In no particular order. Old stuff today, new stuff later.
Amadou & Mariam–The Magic Couple [Wrasse]
Best-Of compilation culled from Amadou & Mariam’s 1997-2001 material, in which the divinely gifted Malian blind couple honed the style seen on sacred earth-opus, Welcome to Mali. Coldplay-endorsed, NPR-approved, and the darling of every critic cognizant of the word, “polyrhythm.” For good reason.
MP3: Amadou & Mariam-“C’est La Vie”
Franco – Francophonic 2 [Sterns Arc Ltd]
Second volume of Congolese guitar god, Franco, focusing on his 80s material. Recorded heavily in Paris and Brussels and often in collaboration with Tabu Ley Rochereau, Francophonic Vol. 2 explains why he was called “the sorcerer of the guitar.” It also includes Franco’s biggest hit ever, “Mario,” a tale of a gigolo who sponges off his older sugar mama. Enough said.
MP3: Franco-“Mario” (Left-Click)
Mulatu Astatke-“New York City-Addis–London: The Story of Ethio-Jazz (1965-1975)” [Strut]
Compiling Mulatu’s legendary work from the Golden Age of Ethio-Jazz and including an even earlier sample of work than the previous must-have Ethiopiques anthology, the collection includes Mulatu’s years in New York, where the lingering effect of his Duke Ellington worship met the salsa and jazz-rock fusion then enveloping the Apple. Of course, it captures the bible material cut under the waning years of the Selassie dynasty, most notably immortalized in Broken Flowers. Bill Murray endorsed.
MP3: Mulatu Astatke ft. Frank Holder-“Asiyo Belema”
V/A — Black Rio 2 Original Samba Soul (1971-1980) [Strut]
Legendary British crate-digger, DJ Cliffy, furthers his exploration of classic Afro-Brazilian soul music to produce a tropical cocktail of psychedelic tropicalia, hard funk, disco, and classic Motown. Whereas Vol. 1 was dedicated to limning the bigger names of the Samba Soul movement, Vol. 2 focuses on the lesser known but equally talented outfits that made it the sound of Brazil during the Me Decade.
MP3: Grupo Som Sagrado, Guimaraes -“Our Sound”
V/A — Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro Sound, Ghanian Blues (1968-1981) [Soundways]
A sequel of sorts to Miles Claret’s acclaimed Nigeria special compilations, Ghana Special represents the culmination of a decade of digging in Accra, Tema, Cape Coast, Takoradi and Kumasi, beating down musician’s doors and “visiting ex-distributors, DJs, collectors, manufacturers and shop owners who helped piece the story together.” 33 gorgeous tracks filled with heavenly horns and effortless groove.
Grateful Dead- To Terrapin: Hartford ’77 [Rhino]
The final show of the Dead’s historic Spring ’77 tour, proving that the fabled 5/08/77 show in Cornell was a reflection of their hot streak and not some weird late period aberration. Showcasing cuts from then-unreleased Terrapin Station, Jerry & Co. are in the Phil zone throughout. You know it’s a good Dead show when there is only a minute and a half of “Drums.”
MP3: Grateful Dead-“Estimated Prophet” (Left-Click)
Betty Davis – Nasty Gal/Is It Love or Desire [Light in the Attic]
The third and fourth installments in Light in the Attic’s series dedicating to resurrecting the slept-on catalogue of growling, sex-goddess extraordinaire, Betty Davis, who displays exactly why a guy like Miles Davis would slip a ring on her finger. Swagger before the phrase was spavined. Dirt-caked funkadelic soul, with a salient Hendrix and Sly Stone fixation, and liner notes from O-Dub.
MP3: Betty Davis-“Is It Love or Desire”
The Lafayette Afro-Rock Band: Darkest Light – Best of the Lafeyette Afro-Rock Band [Strut]
The Parisian-based, American-born band was far greater than than the sum of “Darkest Light’s” hortatory horns and “Hihache” (”Nobody Beats the Biz,” “Ghetto Bastard,” “Buck Em Down.”) Originally released in 1999 and since out-of-print, the resurrected Strut imprint gives the Lafayette’s the re-issue treatment, subsequently–and indelibly–boosting the stock of a crew commercially and critically ignored during their 71-82 career. While the compilation primarily focuses on the 72-77 recordings under the Lafayette moniker, it also includes one-off efforts for the Japanese market, recorded under the names Crispy & Co. and Captain Dax. Highly recommended for anyone with a passing interest in Parliament, rumpshaking, and the Marquis De Lafayette.
MP3: Lafayette Afro-Rock Band-“Darkest Light”
V/A: Forge Your Own Chains: Heavy Psychedelic Ballads & Dirges (1968- 1974)Now-Again]
The crate-digging equivalent of shale oil extraction, Egon & Co. compile largely anonymous American, Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern acts united by their love of lysergics and their skill at creating haunting and woozy one-offs. One of the more essential compilations in a year with a lot of essential compilations. You probably haven’t heard any of these groups before, but you probably should have. To boot, the packaging comes with a 40 page book complete with extensive mini-bios about each group, it’s an impressive touch and a wise move to entice wary buyers. Who knew that acid culture spread to Korea?
MP3: Damon-“Don’t You Feel Me”
V/A – Spiritual Jazz — Deep Cuts: Esoteric Jazz From The Underground 1968-1977) [Now-Again]
Featuring songs from Egyptian big bands, high school jazz ensembles, prison bands,African musicians performing with free jazz legends, and American jazz giants, Now-Again and Jazzman Records produce a record with a surprisingly astounding consistency. As though Alice Coltrane curated it herself, this collection of “close-knit collectives and individual visionaries, prisoners and eccentrics, mystics and political radicals,” distills a palpable sense of limitlessness, righteousness and fury, to create something both beautiful and unsettling.
MP3: More Thian- “Ayo Ayo Nene”
V/A– Legends of Benin [Analog Africa]
The third anthology from Samy Ben Redjeb’s Analog Africa imprint stakes a claim for Benin as one of the most sonically important scenes of the 70s. Compiling four of the finest band leaders (Honoré Avolonto, Antoine Dougbé, Gnonnas Pedro, and El Rego) from the tiny West African nation, Legends of Benin illustrates how psych rock, soul, jazz, and Latin music blended with traditional African rhythms to form some of the funkiest music you’ve ever heard and prove that Fela had more competition than people thought.
MP3: Honoré Avolonto & Orchestre Poly-Rythmo-”Tin Lin Non”
Pisces – A Lovely Sight – [The Numero Group]
The notion of lost American psych-rock classics becomes fainter every year, with most of the best material unearthed, save for the occasional stray ’45. So credit the Numero Group for digging up this never-released gem from Pisces, an Age of Aquarius quartet who channeled Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles, The Doors, and The Temptations, with equal aplomb. What they might lack in orginality, they make up in atmosphere and songs, the ideal solution for jaded listeners who’ve already heard everything.
V/A — Fire in My Bones : Raw, Rare & Otherworldly African-American Gospel, 1944-2007 Tompkins Square]
A four-hour, three-disc compilation of aching, beatific and bruising swamp-gospel. Unearthed sacraments consist of timeless threnodies that appeal to anyone with antiquarian inclinations. The majority of the plaintive ballads released on obscure regional labels. Raw, rare, the gospel, definitely.
MP3: Henry Green-”Storm Through Mississippi”
Dr. Dunks – How We Do in NYC – ANYthing
A string and swing-heavy mix from Eric Duncan, one half of DFA outfit, Still Going, full of anthemic horns, house piano lines, and elastic bass that blurs the line between funk and disco. Originally issued without a tracklist, the mix flows seamlessly and functions in the manner of an MTV Party to Go, but with less Color Me Badd.
MP3: Dr. Dunks -“Keep a Burning”
V/A – Horse Meat Disco – [Strut]
Beginning with a rambling phone call from someone claiming to have been abducted by a giant glass unicorn and whisked off to party with the ectoplasmic remains of Ron Hardy, Horse Meat Disco immediately stakes its singularity. Which shouldn’t be surprising, considering the reputation of the London disco night that spawned this compilation, the spot known for heralding the disco revival that has occurred within the dance community over the last few years. For those whose definition of disco is restricted to Donna Summer and Barry Gibb, this is a good place to expand beyond its ostensibly leisure suit limitations.