To those outside of the region, Burkina Faso may be one of the lesser-known parts of West Africa, but the landlocked country adjacent to Ghana and the Ivory Coast has a musical pedigree that can stand proudly alongside its better-known neighbors. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, not long before then-President Thomas Sankara changed the country’s name from the French-colonial-era Upper Volta to its current one, new forms of popular music emerged as a soundtrack to the cultural revolution. In a new compilation, dedicated and respectful reissuers Mr Bongo have presented a widely varied overview of the songs that accompanied that crucial period of the country’s history.
No compilation of music from Burkina Faso would be complete without the songs of Amadou Balaké, probably the biggest musical star to emerge from the small country, and this collection includes a healthy serving, ranging from modern takes on the traditional Mandé style to intentional interpretations of contemporary Latin American music. A major proponent and proselytizer for Latin sounds who consistently incorporated them in his own music, his Afro-charanga “Whiskey Et Coca-Cola,” included here, became popular on the northern coast of Colombia, lately reclassified as a champeta classic by Barranquilla and Cartagena sound systems.
The compilation crosses decades into the ’80s with the synth-laced Afro-disco sound of Pierre Sandwidi’s “Boy Cuisiner,” an effervescent bubbler certain to find its way into the DJ sets of those into the so-called tropical sound.
It is axiomatic that any current African collection must include some straight-up funk (I’m not complaining!), and Mr. Bongo checks that box with a tasty instrumental from Mangue Kondé et Les 5 Consuls that could easily be mistaken for a JB’s outtake, complete with monster drum break. We can only hope that “Pop Kondé” finds its way to a properly reissued 7-inch single, as this is one that begs to be cut up for the b-boys and girls out there.
The Original Sound of Burkina Faso is available as deluxe 2-LP gatefold vinyl, CD and digital, including a booklet with vintage photographs and extensive liner notes from compilers David “Mr Bongo” Buttle and Florent Mazzoleni.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Grand Puba’s debut LP ‘Reel to Reel’, our buddy Chris Read has crafted another dope mix of album tracks, alternative versions, and original sample material from the likes of Donny Hathaway, Donald Byrd, Otis Redding, James Brown, and more. Enjoy!
Artwork: Leon Nockolds
1. Grand Puba – Soul Controller [Loop]
2. Chris Read – Theme #3 (Scratchapella)
3. Johnnie Taylor – Ain’t That Loving You (sampled in ‘Big Kids Don’t Play’)4. Grand Puba – Big Kids Don’t Play
5. Mtume – Bigger’s Theme (sampled in ‘Back It Up’)
6. A Tribe Called Quest – Jazz (We’ve Got) [Extract] (sampled in ‘Back It Up’)
7. Grand Puba feat Kid Capri – Back It Up
8. Donny Hathaway – What’s Goin’ On (sampled in ‘Baby What’s Your Name’)
9. Grand Puba – Baby What’s Your Name
10. Gladys Kinight & The Pips – The Way We Were [Extract] (sampled in ‘Who Makes The Loot?’)
11. Grand Puba feat Brand New Heavies – Who Makes The Loot?
12. Nathan Davis – Stick Buddy (sampled in ‘Ya Know How It Goes’)
13. Patti Drew – Hard to Handle [Extract] (sampled in ‘Ya Know How It Goes’)
14. Grand Puba – Ya Know How It Goes
15. Donald Byrd – Ode to Billie Joe (sampled in ‘Reel to Reel’)
16. Grand Puba – Reel to Reel
17. The Honey Drippers – Impeach the President (sampled in ‘Check It Out’)
18. Grand Puba feat Mary J Blige – Check It Out
19. Otis Redding – Let Me Come On Home [Loop] (sampled in ‘Check It Out’)
20. Idris Muhammad – Crab Apple (sampled in ‘Check it Out (Stimulated Dummies Remix)’)
21. Grand Puba feat Mary J Blige – Check It Out (Stimulated Dummies Remix)
22. Funk Inc – Kool Is Back [Loop] (sampled in ‘Check Tha Resume’)
23. Otis Redding – I Love You More Than Words Say (sampled in ‘Check Tha Resume’)
24. Grand Puba – Check Tha Resume
25. Otis Redding & Carla Thomas – Tramp [Loop] (sampled in ‘360, What Goes Round’)
26. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Don’t Burn Down the Bridge [Extract] (sampled in ‘360, What Goes Round’)
27. Grand Puba – 360, What Goes Round
28. Grand Puba – 360, What Goes Round (SD50 Remix)
29. The Mar-Keys – Grab This Thing (sampled in ‘360, What Goes Round (SD50 Remix)’)
30. Ultramagnetic MCs – Give The Drummer Some [Loop] (sampled in ‘That’s How We Move It’)
31. James Brown – The Boss [Extract] (sampled in ‘That’s How We Move It’)
32. Grand Puba – That’s How We Move It
33. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – Flash It To The Beat [Extract] (sampled in ‘That’s How We Move It’)
34. KC & The Sunshine Band – Boogie Shoes (sampled in ‘That’s How We Move It (Remix)’
35. Grand Puba – That’s How We Move It (Remix)
36. S.O.U.L – Soul (sampled in ‘Honey Don’t Front’)
37. Donald Byrd – Brother Soul (sampled in ‘Honey Don’t Front’)
38. Grand Puba – Honey Don’t Front
39. Grand Puba – Lickshot
40. Jimmie Walker – The Apollo [Extract] (sampled in ‘Lickshot’)
41. Byrdie Green – Return of the Prodigal Son (sampled in ‘Lickshot’)
You may not know Aaron Frazer by name, but if you’ve heard the debut Durand Jones & the Indications album released in 2016, you’ve heard his voice. While he only has one lead vocal track on the album (“Is It Any Wonder”), it’s a stunning marriage of a laid-back groove and breezy vocal. Bandmate Durand Jones has categorized Frazer as a secret weapon in concerts. While Jones has handled most of the lead work thus far, Frazer has gotten to perform “Is It Any Wonder” during their tour stops over the last year as well as perform covers like Brenda Russell’s 1979 deep album track “Think It Over.”
Aside from smooth soul, though, Frazer has another deep musical passion: gospel music, especially regional 45s. Born in Baltimore, he has found himself collecting gospel 45s from that region of Maryland over the last few years. Touring across the country has provided him an opportunity to get a greater appreciation for just how hyper-localized, as he calls it, each city’s musical thumbprint really is. With a love for the genre in mind, those gospel 45s were a driving force for wanting to write and record one of his own. “I gravitate towards the ones that take their cues from sweet soul, with close mic’d drums and vocals, rather than the roomy-sounding live congregational recordings,” he states of his personal preferences. He continues to elaborate, “The rawer, the better. I’m a sucker for records where the bass or guitar is way out of tune. It gives me the feeling as a listener that I’m hearing a personal expression of faith, rather than something with lofty ambitions or pretensions.”
Label founder Terry Cole has been wholly supportive of the initiative. This 45 will be the first of its genre on the label based out of southwestern Ohio, just outside of Cincinnati. Cole and Frazer have had numerous discussions about gospel 45s since work began on the Durand Jones & the Indications album. When Frazer pitched the idea of a Devotional Series to his boss, exclamation marks apparently spewed right out of Cole’s mouth.
The inaugural release came out on October 20 under the name the Flying Stars Of Brooklyn, NY. It follows the naming convention of so many gospel groups from the ’60s onward to combine an extravagant adjective, a celestial body, and a name of a town or region to differentiate it from a potential similarly named group from another part of the country. Furthermore, he states, “the localization shows pride for the community you’re a part of. Brooklyn, of course, has an incredible legacy with gospel music, and I’m just trying to do right by that history.”
Frazer invited friends such as Micah Blaichman of Lord Youth and Wyndham Baird on guitar to play on the record as Frazer handles drums and lead vocals. Recorded in his living room apartment in Brooklyn, the musicians opted to record as a live session on a Tascam 484 Portastudio as opposed to tracking instruments individually. The two songs, “My God Has a Telephone” and “Live On,” are a full group effort. Frazer speaks flatteringly of Wyndham and Baird as co-writing partners calling them “incredible songwriters and interpreters” as well as of Eli “Paperboy” Reed, who helped to co-write “Live On” along with providing some rhythmic guitar flourishes.
Rachel Housle and Phyllis Ophelia contribute their gorgeous background vocals on the simple but effective “oohs” in “My God Has a Telephone.” Blaichman’s bass provides a backbone for everything else to rest on. On the flip side, Frazer handles all the harmonies himself while organist Steve Okonski leads the charge. “My God Has a Telephone” comes across as conversational where “Live On” seems more reflective and self-reassuring.
Does he prefer one song over the other? If so, Frazer isn’t telling. “I went back and forth between what would go on the A side, but I’m a believer in double siders! I feel like both tracks can stand on their own.” The original tunes are something he wanted to share with the world–and himself–as a reminder to promote positivity to combat the overwhelming negativity that pervades today. “Whether people are religious or not, I believe the themes of gospel music can be applied to any worldview.”
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Diamond D’s debut LP Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop, originally released September 22, 1992, our buddy Chris Read has crafted one of his signature mixtapes: expertly blending album tracks including “Sally Got a One-Track Mind,” “Best-Kept Secret,” and “What U Heard” with alternative versions, remixes, interview snippets, and original sample material.
Njurmannen behind plastic. Photo courtesy of Lasse Hejdenberg.
Following up last year’s epic Close to the Noise Floor compilation of early British electronica, Noise Reduction System crosses the channel to delve into the primal European electronica cassette-only label underground, alongside early vinyl releases by slightly more established yet equally ground-breaking innovators.
The inexpensive synthesizer was supplanting the guitar as the angst-y bedroom musician’s weapon of choice, but the DIY ethos of punk was still in full effect across Europe in the late 1970s and early 1980s. From Norway to Greece, in home studios and art spaces across the continent, electronic musicians began to stretch the boundaries of sonic experimentation. Some wanted to dance, others to confuse and confront, some attempted to channel all of these impulses in one track. Over the course of 62 magnificently bizarre and unreasonably catchy tunes spread over four discs, compiler Dave Henderson has provided a weighty testament to these pioneers that is not inaccurately described by label Cherry Red as “part primitive rave, part synthesizer porn, part history lesson.”
“Mainland Europe had always been a hotbed of experimentation,” Henderson notes in his extensive and witty essay that accompanies the set. As a columnist for Sounds magazine in the early ’80s, he was, with some trepidation, given leeway to explore the new electronic sounds of such far-flung locales as Slovenia, Latvia, Estonia and the closer underbellies of Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, Germany and the Netherlands. “These people were indeed embracing new technology,” he recalls, “but they also had time for toy instruments, prehistoric voice computers and Casio’s tinniest keyboard. There were rudimentary drum machines and notes that confessed, ‘that’s my voice through a Korg.'” Despite the widely disparate places of origin, there is, as he notes, a “unifying leftfield wonkiness” to the music. Listening back in 2017, these creations are no less bizarre, no less captivating and perhaps even more charming in their faith in the just-born technology that would ultimately swamp the planet as the millennium progressed.
Below are five favorites from the set, an absolutely essential addition to the library of the electronic music historian and simply tremendous fun for anyone with an open ear and a taste for the unusual. Accompanying each are notes from the artists themselves, another noteworthy example of the extreme care and love that has gone into this box set, surely a contender for any best-of-the-year list.
Noise Reduction System is available at all fine music retailers and directly from Cherry Red themselves.
Andre DeKonig – Party Talk
“Recorded fall/winter 1982 using a Roland Drumatix, a Korg MS-20 and a Casio VL-1, and using ping-pong recording between a reel to reel tape machine and cassette deck. The unintelligible noise you hear is my voice processed through the Korg.”
Daniele Ciullini – Marbles in the Garden
“Daniele is an Italian musician active from 1980 to 1986 in the area of independent self-productions with concrete music works and minimal electronica. After a long pause, I resumed my activity in 2011 with multiple electronic works in the dark ambient and industrial fields.”
Christina Kubisch – Speak & Spell
“The main instrument in Speak & Spell was a small ‘voice computer’ for children made by Texas Instruments and named the ‘Speak & Spell.’ It was very colorful and nice to look at. As far as I remember it was made for children to learn English. It was difficult to ‘loop’ sounds (seems so easy today) so I recorded sounds on a tape deck, playing them back and repeating the same thing for as long as I could. I also used an early Casio synthesiser borrowed from a friend, even though I did not own one myself.”
Saal 2 – Die Internationale
Saal 2 (“Hall 2”) was formed in Hamburg in 1980. Original member Jens Kraft recalls a conversation with his bandmate Godke Ilse: “Originally we were called The Seahorses. But when [a magazine] wanted to publish something about our recordings, that name was not good enough. I called Godeke, we were brainstorming, and he said ‘Saal 2.’ I asked him how he had come to this stupid name and he said, ‘I’m sitting at my father’s desk and there are two Dave Brubeck tickets in front of me, Dave Brubeck in Saal 2!’ I called [the magazine] and gave them our new name.”
Malaria! – Geld
Gudrun Gut of Malaria! recalls: “We had the most intense time with Malaria! We were constantly touring. We performed in New York with Nina Hagen at Studio 54 and with John Cale at the Mudd Club, and we played with New Order and The Birthday Party. We shared the Malaria! rehearsal room in Berlin with Die Haut, who lived in an apartment in Dresdner Straße together with Birthday Party. Everything was wildly mixed up there as well. We were forever swapping musicians among each other. We were strong women, not delicate fairies, not flute players. We wanted to make a point of that.”
So, apparently, Lee “Scratch” Perry has remade his 1976 classic dub album Super Ape. And as our friend says, it might be Scratch’s best work since he burned down the Black Ark nearly forty years ago. At eighty-one years old, Perry and original percussionist Larry McDonald—along with NYC dancehall legend Screechy Dan—have revisited the album’s timeless tracks and reimagined them for “the bass obsessed, sound system generation.”
The album, Super Ape Returns to Conquer, drops on September 22 on Subatomic Sound. Label guru, Subatomic band leader, and album coproducer Emch explains the concept behind completely remaking Super Ape: “It is a crazy thing to do to completely remake a classic. No one has ever dared to do something like that. It prompts the question: What is the motivation if it was already classic? Really, it was to adapt a slow, hypnotic album to a hype live show while still maintaining the vibes that make the music special. Like an alternate version.”
We’re premiering the track “Curly Dub,” below.
“Curly Dub” features a bold steppers beat and unlikely swaggering jazz bass line that get turnt up and taken on a psychedelic trip back to Africa. Though reggae is often identified by its signature bass lines, Scratch upends convention on this composition with a massive walking jazz bass line originally over a four on the floor steppers beat (somewhat groundbreaking in the 1970s) that is redone by Subatomic Sound in heavyweight fashion with tight 808 house kicks, big belly sine wave bass, and an added energy boost from improvised Ethiopian sax solos – extending the original American jazz influence all the way back to Africa. Screechy Dan reincarnates Scratch’s original vocals that harken back very clearly to the vocal phrasing style that Scratch famously nurtured in Bob Marley. Scratch blends his spirituality with signature humor, proclaiming “I am free” and that he is black Moses, here to free the people, imploring the to feel it, smell it, and taste it. Scratch was a huge influence on the Beastie Boys, one of the few respected artists also known for their humor, who featured Scratch on their track Dr. Lee Phd.
The official tour starts October 24—with a can’t-miss NYC show at Output on the 25th with Francois K/Deep Space!