THE EXCITERS AND MARGIE JOSEPH: DEEPER AND DEEPER
The Exciters: Yo, Que Nada Tengo + Let Your Self Go
From S/T (Tamayo, late ’60s?)
Margie Joseph: I Can’t Move No Mountains + The Same Love That Made Me Laugh
From Margie (Atlantic, 1975)
I was thinking of something Murphy’s Law wrote a few weeks back: “THE DEEPER YOU GET, THE DEEPER THE MUSIC GET. There is more ill music out there than you and I can wrap our sorry little heads around.”
To me, the second statement actually refutes the former because really, there’s an incredibly, unfathomable amount of “ill music out there” on the surface that you don’t always need to “go deep” in order to find it.
That isn’t to say that “going deep” doesn’t have its own rewards. But rarity and quality are not commensurate. The relative quality of my best $10 albums probably kick the ass of other records I own that go from 10-20 times that. The main difference is that Al Green and James Brown albums were pressed in the millions. West Coast Revival…not so much.
Ultimately, it’s about searching for the sublime and to a certain extent, whether that manifests in the form of a $1 bin cut-out record or a $300 private press LP off Atomic’s wall, if you have the means, either is worth acquiring. Of course, rarity is a quality in and of itself…not because it’s better but often it is…quirkier. I’m generalizing of course but for those who don’t believe that popularity is determined by marketing alone, songs/albums that catch fire usually do so because they appeal to a wide swath of people. The albums that end up with runs smaller than batting averages – those are the ones that never caught on with anyone. Maybe they were ahead of their time. Maybe they were just too weird. Maybe someone was broke. Regardless, the higher up the record chain (or deeper if you prefer), it’s more likely you’re going to find something that’s just a bit “off.” And that may not always equate to sublime in the way, say, Willie Mitchell’s production is sublime. But it can equal “something you haven’t heard before.” (Secret translation: “interesting enough that you just mortgaged your daughter’s college fund for it.”)
This post mixes it up both ways. I start with The Exciters’ self-titled album on the Panamaian imprint Tamayo. Like most, I learned about the group through the excellent Panama comp that my man Beto worked on and luckily, when he had a copy for sale, I decided to take the plunge on it. It is, to be sure, a very quirky album, which befits the unique Panamanian geography of sound.
You can literally throw a dart at the tracklisting (preferably not however) and each song will come from a vastly different genre. My favorite song is actually the “Exciters Theme” (but you’ll have to cop the CD to enjoy it in full) but there’s also a nice merengue tipico track, “Ese Muerto No Lo Cargo Yo,” for the dancefloor. There’s also several American covers, none more mesmerizing than the Spanish language cover of “I, Who Have Nothing”, “Yo, Que Nada Tengo.” I don’t know how they’re processing those guitars at the beginning, but it almost sounds like a steel guitar…played underwater.
No less surprising is the cover of James Brown’s “Let Yourself Go” – a modest 1967 hit. The version doesn’t hold up against the original (though the Exciters’ guitarist should do Jimmy Nolen proud) but I do always love hearing Brown covered outside of the U.S.
Ok – so that’s the money record. Here’s the bargain bin gem: I first heard “I Can’t Move No Mountains” when Hua and I did our Redwood gig and he dropped this Joseph track on 45. It sounded amazing played out loud – the kind of disco cut you wish people would think of when they hear of the word “disco” instead of crap like this. (For starters, it all but annihilates the original. I seriously can’t get enough of this song and best of all – it’s off an album that rarely goes for very much at all (at least on vinyl. The only CD version that’s been readily avail was on Japanese import but it looks like it’s finally getting a domestic release next month). It’s a proverbial steal.
Plus, besides that song, you also get a very nice cover of Bill Withers’ “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh.” Sweet.
The moral is that there’s so much great music out there to discover and whether it costs you $1 or $100 or even $1000, the experience of hearing a great song for the first time is [wait for it]…priceless.
 Here’s a little secret: I almost never share songs from the latter, “top shelf” albums or 45s. This is likely a generational thing – I’m young enough to enjoy – really enjoy – blogging about music but I’m still part of an older school of collecting that keeps certain cards close to the chest. I know other bloggers/collectors don’t feel the same way (hence the rash of album-oriented audioblogs that post up stuff like, well, like that West Coast Revival album that I spent a pretty penny on only to see it posted up two weeks later. %*#)@!) and I respect their generosity, especially since it helps expose me to other records. That said, my holy grails and white whales tend only to get shared at the club or on a mixtape but I never felt Soul Sides suffered for it since, as noted, the amount of great – common – records out there is unbelievably deep that it’s not like anyone’s lacking because they haven’t heard that Filipino version of “Tango Goo Bonk” I keep squirreled away.