Tuesday, March 12, 2013

More where that came from (On The Deep End)

Cross-posted on The Deep End:

On last Friday's show, we played "I Don't Need Help", a track by Johnny K. Killen and the Dynamics, from the marvelous compilation album, Eccentric Soul: The Deep City Label. A man is talking to his oldest and closest friend who has helped him in times of need. Suddenly, his friend seems to be showing a little too much interest in our protagonist's sweetheart, and he needs to be set straight:
We've been buddies for a long long time
And you've always treated me kind
And whenever I was down and out
You were always there to help me out

But now I see you watching my baby
I see you giving her the eye
Well, let me tell you something:
It's classic soul, with a catchy tune, a ring of truth and a clever twist on some basic human emotions. How, you wonder, was this NOT a monster hit back in the 60s?

Of course, the music business is a ruthless world, and talent does not always equal success, even in the revolutionary years of the 60s and early 70s when anything seemed possible. People have been endlessly rediscovering, reassessing, and reissuing music from also-rans from various musical scenes who have turned out to have back catalogs that match or surpass any of the established acts of the canon. From the Velvet Underground to Rodriguez, artists who went nowhere in their time have eventually made their impact on the world. The whole phenomenon of Nuggets (and its even-more-obscure little brothers like Pebbles and Rubble), from the original double album compiled in the 70s to the Rhino series in the 80s to the various comprehensive box sets of the present day, has shined a light on the once-forgotten geniuses of garage-rock, a genre that was once thought of as horrid trash that had no place in a rapidly progressing musical world.

But what about soul? Where were the great lost artists and songs that couldn't compete with Otis, Aretha, Smokey or James Brown? In the last decade, a small reissue label called Numero has answered this question with the Eccentric Soul series, doing an astounding feat of research and recovery and gifting us with a staggering number of hits from an alternate universe's jukebox. Not everything on these albums hits the mark, but the ones that do will touch places in you you didn't even know were there. I can't recommend them more highly.

Here is Numero's Ken Shipley guesting on the Onion's AV Club, playing some of his personal Eccentric Soul favorites and telling some stories of his own about the project. Absolutely fascinating, and essential for anyone who loves great, passionate music.

We also played a track by the wonderful Lijadu Sisters, a phenomenal pair of identical twin sisters from Nigeria who combined close harmonies, sexy voices, funky African grooves and conscious lyrics. After putting out a series of albums, they resettled in Brooklyn, where they live today. What made them unique was their strong, assertive natures and unwillingness to be stopped by the patriarchial traditions of African society. Here they are, stealing the show in the fascinating Nigerian music documentary, Konkombe:

The sisters' career got a shot in the arm recently when their song "Life's Gone Down Low" was included in the compilation album The World Ends: Afro-Rock & Psychedelia In 1970s Nigeria, a mind-opening collection of stunning, funky music that shows how the cultures of the planet influence each other, and how we all recreate our own culture from exposure to others.

Here are the Lijadu Sisters in a more recent video, still as gorgeous and grounded as ever:

We played a classic track by the Pretty Things as well, but the band seems to have ensured that none of their YouTube videos can be embedded, so I'll be leaving them out of this post. Go get yourself some Pretty Things albums right now, though! I recommend S.F. Sorrow, Get The Picture?, and Emotions, in that order. Immerse yourself in the only band that has shared members with both the Rolling Stones and the Mekons! This is the sort of thing The Deep End is all about.


Substance McGravitas said...

SF Sorrow I found kinda hard to listen to. I mean I can listen happily to Metal Machine Music, but the tapes were very distracting.

J Neo Marvin said...

I actually prefer Emotions, the one with all the intrusive orchestration the band hated.