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In 1971 the British folk group Folkal Point released their haunting self-titled debut bearing the angelic voice of Cherie Musialik. The album opens with “Twelve Gates Into The City” – a traditional piece describing a Holy City surrounded by a great and high wall, with twelve gates symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel guarding the city from destruction. Though talk of a wall may seem a bit too familiar this political season, the inspirational line “We’ll climb that hill, no matter how steep” from ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’ provides even more motivation to consider the current state of affairs. words / d walker

Folkal Point :: Twelve Gates Into The City

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Veteran British songwriter and guitar-slinger Michael Chapman has reason to celebrate. 50, his forthcoming LP for Paradise of Bachelors commemorates five decades of recording and touring.  Set for release mere days before his 76th birthday, age has proved meaningless in the altogether radical output of Chapman’s career. On his first self-professed “American Record” to date, Chapman is routinely unpredictable, combining re-imaginations of deep cuts from albums past alongside new compositions.

Inspired by the incessant flooding that wreaked havoc on the town of Carlisle (UK) beginning in 2015, “Sometimes You Just Drive” finds Chapman boldly confronting the End of Days. Recorded and mixed at Jason Meager’s (No-Neck Blues Band) Black Dirt Studio, Chapman’s gravelly, biting vocals sound revitalized as he sings ‘The waters still rising after the storm, sun don’t shine to keep us warm.’  For a renowned songwriter, it’s inspiring to see Chapman remain so open to the spirit of collaboration of friends both new and old. Producer Steve Gunn’s guitar interplay adds a kaleidoscopic lens to the songs down-home, introspective mood. Sparse instrumentation leaves room for backing vocals from luminary Bridget St. John to shine through. Together, Chapman is renewed, further proving the transcendental power of his music. words / j silverstein


Related:
Michael Chapman :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

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Address Los Angeles, a new recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, explores the lesser-to-unknown corners of LA: be it an address, an artist, or a fleeting thought.

Of Libra III’s handful of releases, none compares to “Good Thing Going.” Credited to “Pryor’s Love” (whose only appearance, aside from this 7”, is credit on the smoother soul cut “Sailor on the Ghetto Sea” from J. Evans), it’s catchy and funky and, to boot, executes a great 17-note synth solo. “We gonna laugh while the others cry / gonna groove as time goes by / cause we got a good thing” is as simple, powerful and soulful as a declaration of the first love could be.

Pryor’s Love :: Good Thing Going / People Listen

Libra III is almost entirely elusive (and we’re on the hunt for more info – so leave a comment). The writers of “Good Thing Going” were Robert Ramsey, who cut several tracks in Los Angeles, including for Kent (a label kept alive since the 1980s through a hefty reissue business operated by Ace Records out of the UK), and Ralph Williams, one of the songwriters on “Mr. Big Stuff” (and also, likely one of the bus riders we mentioned when addressing that session’s under-appreciated classic from Bonnie & Shelia). How they got together, and where they got together, is currently unknown. It was likely in Los Angeles, where the two Southerners had each replanted in the late 50s or early 60s.

The Libra III trail brings you to The Taft Building in Hollywood at 1680 N. Vine St.; one of the more historic buildings in the city. Once home to film greats like Charlie Chaplin, the Taft housed numerous record labels, subsidiaries, publishing firms and all manner of music related businesses from the 50s through 70s (and beyond). Suite 819 also housed one release for Castle Records (who otherwise used a Hollywood PO Box) for a rather sexist single by The Tropics, “Women’s Liberation.” Adding to the web of confusion is that the songs publisher, L. K. L. Music, is the same as “Sailor on the Ghetto Sea.”

Being credited as a “Product of Consolidated Record Labels” ties this release to Mel Alexander, a godfather of Los Angeles soul, who issued releases under many labels, but mostly under the “Kris” name. Alexander employed Ralph Williams at US Records, which listed the Taft Building as its address (but in a different suite…), according to blues legend Ray Brooks, who recorded several releases for various Alexander labels – including Castle.

Another release on Libra III was “Will I Ever Be Loved” by Ella Woods. If nothing else, that release definitively places Alexander and Williams at the center of whatever Libra III was – they’re listed as as “A&R.”

The last nugget to pick over tells us is that it was “Distributed” by Virco Records in Alhambra, CA. That business, seemingly seminal to an unknown number of artists around Los Angeles who sought to press their records without major label backing, is more notable for the FBI raid of its facility in an anti-piracy crackdown in late 1980 and numerous environmental violations throughout its operating years.

The trail goes seemingly dead in Suite 819, but a second release of “Good Thing Going” in 1976 (now credited to “Pryor’s Love & Star Struck”) shows an address due South of the Taft Building, in LA’s Mid-City, the ground-zero of African-American owned labels and related businesses. 3719 W. Pico is now an auto-parts store. That release was distributed by “WILD,” also of Mid-City, and perhaps of the same address. It was also, at times, the listed address for Essar Record Distributers (as well as “Essar Records”), who racked up a number of L.A. addresses before settling on a P.O. Box for much of it’s 20+ years in business. It’s likely Alexander used the storefront as one of his ever-changing bases of operation. Maybe it was practical, maybe it was a tax dodge.

And that’s all fine and dandy, but who was Pryor’s Love?  words / b kramer

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It’s 1975, Gabor Szabo tags up with keyboard titan Bob James — the results culminate in the super-funked up, Macho. Rounding out the fold, in part, are players Harvey Mason (drums) and Louis Johnson (bass), along with percussionists Idris Muhammad and Ralph MacDonald. The results are wholly nocturnal – some kind of muscular serpentine. Macho, indeed.

Gabor Szabo :: Macho

In the midst of strange times, guitarist Jeff Parker’s solo album The New Breed has proven a constant companion. A soulful distillation of funk, hip-hop, and jazz, it’s a family affair, featuring Parker’s father Ernie on the cover and the voice of his daughter, Ruby, on the album’s closing song, “Cliche.” Today, we’re sharing the new video for that song, directed by filmmaker Lee Anne Schmitt.

“He told me the end was coming, I responded, That’s a cliche,” Ruby sings, her vocals recorded by Parker’s Tortoise bandmate John McEntire and doubled by Josh Johnson’s saxophone. She coveys each word — written by Parker himself — with crystalline clarity.

“I’ve been making music with her since she was four,” Parker told AD in an interview earlier this year. “I thought it would be cool to have her sing on the record. I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d rather have do it. One of my favorite things is making music with her.” Enjoy. words/j woodbury

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Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST. Daniel T and Panamajack are my guests during the first hour, find their Heat Wave mix, here.

SIRIUS 456: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Kraftwerk – Can Transistor ++ Guitar Red – Disco From A Space Show ++ Taeko Ohnuki – くすりをたくさん ++ Bro. Valentino – Stay Up Zimbabwe ++ Esin Afşar – Zühtü ++ Caroline Loeb – Paresseuse Dub ++ Ahmed Fakroun – Nisyan ++ May East – Maraka ++ Ryo Kawasaki – Hawaiian Caravan ++ Bobby Ellis – Tension ++ Barbara Marchand – I Whisper Role Over ++ Bianca – Vai Chegar O Dia ++ Jivaro – What Next (Dub Mix) ++ Sandra – Gebrauchtmann ++ Lucio Battisti – Con Il Nastro Rosa ++ Yasuaki Shimizu – Kakashi ++ T. Rex – Pain & Love ++ Indian Jewelry – Hello Africa ++ Dungen – Alberto Balsalm (Apex Twin cover) ++ Jean Jacques Dexter – Be Quite ++ The Zion Travelers – The Blood ++ Joni Mitchell – Jungle Line ++ Spike – Kanti Dadum ++ Wire – Used To ++ Abstract Truth – Moving Away ++ Yo La Tengo – Autumn Sweater ++ Lou Reed – I Can’t Stand It (lp version)

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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Transcending late night watering holes and still smoldering backyard ashtrays, Aircrafting’s debut, Dreamers, cuts a swath through the hazy din of Cosmic Americana. A lo-fi country folk collection of dusted Young-isms, the group began as a DIY recording project between friends John Tehel and Daniel Jacobs. As a whole, the group crested in 2015 with the addition of Nicole Lawrence, Pat Floyd and Lee Bones joining the duo live, adding heavy resonance with lush vocal harmonies, searing guitar and pummeling rhythm.

Recorded live in-studio over a period of two days (along with keening pedal steel overdubs courtesy of  Cass McCombs band’s Dan Iead), the results are a devastatingly beautiful 42 minutes that echo something akin to Stephen McBean fronting Atlanta-cum-Brooklyn’s sadly defunct brothers-in-arms, The Weight. words / d norsen

Dreamers is available now via cassette label Sinking Spaceship Recordings.

Aircrafting :: Tides

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I’ll never forget the exasperated look on the guy’s face, standing behind the counter, holding up the copy of Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band I was attempting to purchase.

“This is the Yoko version of the record,” he said, repeating it for the second time.

Pointing with his index figure at the album cover, at the figures reclining against a tree in the grass, he continued. “You can tell, because on the John version of the record, Yoko’s against the tree; on this one, John’s against the tree. So, I mean, just so you know, this is the Yoko version of the record. You want the John version of the record. John Lennon, Plastic Ono Band.”

If I’m being charitable, perhaps he thought I wasn’t ready for Yoko’s debut studio album, released in conjunction with John Lennon’s solo debut Plastic Ono Band in 1970. Maybe he thought I wouldn’t be able to wrap my head around the record’s raw, transcendent spirit. But more than likely, he was another dude simply dismissing Yoko, trying to negate or brush away her innovative career as modern artist and musical explorer, helping to introduce the conceptual approach of Fluxus to the world of pop music. In the heads of many like this dude at the record store, the conversation starts and ends with “Yoko broke up the Beatles” or “Yoko can’t sing.”

This week, Plastic Ono Band is reissued on vinyl alongside 1968’s Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins and 1969’s Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions. The records signal the start of a joint archival partnership between Indiana label Secretly Canadian and Ono’s Chimera Music to reissue 11 of Ono’s records, exploring her work from 1968-1985. Remastered and combined with photos, posters, and art objects (including reproductions of Ono’s “A Hole To See the Sky Through” card printed download codes to access bonus material), these editions represent the label’s intention to create “definitive” versions of these records. They are so thoughtfully presented they might even change the minds of a few Yoko deniers. Listening deeply to them, it feels impossible to argue against Ono’s adventurous spirit and the emotional content of these collaborations between her and Lennon, each one a daring expression of love between two people.

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There’s a lot of downtime on a tour. You drive, you load in, you wait to take the stage. There’s a lot of sitting, a lot of time to occupy yourself. It was during those moments waiting the new collaborative album by Eric Bachmann and Jon Rauhouse was born. The pair tours as part of Neko Case’s band, and while on the road with her last year, they found themselves tossing song ideas back and forth.

“I’d always play stuff I was working on and he’d chime in; he’d play stuff and I’d chime in on his,” Rauhouse says.

“We’d always do that,” Bachmann says. “So I brought it up to Jon. ‘We have these little things we noodle around with. You wanna try and actually organize them and make a record?'”

Rauhouse was game. After a few woodshedding sessions at Rauhouse’s place in Lilliwaup, Washington, they headed to Fivethirteen Recording in Tempe, Arizona and cut Eric Bachmann & Jon Rauhouse. Comprising 11 instrumental songs, the record features Rauhouse on pedal steel and guitar, Bachmann on piano and guitar, and a cast of local players on strings and horns.

It’s a mellow, thoroughly gentle listen. Opener “Liliwaup” recalls the American Primitivism of John Fahey or Leo Kottke. On “Asthmatic Gypsy,” Rauhouse’s pedal steel floats over shuffling piano chording. Songs like “JoJo Blanco” and “Scorpion” evoke dusty frontiers, while “Sea House” and “Drunk in Bilbao” drift casually in pools of Western Swing romanticism.