Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Sports - Fair Game EP (1977)

Picked this up on eBay last year. Wasn't too expensive considering there were only 500 of them printed.
I'm afraid I'm too young to have seen The Sports in the flesh. I think the first time I encountered them was - of all places - on Simon Townsend's Wonder World when I was a nipper. They were flogging one of their LPs, and I remember one of the band members repeatedly exclaiming "most of my friends use them as frisbees!" before flinging one skyward. Oh, that crazy rock'n'roll lifestyle.
I'd been vaguely aware of Stephen Cummings in the intervening years (mostly from the slightly naff "sexy" video for his dance single 'Gymnasium' - go on, look it up on YouTube) and saw him play supporting Elvis Costello at the State Theatre a few years ago, when he played songs like 'Who Listens to the Radio' and 'How Come,' (which I must have heard on the radio and/or on Countdown back in the day) and realised that these were brilliant pop songs. he's quite a compelling performer too.
Soon afterwards, I saw a copy of The Sports' Suddenly LP with the die-cut venetian blinds on the sleeve intact for once, so I bought it. I liked it, and over the next few years picked up all their albums and their three EPs. They're quite easy to buy cheaply second hand (if you don't mind having a copy of Suddenly with the sleeve all torn to shreds) and there's a pretty good double CD compilation called The Definitive Collection (originally released as This is Really Something) that's often in the bargain bin at your friendly local chain store. This, their debut EP, however, seems to be quite rare. Most of Cummings's solo albums are worth checking out too, and many are still in print. Cummings's website, is a mine of information, and his recent memoir, Will it be Funny Tomorrow, Billy? is a cracking read.

A1 (Right) Thru Her Heart (3:43)
A2 Twist Señorita (2:27)*
B1 In Trouble With the Girls (3:12)
B2 Red Cadillac & a Black Moustache (2:54)

45rpm 7" EP
Zak Records 1977, Cat # ZR-001

*'Twist Señorita' is available on the in-print CD The Definitive Collection so I have left it off the download file.

320kbps mp3
[Links fixed 22/1/12]

Saturday, May 15, 2010

James Blood Ulmer - Black Rock (1982)

OK, I'll admit it: I'm putting this up as click-bait for this blog. Since a few people seem to have downloaded Free Lancing, here's its follow up, Black Rock.
Listening to this again, I'm prepared to re-evaluate whether this or Free Lancing is my favourite Blood album. The basic group for this album has expanded from Free Lancing's power trio to feature Ronnie Drayton's second guitar more prominently on most tracks, and Cornell Rochester is featured as a second drummer on tracks 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7. There's a bit of a harder edge to the instrumental tracks on this one, and Irene Datcher returns as a vocalist on 'Family Affair' and 'Love Have two Faces.' Sam Sanders (of whom I know nothing) plays tenor sax on 'Moon Beam' and alto on 'Overnight.' The last two tracks are the power trio again, with Amin Ali on lead vocals on 'Fun House.' There's an uncredited saxophone on 'We Bop,' which I assume is Sanders again.
For some reason (presumably a religious one), Blood had taken to calling himself Damu Mustafa Abdul Musawwir on the song credits on this one. He can call himself anything he likes as far as I'm concerned, just as long as he makes records as great as this one.

Turns out this one came out on CD in Japan some years back, and it changes hands for a pretty penny, although the LP is relatively easy to find. It doesn't seem to be available for download, unlike Odyssey. I don't know why someone like Wounded Bird hasn't licensed these albums from Sony if Sony doesn't want to reissue them. Maybe the master tapes have gone missing or maybe Sony just wants too much money (or maybe it just hasn't occurred to anyone). Either way, it's a pity that these great records are out of print.
I have rather a lot of Blood's albums. If anyone has a request, kindly leave it in a comment and I'll try and put it up here (as long as it's out of print).

A1: Open House (5:21)
A2: Black Rock (3:23)
A3: Moon Beam (5:12)
A4: Family Affair (7:26)*
B1: More Blood (4:46)
B2: Love Have Two Faces (5:29)
B3: Overnight (3:27)
B4: Fun House (4:54)
B5: We Bop (2:57)

Columbia Records, 1982. Cat # ARC 38285

Buy it here

*in case anyone was wondering, 'Family Affair' is not a cover of the Sly Stone song.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

James Blood Ulmer - Free Lancing (1981)

Just putting this here because I wanted to rip it for my iPod and couldn't see it anywhere online after looking for two minutes.

It's inexplicable to me, not to mention utterly scandalous, that James Blood Ulmer's Columbia recordings are out of print. As far as I know, only Odyssey has ever had a CD release (and now that I look, I see that it's currently available to buy for download from the usual places), relegating this album and the equally good Black Rock to the obscurity of the cut-out bins.
I don't know what the story was with James Blood signing to Columbia. He'd been a sideman for Ornette Coleman, Big John Patton, Larry Young, Joe Henderson and others, had a couple of albums out on independent labels (the first of which featured Ornette as a sideman) and was a big name around the downtown jazz/improv scene. I have seen a fair few copies of this album over the years, so perhaps they were expecting a bigger "push" from the marketing division or it just baffled radio programmers and/or the punters so much that it didn't shift as many units as anticipated.
James Blood was (one presumes) dropped like a sack of spuds after three albums (the third of which seems to have some enduring popularity, hence its CD release and current availability online) and has subsequently put out dozens of albums on independent labels in Europe, Japan and the U.S.A. He seems to do pretty much as he pleases - moving between "out" improv (eg with Phalanx or the Music Revelation Ensemble), commercial funk and more recent albums of old-school blues (albeit with that distinctive Blood twist) with Vernon Reid.
The core band for this album is the power trio of James Blood on guitar, Amin Ali (son of the drummer Rashied) on bass and Grant Calvin Weston on drums. Both of these guys play with blood intermittently to this day.
Tracks 2, 4 and 8 feature Blood's distinctive mumbly vocals, with Ronnie Drayton on second guitar, Irene Datcher, Diane Wilson and Zenobia Konkerite (whoever they are) on backing vocals.
5, 6 and 9 feature David Murray on tenor, Oliver Lake on alto and Olu Dara on trumpet. How's that for a line-up? The cheesy harmonica on 'Rush Hour' is uncredited.
 I picked this up (I think at Red Eye for $8) in around 1988 or '89, after seeing Blood name-checked by Vernon Reid in some music magazine. I reckon I've got just about all of Blood's albums (including most of the Japanese ones) over the following couple of decades, and have seen him perform four or five times in three different continents. I still think this is my favourite of all his albums.

A1 Timeless (4:23)
A2 Pleasure Control (5:03)
A3 Night Lover (5:26)
A4 Where Did All The Girls Come From? (4:41)
A5 High Time (4:01)
B1 Hijack (4:04)
B2 Free Lancing (4:40)
B3 Stand Up To Yourself (3:46)
B4 Rush Hour (5:35)
B5 Happy Time (5:12)

Columbia Records 1981. Cat # ARC 37493

Buy it here