A collection which came through the record shop recently included the first three albums by Malo, a latin rock band from the seventies who celebrating their 45th year according to their official website. The band has been through many line-up changes over that time, and it retains two original members and several others who have been with the group since the seventies.

malo

The band had a number of top musicians from the San Francisco music scene of the time, including members of the Malibus and Naked Lunch. Their name was likely derived from the Mayan word for “good” or “fine,” and not from the Spanish word for “bad.” This would also explain the Mayan imagery on their album covers.

And the band certainly wasn’t bad at all. Two members, Gabe Manzo and Tony Menjivar, recently formed a Christian latin rock band, and they chose to name it Bueno!

Malo’s biggest hit was “Suavecito,” a love song written by percussionist Richard Bean. allegedly while in algebra class. Bandmates Pablo Tellez and Abel Zarate helped arrange the song and share writing credit. Bean and Zarate were, unfortunately, two of the members who left Malo in an unpleasant rift after the release of their first album in 1972. The first of several new groups debuted on Dos late that year, but the band was never quite the same.

o dos

Another loss was percussionist Luis Gasca, who left to record his own albums of more jazz-oriented latin music. His replacement, Francisco Aguabella was up to the task — he is especially great on “Marengue” on the band’s third album, Evolution. We posted one of his solo albums several years back as part of our tribute to Blue Thumb Records (here). We also posted a song from one of Jorge Santana’s solo albums (here). Although he left to start a solo career, Jorge — the younger brother of Carlos Santana — still sits in with Malo from time to time. The band is now led by Arcelio Garcia, who sings lead vocals. Sometimes his son, Octaviano, joins them.

malo evolution

Malo is not as well known as Santana, and their albums are surely more difficult to find, but each is worth the search. We have really enjoyed having these first three in stock this weekend.

yvonne

We never get tired of this song.

yvonne 2

We love these. There’s more posted here.

gary brooker gary brooker 2

photo 1 (3) photo 2 (2)

Roaratorio Records remains one of our favorite labels based in Minnesota. One of their recent releases was a 7-inch with two songs by The Cleveland Wrecking Crew, a Quicksilver-ish Bay Area band from the 60s who never released any recordings.

And the label’s most recent release is the next in a series of un-issued recordings by Sun Ra and his Arkestra. It is the third such collection they have released, and the first which is a double LP. Owing to the ongoing interest in Sun Ra’s music, the other two are already out of print.

Sun Ra Intergalactic Thing

The tracks on The Intergalactic Thing are taken from rehearsal recordings at the House of Ra, the Philadelphia residence of Sun Ra and many members of his Arkestra. This collection contains much more information about the recordings than the previous two Roaratorio releases, including recording dates and personnel. All tracks are from the early winter of 1969, presumably the same era as Atlantis and My Brother the Wind.

We have several copies in stock, but anticipate that this release will also quickly fall out of print. We have been really enjoying it, although we suppose the astro-infinity music of Sun Ra isn’t for everyone. We really liked this track, “In Over and Under,” which reminded us of other clavinet classics in his catalog, like “Love in Outer Space.”

It was a beautiful weekend for gardening, and that’s what we did until we were sunburned and sore. It was sunny and beautiful on Sunday when we got the bad news that our neighbor Katy Vernon Thomasberg had passed away.

We are shocked and saddened. In addition to being an awesome neighbor who we’d often see gardening, Katy led a country band, Vernon Dixon, who played regularly in bars around town. The group was the perfect combination of honky tonk and old time country. Their album, Corn Whiskey, is like a jukebox filled with great country singles. Katy wrote the songs and created all the awesome art for the album and sleeve. She described her work this way: “I’m slingin’ drinks, writing songs, and spreading a good time, from the headwaters of the Mississippi to the Delta.”

 

vernon dixon

Katy was a good friend, a good neighbor, and a hell of a singer. Guess all there is to do is stop at the Schooner tonight and raise a glass of corn whiskey in her honor. Here’s a couple songs from that great album, which came out two years ago.

five chinese 1

When our kids were young they had a pretty awesome collection of storybooks which have since been given to friends as the books were outgrown. One of these was a story first published in 1938, but not familiar to either of us until we had our own children, called “The Five Chinese Brothers.” It was written by Claire Hutchet Bishop and illustrated by Kurt Wiese in 1938.

Each of the five Chinese brothers has a special attribute — one can swallow the sea, one can stretch his legs to any length, one cannot be burned, etc. The brother who could swallow the sea always captivated our imagination.

five chinese 2

He would sup it up like soup and hold it in his cheeks until they were enormously swollen, “and all of the treasures of the sea lay uncovered.” The image of the seabed revealed is captivating to us.

five chinese 3

This Chinese brother is taken advantage of, and the following four take his place in succession. Some have said Wiese’s art in the children’s book is racist, but we have never really seen the story that way.

When this book was given to us when our children were small, our first thought was of the song “7 Chinese Brothers” on REM’s second album, Reckoning. Like most early REM songs its just another exercise in cryptic absurdism, but apparently at least partly inspired by the storybook.

rem rekoning

“7 Chinese Brothers” is an early example of REM’s ability to captivate us even when we have no idea why we are so compelled to continue listening. What is this song about, and why is it one of our favorites on the album? Reckoning is a remarkable album in this way, for few songs are singularly memorable, but on a re-listening all are essential. And yes, there is a line about swallowing the ocean, or something. It’s so damn difficult to understand any of the words on those first few REM records.

In fact, it was so difficult to understand Michael Stipe, let alone hear and record him, that it was a problem when recording Reckoning. At one point the album’s producer, Don Dixon, gave Stipe an album and asked him to read the liner notes so he could be heard and understood. It was The Joy of Knowing Jesus by the Revelaires. This exercise took place over the backing track of “7 Chinese Brothers.”

rem-revelaires-back

The resulting take was so weirdly successful that it was released as the b-side of the single for “So. Central Rain” as “The Voice of Harold.” It was also included on the band’s b-side compilation (and a favorite album of ours) Dead Letter Office. In the liner notes, Peter Buck describes the alternate lyrics as “extemporaneous,” but the delivery is stunningly predicative.

From this point forward there seems to be a growing confidence in Stipe’s vocals, perhaps inspired by … “The Voice of Harold.” All we know is that it is hard to imagine the Michael Stipe of most songs on Reckoning singing “Everybody Hurts” a decade later, but it somehow makes sense when you hear “The Voice of Harold.” For us, a record store is like “the treasures of the sea lay[ing] uncovered.” There is always something to find.

Now that just about everything is being re-issued on CD or LP, we’d like to know when they’re going to get around to Walter “Junie” Morrison’s three solo albums from the seventies on Westbound Records. They fall in between his time with the Ohio Players and his short but essential tenure at the P-Funk mothership, which includes One Nation Under A Groove and Motor Booty Affair. While with the Ohio Players he’d written some of their early 70s hits — he was only eighteen when joined the group for their breakthrough albums Pain, Pleasure and Ecstasy.

On each of these, Morrison does the same one-man-band thing Stevie Wonder was doing, and Prince would do just a few years later. While he plays all the instruments on some tracks, others feature a full band. From his second album, Suzie Super Groupie, here are one of each.

suzie super groupie

Morrison always has the funk sense of Sly Stone, but the smoother approach of Stevie Wonder, and a good sense of humor to boot. While there’s a CD which collects highlights from the three Westbound albums, we’d love to see one of these reissue labels put them out individually.

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