Soul Mann & The Brothers – “Shaft” (1971)

shaftOK, I have to confess that when I picked this up out of a bargain bin the other day I assumed this was the actual soundtrack to Shaft, complete with the Isaac Hayes vocal version of “Theme From Shaft”.  It wasn’t until I got it home and logged onto Discogs that I realized it was a 100% instrumental version by Soul Mann & The Brothers.

But you know what?  For three bucks, I don’t really care.  Because it’s funky as hell and includes some pretty sweet jams.  Perfect for cold winter evening curled up on the couch with a cocktail.

Jagúar – “One Of Us” 12″ (2005)

jaguaroneof-usI didn’t have high expectations for this 12″, but it turns out that this is one of those times that I’m glad to be wrong.  Very wrong.  I didn’t realize that Samúel Jón Samúelsson was a member of Jagúar.  If I had, I’d have known that whatever awaited on the “One Of Us” 12″ would be a lot of fun.

Jagúar’s style is a blend of funk and dance, sort of a modern day funk disco.  The musicianship is top notch, and the basslines shred.  This is the kind of music you want to hear come when you’re out with your friends, you’ve had a few drinks, and your energy level is still pretty good, because it’ll get you out onto the dance floor to embarrass yourself while not caring in the slightest.

Stay groovy, my friends.

Miles Davis – “The Man With the Horn” (1981)

milesdavismabwiththehornIt’s Saturday morning as I sit here and write this while listening to Miles Davis’ 1981 LP The Man With the Horn, though I’m not quite sure when it will be posted.  Time has sort of lost meaning in my mind lately, everything falling into two distinct buckets – being in Los Angeles for work (aka Monday through Thursday) and being at home (aka Friday through Sunday).  It feels like that is what my life has devolved into in 2016, a constant blur of airports, hotels (“Welcome back to the Hilton sir.  It’s good to see you again this week.”), restaurant food, and conference rooms.  Fortunately it turns out that a couple of my project cohorts are music and vinyl fans, and so is one of our finance guys, so at least I have some people to talk music with during the all-to-infrequent breaks in our schedule.

So it’s Saturday morning, which means relaxing and catching up with a few things on the home front.  Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane is out running some errands before we head out to lunch, and I’m burning some CDs and listening to Miles.  Ah, Miles… “I don’t always listen to jazz, but when I do it’s Miles Davis.”  I’m not a big jazz guy by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ll always take a peek at the Miles Davis section any time I’m in a shop just in case I can find a used older release for a good price, which is how I came to own this super clean copy of The Man With the Horn.  It’s probably the latest of Davis’ albums on my shelves, with most of my collection falling into his more classic 1950s-60s period.  By 1981 he’d expanded his sound and pissed off a lot of people, while clearly not caring that they couldn’t keep up with his musical development and genius.

The Man With the Horn is Miles playing a horn that is sometimes old school jazz at other times new school easy listening, surrounded by a funk band, and creating space for some absolutely fantastic electric guitar shredding.  Davis often drops into the background and let’s the band do their thing, making this a bit less horn-centric than a lot of his earlier work.  There are some more classical jazz parts here, like “Back Seat Betty” with it’s minimal beats and Miles’ fluttering horn, but it’s a diverse album, one that insists you sit back with a drink and just listen to it.  Whereas Kind of Blue is almost spiritual in its beauty, The Man With the Horn sways and grooves and crashes.  If it’s in any way indicative of his later sound, I’m going to have to pick up more of his 1980s era work for sure.

Fats Comet & The Big Sound – “Bop Bop” 12″ (1984)

I don’t know where all these On-U 12″s are coming from that seem to keep randomly showing up at my local shop Vortex.  Someone out there had some pretty great taste back in the day.  This is the third time I’ve found a Fats Comet 12″ there, and I’m almost positive it’s not because they were all there the whole time and I was just missing them.

fatscometbopbop

Bop Bop has that style of On-U dub production that I love so much, though musically it’s a bit of a different direction.  The title track has that funky bass line that I expect from Fats Comet, but then blends in samples from 1950s doo-wop songs and funk jams.  The sonic disconnect of the component parts does create a bit of a trippy sense, making you wonder if you’re hearing a whole song or just parts of different pieces crammed together.  Sometimes the flow is there and it grooves, but that doo-wap kind of sets me on edge a little.  The B side, “Zoop Zoop,” is a gem of a basic dance track, one that leans slightly towards IDM with the aggressiveness of its beats, but that still funks out at times.

There are still a few more Fats Comet 12″s that I need to track down, so let’s hope I keep finding ’em on the shelves at Vortex!

Dub Narcotic Sound System – “Degenerate Introduction” (2004)

dubnarcoticsoundsystemdegenerateSome cool music has come out of Olympia, Washington over the years, a scene that for a long time defined itself by both its amateurish approach and its acceptance of even the least talented performers, so long as they were being earnest.  It spawned a couple of notable indie labels, K Records and Kill Rock Stars, both of which are still going strong.  It’s not exactly the vibe you expect from a state capitol, but Olympia is a different kind of town.

I never got too deep into the K catalog.  Not for any particular reason, mind you; I just don’t have much of their stuff.  I took a step towards fixing that the other day, snagging a nice used copy of 2004s Degenerate Introduction, the last LP by the rotating, swirling conglomerate of musicians known as the Dub Narcotic Sound System.  K Records founder and Beat Happening singer Calvin Johnson was the driving force behind Dub Narcotic and its one consistent member, and the outfit was named after Calvin’s own Dub Narcotic Studio.

Degenerate Introduction is a musical hodge-podge, parts dub reggae, funk, rock, country… all put into a blender, mixed together, and served warm and thick.  You’re not going to get bored listening to this album as it meanders around stylistically, leaving you constantly wondering what’s coming next.  If the Butthole Surfers were funky and did a dub record, it might sound something like this.  But, you know, kind of groovy.  Check out “Fuck Me Up” and the wandering “Mate’s Revenge” to get the flavor of this one.