Shot Of Rhythm

[ Wednesday, May 02, 2007 ]


Old dogs, new tricks

Three recent releases to spotlight today, all of which indicate that the past is very much alive in each moment of the musical present.

-First is Mr. Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-Go, who has quite literally emerged from seeming obscurity once again to remind the entire nation why he continues to stand at the spiritual and musical center of Washington, D.C.'s seminal go-go scene, a genre with an influence and importance far wider than has even begun to be understood. Mr. Brown returns in fine form, with an old-leather voice and rhythms that sound simultaneously timeless and fresh. What's really surprising, though, and what makes WE'RE ABOUT THE BUSINESS a most worthy addition to his catalog (or anyone else's, for that matter) is simply how good the songs are: this record has nary a weak spot, and several of the tracks immediately jump out as warm, friendly soundtracks for all yer summertime barbecues and pool parties. Sometimes a record is memorable because it reinvents, and sometimes it's memorable because it reminds. This one reminds, and more power to it.

Chuck Brown - "Block Party," from WE'RE ABOUT THE BUSINESS

Chuck Brown (feat. KK) - "Chuck Baby," from WE'RE ABOUT THE BUSINESS

-Ms. Mavis Staples is well on her way to being a national treasure, particularly if people like me and her eloquent fan David Cantwell have anything to say about it. On her new collection, WE'LL NEVER TURN BACK, the mighty Mavis tackles an album-length collection of "freedom songs." Now, my immediate reaction was "wait a minute, hasn't her entire career been freedom songs?" And I'm right, of course. (smile) Still, here she explicitly meditates on the music of the Civil Rights Movement, and - with the deft assistance of Ry Cooder, Jim Keltner and the glorious return of the SNCC Freedom Singers - she bridges the past and present with freshness, spirit and (occasionally) a stiff shot of anger. May we all grow so gracefully.

Mavis Staples (w/SNCC Freedom Singers) - "Turn Me 'Round"

Mavis Staples - "We'll Never Turn Back"

-Finally, on the reissue front comes the return of Ms. Betty Davis, Miles' ex-wife and a veritable funk auteur. As our friend Oliver Wang points out in his book-worthy liner notes, Davis selected her band (featuring veterans of Santana and the Family Stone, plus The Pointer Sisters and more), wrote all her own material, oversaw its arrangement and production, and then put it on fire in the vocal booth, and at her infamous live shows. With superb remastering (some of the best I've ever heard), Light In The Attic Records now unleashes Betty Davis' classic first two records, slabs of uncut funk that are raw, raunchy, righteous, and most-definitely rockin'. She pounds as hard as the Stones or AC/DC, sings with the intensity of Tina or Patti, and talks as unabashedly as world-wide-women from Bessie Smith to Lil Kim. Ladies and gentlemen, the star of our show...

Betty Davis - "Steppin' In Her I. Miller Shoes," from BETTY DAVIS

Betty Davis - "Shoo-B-Doop And Cop Him," from THEY SAY I'M DIFFERENT

See y'all down the road.

On the box right now: Warren Zevon, PRELUDES. Beautiful collection of early demos from one of the late greats.


Dove With Claws [9:48 PM]