Author Archive

Album Review: Wattstax: The Living Word

With apologies to Sir Walter Scott, “oh, what a tangled web we weave, when again we practice to re-release.” The 1972 Wattstax festival was black R&B’s excellent (if belated) answer to Woodstock and other festivals of the era. Concerts in and around the Watts district of Los Angeles put the spotlight on Stax Records’ best

Album Review: Stax: The Soul of Hip-Hop

This compilation would have been an inspired, brilliant idea, had it not been done already (see review of the 2008 Blue Note compilation Droppin’ Science). So instead it’s merely a very, very good idea. Hip-hop is a genre that is largely built on synthesizing earlier works. And one of its virtues is its sense of

Album Review: Various Artists — Stax Does the Beatles

Before succumbing to the vicissitudes of the record biz, Stax Records was one of the coolest labels in the 60s and 70s. Rawer and earthier than Motown, the black-oriented label out of Memphis turned out classic albums from Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & the MGs and many others. Many of these artists wrote their own

Album Review: Various Artists — Malt shop Memories

I’ve made a similar point before, but it’s worth saying again: in general Time-Life musical retrospectives haven’t got a long history of credibility. In general they’ve been viewed as cash-ins, as attempts at capitalizing on the fleeting resurgence in popularity of a particular genre, subgenre or craze. So it was against that backdrop that I

Album Review: Droppin’ Science: Greatest Samples from the Blue Note Lab

This is one of those projects that makes you ask, “Why didn’t someone do this sooner?” Many artists on the famed Blue Note label have had their work sampled over the years. The 1969-’75 work of their artists would be a treasure trove for innovative hip-hop artists; many of the era’s best jazz/pop tracks were

Album Review: The United States of America – s/t

It’s easy to forget that in 1968, getting weird and unearthly sounds on your album (assuming you wanted them; plenty did) was no easy task. There were no presets, no samples; if you wanted the whooping effect of a ring modulator, you had to find one, and then figure out how to operate the damn

Album Reviews: The Replacements Reissues (2008)

The Replacements – Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (Rhino/Rykodisc) The Replacements – Stink EP (Rhino/Rykodisc) The Replacements – Hootenanny (Rhino/Rykodisc) The Replacements – Let it Be (Rhino/Rykodisc) Nobody knew it at the time. I remember when these albums came out; the hipper of my musician friends actually liked The Replacements, but most

DVD Review: Otis Redding — Respect Live 1967

This brief DVD is an effort to collect all extant performance footage of Otis Redding in the months before his untimely death. On that level, it succeeds, more or less. But in doing so, it — by necessity — re-re-recycles material that’s been around for years. Half of the running time consists of Redding’s stellar

Album Reviews: Rascals / Young Rascals Reissues (2007)

Young Rascals: The Young Rascals (Collectors’ Choice) Collections (Collectors’ Choice) Groovin’ (Collectors’ Choice) Rascals: Once Upon a Dream (Collectors’ Choice) Freedom Suite (Collectors’ Choice) See (Collectors’ Choice) Search and Nearness (Collectors’ Choice) The (Young) Rascals released nine albums during their career (1966-1972). All but the last two were on Atlantic, and have now been licensed

Album Review: The Pretty Things — S.F. Sorrow

The 1968 album S.F. Sorrow by The Pretty Things is an exemplar of a band, pushed to the wall, rising to the occasion and producing a classic. Prior to this, the Pretties were thought of as more-Stones-than-the-Stones, with their raw, r&b-based rock. S.F. Sorrow would change all that. The loose narrative is based on a