Posts Tagged ‘Africa

28
Apr
18

Manu Dibango “Soul Makossa”

This is a curious record because I don’t know what to make of it, but my first impression is that every song is good, while sounding nothing like the one before it, or anything I’ve had on my turntable in the last 15 days. The cover has a kind of bizarre photo (as if the camera is pointed up from the belt-buckle level) of a black guy with a striped shirt and sunglasses playing a horn (some kind of straight saxophone?) who I can only assume is Manu Dibango—who the record label tells me wrote and arranged all the songs—as well as penned the liner notes. The label is Atlantic and the year is 1972 (a year I’m quite fond of, and just got fonder). On the cover there is also a little gold box containing bold letters: “THE ORIGINAL”—implying what? That there are pale imitations out there that one must be aware of, deal with, and fend off?

The liner notes provide clues about this music we’re listening to, but I’m not going to sit here and retype the liner notes, but it’s briefly about how the music has African roots but is influenced by all kinds of other music, and ends by saying, “I am told that in the United States our music is now called “Black Ivory Soul.” So there you go. He also credits eight musicians and lists what they play and where they’re from, which includes: Guadeloupe, the River Congo, Cameroun, and France. There’s a picture on the back of five guys playing music in a place that looks like the end of a closed off tunnel.

The first song, “New Bell,” is an irresistible, driving dance number, or in my case, a song that compelled me to find something to make rhythmic percussion sounds with, which, as long as no one else is listening, I can get away with. There are some far off vocals, not in English, so it left me wondering what the title referred to. “Nights in Zeralda” perfectly evokes nights in Zeralda—which might refer to a neighborhood in Algiers, or perhaps a very special lady. “Hibiscus” really slows it down, and it’s even kind of melancholy, or dire, or at least very serious. It means you’re going to get a drink and turn the record over, for “Dangwa,” which could refer to the flower market in Manila, or someone or something I don’t know about, and I’m not going to know until someone tells me. This is a strange song, since it starts out with an intro, kind of evocative of something, and then it takes you somewhere entirely else. “Lily,” then, is a three minute story song—at least it sounds like a story—it could be about a lady—or it could be a very condensed epic movie.

“Soul Makossa” starts out sounding like a familiar James Brown song, then doesn’t, and it’s just a really happy, four and a half minute repetitive, funk, dance number, with more of this very crystal clear sax (it’s on every song). I really like the sound of this horn—it’s hard to explain what’s so good about it—it’s fairly obvious sounding, yet there’s a little subtle something, maybe some kind of blatant feeling that seems less blatant in the context. Maybe the internet will tell me more about “Soul Makossa”—and it turns out there’s quite a story—which you either already know, or can read about for yourself—but since I find this kind of thing irresistible—okay, so someone started DJ-ing this 45 in New York in 1972, and then a guy heard it and played it on the radio, but since it was impossible to find, like 23 bands did covers of it. Eventually Atlantic records saw dollar signs and released it. The other interesting thing is how many bands used the repetitive vocal line (wordplay on “Makossa”)—you can start scrolling down that list, but make sure you don’t have anywhere to be.

Finally, “Oboso” closes out the record, and it’s again a pretty jaunty tempo, funky, repetitive funk number, this time with far off horn and some up front psychedelic electric guitar. I think Oboso might be a name, and interestingly, it occurs to me that it’s also the word “Toboso” without the “T.” Toboso is a town in Ohio, and a name that I eventually used for my publishing company—it’s a long story, how it came to that—and ultimately an incomplete one, because I never did look into the origin of that as a place name. I mean, there’s Dulcinea del Toboso, a character in Don Quixote, and I suppose people may have been more literary minded back when they were naming towns and all, because there was no TV, and yet people had to have something to do in the evening, when they came home from chopping down trees and killing the native people—but now I’m on a tangent that’s not doing anyone any good.

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22
Apr
12

David Bowie “Lodger”

First of all there have been a few changes, since I moved AGAIN and this time I had to give away all but a handful of my records. So no longer am I going through my record collection alphabetically, since my record collection now, such as it is, could fit into a shopping bag. If this sounds sad, it is, but also it’s a new beginning, and thankfully– because of the continued appreciation of vinyl– you can still find records out there. At the rate I’ve been going, anyway, by the time I write about the records I DO have, I’ll have collected a new batch of records to write about.

I’ve been trying to figure out what I think about this record, “Lodger,” for literally a year now. Part of the reason it has taken me so long is that I am never compelled to put it on the turntable. I guess I just don’t like it very much… but the funny thing is really WANT to like it. I feel like there is something there that I’m not grasping, but I don’t know what it is. I think I like this record intellectually, I can appreciate it okay, but I just don’t feel it. I’ll start with the cover, one of those that opens up like a double album, and it’s supposed to look like a big post card, but of course it doesn’t, because it’s the wrong scale, shape, and imagery. This is also one of those covers that you never know if it’s upright or sideways, or how it’s supposed to be looked at. It’s deliberately disorienting… or annoying, depending on your point of view. When it folds out there is a full body image of Bowie with a bandaged hand and his nose crushed like his face is pushed against glass. He looks like he’s either just fallen off a building or has been sucked into the air lock of a spaceship, or maybe he’s been molecularly transferred into an Archies comic in which he’s playing Richard Hell at RIverdale High’s Punk-Themed prom. He’s not dead, he’s just dancing.

The inside cover looks like they realized about two hours before press time that the damn thing opened up and they had to provide some art. What’s laying around here? –some art books, a couple of magazines… There is no sleeve in this particular version, so I don’t know if lyrics accompanied the record. I guess I can look them up online… because I feel like what I’m hearing is kind of confusing. What is it all about? “Fantastic Voyage”– is it about the movie where Raquel Welch and crew are shrunk go inside of someone’s body? It’s a nice pop song, but “Learning to live with somebody’s depression” is not your usual pop chorus. “African Night Flight” has a LOT of words, and he’s saying them REALLY FAST and it is not pleasant. “Move On” sounds like someone galloping on a horse with lots of mentions of exotic places in the world. I guess in keeping with the traveling theme. “Yassassin” is another foreign sounding song with the title chanted before each line. I think it means “I’ll have two eggs over easy and dry toast,” but you can look it up yourself if you want to be sure. Now “Red Sails” is one I’m really curious about. It’s a catchy song, upbeat, with electronic bullshit, something about “The Ponderosa”– no, it’s Thunder Ocean, I’m glad I looked that up. It’s a great image, Red Sails… and I guess it’s based on an old song, “Red Sails in the Sunset.”

Side Two starts with “D.J,” and you have to look to see if you accidentally put on a bad Talking Heads album in all the confusion. This is an annoying song, I’m sorry. “Look Back In Anger” could refer to the movie, or the play, “Look Back In Anger,” but I don’t care enough to try to determine that, mostly because the chorus keeps going “Waiting so long I’ve been waiting so long” which makes me think of all the other terrible pop songs that say “Waiting so long.” “Boys Keep Swinging” has a baseline that could really get in your nightmares. You can’t help listen to this song without envisioning a bawdy gay sailor movie with a line of dancers, pants down to their knees, with choreographed swinging prosthetic elephant sized cocks. “Repetition” is then a relief, until its relentless dissonant droning about Johnny who can’t cook and other tales of domestic unpleasantry, “Red Money” sounds just like that other Bowie song, I can’t remember which one… or maybe it’s this one… there’s a line about Comedy Central, and really no connection, that I can tell, to “Red Sails.”

So, amazingly, I warmed up to this record in the process of actually getting around the writing about it. The sad thing, however, is now I’ve switched back to cold indifference. That’s the way it goes with me and Lodger. Oh, also, no discussion of this record would be complete without a mention of Brian Eno.

 




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