Archive for the ‘Miriam Makeba’ Category

Wally Badarou

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Listen: Theme From Countryman / Wally Badarou

This single sits front of the 7″ soundtrack section in a wall shelf that I pass everyday of my life, when I’m in town that is. Suddenly it occurred to me, I had no idea what it sounded like. Well that’s all changed. If ‘Theme From Countryman’ had lyrics, I could sing you every last one at this point, that’s how many times it’s been on repeat. One of many lessons learned: never dump a record, you just can not predict know when it may become a cornerstone in your collection.

As an unofficial member of Level 42, Wally Badarou held little interest to me, and his endless studio involvements somehow the same. Boy, was I stupid.

Firstly, his accomplishments are an eye opener: a member of The Compass Point All Stars with Sly & Robbie, Barry Reynolds, Mikey Chung and Sticky Thompson, the in-house recording team of Compass Point Studios responsible for a long series of albums by Grace Jones, Joe Cocker, Black Uhuru, Gwen Guthrie, Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Isaacs, Robert Palmer, Marianne Faithfull, Herbie Hancock, M, Talking Heads, Melissa Etheridge, Manu Dibango and Miriam Makeba. Yeah, gasp.

Secondly, a gifted composer of incidental film music, possibly even harder to do well than calculating a Top 40 hit.

The single lead me to pull out the full length COUNTRYMAN double album soundtrack, thereby discovering, upon a typical credit scour, that Kwaku Baah played a big part in the musician lineup. Currently obsessed with his annoyingly under appreciated and extremely scarce TRANCE album from ’77, credited to Kwaku Baah & Ganoua, I rabidly advise finding a copy. And while you’re at it, both the COUNTRYMAN soundtrack and it’s accompanying 7″.

Miriam Makeba

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Listen: I Shall Sing / Miriam Makeba
I Shall Sing / Miriam Makeba

I will forever regret missing Miriam Makeba when she returned to NY in ’88, supporting her then new album, SANGOMA. It reunited her with the Warner/Reprise label, and I was offered some tickets by Julie Panebianco in the label’s college department one floor down from Elektra. I recall spending that whole evening wondering what was happening only a mile or two away, while I sat home doing something completely unmemorable.

Collecting all the US and UK pressings of her singles proved surprisingly hard, so it became a mission.

‘I Shall Sing’ always escaped me for the longest time, until a few weeks back. Oddly the single isn’t even listed in most Miriam Makeba discographies. Like the album from which it came, KEEP ME IN MIND, the attempt was to bring on a more soul and rock approach, and in the case of ‘I Shall Sing’, a Van Morrison cover helped achieve the purpose. Later recorded by both Art Garfunkel and Toots & The Maytals, hands down, it’s her’s that takes the cake in my book.

Miriam Makeba

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

MiriamPata, Miriam Makeba, Jerry Ragovoy, Reprise

Listen: Pata Pata / Miriam Makeba
Pata Pata / Miriam Makeba

A traditional African song by a native artist becoming a US radio and chart hit (#12, 10/67)? Probably a first, definitely a last. Seriously, I can’t remember it ever happening again. Programmers with their false sense of knowing the public taste and dismissive musical arrogance were actually powerful all through the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s. Even after the industry coined the sound ‘world music’ and it became chic, off the US airwaves it was kept – maybe Paul Simon’s GRACELAND got some radio attention, but nowhere near matching the sales story. That’s as far as the door opened. And not ever again for a native artist. Did any pop, alternative or more pointedly, urban station play King Sunny Ade & His African Beats or Ladysmith Black Mambazo? Yeah right. So much for a melting pot and honoring heritage.

This, of course, before the gatekeepers lost that power and their stronghold was decimated. But all those years of musical censorship took it’s toll. Just look at the tastes of the average American. Yikes.

Released not long after The Dixie Cups ‘Iko Iko’ became a hit, both hooked me with the rhythm and ambience of drums, sticks, bongos – whatever. It all sounded pretty fascinating. ‘Pata Pata’ never struck me as out of place, or threateningly different, just a great single. I collected all the Reprise 7′s to follow, about 5-6 more. Who realized at the time that Jerry Ragovoy was involved in the Miriam Makeba story, not only as producer, but co-songwriter. True, he was in the studio with her while juggling sessions with Lorraine Ellison. How great is that?

Reprise, and parent company Warner Brothers, had a most seminal and diverse roster, beginning in the 60′s. All you need do is pull out any of the label’s album inner sleeves listing their currents to see. In fact, that diversity and standard continued for decades, all under Mo Ostin’s leadership. His taste in music, and instinct for executives goes a bit unheralded in the history books, but it was there and vastly important to a healthy underground music culture in America.

Earth, Wind & Fire / Ramsey Lewis

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

EWFMightyUKA, Earth Wind & Fire, Columbia, CBS, Warner Brothers

EWFMightyPS, Earth Wind & Fire

Listen: Mighty Mighty / Earth Wind & Fire EWFMighty.mp3

During the summer of ’74 – summer ’75, I worked at Discount Records, then a northeastern chain, owned by CBS, and heavily stocked in catalog. Most record shops in those days carried lots of….records. This was a time when all the excitement happened right there in the store as opposed any of the other shops competing for the youth dollar.

Today it’s known as an Apple Store. Both had genius bars, well no, that’s a lie. Record shops had counters populated by genius record experts. Same difference.

There were a couple of co-workers who relentlessly hogged the turntable, seemingly for the sole purpose of playing Earth Wind & Fire’s newest album, OPEN OUR EYES. I cringed at it’s polish having preferred their previous two Warner Brothers albums. They were way less refined and more street dirty. After all, leader Maurice White had started his professional career in ’69 as a session drummer at Chess, eventually joining The Ramsey Lewis Trio. Then something happened, literally in mid song, I realized I absolutely loved ‘Mighty Mighty’. It was the last track on one of the sides as I recall, and had just been released as a single. How perfect. It’s been a staple ever since.

EWFDrumSongUKB, Earth Wind & Fire

Listen: Drum Song / Earth Wind & Fire EWFDrum.mp3

So once my guard was down, I started noticing a bunch of things in there, like LA’s latin sound, which War had coined a year or two prior, sentimentally grabbing my attention via a first visit in ’73. Plus new to me, African beats. Miriam Makeba’s ‘Pata Pata’, shockingly a pop hit several years earlier, was my only exposure at that point. B side of ‘Mighty Mighty’ and album track, ‘Drum Song’ became a favorite even. I was officially a fan.


Listen: Kalimba Story / Earth Wind & Fire EWFKalimba.mp3

Was I happy when ‘Kalimba Story’ was released as a 7″. It was almost too good to be true, being my other favorite from the album. I’ve noticed kalimba on every record they’ve ever made, at least all the ones I know.

RamseyUSA, Earth Wind & Fire, Ramsey Lewis, Columbia

Listen: Sun Goddess / Ramsey Lewis And Earth Wind & Fire EWFSunGoddess.mp3

Full circle to ’75, when Maurice White reunites with Ramsey Lewis to record what would become a #1 Urban classic. These guys had really hit their stride.