Before GIL SCOTT-HERON signed out from his time on an Earth that didn't deserve him, he released one last album, the compact, enigmatic 'I'm New Here', which summed up his vast career with characteristic understatement. Almost singlehandedly (although not without the guidance of his mother, to whom he pays warm tribute on the LP), Gil invented rap, steered poetry and jazz towards the same race and class politics-steeped lane, and pioneered a new kind of personal soul music, crafting a sound that is the sinew around nearly everything we call modern pop today. Though subtle, 'I'm New Here' held the proof of this: with Damon Albarn in the studio, big DJs lining up to remix, Kanye samples on the opening and closing tracks, and Scott-Heron peppering interpolations of Robert Johnson, Bill Callahan, and Brook Benton among his originals, the album feels less like a session than a seance. Straining cliches like "timeless", the flowing ease of 'I'm New Here' seemed to invite even more re-interpretations, like a recipe book left behind. Jamie XX took up the brief of converting the album into a stark, contemplative club bomb, and now, ten years later, Chicago jazz leading light MAKAYA MCCRAVEN and his group have given these sessions yet another re-imagining. With drums, vibraphone, harp, and a distinct, layered, live-room feel, we get another perspective on Gil's final message, by no means definitive, but perhaps the most true to GSH's jazz roots. In addition to this new LP, 'I'm New Here' get's a ten year expanded edition with a second disc of of unheard studio takes, versions of classic songs like "Winter In America", and spoken word interludes from Gil, one of the most enlightening jazz teachers we've ever had the privilege of hearing. A few decades earlier, and a bit further downtown, a street musician named MOONDOG was putting a similarly indelible stamp on modern music with his homemade instruments, twenty seven tempos, and invented vocal scales. Few musicians altered the course of composition like Moondog did; Steve Reich and Philip Glass each claim they got more education out of his 50s recordings than anything they heard inside the academy. Prolific NYC recordist Tony Schwartz captured a set of Moondog street performances that would appear on his first 45 release, 'On The Streets of New York', in 1953. Initiating a project that will include much more of Schwartz's vast archives, the Mississippi Records label reissues this 45 as an LP, with several more unheard recordings from these sessions, and some wonderfully illuminating interviews with quite possibly the most interesting musician in American history not named Gil Scott-Heron.
In an unlikely pairing that nevertheless works perfectly (damn you, A&R geniuses!), we have a new EP from KHRUANGBIN and LEON BRIDGES called 'Texas Sun', which plays to the sun-baked strengths of both acts. Pop kingpins GREEN DAY check in with a new album called 'Father of All...', and we have new records from grunge-pop lifers NADA SURF and NYC alt-countrymen THE LONE BELLOW.
Some fantastic hip-hop rolls in this week, with new albums from lyricists STALLEY and ROC MARCIANO, a repress of the killer jazz-beat melange OHBLIV album from last year, a new beat tape from the always-on point MNDSGN, plus the instrumental version of FREDDIE GIBBS and MADLIB's 'Bandana', and the debut album from woozy trap beatwizard LIL TECCA.
This week's deepest trapdoor into the unknown comes via the AMERICA INVERTIDA compilation on the Vampisoul label, which collects deep nuggets of sensual folk, electronics and jazz from 70s and 80s Uruguay. Much like the two volumes of the 'Outro Tempo' comps peeled away layers of genius, yet obscure music from Brazil, this set reveals a similarly fertile Montevideo scene that found little popularity outside of the city. Several songs here truly must be heard to be believed, on a set that is clearly a labor of deep dedication, if the prices on originals of these records are to be believed. We're also thrilled to have a new record from OMAR SOULEYMAN on the Mad Decent label, and a new record from VILLAELVIN, the collaboration between a Viennese sound artist and a collective of Ugandan producers from the Nyege Nyege label, which is really moving some air.
'7fingers' was the 2009 collaboration that introduced us to pianist NILS FRAHM and cellist ANNE MULLER for the first time. Expertly blending beautiful modern classical with smudgy glitch, this one is now back in print on CD and LP. Pioneering ambient musician STEVE ROACH released a series of cassettes in the late 80s called 'Quiet Music' which have become standouts in his catalog, now back in print on vinyl along with, for the first time ever, an LP version of the 2001 UK performance of ARVO PART's stirring chorale work 'Passio',
Longtime songform innovators DIRTY PROJECTORS flex their live strength with 'Sing The Melody', a new EP of classic material recorded in a NYC studio while on tour. Reigning Afrobeat champions ANTIBALAS return with a new album called 'Fu Chronicles', and we have lovely swerved-up pop albums from SHOPPING and HOLY FUCK.
Dearly departed outsider pop icon DANIEL JOHNSTON is celebrated with two new vinyl editions of his music this week, starting with a lovely live set from Chicago 2017. Typical Johnston live gigs involved a hastily-assembled backing band of locals. When he played Madison years back, that band included none other than our own longtime staffer Marty! This time, it included folks like Jeff Tweedy and Jim Elkington (who we like almost as much as Marty), and it's a splendid and touching a live document as you'll ever hear. We've also got a new vinyl pressing of his 1994 major label debut, 'Fun'.
The New York guitar duo ELKHORN keep up an excellent run of records that push their freeform folk into new frontiers with 'The Storm Sessions', a wonderful record of Basho/Rose-style psychedelia. The Portuguese duo of LINA and RAUL REFREE deliver a stunning album of modern fado, with Lina channeling Amalia Rodrigues while producer Refree keeps things languid and contemporary, on a record that sits nicely alongside the latest from Rosalia. Australian percussionist WILL GUTHRIE does interesting things on any record he turns up on, and on his latest solo outing 'Nist-Nah', he explores gamelan concepts to a very fruitful degree.
A small repress of the first three entries in Cairo Records' 'American Soul Music' compilation series is back in stock. We've got THE LOVE YOU SAVE, ALL OF THIS GOES TOO, and THE TRUTH IS A LIE, each a stunningly-artworked, lovingly compiled deep dive through the most heartwrenching American soul to appear on 45. The detailed, emotional, and funny liner notes for each song make for an illuminating listening experience here.
And speaking of comps, two more are here to fill your rare groove void which, if you're like me, is bottomless! Peter Brown's label P&P was one of the bigger transfer points for New York funk and soul as it passed from the disco age into the hiphop era, and we've now got a cool 2LP containing some of the most crucial singles from the time. German downtempo don RAINER TRUBY has curated a new set of low-BPM boogie and modern soul called 'Soulgliding' which delivers 100% on its amazing title, collecting some rarities amidst a few knowns like Patrice Rushen and Peter Brown.
A bevy of soul-jazz pillars come back in print on vinyl this week: we've got IDRIS MUHAMMAD's percolating, heavily-sampled 1974 album 'The Power Of Soul', a new pressing of the Philly group SOUNDS OF LIBERATION's 1972 debut, featuring vibes from Khan Jamal, sax from Byard Lancaster, and guitar from Monette Sudler, plus new prints of MIKE JAMES KIRKLAND's 'Doin It Right' and 'The Awakening' from THE PHAROAHS, the 1960s Chicago jazz ensemble that would later evolve into Earth, Wind and Fire's horn section.
Early 70s reggae from THE MAYTALS (before they added the Toots) is back in print on 'From the Roots', and we have a new pressing of the excellent 1999 album from ska pioneer LAUREL AITKEN, 'En Espanol'. A new collection of tunes by ABNER JAY compiles some "hits" of his catalog with other unreleased material, and we have a repress of the UK psych-pop delight 'Pussy Plays' by PUSSY, which sounds like a slightly more progressive version of paisley-era gems from Tomorrow and July.
A new collection called 'Celestial Birds' traces the little-noted electronic pieces that turn up throughout the discography of Chicago pianist and composer MUHAL RICHARD ABRAMS. We have a new pressing of the cult chillwave LP 'Healing' from IN LOVE WITH A GHOST. And longtime NYC electro professional Willie Burns has a cracking new album of dusty creepers under his BLACK DEER alias.
We close this week's email with 3 continents worth of boogie. Martinique's RAPHAEL TOINE released just one album of loved-up zouk with a reggae twist, but he sure made it count with 'Ce Ta Ou', back in print now on LP. Nigerian vocalist ERIC KOL cut the very jazzy, funky disco LP 'Today' in the early 80s with help from Osibisa's Jake Sollo. TWILIGHT's lone 1981 album 'Still Loving You' is considered one of the best modern soul albums of all time, and is also cited by Tyler the Creator as one of his biggest inspirations for 'Igor'. A couple songs in and you'll see both of these assertions confirmed. Lastly, we have an LP of virtually unheard music from FRANK AND HIS SISTERS, a popular Tanzanian singing group from the 1950s and 60s, with enough gleaming harmonies to make you forget that its been cloudy for 16 days in a row.
USED VINYL ALERT
Heading downstairs for this week's edition of the Used Vinyl Alert, we are stoked to pass on the fruits of some stellar collections that walked through the front door this week!
A classic slate of 80s punk, indie, industrial and miscellany is in this week, including classics from Sonic Youth, Black Flag, Neubauten, Crass, U2, Glorious Din, Kate Bush, Edie Brickell, Dead Kennedys, Talking Heads, the Butthole Surfers, Byrne/Eno, Controlled Bleeding, the Residents, Psychic TV and scores more.
We are once again blessed with some stunning jazz LPs that we just don't see too often, including a real swath of Miles Davis and John Coltrane classics, big ones from Lou Donaldson, Chet Baker, Willis Jackson, Eric Dolphy, Sun Ra, Roscoe Mitchell, Johnny Dyani, Thelonious Monk, Woody Shaw, plus more from Ben Webster, Oscar Aleman, Pharaoh Sanders, Keith Jarrett, and McCoy Tyner.
Universal shelf staples are in from the Stones, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Elton John, the Doors, Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, John Prine, plus a nice spread of out-of-print Beatles remasters.
Contemporary LPs are here from Fleet Foxes, Death Grips, Lana Del Rey, Flaming Lips, Lumineers, Coldplay, Odesza, Mumford and Sons, Iron and Wine, Eddie Vedder, and even the big Bon Iver himself.
Soul is in from Roberta Flack, Isaac Hayes, the Whispers, the Commodores, Change, and Otis Redding, and we welcome some blues LPs from Ma Rainey, Willie Dixon, and Muddy Waters. Folk is in from Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, Vassar Clements, Leo Kottke, and Kinky Friedman, and we roll out some choice reggae from LKJ, Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Burning Spear.
Plenty of classics here beyond that, plus a nice trove of early female vocalists, international heat from Milton Nascimento and Astrud Gilberto, and a smattering of latin folk and rock records, some quite rare! Plenty of 70s and 80s soundtracks, children's LPs including some Muppets fire, and so much more!
USED CD ALERT:
The last few weeks have been dominated by staples, but this edition is heavier on titles less apt to come our way used. Leading off is three of the last four albums from LA future beat godhead Flying Lotus. If you’ve been slow to Fly Lo, now’s the time to right that wrong. We also got the 2-cd James Brown instrumentals set, the precursor to the better known “Funky Good Time” anthology and this one spans jump blues all the way up to the dawn of the JB’s. There’s even a few hip-hop goodies, courtesy of Tribe’s due-for-a-reappraisal “Love Movement” and Raekwon’s sure shot classic “Cuban Linx.” In terms of ace contemporary stuff, look out for a bunch from Sleater Kinney, Gorillaz, Mac Demarco and critcs’ choice work from My Bloody Valentine, Bowie, Bjork, Spiritualized and Lambchop. And in news that will reverberate through our front rack for a looong time, we’ll be unveiling in different phases – and starting this week – the legendary Gary Alderman collection. This week look out for a bunch from store fave Ivan “Boogaloo Joe” Jones and Cannonball Adderley. There’s a lot more on the way.
STRICTLY DISCS IS HIRING:
VINYL PRICING SPECIALIST:
Excellent customer service skills; ability to anticipate customer needs
A passion for music, and a broad, deep base of recorded music history
Knowledge of Goldmine standards & experience grading and pricing records
Knowledge of stereo equipment/functionality
Availability to work nights and weekends
Ability to lift and carry 50 pounds repeatedly
To apply, submit letter of interest & resume to firstname.lastname@example.org
OTHERS TALK BACK:
This isn't the spot to lay down odds on the third race. OTB is where Others Talk Back and give you the lowdown on what they've been feeling lately. This one's for the customers.
Wire - “Mind Hive” The band still has three out of four original members back from when they started in 1977. Over forty-three years the band has managed to always evolve and present engaging new music. Wire never became an oldies act living resting and living off their laurels. “Mind Hive”, their seventeenth studio album, follows in that tradition of presenting fresh sounds. The music is more minimal and atmospheric than before. You could even call it a bit psychedelic at times. But the band always finds a way to present their music in a fresh and intriguing manner that loops the listener into the music immediately. “Mind Hive” is epic Wire music, with epic being a very positive attribute and description, Staying fresh has become second nature for a band fast approaching their forty-fifth anniversary of making music. - Ted
The Drive-By Truckers - “The Unraveling” The band tackles the state of the union (or disunion) with this, their twelfth album. They may have touched on this back in 2016 with their “American Band” album, but in 2020 they tackle the way the world has become more loudly and vocally than they ever have. Songs such as “Thoughts and Prayers,” “Babies in Cages” and “Armageddon’s Back in Town” channel their anger, and sometimes disgust, into the powerful songs that burn quite brightly. The emotional state of the songs brings out some great songwriting too. “The Unraveling” is much more than a one-note political screed. It is way more than that. And it will probably stand as one of their best albums ever. - Ted
SELL US YOUR CDS & LPS:
Ron, Ryan, Angie, Marty, Evan, Matt, Ben, Ed, Isaac, Larry, Mark, Jack, Eric & Mike