Archive for the ‘The Soft Machine’ Category

Ray Lema

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Listen: Kamulang (Single Edit) / Ray Lema

In the late 80′s, just starting a five year run at Island, I became pretty obsessed with World Music. We never called it that there or then, but the industry termed the genre as such around the time. It was easily a normal expansion of Island’s musical reach, well, normal to those of us in-house at least.

Chris had noticed my love of the genre, and at one point, suggested I leave the pop side of the company to concentrate exclusively on Mango, Island’s World and Reggae imprint. In some ways, I wish I had, but hey, you can’t do everything. At least, I can’t.

During the process though, I made a few trips to the UK and France, where several of the African acts either resided or performed regularly. One such being Ray Lema. His Mango debut, NANGADEEF, was produced by Paul ‘Graucho’ Smykle, infamous in my world for an identical feat on Black Uhuru’s ANTHEM.

Graucho may as well have lived at Island’s 22 St. Peter’s Square office in London, where we became fast friends. And I loved NANGADEEF. Was I ever pleased to see ‘Kamulang’ on the UK’s single release schedule, which in those days meant a 7 as well as a 12.

It was in Paris, during November ’89, that Ray Lema played to a jammed house inside the Virgin Mega Store. The whole freaking day reeked of romantic. Never one to have a soft spot about Paris nor France, I must admit, hanging around, as excited to meet Ray Lema as I had been about The Rolling Stones a decade and more earlier, with the Eiffel Tower in clear view, was pretty memorable. Musicianship, not volume, being the ultimate asset here, and Ray Lema had both. If you know his work, or simply listen to this track, I can verify, the music was flawlessly reproduced live with an added spiritual euphoria.

Despite the period’s sonic trappings, now all rather dated, there was always a streak of The Soft Machine in there instrumentally. What’s not to like about that?

Nowadays, ‘Kamulang’ holds up just fine for me. Regardless of if I can stretch my World 7″ collection to 50 plus or not, this will always be Top 5.

The Incredible String Band

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

incrediblethismoment, The Incredible String Band, Elektra

Listen: This Moment / The Incredible String Band IncredibleMoment.mp3

incredibleblackjack, The Incredible String Band, Elektra, The Gun Club, Steeleye Span, The White Stripes

Listen: Black Jack Davy / The Incredible String Band IncredibleBlackJack.mp3

Acquired taste. Okay, I agree. During the late 70′s folk boom and the accompanying blind acceptance of, I didn’t know what to make of some of these acts. I don’t think anybody did. The Incredible String Band were English so I put the time in to find some positives. I mean everyone needed a few essential folk genre bits for the collection. And they did have some happening album covers. Seems they released several in very short order – so many that I never ended up buying one out of confusion. Then I LOOKED UP came out and started to get a few plays on the local college station, Syracuse University’s WAER. I took the plunge and bought. My two, by far, favorite tracks (‘This Moment’ and ‘Black Jack Davy’) were A and B sides in the UK. How handy.

Shortly thereafter, the SU Concert Committee booked them into a weird part chapel/part venue joint on campus. It was usually reserved for jazz events, don’t remember the name, but I did see The Soft Machine there. Most likely, they could be considdered jazz if you stretched it – and I’m glad they did – wow, great show.

Anyways, The Incredible String Band were spectacular. Featured the expanded (Mike and Robin plus girlfriends Rose and Licorice) lineup from I LOOKED UP and the about to be released U. In hindsight, the girlfriends were a bit of a Spinal Tap move sans tambourines. Still, we loved it.

Whoever Black Jack Davy was, many a song has been written about his folklore reputation. This version is not to be confused with other excellent ones of the same title by The Gun Club, Steeleye Span and The White Stripes.

And the above ‘This Moment’ (3:19), to my knowledge, is a 7″ vinyl only version. Every LP and CD contains the full 6:09 minute take.

Marsha Hunt

Friday, June 20th, 2008

I Walk On Guilded Splinters / Marsha Hunt

Listen: I Walk On Guilded Splinters / Marsha Hunt 01 I Walk On Guilded Splinters

As much as I love Dr. John’s version of ‘I Walk On Guilded Splinters’, I love Marsha Hunt’s even more. The voice. Plain and simple. Much can be said about her interesting life. Let’s start with this fact: she moved to London and in ‘67 needed a visa – so she married Mike Ratledge of The Soft Machine. There’s more, but just go to Wikipedia for all that. I’m nuts about her handful of singles, and amazing pipes. My Dr. John post below suddenly reminded me I needed to hear Marsha’s version. That agonizing howl at the very end of the song proves it all.