MP3 Monday: September 11, 2006

The rushed theme of this week’s MP3 Monday: live ’90s power-pop. As always, the MP3s will be up for one week, so be quick with your downloading.
Remember the Lightning” (live) by Velvet Crush. Recorded March 1995 at the Cabaret Metro, Chicago. From the album Rock Concert (2001). Studio version released as a B-side sometime in the early ’90s (?) and compiled on A Single Odessey (2001).
The Velvet Crush — ah, what a promising start! Their first two albums, In the Presence of Greatness and Teenage Symphonies to God, were amazing — chunky, tuneful pop with (by Album No. 2) an occasional bit of country breading. After those, they got all “mature” and a little boring for these ears. (Thus confirming Benton’s Law: Power-pop bands rarely age well.)
This is from a live album issued six years after its recording, which was during the glory days, when they played everything fast and loud. (As all power pop should be, yes?) The song is a cover, originally by Austin/L.A. band 20/20.
The Ugly Truth” (live) by Matthew Sweet. Recorded live in Grant Park, Chicago, July 4, 1993. Originally from the album Altered Beast (1993).
Matthew Sweet is the Crush’s musical older brother, having produced their first album, written the rave-up “Something’s Gotta Give” on their second one, and regularly used Crush drumming genius Ric Menck on his records and tours. (Velvet Crush opened for the only Matthew Sweet show I ever went to, which would have been around 1995.)
In fact, Menck is probably drumming on this track, recorded around Sweet’s artistic and commercial peak. His band cooked on this tour, as the rest of this bootleg proves.
Sweet would later fall in line with Benton’s Law and become less essential with each passing moon.
Emma Blowgun’s Last Stand” (live) by Beulah. From the DVD A Good Band Is Easy To Kill (2005); original on When Your Heartstrings Break (1999).
Beulah is the great exception to Benton’s Law, having gotten better with each album. (They’re also not purist power-pop, having mixed in other indie flavorings.) The original release date makes this technically a ’90s song, even though this recording is from a 2003 show. I really recommend checking out the Good Band Is Easy To Kill DVD, which is only $13 at Amazon — lots of great songs and amusing scenes from Beulah’s final tour. “Emma Blowgun” features a famously slow-burn three-minute open before Bill Swan’s trumpet hook kicks in. (Here’s a video for the song, skipping the intro.)
Man, Beulah were great. I miss ’em.

MP3 Monday: September 5, 2006

This week’s MP3 Monday (Observed) celebrates the genius of Matt Murphy — in this reporter’s opinion, One Of The Greatest Musicians Of The Last Half-Century. It’s sad that there’s not overwhelming global agreement on that point. (Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had to write his Wikipedia entry my damned self.) As always, the MP3s will be up for one week, so be quick with your downloading.
10 Lbs.” and “Better Call” by The Super Friendz. From the album Mock Up, Scale Down (1995).
Matt Murphy grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and was part of the ’90s scene there that generated bands like Thrush Hermit, Jale, and (a favorite for over a decade now), Sloan. His band was the Super Friendz, a deliriously good power-pop band. They had the nervous energy of kids and the songcraft of…well, people who could write really good songs.
Like a lot of those Haligonian bands — and in typically Canadian style — the Friendz didn’t believe in letting one member hog the spotlight. So three members alternated songwriting and singing duties. Now, I’m all for band democracy, and his bandmates weren’t awful, but come on — when you have a weapon like Matt Murphy in your arsenal, you don’t bother with slingshots.
The songs here are from the Friendz’ awesome first album: “10 Lbs.,” a plea to a girlfriend not to get too skinny, and “Better Call,” whose Lady Chatterley’s Lover reference in the opening line was the first of several lit-nods in Murphy’s work. (He remains the only rock star I know of to sing: “Who’s your favorite author? / Mine’s Graham Greene / He started with the start / And kept his sentences lean.”)
Getting Super Friendz albums in this country has always been difficult — I’ve had to special order mine from Mesopelagia — but if you can, track down either Mock Up, Scale Down or (even better) the later greatest-hits Sticktoitiveness, which includes almost all of MUSD plus some later greats.
Where the Change Is” and “It’s Alright” by The Flashing Lights. From the albums Where the Change is (1999) and Sweet Release (2001).
After the Super Friendz broke up, Murphy moved to Toronto and started a new band, the Flashing Lights. Screw democracy — this was going to be a Murph project from the get-go. They sounded a little more polished and little more ’60s/’70s — some Kinks, some Badfinger — but still awesome. A significant portion of their oeuvre is perfect for loud cranking while driving down the freeway.
The key moment in the FLights early history was apparently a show at a small bar in East Toledo in 1999. They were opening for Sloan and were, at the time, completely unknown in the States and unsure how the band would fare. (As opposed to later on, when they’d only be overwhelmingly unknown in the States.) Anyway, the band was terrific, and the crowd ate it up. “The [shows] were amazing…We actually sold out of our CDs that we brought. People were really into it…It was really successful and I can’t wait to go back.” I was at that show, cheering very loudly, so I take credit for Murphy’s continued presence in the music biz.
Both Flashing Lights albums get a big thumbs-up (as does their rarer Elevature EP). “Where the Change Is” is a groovy rave-up in the style of much of the first album; “It’s Alright” is an amusingly rawk-star jam from the looser, excellent follow-up.
The Sad They Walk On” by The Super Friendz. From the album Love Energy (2003).
The Flashing Lights went into hiatus somewhere around 2002, which made the time perfect for a one-off Super Friendz reunion concert back in Halifax. That one-off turned into a microtour and this album. It’s not great, sadly — a lot of the non-Murphys, if you get my drift — but “The Sad They Walk On” is a classic bit of propulsion.
Whiskey, You Can Save Me (Live in Toronto)” by Matt Murphy. From the album The Life And Hard Times Of Guy Terrifico: Bring It Back Home (2005).
In 2005, Murphy stretched into acting, playing the fictional country-Canrock ’70s icon Guy Terrifico in the mockumentary The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico. The reviews of the movie were, well, not great, but all the ones I’ve read singled out Our Hero for a bravura performance. (Quoth the CBC: [H]e’s a charmer. The string-bean Murphy…proves himself a perfectly capable actor, and his voice makes the songs (co-written with [director Michael] Mabbott) the loveliest part of the picture. The film, unfortunately, is not as charming as its lead.”) This gramparsonsalike song is from the soundtrack.
What’s Matt Murphy up to these days? There’s talk of the Flashing Lights being turned on again. His main gig these days is the puzzling Toronto band City Field. For some reason, Murphy doesn’t sing on most of the songs, and it doesn’t sound like he’s writing them either. Instead, some Fred Schneider wannabe handles lead vocals. Oh, well — hope springs eternal.

MP3 Monday: August 21, 2006

No time for deep narratives in this week’s MP3 Monday. I’m going to post the next three tracks that show up on shuffle in iTunes. As always, the MP3s will be up for one week, so be quick with your downloading.
Flowing” by Teenage Fanclub. From the album Man-Made (2005).
I said a few weeks ago that power-pop bands, as a rule, don’t age well. Teenage Fanclub may be one of the exceptions. They don’t bring quite as much noise now as they did in the Bandwagonesque days — but to be honest, they never brought much noise in the first place. They were always a polite, tuneful pop band, built on those great MOR Blake/McGinley/Love harmonies. Their most recent album, Man-Made, is one of my favorites of theirs, particularly this track (whose wash of guitars in the bridge nicely echoes the title) and the more brash “Born Under a Bad Sign.”
Shut It Down” by The Stepbrothers. From the compilation Shakin’ In My Boots: A Texas Rock ‘n Roll Compilation (2004).
Found these guys on a SXSW sampler a year or so back. If you believe the Rolling Stones, circa 1971, should have forcibly stopped the evolution of music — living forever in the sort of gutbucket Southern rock they had on Exile — the Stepbrothers are the band for you. Great fun, if in limited doses. Not sure if they’re still around or not; they were/are from Austin.
Take My Hand” by Sammy Davis Jr.. From the album Now (1972).
Supposedly this album is the worst thing Sammy ever recorded; not being expert in the Sammy back catalog, I can’t judge. But, beyond “The Candy Man,” it sounds like a fine, if rote album. And I kinda like the faux gospel tone of “Take My Hand.”
Go read about Sammy, since you’re already on the Interwebs. He was hella interesting. Like, did you know he was half-Cuban?

MP3 Monday: August 14, 2006

Everyone loves story time. So this week’s MP3 Monday is all about the story song — tunes that tell tales. In particular, we’re looking at one of the masters of the craft: the British band Tindersticks. As always, the MP3s will be up for one week, so be quick with your downloading.
My Sister” by Tindersticks. From the album Tindersticks (II) (1995).
Tindersticks were one of my favorite bands in college. I was into moody, reflective, sad stuff at the time — I was at the age where moodiness makes you feel sophisticated and adult. (It also didn’t hurt that Tindersticks were as British a band as there ever was. Another layer of sophistication to poach!)
But while most of that stuff sounds half-baked and mopey today — to my ears at least — the first two Tindersticks albums (released in 1993 and 1995) remain amazing. And while their spoken-word story songs are not always their strongest, it’s a tradition they maintained for a number of albums.
This one, “My Sister,” is gorgeous. The words are sketches of a dark life, and with good headphones on you and a little liquor in you, it’s pure beauty. “Our life was a pillow-fight. We’d stand there on the quilt, our hands clenched ready. Her with her milky teeth, so late for her age, and a Stanley knife in her hand. She sliced the tires on my bike and I couldn’t forgive her.”
Harry’s Dilemma” by Tindersticks. From the album Working For The Man: The Island Years (2004).
Lyrics here. The narrator is bass player Mark Colwill, and the story is the sad tale of Harry, a big happy dog whose condition takes a turn for the worse, complete with a surprise ending. (Surprising musically, if not lyrically, since it comes only halfway through the song’s six minutes.) Originally a b-side from 1995; later released on the retrospective Working For The Man.
Ballad of Tindersticks” by Tindersticks. From the album Curtains (1997).
Lyrics here. This loungy track is the tale of the band’s second American tour and their interactions with the seedy denizens of both coasts. “We’re standing on our heads drinking sours of Crystal Schnapps. Now we’re unable to step back or forward. Swallowing a swallow, tasting it again, it’s not so unpleasant. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste. The first time, it makes you sick; then, little by little, it becomes delicious.”

MP3 Monday: August 7, 2006

I was surprised — nah, shocked — when I searched the archives and found I had never even mentioned this week’s MP3 Monday focus, the great Les McCann. In the last six months, he’s been in pretty constant rotation at Chez Crabwalk.
As always, the MP3s will be up for one week, so be quick with your downloading.
Compared to What” (live) by Les McCann and Eddie Harris. From the album Swiss Movement (1969).
Les McCann is a jazz pianist. He was pretty traditional in his early years, through the mid-1960s, but with time his music became more soulful, a little funkier, and a little “poppier.” Or, more accurately, more populist. (In other words, what would come to be known as soul-jazz.)
He started emphasizing his gruff voice more often, and in the early 1970s, added more clavinet and Moog-style keyboards. The result was a sound that took a lot from jazz fusion, but didn’t require the intellectual overhead that guys like Miles Davis were at the time.
I first heard of Les when I heard a track of his on KEXP. It sounded interesting, so I threw one of his albums of my wish list tried to remember to search him out sometime. Of course, I forgot.
But a couple years later, I bought a copy of Soul to Soul, a film of ’60s black American musicians playing a concert in Ghana; Les was one of the musicians, and my memory was triggered.
“Compared to What” was Les’ first big hit — both the single and the album went platinum. Recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1969 with his regular collaborator Eddie Harris, it was of the moment — particularly the anti-Nixon lyrics. (“The President, he’s got his war / Folks don’t know just what it’s for / Nobody gives us rhyme or reason / Have one doubt, they call it treason.”) It opens with some spare modal piano that sounds almost Bill Evans-y, but after a minute or so seems to shrug off the pretense and accept itself as a groovy pop song. It’s head-bopping joy from there on.
Price You Gotta Pay To Be Free” (live) by Les McCann. From the album Live at Montreux (1972).
Perhaps my favorite Les track, and the perfect example of his merger of jazz with more popular styles. (Although Nixon fans will again be disappointed.) Sounds a bit like what Stevie Wonder might have been playing circa 1972 had he been about 20 years older. The song was written by a teenager named Nat Adderley Jr., the nephew of the great Cannonball Adderley. Cannonball recorded his own version, now sadly out of print. (Nota bene: While Swiss Movement was also recorded at Montreux, this is from a different date four years later, when Les was a little more funky and a little more electric.)
What’s Going On” and “Shamading” by Les McCann. Both from the album Talk To The People (1972).
Talk To The People is probably his best studio album, I’d say — it came out shortly before the aforementioned Montreux live album, so a lot of the tracks are duplicated. “Shamading” is an upbeat funk number, with that great clavinet sound; it was on record-store shelves at the same time as Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, and both guys were hitting similar territory. (Man, whatever happened to the clavinet? I have trouble thinking of a song that wouldn’t be made better with a little clavinet. Screw “more cowbell.”)
“What’s Going On” is, of course, a cover of the Marvin Gaye classic — slower and looser. Les swaps out some of the anger for a sense of resignation. I love the way that he plays the lead-in to the chorus; when you finally hear the song’s title, it’s exultant.
There’s plenty of good Les to listen to if you’re interested. Along with albums linked above, there’s Another Beginning, Comment, the more expansive Invitation to Openness, the strangely electronic Layers, and the (I think out-of-print) Bucket of Grease and Les is More.

MP3 Monday: July 31, 2006

This week’s MP3 Monday combines two of the most potent forces in nature: teenagers and funk music. And it contains a rare Must Buy Alert. For those unfamiliar, such an alert mandates that you head to your local music establishment and buy yourself the record I require.
Penalties for not making the purchase include hair loss, loss of sexual function, and instant death. As always, songs will stay on the server for one week’s time.
All Praises/Zero Point (Reprise)” (live) by the Kashmere Stage Band. From the album Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974 (2006).
Man, I’ve been waiting for this record for a couple years now. You see, in the late ’60s and early ’70s, band directors at a small number of black high schools decided to embrace the funk and soul music their students were listening to. They started creating stage bands that merged the propulsion of a good marching band, the big-band sound a large ensemble could generate, and the aforementioned black popular music.
There were a number of these stage bands, but far and away the best was the Kashmere Stage Band, at Kashmere High School in north Houston. The director, a genius named Conrad O. Johnson, was an old jazzman himself and decided that a bunch of untrained teenagers could, with work, become the tightest funk band in the world.
The Kashmere Stage Band became a dominant force in the world of band competitions. Between 1969 and 1977, the band took first place in 42 of the 46 contests it entered — despite often being the only black band competing. They toured Europe and Japan multiple times.
They also recorded eight albums, albeit in quantities small enough that the main audience didn’t extend far beyond the friends and families of band members. But enough of those LPs made their way into the used record stores of America that, in the early ’90s, the Kashmere Stage Band became a favorite of cratedigging DJs looking for funk breaks. Kashmere records were going for hundreds of dollars on eBay. (DJs know greatness when they hear it.)
Eventually, commerce and taste intersected, and the excellent folks at Now Again Records (the reissue side project of Stones Throw) have assembled Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974, a two-CD set of Kashmere Stage Band recordings. And oh my lord is it amazing.
Take a listen to the track above, “All Praises” followed by a reprise of their signature track “Zero Point,” recorded live on February 26, 1972 at the Brownswood Stage Band Festival. With no disrespect intended to Soul Brother No. 1, I doubt The JB’s were this tight in 1972. That rhythm section! (Gerald Calhoun on bass, Gerald Curvey on drums.)
Ain’t No Sunshine” (live) by the Kashmere Stage Band. From the album Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974 (2006).
And here, have some more. I linked to Bill Withers’ live version of his song a couple months ago, but imagine your high school band being capable of this. (Recorded live at Sam Houston State University in 1972.)
It’s hard to say just how good the Kashmere Stage Band was, or how amazing its story is. Kashmere High is in a very poor part of Houston; the Houston school district nearly shut it down last year because its performance on state tests was so poor. Luckily, the liner notes of the reissue (by Egon) do an excellent job of shedding light on things. Anyway, you’ll see when you buy it, as you Must.
FYI, Conrad O. Johnson has a foundation to promote jazz in the Houston area and apparently still plays out at age 90.
The Newborn Hippopotamus/Jazz Rock Machine” (live) by the One O’Clock Lab Band. From the album Schoolhouse Funk (2000).
This track is from the album that started my love of the stage band sound. Schoolhouse Funk was assembled by the great DJ Shadow (as was its sequel), and it compiles all sorts of great tracks from (mostly black) high school and college bands.
They’re not all great — a number of tracks are pleasingly amateurish — but a good number of them cook. (There’s a Kashmere track on there, too.) This one’s by the legendary One O’Clock Lab Band, the top jazz band at the University of North Texas in Denton. (For those who don’t know, UNT has one of largest music schools in the nation and one of the top jazz programs. Which is why so many of the rock bands out of Denton are so deliriously weird.)
Longtime readers (and attendees of SXSW Interactive in 2003) may remember this track as the backing music to 20×2 movie that year. (More about that here.)

MP3 Monday: July 24, 2006

This week’s MP3 Monday is all about punk rock. Not about the music itself, per se, but the answer to the question: “What, exactly, were they rebelling against?” After all, Johnny Rotten was famously pulled into the Sex Pistols when proto-svengali Malcolm McLaren spotted him wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt with the words “I hate” scrawled in felt-tip pen above the logo.
In other words, it’s a gimmick to post some ’70s classic rock — particularly its most overproduced and overambitious phyla. As always, songs will stay on the server for one week’s time.
Tiny Dancer” by Elton John. From the album Madman Across the Water (1971).
For people my age, it’s easy to think of Elton John as a punchline — as that garish old guy with the toupee, the one who only makes headlines when he hugs Eminem or sings sappy ballads at the funerals of princesses. And sure, not much of what he’s done in, say, my lifetime has been worthy of much attention. But the early Elton — that’s good stuff.
Still, I bet Johnny Rotten didn’t like it.
Here’s the song’s most recent pop-culture moment — one of the best scenes in Almost Famous, a movie I sometimes think I’m the only person who liked.

There’s also a version of Elton singing the song on The Old Grey Whistle Test.
Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac. From the album Rumours (1977).
Honestly, I don’t have much to say about Fleetwood Mac. I find most of their stuff kinda grating — and Stevie Nicks, well, I could do without Stevie Nicks. But Lindsay Buckingham knows his way around a riff, and this is a bit of propulsive fun you’ve heard 10,000 times before.
If I remember their Behind the Music correctly, around this time, 94 of Fleetwood Mac’s 173 members were having affairs with each other behind their other’s back.

Goodbye Stranger” by Supertramp. From the album Breakfast in America (1979).
Technically, this didn’t come out until after punk broke, but come on — this is exactly what 1977 London wanted to smash into little bits.
Supertramp was all about concept albums, falsettos, prog qua prog, and a tone best described as fey. And they dressed like a Band of Christs:

Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra. From the album Out of the Blue (1977).
The first time I ever heard of ELO was when I was about 10, reading William Poundstone’s Big Secrets — an absolutely perfect book for the young nerdy boy in your life, by the way. It had a section on backward messages in rock songs — you know, Satan’s work.
Anyway, it mentioned that an ELO song named “Eldorado” allegedly included the message: “He is the nasty one / Christ, you’re infernal / It is said we’re dead men / Everyone who has the mark will live.” (Turns out it doesn’t. See, kids, these were the things your grandparents were worried about before they had MySpace to panic over.)
Did you know William Poundstone records his dreams in a blog? Or that he has a whole weirdly fascinating web site that features too much Futura Condensed? O, sweet mystery of life.

Industrial Military Complex Hex” by The Steve Miller Band. From the album Number 5 (1970).
I went to high school with a guy named Steve Miller. He was a year below me, and he had a band. Jokes necessarily followed.
Dallas music trivia: Steve Miller went to St. Mark’s School, the hoity-toitiest all-boys private school in the area. So did Boz Scaggs, Tommy Lee Jones, and Rhett Miller of the Old ’97s. Of those four, I’d say the Millers (unrelated, to my knowledge) fit the St. Mark’s image best. Why he’s singing about the military-industrial complex — not to mention getting the order wrong — is beyond me.
Nobody” by The Doobie Brothers. From the album The Doobie Brothers (1971).
Heh, he said “doobie.”
Both this one and the Steve Miller Band track are taken from Meridian 1970: Protest, Sorrow, Hobos, Folk and Blues, a U.K.-only compilation of songs from that year. More about that here (“a fine compilation that represents a music scene in love with all things rootsy and Americana”).

MP3 Monday: July 17, 2006

I’m sticking with my recent international theme with this week’s MP3 Monday. As always, songs will stay on the server for one week’s time.
URUGUAY: La Conferencia Secreta del Toto’s Bar by Los Shakers. Originally released in 1968.
This is new territory for MP3 Monday; I’m actually posting the entire album instead of just one MP3. (It’s a zip file, about 32 megs.) I linked a few days ago to a video by Los Shakers, the preeminent ’60s band of South America, whose sound I just love. The song I linked (“Rompan Todo”) is dead-on Beatles circa 1964. But their masterpiece, never released in this country and rare everywhere, was La Conferencia Secreta del Toto’s Bar, recorded just before their breakup. If you want to continue the Fab Four metaphor, it’s their Sgt. Pepper’s, but I don’t want to make them sound like no-talent Liverpool copy machines. It mixes in the psych-pop sound of the Nuggets compilations with a sunny optimism and some inventive instrumentation — including some Afro-Uruguayan street rhythms on songs like “Candombe” that are sort of a Pet Sounds-goes-bossa-nova. Of particular note: the title track, “B.B.B.Band,” “El Pino y la Rosa,” and “Una Forma de Arco Iris.”
In case you can’t tell, I really, really like this one and highly recommend you download it. It’s apparently been forgotten by the outside world; my off-handed mention of it a while back promptly moved me to Hit No. 2 in a Google search for its name, and apparently only 17 users have a copy. Help revive it from history’s back pages!
BRAZIL: “Blues A Volonte” by Baden Powell. From the album Images On Guitar (1971).
No, not the guy who started the Boy Scouts: Baden Powell de Aquino, the Brazilian classical/bossa-nova guitarist, who here works up quite a groove.
Another classic South American album unavailable in the U.S., alas. The great scat vocalist is the French jazz singer Janine de Waleyne, a frequent Baden Powell collaborator.
ZAIRE/CONGO: “Yuda” by Dackin Dackino. From the album Afro-Rock, Vol. 1 (2001).
Another album I can’t recommend enough: a compilation of some terrific (and super obscure) Afrobeat from the 1970s. In case you thought Afrobeat was just Fela, this album will set you straight. It was compiled by a fellow named Duncan Brooker, who tracked down all the original vinyl over nearly a decade of roaming the continent. Here’s his story of how he did it, and it’s really a terrific read. I can’t say I know anything about Dackin Dackino, other than this song was apparently recorded in 1974 in what was then Zaire. And it’s pro-Mobutu, which may be suspect in retrospect.
The whole album is available on eMusic, which you really should subscribe to. So is a lot of Baden Powell.
Speaking of Fela, I found this pretty good mini-documentary on the genius himself on YouTube — produced by MTV, of all people, in 1985:

MP3 Monday: July 10, 2006

I feel a bit guilty about all the musical love I dumped on Dallas a few weeks back. (Not that it did the Mavericks a damned bit of good in the NBA Finals.) There are, of course, other fine major metropolitan areas in the state of Texas, and they shouldn’t be ignored. As always, songs will stay on the server for one week’s time.
HOUSTON: “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” by ZZ Top. Recorded live at the Rockpalast in Essen, Germany, April 19, 1980. Originally on Tres Hombres (1973).
If you’re my age, you probably remember ZZ Top most for their 1980s MTV success, which was driven by videos showing dorky guys snagging hot girls with the band’s aid. (Said aid usually involved access to the band’s car, which looked like an early production model of the PT Cruiser.)
Now, I dig their razor-synth sound in that era — but to this Southern boy, it’s the pre-beard ZZ Top that rings most true. In the 1970s, ZZ Top delivered a Texas gut-bucket boogie that had humor, propulsion, and just a smidge of menace. (They also invented Metallica’s guitar tone a solid decade before James Hetfield.) I spent a fair amount of my childhood summers in Houston, and ZZ Top seemed like the coolest thing about that deeply uncool city.
This is from a German TV performance, of which videos apparently still exist. If you want an early ZZ Top album, Tres Hombres is definitely the one to grab.
SAN ANTONIO: “Football” by Mickey & the Soul Generation. From the album Iron Leg: The Complete Mickey and the Soul Generation (2002).
Texas was a surprising funk hotbed in the early 1970s, as a number of recent reissues have shown. But perhaps the most legendary act was Mickey & the Soul Generation — a San Antonio band whose brief career of shrinkwrap-tight soul would have been completely forgotten were it not for DJ Shadow.
In his endless cratedigging, Shadow came across an old 45 of theirs (“Football” was one of the B-sides) and became obsessed. He tracked down the former members, remastered their never-released tracks, and put out this great album. Some tracks (like “Football”) sound like a garage James Brown, but others mix in a little Latin flavor.
AUSTIN: “Loss Leaders” by Spoon. From the EP Soft Effects (1997).
Spoon is, of course, not just the greatest of contemporary Texas bands; they’re in a pantheon that stretches far beyond El Paso and Beaumont. Their later triumphs have been well chronicled. But this (almost-decade-old!) EP track shows they had their aesthetic together early: the sawing guitar riff, Britt Daniel’s penchant for backup self-harmonies, and the punchy Jim Eno drums.
Soft Effects was out of print for a while, but Merge Records is set to reissue it (with Spoon’s hit-and-miss first album Telephono) on July 25.

MP3 Monday: July 3, 2006

Week Eight of MP3 Monday is all about the DJ mix: three long sets, approaching three hours in total length. Notate bene: Normally I host MP3 Monday tracks on my own server. These are hosted elsewhere, so they (a) may last longer than the week my songs do, but also (b) may disappear at any time.
1. “Brazilian Specialist Mix” by DJ Paulão. Found at Length: 45:00.
Brazilian are drowning in their caipirinhas over their football team’s ignominious defeat at the hands of Les Bleus. One comforting thought, though — and I say this as an established francoaudiophile: The music of France will never match the music of Brazil in diversity or quality.
DJ Paulão is based in Campinas, outside São Paulo, and specializes in Brazilian music of the ’60s and ’70s: samba funk, jazz fusion, tropicália, and MPB. (Although, if this page is to believed, he also mixes in New Orleans rare groove, Ethiopian funk, Nigerian afrobeat, and [new to me] “sitar funk.” I think I’m in love.)
Anyway, this mix is an excellent intro to a bunch of Brazilian sounds. The artists, in rough order: Fagner, Tim Maia, Sergio Mendes, Marcos Valle, Joao Donato, Emilio Santiago, Di Melo, Paulo Diniz, Ed Lincolm, Tom e Dito, Etoiles, MPB4, Claudete Soares, Novos Baianos, Tom Ze, Antonio Carlos Jocafi, Jorge Ben, Tim Mais, Roberto Carlos, and Chico Science.
2. “666 Mix” by Peanut Butter Wolf. Found at Length: 1:05:36.
Peanut Butter Wolf is the founder of Stones Throw Records, which regular readers by now recognize as The Greatest Hip-Hop Label In Recorded Human History. But even dedicated hip-hop guys like to branch out now and then, and this “666 Mix” is a prime example. Recorded for a DJ set on June 6 (06/06/06), it’s all death metal, thrash metal, and affiliated genres. (Well, not all — there is a smidge of Led Zeppelin — but pretty much all.)
I’ll be honest: This stuff makes my head hurt in large quantities, but it’s remarkable how hypnotic and (dareisay) tuneful short stretches can be. The artists, in rough order: Ec8or, Black Sabbath, Death, Gutted, Ministry, Slayer, Sepultura, Chimaira, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Cabaret Voltaire, Bruce Haack, Venom, Necrophobic, The Cure, Faust, Helltrain, Metal Church, Queensryche, Wendy Carlos, Lost Soul Project, Iron Monkey, Satyricon, The Boneless Ones, Decide, Sepulvida, Pantera, Skinny Puppy, Frontline Assembly, Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, SITD, Revolting Cocks, Clock DVA, Motley Crue, and Led Zeppelin.
3. “Madlib’s 45s Mix” by Madlib. Found at the Stones Throw podcast. Length: 1:05:00.
(FYI: Those links go to iTunes, not a direct MP3 download. This is an episode of the Stones Throw podcast, so you’ll need to dl it within iTunes.)
Madlib is (and I fear I’m alienating readers with my near constant pimping of him) the genius beatmaker behind most Stones Throw albums, mixing jazz, soul, funk, breakbeat, reggae, Brazilian, and any other style of black music you can imagine into a lush groove.
This mix is of a bunch of 45s from Madlib’s neverending collection. No track listing or artist list, alas, but you’ll hear a lot of great bouncy funk, R&B, and soul.