Someone on the exotica list posted this rather cool interactive dub thing in flash. A nice fun thing for a Friday.

A round of applause to Matt for completing his 50 Great TV Themes series. Matt recalls familiar and unfamiliar stuff to provide a great listening guide. Isn’t it ridiculous that although it’s 2002 and the record companies have had (at least) 3 years, there’s still no centralized repositary to which Matt can link each track, so that users could visit and hear sound samples, and purchase an electronic copy if they so wish?

Compilation - Ray Barretto: 'Acid/Hard Hands' (CD; Demon; 1967-1968)
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This disc seemed a must-buy to me - 2 of Barretto's most sought-after late 60s albums on one CD. In fact, it wasn't really what I expected. It's not bad at all though.

Acid has 8 tracks, and Hard Hands has 9. Almost without exception, the tracks are 2 or 3-chord jams, played perfectly with immaculate percussion, great brass solos, and quirky vocals. The sound is undeniably cool, but most of the songs go on a little too long for me. That said, this would make a great party CD, because pretty much all the tracks are upbeat and funky, and if you're not actually listening too hard, you probably wouldn't get bored.

The album sounds like it was a lot of fun to make, with throwaway lyrics chanted out. The 'Hard Hands' album has a more overt James Brown influence, with some wailing horns, grunting, and a funky beat.

Some of the tracks, while hilarious, are simply too cheesy for me. These include 'A deeper shade of soul', 'The teacher of love'. In other places, Ray is a dead ringer for Austin Powers (e.g. in 'The soul Drummers', in which he keeps exclaiming 'Yeah Baby!'. 'Love beads' is pleasant, but sounds just a bit too much like it was created in 2 minutes for me. The execution is immaculate, but the composition doesn't really deserve such great performance!

My favorite tracks include 'El Nuevo Barretto', 'Abidjan', 'Espiritu Libre' (a nice free-sounding piece, more jazzy and complex than many of the tracks here). 'Acid' has an incredible introduction, which I believe was sampled on 'De la soul is dead' (either this or something that sounds a lot like it). Still, I guess this proves I'm a snob, but to me, 5:03 is too long for a track with 2 chords!

In all, as you can tell, I'm a little mixed about these albums. While I think the simplicity of the tracks here is actually deceptive, I need to listen more (probably over a few drinks) in order to truly appreciate it. I'm not crazy about the vocals, and would probably have liked the albums more if they had been left off. That said, just listening now makes me want to throw a party, which can only be a good thing!

Compilation - The Gimmicks: 'From Acapulco to Tokyo - the best of' (CD; Sonet; 1969-1976)
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The Gimmicks are a strange group to me. A casual listener would probably dismiss them as simply an inferior Brasil'66- style vocal group. Indeed, the first track on this compilation is a version of 'Mas Que Nada'. But in fact, their overall sound is quite different, with a spooky kind of feel and some interesting choices of material.

The Brazilian-style tracks are all fun; the joker (ok, it's not Brazilian, but Brasil '66 did sing it) and Ching Ching, Hej Hej (Tim Dom Dom), sung in Swedish, are particularly entertaining. There's also a version of Joao Donato's 'The Frog' (the liner notes say it's traditional, but I'm pretty sure it's Donato, right? I find that lazy liner notes writers often have a tendency to describe songs written in the 1960s as 'traditional'), Toquinho's 'Que Maravilla', 'Ye Me Le' (another Brasil '66 echo), Jobim's 'O Morro Nao Tem Vez' (here called 'Somewhere in the hills'), and Jorge Ben's 'Pais Tropical'.

Even on the more upbeat tracks, there's a strange, echoey, melancholy feel, particularly on 'Waitin' shiv'rin' at the bus stop', 'ye-me-le,' and 'homeless'.

There are lots of songs here that I assume are popular hits of the 70s, but which I don't really know. 'Stone Slipper Cindy' has a slightly schmaltzy 70s radio feel to it, but ends up being extremely catchy, with some great vocals in the chorus.

There are also some famous (perhaps too famous) cover versions - 'It's too late', 'slippin into darkness' and 'you are the sunshine of my life' (sung in Swedish). It's here that the disc really comes unstuck - prety much all the recordings from after 1971 become too much for my taste - very smooth and jazzy in a way that I find a little painful.

My only real beef with this disc is that it omits their version of 'California Soul', which is quite brilliant. It makes me worry that there are other great tracks missing. Still, it's a nice introduction to the group, and if you buy it direct from a swedish store, it's pretty cheap.

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