Monday, May 9th, 2011

When traveling into the jungle, it’s always a good idea to have a trusted guide, cuz, you know, there’re all sorts of snakes and quicksand and shit. Same goes for traveling into the musical jungle (watch out for those game-killing budget “World Music” CDs!) Our trusted guide in these journeys is the label Masstropicas and their main man Mike P, who’s never led us astray. This week we sat down with Mike P. to talk Peruvian cumbia and their latest–and very limited (500 hand-numbered)–release, El Sonido De Tupac Amaru. Welcome to the jungle!!!!

Tell us about Masstropicas. What inspired you to start the label?

Masstropicas is a collective of sorts not only do I come up with ideas for releases but I also present them to the bands with a collaborative attitude in hopes that they will be receptive. I was inspired to start Masstropicas because no one in North America was releasing Peruvian cumbia and I thought these re-issue’s deserve more than a CD and iTunes.

We reviewed the Ranil’s Jungle Party record, which is fantastic and got a lot of play in the LITA offices (it also made our top reissues of 2010 list). Was that the label’s first release?

No that was actually Masstropicas 4th release, the 3 that came before that were all pressed in very small quantities. Number one being a 45 by LOS CHAPILLACS from Arequipa, Peru. Number 2 being a 12″ from GREEN MANSIONS ( a band between a friend from Denmark and me) and number 3 being a cassette from EL HOMBRE ORQUESTA an amazing street musician from Lima, Peru who performs many cumbia songs and also does some salsa.

Both Ranil’s Jungle Party and El Sonido De Tupac Amaru are prime examples of Peruvian cumbia. Can you talk a bit about this style of music?

Peruvian cumbia much like Peruvian food is a true mix of styles ranging from Asian influence to indigenous Andean influence to American surf rock influence. You’ll find records in Peru that have styles printed next to the song titles, one will say cumbia-rock another will say cumbia-beat and another one will say cumbia-hyuano. It’s always been all over the place but it’s all cumbia Peruana and people outside of Peru who try to pinpoint it always seem to not have the best description.

Tell us about the El Sonido De Tupac Amaru compilation. How did you find these songs/artists?

All of these songs come from my travels in Peru at one point or another. Half of the songs are from 45s I dug down there and songs I heard through a radio station close to my wife’s family’s home called Radio Comas. I would tune in late at night and record radio shows that played cumbia and skim threw the tapes and if I heard something groovy I would ask around and play the song for people in hopes that I could get the name of the group. The compilation is also named after Tupac Amaru which is an avenue also close to where my wife’s family live and you can hear a lot of this music blaring from taxi’s, restaurants, and street vendors there.

Tell us about the re-mastering process. What was the source material that you had to work with? Vinyl? Master tapes? Who did the re-mastering/restoration?

95% of the source material is from vinyl and 5% being from master tapes. Unfortunately only a few labels kept master tapes in Peru and it’s very hard to come across smaller labels who do own master tapes. So we relied on the cleanest copies of the records that I own and trying to mix the sound with the songs on the compilation that come from the master tapes was quite a dilemma for Pepito Perez and Anres Tapia, the two guys who mastered El Sonido De Tupac Amaru along with Ranil’s Jungle Party.

And the packaging looks great! Really cool design and the bonus 7″ makes it even more special. Tell us a bit about the design/packaging.

El Sonido De Tupac Amaru and the Centeno 7″ were both designed by a close friend named Tunchi who is also apart of the street photography collective http://limafotolibre.com. I’ve known him for many years prior to him designing things. It’s truly a collaborative effort with him as well, I trust him very much though, we also work with another photographer names FOKUS who will get us photo’s from old bands and also take newer photos if needed. El Sonido De Tupac Amaru comes with an 11″ x 22″ full color insert with tons of rare photos and along with that it comes with a double sided 11″ x 11″ insert with liner notes and additional art.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I keep those things under my hat until it’s 100% but we are going to Peru in May to record some bands from the Jungle!

___________________________________________________

For audio samples and to order El Sonido De Tupac Amaru (LP + 7″ | Tropic-06) click HERE!

Label Spotlight: Paradise of Bachelors & their amazing exploration of Carolinian Soul/Funk

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Paradise of Bachelors, the North Carolina-based label curated and run by Brendan Greaves and Jason Perlmutter, is new to the block but with their first release, Said I Had A Vision: Songs & Labels of David Lee, 1960-1988, they come off like seasoned pros. Said I Had A Vision collects the work of legendary Shelby, North Carolina jack-of-all-trades David Lee and everything about this release from the excellently curated track listing to the exhaustive liner notes makes this essential for fans of Soul, Funk, Gospel, and Northern Soul.

Recently we chatted with Brendan and Jason about their label, the recently released Said I Had A Vision anthology, and the rich musical history of the Carolinas. Awesomeness ensued.

OK, a few questions right off the bat: Tell us about Paradise of Bachelors? What inspired you to start the label? And lastly, how did you discover David Lee’s music and what made you want to release his work?

David Lee among his corn (Photo courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors)

BRENDAN: The origin of Paradise of Bachelors resides in the story of how we met David Lee and in turn, each other, so these two questions are best answered together.  In 2008, I had just completed my graduate degree in folklore, and I had a gig conducting field research on the musical history of Cleveland County, North Carolina for the Earl Scruggs Center and Don Gibson Theater in Shelby. Those facilities named for Cleveland County’s native sons give you a sense of how rich the musical traditions are in those North/South Carolina borderlands west of Charlotte. A local musician named Ray Harper—close friend and sideman to Marvin Gaye and college roommate and bandmate of Maceo Parker and Jesse Jackson—referred me to Mr. Lee, about whom I knew nothing other than what Mr. Harper told me, that he used to own a record store in Shelby called Washington Sound as well as three independent record labels.

I interviewed David, and I found the untold story of his career fascinating. During our conversation, he made a confusing comment about how we had already spoken on the phone months earlier, which was not the case. It turned out that Jason had independently contacted Mr. Lee to inquire about the 45s he had released on his Impel, Washington Sound, and SCOP labels, and David had reasonably assumed we were the same person—it was simpler to believe that there was just one youngish white guy from the Chapel Hill/Durham area suddenly curious about his music, not two separate people. I was aware of Jason’s work as a DJ, record collector, and historian of Carolina soul music—his website, carolinasoul.org, is a wonderful resource—and we had friends in common, but we had never met. David Lee brought us together, and the natural decision to found a label to reissue his life’s work followed soon thereafter. We both continue to speak to David on a weekly basis, and cultivating our friendship with him and his family, catalyzing some long overdue recognition for his career, and providing occasions for him to perform again after a decades-long hiatus have been the most rewarding results of the project.

Jason and Brendan with David Lee, in the center proudly displaying his North Carolina Folklore Society’s Brown-Hudson Award

As soul, gospel, and country music fans, David’s music attracted us for aesthetic reasons, because he is a compelling writer and sensitive producer. But Jason and I find the cultural contexts of his work equally significant, and that narrative was important to us—we had an opportunity, a responsibility, to tell the tale of one man’s life in music, and we wanted to do it right.  As a record label and record shop owner, David belongs to a proud tradition of African American music entrepreneurs and businesspeople who thrived in communities across the South during the 1960s and 1970s, both during the Jim Crow era and in its equally stormy aftermath.

David Lee with the original Washington Sound record shop sign. (Photo courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors)

The former Washington Sound on Buffalo Street in Shelby. David Lee ran his record shop in this building from the early 1970s through 1995. (Photo by Jason Perlmutter)

As proprietor of Washington Sound, Shelby’s premiere source for African American popular music, and in his role as record label owner, he helped not only to advance the agenda of African American businesses in North Carolina, but likewise to disseminate both local and national soul and gospel recordings that articulated the enjoined personal and political concerns of African Americans. The regional focus of his production work and independent releases—all of the artists hail from within about a seventy mile radius—underscores the significance of African American vernacular music not only to the national discourse of the Civil Rights movement, but likewise to its specific regional iterations. Impel, Washington Sound, and SCOP both documented and defined the expressive sound of Piedmont North Carolina. Mr. Lee’s collaboration with teenage interracial (or “salt and pepper”) band the Constellations, his recording of white lounge singer Bill Allen with the African American group the Masters of Soul, and his own self-identification as a country music songwriter, singer, and stylist demonstrate his persistent commitment to implementing his position as an artist and community leader to nudge tense racial relations towards acceptance and the integration of working musicians and audiences. David digs Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, Charley Pride, and Bill Monroe as much as he does Otis Redding and James Brown, and that’s something that upends our normative and naïve American notions of culture and taste—I find that really interesting. He persevered despite criticism of his countrified tastes by the African American community, much as the Constellations persevered despite criticism and hostility from some white audiences.

The Constellations circa early 60's (with the Prom Queen!) (Photo courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors)

From the outset, we’ve broadly defined Paradise of Bachelors as a label, a soundsystem, and an archive dedicated to documenting, curating, and releasing under-recognized musics of the American vernacular, with an emphasis on the South. So in addition to making records, we are also engaged in DJing, music and folklife consultation, research and writing. Records represent our primary vehicle for producing artifacts, and for us, vinyl is the most sensible way to do that. Music is mechanically and physically encoded in vinyl, so the data is physical. That’s conceptually appealing, but so is the idea that, when the impending digital apocalypse renders much contemporary audio media obsolete, enterprising folks can still build a record player with a wheel, a needle, and a horn. But ultimately, we hope that our work can have impacts beyond the production and dissemination of more stuff, more records, and we’re proud to have been able to work with Mr. Lee to allow him to pursue a second career later in life.

Tell us about Said I Had A Vision, your anthology of David Lee’s releases.

JASON: This 14-track album covers the highlights of David Lee’s forays into songwriting, production, and performance, which spanned nearly 40 years, all the while based out of the Shelby, North Carolina area, and which led him to explore soul, funk, r&b, gospel, lounge, and country music. These efforts began in the late 1950s, when Mr. Lee made his first recording of his own voice, accompanied by piano and drums, and shopped it around to multiple publishers across the Southeast. This autobiographical song “I’m Going to Keep on Trying” ambiguously addressed both romantic heartbreak and repeated rejections from the music industry. In 1961 or 1962, the tune was finally picked up by publishing company Active and received broad regional airplay courtesy of the Air record label out of Miami, Florida. Mr. Lee had only intended the bare-bones track as a demo and was disappointed with the showing. Within the next year or so, “Keep on Trying” would be re-recorded by a proper singing group and full band, the Ambassadors of Shelby, and released on Air. Although neither of these recordings is represented on Said I Had a Vision—we actually haven’t ever come across David’s demo, and we chose to focus on the output of David’s own labels, they are worthy of mention for they mark the beginning of his ventures in music production.

Over the next several years, up until the mid-1960s, Mr. Lee launched his own record company with three different releases by the Constellations, a local group who had positioned themselves as rivals to the Ambassadors and who are represented on Said I Had a Vision by two different selections. One of them, Mr. Lee’s stately and airy romantic dialogue “If Everybody,” graced the A-side of their first 45 on his new Impel imprint and would become one of the most enduring numbers in his catalog. After the Constellations were split up by the Vietnam War, Mr. Lee found himself with no flagship artist, and he began offering his songwriting and production services to artists outside of Cleveland County. In 1968 or 1969, his collaboration with the Yakety Yaks of Spartanburg, South Carolina yielded “Soul Night,” and this funk tune became the debut record on his new label Washington Sound, named for the shop and the theme song for radio advertisements that promoted his business. More than four decades later, we have positioned it as the opening track on our retrospective album.

Sample of the liner notes for "Said I Had A Vision"

Yakety Yaks “Soul Night” (YouTube clip)

Mr. Lee’s next collaboration would net the greatest commercial success of his career. In 1971, he met Ann Sexton, a young vocalist who fronted the Masters of Soul band of Greenville, South Carolina. Sexton’s recording of a new David Lee demo entitled “You’re Letting Me Down” came out briefly on Impel (we’ve compiled both this track and the B-side “You’ve Been Gone Too Long,” which is favored on the Northern soul scene). The mournful ballad quickly captured the attention of legendary disc jockey “John R.” Richbourg of radio station WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee. Richbourg re-released the 45 on his nationally-distributed label Seventy-Seven Records and sold around 90,000 copies.

Candid photo of Ann Sexton by David Lee. (Photo courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors)

Ann Sexton “You’re Letting Me Down” (YouTube clip)

Moving forward, Mr. Lee’s royalties from the Sexton material allowed him to fund several subsequent releases, including lounge material by Bill Allen, sweet soul and funk by Brown Sugar Inc., and his first gospel productions. These were performed by the Gospel I.Q.’s of Grover, North Carolina, the Relations Gospel Singers, who cut their record live at Mice Creek Baptist Church, near Gaffney, South Carolina, the Sensational Gates of Shelby, and Joe Brown and the Singing Mellerairs, with whom Mr. Lee had one of his longest working relationships. In the 1980s, Mr. Lee founded a third label, SCOP, which is an acronym for “Soul, Country, Opera, and Pop,” and put out two more 45s, one by the Singing Mellerairs, entitled “Vision” (the lyrical source of our compilation title) and one of his own, which closes the album. All of the artists that I’ve just mentioned were an important part of David’s career, and you can hear selections from each on the album.

Gospel I.Q. (Photo courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors)

Tell us about the remastering process. What was the source material that you had to work with? Vinyl? Master tapes?

JASON: Our source material for the album was exclusively vinyl. We remastered from original 45s on David’s Impel, SCOP, and Washington Sound labels. Back in the day, due to the high cost of purchasing the master tapes from the recording studios where he produced his records, David usually left them behind, and he surmises that they were taped over or discarded through the years. Thankfully he held onto vinyl copies of a few of the releases in his catalog, and we used these to supplement the ones that I had collected myself. Between his and mine, we had copies of sufficient sound quality for every track on the album. After transferring the songs to a digital format, minimal restoration work was needed. What you hear is essentially how the records were intended to be played, and we are quite happy with the fidelity.

Joe Brown & the Singing Mellerairs (Photo courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors)

What are you currently listening to?

BRENDAN: Here’s a list, in order of appearance, from an arbitrary eight inches of my shelf of records currently in rotation: Blue Jug, Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes, Gary Stewart, Sedatrius Brown, Mickey Jupp’s Legend, Savage Rose, Ronnie Lane, Cornell Campbell, Augie Meyers, Dennis Linde, Uncle Dog, Johnny Paycheck, Terry Allen, Michael Nesmith, Bonnie Koloc, Robert Pete Williams, Stoney Edwards, Thulebasen, Bob Seger, The Hammons Family, Swamp Dogg, Jessie Ed Davis, Early B, Magic Sam, Arik Einstein/Shalom Chanoch, Kevin Coyne, Tim Hardin, Santo and Johnny, Danielle Dax, David Allan Coe, Python Lee Jackson, Secos & Molhados, Horseback, and Hiss Golden Messenger. You’ll probably notice that Jason and I are listening to very different things, which keeps our partnership interesting.

JASON: Because my collecting efforts focus on 45s—in particular soul, funk, gospel, and privately-pressed oddities of various genres—they make up the bulk of my home listening. Rather than bore you with the details of the ones that I’m most into at the moment, I’ll throw out there that when I’m in the car, which is often, I usually tune in to these central North Carolina radio stations: Foxy 107/104 for classic soul and neo-soul, and K 97.5 and 102 Jamz for hip-hop and r&b. Back at home, I’ve also been making my way through a stack of LPs given to me by a man I recently met on an airplane. These include Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On a personal favorite that I only ever had on CD, some James Brown live albums, and a few New Age selections.

What are you working on next?

BRENDAN: We are excited to have recently begun working with Jason’s neighbor Willie French Lowery, who is a remarkable songwriter, singer, and guitarist who led psych bands Plant & See and Lumbee in the late 60’s to mid 70s. He also recorded quieter, more country-inflected solo work that deals with his identity as a Lumbee Indian and that community’s history and culture. We are collaborating with Willie and his wife Malinda Maynor Lowery to release some unheard live and studio material as well as some of his better-known work in the fall. Willie is a legend—he was Clyde McPhatter’s tour manager and toured with the Allman Brothers!

Lumbee “You Gotta Be Stoned” (YouTube clip)

Future projects may involve more soul and gospel rarities for sure, but also possibly, coastal country, Christian folk, and even some Communist disco (yes, it exists!), at this point all with roots in the Carolinas, largely because it makes it easier to access the musicians directly if they live within driving distance. We’re interested in releasing music, historical or futuristic or otherwise, with contemporary relevance and resonance—the music’s obscurity matters far less than strong curatorial and aesthetic coherence, compelling narratives, and our ability to articulate those narratives through engagement with the artists, through interviews, oral histories, photography, etc. Genre and taste are specious concepts, I reckon. Context is key. Write us if you have an idea for a record!

___________________________________________________

For more audio samples and to order Said I Had A Vision: Songs & Labels of David Lee, 1960-1988 click HERE!

___________________________________________________

Interview by LITA’s blog scribe Patrick McCarthy. Thanks to Brendan and Jason for their time and wonderful insights. Special thanks to LITA’s co-captain and distro maven Josh Wright for setting up the interview.

Label Spotlight: Vadim Music and “La Formule Du Baron”

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Day three of our label spotlight on Vadim Music. Each day this week the LITA bloggerati (yes, I did just write that!) will dig deep into their extensive catalog, only to surface with some rare grooves you may have missed. Today we give you the the album that defies all categories while at the same time epitomizing them: Bernard Estardy – La Formule du Baron (VDA031 | LP)

In an enigmatic, deceptively serene sleeve, bathed in strangely disturbing winter light, appears the deeply rooted shadow of a man staring miles into the distance. His freakish yet confident stance, his thick horn-rimmed glasses and wind tousled hair give him every air of a slightly decadent aristocrat, while the gothic typeface to his left succeeds in adding a nice baroque touch. Standing to such ceremony, La Formule du Baron obviously cannot be a record like any other. To confirm our first impression, our mysterious Baron decides to invite us to an incredible and sumptuous musical banquet, defined by a freedom and inventiveness rarely found together on one same record. A crazy alchemist, let loose in his mythical CBE Studio, our host concocts succulent musical recipes exuding the perfume of sparkling orchestral pop, an aroma of spicy funk, a sprinkling of unbridled jazz, and the incredible vapours of mutant variety of the curious vocals kind.

Behind this mind-blowing production, these generous creations and this old-fashioned pseudonym hides in fact one of greatest producers the hexagon has ever known, the passionate, and sadly missed Bernard Estardy. Loyal organist for Nino Ferrer, he also produced and rubbed shoulders with practically all of French variety’s personalities (for better or for worse,) composed several library music pieces, and gave birth to his fair share of cult space disco tracks. Impossible to categorise, La Formule du Baron remains his masterpiece, standing alongside the pop and psychedelic greats of the 60s and 70s.

For audio samples and to order Bernard Estardy – La Formule du Baron click HERE!

Label Spotlight: Vadim Music and “Pericolo Negli Abissi”

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Day Two of our label spotlight on Vadim Music (France). Each day this week the LITA bloggerati will dig deep into their extensive catalog, only to surface with some rare grooves you may have missed. Today we give you the Italian soundtrack abyss that is Stefano Liberati - Pericolo Negli Abissi (VDA032 | LP)!

At the heart of legendary Roman label CAM’s archives (and one of their buried treasures) is the dazzling and intoxicating original soundtrack composed by Stefano Liberati for the film Pericolo Negli Abissi. The film, made by Bruno Vailati, was released in 1977 and harps on the Jaws era aquatic paranoia. Jaws may have had the “dah-dum” orchestra…but Pericolo Negli Abissi has wah guitars! Much cooler.

Though the film may be long forgotten by more serious film fans, its anthological score has continued to obsess collectors of rare and impossible to find Italian soundtracks, a source of deep emotions and intense pleasures. This exact reissue of the original LP means you don’t have to drop beaucoup bucks to check out the pulsating, endlessly moving jazz funk tracks found here. Stefano Liberati and his generous orchestration of strings, brass, keys and varied percussion sweeps us away with his compositions on blue-tinged cinematic waves, before we lose ourselves in a backwater of sublime groove, steeped in bass, guitar and first class beats. Totally addictive, this record rises to the challenge of marrying funk, swing and jazz with the melancholy of a Riz Ortolani in the Cannibal Holocaust era.

For audio samples and to order Stefano Liberati - Pericolo Negli Abissi, click HERE!

Label Spotlight: Vadim Music and “Bobby Boyd Congress”

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

This week we’re giving the spotlight to one of our favorite reissue labels, Vadim Music (France). Each day this week the LITA bloggerati will dig deep into their extensive catalog, only to surface with some deep rare grooves you may have missed. Today we give you the total bad assness of Bobby Boyd Congress - Bobby Boyd Congress (VDA033 | LP)!

Utter the name Bobby Boyd Congress to any collector or serious fan of 70s rare groove and you’ll suddenly see their face strangely come to life, lit intensely with a mix of desire, frustration and resignation. Then, he/she will proceed to explain to you that this legendary record is a holy grail of European groove, of which the perilous and dangerous quest sends the most manic diggers insane.

Indeed this little funk/soul gem, displeased with its meagre 300 copy pressing in 1971, possesses a great number of other attributes which have sent its collector value through the roof (up to 1500 euro): a hot and rough production recorded at Studio Davout; the talents of the excellent American musicians exiled in Paris, the participation of Frank Abel (vocals and organ) and Lafayette Hudson (composition and bass) who would continue together, without saxophonist Bobby Boyd, under the Ice name and later the Lafayette Afro Rock Band. These two legendary line-ups recorded and released several cult albums in France – break-heavy, and with extended trance-like impros and scorching grooves. Their sound’s energy and power is already flagrant on this one, a jarring mix of funk, soul and rock and explosive instrumentation based on rough guitars, harmonious brass, wild organ and tireless drums. The vocals are just as extraordinary and add the final caress to this outstanding record that has at last been granted the reissue it deserves.

Nigerian Boogie Down! Q&A with Uchenna Ikonne (Comb & Razor Sound).

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Some music just exudes the energy, blood, sweat and tears of those who created it; You can feel them in it. This is the case with Brand New Wayo (Comb & Razor Sound), a new comp of the deepest funk, Nigerian boogie and raw synth badness compiled by Uchenna Ikonne (Comb & Razor blog). Uchenna is a one-man encyclopedia of Nigerian popular music and culture, and he was nice enough to share his story with us…

So, Uchenna, tell us about yourself. You grew up in Nigeria but now reside in Boston?

Yeah, I was actually born in the US in the 1970s, moved to Nigeria at the beginning of the eighties and then back to the States in the nineties. I spent most of the noughties in transit between the two places and now that we’re in the… uh, what do we call this new decade we just entered? The teens? Well, whatever… We’ll see where the next ten years finds me situated!

You’ve been writing the Comb & Razor blog since 2006. There’s some seriously crazy shit on there–amazing videos of live shows, photos, etc. Where do you find all this music? Are you in touch with any of the artists?

Thanks! I am a pathological packrat, so a lot of it is stuff I’ve picked up and held on to over the years. And since I started the blog I’ve put a lot of work into tracking down and befriending many of the original artists, who have been generous enough to share their memories—and memorabilia—with me.

“Brand New Wayo: Funk, Fast Times & Nigerian Boogie Badness 1979 – 1983″ is the first release on your Comb & Razor Sound label. What made you decide to make the leap from blog to full fledge label?

A commitment to a masochistic lifestyle perhaps? No, really… It just seemed like a natural progression. I had long expressed a certain sense of uneasiness with the kind of music blogging I was doing. I felt like it was little more than new wave bootlegging, but my readers would often reassure me that it was all fair game since the records I was posting were very rare and long out of print I might as well just share them online since it didn’t look like they would be coming back into print anytime soon, right? Or maybe I should just get them back in print myself so that they can generate some much-deserved income for the artists? Hmmmm…!

Uchenna....in the field...

...Digging deep...

The music is pretty diverse–jazz-funk, synth pop, disco, etc—but it all fits in the genre known as “Nigerian Boogie”.

Yeah, you know we didn’t actually call it “Nigerian boogie” back then. “Boogie” is largely a retroactive genre that encapsulates a range of R&B-based, post-disco dance music. I believe the term first came into use among UK fans in the early 80s, after the rock fascists had symbolically demolished disco at Comiskey Park. They still wanted to dance to disco records, but conventional wisdom held that disco sucked, so they had to find a new codeword for the music they loved.

But the music we call “boogie” was really more than just the same old disco under a new name: there were changes that took place in the music. The tempo was dialed down a notch, and for the rhythm, rather than disco’s four-on-the-four, you got a one-and-two shuffle–which is why boogie’s also sometimes called “two-step” among older UK heads. And there was a lot more emphasis on musicianship and songcraft than you usually found in disco’s robotic servitude to the beat.

But yeah, “boogie” is everything from Vaughn Mason & Crew’s “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll” to Newcleus’s “Jam On It” to parts of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Prince’s first two albums to just about everything that was released on Solar Records in the early eighties.

Solar Records, by the way, was huge in Nigeria… The label even had a branch in Lagos. All those acts from Solar and Salsoul Records—Shalamar, Skyy, Rafael Cameron, Lakeside—they all came and played in Nigeria to enthusiastic crowds. That boogie sound was just so big in Nigeria, and we had our own local version of it, incorporating more African and neo-African sounds like makossa, soukous, highlife and calypso… That’s what has since come to be known as “Nigerian boogie.” We still just called it disco, though.

Are these tracks largely pulled from singles or albums?

All from albums. Apart from the occasional 12-inch mix, the single format was pretty much completely pulled from the Nigerian market by 1978. I think that move actually contributed to the crisis in the music industry in the later eighties, just as the phasing out of the single has done in the US over the past decade or so.

What are your favorites from the comps? How about your favorite Nigerian artists? I LOVE that Dizzy K. Falola – Excuse Me Baby” cut…

Dizzy K. Falola was certainly one of my favorite artists growing up in the 1980s being that I was a super-zealous Michael Jackson fan and Dizzy K. was the greatest of our many local MJ imitators. Emma Baloka’s “Let’s Love Each Other” is a really nice heavy dance-funker, and “Boys and Girls” by Joe Moks is an infectious and eccentric synth-disco number that I think a lot of folks will dig.

I also really like “Pleasure” by Honey Machine and “Big Race” by Segun Robert. There are a lot of great artists and records from that period that I really love and but couldn’t make the compilation de to space constraints. But we’ll see what happens in volume two…

And on this side of the pond, what music are you digging here in the states?

Oh, a lot of stuff! I have to admit that most of the “new” releases I’ve been into lately have been reissues of some sort, like that Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends collection of Kris Kristofferson demos Light in the Attic put out. But in terms of actual new studio recordings, I really liked Cool Million’s Back For More… That was a really great boogie throwback album featuring some of the finest singers from that era like Me’lisa Morgan, Leroy Burgess and Eugene Wilde.

I’m also digging Debo Band, they’re a big band here in Boston, specializing in Ethiopian jazz. They’ve put out some singles but I’m really looking forward to a full-length album from them. And then there’s Mahon, which is a cool, coed electronic soul duo from London. I’m also into a lot of soulful house, like Blaze productions.

There’s a duo in Chicago called Windimoto who do stuff along those lines and I definitely recommend their last album Sinister Beauty. They recently released a remix album called Beauty Within, which is just… well, beautiful. I’m going to have to stop there, because when you ask me to talk about music, it’s hard to get me to shut up!

Lastly, are you going to continue writing the blog or focus more on physical releases?

Both… Though I intend to restructure the blog a little bit so I’m not giving away all the material I plan to reissue, you know?

====

Special thanks to Uchenna for taking the time do this interview and post all the YouTube video clips. Pick up Brand New Wayo: Funk, Fast Times & Nigerian Boogie Badness 1979 – 1983 (distributed by Light In The Attic) NOW!

Get yr ski boots on! “Apres Ski” OST and Q&A with Felix from Les Disques Pluton.

Monday, January 24th, 2011

The interwebs have been all a-buzz with the new reissue of the legendary Quebec funk soundtrack from the sexploitation film Après Ski. This record has long been elusive to find and very costly to obtain even if you are lucky enough to get a sniff of it! And thanks to Quebec-based label, Les Disques Pluton (Pluton Records), we can all rest easily knowing that we finally have a copy in our stacks. Pluton is new on the block, but with two releases under their belt and a truly great blog, there’s nothing but good things down the line for them. Pluton’s head honcho Félix Desfossés was kind enough to sit down with us and discuss his label, blog Vente de garage, and the rich history of Quebec’s soul/funk music scene.

For audio samples and to order Après Ski Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, click HERE!

Tell us some stuff about yourself and Les Disques Pluton. What was the inspiration to start the label?

Well, I’ve been in the music business (musician, journalism, historical research, promotion and production) for most of my life now. About three years ago, my girlfriend Melodie and I started the podcast/blog Vente de garage (“Garage Sale” in English). Most of the music we’d play was obscure garage and R&B 45s from around the globe with a special interest in local Quebecois music. I then started posting ripped 45s on the blog. We got lots of feedback and realised there was a true interest in Quebec’s musical past. There already are reissue labels specialised in music from Quebec like the totally cool Mucho Gusto label, Hungry For Vinyl and Disques Merite. But, being a soul/funk/r&b/garage fan, I thought it could be a great idea to reissue some warm and groovy tunes from around here. So our blog was our starting point and we then started the label.

Your first release was Donald Seward Studio B Funk 45, which quickly sold out (so quickly yours truly didn’t get to snag one…darn it!). How did you discover that gem?

Yes, Pluton’s first release was a very limited 100 copies only 45! The idea behind this micro-pressing was simply to put our name on the map, in French we call it a “carte de visite”.

With Seward’s record, we were stating that we were going to reissue groovy and obscur stuff from Quebec. As for how I discovered his music, well, I digged his records from different thrift stores and garage sales, knowing that he was from my hometown, Rouyn-Noranda, and that he was the keyboard player for Cesar et Les Romains, one of Quebec biggest sixties act. When I found out just how funky and great his solo career was, I thought I had to meet him and do an interview for the blog. That was the first idea. Mr. Seward turned out to be a nice gentlemen. And the idea just came up. Melo and I had spoken about starting a label so we thought that’d be a perfect project to begin. And it was. All copies sold out in a couple of weeks, finding their way to Europe and the United States. At that point, we knew there was an international interest for Quebec’s groovy side of music.

You have a great blog, “Vente de garage”, that digs deep into the musical history of Quebec. Is there a big scene of people collecting and sharing this music? Or just a few lone diggers unearthing these long lost records?

Actually, yes, there’s a big scene of people collecting Quebec’s music. To tell you the truth, here in Quebec, our own musical history still is quite obscure to most people. So bringing all this music back to people’s ears is a mission and passion for me. Vente de garage (Garage Sale) is part of a little blog network specialised in Quebec’s 60s and 70s music. But outside of here, Quebec’s sixties garage is very in demand in France (French langague helps!), but also in Italy, Greece, Germany, and further in Europe. We got lots of feedback from Europe. Actually, our podcast was broadcasted in Belgium for a while! I try to translate most of my posts from French to English. But I’ve been lazy on translating recently… music speaks for itself anyways.

There are some truly great bands that you talk about on the blog–Les Monsters, George Thurston, and others that are totally new to me. Amazing stuff.

Yes! Truly amazing stuff that should be known worldwide. For some people, language is still a barrier. For the most open minded of us, it gives an exotic side to music.

I dig Brazilian psych, Turkish garage, Italian stuff too, even though I can’t understand a word of what they’re saying. Georges Thurston was HUGE here, in the seventies. He WAS disco. But in the sixties, when he begun, he recorded some soul/r&b tracks that could be played in any Northen Soul DJ night. Les Monstres (The Monsters) we’re a cool horror outfit that surfed on Bobby Boris Pickett’s success with Monster Mash. They’re quite scary when you look at their pictures!

Les Monstres (Image courtesy Vente de garage)

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Since the rise of rock’n'roll, Quebec always had it’s own “popular culture”, it’s own star system and music scene, with underground and popular layers – our 6 million population is rather small compared to the USA, but we’re also very creative. So we do have a cool musical underground history yet to be unearthed. Everything hasn’t been discovered here yet. We can still find gems from time to time and share them with the whole world.

Now, tell us about your latest release, the rare and highly collectible Apres Ski OST (available NOW). This record is crazy! So many styles and some really avant sounding electronic instrumentals. What’s the story behind it? How did you find it?

Après Ski is Quebec’s holy grail of funk. Long story short, this record has been sought after worlwide for a while now for it’s heavy funk instrumental B side. The A side has more variety in styles. On the original pressing, the A side was pop only. On the reissue, we added an avant-garde psych freak out from the movie soundtrack and a lost funk gem, never heard before anywhere, not even in the original movie, to make it a little more interesting. But listen to the B side first. Trust me.

This soundtrack was recorded in 1970 in Montreal for the sexploitation/maple syrup porn movie Après Ski which turned to be censored and condemned by a court of justic for “obscenity”! For a while, people thought Jacques Crevier et son ensemble were the band that recorded the funky tunes, since they were credited on the album. But a rumor had it that it was some other band. People thought it was Chicago! Well, it was not. Turned out it was lllustration, a band formed in Montreal with musicians from various backgrounds, that blended together in the funk rock style. They couldn’t put their name on the record at the time because they were linked by contract to Janus records in the USA.

Illustration - Image courtesy of Vente de garage

As for how we found this out… wow. This is quite crazy. Long story short, it happened part because of the blog – people giving us different infos, but everyhting happens for a reason I guess. While I was finishing everything for our first release, Donald Seward’s Studio B Funk, I deciced to google the name of his first band – The Flaming Stars. I ended up on a website showing a picture of the band, but not mentionning Seward. It was Illustration’s John Ranger’s website, on which he was telling his carrer story. John Ranger replaced Donald Seward in the Flaming Stars, back in 1959 or so. I kept on reading Ranger’s life story and he simply mentioned, on his website, that he wrote and recorded the Après Ski soundtrack. I couldn’t believe what I was reading – nobody knew who had composed and recorded those songs. I emailed Mr. Ranger, did a quick interview and posted this info on my blog. The reaction was HUGE! I knew just how rare and in demand Après Ski was and still is. I asked John if he’d be interested in getting his music reissued, and he was. Jean Zaloum, the original producer fo the movie, still had the original master tapes from which we were able to work and on which we found never heard extras – which are now available on Pluton’s reissue. Everything went really smooth and cool for that reissue. I’m extremely proud of it.

And lastly, anything new on the horizon?

We have tons of different reissue projects in mind – either in the garage or soul/funk/r&b vein. Since we’re a small record label with a low limited budget, we’ll try to put out a record/year. 2011 is starting big with Après Ski and as soon as it’s launched we’ll start working on the next record. Trust us, you’re going to dig it. In the meanwhile, check out Vente de garage for more obsucre garage, soul, funk & r&b from Quebec!

—————-

Special thanks to Félix for taking the time to chat and to Light In The Attic’s distro guru Josh Wright for setting up the interview. See ya on the slopes…