Mississippi born and raised Ester Mae Smith and sisters Angela Taylor and Della Daniels have come together as The Como Mamas and bring an authentic form of a capella gospel that is far removed from pop culture and is a spiritual vehicle for many souls to ride. Daptone Records is looking to go into the depths of this spiritual awakening in music media culture with the release Get An Understanding, the first full length from The Como Mamas. It’s a refreshing statement from the vocal trio that has some of the most soulful, powerful and emotional singing I have ever heard.
Daptone Records has been presenting some of the most wonderful 21st century sounds sourced from the vintage analog era. Recording all of their albums in the Brooklyn based label owned studio Daptone’s House of Soul entirely on analog gear has given their artists a very unique sound when compared to most modern recordings. The Como Mamas is the source and nucleus of this labels approach in many ways, cutting to the heart of what all other forms of spiritual music stand for with the lens of three women pouring their souls out with no other instrumentation involved.
The Como Mamas are three women who have given their life in the name of spirituality with vocal skills that are hair raising and astonishing. In an age of over saturation and over extensions, Get An Understanding is an achievement of the core of who we are. It’s the essence of music that is every part rewarding to the soul as it is to the mind and body.
Grab a copy in any format from Daptone Records by Clicking Here
Bob Dylan was born old, always obsessed with death and dying, even at a very young age…
Tuesday September 11th, 2012 will mark Bob Dylan’s 35th—depending on how you count it—studio album as well as 50 years as a recording artist with Columbia Records. Despite being 71 years young, the singer is most definitely firing on all cylinders, including promoting the new album, creating an Internet buzz with a sophisticated online roll-out and adding tour dates that extend into November to play his new songs live. There will also be “pop-up” stores in LA, NYC and London, selling the album one day early, on Monday Sept. 10th. Tempest is an album covered in blood, splattered all over the tracks. There is no hope left as this proves to be one of Dylan’s darkest albums ever.
The opening track and lead single “Duquesne Whistle” is by far the most upbeat song on the album. The steel guitar/whistle opening recaptures images of the old west and “hop aboard, take the trip..” sort of feel. I smiled wide when I first heard it but had no idea what I was in for throughout the rest of the album. One should enjoy the upbeat tone of “Duquesne Whistle” because after this song, you’re going to get nothing but madness, death and murder ballads, one liners, couplets, random observations, overheard expressions, inverted slogans, verses and images often set up in baffling opposition to one another. This album feels like a combination of “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Desolation Row” to me, where nothing is as it seems and that is a very, very good thing for Bob Dylan music.
“Soon After Midnight” may start out like a simple, country love song but it is definitely not that. Especially when Dylan sings ““My heart is fearful/It’s never cheerful/I’ve been down on the killing floor.” The opening lyrics to “Pay in Blood” almost sound like screaming death metal as his first few words are basically inaudible. You can tell that there’s still plenty of fire left in his voice. Dylan’s voice here, although worn, torn and almost gone, does not bother me at all. It’s the lyrics and stories that matter to me because the delivery is still there. They’re very clear, even 50 years later…
The people who complain of his voice now are most likely the same people who didn’t like his voice in the 60′s-70′s either. “Another politician pumping out the piss,” he sings later, “You bastard, I’m supposed to respect you? I’ll give you justice.” No, I don’t think these are “protest” songs. Instead they are far-off perspectives, often leaving the listener to chose what they want to hear.
“Scarlett Town” is a new take on the traditional song “Barbra Allen” and yes, this is the same “Barbra Allen” that Bob once sang during his “Gaslight” appearances in NY, 1961. However, the “Scarlett Town” found on “Tempest” is something completely fresh.To see him revisit it in 2012 is simply stunning. “Help comes,” Dylan sings in Scarlet Town, “but it comes too late.”
Yes, “Early Roman Kings” is definitely based off Muddy Waters “Mannish Boy.” It’s the same riff/blues stomp.. but again, it’s the lyrics which shine for me. “They’re peddlers and they’re meddlers/They buy and they sell/They destroyed your city/They’ll destroy you as well.” It’s hard not to see the connections to modern America as Dylan growls, “I was up on Black Mountain the day Detroit fell.” When Dylan croaks “In their sharkskin suits, bow ties and buttons, with their high-top shoes…” it becomes a great summary of all imperial invaders, from all eras, both now, then and probably forever.
The title track “Tempest” is probably the song getting the most “buzz” online and whatnot. This is another new take on The Carter Family’s “The Great Titanic.” Here Dylan pulls off over 40+ verses (no chorus) and stretches the song into a 14 minute drowning ballad. David Hildago’s (Los Lobos) violin just hits me, right in the heart. It sounds exactly like a doomed sea shanty… This is my personal favorite song from the album. I don’t think it’s too long at all, just like “Desolation Row” or “Highlands.” I didn’t even notice the time pass: It stands still, completely still. Here, again..I don’t think he’s singing about The Titanic at all. It’s more a statement on modern America, bankers, OWS and much, much more.. I’m thinking the “Leo” DiCaprio references stem from James Cameron’s use of Dylan lyrics in the film “Titanic” but who knows? Either way, singing about it 100 years later, in 2012, seems most fit.
The last song on the album is called “Roll on John” and is basically a tribute to John Lennon. I think this is extremely touching, simply because you have them getting stoned together in the back of a limousine in the 60′s, moving to all of their conflict in the late 70′s early 80′s, with Dylan doing “Gotta Serve Somebody” and Lennon firing back with “Serve Yourself.” Here Dylan gives almost a blow-by-blow account of Lennon’s murder. Dylan sings of the physical experience of dying; “breathing his last.” “He turned around and he slowly walked away, they shot him in the back and down he went. Shine a light/Move along. You burn so bright/Roll on John.”
I can think only of two other seminal artists from the 60′s celebrating their 50th anniversaries this year, and neither are coming anywhere close to breaking the musical ground Dylan is tackling here on “Tempest” five decades later.
Some say The Beach Boys released their best album in decades with “That`s Why God Made The Radio.” With the exception of a few Brian Wilson gems, it`s a fairly nostalgic celebration of their 50th with a recapturing of the classic Beach Boys sound.
Then you have the Rolling Stones. In the same week that Dylan gives fans a new collection of 10 completely original and mostly outstanding tracks, the Stones announce that they’ll celebrate their 50th with yet another compilation of their 50 greatest hits along with two new tracks. I’m not impressed…
“There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music. All these years later, he’s still chasing that sound.” President Barack Obama said when awarding Dylan the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in May of 2012.
Tempest may or may not be Bob Dylan’s final studio album (he says it is not but nobody knows). I truly hope it is not. But if it is, you really couldn’t go out much better than this.
Thank you, Bob.
Order a copy of Tempest here: http://www.bobdylan.com/us/news/tempest
Music video by Bob Dylan performing Duquesne Whistle. Directed by Nash Edgerton. (c) 2012 Columbia Records, a Division of Sony Music Entertainment
The prestigious Tompkins Square Records have embarked on a new direction for the label: the release of their very first book + CD. As the label presents new artists of many fields along with archival recordings, their stature builds by the year while their content fills the hearts of thousands as they give the world a voyage from past to present that is becoming a new model for labels emerging in the 21st century. This CD and book and project surrounds the life of Arizona Dranes, a gospel artist from the 20′s whose unique approach to piano and singing became a main staple of the Pentecostal black churches in many states across the US. A blind woman from Texas, it was the piano that became her stake to vision in this world at the very young age of 3 and would serve as her means of expressing the good word. Clasically trained in piano and vocals from the beginning of childhood to her young adulthood, Arizona Dranes was a deeply seasoned musician whose veracious and pristine playing entered the bodies and controlled so many under what church goers at the time felt was the voice of the holy spirit.
When Tompkins Square sent us He Is My Story: The Sanctified Soul of Arizone Dranes I had no clue what to expect. After reading the booklet it became the utmost important task to move all other assignments to the side and immerse myself into the gospel piano style of Arizona Dranes. If you think of Little Richard, Ray Charles and the other highly expressive piano players who could never sit still, than you can thank Arizona Dranes for the foundations into raising the spirit in a house full of people ready to be consumed by music under the direction of god. Her background is fully explained in as much detail as possible as bits and pieces have been researched to fill in as many gaps as possible. With 19 recordings completed for Chicago’s Okeh Records, the influential label who would be one of the first to take a chance on “race records”, it’s wonderful when reading about Arizona Dranes first sessions being side by side to the infamous Louie Armstrong sessions that launched his career with the same label.
July 1926 would be the first session Arizona Dranes would complete for the label and she would later be back in the studio in November of that year for more session work. At the time of the recordings, techniques in capturing sound were still very primitive, so the restoration team on this project used the best available sources to remaster and revitalize the music. What they have done is nothing short of amazing as you hear the deep, soulful resonance of a blind woman from birth whose solitude came into the missionary work she completed her entire life and the sounds of that came from her fingers and into the piano. The compilation is presented in order the label choose, not the order they were recorded at, giving balance to the arrangement of guests she brought along with the solo pieces she completed in those same sessions.
Imagine an age when religion was one of a few escapes in life towards the harsh inequalities of the land you live in. The Pentecostal churches of Los Angeles sparked a revolution in the minds of many and Arizona Dranes was one of the first to take momentum from this foundation of moving people with the holy spirit and into record form. The recordings present on He Is My Story: The Sanctified Soul of Arizona Dranes sounds raw, soulful, and contains a lot of what people at the time were calling devils music. Arizona Dranes would attribute her style to rag time and many other forms of music at the time but the lyrics always praised god and you can only imagine how this would have sounded in a church moving through the halls and into the people’s claps.
The story of Arizona Dranes is remarkable and is surely to find the hearts of many whose interest sway into the turn of the 20th century and the roots of American music. Gospel music has never sounded better than the 19 tracks that grace He Is My Story: The Sanctified Soul of Arizona Dranes. A must own item from Tompkins Square that is releasing later this month.
Book by Michael Corcoran. 78 transfers by Christopher King. Design by Susan Archie.
Washington DC’s Hilton Felton is probably the regions greatest organ player of any period. Steeped in the soul drenched flavor of organ players like Jimmy Smith and Big John Patton, Hilton Felton grooves in a way nobody even touches these days with the exception of a few key players. His introduction into the touring and recording scene came with the legendary Fats Theus. In 1970, Fats picked him up for a tour and released one record with the CTI imprint, Black Out. The massively heavy drum section of Idris Muhammed was present along with one of the best guitar players of the time Grant Green. The groups take on ‘Stone Flower’ on that album is incredible with Hilton Felton doing some of the most impressive organ solo’ing I have ever heard. George Benson took immediate attention to Hilton and picked him up for a tour shortly after this release, which would prove to shape Hilton’s abilities even more.
A family man and one who loved his city of DC, Hilton Felton took the unusual route after two years on the road and recording with Fats Theus and George Benson to be closer with his loved ones, start his own imprint and record music on his own terms. Yearning to be a self made independent artist, Hilton Felton started his own imprint Hilton Concepts in 1971, predating Minor Threat and many of the punk rocks who would create the DIY culture in Washington DC by almost a decade. Hilton Felton made some of the most interesting and diverse music, tapping into jazz, gospel, latin, street music, funk, soul, pop, psych rock and many other sounds that were dominating America’s airwaves during the 60′s and 70′s. London based Jazzman Records has culminated all of this lineage into a highly anticipated Best Of collection that spans from 1970-74. Collecting five tracks that spans 35 minutes, Jazzman Records selected a world of music from Hilton Felton that is the best entry point for anyone who hasn’t heard him and even better for those of who have. Pressed on vinyl and CD, the packaging is as good as the music, with rare photos and liner notes that explain the origins of every track.
The first piece, ‘Bee Bop Boogie’, is a classic sounding Headhunters groove from Herbie Hancock’s mid 70′s period. With a latin jazz emphasis in the drums and percussion, the piece moves flawlessly through its drop out moments when the band lets the percussion and drum tandem breath by itself. Hilton’s organ sound is just as superb and brilliant, showing a very soulful and sophisticated sound that lets the guitar comping transition in and out of solo’s seamlessly. Felton always has the rhythm and embellishes the most tasteful additives under the guitar with rhythm and harmony always at his side. The bass is always moving but never moving away too far and keeping itself trapped inside the groove this piece has. The sax work is pristine and soaring, with a glossy feel that makes it as dreamy as it is poignant. Felton turns out a true Herbie Hancock style solo around the five minute mark, running down his keys without missing a note or a beat. Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and many others in the 70′s had been utilizing a lot of electronics and Felton was right in line with all these masters, blasting away at his own sound and scene in DC.
‘Spreading Fever’ sounds like the perfect street league basketball anthem with a really rustic guitar sound that is heightened by a sax section and head nodding drum break. The bass is bumpin and there’s some really wild angular solo work on the guitar, with jabs of rhythm and staccato runs that make your head spin. Felton rests in the pocket for awhile, creating a canvas of soul drenched harmony that is out of this world until his restrain leads to some really intense solo’ing. It really doesn’t get much better than this with organ based jazz. ‘Dream Come True’ is a really dreamy soul pop song and the first in the collection to contain vocals. The organ work is really dreamy on this piece as well and the tone Felton gets in the last few minutes of the song really hints towards his deep gospel and family background. Every track has these small moments where Felton selects a very special tone on his organ for the song and it always fits so well. ‘Your Analysis’ couldn’t be better placed in the collection, pushing the energy to a maximum level with this psych soul rocker. With gut bucket and really intense drumming, fuzzed out psych guitar solo’s and some manic style freight train organ that always follows the intensity of the guitar, this is a testament to how lively his performances must have been. If you have heard any of the chittlin’ circuit Jimi Hendrix material, pre Experience, you know exactly what kind of sound this is. Felton’s organ solo is probably one of the most charged, exuberant and exhilarating of the collection on ‘Your Analysis’, with an apex of energy that is jaw dropping.
Jazzman Records collected five songs that truly represent the integrity, passion and grace organist Hilton Felton exerted into the many forms of music he identified with and presented himself to the world with. Best of releases are always hit and miss and this one is definitely a best of collection worth owning.
The Best of Hilton Felton 1970-74
- Bee Bop Boogie
- Spreading Fever
- Dream Come True
- Your Analysis
- Tell Her Love Has Felt The Need
“Everybody Talkin’ ‘Bout Heaven”
“Didn’t It Rain”
“The Lord’s Prayer”
Mahalia Jackson @ Newport Jazz Festival 1958