This last week of February marks 11 years since the debut of this humble blog.
As I write this, I’m listening to “Testify!” the WFMU radio show hosted by my friend Larry Grogan, whom I know well but have never met in real life. He, of course, is the proprietor of the mighty Funky 16 Corners blog and streaming radio empire.
As I look for songs to share with this post, I see all the cool covers downloaded the other day and recommended by my friend Jameson Harvey, whom I also have never met in real life. He, of course, is the proprietor of the fine Flea Market Funk blog.
As the holiday season arrives, we present the following as a public service.
Your loved one is a record digger. You want to give them a good gift. I’m blessed to have a family who gets it, and is good at doing so.
If you’re Santa, here are a few guidelines. If you’re waiting to unwrap the gifts, please feel free to share with your loved ones.
Less is more, Part I. It’s better receive one nice record than an overstuffed, overpriced box set.
Less is more, Part II. It’s better to receive one nice record that gets dropped right onto the turntable than a stack of records that goes unplayed.
Talk to the folks at the record store. They might know your record digger better than you do, and they’re more than willing to help you find what you seek.
It’s OK to give a gift certificate. Let your record digger pop for obscure stuff neither you nor the record store folks would ever have considered. (Which explains how “The Hullabaloo Show” by The Hullabaloo Singers & Orchestra made it into one of my crates last month.)
It’s OK to ask for a wish list. That’s the best possible scenario for all parties. The giver is confident of giving something the recipient wants to receive.
That happened this summer. Four days before my June birthday, I went to see Garland Jeffreys. When I got home, I mentioned that he had a new record out. (Money was tight, so I didn’t stop by the merch table.) A couple of months later, out of the blue, we had to stop at the record store while running errands. Turns out a certain special order had come in.
“Waiting for the Man,” Garland Jeffreys, from “14 Steps to Harlem,” 2017. On which he covers his friend Lou Reed. He played this one for us that night.
Speaking of wish lists, here’s the one I typed into my phone while hanging out at the record store not too long ago.
— Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, “Soul of a Woman”
— Bob Seger, “I Knew You When”
— Mavis Staples, “If All I Was Was Black”
— The Isley Brothers and Santana, “Power of Peace”
Moving on after almost 38 years in the news business has at times been an interesting journey.
I’m no longer what a former colleague once called “a second-class citizen,” having to watch from the sideline instead of being part of the action. I’m no longer subject to the ethics rules of the news business, important though they are. I no longer need to preserve the illusion of being objective.
That said — and this may sound a bit odd — I’m still trying to find my voice. Still trying to find the right voice in public, the right voice on social media. Old habits die hard. I still say less than more, sitting back, sorting through it all, checking sources, knowing that the news is often fluid.
It’s necessary to resist when political instability and social uncertainty not seen since Watergate generates protests of a magnitude and intensity not seen since the Vietnam War. I remember 1968 and 1974. These are times like those times.
So when Bandcamp announced that it was donating its profits from Friday’s music sales to the ACLU as a way of protesting the president’s executive order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Mideast countries from entering the United States, I got in on that.
Bandcamp expected to sell more than $1 million worth of music, with its cut — roughly 12 percent, or $120,000 — going to the ACLU. My piece of that was small. But please enjoy some music to resist by. These aren’t protest songs. Just some enjoyable tunes bought with money that’s going to fight injustice.
“Popping Popcorn,” the M-Tet, from “Finger’ Poppin’ Time,” 2015. DJ Prestige from the fine Flea Market Funk blog tipped me to the classic yet fresh instrumental soul/R&B sound of this group from the San Francisco area. My friend Larry Grogan of the mighty Funky 16 Corners blog wrote the liner notes for the M-Tet’s fine new LP, “Long Play,” which arrived here last week.
“Free Your Mind (While You Still Got Time),” the James Hunter Six, from “Hold On!” a 2016 release on Daptone Records, one of my fave labels. I saw this pleasingly rough-edged R&B/soul group from England last spring in a 200-seat venue in a small town in Wisconsin. Things got loose. Things got sweaty.
“For You My Love,” Josephine Taylor, from “Mar-V-Lus Records: The One-Derful! Collection,” 2015. This is the second in a series of comps issued by Secret Stash Records of Minneapolis. Mar-V-Lus was the teen-oriented imprint of the black-owned and operated One-Derful! group of Chicago R&B labels. Taylor, who was from Evanston, Illinois, recorded for Mar-V-Lus in 1966 and 1967. This one is previously unreleased.
“Smiling Faces Sometimes,” from “Masterpiece: A Whitfield-Strong Tribute,” a three-cut EP released in 2014. Jason McGuiness is the producer. This comes from Los Angeles. A random find as I scrolled through Bandcamp’s soul listings. The other cuts: “Cloud Nine” and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.”‘
“Thrown Away,” Magic Mountain, from the “Magic Mountain” EP, 2017. This bit of indie pop is from a group that’s a side project for New Jersey guitarist Jeff Nordstedt, a Facebook acquaintance. His other band, the Milwaukees, rocks harder and is one of my favorites.