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Digging Through the Record Stacks - 2

Posted by Whitmore, April 15, 2008 09:41pm | Post a Comment

Music historians often site The Diablos as the originators and early archetypes to the Motown sound. Formed in Detroit in about 1950 by high school students Nolan Strong and Bob "Chico" Edwards, the Diablos derive their name from, El Nino Diablo, a book Strong was reading for a school report. From the start the group's sound centered on Nolans’s eerily ethereal, lead tenor voice. (Musical talent ran deep in his family: Nolan’s cousin, Barrett Strong, wrote "Money'' and many other R&B standards.) Other original Diablos members included Juan Guiterriez as the second tenor, Willie Hunter singing baritone, Quentin Eubanks as bass with Edwards on guitar, and later on Nolan’s brother, Jimmy, would join the group as the second tenor.

In 1954, the Diablos went into Fortune Records to cut some demos. The owners of Fortune, Jack & Devora Brown, who founded the label in 1947, immediately signed them. Their first single, "Adios My Desert Love" (Fortune 509, 1954), was written by Devora Brown. However, their second single and masterpiece, "The Wind" (Fortune 511, 1954), was written by the group. This ballad has a curiously ghostly quality and takes full advantage of the groups strongest points; a simple guitar line plays with a light vibrato, filling in behind the perfectly sculpted background harmonies singing "blow wind," as Strong's incredibly delicate, smooth as silk lead carries over the top. The atmosphere takes on a rather strange quality during the bridge when, backed by a quirky plate-reverb effect, Strong quietly recites his lines about his missing lover.  All and all, and truthfully, this cut is slightly bizarre but so evocatively captivating.  And, of course, it went nowhere, until some eight years later when "The Wind" was re-released in 1962-- this time it found a national audience, hitting the lower rungs of the Billboard Charts. “The Wind" is now regarded as a doo wop classic and is much sought after by collectors. The Diablos would continue to record for Fortune Records until the mid sixties, though with various lineups, perhaps the reason the last few releases were credited to only Nolan Strong.

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Astral Weeks

Posted by Miss Ess, April 15, 2008 02:11pm | Post a Comment
For someone who works in a record store, it's been a surprisingly long time since I've sat and just listened to a record on my headphones.

van morrison astral weeks

Astral Weeks by Van Morrison is the kind of record that demands close attentiovan morrison liven like this.  The playing and imagery on the album capture the feeling of that pinnacle moment we've all experienced at times in life -- of love, of hope, of desire.  There's a tinge of loss to the record as well. 

The album sounds miraculous to me, and when the circumstances surrounding its recording are revealed, it becomes only more so. It was recorded over a mere 3 days in 1968, when Morrison was, incredibly, only 23 years old.   He used jazz musicians he had never met before to record, and a great deal of each song was improvised.  It's one of the only records I find almost impossible to sing along to-- the phrasing is incredible!  As for tvan morrisonhe musicianship on the album, the bassline in "The Way Young Lovers Do" alone is like nothing else on any rock record I've ever heard.  It's insane.  Each musician's work elevates the sound to a place of complexity and also cohesion.  Together they create a sense of otherworldliness, and that is what makes the album so special.

I can easily bring myself back to a very particular time in my life when I hear this record, and it's funny but even now, the more I listen to it, the more I hear, and the more I can sink my teeth into.  I guess what I am trying to say is that the album brings more pleasure with each listen, even over a period of many years!   When I hear the first few bars of the starting track, "Astral Weeks," I can't help but grin and sink down into the couch or wherever I happen to be sitting.  It's like revisiting an old friend.  The tracks gracefully amble along and I recapture things old and discover things new as I listen.  This record has the ability to gut you on first as well as each subsequent listening experience.

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REVISITING ROBERT TOWNSEND'S HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE

Posted by Billyjam, April 15, 2008 01:23pm | Post a Comment


Released 21 years ago, Robert Townsend's breakout movie Hollywood Shuffle stands the test of time, as witnessed by these hilarious but poignant clips from the 1987 comedy.  What made Hollywood Shuffle -- which was directed & produced by Robert Townsend and written by Robert Townsend and Keenan Ivory Wayans -- so great was the perfect balance of satire and  comedy it possessed as it accurately portrayed the rampant stereotyping of African Americans in film and television roles.  And it was never far off the mark either. (Examples of stereotyping in popular American film and TV productions were not hard to find, offering Townsend lots of material to draw from.  For an example of stereotyping in 70's TV, just rewatch an episode of Starsky and Hutch with the comic book jive-talking Huggy Bear character played by Antonio Fargas in it.)

Hollywood Shuffle is one of those rare really funny comedies that actually has a strong message and says something of worth. Recently re-watching Hollywood Shuffle, which is available at Amoeba Music on DVD (ask for it if you cannot locate it in the store), I was reminded of all the great actors that were in it including the aforementioned Townsend and Wayans plus Damon Wayans, Dom Irrera, Don Reed, and John Witherspoon.

The gang fight clip (above) is where the Stereotypes battle with Townsend playing Jimmy, leader of the Afros.  The movie is just chock-a-block with great scenes, including the black actors school scene (below), and the spoof on Siskel & Ebert, "Sneakin in at the Movies" (also below).

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(In which brave employees face dire visions.)

Posted by Job O Brother, April 15, 2008 12:01pm | Post a Comment

10.30 AM - Time to open Amoeba.

I’ve been working at Amoeba Music for over three years now (although I often still feel like a newbie) but it wasn’t until last Thursday that I had co-workers over to my house for the first time.

The reasons for this are many, and complicated. For one, whenever you have humans over to your house to visit, there’s all sorts of things one must do, like… talk to them… and… well, talk to them. It’s daunting! Nevermind the fact that my cat, Fangs, is only one moment away from figuring out how to eat someone.


My cat Fangs. (It's always hard to get him to be still long enough to get a good picture.)

You’ll remember (unless you won’t) that some time ago I blogged about the film crew of “Alvin & The Chipmunks” using the front of Amoeba Music Hollywood for a shoot, for which I was an extra (cast as a bouncer).

Charlie, who works in the classical music department, and Smithy, who works soundtracks (with me) and pop vocals, and I had tried to goad each other in going to see the movie in the theatres to find out if either Amoeba or I were actually in it, but none of us were willing to pay the huge (if justified) price of an ArcLight Cinema ticket, especially considering the film looked painful.


Me, relating the preview I saw of the movie in question.

We decided, therefore, that when the movie came out of DVD – which it recently has – we would congregate at my apartment, drink enough booze to buffer any psychological damage that watching Jason Lee interact with CGI rodents could have and face the beast.

Backwoods (Bosque de sombras) 2006 Spanish-English-French co-production

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 14, 2008 07:46pm | Post a Comment


BackWoods is set in 1978 and depicts two English couples on vacation in a remote community in Navarre/Nafarroa, Spain. The locals have bad style, are ugly and probably smell bad. They're also suspicious of and rude to the well-meaning and rather annoying city slickers. When you see Gary Oldman's character loading a shotgun you can see clearly all the way to the credits. If a gun shows up in a movie, it's never just to look at.

At first the film treats us to a bit of heavy-handed character development. Oldman's character, Paul, is a know-it-all and yet strangely likeable due to Oldman's considerable charisma. Paddy Considine as Norman is whiney and unsympathetic.  Paul's wife, played by Virginie Ledoyen, is extremely unpleasant and nonsensical (women!) and Aitana Sanchez-Gijon as Oldman's wife is pretty unmemorable. They all bicker and snipe constantly till you're begging the locals to kick their spoiled asses already. One morning, Paul takes Norman on a hunting trip into the beautiful countryside. Norman is too soft to shoot a bunny. Paul says something like, "There's two kinds of things in this word: the hunters and the hunted." Deep. Things take an obvious turn when the two discover a girl with crab hands (Helpful Heloise, what's the proper name for this deformity -ed.) chained up in a shack. They do the sensible thing and abscond with her. When the backward, angered villagers catch on, it's Norman who will have to find his inner hardman if he's going to survive. Did you see that one coming? You did? Good.

If this all sounds terribly familiar and predictable, it's (of course) because it is. The film makes no efforts to disguise its exceedingly well-worn story and debt to its inspirations. It's content to get by on the adequateness of the cast and crew and by the story's sticking to tried-and-tested formula. I reckon it's set in the '70s simply because it's a particularly '70s genre. There are exactly zero surprises to be experienced. When one of the country folk attempts to rape a character, my reaction was, "I was wondering when the leering, greasy one was going to do that!" Because, you know, people in the country just sit around all year round just picking their rotten teeth... waiting for vacationing dudes and their womenfolk so that they can get their rape on.

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