Saturday, October 23, 2010

One small step towards making NPR bearable

Best take I've read on the Juan Williams flap. This guy has been insufferable on the radio for years; now he gets to thrive in his own chosen environment. We don't have to listen to him in the car anymore. And the Right gets something new to whine about. Everybody wins!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dread More Than Dead

I would so like this to be a hoax, but I know it isn't.

We are devastated to hear about the sudden, unexpected passing of the Slits' Ari Up. A one-of-a-kind character. She will not be replaceable. So much energy and attitude, and such a role model for retaining your youth in middle age. I know it's true, but I still can't accept it.

We shot this in San Francisco at the first tour of the reunited Slits. A great song that didn't make it to what I guess will be their last album. I'll remember her like this.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20: September 2010

At the end of the 70s, soon after Lee Scratch Perry cut the haunting Heart Of The Congos at his Black Ark Studio only to be ditched by his newest discoveries, the Congos themselves, stories have long circulated about a couple of African singers who found their way to Jamaica and showed up at Scratch's doorstep, looking for a break. Scratch, who was not in the best of shape and ready to heed any omen he could perceive, proclaimed he had found the "real" Congos, since they hailed from what was then known as Zaire but before and after is referred to as the Democratic Republic Of The Congo. The new allies set about recording an album together, while Scratch's increasing eccentricity and various hangers-on continued to propel the Black Ark into chaos. The tracks that were cut have been both hard to find and usually disparaged as being not very good, a testimony to Scratch's delusional state at the time. Well, our Ear Candle Radio research team managed to find a disc of these rare recordings, and we are here to say that the naysayers need to clean out their ears because this music is incredible. Sweet yet shrill West African vocal stylings coupled with the wobbly, echoing Black Ark jungle of sound. Kalo Kawongolo and Seke Molenga, together with Lee Scratch Perry at the peak of his powers, created a lost masterpiece that is finally surfacing, and our listeners have put it at number one this month! (Our listeners have impeccable taste.)

Another underrated gem, the Television Personalities' mournful anti-war rant "A Sense Of Belonging", made it to number 2, a reminder of how it felt to be a conscious human being in the 80s, when the media and the right had learned from their past experience with Vietnam and first mastered the art of making mass dissent invisible unless it was convenient for them. (See also, the 2000s)

Following that, we get funky with James Brown and cool like that with the Digable Planets on their hits from the 60s and 90s. Then comes a Portland, Oregon songwriter named Cheralee Dillon (who we discovered through our friend Celine Keller) squeezing some love from the little yellow lemon in her heart. A track from one of the last good (and weirdest) Beach Boys albums, "Solar System" is a quirky gem that J Neo Marvin once saw Alex Chilton cover in the 80s.

Yet another unfairly disparaged (this time by the band themselves!) album is the Pretty Things' Emotions, which was inappropriately tampered with by their record label and producer and festooned with orchestral arrangements the band hated. In spite of that, it's a smart, snappy mid-60s pop record full of great songs, including "Children", a foot-stomper with lyrics that decry the way innocent kids are led astray by the system. Keeping with the theme of children perhaps, this track leaves out the strings and horns and replaces them with kazoos! One wonders who was responsible, the producer on a creative roll calling for the top session kazooists in London to lay down a track, or the Pretty Things making fun of the whole process? What matters is that this is top stuff. After you have digested the first two Pretty Things albums and S.F. Sorrow, check out Emotions. You'll be glad you did.

Deerhoof do their inimitable twee-prog thing next, followed by Bo Diddley with a sweet, raucous tribute to his dearest darling and X-tal grinding through their swan song. "What Now?" Sergio Mendes pops in unexpectedly with a bit of psychedelic lounge music, then Os Mutantes at their silliest mug their way through a song about a Latin musician making it big in America that is said to be a parody of Sergio Mendes, but in fact it sounds a lot more like Santana to our ears. The Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada make their boundaries clear in "Mr. Mr.", Marc Bolan and Tyrannosaurus Rex (with the much-missed John Peel making a cameo appearance) spread some goofy mysticism from their debut album, the great Ken Nordine gives us a fable about a series of tall poppies who start out bold and get cut down to size by their jealous peers who rob us all of the power of the flibberty-jib.

A Kirtan cover of "Within You Without You", recorded at the temple at Harbin Hot Springs, features Harbin's jack-of-all-trades Peter B leading the singing and the late multi-instrumentalist (and highly talented and nice guy...much missed) Jeff Palmer playing the dilruba part. Spooky Swedish traditionalists Garmarna do an instrumental tribute to skulls, the Firesign Theatre give us a hilarious Hitchcockian nightmare, Le Tigre combat tall poppy syndrome ("The things you tried to kill/I've found a way to grow"), and the Velvet Underground invite us to Coney Island. "Like a sister and brother we'll cling to each other when they find out their parents are mad." Sometimes it be that way.

Thank you listeners for another great chart. Keep tuning in to Ear Candle Radio!

1. Kalo Kawongolo / Seke Molenga - Masanga - African Roots
2. Television Personalities - A Sense Of Belonging - Yes Darling, But Is It Art?
3. James Brown - Mother Popcorn - Star Time
4. Digable Planets - Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) - A New Refutation Of Time And Space
5. Cheralee Dillon - Little Yellow Lemon - Citron
6. The Beach Boys - Solar System - Beach Boys Love You
7. The Pretty Things - Children - Emotions
8. Deerhoof - My Purple Past - Offend Maggie
9. Bo Diddley - Dearest Darling - His Best: The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection
10. X-tal - What Now? - More Fun
11. Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 - Crystal Illusions - Crystal Illusions
12. Os Mutantes - Cantor De Mambo - Everything Is Possible!: The Best Of Os Mutantes
13. The Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada - Mr. Mr. - Let's Get Acquainted
14. Tyrannosaurus Rex - Frowning Atahuallpa (My Inca Love) - My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair... But Now They're Content To Wear Stars In Their Brows
15. Ken Nordine - Flibberty Jib - The Best of Word Jazz, Vol. 1
16. The Harbin Kirtan Band (featuring Jeff Palmer) - Within You Without You - Live From Planet Harbin
17. Garmarna - Skallen (Cranium) - Vittrad
18. Firesign Theatre - Waiting for the Electrician - Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him
19. Le Tigre - Tell You Now - This Island
20. The Velvet Underground - Coney Island Steeplechase - Another View