Friday, December 26, 2008

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou
Vol 1. - The Vodoun Effect:
Funk & Sato From Benin's Obscure Labels 1972-75
Analog Africa
14 song CD

The traditional African "Vodun" (voodoo) rhythms of Sato and Sakpata clash with the Western sounds of funk, soul, and rock in this brilliant collection of music from Benin's Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou. This first volume of tracks covers the years 1972-1975, when the OPRdC was recorded on a simple Nagra reel-to-reel in Benin by a sound engineer with two mics.

The music is an indescribable mix of African and Western soul music, featuring funky basslines merging with hypnotizing beats in a sonic polyglot that defy categorization, at times reminding me of jazz and Latin music in spirit. The irony here is that African music helped define music in the Americas, specifically jazz, blues, and Latin music. Here we see it come full circle, where influences of the West returned to influence the sounds of its ancestry. And somewhat sadly, this 30+ years old music is being heard here for the first time, as most of it had limited printing/distribution and it was never officially released outside Benin.

So to most of us, this is all brand new and exciting to hear as if it is happening in the here and now. Another testament to the timeless nature of music and its power to thrive and grow.

MISH MASH Mandate: Timeless Funk
Analog Africa Website

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stan Getz
The Bossa Nova Albums

5 CD Box Set

Bossa nova was all the rage in the US for a brief time in the early 60s, thanks in large part to Stan Getz, who imported this beautiful music from Brazil, introduced us all to Antonio Carlos Jobim, and breathed new life into the world of jazz. This collection from Verve brings together five of Getz's must-have Verve albums from this period, including Jazz Samba, Jazz Samba Encore!, Big Band Bossa Nova, Getz/Gilberto, and Stan Getz With Guest Artist Laurindo Almeida. The albums have been remastered and are presented here in their original album formats with original liner notes.

I will skip the traditional album reviews (most of these albums should at least be somewhat familiar to most jazz fans) and get down to a few of my nit-picky complaints. While I must say that this is a brilliant collection, and a great introduction to the catalog of Getz, it does have its faults. The first glaring omissions are two other Getz albums which could be included, namely Getz Au Go Go (a live album with Astrud Gilberto) and Getz/Gilberto #2 (another live album, this time with João Gilberto). I especially wish Getz Au Go Go was included, because it is a wonderful album on par with the best of this box set. Also, there are no bonus/previously unreleased tracks at all, only the albums in their original form. Blame it on the fact that I'm a completist, but this makes the exclusion of the other albums even more questionable, as these five albums are not long at all and could have fit easily on two or three discs total. Another issue I have is the lack of an insert booklet, which would give the listener a better historical perspective on these recordings. Instead we are left with nothing other than the original liner notes, which only give us part of the story. Verve has unfortunately missed an opportunity to make this excellent box set an absolutely essential box set.

With that having been said, it is still good to see that Verve recognizes the importance of Getz and his contribution to jazz. As these five albums are surely staples for any serious jazz connoisseur, it's a great way to round out your collection, as far as Getz is concerned.

MISH MASH Mandate: Blame It On The Bossa Nova
Verve Music Group Website

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Sprague Brothers
4 New Smashing Songs!

Wichita Falls Records
4 song CD

The Sprague Brothers (Frank and Chris) are back, this time with a cookin' little original four song EP that accentuates their retroactive rock-n-roll skills. The boys lead it off with two surf cuts, Batmobile and Dragula, putting a cheeky stamp on all that is kitschy and cool about the 60s. Golden Sahara is laid back and quiet with a focus on shimmering vocals, a Brian Wilson/Pet Sounds inspired song that is simply mesmerizing. The EP is rounded off with the twangy guitars of Return Of The Munsters, where the Spragues lay it all out. The only way this could be better is if it were available on vinyl, because that is what this music was made for.

MISH MASH Mandate: 60s Smash!
Sprague Brothers Website