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Murphy's Law

L.A.-based Murphy holds down the Left Coast regional office of Mixtape Riot--his living room--where he writes & schemes on grand ideas. He also hosts BOOGALOO! a weekly residency at The Short Stop in Echo Park with colleague and fellow superblogger O-Dub (www.soul-sides.com).


First Born Second… Second Still-Born

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Bilal: Something To Hold On To, Gotsta Be Cool and Lord Don’t Let It

Taken from the as-yet-unreleased album Love For Sale (2006)

I tend to take it as a positive signal when an audience seems a bit perplexed by the performer they’ve come to watch. At the very least, I don’t think it’s a necessarily bad thing. Sure, it might indicate a musician out of step with his fanbase, or for that matter someone simply untalented, but Bilal is neither of these. He’s just on another level.

My friend said to me as we were leaving the show last Friday, “Dude looked like he was freaking the peyote train.” And he did–look like it, I mean. He had a certain transcendental air about him. (His stage presence felt more Jim Morrison than what one might figure the cool “neo-soul” crooner type.) But I got the sense watching him that all the manifestations of his esoteric style–dress, demeanor and vocal execution–were the very ways that made his music impactful. And different. And hard for some of the crowd to get avidly behind, mainly ’cause they were just a little confused.

But one thing’s sure: dude’s killing it. And he’s doing it his way.

There is nothing trite or re-hashed about the way Bilal executes his songs. Inimitable structuring (courtesy of high caliber training in jazz and opera), haunting falsetto vocals, and a mean idea of a backing band (SA-RA suckas!), make for an artist that, even if he can’t get the crowd frenzy of a swooning D’Angelo, delivers on the hope of a future for soul music.

These songs were taken off an album that was never saw a proper release but is widely available for download on the internet. I’ve been fiending this ish since the day I first laid ears on it. Get hip.


The Original Gumbo Funk

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Bob Azzam: Rain, Rain, Go Away, Berimbau and The Last Time
Taken from the album New Sounds on Columbia (1968)

Query: Where in pop music does a bespectacled Lebanese-born Egyptian-Jew who, on a single album, records covers of Alan Toussaint, The Rolling Stones and classic Brazilian standards fit in… Is there a home on the charts for a guy who sings in six languages, borrowing sonic textures from Kalamazoo to Timbuktu and everything in between?

Answer: Yeah. He’s got a home alright. And I’ll tell you exactly where he fits in: right at the damn top.

By the time Bob Azzam recorded these songs, he was already a household name. Kids across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia Minor had been hip to the avuncular Azzam for nearly a decade. He had crashed the musical scene in the late 50’s with his sincerely off-beat hit “Mustapha”–sung in French, Arabic and Italian–about meeting a girl in an Egyptian night club. At one point in the course of that song he claims (in Italian) to adore her like “salsa pommodore” (tomato sauce), which to the fledgling Azzam-o-phile may sound wierd. But considering that other of his hits include a song called “Fais-mois du couscous, cheri”, which translates to “Make Me Couscous, Darling”, the sauce simile might seem so bizarre.

(Imagine Justin Timberlake comparing his broken love with Britney to a crumbled Pop Tart [Ouch. No pun intended.] Damn. Music done changed.)

Azzam would spent most of his adult years living in and touring around Europe preaching his pan-global gospel to legions of multi-ethnic diaspora, European-minded Europeans, and generally curious passers-by. And, to my mind, he must have left his mark on them all: music for the masses; something for everyone.

Anyhow… These selections come from a superb album which reflects in its 30-odd minutes all the wonderfully diverse music stylings of a guy clearly unperturbed by the idea of mixing flavors from around the world into a pungent, zesty stew where bongo meets sitar and fuzz meets flute… Maybe that’s what he meant by “salsa pommodore”–a sauce of his own peculiar and delicious blend. A kind of Azzam-esque Gumbo Funk. Hm.

(As a side note, I think that this music could be categorized as “Exotica”, though I think that would be a bit of a misnomer. The founding principle of Exotica–correct me if I’m wrong–is white man’s (read: colonizer’s) take on foreign (read: colonized) music. So while the Azzam’s stuff bears some sonic resemblance to the iller strains of Exotica, I think he kind of transcends the genre because he is all that he represents.)


Holy Grails Of Bizzarro

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Yamasuki: Yama Yama, Kono Samurai, Yamasuki, Yokomo and Aieda
Taken from the album Le Monde Fabuleux des Yamasuki on Biram (1970)

This post stands as a warning to the fledgeling record head, a couple hundred LP’s into the game and feeling pretty good about himself and his collection of sample-heavy CTI dollar-bin’ers and lesser known funk-rock gems on Westbound and Cotillion… You don’t know how far the rabbit hole goes.

Hear me loud and clear on this one, friends: THE DEEPER YOU GET, THE DEEPER THE MUSIC GETS. There is more ill music out there than you and I can wrap our sorry little heads around and we’re suckers to think otherwise.

I’ll put it another way… the more stones you turn, the rockier the underbelly. Take for example


I have very little doubt that 90-some percent of the non-Japanese, non-LSD-loving populace that might lay ears on this record would be entirely perplexed by it. Even hate it. “What,” they might ask, “Could have possessed somebody to combine twangy Morricone-esque guitars with Axelrod beats and Far Eastern choral arrangements?” And they would be right to ask the question.

But the answer, simply, for now and for always, is Yamasuki. Yamasuki. Yamasuki.

I will further endorse this record by saying that the five tracks posted here could have been arbitrarily selected. The whole album is start to finish sonic mayhem that gets better with each go-round. Not for the weak of heart, to be sure, but a record of such originality and–dare I say–grace, that if the first hundred listens don’t make sense, you’d better hope that the hundred-and-first does because Yamasuki is like that patronizing dog in Duck Hunt: they always get the last laugh.

You’re either with ’em or against ’em, friends… You know where I stand.


Mais Mozambique

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Yara Da Silva: Se Kero Kantar

Ziqo: Cerveja

Dj Africano: ???

Unknown Artist: ???

All tracks taken from streetside bootlegs, Maputo, Mozambique (2007)

As promised, a few more Mozambican club jams gleaned from my travels. These selections span everything from Ms. Da Silva (who strikes me as Mozambique’s answer to Missy Eliot), American-style radio R&B and house-y type ish, to the contemporary flavors of marabenta, where, if you can avoid cringing at the floating synths utilized on “Cerveja”, I think you’ll be gratified with some pretty sweet crooning.

Mind you, Mozambique has an incredibly rich and variegated musical history and these selections only hint at the contemporary musical climate there. But if M.I.A. is any indication of taste-making, her use of Mozambican rapper African Boy on Kala, should intimate what I’m getting at here: clubs in Maputo are going off.

I wish I had more of the older stuff to sink my teeth into (in particular, I heard some tracks on the radio by a guy named David Abilio that were off the chains, but I couldn’t find anything else by or about him), but we’ll just have to live with what we’ve got.

PS. How about that flag? She’s the only one in the world with an AK featured on it… Not a bad piece of flag trivia.



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Tim Maia: Imunizacao Racional and Contato Com Mundo Racional”
Taken from the album Racional Vol. 1 on Seroma (1975)

Tim Maia: Quer Queria Que Nao Queria and O Caminho Do Bem
Taken from the album Racional Vol. 2 on Seroma (1975)

I’m digging deep into the crates of rareities to unleash on y’all a couple of the more delectable delights of mid-seventies Brazilian soul, courtesy of the one and only, the gargantuan (in both physical and musical terms) TIM MAIA!

This guy is truly an epic character in post-Tropicalia Brazilian music (often referred to as MPB) and this duo of albums hints at why…

It should be noted that the inspiration for these albums was devined from an obscure Brazilian cult, called Universo em Desencanto, which explains the bizarre cover art and also the fact that, if you were a Portugese-speaker, it would probably feel like ol’ Timmy was proselytizing the hell outta you over the course of these two albums. Like a south of de border Jerry Falwell, but funkier.

That said, the music speaks for itself. (No wonder, when City Of God came out, they couldn’t resist the employing “O Caminho Do Bem” to enhance the net effect of the film: namely, awesomeness.)

This post is, however, part of a larger ploy: I’m utilizing the particular dopeness of these tracks as bait to lure any self-respecting, groove-loving Angelenos out to the Short Stop in Echo Park (1455 Sunset Blvd.) FRIDAY NIGHT where I’ll be DJ’ing alongside the illustrious O-Dub, of Soul-Sides notoriety, for a scintillating journey through the vinyl vaults of SOUL, FUNK, LATIN, SALSA and BOOGALOO. We’ll be doing it all night long, so come early and stay late.

BONUS: in addition to a edited recording of the live set from tomorrow night which will be available to anyone who signs up on our mailing list, I will also bring a handful of CD copies of the REST of the blazing fire from the Racional albums, in addition to other rare Brazilian goodness. Ask and ye shall recieve. (First come first serve…)

See you tomorrow…


Holiday Bounty

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Phirpo Y Los Caribes: Comencemos, Esa Pava Que and Mi Moooto
Taken from the album Parilla Caliente on Phillips (1973)

The holidays are a tricky thing. Surpluses of emotion, family drama, food, cold weather-related ennui, high school acquaintances and old friends flit and flitter, enter and exit, assert and reassert their power in ways that we manage to forget for most of the other eleven plus months of the year. More than anything, the holidays tend to overwhelm because they bring together so much in such a relatively short window of time.

For me things are further complicated by the fact that, after nine months in Southern Africa, and coming fresh off a blistering alter-hemispheric summer, I am in soggy, frigid San Francisco, wilin’ out with the fam (Captain included) and all of our concomitant family drama, trying to work out in my head the sheer density of stuff going on in a world I haven’t been part of for the last three quarters of a year.

And instead of driving myself batty, looking for solace in the stars or the good ol’ fashioned pulse of American post-Christmas commerce, I decided to turn to a few newly acquired records (homecoming gifts to myself), which have managed to allow me to feel decidedly mellow despite the swirl of circumstance going on around me.

Here are Phirpo and his Caribes: mysterious afro-latin funkers from Medellin, Columbia, who for today will transport you away–if momentarily–from your snowy family antics and harrowing gift-return missions to Macy’s, lift you across land and ocean and bring you to a warmer, sunnier place where the congas blaze and the horns blast; where the sand sifts through your toes and the palm trees sway… and you are dancing, just dancing.

To homecomings…

A gift to you all. Merry Holidays.