Archive for the ‘R.I.P.’ Category

RIP Val Bent!

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Val Bent

I got to know Jamaican singer-songwriter and guitarist Val Bent (born Rupert Valentine Bent) while producing the Jamaica to Toronto: Soul Funk & Reggae 1967-1974 compilation for Light in the Attic around 2004-5. He was back in Jamaica after living in Canada for many years, where he laid down some of the toughest soul and funk records this country has ever produced. Bent came to Toronto, Ontario, as a musician with the Sheiks in 1964, and decided to stay despite our chilly winters, a far cry the Jamaican sun. He became an important musical member of the city’s growing Caribbean community and a mentor to many young players. The Sheiks became the house band for Club Jamaica on Toronto’s busy Yonge Street, which acted as a second home to Bent. Manager Fitz Riley would cook up curry chicken for the patrons and musicians, which reminded Bent of his Jamaican roots. It was here that he first met another young Jamaican immigrant, Earle Heedram (aka The Mighty Pope), who quickly became the new lead vocalist for the Sheiks. Bent was knocked away by Heedram’s powerful voice and commanding stage presence. Together, they wrote and recorded “Eternal Love,” which was released as a 7” single on the Raymond Records label in 1967 (and subsequently featured on Jamaica to Toronto). Regardless of the record’s deep soul and passionate performances—listen for Bent’s twanging guitar and back up vocals—the record sank fast without radio or media support. Despite a lack of record sales, the Sheiks were trailblazing Jamaican-Canadians who brought their music throughout the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, even in the face of ignorant racism, which the group unfortunately encountered on occasion. After returning to Jamaica in the late 1960s for a series of performances (replete with “psychedelic light show”), both Bent and Heedram (along with Studio One alumni, drummer Joe Isaacs, and organ player Chris Scasserra) linked up with American transplant and rock and roll pioneer Frank Motley as the Hitch-Hikers featuring the Mighty Pope. Motley was active on Toronto’s bustling Yonge Street strip, which was filled with nightclubs, strip bars, and record stores, and where Bob Dylan first heard the Band, then performing as Levon and the Hawks. The Hitch-Hikers not only performed popular funk, soul, and pop covers by the like of Eddie Bo and the Beatles, but a series of Bent originals as well: “A Stranger in your Own World,” “Memory Lane,” “Smile Maria Smile,” “You Got the Green Light,” and his namesake “Hell Bent.” After Motley fell ill, the group gradually went their separate ways. Bent and Heedram picked up a couple of hippie musicians and formed the short-lived Wild Oats, but the unit never recorded. Apart from a series of minor regional recordings, Bent focused on live work and performed in Canada throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. After returning to Jamaica, Bent suffered a stroke and retired from the business. He returned to Toronto in 2006 for the now legendary Jamaica to Toronto reunion concert and once again sang back ups behind his musical brother Heedram on the mighty “Eternal Love.” Bent reportedly passed away in his sleep last week in Jamaica and he will be missed by many the world over. We send our best regards to his family and loved ones and count ourselves very lucky to have met his acquaintance. Val, we will miss your laughter and words over the coming years, but will champion your sound forever!

Eternal love,
Voluntary in Nature

Malik, We’ll Miss You!

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Rodriquez London

Hearing the news of Malik Bendjelloul’s passing was devastating.

Back in ‘07 when we finally licensed Rodriguez’s catalog after years of begging and pleading I felt like I had climbed a mountain. Then I met Malik Benjdelloul. Reissuing a record is one thing. Making a film is an entirely different beast and far more complicated. Malik had incredible talent, unyielding focus and determination to reach his dream, and most importantly he was one of the good people.

In ’08, I remember Rodriguez telling me about a Swedish filmmaker who wanted to make a documentary about his life. I laughed. How could anyone make a feature length doc about a man who was endlessly mysterious, didn’t really like to do interviews, whose story had no archival footage and very few people who could help in the retelling, among other countless roadblocks. Then I met Malik. It was backstage at Joe’s Pub in September 2008 before Rodriguez hit the stage for his first ever New York City show in celebration of our Cold Fact reissue. Malik had an unwavering confidence about him. In retelling, this confidence would make him sound cocky or jerky somehow, but Malik was not even close to being that. He had this serene certainness about him that was hard to deny. Almost a zen-like vibe. I quickly became a believer.

Every now and then, he would send over a rough cut of Searching For Sugar Man, each version improving dramatically from the last. In 2011, he asked ‘what do you think of the latest version?’ I replied: ‘It’s really good.’ Malik: “Yes, but is it good enough to win an Oscar?’ I chuckled a little saying ‘it’s good but not sure it’s an Oscar winner.’ He continued to painfully craft and sculpt and wouldn’t give up until he achieved what he set out to do.

I really can’t imagine what the man would’ve done next.

Malik, thanks for being in our lives, and thanks for all you did for Light In The Attic.

If you have a vision, stick with it.

Look around and hug family and friends because when they’re gone they’re gone.

Our hearts go out to Malik’s family. Thanks for creating such a kind, lovely human being.

Malik, may you rest in peace.

- Matt Sullivan, Light In The Attic Records

RIP Gary Burger

Monday, March 17th, 2014


Gary Burger, frontman of The Monks, passed away over the weekend at the age of 72. One of the true greats, a genuine pioneer, and a lovely human being. We are honored to have been able to work with Gary. Our thoughts go out to his family.


Thursday, September 5th, 2013

1) doug randle

* Doug Randle with his 1971 Songs For The New Industrial State LP in 2009 (Photo by Sipreano)

Over the years, we’ve gotten to know countless musicians, artists, and behind the scene players. Some are still active in the business and others gave up their dreams long ago, but in our travels seeking unsung and under appreciated music from the world over, we’ve rarely encounter what you might call a true professional. Doug Randle was just that, a composer/arranger, w/ deep roots in the Canadian Prairie jazz scene of the 1950s (yes, there was such a thing!@#$%!!!) before branching out and upwards to the music meccas of Toronto, Montreal, London (UK), and back to the dot (as in TDOT) again where he worked tirelessly for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and National Film Board (NFB) on radio, film, and television projects. His 1970 recorded Songs For The New Industrial State is what we’d call a class study in MASTERPIECE, eleven orchestrated songs featuring not only the cream of the late 1960s/early 1970s Toronto studio/jazz scene (Peter Appleyard, Jack Zaza, Guido Basso) and keen vocalists Laurie Bower (Mutual Understanding, Laurie Bower Singers) and Tommy Ambrose, but astute and rarely paralleled social and political commentary (the title inspired by John Kenneth Galbraith’s The New Industrial State). Songs For The New Industrial State reissue producer and your humble LITA scribe calls it “What’s Going On recorded by a left-leaning 40-year old white man.” Released the same year as Marvin Gaye’s celebrated Motown landmark, both albums’ share a cosmically related vision on those heady days with dynamic and soulful musical accompaniment (*extra points to Doug for writing each and every note and lyric). Perhaps one-time Downbeat editor, lyricist, rhyming dictionary pioneer, and overall jazz icon Gene Lees said it best (and most succinctly) on a quote on the back of Songs For The New Industrial State’s beautiful gatefold jacket: “A stunning collection of new songs for and about the time we live in.”

While initially recorded for CBC radio broadcast, Doug’s personal statement was released commercially on LP by Lees’ and his partner Dave Bird’s Kanata Records imprint at the dawn of Canadian content regulations (which stated that commercial radio had to play a specified percentage of Canadian-made music) in 1971. Rules aside, the rest of the industry took time to embrace homespun talent (some say they never have, wink, wink…), and Songs For The New Industrial State simply didn’t resonate with the record buying public at the time of release. Surely it wasn’t because of the quality of the well-designed gatefold package, top-notch performances or Doug’s self-described “bitter and twisted Simon & Garfunkel” songs. Sometimes, people just aren’t ready (Rodriguez, anybody???). After re-releasing a CD-only version of the album almost forty years later in 2009, we got to spend some quality time w/ Doug in Toronto and found out that he was as interesting a fellow as his mind-boggling music indicates. We’d pontificate over the environment, government, corporations, and the music business, while taking repeated trips to the curry buffet at Yonge Street’s Kathmandu Restaurant or sharing handmade Chinese treats at the old Mother’s Dumplings location on Huron. These meetings provided great inspiration and insight from an unsung Canadian music legend (*please remember, we don’t throw around such terms lightly) and avid swimmer (equally inspiring as his musical achievements) who braved any lake, ocean, or pool he came across, right up until his passing on August 30 at the age of 85. It was our ultimate honor to get to know this man and we feel the loss and send our best regards to his daughter Joanne (with whom he recently recorded an unreleased jazz album that will hopefully see the light of day soon), her husband Geoff, and the rest of Doug’s family.

Any which way you spin it (hopefully, on a turntable), Doug’s music will live on forever and we’ll do our best to keep spreading his crucial musical message. We hope the world will one day catch up to the wisdom he was dropping in 1970. We’d definitely be the better for it!@#$%!!!


- Kevin “Sipreano” Howes

2) sipreano and doug

* Sipreano and Doug Randle in Toronto’s Chinatown (Photo by Kaewonder)

RIP Cowboy Jack Clement!

Thursday, August 8th, 2013


Legendary Nashville singer, songwriter and producer Cowboy Jack Clement passed away today at the ripe old age of 82. Over his long career, he worked with an impressive array of artists, including Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Eddy Arnold, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, Charley Pride, Louis Armstrong, U2, Tompall & the Glaser Brothers, the Stonemans, John Hartford, Mac Wiseman, Doc Watson, Frank Yankovic, John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Townes Van Zandt, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Carl Perkins and many others. Most recently, Clement worked as a DJ on Sirius XM Satellite Radio’s Outlaw Country channel. In 1973 Clement was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and was recently named as one of the 2013 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee.

R.I.P. Cedric “Im” Brooks

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013


Last Friday the Jamaican saxophonist Cedric “Im” Brooks passed away at the age of 70. We here at Light In The Attic were bummed to hear the news of his passing. Brooks was an influential saxophonist who left a permanent mark on Jamaican music. He began his musical career in the late 1960s as a studio musician at the legendary Studio One in Kingston. Brooks first commercial breakthrough came when he played on Burning Spear’s debut album, Studio One Presents Burning Spear. 

In the 1970s, he collaborated with Count Ossie and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, as well as led his own solo band, Light of Saba. Towards the end of his career Brooks became a member of ska pioneer’s, The Skatalites. Cedric Brooks is survived by seven children and four sisters.

Keeper of the Tapes – Ben Stillman on Kearney Barton’s tape archive

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Ben Stillman wrote this blog post about his experience archiving the late, great Kearney Barton’s vast tape collection, which we took over after Kearney passed away earlier this year. Though it was surely a lot of work, looks like Ben also had some fun in the process and possibly discovered some gems in the collection. Thanks for fighting the good fight, Ben. RIP Kearney. We miss you.

I was asked during my first week as an intern at Light In The Attic to move equipment out of Seattle producer Kearney Barton’s home studio. At that time, the name ‘Kearney’ didn’t mean much to me, at least not as much as it came to mean in the following months. Kearney’s studio as we found it was a relic of the past filled with countless reels and vintage recording gear. We packed a U-Haul and dropped the cargo off at a storage unit in Ballard. There we compiled his legacy into a vast and disorganized stash, which, stacked one cardboard box on top of the other, towered over my 6-foot frame. I didn’t know it then, but his tapes would dominate the next year of my life.

After finishing my internship, I was kept on to sort through and catalog Kearney’s reels. Initially it seemed insurmountable – an overwhelming task that would only be conquered by passion and patience, I found that the best way for me to work was late at night with copious doses of caffeine and Brian Eno. I could judge a reel’s significance by how fastidiously Kearney had labeled it. The most interesting were the 1” and ½” tapes, because they usually contained recordings from serious musicians who had enough money to pay for nicer tape. The ¼” reels were much more tedious; they were often jingles, or radio advertisements. Occasionally a very interesting ¼” reel would pop up. I once stumbled across a box of NBA recordings from the 1970s, including recordings from the Seattle Super Sonics’ 1978 Championship season. Rummaging through the tapes I sometimes felt like a paleontologist sorting through the bones of an ancient creature. As the months passed, the stacks of sorted boxes grew taller and taller. It took nearly eight months and roughly sixty trips to Ballard, but I eventually sorted through all 5,000 Kearney reels.


All photos by Alex Peycheff.

Although he never wrote a song, Kearney was a true artist. With the tools of his chosen medium, Mr. Barton documented the time and place in which he lived. He frequently attended Seattle music festivals, church masses, political debates and sporting events, always bringing with him his portable ¼” tape recorder. Each reel is a snapshot of the day it was recorded, and the end product of organizing the stash he left behind is a meaningful portrait of Seattle in the 50s and 60s. Kearney’s Seattle was a place where roller skating was the popular weekend activity, where there were only 13 channels on TV, where Garageband referred to bands that played in garages, and where radio – rather than the Internet – was the common venue for the discovery of new music. It was also a place where in order to record audio for any purpose, one had to first win the respect of the man behind the recording console. These tapes are a lost piece of Pacific Northwest American history and they belong in the Smithsonian. Fortunately, they’ve found an ever better home at Light In The Attic.

RIP Kearney Barton – Legendary NW Recording Engineer & Studio/Label Owner

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Kearney Barton - early 70s - Courtesy of Kearney Barton

Last night we got an email from Kearney Barton’s niece Patti, telling us the incredibly sad news that Kearney passed away peacefully at 8 PM.  He was 81-years old.  Over the last couple years, Kearney’s health had been deteriorating, but he was still sharp as a nail, hanging on and cracking jokes when we last saw him over the holidays.  To say Kearney was a pioneer of the Northwest sound would be a massive understatement.  Maybe he was the inventor?  Whatever the tag, we miss the man.  He taught us about the Frantics, the Sonics, Little Bill, Don & The Good Times, and so many more, but the one that really blew our minds was Black On White Affair’s “Bold Soul Sister, Bold Soul Brother,” recorded by Kearney in February ’70 and released on his Topaz label.  It’s the tune that led me to Kearney’s doorstep in 2003, hoping to convince the wizard to let us license the single for inclusion on a comp of Seattle soul from back in the day.  I quickly discovered the man had a heart of gold and a sense of humor that would make your grandfather proud.  He was a genuine sweetheart who loved to work and record and record some more, making his famous cookies for guests, and watching a hydroplane race now and then.  I remember him saying he’d had a bunch of calls from overseas reissue labels wanting to license the single, but he felt reluctant.  Kearney liked the idea of working with a local label.  Bless his soul.

The one thing that I could never wrap my head around was the wealth of material Kearney recorded since entering the business in the 1950s.  It didn’t seem humanly possible.  There were few, if any, bands who didn’t record at least one tune after walking through the doors of his Audio Recording Studios.  And if it made a sound, he’d record it.

Kearney's "headphone tree," now proudly displayed in our Seattle office. Photo by Chris Gergley

Digging through Kearney’s archive years later, this becomes all the more evident to our eyes and ears.  We discover analog reels of operas, country western, big bands, psych, advertising jingles, downer songwriters, soul, high school jazz bands, crooners, funk, classical, folk, modern rock, radio shows… and whatever else I’m forgetting he probably recorded that too.

It’s a rare thing to master your craft at any point in your life.  To do it in your thirties and stick with it for another 45 years, up until almost the day you die, is a beautiful thing.  RIP Kearney.  We’ll miss you.

- Matt Sullivan & the Light In The Attic crew

Jovan “J-1″ Coleman – Benefit Auction and more

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Many of you heard about the tragic passing in Sweden of J-1 (of Dam-Funk’s Master Blazter, et al) late last month. In order to bring him home, there are a few very worthy fund raisers going on right now. So dig deep.

You can go directly to to make a Paypal donation (they also have some nice shirts you can pick up) or if you have some serious $$$ records you’re not spinning right now (or maybe duplicates?), an eBay charity auction has been setup. 100% of donations and money from the eBay auctions will go directly to the family so that they can bring him home.

We’ll be posting the auction link when it goes live. According to the Sweater Funk crew, there have been some serious records being donated so even if you can’t donate, you’ll have a chance to bid on some rare records and support a good cause. To donate records for the auction, you may drop them off at or send them to:

Groove Merchant
C/O J-1 Record Bank
687 Haight St.
San Francisco,CA 94117

Happy trails…RIP ear X-Tacy

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Last night, while the tradition of Halloween was raging outside, I decided to watch a movie. Nothing serious like Dawn Of The Dead or even the extremely serious A Nightmare On Elm Street. No, last night I settled on a forgotten VHS tape of Empire Records (1995). Yes, that one. Why? I have no idea. I’m sure there are fans of this movie (or maybe just legions of fans of Liv Tyler), but while watching this grunger Gen-X flick wrapped in a Rom Com morality tale, I got to thinking. Here’s a brief plot synopsis from

A day in the life of the employees of Empire Records. Except this is a day where everything comes to a head for a number of them facing personal crises – can they pull through together? And more importantly, can they keep their record store independent and not swallowed up by corporate greed?

When Empire Records came out, I was 14. When you’re 14, music is pretty fucking important to you (well at least it was for me and my friends). Growing up in a rural area of Florida, the nearest record store was an hour drive and with not being driving age, I was at the mercy of parents and friends to get my fix. But in the movie, the characters on the screen, man, they worked in a record store! They got to listen to music all day, host in-stores (well, from Rex Manning), and turn people onto records. That was the dream, at least.

I’m sure people older than me will lament other bygone business models and modes of commerce, but hey, I am who I am so here this out. The closing of independant record stores SUCKS! No fancy language here, no more articulating and waxing philosophical. These are the places where minds were first blown, records were first dug, and the seeds for countless artists, musicians, and fans were first sown. The ficitional store in Empire Records is in danger of being bought out by a major chain (or rather, it’s in danger of selling out to a chain). But in the current climate, it would be a dream for an independant to be approached by a chain. Hey, at least they’d make some money and not lose everything to the bank. No, not anymore. Never again will a big corporate store buy out a little indie store. Of course, we’re talking about physical stores here–brick and mortar–not those digital 1′s and 0′s that smash everyone with their “convenience”.

“Give Me Convience Or Give Me Death” – The Dead Kennedys.

And while all this was swirling around in my brain, we lost a great store: ear X-tacy in Louisville, KY. Most of you probably never went to ear X-tacy, but that’s not the point. Local stores like ear X-tacy serve communities, local communities. And sure, maybe another store will pop up or one of the other last existing stores will absorb the customers, but that’s not the point either. Each store is unique, tells a story, and those that frequented it, spent time there, they have stories too.

Our story about ear X-tacy is a simple one. Nearly 10 years ago we were a unknown record label, just trying to get our foot in the door of record stores the world over. We got a lot of doors slammed in our faces starting out, but one that fully embraced us from the begining was ear X-tacy. They always supported us and we supported them. This mutual support, it’s called community. Everyday we hear that another store is in danger of closing or worse, has closed suddenly.

I wonder what kids think today when they see Empire Records. Do they see funny, outdated fashion and styles of music (all of which will surely be fashionable again), invalidated business models, or just a bad movie?? My biggest fear is that they see something they’ve never seen before: an independent record store.

Support your local independent record store!