The following post I dedicate to Dr. Rick, recently married and now living & practicing medicine somewhere in Philadelphia. In a former life, the good doctor wasn’t a doctor at all, but an ex-burnout who stood shoulder to shoulder with me cleaning records, watching out for shoplifters, and taking shit at the Record Recycler in Hollywood in the mid-90′s. Whether I wanted to hear about it or not, he’d talk my ear off about things like the mighty local rockin’ of NEBULA, the godliness of DIO’s Holy Diver LP, and the not unsubstantial merits of VAN HALEN’s debut record. Between colorful visits from local homeless drifter “Milkman” Dave and celebs like BECK and THE BLACK EYED PEAS, we eventually we bonded over the subtle beauty that was SLOVENLY.
The records below were ones spun as a way to balance our unhealthy diet of too much CAPTAIN BEYOND, STEVE REID AND THE LEGENDARY MASTER BROTHERHOOD, and MALO on an hourly basis. These particular records were played to run off irritating shoppers, “keep it real”, and/or piss each other off, depending on the context – during long, boring, hot afternoons. I’ll never forget em; I don’t think Rick has, either.
1. KENNY RANKIN – Silver Morning (1975) – One featherweight record if ever there was one, and the logical extreme to which jazzy, 70′s sap pop could be taken. I musta sold a dozen a copies of this to international dealers for resell purposes – Japanese folks consider this one an integral part of what they refer to as “free soul”. Here Kenny covers tracks by the Lennon/McCartney, Gordon Lightfoot, Antonio Carlos Jobim, even Curtis Mayfield for christs sake – all in that signature safe/soft vocal jazz style of his that’ll have you swooning or holding your buttcheeks as you run for the nearest toilet. Think David Crosby without the drugs, Elton John without the camp, Billy Joel without the, uh, angst. This LP is so archetypally 70′s and painstakingly perfected with all it’s warm bossanovas and cozy earthtone harmonies, I’d almost believe this slab wasn’t vinyl at all, but formica. Great for clearing out the smellier/hairier non-patrons who’d sit for hours listening to records on the demo turntables, but never buying a frickin’ thing.
2. STEELY DAN – Royal Scam (1976) – Lots of people consider this a classic – hell you might, too – but make no mistake: this ain’t classic rock but classic hi-colonic aural treatment, guaranteed to leave no intestinal fold unirrigated. Yes, these studiohounds wrote lyrics that could be cynically biting (as in their ode to Owsley Stanley III, “Kid Charlemagne”) or absurdly humourous (“The Fez”) but musically speaking, this is so ultraglossy, so antisepticwhite, so fascistically overcontrolled I don’t think it was ever actually living. I can’t call this hackwork – I mean, hell, they were going for this kinda sound – but you can never, ever make me enjoy it. Some of these session dudes actually turned up on the Joe Sample record I’ve written about below – it was a small, airless world for chops-out-the-ass hired guns in them days. Honestly, I don’t think I ever willingly spun this one, but Dr. Rick? Oh yes – and with much glee.
3. JOE SAMPLE – Rainbow Chaser (1978) – A founding member of THE CRUSADERS goes solo and mines a yep! you guessed it! WEATHER REPORT/ BRECKER BROTHERS vein for chart-topping effect. This kinda sound has since been co-opted as incidental music behind tv news reports and in wine bars the world over, but so what. Hey this was the late 70′s, and at that point it signaled a whole generation of boomer types moving one step up the corporate ladder and another away from the ideals they’d held dear a decade before. To paraphrase the song: everybody wanted to be bourgie, bourgie. That said . . . dare I defend it and point out it’s got an R&B core that’s sadly missing from the STEELY DAN rec written about above, making this appealing when it’s not kind of appalling. Again, the Japanese seemed to like this one, so it got alot of play.
4. SISTER SLEDGE – We Are Family (1979) – While every aboriginal white wanna-be DJ in LA was wetting themselves over late 60′s acid jazz and early 70′s hard funk . . . me, well, I was caught in the thrall of the late 70′s discoball. Disco – the 4-on-the-floor, symphonically fueled, diva-driven kind – was so joyful, so beautifully arranged, and so goddamn glamourous, I couldn’t resist it if I tried. And this record is the fucking disco pinnacle. Like Diana Ross’ Diana LP, this is a CHIC record in every way but name. Bernard Edwards’ bubbling bass and Nile Rogers’ chanka-chanka gtr are crawling all over this, and the songs (particularly “Lost in Music”, “He’s the Greatest Dancer”, and the ecstatic “Thinking of You”) are some of the very best this hit factory would ever produce. Rick thought I’d turned gay when I started trotting this one out on a regular basis, but I was confident: real men knew what the fuck I was cottoning on to.
5. ISLEY BROTHERS – 3+3 (1973) – Nothing embarrassing about this, nothing at all. Kelly, Rudy and Ronnie are here joined by Ernie, Marvin and brother-in-law Chris Jasper to make it an even six ISLEYS, kicking out the very best jams of their career. It’s funky fr sure but it’s got a solid gospel/soul foundation that gets me thinking not FUNKADELIC but AL GREEN and CURTIS MAYFIELD, which is the end of the R&B spectrum I’m always drawn to anyway. And while gtrist Ernie Isley ain’t no JIMI HENDRIX, give him some slack – he was still really young and probably relying too heavily on his effects pedals. That don’t mean he doesn’t soar high on their defining cover of “Summer Breeze”, included herein. He deserves your props, as does this entire record. Though spinning this one could create problems in record stores re: clueless novice DJ types fainting due to the perceived funkiness to it all.
Anyway: it all brings back good memories, Dr. Rick. Indeed. Now what the hell did I do with that bitchen DIO record anyway?