Psych Folk legend Eiichi Ohtaki dies at 65

Posted by Kells, January 10, 2014 04:01pm | Post a Comment

Japanese singer-songwriter and producer Eiichi Ohtaki passed away at a hospital on Monday, December 30, 2013 after having collapsed at his Tokyo home while eating an apple, a piece which had apparently stuck in his throat causing him to choke. He was 65.
Ohtaki's influential contributions to Japanese pop and folk rock music worldwide could not be more legendary. Born on July 28, 1948, he was perhaps most famous for being the singer/guitarist and founding member of Happy End (pictured left above),  a band he formed with fellow Japanese rock heavy hitters Takashi Matsumoto (Apryl Fool), Shigeru Suzuki and Haruomi Hosono (Apryl Fool/Yellow Magic Orchestra). From 1969 to 1972 the ensemble produced three studio albums that pioneered a highly revered heavy acid folk sound that made them Japan's most beloved and critically acclaimed classic rock bands of all time. More recently the ensemble won notoriety stateside when their song "Kaze wo Atusmete" was featured in the soundtrack for Sofia Coppola's 2003 film Lost In Translation.

Happy End disbanded in 1973, but Ohtaki enjoyed a very successful solo career as a musician, singer-songwriter and record producer working with mid-'70s rockers Sugar Babe as well as prominent artists like Tatsuro Yamashita (pictured below to Ohtaki's left) and Onuki Taeko. His 1981 album A Long Vacation was named "Best Album" of the year at the Japan Record Awards and went on to receive both 20th anniversary and 30th anniversary reissues. [A mildly interesting fun fact:  A Long Vacation was also the first Japanese album to be released on CD.]

Numero Group's forthcoming Lost '70s Rock comp feat. amateur D&D art is giving me life...

Posted by Kells, November 21, 2013 02:40pm | Post a Comment
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This past Halloween marked a break in the fog obscuring yet another exciting prospect from the deep diggers and detail sticklers at Numero Group. The past few years has seen the label expanding the scope of their offerings and this one is set to be quite the departure from their former fare, so much so that one might even be tempted to inquire after what they've been smoking. If the above cover art and the amateur Dungeons & Dragons campaign sketches promised to be incorporated into the overall packaging are any indication, I'd wager they got a hold of some good ol' stuff! Slated for a February release, Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles is compilation of lost 70s smokers I can really do with already, like, twenty years ago.  I'm chuffed to bits for their Purple Snow Minneapolis Sound comp dropping in early December, but this sixteen-sided die seems just as destined for niche-interest veneration as their WTNG 89.9: Solid Bronze collection.

Get hyped via this promo vid featuring "Warlord" by the female-fronted and positively pagan-sounding Wrath:


The Muscle Shoals Documentary: A Tale of Two Studios, One Sound

Posted by Kells, October 17, 2013 03:50pm | Post a Comment

From Dave Grohl's Sound City to 20 Feet From Stardom there have been some really great music-related documentary films released recently, perhaps none so overwhelmingly transcendental as the story of a reliable hit-maker and an iconic sound rooted in a sleepy corner of Alabama called Muscle Shoals

Between providing the most literal rendering of "I'll Take You There" and dabbling in discovering the metaphysical origins of what has come to be lauded as the "Muscle Shoals sound," Muscle Shoals blends reflective interviews of those who lived and tracked the music, bolstered by snippets and loops of the iconic sound itself, with layers of pastoral vistas and rustic rural vignettes of the surrounding countryside, playing like a gorgeous cinematographic back-mask. Combined with the fleeting highs and the tragic lows experienced by musician, songwriter and Fame Studios producer Rick Hall, his session players, The Swampers (who would later found a similarly nondescript recording studio across town in a former casket factory), among others still living in the glory of the Muscle Shoals nexus, the film also depicts the triumph of a phenomenon bigger than anyone can fully understand nowadays: the earthly crossroads of soul, country, funk and rock and roll at a time when "separate but equal" was the order of the day. 

Along with the release of the official companion soundtrack to the film, here are a list of other Muscle Shoals related goodies that'll surely satisfy those who, like me, just can't get enough of that sound:  

Various Artists - Hall Of Fame: Rare and Unissued Gems from the Fame Vaults, Vols. 1 & 2

These two collections are simply a must-have for both hard core scholars and casual enthusiasts of the Southern Soul sound. Featuring the a spectrum of captured tracks that have slipped through the cracks with the passage of time there are plenty of diamonds in the rough featured within both of these selections, the most intriguing of which are credited to an "unknown male" or unknown female." If you already have these sweet babies I'm going to assume you also have this:
Various Artists - The Fame Studios Story - 1961-1973

Three discs, 75 tracks, fab color booklet housed neatly in a sleek box -- every bit of this nugget focused on the famed Alabama recording studio with special attention paid to those artists associated with the Fame label. All funky inclusions aside (The Osmonds?!) this, like the two above releases, only serves as a testament to the power house that is the Ace/Kent crack reissue dream team. 

Various Artists - The Muscle Shoals Sound 

This 18-track Rhino comp is a great place to start. It offers a nice and neat cross section of the patent Muscle Shoals sound, kicking off with crucial early hits that solidified the region as hit-maker central, like Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On," Jimmy Hughes' "Steal Away" and Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman." It moves along chronologically, hit after hit, and includes what is referred to in the film as the very first Southern Rock song ("Hey Jude" performed by Wilson Pickett and Duane Allman) as well as Rick Hall's autobiographical song "Patches" as performed by Clarence Carter. Now out of print, used copies come in now and again. 

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Skynyrd's First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album

Speaking of Southern Rock, the one and only Lynyrd Skynyrd cut a heck of a lot of tracks at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1971 and 1972 with the intention of releasing it as their debut, only to see it shelved indefinitely. Nineof these tracks would later be released as Skynyrd's first posthumous album, Skynyrd's First and...Last,  in 1978 (following the tragic plane crash that killed six of the thirteen souls on board, including three band members). The remaining unreleased recordings restored and expanded for this re-release in 1998 thus becoming an essential album in the Skynyrd oeuvre. 

Cher- 3614 Jackson Highway

Now, I have to say I was a little miffed at how this record was briefly mentioned yet totally dismissed by the Muscle Shoals doc as a flop. Sure, it isn't a great record, especially considering the consistently amazing body of song flowing out of the area at the time. But who cares that this is essentially a collection of Cher's freedom rock covers recorded in 1969? The funky wonders woven by The Swampers on this record make digging into this slice of refried gold worth the trouble (especially if you can get your paws on the 23-track 2001 reissue). Faves include a surprisingly great rendition of Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth" and a funky take Dr. John's "I Walk On Guilded Splinters." 

Cher - "I Walk On Guilded Splinters"

Etta James - Tell Mama: The Complete Muscle Shoals Sessions

For me, one of the most memorable moments in Muscle Shoals was the footage and recollections of pertaining to Etta James' recording sessions. This is because I find it interesting the way many of those who recount their impressions of working with her in the studio paint the lady as something of a wild thing, an untamed filly in need of wrangling. Perhaps I am doting too much on sentiments I imagine to be restrained or unexpressed during those interviews, but this aural account -- the remains of those studio collaborations -- is everything a testament to the lady's vivacity nonetheless.

Various Artists - A Road Leading Home: Songs by Dan Penn 

Spanning nearly fifty years of songwriting, this collection of classic soul songs penned by Dan Penn, including "You Left the Water Running" and "Do Right Woman - Do Right Man," features some lesser known recordings of songs from Dan's golden era. Doubtless the Muscle Shoals beacon would not shine as bright without the genius of Penn, not to mention the skills of his frequent collaborator, Swampers organist Spooner Oldham (a collection of their dual efforts can be found in Ace's Sweet Inspiration comp), as captured in the Muscle Shoals doc. This is the second Penn collection offered by Ace, the first being Dan Penn: The Fame Recordings

I could go on and on, but the journey is half the fun. Let the music take you there.

New "What's In My Bag?" Episode With Brazilian Electro-Rock Band CSS

Posted by Amoebite, August 6, 2013 09:13pm | Post a Comment


Sao Paulo, Brazil has always had a rich history in music. Some of Brazil's most engaging musicians were spawned in Sao Paulo during the 20th century, including Os Mutantes, who helped create the Tropicalia movement of the '60s, and Samba composers Paulo Vanzolini and Adoniran Barbosa, who wrote one of Brazil's most famous Sambas (see "Trem das Onze"). A late punk and garage scene grew in the '80s while the '90s gave way to a strong drum and bass movement. Fast forward to the 21st century and CSS carries the torch as Sao Paulo's leading purveyors of  electronic-dance-rock. CSS exploded onto Brazil's burgeoning "new rave" scene in the early 2000s. Originally a six piece (5 ladies, 1 dude), CSS was one of the early bands to turn Internet fame into a full-fledged career.

Nearly a decade after they famously took their name (Cansei de Ser Sexy) from R&B diva Beyonce, after she declared she was "tired of being sexy," the women of CSS are back with their fourth album, Planta.css TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek takes on producer duties and this time around CSS deliver a more polished production. Still full of electro-pop rock angst, CSS remain fun and loud despite losing main songwriter Adriano Cintra. The album's lead single, "Hangover," is a querky synth-pop jam that carries an upbeat feel. Lovefoxxx sings, "Living in Jupiter that spot is free / Martians??/ vampires and bees /
Everyone is floating together / Everyone is partying forever." Party on CSS!

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Author, Musician & Lifelong Anarchist Mick Farren Died Onstage During Deviants Concert

Posted by Billyjam, July 29, 2013 07:40am | Post a Comment

Over the weekend British author, political observer, career anarchist, party animal, journalist, and musician Mick Farren - best known as the leader of the '60's counterculture rock band The Deviants - died on Saturday night (7/27) after collapsing onstage during a concert with his longtime band at London's Borderline club. He was 69 years of age. Pre-dating the British punk movement by a decade, The Deviants have been accurately described as the first true anarchist rock band. Following close in their footsteps were The Pink Fairies - the band that The Deviants spawned when formed by three other members in 1970. The Deviants, who first formed in 1967 and broke up in 1969, would get back together intermittently over the decades. There is a great quote by Mick Farren that has been circulating online since news of his passing surfaced in which he famously told an audience, "This is British amphetamine psychosis music and if you don’t like it you can fuck off and listen to your Iron Butterfly albums!"

Always a master of words Farren turned most of his energies to writing about music and culture back in the early '70s sometime after releasing his solo album Mona – The Carnivorous Circus, which included his version of "Summertime Blues" (below). He never gave up music completely but focused on writing primarily, contributing to such British underground, counterculture publications as The International Times, as well as (later) for such music mags as the NME and The Trouser Press. He has written dozens of books over the years including both fiction (fantasy lit been his forte) and non-fiction, including several books on Elvis Presley and his entertaining autobiography Give The Anarchist A Cigarette.  Up until recently Farren had lived in Los Angeles, where he wrote for the Los Angeles CityBeat from 2003 to 2008, before returning back to his English homeland a few years ago.

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