Monday, February 11, 2013

Fumaça Preta - Vou-me Libertar

Ready to make it's home in a ol' Wurly jukebox beside some classic funk, Fumaça Preta deliver a stellar no-need-for-artwork 7inch single with "Vou-me Libertar" on lado-a and "Eu Era Um Cão" on lado-b. This is a dead-on example of my favorite kind of single: (again) no artwork (needed), standard record company center labels, large cut hole for a jukebox, black wax, and bad ass music that makes you get up off your tush to keep flipping lado-a to lado-b, back to lado-a, and so on.

I remember being quite intrigued by receiving an envelope from Portugal; I just started this blog, so news must have traveled far, and fast. There was no literature for the release included to learn about what was pressed, and other than obviously being able read the record label's name, Music With Soul, the fact that it was easy to translate "lado" to "side," "Fumaça Preta" being printed on both sides in a way suggesting it may be the bands name, and "Alex Figueira" being credited as the (I am guessing) producer, (breathe, we're almost there) ...I really knew nothing about this record (seriously, that's it - what I just wrote). But I loved it; I couldn't help but play it over and over again (hell, I might have even danced ...I cannot confirm or deny). I didn't care what language the credits were written in or what language the enthusiastic vocalist was singing in, Fumaça Preta was (is) delivering the goods, and those goods were doing me just that.

Their report is absolute vintage. Fumaça Preta is not that horrid funk group made up of some old dudes from that lame 70's high school band that won 3rd place in the town battle of the bands only because the bass player was dating the captain of the cheerleading squad and now owns the used car lot where your uncle Harry picked up his sweet El Camino with original rims he drove you in to go see his old friends from high school get their 'funkadelic review' back together because they were really going through a mid-life-crisis; no, Fumaça Preta is the real McCoy. I honestly did not want to know anything more about these guys, I just wanted to keep playing their record more and more. It wasn't until I began writing this review and needed to check a couple of facts that I ran across Music With Soul's own website and was able to learn a little more about Fumaça Preta and this 7inch. Pretty interesting stuff; in fact, I'm not going to re-write / re-post anything that was already said, but I do encourage you to go to their site and read more for yourself.

These songs are packed with spicy hot Hammond organs dancing around the night club in a way that makes you proud to say this is your hood, wah-wah pedals pumping blood to the pulse of the ever-infectious-non-stop beat the DJ keeps drumming, lead guitars as sharp and sexy as the CFM heels your lady stepped out of the limo with and intends to wear all night long (all, night, long), fuzzy-ass bass lines that you can curl up with as the night grows on and everything begins to feel aaaalllrright, and explosive keyboards that light up the sky while we all celebrate yet another year. As the host of the party welcomes you with open arms, he introduces you to all his friends and immediately makes you feel comfortable (even in another language that is still unclear to me); there are no wallflowers on this record / this is the kind of record that makes a white boy (me) dance. This is also the kind of record that makes me say "To hell with grammatical rules!" and write a lot of (more than normal) run-on sentences to express my excitement. "Here-here!" to freedom of speech (and grammar)! "Chin-Chin!" to Fumaça Preta and Music With Soul!

Concrete Blonde - Rosalee + I See the Ghost 7inch

The last I had heard of or thought about Concrete Blonde, I was sixteen-years-old, had just joined the employed population, and my newly befriended co-worker was proudly boasting about his own personally-titled theme song that was all the rave on MTV and the radio airwaves. Out of (great) respect for Concrete Blonde and the (possible) reality that every piece written about them since 1990 has desperately mentioned the one widely known fact about their existence, I'll refrain from disclosing my friend's identity, and instead focus on what impressed me with this little piece of white wax that randomly showed up in the mail from Conqueroo.

The black paper record sleeve, which for the sake of (what I am assuming is) the promotional copy that was sent to my attention, framed in the center labels for this 7inch, making them take the lead on this project and stand at attention as the proper cover art. Basic information is provide on one side of the record, accompanied by a pixelated starry illustration presented in monotone, seen on both sides. The UK center hole cut into the 45 is only symbolic of the many reasons why one may not recognize that this alternative band's punk heritage is in fact LA-based.

"Rosalee" is the soundtrack to remembrance. As the night grows bitter and you move in closer to the fire, "Rosalee" is the blanket that warms you. Johnette Napolitano's raw, yet compassionate, delivery is fitting for this story. With only a lightly-crunched electric guitar and drums embraced by mallets, this side to the 7inch serves as a great re-introduction (at least for me) to Concrete Blonde.

Neither side is labeled as "Side-A," which (by industry standards, and the fact that the accompanying paperwork said so) makes this a "double-sided" 7inch, meaning that both songs are being promoted as 'the hits,' and rightfully so. "I See the Ghost" could not be more opposite from "Rosalee," which proves to be great for the Gemini-like format. Similar to its subdued partner, "I See the Ghost" is very simplistic in design, yet not only puts the pedal to the metal, it burns rubber as it immediately turns a 180 and yells "Screw you, pigs!" to the policemen coming out of the local bakery downtown on Main Street. The speed of this track is so damn fast, I honestly shifted my turntable down to 33rpm until the vocals kicked in and I suddenly knew Concrete Blonde had greased up the ol' V8 and was taking this baby on a ride truly meant for 45-sweet-rpm. Only an established band with a deserving confidence could pull off such a brilliantly anxious punk treasure that (I could swear) is made up of two (not three, but two) root notes... for the entire song... including the chorus. ((Brilliant!))

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Red Jacket Mine - Someone Else's Cake

I remember being quite impressed simply by the 100x100 pixel JPEG image that presented itself within the promotional email I received for Red Jacket Mine's new album, 'Someone Else's Cake.' Immediately it brought to mind the cut-n-paste artwork often found with Guided By Voices or Pavement records. I couldn't wait to hold the 12inch version of this meticulously involved collage.

This was my first experience with Fin Records, a name I can now tell you is significantly associated with quality. To start, the record bags they use are not your standard polyethylene bags that most companies use. I could be wrong, but I believe Fin Records might be using a museum grade archival polyester / mylar record bag. Whatever it is, the minute you grab their records, you know someone cares dearly for the contents within and they want to ensure their records are past on from generation to generation.

Another standard that quickly impressed me with Fin Records was their embossed logo you always find within the packaging. It's a stamp of approval confirming that they ensure you won't be disappointed, and you won't.

The inner sleeve for 'Someone Else's Cake' resembles Space Age Bachelor Pad musicians like Esquivel and labels like Command Records (one of our absolute favorites of all time for design and packaging); vibrant in color and geometric design. The exquisitely pressed stark white vinyl pulls it all together. Shawn Wolfe, who regularly breaks the barrier of the x-axis, is credited for the design. He is also responsible for Red Jacket Mine's two like composed 7inches singles from this album, "Listen Up (If the World is Going to Hell)" and "Bellar & Bawl." Wolfe's style visually expands Red Jacket Mine's sound in the same way producer Johnny Sangster does in the studio.

The album starts off strong with "Amy," but I'd be lying if I didn't tell you I wasn't taken aback by singer / songwriter, Lincoln Barr's, Ted-Leo-doing-an-impression-of-Jon-Bon-Jovi-like vocal style, predominantly with this track. The mature nature of "Nickel & Dime" and "Ron Nasty" instantly satisfied my pallet, loaded with thought provoking lyrics, pop hooks and harmonies at every corner reminiscent of classics spanning the past fifty years, then topped by Red Jacket Mine's studio performance of sheer perfection. By the way, don't take that Ted Leo / Jon Bon Jovi comment as a diss; it's meant to describe Barr's tasty vocal tone and texture.

"Engineer," packed with fuzzy guitar leads and a ballsy (again with the balls) brass section, showcases Barr's blues influence from St. Louis, MO, where he attended college. But it wasn't until "Skint City" that a limelight clearly illuminated Red Jacket Mine's vision of soul fusion. It was only a hint of what was to come, as I was forced to get up from my chair to flip the record over and settle in for a very enjoyable ride through side-b.

I know this is going to sound crazy, but "Listen Up (If the World is Going to Hell)" sounds like Steely Dan doing a cover of a Curtis Mayfield song, and I love it (FYI: I am a freak Steely and Curtis fan). Everything about this track: the guitar tones, the chord changes, the organ drones, the crescendos, the fills, ...I just love this track. Followed by "Novelty's Gone," with Andrew Salzman's confident and enthralling drumming, side-b really begins to define the power behind Red Jacket Mine. Barr's use of back up singers on this chorus, along with the commanding delivery of his words, are as refreshing as Neil Halstead's similar deliverance with Mojave 3's sophomore surprise, 'Out of Tune.'

The title track is pure, solid, fun, well executed rock and roll, separating Red Jacket Mine from being just any bar band and putting them in a class of Elvis Costello, Young Mothers, and (again) Ted Leo (continuing with that Jon Bon Jovi twang). Speaking of twang, Barr throws us a curve ball just before he wraps up this collection of first-rate ditties. "Have You Got a Permit to Preach on This Corner?" is Red Jacket Mine's nod-to-Nashville, and somewhat of a protest song; or perhaps a song to protest against protests. The boys wrap things up back at the local watering hole with their second single, "Bellar & Bawl." Matthew Cunningham's urging bass lines grab a hold of Salzman's beats and never look back, while guest pianist, Ty Bailie, twinkles the ivories with enthusiasm. Barr's compelling address enthralls the drunken blokes for a brief moment while they sing along, just as the band closes out 'last call,' and the men fall victim to the feminine touch he warned them about.

Red Jacket Mine, Fin Records, Johnny Sangster, and Shawn Wolfe really hit a grand slam with 'Someone Else's Cake.' They are playing in a league of their own, unlike anything you would expect from Seattle, WA. They are the local band that done good for themselves. Their music is classic, timeless, and alive. Learn more about Red Jacket Mine via Fin Records.