Monthly Archives: December 2010

11 Acorn Lane + Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica – Happy Holy Days + Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica presents The Unforgettable Sounds of Esquivel

January 01, 1970

(Wooden Hat) (Orchestrotica) ;


The space age lounge jazz
experimentalism of Mexican composer/arranger Juan Garcia Esquivel (1918-2002)
has long wound its way through pop’s cultural adventurers from the kitsch
(B-52s) to the sober (Stereolab) and from the native (Mexican Institute of
Sound) to the worldly (Dimitri from Paris). Yet after the initial rush of
alternative cheering (late ‘90s through his passing) the heat around Esquivel
cooled just a tad. This season things get hot as 11 Acorn Lane celebrate the
holidays in blipping exotica fashion and Mr, Ho’s just goes all out


11 Acorn Lane’s Thomas Foyer and Neal Pawley have been at the
Esqu-exotica thing for a minute (pay cable fans hear 11AL stuff while watching
HBO’s Bored to Death and Showtime’s Weeds) and bring the same zest to the
songs of the season. It’s not easy to stay original when appropriating the vibe
of the holy yet the pair sass up tunes of the Christian holiday with just the
perfect blend of camp and reverence. “Deck the Halls” is hilarious and their
version of “Oh Tannenbaum” (“Oh Christmas Tree”) will give Guaraldi fans a fright
when it comes to Charlie Brown holiday spectaculars


 Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica’s twenty-plus member
ensemble from Boston sound as if they came from Guadalajara by way of Hollywood right on the eve of John Glenn’s
Mercury ride. Transcribed from the master’s original (and once lost)
arrangement charts, the live-recorded Unforgettable
tinkles and tickles and whoopsies like Esquivel’s mesmerizing
strange large lounge ensembles on songs such as the dippy “Sentimental
Journey.” But in reality, Ho’s 23-piece big band roars with the mighty (and
nearly as odd as Esquivel) heft of Stan Kenton’s Capitol years on tunes such as
“Take the A Train.” Seconding as a debut in the Exotica for Modern Living
series, Ho’s intentions are as unforgettable as his and Juan’s giddy sound.


DOWNLOAD: 11 Acorn Lane: “Silent
Night,” “Floats And Balloons,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”; Mr. Ho’s: “The
Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Frenesi,” “Mini Skirt” A.D. AMOROSI




Jon Hopkins – Monsters (original soundtrack)

January 01, 1970



In more than a few instances during the soundtrack for the
modestly budgeted science fiction film Monsters, Jon Hopkins’ score
doesn’t differ much from Insides, the 2009 full-length album from this UK
producer/composer. Insides is a sweeping, tranquil techno record
balanced with both organic and bubbling programmed sources. While it isn’t
without aggressive bass grooves or glitch techno-fired blasts, the fluttering
ambient pieces on Insides are the standouts of the lot, and Monsters
dearth of bluster partners with those compositions very well.


For his first solo film scoring gig – he collaborated
with Brian Eno and Lee Abrahams for The Lovely Bones – Hopkins pursued a
sound that’s clean and quite creepy. His score lands close to the work of
revered post-rock acts, but its punch is that there really isn’t one.


Italian Grammy Award-winning musician/Goldfrapp
contributing player Davide Rossi arranged the strings for the Monsters soundtrack, while Jon Hopkins wrote each piece, sometimes softening Rossi’s
contributions in the studio so that they glide seamlessly alongside piano and
warm, lingering guitar lines. Closer “Monsters Theme” is a fine
example of how full this record sounds within Hopkins’ tasteful boundaries. It’s
reminiscent of L’Eixample, a lush and melodic 2008-era effort from
experimental electronic musician Tim “Near the Parenthesis” Arndt.
With the powerful string base, “Monsters Theme” is bigger than
Arndt’s album, but aside from chiming guitar and breaks of piano, the rest of
the closer is a slowly cascading missive, a more orchestrated bridge from a
Slowdive track, each part fusing gracefully with the next. While the tension
and shrill violins underpinning “Attack” are necessary and remind us
we’re listening to a film score, Monsters‘ “Campfire” and
“Journey” are just beautiful works from Jon Hopkins, no climax


DOWNLOAD: “Monsters Theme,” “Candles” DOMINIC UMILE

Various Artists – The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz and Molam in Thailand 1965-1975

January 01, 1970







The redoubtable archivist label Soundway Records’ first foray into Asian music reaps sensational rewards on The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz and Molam. Featuring nineteen tracks (twenty on the vinyl edition) by sixteen acts recorded between 1965 and 1975, this beautifully researched collection is a window into a musical world largely unknown in the West, and another welcome addition to Soundway’s body of essential global music.

There’s remarkable variety here, between the sophisticated, urban Luk Krung, the more rural-oriented mixed bag Luk Thung, the north-eastern strain known as Molam (huge in neighboring Laos) and hybrids of Latin, jazz, psych and traditional Thai music that defy easy classification. One of the most striking aspects of these tracks is how rich the recording quality (and Soundway’s re-mastering) is, and how sophisticated the arrangements, compositions and over-all musicianship is. This is especially true on the Molam tracks, where the arrangements merge deliciously expressive vocals, heavily effected electric guitars and the traditional instruments the phin, the kahen and especially the sor, a bowed violin that gives Molam is distinctive droning quality. The three tracks by Molam star Chaweewan Dumnern seem to leap out of the speakers with an intimate immediacy, and sound, in a sonic sense, about as good as anything you’re likely to hear anytime soon – all with old-school analog recording technology, of course.

The same can be said for other Molam tracks by The Petch Phin Tong Band (“Soul Lam Plearn”) and Sodsri Rungsang (“Uay Porn Tahan Chaydan”), SE Asian pop drones that the John Cale-era Velvet Underground would be simpatico with. Conversely, an acoustic track like “Diew Sor Diew Caan” by Thong Huad & Kunp’an has a distinctly rural, small-town, old-world feel to it. Panon Nopporn’s “Sao Ban Pok  Pab” has an unmistakably Middle Eastern/Persian melody line, while Saknatee Srichiangmai’s “Nom Samai  Mai” is pure 60s psych, Thai style, with wah-wahed guitars to equal anything in the West. “Mae Kha Som Tam” by Onuma Singsiri has a soundtrack feeling, while “Fai Yen” by Ream Daranoi has a mysterious, dreamy, liquid cadence unlike anything at all in the West. Plearn Promdan’s “Wan Maha  Sanook” features a baritone sax line that is freakishly close to the signature sax sound of Morphine. “Ding Ding Dong” by Waipod Phetsuphan” has a Thai marching band cadence, while the pleasingly weird, off-kilter “Pleng Yuk Owakard” by the Viking Combo Band is a space jazz number that Sun Ra would be proud to own.

The Sound of Siam comes with a substantial, full color booklet full of remarkable photos and well researched text that puts all of the acts and numbers in context and perspective. Archival re-issues don’t get much more well turned-out than this, and Soundway can add another feather to it’s already well-plumed hat.

Standout Tracks: “Soul Lam  Plearn,” “Lam Toey Chaweewan,” “Pleng Yuk Owakard,” “Sao Ban Pok Pab,” “Sao Lam Plearn” and fourteen others.  CARL HANNI

(Soundway Records)




Elfin Saddle – Wurld Soundtrack

January 01, 1970



The members of Elfin Saddle, out of Montreal, are as much concerned with the
visual and performing arts as with music. On the one hand, the band’s founders
Emi Honda and Jordan McKenzie (with help from Nathan Gage of Shapes and Sizes
on bass and tuba, Nicholas Scribner and Kristina Koropecki), compose delicate
reveries of folk-banjo, accordion and polyrhythmic percussion that fall easily
into line with fellow Constellation artists Godspeed! You Black Emperor. On the
other, they construct equally intricate sculptures and installations, little
universes teeming with tiny representations of animal and plant life. The Wurld project combines these
complementary arts in a variety of ways.


At its heart is the Wurld film, a 23-minute meditation on biological growth and civilization. Over the
course of the film, a barren patch of dirt sprouts ferns and plant life, first,
then a variety of rustic manufactured structures. The piece is filmed in stop
motion, so that not only the living things (a snail, the plants, some furry,
weasel-ish creatures) seem to move, but also windmills, houses and fanciful
wooden implements. Technology develops as you watch the piece, first in
primitive wooden structures, then metal and fire. By the end, the natural
elements of the sculpture are nearly crowded out with small plastic items. There
is a growing sense of decay and dissolution, and the piece ends, fittingly
enough with static on a blank television screen. The whole biosphere, if that’s
what it is, seems intricately interconnected and infinitely complex, and
finally pushed over the edge by the relentless force of development. The music
which accompanies the film is, likewise, playful, organically rooted, and
rhythmically propulsive at first, but gradually taken over by the hiss and
clatter of mechanical sounds.


In addition to the Wurld film, the DVD also includes footage from a live performance at Montreal’s
Contemporary Art Museum, where Honda and McKenzie and
Gage perform in front of an ever shifting background of filmed sculpture. There
are also audio files for the Wurld soundtrack, included in both .WAV and .MP3 format, and some shorter films that
provide closer views of Honda’s art installations. The packaging for all these
components is quite beautiful, and includes, tucked away in a pocket, some
postcard-sized photos of the Wurld installation.


A work like Wurld is hard to judge by ordinary “Is this a good record or not?” standards, since
the music is only one piece of the package and makes sense mainly in the
context of the visual and performance elements. Still, even on headphones, the
three audio tracks are hauntingly beautiful, particularly the final “Tree in
Dark Water/Sinking Celebration”, with its unearthly vocals and sad, stately
banjo picking. You could certainly think of your own pictures for these songs –
or simply imagine Honda, delicate and pale, lifting her head over her
accordion, to sing it. Still the fact that there’s a whole universe living
around these songs, imagined in detail and constructed with care, makes them
even better. This Wurld is definitely
worth exploring.


in Dark Water/Sinking Celebration” JENNIFER

White Noise Sound – White Noise Sound

January 01, 1970



Raise your hand if you’ve been craving some
industrially-tinged four-four clamor marrying Wire, NIN, and Suicide. Those
whose hands shot up are in luck, at least with the track kicking-off this
full-length debut. “Sunset” is four minutes and 20 seconds of deterministic
head-banging fodder. To be more specific: Squeals of short feedback as
punctuation; offhand, slightly shaky vocals, and aggressive percussion/guitars
that could fire the edgiest catwalk slither-struts.


But this is more than just an industrial-grey hard rock
orgy: It’s a trip. WNS knows it’s got it goin’ on – most musicians this new to
the scene would be reluctant to quench the opening track’s fire with the
relatively hesitant, frostier breaths comprising the first half-or-so of “It Is
There for You,” which sounds like Lou Reed dreaming a song for Andy Warhol –
that is, before those breaths swell into something rocking and majestic. WNS (with mixers Cian Ciaran of Super Furry Animals and Pete
Kember of Spacemen 3) has a firm grip on the mechanics of blending electronics
and digital tones with rock. 


WNS (the album/the band) is, to these ears that have heard
so many, many things, 75% absorbing. “Fires in the Still Sea” seems to have
emerged from an island of ghosts in a northern lake originally flooded with ’70-s’80s
era Ambi-gressive fluids. Getting a bit bored with the tastefully-appointed
“There Is No Tomorrow,” I remember to be careful what I wish for when the horror
show dynamics of boot-buster “Blood” describe the apocalypse before the end.


The trippy measures of “Don’t Wait for Me” fit the
“psychedelic” description sometimes applied to WNS. With more of the same, finale
“In Both Dreams and Ecstasies” combines trance-inducing beats and tones with
bizarre sound effects and little sonic explosions.


DOWNLOAD: “Sunset,” “It Is There for You,” ” In Both Dreams and Ecstasies” MARY LEARY


Jim McCarty – Sitting on the Top of Time

January 01, 1970

(Easy Action)


Archivists and collectors may recognize Jim McCarty as the
drummer for the Yardbirds, as well as for that band’s two major offshoots, Renaissance
and Illusion. More than 40 later, McCarty still tours in a group that touts the
Yardbirds banner – sans, of course, their legendary front line, which at
various intervals included Beck, Clapton and Page.  Yet, while those activities likely provide
him a steady income, it’s his individual efforts that have occupied his time
for the past couple of decades.

Like those more recent entries, McCarty’s newest solo offering, Sitting on the Top of Time, leans
towards a mix of soft Eagles/Fleetwood Mac-like radio-ready fare and New
Age-sounding instrumentals. Somewhere in the middle, McCarthy reconciles his
intents with a cerebral style that may remind his longtime admirers of
Renaissance and Illusion’s dreamier designs.


Considering the album’s origins, those mellower intents
aren’t altogether unexpected. Inspired by an aborted collaboration with friend
and flautist Ron Korb, McCarty eventually regrouped in Toronto with Korb, ex Genesis guitarist Steve
Hackett and a varied group of Canadian session players. Nevertheless, pianist
Lou Pomanti takes the lead here, his willowy keyboards setting the tone for
such songs as “Living from the Inside Out,” “Hidden Nature” and “Temporary
Life.” Consequently, nothing sounds remotely similar to the blues-rock tempest
procured by the Yardbirds, and for the band’s ardent admirers, that may come as
a disappointment. Nevertheless, McCarty is obviously intent on moving on, and Sitting on the Top of Time shows he
retains a decidedly seasoned perspective.


Outsider” “Living from Inside Out” LEE ZIMMERMAN


Junior Wells & The Aces – Live in Boston 1966

January 01, 1970



Is an event for which patrons pay (with a door charge and/or
drinking) really a party? The idea can sometimes seem like an over-orchestrated
conceit. Spontaneous gatherings and house parties that loosely parse the
amenities (vodka and mixers over here; shrimp and hummus over there; keg and
less etiquette-capable folks in the back yard) tend to yield some of life’s
best times. My fondest memories of living in Manhattan include plodding home
with a knapsack bursting with Greenmarket finds. When that bag had started to
feel unbearably ponderous, about eight blocks North of my place, I’d happen on
musicians who’d set up in Washington Square Park, who were often doing
something wonderful. I could feel it before I could hear it, as they’d
invariably be surrounded by other delighted passersby; serendipitous amalgams
of population segments otherwise fairly unlikely to hang together.


When Junior Wells greets the crowd at Club 47 he means
serious party business, an ethos that pokes its way through the relatively
shambling opener, “Feelin’ Good.”  Wells,
nee Amos Blakemore, had left his crack regulars in Chicago and was onstage with
the Aces: Louis and Dave Meyers (guitar/bass) and kit-banger “Professor” Fred
Below. He had a history with these guys but you can hear the rust peeling off
for the first few numbers. The arcane recording’s sound can be a bit
distorted/muffled – impatient listeners accustomed to polished remixes might
combine these factors for a “What’s the big deal?” rating.


But there’s something in the feel of the thing; the “feels
so good” of the thing, along with the faith and anticipation you sense from the
audience, that tells you to let the needle keep riding the disc. “No soul… no
soul… NO soul — you gotta have a hole in your soul if you don’t feel it,”
Wells exclaims after strolling through Big Maceo’s well-trodden “Worried Life
Blues.” Which could point to a dull sojourn in blues academia if he didn’t follow
by responding to a growled “Yee-eah
from some corner: “Is the Wolf in
here someplace?” The crowd erupts in laughter. He continues, “I thought this
was my show! I didn’t know that Howlin’ Wolf was here tonight too.” In a fell
swoop, he’s transmitted that he’s gnawed plenty on the bone at the crux of the
blues but that he’s about a good time – matter of fact, that good time’s on its
way to the kind of roll that will be related the next morning over coffee.


Chicago-based, Delmark Records has left Junior’s
between-song patter intact, which raises memories of experiencing live shows
secondhand before it was made easier by videos. This is how it was back in the
day: Huddling by the speakers, drinking in the nuances of experiences you’d
missed; imagining what wasn’t spelled-out – kind of like what folks say they
had with radio before TV elbowed its way into the entertainment mix. The show
caught on Live in Boston 1966 was
certainly a blow-out, gaining momentum as it chugged away from the depot. After
that last bit of repartee, the kind of committed boogie that brought smiles on
the streets of Chicago
in the ‘60s jumps out with  the
seven-plus minutes of “Junior’s Whoop.” One pities the poor hip-challenged
listener who can’t respond as nature intends to Blakemore’s scat-like
emissions: “Whoop… whoop… whoop.
Whoop a dooba-dooba-dobba…” Sporadic
Yeahs!” peel from a crowd we know is
mopping its faces: Louis Meyers’ guitar, now fully revved, throws some Hubert
Sumlin-style electricity behind Blakemore’s ecstatic harp comments.


The slow pace of “That’s All Right” isn’t my favorite brand
of blues, but I’ve been to enough shows of this nature to know its pacing is
demanded by the workout the band’s just given the audience. True or no, the
anecdote between it and “Look on Yonder’s Wall” brings comedy to tragedy; damn
if the cuckold isn’t determined to get his ya-ya’s out. “Look on” is required homework
for fans of The Fab T’birds and The Nighthawks who haven’t delved into their


It’s Christmas in July when “Hideaway” is unleashed. One of
the best blues boogies ever conjured, Freddie King’s tune has that riff that
Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, and a slew of other players have been unable
to resist. Junior and the Aces bet their lives on its sexy strut capability.
Before closing with the almost funky “Theme,” Wells reassures the crowd it’s in
good company with “Got My Mojo Workin’.”


whole shebang, or you’ll miss the experience. If you must: “Got My Mojo
Workin’,” “Hideaway,” “Junior’s Whoop” MARY LEARY

Bob Dylan – The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 (The Bootleg Series Vol. 9) + The Original Mono Recordings

January 01, 1970




It’s Dylan. Cut to the chase. The forty seven songs on Bootleg Series, Vol. 9 come from his initial publishing contracts
with Leeds Music and M. Witmark & Sons. Fifteen of those songs have never
been heard anywhere within the Dylan canon while the rest are either impressive
rough takes on later heard classics (some more abbreviated than others) or alternate
versions of songs sung blue. There’s a lot to be said of the poetry behind
Dylan’s poetry or how these were the beginnings of Dylan’s own bible in
opposition to the folk classicism he headed to New York City to be a greater part of. Oddly
enough, for a set of publishing houses, no one said much regarding the fact
that many of Dylan’s earliest cataloged works were merely his words atop of old
folkies. Maybe no cared. It’s hard to dis someone who by the age of 24 was
coming up with prophetic ironic works like “Long Time Gone”:

If I can’t help somebody
With a word or song,
If I can’t show somebody
That they’re travellin’ wrong
But I know I ain’t no prophet,
An’ I ain’t no prophet’s son,
I’m just a long time a comin,
An’ I’ll be a long time gone.


The highlights amongst the
more familiar tunes are numerous and unforgettable: a fuzzy piano-only version
of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” the spare but playful take on “Talkin’
John Birch Paranoid Blues,” the hurt recitation of “Mama, You’ve Been
on My Mind” – to start with – are so blindingly bold and different from
the studio versions we’ve come to know that they seem alien save for their


The songs we’ve not known
of? Other than the biting “Long Time Gone,” the giddy “I’d Hate to Be You
on That Dreadful Day” is but a bit more clowny than the relationship blues
of “All Over You.” While “The Death of Emmett Till” makes
no bones about its cursed subject or its character study in a way that makes
its menace unforgettable, the song behind the words of “Farewell” is one of Dylan’s
most refined and memorable – then and now. Then again, even fragments such as “Man
On The Street” or the ice dry demo of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” have
the ability to haunt – so there’s a lot of intense and lingering memorable
stuff going on in The Witmark Demos.


The nine discs of Dylan’s Mono are way more fun that the
monophonic box that was last year’s Beatles collection. There are cardboard and
inside paper sleeves copies of the original album jacket art that reproduces everything
from lyrics to the (now) kitschy advertising of its initial release (“The
Sound of Songs…Stereo…Bands…Jazz…Dancing…Fun…on Columbia
Records”). There’s an overly serious Greil Marcus piece, lots of data and
never-before seen photos and, the bonus disc, a copy of Bob Dylan In Concert Brandeis University 1963 – a solid gig marked
mostly by the open air echo on Dylan’s reedy voice.


Mostly though, this box
offers the simple un-compressed, non-stereo sound of how Dylan records sounded upon
release, a sound probably forgotten in comparison to the audiophiles dedicated
to mixing twitches of a George Martin. Without left/right channels and voice/instrument
splitting, Bringing It All Back Home is more shambling and densely rockist than its stereo version, with The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan more nuanced
and rich. The latter in particular – for some of us, those first albums were
nearly a sonic tossoff, a prelude to the rustic bumptious Bringing It. But the Mono forces us to reconsider the luster of The
Times They Are A-Changin’
and the twitchiness of cuts such as “With God on
Our Side” “Boots of Spanish Leather” and “The Lonesome Death of Hattie
Carroll.” While little things like Dylan’s Bob’s clicks and asides are winning,
it’s the musicianship of Mono that
means the most – the clarity and warmth of the guitars on “Mr. Tambourine
Man” and “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat;” the kick of the rhythm
section in “You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine.” Another Side might seem a bit reedy and some of the harmonica throughout
seems to have been pushed to the fore. But if that’s how Bob intended it from
the start, at the very least the Mono box brings it all back home – happily.


[Ed. note: the live Brandeis disc is also available with the Witmark Demos for an extremely limited time at Get it while you can.]


Witmark Demos:
  “Talking Bear
Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues” “Baby, I’m In The Mood For You” “Hard Times in
the City”; Mono: “Bob Dylan’s Blues” “Subterranean
Homesick Blues” “She Belongs to Me” A.D. AMOROSI

Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy + Shades of a Blue Orphanage + Vagabonds of the Western World

January 01, 1970



other day, I was sitting around watching some Thin Lizzy videos with my kids –
you know, bonding – and upon learning
that the band was Irish, my oldest boy proclaimed “Really? They don’t
sound Irish.” Now, I’m fairly proud he didn’t say “they don’t look Irish” after gazing upon the
browned lankiness that was Phil Lynott, and that he was more surprised that
hits like “The Boys Are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak” could
have come from anywhere other than the USA, 
but I really wondered what he thought an Irish rock band *should* sound
like. U2? The Clancy Brothers?


answer – or at least one of the answers – can be found on the first few Thin
Lizzy albums, especially the band’s self-titled debut. Before Lynott and the
band had fully embraced their potent rock ‘n’ roll power, there was a
considerable bit of identity experimentation, and on 1971’s Thin Lizzy (6 out of 10 stars), it’s
interesting to hear the band that, in just a few years, would be roaring
through a Bob Seger cover on the way to chart success, diddling about on a
track like “The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle.”


would weave Celtic themes throughout his lyrics during most of Thin Lizzy’s
existence, but on these first three albums – the band sounds quite a bit like
“an Irish band,” albeit one that’s working toward a distinctly
Americanized sound notably devoid of those very lyrical themes. Eventually,
Lynott gets there, and by 1973’s Vagabonds
of the Western World
(8 stars) Thin Lizzy is beginning to resemble the band
that is so well-known, with cuts like “The Rocker” and one of
Lynott’s several near-creepy tunes, “Little Girl in Bloom” (one of
the others, “Sarah,” is on Shades
of a Blue Orphanage
, 7 stars, from ‘72).


deluxe edition reissues are quite overdue, yet they do not disappoint.  The remastering job is more than welcome,
adding a depth long missing from previous CD editions, but it’s the bonus
material that’s the real prize. The first two albums are nearly doubled in
length with singles (yes, “Whiskey in the Jar” is on Shades), EPs, outtakes, and alternate
versions, while Vagabonds adds ten
bonus tracks and an entire disc’s worth of BBC sessions; of those sessions, a
five-track concert from 1973 is a highlight.  
Also worth noting: several of the singles featured as bonus tracks on Vagabonds are some of Gary Moore’s first
appearances with Thin Lizzy.


DOWNLOAD: “Suicide”
(John Peel session), “The Rocker” (BBC Radio 1 in Concert) JASON

Rikki Ililonga & Musi-O-Tunya + Witch – Dark Sunrise + Introduction

January 01, 1970


(QDK Media-Shadoks)


One of the
great lost movements of modern African music finally gains time in the
stateside spotlight in the form of two excellent reissues from Stones Throw
archivist subsidiary Now-Again and the great German psych reissue label Shadoks


recently, the storied Zamrock scene of the mid-to-late 1970s was only prevalent
within the parameters of the nation from which it derived – the Republic of
Zambia, a copper-producing country landlocked by the unsteady climates
surrounding them in Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania and
Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south and
Angola to the west. The country was also rife with poverty and the
then-gestating AIDS pandemic that plagued the lives of several of Zamrock’s
founding fathers.


These dire straits did not make many of the albums
released within the harsh confines of Zambia
all that accessible beyond the few ex-pats who brought their record collections
to Europe and the United
States, where they migrated. Eventually,
though, word got out about this fuzzy, freaky fusion of reverberating, wah-wah
drenched electric rock, which the musicians had heard on Western pop albums
from Jimi Hendrix, Santana and the Jefferson Airplane that were bootlegged into
the country, not to mention being influenced by the high energy funk brought
forth on James Brown’s legendary 1971 tour of Zambia. Additionally steeped in
the indigenous polyrhythms of the music along the Congo plus traditional Zambian
folk, the sound of Zamrock became a sonic delicacy highly sought-after among
the globe’s most serious break hunters.



And there is no doubt that the time is indeed nigh for
this rediscovery spurred by the crate diggers at Stones Throw/Now-Again. Dark Sunrise is a two-CD anthology of the
scene’s first breakout star, guitar wizard Rikki Ililonga, and his band
Musi-O-Tunya. Housed in a beautiful, hardbound book-style package and featuring
a scholarly essay on the evolution of the Zamrock revolution in the extensive
liner notes, Dark Sunrise gathers
together on the first disc Musi-O-Tunya’s 1975 debut album Wings of Africa with a cache of super hard-to-find 7-inch singles
that date back to early 1973, while the second CD houses Ililonga’s two solo
albums, 1975’s Zambia and 1976’s Sunshine Love, which are more rooted in
the bandleader’s affinities for the songwriting styles of Loaded-era Lou Reed and Taj Mahal back when he played with Ry



Then you have Witch,
an acronym for “we intend to cause havoc”, who closely followed in the
footsteps of Musi-O-Tunya on the Zamrock scene. Hot on the heels of the reissue
of their 1975 masterpiece, Lazy Bones!! (released on QDK Media/Shadoks
earlier this year), Introduction, from a miniscule run originally issued
on a local private press in 1973, is an equally essential document on the influence
of psychedelia on the Zambian music scene. You get a stoned soul safari
punctuated by wild, effects-laden guitar sprawls, scratchy freakbeat organs and
early, stones-flavored electric r&b harmonics, and on songs like “You
Better Know” and “See Your Mama” you feel as though you are hearing lost sides
from a volume of the Pebbles series more than music derived from Africa.


If you are
looking to get into Zamrock for the very first time, there are no two better
places to start than this pair of southern African sound diamonds.


DOWNLOAD: Dark Sunrise – “Walk and
Fight”, “The Wings of Africa”, “Smoke”, “Stop Dreaming Mr. D”, “The Nature of
Man”, “The Queen Blues”, “Sunshine Love”, Introduction – “Hometown”, “You
Better Know”, “Feeling High”, “See Your Mama” RON HART