Album Reviews

Honey Ltd. “The Complete LHI Recordings” (Light In The Attic, 2013)

This Detroit quartet released one album in 1968 on Lee Hazlewood’s label and then vanished. Original copies of their lone record go for about $2,000, but thankfully, Light In The Attic reissued it with bonus tracks in 2013. Consisting of Laura Polkinghorne, Marsha Jo Temmer, and sisters Joan and Alexandra Sliwin, Honey Ltd. were originally called Mama Cats (pun noted) and drew on their hometown’s inspirational culture of soul music. They also found themselves playing shows with Bob Seger ca. 1967. After riots roiled Detroit that year, the band moved to LA in 1968 to try to further their music career. One audition later with Hazlewood and the legendary music man signed them to his LHI imprint.

Produced by Mr. Hazlewood, Honey Ltd.’s songs deftly balance social and political commentary with matters of the heart. The group’s savvy songwriting skills and magical, four-part vocal harmonies received considerable boost from Lee’s access to several world-class studio musicians from the Wrecking Crew, including Carol Kaye, Ry Cooder, Jack Nitzsche, Plas Johnson, Chuck Berghofer, Al Casey, Jim Gordon, and Don Randi.

The album begins with “Warrior,” which is about a lover going off to war, and it sarcastically treats his violent destiny as a good thing, as it shifts from poignant ballad to rousing rocker with verve. I dare any listener not to get swept away by the surging chorus. “No, You Are” and “I’ve Got Your Man” are harmony-rich girl-group brilliance—soaring pop that hits like a more robust Free Design. The latter tune boasts about undermining a woman’s relationship with dulcet brashness. “Eli’s Coming” is a faithful, exciting cover of Laura Nyro‘s brash soul showstopper, which only was released shortly before Honey Ltd.’s own version. The sophisticated pop-soul gem “Silk ‘N Honey” reveals further Nyro infatuation. The sublimely haunting pop of “Tomorrow Your Heart” foreshadows UK goth-pop sensations Strawberry Switchblade, except when it bursts into Motown-ish, soul-belting mode.

Honey Ltd certainly had a winning, eccentric way with covers. Their unconventionally arranged brassy interpretation of the oft-covered garage-rock standard “Louie, Louie” gets laced with fascinating vocal extrapolations. And their euphoric rendition of the Skip James blues classic “I’m So Glad” radically differs from Cream’s more famous version. Psych-pop heads will flip over the exceptionally dynamic “For Your Mind” and “Come Down,” with the latter being a hippie-rock anthem that would segue well into the United States Of America’s “Coming Down.” It features the group’s strongest vocal performance, replete with haunting undertones and undulating harmonies.

Following her short-lived stint with Honey Ltd., Polkinghorne went on to sing backing vocals with Seger, Black Crowes, and… uh, Kid Rock. But if there were any justice, she and songwriting partner Temmer would be much better known for their work in this femme-powered Motor City outfit. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Doug McKechnie “San Francisco Moog 1968-72: Vol. 2” (VG+ Records, 2023)

Better late than never, the 2020 archival release San Francisco Moog 1968-72: Vol. 1 introduced a lot of people to Bay Area synthesist/composer Doug McKechnie. Now 80, McKechnie somehow had gone barely noticed as a Moog pioneer, despite opening for the Rolling Stones at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival in 1969 and appearing in the Maysles brothers’ documentary of said tragic event, Gimme Shelter. Although McKechnie performed often during the years outlined by the title of this second collection of his largely improvised electronic works, he only released a couple of cassettes back then. The Moog craze of those days somehow did not sweep up Mr. McKechnie.

Perhaps Doug’s music didn’t draw much attention in those days because it lacked a gimmicky concept, which was typical of vintage Moog-centric records. Plus, he didn’t have the academic imprimatur that some of his peers enjoyed. Rather, McKechnie was a lone-wolf hippie, relying on his instincts to create extraordinary sounds on the Moog Modular Series III synth, to which he fortuitously gained access because his audiophile/electronics wiz roommate, Bruce Hatch, owned one. McKechnie became so adept with the new instrument, he gave lectures about it and demonstrations of it in colleges and other schools.

San Francisco Moog 1968-72: Vol. 2 further delves into McKechnie’s vaults from that heady era. The first volume’s rippling drones, grand melodies, ominous throbs, and eerie drifts predated and resembled some of the things happening with the work of German artists such as Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, and Ashra. The second one skews a bit weirder and more introspective. “Search For An Honest Man” recalls Moog superstar Mort Garson’s peak-era winsome melodiousness and bleak chirpiness. “Live At The Family Dog” offers a premonition of minimal techno, with its pinprick percussion and spaciousness, before it shifts into a wickedly warped k-hole of Doppler-effected “wow”s and “whoa”s.

If you’re a fan of Keith Emerson’s flamboyant flourishes in ELP, you’ll dig the bold, spasmodic piece “Moving.” “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” is a wildly oscillating excursion, like Tonto’s Expanding Head Band experiencing an anxiety attack while “Rumble Ramp Explosion,” as the title helpfully discloses, is an extreme display of tone dispersion and simulated rocket ascension and explosion. True mindfuckery. The best track here is also the longest: over its 11-plus minutes, the meticulously designed “Glide” features a main Moog motif that icily radiates over insistent pulsations, and thus enters the massive pantheon of intense sci-fi-film suspense-builders.

The VG+ label has compiled both San Francisco Moog LPs onto one CD, if you prefer that format. One way or another, you should get this music into your ears for easy transport out of this mundane reality. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections

Prince “Dirty Mind” (Warner Bros., 1980)

Dirty Mind was the Prince record that hit me first—and hardest. If you listened to Detroit radio in the early ’80s, you couldn’t escape Prince’s music (thankfully), because “When You Were Mine” was ubiquitous on both the black- and white-oriented stations in the Motor City, if I remember correctly. If you tuned in to the influential DJ the Electrifying Mojo on WGPR, then you lucked into hearing Dirty Mind‘s deeper cuts, too. As an 18-year-old, experiencing these slammingly funky and lyrically risqué songs upon their release was like getting license to let your id run riot.

Dirty Mind lasts but 30 minutes, but the brevity intensifies its impact. Prince’s first classic LP is filler-free and devoid of the sort of ballads that padded out most of Prince’s other releases. Now, some folks love boudoir troubadourism, and Prince was a true master of the style, but I find it slightly tedious. Anyway, “Dirty Mind”—which was co-written by synthesizer wizard Dr. Fink—kicks off the album with the kind of slightly blurred come-hither synth riff that became a pervasive early-’80s sound—especially in Prince’s Minneapolis circle of musicians. “Dirty Mind” is cruise-y new-wave disco with much spring in its legs and it flaunts one of the supplest falsettos in the game. For a celebration of a slutty brain, though, this gleaming song has almost a genteel feel to it.

“When You Were Mine” boasts one of Prince’s most memorable and moving melodies and bears a great, twanging bass part that twists like an aching testicle. The hook “I love you more now than when you were mine” is deeply poignant, and the equanimity with which Prince accepts his ex’s new boyfriend is damned mature, even if now people would call him a “cuck.” Side one (the inferior side) concludes with “Do It All Night” and “Gotta Broken Heart Again.” The former’s shiny, pulsating pop-funk that’s decidedly not top-tier Prince; the latter’s the closest the album comes to a ballad. It finds Prince lamenting his romantic-loser status—something that would become harder and harder to believe as the ’80s progressed.

Side two is where the seriously libidinous action goes down. It begins with “Uptown,” a triumphant, strutting soul funk ditty in which Prince relates how a woman who initially asks him if he’s gay (spoiler alert!) later bestows him the best sex of his life. He also asserts how “Good times were rollin’/White, black, Puerto Rican/Everybody just a-freaking,” providing a glimpse into Prince’s utopian ideals and inclusive worldview. Next comes my fave cut on Dirty Mind, “Head.” It funks harder and filthier than anything else here and extols the virtues of 69 (the sex act, not the year). As a bonus, Dr. Fink’s fantastic synth freakout, if I may go out on a limb, represents orgasm. Play it at your next orgy.

The final two tracks maintain the über-sexxxy vibe. “Sister” is a frisky rock rave-up that doubles as a paean to incest. Bold for 1980… or for any year, really. “Partyup” [sic] is a close cousin to “Head,” and its sleek, decadent funk lives up to the title. In this uproarious anti-war song, Prince unequivocally proves that he’s a hedonist and not a soldier. In fact, he’d rather have a good time than die in a war, and the exciting rhythmic torque and radiant synth flares seal the deal.

Dirty Mind is the album that alerted the world to Prince’s polymorphous perversity and sexual ambiguity, both lyrically and in how he presented himself (check the cover photos). It was daring as hell for the time in the soul and rock worlds. 1981’s Controversy would further expand upon Prince’s radical, liberating views on race, sexuality, gender, and politics and solidify his status as a generational musical phenom. But Dirty Mind presented Prince in his rawest and bawdiest form, and it initiated his superstar phase. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections

Mercury Rev “Yerself Is Steam” (Mint Films/Jungle, 1991)

Mercury Rev’s 1992 debut album, Yerself Is Steam, was a sensation upon its release in the UK, as the music press there hyped the upstate New York group for months before it actually dropped. Americans who read said media were stoked, as well, including me and several of my Detroit-area friends. Our absurdly high expectations were exceeded. To this day, my buddies and I stan indomitably for Steam, though when music-publication chatter turns to definitive ’90s rock releases, Yerself Is Steam is largely overlooked. This makes no sense.

In the early ’90s, Mercury Rev—led by guitarists Jonathan Donahue and Grasshopper—reigned as America’s greatest rock band, the country’s grand sorcerers of whirlwind psychedelic beauty and chaos. Steam deserved its own laser-light shows and made you feel as if your blood had been replaced with rocket fuel. The first three songs on the LP—“Chasing A Bee,” “Syringe Mouth,” and “Coney Island Cyclone”—assay a rarefied strain of bubblegum-catchy freak rock that induced the sensation of being on at least three drugs you’ve never heard of. Then it gets weirder and farther out.

Even that dreaded convention of the CD era, the hidden track, pays exorbitant dividends with the decade’s ultimate waver-lighting ballad, “Car Wash Hair.” (Initially released as a single, this lovable blissout is found only on the compact disc version of Steam.) “Syringe Mouth” in particular reaches a peak of exhilarating delirium, a lysergic splurge that singed plenty of synapses in its four chaotic minutes while “Coney Island Cyclone” is the greatest song ever written about an amusement-park ride.

“Blue And Black” is an unnervingly ponderous showcase for loose-cannon singer-songwriter David Baker to flaunt his morbid croon and ponder his impending mental breakdown over a foundation of quasi-goth brooding. The group’s most prog-like moment, “Sweet Oddysee Of A Cancer Cell T’ Center Of Yer Heart” serves as a fiendish roller-coaster ride of swerving dynamics and swelling melodic grandeur that makes Porcupine-era Echo & The Bunnymen sound like flat-footed underachievers. It’s a one-off slab of monstrous brilliance in the Rev’s catalog. “Frittering” is an expansive ice floe of psychedelia that puts a seething chill on Syd Barrett-era Floyd’s epics. Speaking of epics, the ominous “Very Sleepy Rivers” meanders with an unsettling heaviness; for over 12 minutes, the band sound like they’re marching you down to your watery demise.

That Steam came out on Columbia Records (a year after its initial micro-indie release) somehow makes the whole thing even more ridiculous. Did the conglomerate’s execs get swept away by Melody Maker and NME‘s frothing praise, too? Were they looking for the next Nirvana with Mercury Rev? Did they think Suzanne Thorpe’s flute was the future of rock?

In retrospect, the early-’90s “alternative rock” frenzy probably helped Mercury Rev to sign with a major, but Columbia’s mighty marketing machine failed to move the needle for them in the US. (Grasshopper once told me that Steam has sold more than 200,000 copies worldwide over the last 31 years, most of them in Europe.) Although Mercury Rev went on to earn more commercial success with 1998’s psych-lite, Americana-leaning Deserter’s Songs, they have yet to surpass Yerself Is Steam‘s unfettered creativity. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Cluster “Cluster II” (Brain, 1972)

Cluster 71—German geniuses Dieter Moebius, Hans-Joachim Roedelius’ first album without Conrad Schnitzler, with whom they formed Kluster in 1969—stands as an important landmark in the formation of industrial ambient music, forging forbidding expanses of desolation and agitation. Similar to Tangerine Dream’s Electronic Meditation, 71 did not rock at all, although it often got categorized as “krautrock.” Rather, it sprawled and glowered in dank space like a malignant satellite. This was head music par excellence, but only for the headstrong who can deal with no beats or hooks whatsoever.

Moebius and Roedelius’ follow-up, Cluster II (produced by Conny Plank with his usual magically maniacal touch), found the ever-questing duo bringing in guitar to their synth-heavy miasmas, but still not rocking in any conventional way. In some regards, it’s a bit less alien and alienating than 71, but still kilometers beyond the concise, melodious synth songs on their next full-length, 1974’s Zuckerzeit.

“Plas” begins 71 with a series of grainy synth throbs and billows that accumulate mass and ominousness, before strange pulsations and shrill, panicky fanfares enter the frame, like a deflated trumpet blurt arcing across the night sky. It’s a precarious, hallucinogenic trip and a helluva bold way to open an album. On “Im Süden,” Moebius’ crispy-fried guitar riff pierces through Roedelius’ bassy synth borborygmus for nearly 13 minutes, and the effect is both hypnotic and fraught as hell. Everything intensifies and gets denser as the track progresses, until you feel as if you’re churning in the guts of a massive cement mixer, with Moebius’ chiming guitar motif tolling like a farewell message… imminent-catastrophe vibes for days. You can definitely hear this track’s influence on Austrian guitarist/laptop composer Fennesz’s early releases.

After this incredible 1-2 punch, the quality dips slightly, but the material is still deeply dissonant. “Für Die Katz” is subtly turbulent space musik for imperiled astronauts while “Live In Der Fabrik” is the sound of infinity in a circuit board or maybe the world’s most sinister video game going on the fritz… or simply mad scientists going rogue in the lab. “Georgel” consists of an enveloping drone that’s pregnant with menace and “Nabitte” ushers us to the exits with chaotic keyboard clusters, distressing groans, and slamming of unknown metal objects.

These Übermenschen didn’t let up for one second on II. Their motto seemed to be “if you’re not overcome by paranoia, we’re doing something wrong.” Truly, an unsettling bleakness pervades the entire album, one entirely at odds with the brilliant constellation cover art. You have to respect such relentless journeying to the heart of darkness.

Bureau B reissued Cluster II in 2022 and Superior Viaduct did so in 2023, so the album should be easy to find and to afford. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Friar Tuck “Friar Tuck & His Psychedelic Guitar” (Mercury, 1967)

Many people’s favorite guitarist from the world-class LA studio band the Wrecking Crew, Mike Deasy is one of the mad geniuses behind the Ceyleib People’s one-off 1968 masterpiece, Tanyet, which I reviewed for this blog in 2018. Deasy’s session credits include a litany popular artists, some of whom made it into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Mike, however, has remained a deeply idiosyncratic cult figure.

Under his goofy Friar Tuck persona, Deasy let his freak flag fly, albeit not as sublimely as he did on Tanyet. Rather, Friar Tuck & His Psychedelic Guitar is a lysergic distortion of ’60s pop and rock that seems as if it were bashed out in a day, with help from some ringers such as bassist Jerry Scheff, drummer Jim Troxel, vibraphonist Toxie French (all from the great, short-lived Goldenrod), vocalist/arranger Curt Boettcher, and many others. Yes, this is a psychsploitation record from the subgenre’s red-hot peak of 1967, but Deasy does it with more inventiveness (and echoplex) than most.

Friar Tuck & His Psychedelic Guitar splits its two sides between covers and originals. The first side hints that the monk outfit Deasy’s wearing on the cover ain’t the only thing kooky about this LP. Tommy Roe’s cutesy 1965 hit “Sweet Pea” abounds with all sorts of flamboyant six-string filigree, negating the corny recitation of banal lyrics and cheesy backing vocals. A bad-trip, FX-laden coda telegraphs Deasy’s subversive motives. “Louis Louis” (aka frat-house garage-rock standard “Louie Louie”) receives a total makeover into a blissed-out psych saunter. EZ-listening female vocals sound absurd amid the increasingly disorienting disintegration of this overfamiliar classic. Mike completely rearranged the song’s DNA into something chaotically beautiful—and barely recognizable. Deasy and his super sessioneers also transform Oscar Brown and Nat Adderley’s “Work Song” into a baroque rave-up. Finally, Hollywood Argyles’ 1960 novelty hit “Alley-Oop” fits right in with Deasy’s loopy irreverence; surely notorious Argyles member Kim Fowley approved.

Deasy’s original songs occupy side 2, and it’s here where he really lets his imagination run riot. The compositions initially seem to have conventional structures, but as they go on, the backing vocals get stacked into infinite halls of mirrors and the guitars (also played by Ben Benay and Jim Helms) color way outside the lines in fluorescent colors. “A Record Hi” psychedelicizes “Louie Louie” even further into United States Of America territory (the band, not the country). “Fendabenda Ha Ha Ha” ingeniously uses extended chants as a foundation for brain-scrambling biker rock. By the time of the closing “Where Did Your Mind Go?” you’ll be laughing at how absurd this album’s journey from chart-fodder spoof to psychedelic excess has been, as well as pondering the question in the song’s title.

(The 2007 CD reissue on UK label Fallout includes four amiable bonus tracks from Deasy singles under the Flower Pot alias.) -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Lee Moses “Time And Place” (Maple, 1971)

It’s damn near impossible to quantify soul with regard to male vocalists, but consensus has built over the decades. Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Bobby Caldwell generally top the lists of singers who can make you break down and cry with a few syllables. Rarely, if ever, though, do you hear Lee Moses’ name among the elites. But if you learn one thing from this review, it’s that Moses—who died in 1997 at age 56—ranks as one of the best excavators of deep emotions in music history. The pain and grain of his pipes were just profoundly wrenching. That he died relatively young and unheralded only adds to the pathos when you listen to his records.

A major figure in Atlanta’s soul scene in the ’60s, Moses played guitar for some live gigs with Gladys Knight & The Pips; they wanted him to become a full-time member, but Moses yearned to make it on his own. He had high hopes for his sole album, Time And Place, but it stiffed in the marketplace upon its 1971 release. Nevertheless, true heads knew it was loaded with specialness. There’s a reason that Light In The Attic subsidiary Future Days Recordings has reissued Time And Place on vinyl four times since 2016, including this year. Once you hear Lee Moses sing, it’s like crack for your soul-starved ears. Plus, the originals and the covers that Moses selected cut you deep. You shall be moved.

The opening 1-2 gut punch of “Time And Place” and “Got That Will” should swiftly convince you that Moses was emoting on a level that few could equal. The former lopes into the frame with some horn-laden, laid-back funk as Moses testifies his obsessive love to an inamorata; it also possesses the greatest “mmm hmmm” ever to kick off a song. The latter finds Lee reeling off names of his fellow musicians who made it, and then proclaims that he’s eventually going to join them in the pantheon. Alas, that didn’t come to pass, but the song sure is soul-funk gold. “Every Boy And Girl” is a doom-laden, church soul belter that exudes “House Of The Rising Sun” vibes while “Would You Give Up Everything” is a momentous funk/soul ballad with a complex, corkscrewing bass line—a pretty rare thing. The buoyant, open-hearted melody of “Free At Last” totally embodies the title. And if you dig heart-shredding ballads, Moses sings the shit out of the staggering “Adorable One.”

The album’s best covers are among the most frequently attempted in pop/rock history. Moses puts his indelible stamp on them and makes you wonder why more people don’t consider them definitive. He slows down “California Dreaming” and alters the arrangement into stormy soul, and gruffs it up on the vocal tip. Moses doesn’t so much blow away the Mamas & The Papas’ original as he does transform it into his own joint. Then there’s one of the greatest “Hey Joe”s I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard over a dozen. In the intro, Moses explains how he was trying to dissuade Joe from going down to shoot his old lady, who was messin’ around with another man. “This is a song about a soul brother named Joe. Joe was a good friend of mine.” Etc. When Moses gets around to singing, he outshines even Tim Rose’s bruised and blustery delivery on this classic. The backing is greasy, Southern blues funk of the highest order.

Time And Place should’ve made Moses a star, with his guitar playing as gritty and expressive as his voice. Plus, he got that will to learn. But all of this somehow wasn’t enough. That the LP’s still in print a quarter century of Moses’ death, though, is a testament of sorts. (Also highly recommended: Future Days’ 2019 comp How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972.) -Buckley Mayfield

Black Sabbath “Vol. 4” (Warner Bros./Vertigo, 1972)

Recorded in LA while immersed in SoCal excess, Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4 nonetheless boasts some of the British heavy-metal innovators’ greatest songs. Yes, it’s brutal to be around people who are high on cocaine, but sometimes the drug can (partially) inspire musicians to create some great, enduring work. Case in point is Black Sabbath’s fourth LP. The Birmingham quartet allegedly had speaker boxes full of Bolivian marching powder delivered to the studio as they were cutting this fab platter. The results are worth whatever nasal and temporary psychic damage the players suffered during the making of it.

“Wheels Of Confusion” bursts in with Sabbath’s trademark behemoth metal riffage of the sort that inspired loads of grunge musicians. Ozzy sings in his best tuneful-anguish tone as guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler turn the screws ever tighter. Acting as a coda, “The Straightener” shifts into a lighter mode, a kind of breezy hard rock with Iommi soloing baroquely in the distance. “Tomorrow’s Dream” purveys staccato, groove-oriented metal and highlights drummer Bill Ward’s surprising funk chops. Iommi and Butler grind in unison density and heavy-osity. So far, so Sabbath-ical.

But the album’s first shocker is “Changes,” a heart-shattering ballad dominated by piano and Mellotron, its lyrics written by Butler and inspired by Ward’s breakup with his wife. One of Sabbath’s most beloved anomalies, the song was covered with astonishing gravity by the late soul vocalist Charles Bradley. Vol. 4‘s second bold tangent is “FX,” whose sparse, echoed bleeps vary in intensity over its 100 seconds. The piece sounds as if it could’ve escaped from the lab of your favorite ’60s academic synth composer, but in actuality, it was triggered by Iommi’s necklace crucifix accidentally hitting his guitar strings and generating cool sounds. The record’s third diversion is “Supernaut.” It begins with the same tension-inducing hi-hat pattern as Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft,” but it soon transforms into one of thee most unstoppable, pile-driving grooves ever to give you whiplash while headbanging. Ward’s dope percussion breakdown could get a room full of breakdancers sweating. “Supernaut” is perhaps the Sabbath song that best conjures the sensation of feeling invulnerable; maybe that’s why it was Frank Zappa’s favorite. (In 1990, an industrial-disco version was cut by the dubiously named 1000 Homo DJs, which featured members of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails.) The fourth and final surprise, “Laguna Sunrise,” delicately sparkles with acoustic guitar and mellotron—just a beautiful, melancholy instrumental, going against the sinister-metal grain.

“Snowblind” is the obvious coke homage here (Ozzy’s stage whisper of “cocaaaiiinnneee” sledgehammers the song’s point home), but the actual music leans more toward pot than blow. This methodical juggernaut of gnarled fuzz is proto-stoner rock. “Cornucopia” is kinetic, doomy metal with punchy beats that give John Bonham a run for his tom-tom thunder. Vol. 4 closes with a couple of speedy, hard-rock heaters: “St. Vitus Dance” and “Under The Sun.” The latter keeps accelerating until you fear Iommi and Butler’s instrument’s strings are going to burst into flames.

With Black Sabbath, it’s always been the outliers that have struck me as the most interesting displays of their talents—which is why “Planet Caravan” is my favorite tune on Paranoid and “Who Are You” my fave on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Vol. 4 features plenty of similar moments that reveal Black Sabbath’s inventive versatility—even as they were blasted out of their minds. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

James Brown “Get Up Offa That Thing” (Polydor, 1976)

It’s doubtful that many fans rank this album among the Godfather Of Soul’s greatest, but four out of its six tracks are certified bangers. Arriving as disco was gaining substantial marketshare in America, Get Up Offa That Thing reasserted James Brown’s dominance in the funk realm while also nodding to disco bandwagon-jumpers. Get Up is part of his last really strong phase in the last half of the ’70s, which includes Mutha’s Nature. If you’re a DJ who needs to fill dance floors, you could do a lot worse than to drop the needle on this somewhat overlooked opus.

The “Get Up Offa That Thing/Release The Pressure” medley begins with one of JB’s most outrageous EEEOOOWWWs before lunging into an unstoppable megaton funk groove laced with Charles Sherrell’s infectiously twitchy clavinet, blaring horns, and Melvin Parker’s clap-happy beats. James exhorts listeners to rise from their damn seats and “dance till you feel better” and, if all goes according to plan, “try to release that pressure.” This sound advice still resonates 47 years later.

The bubbly/silky, string-laden funk ballad “You Took My Heart” is decent for what it is, but generally speaking, ballads by funk artists are momentum-killers with negligible appeal. Too often, a saccharine sentimentality prevails, lyrically and sonically. I’m all for variety, but there has to be a better way. Thankfully, Brown gets back on the good foot with the next two songs. The speedy disco funk of “I Refuse To Lose” is tailor-made for sports anthemhood, and the “sock it in the pocket/let the good times roll” breakdown is a breakdancer’s paradise. (Shout out to Will Lee’s incredible bass line.) My fave cut is “Can’t Take It With You,” whose coiled funk packs a low-slung, Bohannon-like wallop, enhanced by chicken-squawk guitar à la the Meters’ Leo Nocentelli. The song’s nine debauched and mesmerizing minutes somehow aren’t enough.

“Home Again”—a bluesy ballad that harks back to Brown’s ’50s and early-’60s material—hinders the fun, but “This Feeling,” a more stripped-down companion piece to “Can’t Take It With You,” hits hard with a lean, low-key lethalness. Brown rarely does understatement, but “This Feeling” proved he could excel in that mode, too.

While the title track reached #45 in the Billboard Hot 100 chartt, it’s the deep cuts that make Get Up Offa That Thing a candidate for the ultimate James Brown sleeper LP. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Brightblack Morning Light “Motion To Rejoin” (Matador, 2008)

Brightblack Morning Light essentially have one song—but lord have mercy, what a wondrous song it is. Their third album, Motion To Rejoin, finds singers/multi-instrumentalists Nathan Shineywater and Rachael Hughes continuing to hone their slow-music formula to a sublime burnish.

Generally speaking, the nine songs here creep in on worn-out moccasins, emit a holy glow, and slouch into a groove akin to Dr. John’s “Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya” on Quaaludes. Nay and Ray croon as if trying not to wake a baby in the next room—a vocal style that perfectly melts into the molasses-y ASMR-rock they summon.

As with Talk Talk’s Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock, faint glimmers of cool jazz seep into BML’s hazy, nocturnal soundworld; the bass part in “Oppressions Each” even recalls Cecil McBee’s resonant, majestic motif on Alice Coltrane’s “Journey In Satchidananda.” Yeah, that’s the kind of hallowed ground upon which BML tread.

Ultimately, Motion To Rejoin ranks as one of the greatest records to play first thing in the morning or last thing at night. It’s at once one of the most calming LPs in rock—and one of its most sensual. It didn’t get much better than this in 2008. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Keith Papworth “Hard Hitter” (Music De Wolfe, 1975)

Subtitled with typical Music De Wolfe functionality “Percussive rhythm tracks with a minimum of orchestration,” UK composer Keith Papworth’s Hard Hitter is one of the funkiest specimens in the wonderful world of library music, which has enjoyed a bonanza of key reissues over the last decade. (Blessedly, US label Fat Beats re-released Hard Hitter in 2022. The lone original copy on Discogs is going for €219—plus shipping from Italy! I mean, it’s probably worth that kind of money, but few mortals can afford it.)

Why has Hard Hitter become such a coveted artifact in the rarefied realm of library music? Because nearly all of its 15 tracks are sample gold mines (see this review’s first sentence). Opening track “Speed Trap” immediately lets you know you’re in for a drum orgy, with a busy, robust opening break over which savvy hip-hop producers will salivate. That foundation’s soon joined by a suspense-building bass line and swashbuckling wah-wah guitar action. Music De Wolfe’s terse description on the back cover—“fast, driving, racy”—is on point.

“Track Record” captures Hard Hitter‘s dominant mode: slower-tempo’d funk with bongos and flute, always a lethal combo in this genre. It’s a serious head-nodder, with bonus fuzzed psych guitar. Akin to “Track Record,” “Fun Seeker” purveys methodical funk with more bongos and flute, a groovy, laid-back acoustic-guitar riff that you can imagine Beck sampling, and a slightly fried psychedelic electric-guitar solo. As it turns out, I just played “Track Record” in a DJ set last week at my Obscenely Obscure event in Seattle—the only such night in town dedicated to library music.

“Hair Raiser” follows in Papworth and crew’s deep, sexy, and slow funk style, which is very ripe for sampling. Eventually, the track accelerates into a beat frenzy that UK electronic artists such as Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, and Propellerheads took to the bank in the ’90s. “Big Dipper” and “Decisive Action” offer yet more variations on Keith’s purposeful, penetrating funk theme, providing a full menu of tasty samples. “Hard Hitter” is perhaps the platonic ideal of the momentous, car-chase-scene soundtrack, with a bass line that’s deeper than Larry Graham’s voice. You can hear its influence on Propellerheads’ 1997 Big Beat club smash, “Take California.”

Some deviations from the prevailing downtempo grooves include “No Way”’s oddly stilted, military funk that’s somehow an earworm; “Stay With It”’s brisk martial rhythm on snare and cymbal; the bongo-powered jazz stepper in 6/8, “Three’s A Crowd”; and the debonair bossa nova of “Challenger.”

Papworth is best known for music that appears in Monty Python skits and movies, but Hard Hitter is no joke among crate-diggers, DJs, and sample-reliant producers. (On a side note, it’s scandalous that the label listed no credits, as the musicians here just kill.) -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Rodriguez “Cold Fact” (Sussex 1970)

As you probably know by now, Detroit troubadour Sixto Rodriguez passed away on August 8 at age 81 (cause of death has not been reported). Heads around the world have been mourning and eulogizing this Mexican-American cult hero’s art and humanity with an intensity, if my social-media feeds are any indication.

After decades of obscurity in the US, the trenchant singer-songwriter finally began to get the recognition and accolades he deserved when Light In The Attic reissued his 1970 debut LP Cold Fact in 2008. Director Malik Bendjelloul’s 2012 documentary Searching For Sugar Man further elevated Rodriguez’s profile and sales figures while revealing that he’d achieved shocking commercial success in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand in the ’70s.

Produced by legendary Motown session guitarist Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore and featuring Funk Brothers bassist Bob Babbitt and drummer Andrew Smith, the 12 songs on Cold Fact should be granted the lofty regard those on Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home and Phil Ochs’ All The News That’s Fit To Sing have earned.

Like Dylan and Ochs’, Rodriguez’s voice isn’t technically “good,” but it’s idiosyncratic enough to slice through pop culture’s innocuous glut and command your attention. It’s a cold fact that the content of Rodriguez’s songs—gripping conflicts stemming from drug abuse, inequality, sexual promiscuity, street hassles, etc.—would sound absurd if expressed by someone with perfect pitch and chart-friendly timbre.

Cold Fact begins with its most famous song (nearly 63 million streams on $p0tify), “Sugar Man,” a phantasmal folk-soul ballad enhanced by a poignantly descending bass line and psychedelic effects (echoed backward violin, Mort Garson-esque analog-synth bleeps, delayed vocals as it fades out) from the Theo-Coff production unit. (I discovered the song on David Holmes’ 2002 DJ mix album Come Get It, I Got It, and was instantly hooked.) The album’s next track, “Only Good For Conversation,” bursts in on a cantankerous fuzz-toned bass riff and Coffey’s monumental electric guitar pyrotechnics.

After this potent one-two punch, Cold Fact eases into more conventional singer/songwriter moves, but gritty Detroit funk still runs through these lyrically compelling compositions. An eloquent voice for the underdog and the poor, Rodriguez came out of the gate on fire musically and lyrically. Cold Fact still sounds vital and essential 53 years after its release. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.