Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Breakdown: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (of mind)

Righty -o.  I'm not finished with Tyrone Davis as I'm not sure I impressed upon you all my love of his biggest (and breakthrough) tune 'Can I Change My Mind'.  He recorded it in 1968 and it was the b-side to his early Dakar release 'A Woman Needs To Be Loved' but it only became a hit the next year after a Texan DJ played the 'wrong side'.  It spent two weeks in the No. 1 slot on the R&B charts in 1969 (either side of Marvin with 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' and 'Everyday People' by Sly & The Family Stone, what a time for music!).  His voice had a unique aching, longing quality and while some of his stuff can be a bit hit or miss he was a big player in the Chicago soul scene in his day.  He was pushed as a romantic, soulful ladies man and as his album covers will attest,  he was one smoothly dressed dude.  

So anyways if you've never heard the original check it here (have always dug the way the horns work alongside Tyrone's pleading vocals) and get down with a few of my favourite cover versions...

Not to sound crude but I do like a bit of Willie.  Our man producing down at Brunswick Records alongside Eugene Record and Carl Davis, lending his touch to artists such as Young Holt Unlimited, The Chi-Lites, Barbara Acklin and of course Tyrone Davis.  Hey produced the original version of 'Can I Change My Mind' and this LP is a pretty typical producers record - a few originals and a few covers of things he has worked on.  I don't know the exact story behind his version but it's partially instrumental and almost sounds as if they have just pulled out the main vocal of the original mix, left the backing parts and just got a trombone to play the main vocal part.  There's a couple of other noteworthy tracks on the LP too - 'Funky Chicken' and 'Soulful Football' do the business no trouble at all.

Download (320kbps): Loleatta Holloway - Can I Change My Mind (General LP 'Loleatta', 1973)

This is Loleatta before Salsoul, before disco just doing her funky thang.  Awesome LP that's just a good listen front to back and with  another absolute funk-soul-sister classic 'Only A Fool' (amongst others) on it.  How good is that hair?

I really dig this version because it sounds like a perfect composite of 'Can I Change My Mind' and 'Mr Big Stuff', with just a hint of reggae skank in it.  The double tracking thing on the vocals is real nice too, maybe they could have given it a bit of width in the mix but it gives it a bit raw charm that you can't argue with.  Also Dolores is a way cool name.

Can't do covers without a reggae/soul version and can't mess with Alton and his little sis Hortense.  This was a massive hit for Alton in Jamacia and having a listen you can hear why - I love the laidback vibe of the vocals and sparse horn arrangement.  I'm also a sucker for reggae/soul covers and therefore really dig pretty much anything Alton 'Mr Rocksteady' did so again I can totally recommend anything with his name on it.  My boy Mista Savona recorded with him just before he passed last year  too so I'm waiting impatiently for the track to come out and I'll let you know when it does (check his 45's and the LP too, all killer).  Oh yeah and it's a cd rip 'cos my 45 is a bit scratchy.

There you has it.  One day I might also post up some songs from his 1970 'Turn Back The Hands Of Time' LP too but if you see it in the meantime grab it because it is one the the most beautiful soul records of all time, I shit you not.  Until next time people

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Breakdown: a trip to the discoteque

So every Saturday I plan to post up and highlight a track I played on my radio show 'The Breakdown'.  It's on Fridays 3-5pm in Melbourne on PBS FM 106.7 but you can stream it at if you're not in the area.  This is the first post of this nature so check it...

We here at The Gentlemen Of Leisure like to get down.  And who better to get down with than our man Tyrone Davis.  I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Tyrone, especially his late 60's/early 70's Dakar gems like Can I Change My Mind and One Way ticket, mostly all produced by Willie Henderson.  But he didn't stop when he left Dakar, no he kept playing and recording non-stop until 1995 when he sadly he passed away.  This next track from his post-Dakar Colombia records era when he turned his hand to disco.  It was something that so easily could have been poo (as much of the LP is) as so often old soul guys trying out a disco record can go so wrong so quickly (see Syl Johnson 'The Uptown Shakedown' for further evidence) but this 12" is great.  It's a killer disco dance floor filler that I decided to put up after being accosted by my homie Mr Moonshine while playing this at a gig, he accusing me of holding out on him after a recent trade.  Why I never.  So here you go sunshine, go geddit.

I don't own a scanner and could only find the LP cover online so here it is.  
That's a real fresh jacket Tyrone.

I really wish it was on this record though

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Some records I found in Nigeria

(mp3 downloads to found at the bottom!)

OK, so the first couple of tracks I'm going to post up are from a recent digging/music/arse-ing about expedition to Nigeria I took with a couple of friends from my afro-beat/afro funk band (The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra). But I thought I might also share a little story about the circumstances that lead me to these records. Nigeria is a pretty crazy place - we're talking 24 hour epic traffic jams, a police force that basically just stands around waiting to find a way to extort money from civilians and an economy run almost entirely underground. But of course it also has some of the happiest and most beautiful people you'll ever meet. Not to mention the joys of a 
meat dish called suya.  There were many adventures and highlights for us - jamming with Femi Kuti onstage at The Shrine (and going to a BBQ at his house), recording with MC Modenine, being harassed by the army and appearing several times on Nigerian TV and radio.

Through Modenine we met Ladani, a radio presenter (or 'radio personality' as he referred to himself) who invited us in on his show that afternoon. We go down to the studio - a couple of run-down buildings in an overgrown compound and have a pretty informal interview, Ladani assuming something of a hip-hop-Casey-Kasem on-air persona. Having done community radio back home I didn't get the impression that we were being heard altogether too many people but that's not really the point now is it? So we finish and he introduces us to the station manager, a kind of young, Nigerian Ricardo Montalban character who immediately asks us if we are ready for the television. Television? This thing has a television station? He takes us through and showed us the one studio they had - a blue screen room that 
they would film everything in, superimposing in a different background for each show (my favourite of which was of a busy office for the news).  This allayed our fears - we were happy to go on some community TV station with no-one watching. So dressed like the chumps we are, we appear on the equivalent of a midday Video Smash Hits (or MTV if you will) and standing around talking bollocks with the presenter in front of the blue screen. He asks us all the standard questions; Who are you? Why the hell did you travel halfway around the world to show us a half-rate version of the music we liked 30 years ago? Do you speak german in Austria? That type of thing. Then they play our track but as we had no video to 
accompany it they we at a bit of a loss as to what to do visually.  First they tried it with a station ID before they decided that was too boring (the track goes for 8 minutes) so from there they cut back to us just standing around in front of the blue screen.  They quickly realised that this was a bit shit too so next they tried out us standing there with the station ID sort of ghosted over us.  Again a bit shit so they just went back to us and told the host to get us to do something.  'Come on, dance!' he told us.  Dance? I don't know what the shade is that is one whiter than white is but that's pretty much how white we are.  And if we were to start dancing on live TV next to a jiggy MTV host, no matter how small the audience, we would have certainly being plumbing previously undiscovered depths of whiteness.  So we just stood there.  'Come on, come on, I'll teach you a traditional dance' and he started this little thing that was more of a co-ordinated movement than dance so we sort of copied him, laughing and taking the piss.  Eventually it all wraps up and we bounce back to the hotel.  As we go in all the hotel reception girls start laughing and doing the dance back at us so we ask them how the hell they saw us.  Turns out it's no cable station - it was one of the biggest stations in the country and in a country of around 155 million that means a lot of people were watching us act like dicks. 

They'd roped us in for a bunch of different shows (they seriously couldn't get over the fact that a bunch of guys from Australia playing afro-beat had come to Lagos and were actually pretty proud of it.  Which was cool) so the next morning we were back to be guests on a Mornings With Bert Newton style show where we sat indulged in awkward, earnest conversation about the awesomeness of both ourselves and Nigeria.  We were also interviewed for a travel program in which Zvi was somewhat coerced into proposing marriage to his lady-friend, which I have heard very little (read: nothing) about since.

But anyway I digress... it was after this that we decided to go find some records so we headed to a shopping area we had heard mentioned as a place we could find a little something.  But an hour or so of fruitless wandering saw our spirits dipping so we stopped across from a underpass/bus stop to discuss our next move.  A man came out of a car yard saying he had seen us on TV and asked us what we were doing wandering around in this dodgy area.  When we told him we were chasing old records he immediately lead us across the road, under the bridge and deep into a wooden, shanty town area.  

Now I don't know if you have heard about the reputation of Nigerian's as being the kings of the scammers (something they seem to be quite proud of) but it's a reputation 

that exists for good reason.  The always are trying to scam you but if you call them on it they will always just give you a can't-blame-a-kid-for-trying-smile, it's ingrained in them I swear but it's actually a bit funny when you're there.  In fact once I was at an Internet cafe and looked over the shoulders of the men either side of me and they were BOTH actually sending out mass Nigerian bank scam emails.  It was so hard not to laugh out loud.

So as we negotiated this series of tiny alleyways, in the back of my mind I began considering this and the fact that we were not only following a Nigerian but a secondhand car salesman at that, into god knows where and possibly to our doom.  But no we arrive at our destination and much to my joy it is a little shack filled floor to wall with Nigerian recordings, mostly highlife but plenty of the good stuff too.  

 OG Fela's for all

Unfortunately it was a business that would record any LP they had and give it to you on a cassette tape but the owner said we could purchase any record we found doubles of.  We started on the Fela section (about 100 records and pretty much any Fela record I had ever seen) where we got about 8 original pressings, including a Zombie for me.  I also dug up 

a Funkees LP, the Bunzu Soundz, a Mebusas and few others making it a pretty successful mission.  The guys who ran the store were great too, I asked them a few questions about different records and artists and they were happy to answer, in fact one of them was related (I can't remember how) to 'Prince' Joni Haastrap from Monomono.  As a result he wouldn't sell me any of their records though, dammit.  Of course the hardest part was trying to negotiate an appropriate price whilst trying not to look too excited.  These are a couple of the records I found in there

Download (320kbps): Ofege - 'Nobody Fails' (EMI LP 'Try And Love' 1973)

Ofege were a group of teenagers playing in and around Lagos from the early to mid 70's.  Taken from the 'Try And Love' LP, this track like much of their work showcases some sublime funky/psych guitar work from Felix Inneh and some incredible nearly-off- kilter timing.   According to the guy who sold it to me the name 'Ofege' is Lagos slang meaning 'telling people hey fuck you and doing what you want'.  Apparently this record was recorded when they were still in school as well, which is pretty amazing considering the maturity of the sound.  You can cop some of their other work on Soundway, check out the killer 'Nigeria Special' comps in particular.

Download (320kbps): William Onyeabor - 'Better Change Your Mind' (Wilfilms LP 'Atomic Bomb' 1978)

How can you not want a record with this cover?  So many reasons to dig it.  For a start it's called Atomic Bomb.  And check the awesome suit, headphones and the little dance he's busting. Not to mention the seven microphones pointed at the man (really, who needs seven mic's?).  The first few bars of the song are a touch concerning, sounding a like something left off the soundtrack to Napoleon Dynamite but then it kicks into one of those killer afro grooves, asking the guitarist to sit on that one little line for 8 or 10 minutes turning it into trancey, spacey slice of magic.  The organ is bordering on cheesy but William pulls it off beautifully and I really dig how lo-fi the whole album is.  He studied cinema in Russia before coming back to start his record label (hence the name Wilfilms, geddit?) and according to what info I could find he now runs his own flour mill.  Sounds like a hell of a life!

In the next couple of weeks I'll post up a couple of mixes of stuff I found over there as well as other bits and pieces so stay tuned kids... and don't forget to check out my radio show.  Peace!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Posting number one

Greetings and welcome to official Interweb housing of The Gentlemen Of Leisure.  As you may understand we have been charged with the upkeep of this blog and will be posting whenever we fear the good people of Internet need us.  Whilst we anticipate the majority of the content we share will be musical, we are unable to offer any guarantee.   Things you'll find here will generally follow the lines of funk, soul, hip-hop, disco, African, Latin... got the gist? 

Now this 'we' I keep alluding to is in fact myself, DJ Manchild and my esteemed colleague, DJ Charlie Bucket in our guise of The Gentlemen Of Leisure.  We live on opposite sides of the continent (myself in Melbourne and he in Perth) and meet every few months or so to perform under this moniker.  Check out the bio's on the right hand side if you really care.  Which you do.

But enough of this entree of babble, it's time for the main course so just sit back, relax and take a load off - you're in a safe place now.  You are about to enter the world of The Gentlemen Of Leisure.