“When her hands hunted out these beautiful new sounds, it was the best feeling she had ever known.”
– Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Hi! It's me in my sassy glasses. Email marriage proposals to heightfiveseven@gmail, but only if you are signed to a major.
Digging's a dumb name for it, a dude said to me in an email exchange last week.
This prompted a "NUH-UH" from me because I'm set in my ways and don't like to be challenged, ever. Then I realized that what he said is true. We just take it as fact that digging should be the name for it since that's what our great-great-grandparents called it in the old country, but NO LONGER, you guys. Henceforth, I'm not a Digger! I'm a Paycheck-Spender, definitely, but that's not very catchy. I'm a Jump-Up-and-Down-er when I find something good, maybe? (also not catchy). An Enthusiast? A Celebrator of Random Dumb Luck, yes, definitely, when I find that Jaggerz record with the Curren$y break (this has not yet happened. I'm pretending it has happened, putting it out there as a way of tricking the universe into making sure it happens). And I attribute all of my random dumb luck at the last Beat Swap Meet in LA to the fact that I established only three rules for myself: 1) SPEND ALL THE MONEY YOU WANT, DOLLFACE; LIFE'S SHORT, 2) Take your list of Want-To-Finds and Must-Finds (compiled from scraps of paper in my purse and half the pages in my tiny Moleskine), and 3) Look cute, but wear something comfy in a fabric with plenty of stretch (suitable for reaching, hunching over, walking table to table, carrying a stack under my arm). A white cotton T attracts so much record dander, but it's nothing bleach can't fix. And my hair! It looked pretty - if I may be corny for a moment - thanks to Moroccan oil, a thing that makes my unruly Celtic hair smooth and shiny. You can get it at any beauty supply store, it's nothing special, but the name “Moroccan oil” sounds rare and fancy, mostly because all things Morocco- and middle-east-related have exotic cache, like my good friend Jay Elect knows. (“Egypt, Egypt” – the Egyptian Lover; “Egypt, blah blah, I'm here to save you all, I'm destined to blow, my ancestors sent messages telling me so, Egypt, Egyptians...” - Jay Elect, every tenth bar.)
My haul from the day is described in loving detail below, along with the award(s) each record earned. Ah, and points for not going along with me blindly, young man in my story to open this post, just because you maybe want to see me out my jeans. Digging is a dumb name for it.
Ramsey Lewis, Solar Wind (Columbia, 1974)
I'm pretty sure Ramsey himself did his own gear styling for the cover, the theme of which is “Mod Squad detective who also does security for James Brown during the Black Caesar recording sessions.” The contents of the album, however, were lovingly overseen by Epic White Man, Stax capo, “In the Midnight Hour” writer, Logan-Walking-Down-the-Street-in-Some-Little-Ho-Shorts anthem “99 and a Half Just Won't Do” producer, godlike individual with god status, the GOD, Steve Cropper, so Solar Wind was therefore a good purchase and a solid addition to apt. 680 - though it's not nearly as good as Ramsey's Sun Goddess, I'm sorry to say. That's because Solar Wind doesn't contain the song “Sun Goddess,” produced by Maurice White of Earth Wind & Fire - a production truth that is so obvious once you've found it out and listen to the song again. It's just got that controlled/chaotic EWF sound that comes from knowing how to wrangle 57 band members - and, in later years, it was loved so hard by Ant Banks that he laid it over a fun, slappy beat and then gave it to his friend to rap over (and even added an R&B hook that's corny yet enjoyable). Maurice White is terrific but Maurice will never be the god that Steve is, since not only is Steve part lion, he's also a god, he is, and I know I use that term for every decent non-rap musician over age 50 and for rappers who were either in KMD or CoFlow at one point, or in OutKast currently, or named Danny Brown currently, but a god is a god and goddammit if I'm not going to use my little corner of the Internet to praise a god.
An actual deity, here on Earth, Steve had some production skills that would really do some fantastic work to your ears/heart even if the Stax studio on McLemore didn’t have that sloping floor* that made everything sound clear and huge, with just enough bass to convince you to take your pants off. (“If you ain't claiming McLemore,” goes one of my life mottoes, “fuck y'all hoes.”) If I were from Memphis, I'd get wet-eyed over all things Stax, Comin' Out Hard comin out hard of any vehicle (MORE808 is one of my other life mottoes), and DJay’s “Eiffel Tower/apocalypse/Tennessee/mixtapes” analogy in Hustle & Flow (his speech at the club to Luda!). I wouldn't get wet-eyed over last summer's super good Don Trip mixtape Tennessee Accents for 57 Minutes, err, 'scuse me, Stepbrothers; I just like it a lot, so I'd bang it a lot.
*it used to be a movie theater
Most Sounds-Like-A-Blackstar-Song Title, in “Jamaican Marketplace.” And, because I just typed that, Ramsey's record also provides the Strongest Yet Most Tangential Reminder That I Need the “You Already Knew” Instrumental.
Nice version of “Summer Breeze,” nice Moog, nice bass, but overall the record is a little too nice and not enough not-nice. Sure I could walk down the street to it, but I wouldn't feel very sexy. Wilson, like Quelle & Danny and Purrp, understands my walking-down-the-street needs in a way Ramsey never will.
Ballin' Jack (Columbia, 1970).
YES, humans of planet Earth. Yes. This some stuff that, as they say, goesssssss*. It's aural Viagra - the most mutually beneficial kind, because it works on your girlfriend too, who is currently busy taking her dress off; oh, there it goes, you didn't even have to talk her into it! Ballin' Jack's gutter riffs coming from the hi-fi did all the work for you.
The “Never gonna let em say that I don't loooovvvve youuuu” in the Beastie Boys' “Shadrach” was Jimi to my 15-year-old ears. I was positive about this. But I was incorrect. (Turns out I was incorrect at age 15, many times, about many things). Most Pretentious: Me at 15, such a fucking know-it-all. Then I got right during junior year, straightened myself out, did some research, and discovered Ballin' Jack, Best Paul's Boutique Tie-In. Ballin' Jack toured with Jimi, hence the vocal/stylistic similarities, and Ballin' Jack was from Seattle, home to longtime aural stimulator/Logan's fantasy phone-book-out-loud-reader Ish Butler, he who makes me blurt out, “Sweet Jesus, that voice” every time I watch this. (Oh, he says at the beginning, I thought it was comin in hot. Not even rapping at that point!, he's swoon-y just in his everyday talk! Sorry, what was I saying?)
Ballin' Jack. What an album. It slaps, people. Or in less E-40 speak, more Loganspeak: “You guyyyys! OH MY GOD! SO GOOD! It'll make you sell your Raf Simonses and next thing you know you'll be wearing some old Chucks in a busted old Camaro and picking me up so we can make out behind the bleachers!” Biggest Failure: ME, for not having owned Ballin' Jack already. The record also wins Best Cover Font; just like everything out of Wiz's mouth sounds like it should be in Comic Sans, every guitar part on this record sounds like a weed/sex/fight riff due to the use of the PreMetallica Jagged Serif typeface (72 pt.) on the cover. Thanks to frontman Luther Rabb, this one also gets Best Appearance in Today's Haul by a Singing Bassist. There's Lemmy, Bootsy, Geddy Lee, Phil Lynott; these are the greats. Rabb's not one of the greats, but he's a member of the club.
The group’s name also provides the Best Title of a UGK Song That Never Was. It’s track 10 on a Bandcamp-only album that's too secret for me to share and anyway the link's expired, and it's about cars of course. Chad starts to sound really irritated around the end of his first verse, because he's tired of dealing with this bullshit and he just wants to live, can he fucking LIVE goddammit and take care of his lady and his business, and the hook goes “Got new shoes for my baby ‘cause I’m ballin, Jack.”
Logan's Run soundtrack (Jerry Goldsmith) (MGM/Polydor, 1976)
Most Throne-Sounding Song Titles: “Flameout,” “The Truth,” “End of the City,” “The Monument.” Most E-40-Sounding Song Titles: “On the Circuit,” “Intensive Care.”
Song That is, Shockingly, Not About Oral Sex or the NFL: “The Dome.”
We'll all enjoy ourselves in the future, Logan's Run says. Take me there, someone! Take me, even though the future evidently sounds like big stupid crescendos and cheesy flutes, the way old-timey movie-music people predicted the future would sound. How sad that they had no idea drum machines could make snares sound so warm, nicely exemplified in this song with a Logan's Run mention (We ain't jokin/For security we on this run like Logan/Kamaal's doin the hustle/And you backstage voguin), produced by The Ummah, a wonderful musical-collective gift from the universe that I wish was still here because I'm in love with the past. I still wanna go to the future, though - it's sexy and streamlined! The thing is, because it is so alluring and perfect, we're not long for it. Sexyfuture is just a tease; beware. Logan's Run takes place in a “hermetically sealed post-apocalyptic pleasuredome,” where humans don't really need to work and they're free to pursue all of the pleasures of life, just like the rap game circa 2011. Eating and drinking aren't necessary, and when they feel like sex they just use a teleporting device to make it happen (just like what Twitter is to rappers, 2009 - present). The only catch in this idyllic existence is that nobody's allowed to live more than 30 years - just like the rap game - with the corresponding downside being that future life partner Danny Brown would be forced to become a Runner in order to escape the fate of being killed at 30. The upside is that I would then willingly become a Runner, because what fun is a world without Danny Brown to describe getting rich/sad/triumphant/fucked-up in it?
George Duke, Liberated Fantasies (MPS, 1976)
COME THE FUCK ON. BEST NECKLACE, obviouslyyyy.
Most Prince-ish Credit: “Amanda B. Reckondwith on vocals.” (Real name: Janet Ferguson.) Next I suppose you're going to try and convince me that Vanity wasn't that sexy lady's real name-? (Real name: Denise Matthews).
It's George on keys on this one, George on the mic, George's smiling face and big beautiful cloud of hair. Liberated Fantasies was put out by the dopely-named German jazz label MPS - Musik Produktion Schwarzwald (“Music Production Black Forest”). MPS was the label responsible for Hans Koller-Wolfgang Dauner's classic, claaaaaaaasic banger Kunstkopfindianer in 1974. Mannnn, we sure made some sweet '70s love to that one, remember? I think there was some lager and strudel involved too, and you insisted I wear a Heidi costume, because you said C'mon baby, why not, being the big ol freak that you are.
Thanks to that cover: Best Smile. Artwork and photography by Cal Schenkel, a person who managed to overcome the name Cal Schenkel and make a living designing covers by the Mothers of Invention and Zappa (solo), Captain Beefheart, Tim Buckley. Cal is also responsible for THIS source of childhood nightmares for a young Logan flipping through her dad's records on the living room floor:
HOLD ME. And turn on my nightlight after you tuck me in.
Christ!, the unadulterated freakiness of this thing, The Persistence of Memory but with keys, like something I’d see in a Red-Stripe-chased-with-Valium, passed-out-on-the-couch dream, not that I'd know anything about that! HI MOM. Even here, though, George remains a man not afraid to smile on an album cover. Unless you're George Duke or your last name is 3000/Benjamin, smiling on your album cover is a 1-way ticket to Cornballville. (I have pretty strict guidelines when it comes to masculinity, particularly for musicians. I'm trying to let some of that go in 2012. Check back with me in mid-February-?)
I can also see ?uestlove doing some sort of nod to this, except he'd put a drumstick in those fingers. Then all the blog boys would scurry about until they found the source that sparked the new.
The Blackbyrds, City Life (Fantasy, 1975)
Biggest Ego: Donald Byrd, for creating and naming the group after his damn self in the early '70s. I guess LOOK AT ME I'M SUPERTALENTED DONALD BYRD I'M THE BEST would've been too ridiculous a name for a band.
Right now the world and my computer are both obsessed with the drawling-outta-control A$AP crew, based in New York and led by the prettiest member, Rocky (A$AP's just his nick-naaaaame). Rocky was named after Rakim, who I'm told was a rapper based in New York. Rocky, then, is a cutesy shortened version of Rakim, like people who shorten Logan to Logey. Logey, in turn, enjoys turning DOOM into the cute “Doomsy” - which reminds me, why are we not all listening to THISSSSSS right now. City Life has the Most A$AP Rockyish Song Titles - like Rocky's, the Blackbyrds' are 2- and 3-word combos that tell you exactly what the song is about, no games or fancy language - “Purple Swag,” (Rocky)/“Hash and Eggs” (Blackbyrds). “Get High” (Rocky)/“Flying High” (Blackbyrds). “Uptown” (Rocky)/“City Life” (Blackbyrds). This one also gets the Label with the Freshest Backstory award, since Fantasy started in SF as an actual record-pressing plant, then morphed into a label. They named it Fantasy after a sci-fi novel, getting the Murs stamp of approval in so doing, and were the first label to record and produce Lenny Bruce on vinyl, thereby getting my parents' stamp of approval. Fantasy merged with Concord Records - named for the East Bay city, back before the East Bay was known for Al Davis, 808, trunk tapes, and, circa 2011, a tiny Caucasian lady and her troupe of annoying, shit-talking friends who go crazy with the cat-eye liquid liner. Their existence is upsetting, both because 1) they are real live humans and not some nightmare from that time I passed out on the couch (Red Stripe/Valium), and because 2) disapproval of them is something that this ladyblogger has in common with Rawsssss. (which I, in turn, disapprove of. I disapprove that I disapprove of something that he also disapproves of. The snake eats its own disapproving tail, disapprovingly.)
The Blackbyrds are probably best known for “Walking in Rhythm,” which, sure, we all know it, it’s an OK jam I suppose, slightly dullsville if you ask me. This album was purchased on the strength of opening jam (Best Opening Jam) “Rock Creek Park,” about doing it both in the park and after dark. Oh. Yeah. And finally, there's the Fact that Connects to a Quality MC of Today in a Tangential/Fresh Way: Donald Byrd, Detroit-bred human just like my future life partner Danny Brown, went to Wayne State, in Linwood (Inglewood pronunciation).
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song soundtrack (Stax, 1971)
Tightest Commitment to Detail: Me, for making sure I put the correct number of As and Ss in Baadasssss. Most Spirited Handclaps: “Won't Bleed Me.”
Sweet Sweetback is a tale of hoes and cops and a well-endowed black man who uses his penis to convince ladies to doing things for him (way to go, Melvin Van Peebles, just crushing those stereotypes), and its soundtrack was written by the same man who wrote the movie, then directed the movie, and got Earth, Wind & Fire to perform the songs on the soundtrack, which, by the way, he wrote and composed. And then, in his free time, he decided to cast the most appropriate, handsomest, most well-endowedest gentleman he could find in the lead role: himself. LOL, Melvin. L.O.L., buddy. Because we're talking about the moving pictures industry, this walk through history would not be complete without some double-talk and shady business: Bill Cosby put up the key funds to allow this film to be completed. You might recognize Bill from introducing his kids to Stevie Wonder and Lena Horne on those reruns on your TV, and also for Chris Wallace wearing his sweaters. I, however, recognize Bill as that cranky guy on CNN, criticizing rap music for being violent and sexy. Or, wait - do I recognize Bill as the onetime movie producer who helped bankroll a movie about a fellow with a large penis who uses it to sex up ladies when he's not beating dudes' faces? GOSH I'M CONFUSED.
Anyway, the soundtrack is amazing, filled with snippets that show up on Doom records years later, and it was produced by something called Yeah Inc, a dumb name that is still less dumb than the production names Boi 1-da and AraaaaabMuziaaaaiaiaiakkckck. (Ha, I also just found out the producer of that horrible “Rack City” thing that I secretly sing along with in my car is a grown man who thought it would be appropriate to call himself “DJ Mustard.”)
Leon Ware (Elektra, 1982)
Sorry to keep you waiting so long, ladies. Here's
Regarding the undeniable sex vibrating from that cover photo, all I can muster is a “Leon, what happened to my lacy underthings? They were here a second ago.” Aw Leon, congrats on having the Best 'I Have a Brass Waterbed I Wanna Show It To You Here's Some Zinfandel, Pretty Lady' Face. It's your lust-face that makes me forget you were once capable of innocence in lyrical content and chord progression, like when you wrote “I Wanna Be Where You Are." (I really really want to make this entire post about “I Wanna Be Where You Are.” Trying to show restraint here. I mean, Jesus, what a SONNNNG.)
No breaks on this one, but lots of Rhodes, plus a song called “Deeper Than Love,” which I like to think of as a “fuck off, Rawss” that was just delayed 30 years. Sadly, there's also a corny, not-good song called “Why I Came to California,” which, because it is by a heterosexual '70s man, is of course about paradise being real, hillsides and deserts, dreams coming true, watching pretty girls at Zuma Beach, lalala, good grief, gimme something new, Leon! It's got THE GOD James
Best Fucking Fact Outta This Whole Haul: Leon Ware did the Deep Throat soundtrack -??? - !! - which had been one of the world's great mysteries prior to an Internet search by Logan, circa Dec. 16, 2011. German 45s on eBay (viewed in super-tight zoom on my laptop's screen) say Leon and a lyricist named Bob Hilliard did the music. It makes sense, groove-wise, when you listen. It's got that Leon feel, even though it sounds like Leon used 2 soup cans and a toy piano to compose. Leon's also from Detroit, so of course I love him, but I'll never know why Leon doesn't shout it from the rooftops that he did the Deep Throat music. This is illogical, like using the name AraabMUZIK professionally when your given name is the much-doper Abraham Orellana.
Dexter Wansel, Life On Mars (Philadelphia International, 1976)
Del, Madlib, Sun Ra, Kool Keith, Ayers, Monk, everyone on Ninja Tune in the '90s, most dudes on Warp the next decade, all members of Parliament and Funkadelic and Parliament Funkadelic, Stevie Wonder, Zappa, and sure,what the hell, Bowie and Syd Barrett and Brian Wilson too; Dex Wansel is the latest in a long line of Space-Travelers sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in my record collection, along with '70s singer/songwriters and the most skilled of all dead rappers. A crying shame that this wasn't in apt. 680 before, I snatched it up at the swap meet based on its rap production pedigree* as well as my red-hot embarrassment at not owning it already.
Side A, track 1: “A Prophet Named K.G.,” which is, sadly, not about the Celtics' forward or Naughty By Nature's quietest member. It does, however, provide the Best Kenneth Gamble Nod in Song Title Form. I like to be reminded of Gamble & Huff, which, along with being a super production duo, also happen to be my two most favorite activities while in Vegas, HEY-O. The other song titles are fresh and cosmic - “Stargazer,” “One Million Miles from the Ground,” and *“Theme from the Planets” being the standouts. I have dreams of interplanetary travel too, Dex! Escapism! Obsolete credit: “ARP by Dexter Wansel” (along with keys, synth, and lead vocals). ARP built good products, Google tells me, and they sold well; “the major problems that developed in the company were due less to design flaws than to corporate mismanagement.” So it was like that whole Rawkus thing.
Gabor Szabo, Magical Connection (Blue Thumb, 1972)
This one's actually not an album in tribute to the unstoppable love that Stringer Bell and I will always share (in my head). Our connection truly is a magical one (in my head). Sigh. “Logan Bell. Mrs. Bell. Mr. and Mrs. Stringer Bell.” Still, I purchased the record based on the fact that you can't really go wrong with Mr. Szabo, there's someone named “Lynn Blessing” on vibraphone, and because of that cover, designed by Tom Wilkes (Safe As Milk, Harvest, All Things Must Pass). Actual Song Title: “Love Theme from Spartacus.” I mean, what. (I have no idea). Additionally, this one earns the honor of having the Most Esoteric LA Connection. “Sombrero Sam” was used by Mumbles Fowler on “The Hunt” by Acey, who remains the only dude in LA who doesn't look ridiculous in a fedora. Fowler then rode off into the Indian sunset, where he is, if not fully ascetic at this point, almost fully converted to the monastic life. Meanwhile, I'm still here living the hedonistic life, taking trips to Vegas, Gambling and Huffing.
Ha, they made soundtrack two words. Stupid Italians!
Blow-Up soundtrack, Herbie Hancock (MGM, 1966)
My prized baby of the bunch, it's an original pressing. That's Veruschka the German Fox on the cover,
and the image is compelling but makes me kind of uncomfortable if my eyes stay on it for more than a few seconds, just like that eXquire cover. Best Magic City/Kang of Diamonds Tie-In: that photo, with Veruschka contorting her body for a paycheck, is a reminder from the universe of what I've learned from strippers - 1) Scotch tape is the best way to get sparkly liquid (glitter + lotion) off your skin, and 2) knowing your angles when being viewed will increase your revenue significantly. Darling, life is performance. Know those angles, ladies. I have no hustles other than the I-work-an-honest-job hustle, but the fact is that we all use the skill set of looking interested, while not being interested at all, just so we can complete our current task at hand - and this describes modeling perfectly. It also describes stripping, office jobs, retail sales, having a conversation with my aunt Jean, being at a bar anytime something other than the Clipse is being played, and, hell, probably rapping for a good percentage of on-duty hours too.
Blow-Up is famous for the Veruschka modeling scene, the presence of a young Jane Birkin in a small role, and for having Herbie Hancock do the soundtrack. What I mean is, Blow-Up is famous in my own life for being perfect fantasy fodder - “sort-of-pretty-but-sort-of-odd-looking white ladies being heralded while Herbie plays in the background.” This is my life when I daydream at work! Best Bassline for an Opener: “Bring Down the Birds,” though the song then turns into some screwball-comedy sounding thing, not very sexy at all. Its “Groove is in the Heart” connection is sort of sexy(?), but supremely unsexy is the fact that I can't figure out why Q-Tip (Jive) appeared on a record by Deee-Lite (Elektra) in 1990. Sex is brought later into the album in the form of “Stroll On” by the Yardbirds, whose audience of bored, uptight humans during their scene in the film could be, I swear, footage from any rap show in LA. Dudes are too cool for school out here.
None of these reasons compel me to borrow this film, Netflix it, or stream it illegally, though I guess I should just so I can be familiar with the films of Antonioni in case I get trapped in an elevator with Tarantino, James Franco, or the Das Racist boys. I already know the best line of the film: Thomas, the photographer, on the primary reason his wife is his wife, says, “She isn't beautiful. She's easy to live with.” This is important for us females to remember, along with the fact that we should never date anyone who refers to women as “females.” The feat of being easy to live with is just as important for males to remember, though, so you can just stop it with that email accusing me of being sexist and only insisting women adhere to this. We all want ease and comfort at the end of the day. Now be quiet so I can think! Also: my slippers, please.
Beat Swap Meet #16
Grandstar Jazz Club
943 N. Broadway, LA
Pros: As always, the entrance fee was a canned good, collected for the homeless; records records recordssssss; Yogurtland afterward, then a nap. Heard Con Funk Shun's “Ffun,” the ffuckin jam, in the car during the drive over!
Cons: I got overstimulated and tired. As always, I didn't bring enough money; therefore, I kind of wanted to kill myself. (See also Beat Swap Meets # 1, 3, 4, 9 & 10). I was one of about 4 female humans in attendance. Our paychecks are still about 7/10 as large as yours, gentlemen, which accounts for some absences because we just don't have as much disposable income, but LADIES: no excuses. Records are beautiful, life-affirming objects that bring messages from the other side. Get into it/get involved.