The 2 extended tracks aside, this is a fairly accessible slab of funk that should be way more well-known than it is. But I guess the level of political anger in these songs made radio stations nervous. There's also the album cover, which would have been enough to earn Madhouse a place on ol' Milhous's infamous "enemies list". Whatever the reason's for this group/album's obscurity, it's a damn shame- highly recommended to all funk fans, whether you tend to gravitate towards the political stuff or not.
The Human Beast - Volume One
A trio from Scotland who only managed to release one album and though it can be filed alongside other "lost psych classics", that tag is somewhat misleading. Sure, the sound is unmistakably psych, that much is clear in the searing acid guitar tone and deliriously tripped out lyrics. But some of those snaking guitar lines, delicate drum fills and unorthodox songwriting methods point towards a more experimental realm, recalling The Red Krayola's second album at times (which is obviously a good thing, if you know how I feel about that band/album). So the fact that these guys didn't put out any follow up albums is a damn shame- would have been interesting to see how their sound would have developed.
The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band - Express Yourself
Some of the tracks I sampled from the previous albums have their moments but are typically marred by unremarkable material, cheesy arrangements and a general lack of energy. Fortunately, all of these issues have been corrected here. Wouldn't call any of this stuff mindblowing but it's still a fairly unique psychedelic funk slab with some minor jazzy touches. And though the bonus tracks aren't quite as good as the material that made the album, they're still better than the stuff from the previous albums so the bonus track version is definitely the way to go.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk - Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata
Got this as a bonus disc on the "Dog Years In The Fourth Ring" live compilation. Had only heard the closing track "Black Root", definitely a major highlight, on the "Does Your House Have Lions?" comp. Anyway, this is Kirk's "solo album", meaning he's playing everything himself without overdubs, with the exception of some light percussion and piano. So the multi-horn sound is in full effect but this is Kirk stripped to the bone. In fact, part of me wishes it were even *more* stripped down (the percussion is generally pretty cool but can also be a bit distracting at times) but as it is, it's a nice addition to his discography and a nice diversion from the more pop/rock-oriented material Kirk was exploring around the time this came out (and hey, maybe this album's poor sales motivated to go even further in that vein, which is sort of a shame even though he basically still continued to release quality music until the end of his life).
Mississippi Fred McDowell - Live At The Gaslight
Killer set that ranks alongside the best I've heard from McDowell. In fact, between this, his early recordings and the "I Do Not Play No Rock n' Roll" album, Fred just may be one of the most consistent bluesmen ever. And on a good day, this might be the best of them all. His electric slide sounds like an angry hornet that Fred's doing his best to tame (it gets away from him now and again but as Fred says himself at one point, he allows his feelings to guide his hand and never made claims of being a hotshot guitarist). This is some raw and gritty blues and the Gaslight crowd clearly loves him and responds appropriately. Up there with the great live blues sets, if not great live albums period.
Bobby Hutcherson - Cirrus
A bit on the all-over-the-map side, displaying hints of both "Head On"'s ambitious atmosphere and "San Francisco"'s er "commercial potential". So while it's disappointing when compared with the former, it compares favorably to the latter (which is a fun album in its own right, just a little lightweight for Bobby). "Even Later" is particularly lovely.
The Muffins - Chronometers
A handy collection of recordings from The Muffins' early years, when they were at their most lighthearted and Canterbury-influenced. For the most part, none of the more abrasive RIO type material has shown up yet- it's all sweet and bouncy, lots of fluffy flutes and cuddly Fender Rhodeses. So if you're a fan of the group and Canterbury prog in general, this is definitely worth a listen.
STP - MTV Unplugged
7-song 1/2 hour long MTV Unplugged set now officially available as part of a deluxe version of debut album "Core" (along with a bunch of other bonus material I'm not really interested in). Anyway, I remember watching this shit on MTV when it was first broadcast in '93 and it was nice to hear it again. Scott and the group are in fine form. Only gripe is the short running time and the setlist (good tunes but would have been nice to get more songs from "Purple") but those are minor grievances.
Art Blakey - Mosaic
Have generally been dissatisfied with the Blakey albums I've checked out in the past, with the main exception being the Birdland set from '56, and that's mainly due to Clifford Brown (and to a lesser extent, Lou Donaldson). And the more I listen, the more I realize what should have been obvious from the beginning- the success of Blakey's albums has very little to do with Blakey himself. I won't deny his talent as a drummer (though I prefer a lighter touch- Artie typically sounds like he's using baseball bats as drumsticks and his accents and fills often leave me cold as well) or bandleader in the Miles Davis sense of assembling killer lineups and getting the best out of them. But *unlike* Miles, Blakey tended to be a traditionalist, relying on blues forms that veer dangerously close to the generic at times, at least to my ears. What he needed was a gifted composer/musical leader like Shorter, who brings his exotic sensibility to this slab, which bears a latin influence (mainly displayed in "Arabia" and the opening title track) and with material that seems a bit more nuanced than the blues powerhouse type stuff I associate with Blakey. Also gotta mention Hubbard, who delivers a dependably solid performance as well. Nice version of "Crisis" featured here but I prefer the one from Hubbard's "Ready For Freddie" album.
Man - Live At The Roundhouse
Rest of the performance that gave us the live stuff on the "Back Into The Future" album, which I've always considered the best live Man (saying a lot since they're one of the great live bands IMO but nobody cares about them so I'll leave it at that)
Lou Donaldson w/ The 3 Sounds - LD + 3
I dug Lou's playing on both Art Blakey's Birdland set and Lou's own "Blues Walk" album and I *also* dug The 3 Sounds' "Blue Hour" set with Stanley Turrentine so why wouldn't I pick this up? This is a more energetic yet traditional set compared to "Blues Walk" with Lou doing his best to channel Bird and The Sounds providing solidly bluesy backup. Nothing mindblowing but these guys sound pretty damn good together.