Archive for July, 2012


It was the phenomenal success of the Inspirations’ “Tighten Up” single, that launched Trojan’s legendary reggae series. Quickly cashing in with the astutely titled “Tighten Up” compilation, the rest is history.

That’s the accepted version of the story, the actual one is more mundane, and much more calculating. Trojan had so far failed to interest the British public with its albums, and three excellent single-artist compilations released in 1968 excited little attention. In desperation, a market research study was conducted; the results were a wake-up call, for what reggae fans really wanted was a cheap sound system experience in their front rooms. Trojan responded in 1969 with a budget-priced album featuring an eclectic mix of recent tracks, kicking off with “Tighten Up” itself. The reaction was phenomenal, so much so that a follow-up set was released before the year was out.

“Tighten Up, Vol. 1-2” brings these two seminal sets together on a single CD. The first volume was surprisingly the weakest, and weighed down with reggae-fied pop covers. David Isaacs’ “Place in the Sun” is the best of the batch, the two instrumentals the most fun, and the Uniques’ “Watch This Squad” the oddest. Of the original numbers, “Tighten Up” itself (now inexplicably credited to producer Lee Perry) is the obvious draw, but equally crucial are Derrick Morgan’s soulful, skinhead fave “Fat Man,” and Brother Dan All–Stars’ sweet “Donkey Returns.”

In contrast to this shaky start, the second volume was stuffed with smash hits and acknowledged classics. The trio of instrumentals are absolutely lethal, with the biggest, the Upsetters’ “Return of Django” having moonstomped its way into the U.K. Top Five. It’s obvious this set held pride of place in many future 2-Toners record collections, with the Pioneers’ “Longshot Kick de Bucket,” Clancy Eccles’ “Fattie Fattie,” and the Upsetters’ exuberant “Live Injection” all providing inspiration. From calculating Casanovas to the outright rude, from sufferers to celebrators of the new sound, in Britain “Them a Laugh and a Ki Ki” when presented with reggae in all its wonder. Great music never goes out of fashion, which is why this series’ popularity has never faded.            

VA – Tighten Up Vol. 1 & 2 (Trojan)
(192 kbps, front cover included)

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Inti-Illimani is an instrumental and vocal Latin American folk music ensemble from Chile. The group was formed in 1967 by a group of university students and it acquired widespread popularity in Chile for their song Venceremos (We shall win!) which became the anthem of the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende. At the moment of the September 11, 1973 Chilean coup they were on tour in Europe and were unable to return to their country where their music was proscribed by the ruling military junta. In Europe their music took on a multifarious character, incorporating elements of European baroque and other traditional music forms to their rich and colourful Latin American rhythms – creating a distinctive fusion of modern world music. They are perhaps the best internationally known members of the nueva canción movement. Their name means ‘Sun of the Illimani’ in Aymara. Illimani is the name of a mountain in the Bolivian Andes.
The group was formed by students at Universidad Técnica del Estado at Santiago, Chile in 1967. In 1973 as they were on tour abroad, General Augusto Pinochet came to power. Having heard of the numerous extra-judicial killings of many fellow artists by Chile’s army, they took up residence in Italy, resulting in “the longest tour in history” for Inti-Illimani as they lived in de facto exile. They continued their efforts supporting Chilean democracy internationally; samizdat copies of their work continued to be widely distributed in Chile. In September 1988, days after they were no longer banned from Chile, they began touring Chile again. They helped organize the voting down of the referendum that would have re-elected Pinochet. Recently, they were actually supported by Chile as representatives of Chilean culture.

“Imaginacion” is an Amiga release with Andean folkloric instrumental music with the emphasis on joy and light.

Tracklist:

01 – La Ronda
02 – Tema de la Quebrada de Humahuaca
03 – Trigales
04 – Longuita
05 – La Marusa
06 – Ramis
07 – El Mercado Testaccio
08 – San Juanito
09 – Danza
10 – Mis Llamitas
11 – Alturas
12 – Danza di Cala Luna

Inti-Illimani – Imaginacion (Amiga)
(192 kbps, cover art included)

There was nothing like the Robeson sound, ever. To describe his deep, rich, perfectly equalized instrument is futile. Go instead to “Balm in Gilead,” the opening track, and see if you can listen to the last pianissimo phrase without falling to pieces. Robeson was at his best when the music was slow and the words contained spiritual or social messages. Faster, lighter fare like Kern’s “I Still Suits Me” or Gershwin’s “It Ain’t Necessarily So” find the serious-minded singer out of his element, lacking irony and swing. “Old Man River,” though, gets a simple, dignified treatment. It’s Songs of Free Men, though, that will just keep Robeson’s artistry rolling along, especially in Sony’s astonishing transfers.

In the 1940s, before rabid McCarthyism and racism had taken its toll on him, Robeson made these wonderful recordings of spirituals, classics and pop tunes. Accompanied by the solo piano of the incomparable Lawrence Brown, or by an orchestra, the songs ring out with pride, dignity, skill and unmatched integrity. The shameful treatment that Robeson was subject to from American authorities certainly seem grotesquely absurd to a modern listener. The wonderful version of “The House I Live In” included on this cd should forever kill off any suspicion that Robeson did not love his country deeply. This album ought to be heard by millions of people, world wide. Robeson’s voice is nothing less than a glorious high point in 20th century music, and it’s hard to think of any recording capturing it to greater advantage.
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Fresh link:
Paul Robeson – Songs Of Free Men
(192 kbps, cover art included)

Ewan MacColl may well have been the most influential person in the British folk song revival. From his early manhood until his death in 1989, he remained passionately committed to folk song, though not exclusively; he was also a poet, playwright, organizer, activist, songwriter, husband, and father.

MacColl was married to Peggy Seeger, herself a singer of folk songs (and half-sister to American icon Pete Seeger). Together MacColl and Seeger, sometimes accompanied by their children, also skilled musicians and singers, recorded quite a few albums as well. Many of MacColl’s albums are out of print products of long-defunct record companies. Some, however, are readily available. All, like MacColl himself, are important factors in the history of the folk revival, to be cherished by all who encounter them. This great singer made many, many albums over many years. All of them are recommended for fans of great singing, though some may be a bit specialized (i.e., unaccompanied singing in broad Scots dialect) for some listeners.      

“Steam Whistle Ballads”, a collection of English and Scots industrial songs, was released in 1964 on the Topic records. In fact, the songs on this record were first published on the albums “Shuttle and Cage” (Topic 10T13) and “Second Shift” (Topic 10T25) in 1958.

Tracklist:
01 – Wark O’ The Weavers
02 – Droylsden Wakes
03 – Four Loom Weaver
04 – Calton Weaver
05 – Oh Dear Me
06 – The Coal Owner And The Pitman’s
07 – Fourpence A Day
08 – Gresford Disaster
09 – Will Caird
10 – Iron Horse
11 – Poor Paddy Works On The Railway
12 – Cannily Cannily
13 – Song Of The Iron Road
14 – The Blantyre Explosion
15 – The Collier Laddie
16 – Moses Of The Mail

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger – Steam Whistle Ballads (1964)
(192 kbps, front cover included)

Born Malvina Milder of Jewish socialist immigrant parents in San Francisco, Malvina was refused her diploma by Lowell High School because her parents were opposed to US participation in World War I. She entered UC Berkeley anyway, and received her BA and MA in English. She married William Reynolds, a carpenter and organizer, in 1934 and had one child, Nancy, in 1935. She completed her dissertation and was awarded her Doctorate in 1936. It was the middle of the Depression, she was Jewish, socialist, and a woman. She could not find a job teaching at the college level. She became a social worker and a columnist for the People’s World and, when World War II started, an assembly-line worker at a bomb factory. When her father died, she and her husband took over her parents’ naval tailor shop in Long Beach, California. There in the late forties she met Earl Robinson, Pete Seeger and other folk singers and songwriters and began writing songs. She returned to Berkeley, and to the University, where she took music theory classes in the early fifties. She gained recognition as a songwriter when Harry Belafonte sang her “Turn Around.” Her songs were recorded by Joan Baez, Judy Collins, The Seekers, Pete Seeger, and the Limeliters, among others. She wrote songs for Women for Peace, the Nestle Boycott, the sit-ins in San Francisco on auto row and at the Sheraton-Palace, the fight against putting a freeway through Golden Gate Park and other causes. She toured Scandinavia, England and Japan. A film biography, Love It Like a Fool, was made a few years before she died in 1978. Ellen Stekert is writing a biography and would like information about Malvina’s pre-1945 activities.
How many other musicians made their major-label recording debuts as grandmothers in their mid-sixties, as Malvina Reynolds did on this circa late-1966/early-1967 LP, produced by John Hammond? But those were different times, which saw ridiculously uncommercial, avowedly antiestablishment albums released by the labels of large corporations. And this is certainly an uncommercial record, Reynolds’ wavering voice – even the liner notes disclose how “she admitted to one critic that she had a semi-permanent frog in her throat” – backed by plain acoustic guitar-dominated instrumentation, though it sounds like a bass is in the mix at points. As froggy as it is here, though, her voice was in better shape than it would be on her 1970s recordings for the small Cassandra label. And this does give you the chance to hear Reynolds’ own versions of her two most famous songs, which were primarily associated with other performers on record – “Little Boxes” (which was a small hit for Pete Seeger) and “What Have They Done to the Rain?” (a hit for the Searchers, and also recorded by Joan Baez, Marianne Faithfull, and the Seekers). Those two compositions, particularly “What Have They Done to the Rain?,” are the best songs on the LP, which otherwise ranges from moving and inspirational ’60s folk (“I Don’t Mind Failing,” the melancholy closer “Bitter Rain”) to unappealingly didactic folk protest. In part because of that streak of blunt righteousness, and in part because the melodies and singing often aren’t that strong, much of this hasn’t dated well, even if the spirit of Reynolds’ anger and satire – targeting bigotry, suburban conformity, religious fundamentalism, and overdevelopment – remains right-on and commendable in many ways.

Tracklist:

The New Restaurant
What’s Goin’ On Down There
Little Boxes
Battle of Maxton Field
God Bless the Grass
I Don’t Mind Failing
What Have They Done to the Rain?
The Devil’s Baptizin
Singing Jesus
The Bloody Neat
Quiet
Love Is Something (Magic Penny)
Bitter Rain

Malvina Reynolds – Sings the Truth (1967)
(320 kbps, front cover included)

Born Malvina Milder of Jewish socialist immigrant parents in San Francisco, Malvina was refused her diploma by Lowell High School because her parents were opposed to US participation in World War I. She entered UC Berkeley anyway, and received her BA and MA in English. She married William Reynolds, a carpenter and organizer, in 1934 and had one child, Nancy, in 1935. She completed her dissertation and was awarded her Doctorate in 1936. It was the middle of the Depression, she was Jewish, socialist, and a woman. She could not find a job teaching at the college level. She became a social worker and a columnist for the People’s World and, when World War II started, an assembly-line worker at a bomb factory. When her father died, she and her husband took over her parents’ naval tailor shop in Long Beach, California. There in the late forties she met Earl Robinson, Pete Seeger and other folk singers and songwriters and began writing songs. She returned to Berkeley, and to the University, where she took music theory classes in the early fifties. She gained recognition as a songwriter when Harry Belafonte sang her “Turn Around.” Her songs were recorded by Joan Baez, Judy Collins, The Seekers, Pete Seeger, and the Limeliters, among others. She wrote songs for Women for Peace, the Nestle Boycott, the sit-ins in San Francisco on auto row and at the Sheraton-Palace, the fight against putting a freeway through Golden Gate Park and other causes. She toured Scandinavia, England and Japan. A film biography, Love It Like a Fool, was made a few years before she died in 1978. Ellen Stekert is writing a biography and would like information about Malvina’s pre-1945 activities.
How many other musicians made their major-label recording debuts as grandmothers in their mid-sixties, as Malvina Reynolds did on this circa late-1966/early-1967 LP, produced by John Hammond? But those were different times, which saw ridiculously uncommercial, avowedly antiestablishment albums released by the labels of large corporations. And this is certainly an uncommercial record, Reynolds’ wavering voice – even the liner notes disclose how “she admitted to one critic that she had a semi-permanent frog in her throat” – backed by plain acoustic guitar-dominated instrumentation, though it sounds like a bass is in the mix at points. As froggy as it is here, though, her voice was in better shape than it would be on her 1970s recordings for the small Cassandra label. And this does give you the chance to hear Reynolds’ own versions of her two most famous songs, which were primarily associated with other performers on record – “Little Boxes” (which was a small hit for Pete Seeger) and “What Have They Done to the Rain?” (a hit for the Searchers, and also recorded by Joan Baez, Marianne Faithfull, and the Seekers). Those two compositions, particularly “What Have They Done to the Rain?,” are the best songs on the LP, which otherwise ranges from moving and inspirational ’60s folk (“I Don’t Mind Failing,” the melancholy closer “Bitter Rain”) to unappealingly didactic folk protest. In part because of that streak of blunt righteousness, and in part because the melodies and singing often aren’t that strong, much of this hasn’t dated well, even if the spirit of Reynolds’ anger and satire – targeting bigotry, suburban conformity, religious fundamentalism, and overdevelopment – remains right-on and commendable in many ways.

Tracklist:

The New Restaurant
What’s Goin’ On Down There
Little Boxes
Battle of Maxton Field
God Bless the Grass
I Don’t Mind Failing
What Have They Done to the Rain?
The Devil’s Baptizin
Singing Jesus
The Bloody Neat
Quiet
Love Is Something (Magic Penny)
Bitter Rain

Malvina Reynolds – Sings the Truth (1967)
(320 kbps, front cover included)

Malvina Reynolds (August 23, 1900 – March 17, 1978) was an American folk/blues singer-songwriter and political activist, best known for her song writing, particularly the song “Little Boxes.”

Though she played violin in a dance band in her twenties, she began her songwriting career late in life. She was in her late 40s when she met Earl Robinson, Pete Seeger, and other folk singers and songwriters. She returned to school at UC Berkeley, where she studied music theory. She went on to write several popular songs, including “Little Boxes,” “What Have They Done to the Rain,” recorded by The Searchers and Joan Baez (about nuclear fallout), “It Isn’t Nice” (a civil rights anthem), “Turn Around” (about children growing up, later sung by Harry Belafonte), and “There’s a Bottom Below” (about depression). Reynolds was also a noted composer of children’s songs, including “Magic Penny” and “Morningtown Ride,” a top five UK single (December 1966) recorded by The Seekers.
Malvina Reynolds was the grooviest grandma to ever strut across the folk singer stage.

The self-titeld 1970 is a treasure trove for fans of folk legend Malvina Reynolds. It found the 70-year-old singer/guitarist jamming with members of the Byrds and the Dillards, in fine jangle-psych fashion.

Tracklist:
1. The World’s Gone Beautiful
2. Daddy’s In The Jail
3. It Isn’t Nice
4. Boraxo
5. We Hate To See Them Go
6. There’ll Come A Time
7. From Way Up Here
8. The Desert
9. D.D.T.
10. Let It Be
11. Morningtown Ride
12. No Hole In My Head

New link:
Malvina Reynolds – Selftitled (1970)
(320 kbps, front cover included)

Ominously known as “The Dark Prince of Reggae,” Keith Hudson was born into a musical family in Kingston, Jamaica in 1946. His musical education began as Hudson worked as a sort of roadie for Skatalite and Jamaican trombone king Don Drummond.

By age 21, Hudson, who had been trained as a dentist, sunk his earnings into his own record label, Inbidimts, and had a hit with Ken Boothe’s recording of “Old Fashioned Way.” Not long after this chart success, the suddenly hot Hudson was producing some of the biggest names (and soon-to-be biggest names) in reggae – John Holt, Delroy Wilson, Alton Ellis, and the great toasters U-Roy and Dennis Alcapone, all of whom benefited from what would be Hudson’s trademark production style: groove-centered, bass/drum-dominated, lean and mean stripped-down riddims.

By the mid-’70s, Hudson began releasing more solo work, hitting paydirt from the start with his 1974 debut, “Entering the Dragon” and his intense second record, “Flesh of My Skin”, an ominous, dark record that earned Hudson his title as reggae’s “Dark Prince.” In 1976, Hudson relocated to New York City and worked pretty much nonstop, producing as well as recording solo records up until 1982. He succumbed to lung cancer in 1984, at age 38, robbing reggae of one its greatest, most adventurous, and unhearalded producers and performers.  

The title tracks, spread across a vocal cut and an accompanying instrumental version, beautifully intertwines R&B, pop, and roots reggae. “Stabilizer” meanders across even more genres, blurring the lines between C&W, blues, R&B, and reggae, across an inspired version of Hudson’s own 1972 single “True True True to My Heart.” For “Stabilizer,” Hudson and his backing group the Soul Syndicate Band deftly connect the dots between genres, while “Testing of My Faith” erases them, cleverly twinning C&W with roots reggae. The song is faintly reminiscent of the theme to “Midnight Cowboy,” assuming Jon Voight disembarked not in the Big Apple, but Trench Town. In which case, “Fight Your Revolution” sends “Shaft” era Isaac Hayes on a Greyhound bus to Memphis. The music on this set is so astounding that it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture of Hudson’s dramatic lyrical themes and the album’s overarching concept of the black experience and history. On “Faith,” he pleads to “be just like any other man,” but if his prayer was granted, the world would have lost one of its most unique artists even sooner.

Playlist :Hunting
Flesh Of My Skin
Blood Of My Blood
Testing Of My Faith
Fight Your Revolution
Darkest Night
Talk Some Sense (Gamma Ray)
Treasures Of The World
My Nocturne
I Shall Be Released
No Friend Of Mine
Stabiliser

Keith Hudson – Flesh Of My Skin…(160 kbps)

Ominously known as “The Dark Prince of Reggae,” Keith Hudson was born into a musical family in Kingston, Jamaica in 1946. His musical education began as Hudson worked as a sort of roadie for Skatalite and Jamaican trombone king Don Drummond.

By age 21, Hudson, who had been trained as a dentist, sunk his earnings into his own record label, Inbidimts, and had a hit with Ken Boothe’s recording of “Old Fashioned Way.” Not long after this chart success, the suddenly hot Hudson was producing some of the biggest names (and soon-to-be biggest names) in reggae – John Holt, Delroy Wilson, Alton Ellis, and the great toasters U-Roy and Dennis Alcapone, all of whom benefited from what would be Hudson’s trademark production style: groove-centered, bass/drum-dominated, lean and mean stripped-down riddims.

By the mid-’70s, Hudson began releasing more solo work, hitting paydirt from the start with his 1974 debut, “Entering the Dragon” and his intense second record, “Flesh of My Skin”, an ominous, dark record that earned Hudson his title as reggae’s “Dark Prince.” In 1976, Hudson relocated to New York City and worked pretty much nonstop, producing as well as recording solo records up until 1982. He succumbed to lung cancer in 1984, at age 38, robbing reggae of one its greatest, most adventurous, and unhearalded producers and performers.  

The title tracks, spread across a vocal cut and an accompanying instrumental version, beautifully intertwines R&B, pop, and roots reggae. “Stabilizer” meanders across even more genres, blurring the lines between C&W, blues, R&B, and reggae, across an inspired version of Hudson’s own 1972 single “True True True to My Heart.” For “Stabilizer,” Hudson and his backing group the Soul Syndicate Band deftly connect the dots between genres, while “Testing of My Faith” erases them, cleverly twinning C&W with roots reggae. The song is faintly reminiscent of the theme to “Midnight Cowboy,” assuming Jon Voight disembarked not in the Big Apple, but Trench Town. In which case, “Fight Your Revolution” sends “Shaft” era Isaac Hayes on a Greyhound bus to Memphis. The music on this set is so astounding that it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture of Hudson’s dramatic lyrical themes and the album’s overarching concept of the black experience and history. On “Faith,” he pleads to “be just like any other man,” but if his prayer was granted, the world would have lost one of its most unique artists even sooner.

Playlist :Hunting
Flesh Of My Skin
Blood Of My Blood
Testing Of My Faith
Fight Your Revolution
Darkest Night
Talk Some Sense (Gamma Ray)
Treasures Of The World
My Nocturne
I Shall Be Released
No Friend Of Mine
Stabiliser

Keith Hudson – Flesh Of My Skin…(160 kbps)

With his ultra-sweet vocals and lyrics that speak of romance and topical politics, Mighty Sparrow (born Slinger Francisco) rose to the upper echelon of Trinidadian calypso. Best known for his hits “Jean and Dinah” in 1956 and “Carnival Boycott” in 1957, Sparrow is an 11-time winner of the calypso monarchy and an eight-time winner of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival Road March competition.

Born to a poor working-class family in Gran Roi, a small fishing village in Grenada, Sparrow moved to Trinidad at the age of one. Learning to sing in the boy’s choir of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, he became the head choirboy. At the age of 14, he formed a steel band to perform at the Carnival, sparking his interest in calypso. Teaching himself to play guitar, Sparrow began to write his own songs. Winning the Carnival competition with “Jean and Dinah,” he received a grand prize of 40 dollars. In protest, he wrote a scorching indictment of the Trinidadian music industry, “Carnival Boycott.” Despite his refusal to compete in the Carnival contests for the next three years, Sparrow became one of the Caribbean’s most successful artists.       

“Sparrow In HiFi”