Category Archives: Maine

Isaac Hayes & The Red Summer Camp: First Impressions Of Black Moses

Isaac Hayes Article

Isaac Hayes’s music first entered my life in the mid 1990’s. It was not through crate digging or hip-hop samples. It was through my own father,my very first musical inspiration. This is going to be the story about how I first learned of Isaac Hayes. Its also the story of a little summer camp house,built in the late 1950’s,on a rural Maine lake known as Pushaw. Its not so much a memory based in sentiment. Its a memory that has shaped the way I’ve listened to music,and what I’ve looked for in it for the 21-22 years since this all began.

The summers of 1993-1995 were my final years at this camp. It was where my father (and later my mother and I) would go. It wasn’t actually ours,it was my grandparents. It had no shower,no heating,mosquito’s often invaded us out of our sleep early in the season. But it was beautifully comfy and rustic somehow. It was a pretty fun place for me to be. And it was a source of great meditative solace for my nature loving father. He and my mom both had records they generally kept only at the camp. These have been mentioned in other articles on here. Its where I first heard Heatwave,for example.

I had a neighbor friend named Joseph (whose family summered at the blue camp seen partly in the above photo). He was deeply into the Jacksons/Michael Jackson then The Rolling Stones as well. And we loved listening to them together. Talking about them too. As for my father,new music appeared all the time. It was always changing from year to year,when CD’s and tapes just came out before there was a designated new music release day. Almost all of this music was easily digestible to me from the first listen. One summer,possibly in 1994,there was one major exception to this.

This camp was located generally at a 30-40 minute car drive from our home. We generally listened to music on the car cassette deck. One day,on a rather hot hazy afternoon travelling back in from town after doing errands,my father played a new tape in the car. First thing I heard was a slow rhythm,dragging organ and hazy horns. Then a deep,echoed bluesy guitar. It sounded very Southern to me. And the rural fields,houses and trailers that probably looked about the same as they had in the late 60’s sped by as we drove,and listened. I asked my father what I was hearing. It was “Walk On By” by Isaac Hayes.

The album itself was Hot Buttered Soul. Today,I realize what a classic it is. Something about the visuals surrounding me the first time I heard it though provided a total aural experience. That unspoiled rural landscape,with a human presence ranging from regal to raggedy,reminded me very much of how I felt many areas of the South were like. Hayes’s cover of this Burt Bacharach classic had that same vibe. Rural yet urbane,sweet yet psychedelic, slow and powerful. He played the entire album that day on the car ride. But that first song just stayed with me. And even today,its often playing out somewhere in my mind.

Isaac Hayes would have turned 74 this Sunday if he hadn’t passed away in 2008. Upon reflecting on Hayes’ music,this is the experience that came most to mind. It actually wasn’t even the first time I’d heard his music. Already heard “Theme From Shaft” some years earlier,perhaps even in the late 80’s but oldies radio being what it was,the names of the artists weren’t announced too often. This was one of those few occasions in my life where there was an ideal first understanding of a musical genre. That’s because my first experience with Isaac Hayes’s cinematic soul was indeed cinematic.

*”Walk On By” as performed by Isaac Hayes

 

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Filed under cinematic soul, Hot Buttered Soul, Isaac Hayes, Maine, Memphis Soul, psychedelic soul, Pushaw Lake, rural south, summer, Walk On By

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Skippin” by Ramsey Lewis

Ramsey Lewis always kept close connection with Earth Wind & Fire during the mid/late 70’s. The band were technically his musical child-being formed by his former drummer Maurice White.  Ramsey’s 1975 album Don’t It Feel Good and it’s 1976 follow up Salongo had both been produced by Charles Stepney,who shared production credits with Ramsey and EWF over the years. Of course Stepney died later that same year. Ramsey compensated by giving EWF keyboard player Larry Dunn a try at the production side of a few cuts on his second album of 1977 entitled Tequila Mockingbird.

Personally I was first made aware of the song “Tequila Mockingbird” itself due to it’s appearance on the CD compilation set called The Electric Connection about a decade ago,after picking it up at a record store in Burlington Vermont. A couple years later,my personal fixation on mid/late 70’s Ramsey Lewis and it’s funky sounds led me to seek out the album itself. One of the songs on it instantly got my attention and featured  most of the EWF musicians as it’s rhythm section-similar to the Sun Goddess from a few years earlier. The name of the song was called “Skippin”.

A drum kick from Fred White and a revved up guitar from Al McKay open up the song. The the drums are joined by Philip Bailey’s conga drums for an uptempo Brazilian rhythm Ramsey plays a horn chart like melody on his mini Moog-accompanied by Eddie Del Barrio’s arranged flute call and responses. McKay’s guitar and Verdine White’s bass provide potent accompanied. On the refrains,the settles settles down into an EWF style groove with Ramsey’s orchestral synthesizers. Del Barrio’s orchestration leads out into the next chorus of the song.

The bridge of the song comes after this second chorus. It starts with a Ramsey up-scaling on the Fender Rhodes-with Verdine playing the changes on slap bass. A high pitched tone on the Yamaha electric piano ushers in a third chorus. This time Ramsey’s plays one of his Chicago hard bop/soul jazz piano solos. He tickles the ivories into another who refrain. This one is defined by Ramsey orchestrating synthesizers around Del Barrio’s call and response woodwinds and Bailey’s percussion. The song goes back to the original chorus that started out the song as it fades out.

“Skippin” is a wonderful example of melodically simple,yet instrumentally complex Brazilian jazz/funk. The charts normally played by EWF’s Phenix Horns come by way of breezier woodwind instruments. Most important though is Ramsey’s use of chorally arranged synthesizers-which seemed to be the way to orchestrate in the late 70’s with Euro-disco and emerging new artists such as Prince. Larry Dunn exhibits a clear understanding of the qualities that Charles Stepney. He bought in Stepney’s sense of melodic ease with a funky rhythm section for “funk sweet as funk can be” for sure!

The reason this song got my attention was realizing I’d heard it before-in a very peculiar place. On Bangor Maine’s local NBC affiliate WLBZ,local TV personality Eddie Driscoll had utilized “Skippin” as the theme for his program The Grover Swale Show. Portrayed by Driscoll himself,Swale was a buck toothed flannel shirt wearing Maine salt type character. It really goes to show how a song with such a string singable melody can easily become a TV theme for somebody,somewhere. Upon hearing the song in it’s native context however,”Skippin'” really epitomizes Ramsey Lewis’s late 70’s jazz/funk approach.

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Filed under 1970's, Al McKay, Brazilian Jazz, drums, Earth Wind & Fire, Eddie Del Barrio, Fender Rhodes, flute, Fred White, jazz funk, Larry Dunn, Maine, Moog, percussion, Philip Bailey, Ramsey Lewis, rhythm guitar, slap bass, synthesizers, Verdine White

Record Store Stories: Another Sunny April Afternoon From Behind The Racks

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One of the ongoing points Henrique Hopkins and I have in our conversations about shopping for records has to do with my experiences with the record stores in coastal Maine towns. Whether it be Acadia Nation Park (the location of the famous vacationing town of Bar Harbor) or the mid coast region that includes Belfast,Camden and Rockland there is nearly always a brick and mortar record store to hang out in and find new grooves. These are also areas that flourish with great appreciation for the arts. Doesn’t matter of one is a painter,musician,writer or stone mason. These are usually wonderful places to enjoy,purchase and especially create new works of art.

Camden was always a favorite place to go. It was once the home of Wild Rufus. This is where a lot of my immediate pre and post millennial crate digging sessions took place. That store’s been closed down for some years now. However today I met the man who started it up before I was even born. His name is Matt Brown. He and his wife Karyl share a store front. He sells the music/music related media and she sells homemade jewelry and clothing. The music part is called Manny’s,the other is Karyl’s Handmade Jewelry. My father told me to go investigate this new store a couple of weeks ago while he was in Camden with my mom. So she  and I decided to venture  there today.

These are the four CD’s I picked up from Manny’s today. Mr. Brown sells modern vinyl as well as new and used CD’s. Many of his used items are actually from his personal collection. And they account for Larry Carlton and Billy Cobham albums I picked up. He professed to love jazz and blues,and even commented on how strong a guitar player he felt Carlton was upon seeing my purchases. We also talked about my seeing B.B. King with Dickey Betts five years ago at the Bangor waterfront. And how great it was to see Muddy Waters perform with Eric Clatpon,Albert Lee and Muddy’s band at the Augusta Civil Center in Maine on May 25th,1979.

This coming Saturday is National Record Store Day. It’s been a couple years since I began this “record store stories” concept for Andresmusictalk. Meeting this Matt Brown was a great experience for me. And am looking forward to future encounters in his record store. I’d like to conclude this article by saying something to every jazz/funk/blues/soul/rock crate digger/record collector reading this. If you travel and decide to visit mid coast Maine this summer,stop into Manny’s and Karyl’s if your in the town of Camden. They have a growing collection of records he Brown makes it a great experience for anyone interesting in music.

*Below is a link to an article in the Penobscot Bay Pilot about Matt Brown and Manny’s:

Wild Rufus founder opens new record and CD shop in Camden

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Filed under 2016, BB King, Blues, Camden Maine, coastal Maine, Eric Clapton, Jazz, Larry Carlton, Maine, Manny's, Matt Brown, Muddy Waters, Record Store Day, Record Stores, Uncategorized

The Inspiration Information of Shuggie at the Turning of the Millennium: Andre’s Outlook

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Looking back on when the century and also the millennium turned,the year 2000 was felt very much like a huge temporal pain reliever for me. No Y2K,could buy anything in a record store without being constantly questioned as to the “credibility of my musical tastes and overall? The futurist mentality that most science fiction/Star Trek admirers such as myself had been pining for seemed to at last be on the horizon. One memory was on a dark,snowy January first playing the O’Jay’s song “The Year 2000” in my room and having similar thoughts as to what Eddie Levert was singing about-all that wonder and promise. It would be sometime towards the middle of this year that another millennial milestones of my musical development occurred: my own introduction to Shuggie Otis’s Inspiration Information.

First of all I wanted to say that during the 2000/2001 period? I wouldn’t have sought out Shuggie Otis on my own because I still couldn’t stand the blues. It had nothing to do with tuning into any cliches of self pitying lyrics or anything. It was more a cultural misunderstanding of intent. Growing up in 1990’s central/Northern Maine? All any music lover would hear was how much the blues was part of every popular music. Outside the Top 10 radio? Most non commercial radio at the time was obsessed with the blues. And with such a sense of seriousness. From what I saw? No one ever danced or clapped their hands to chase their blues away. Just listened,frowned and sometimes even drank a lot. Because those were not qualities I felt boded well with music,itself a motivating factor in life? I did flatly reject any connection that the music (which I loved with my heart and soul) and it’s connection with the blues.

So on one warm and welcoming day in the summer of 2001? My father and I were about to go for a cruise to take in the beauty of nature. As well as some always vital father/son bonding time. On our way we stopped at Bull Moose records,the local music store chain in the state of Maine,and my father came out very excited. He had a CD in his hand with this bright orange 70’s art deco style about it. He told me that Talking Heads’ David Byrne had declared this album the big unsung 70’s masterpiece and re-released it on his Luaka Bop record label. The album of course was Inspiration Information by this man I vaguely knew about named Shuggie Otis. When I asked my father who he was,he told me Shuggie was the son of the blues icon Johnny Otis.

What was I hearing here? Johnny Otis? The BLUES? Well I actually recalling rolling my eyes and tisking lightly to myself. Had a feeling of “here we go-someone trying to up-sell me on the blues again. Like it’s the only music in the world”. It was likely I wanted to hear a Stevie Wonder,Curtis Mayfield or Miles Davis record I’d bought with me at that time. It was my dad’s car of course,and I wanted to understand why he’d be so gleeful about this music. So my father put the record in the CD player of our used 1992 Toyota Corolla. The first thing that came out of the speaker was this beautiful swell of male falsetto vocal parts-harmonizing with each other over an upbeat wah wah bass/guitar and a sunny organ solo.

By the time the sweetly monotone voice of Shuggie himself came in with the lyrics “we had a rainy day/I’m in a sneak back situation/Here’s a pencil pad/I’m gonna spread some information/You, making me happier/Now I am snappier, while I’m with you”?How was this music blues? The only blues I’d heard thus far related mainly to unemployment,romantic distress and death. I wasn’t hearing any of that with Shuggie Otis. There was this realization I was indeed hearing that meaningful,bright funk/soul music I loved. But it was a totally different sound on that level. Through “Island Letter”,”Aht Uh Mi Hed”,”Happy House” and this amazing percussive instrumental called “XL-30” that I asked my father to repeat over and over again that afternoon? There was a hollow,dreamy sound about this album that I’d really never heard before.

My father told me Shuggie played almost all the instruments on the album the way Prince did. Later on as I listened and read the liner notes? It came to me where I’d seen Shuggie’s name before. During that era I was deeply into the music of the Brothers Johnson. Even more so when I fully realized their involvement with two musical icons in my life: Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. One of their biggest songs “Strawberry Letter#23” was originally written and recorded by Shuggie Otis in 1971 for his Freedom Flight album. After hearing the album itself and the bonus songs on that CD? I was truly shocked. By no definition I’d ever dealt with was this the blues that I had been hearing. Shuggie’s music helped me see the depth and complexity of the blues. This music was reflective,thoughtful,poetic and very tender.

Recently I debated with myself whether to bring this up here. But about seven years later? I was playing a beat up CD of this album I’d gotten later from the Bull Moose free bin with my fiancee while driving through town during a visit to see his family. Upon hearing “Aht Uh Mi Hed”? He remarked how much he enjoyed the way Shuggie used organ in his music. Such an instrumentally inclined remark from a fellow Generation X’er was very much unknown to me even by that time. It was only a year ago that I ended up with the album again-released with Shuggie’s newest set of unreleased material called Wings Of Love. After playing it in the car? Even my musically persnickety mother fell under the spell Shuggie Otis set with Inspiration Information. Although he absent mindedly remarked just last week that she thought “XL-30” sounded like something from the score of the film Napoleon Dynamite? Even her respect for Shuggie’s musicality remains undiminished.

Part of my overall respect for Shuggie Otis also came from how his music helped me to better appreciate session musicians and the vital role they play in many a musical masterpiece. I was aware of his session playing for his father Johnny. But not necessarily in how his playing helped to revitalize the careers of Etta James,Louis Jordan and Bobby Blue Bland and “Louie Louie” composer Richard Berry. Growing up I’d tended to view musicians who played out front in bands as being the most musically important-either as soloists or as members of bands. Though already very aware and involved with listening to The Crusaders by this time? My admiration for the non session/solo music of people such as Greg Phillinganes, Paulinho Da Costa, Bernard Wright,Weldon Irvine and bands such as Stuff began to grow and increase follwing my exposure to Shuggie.

As for my father,the man who originally introduced me to Shuggie Otis? He is still broadening my appreciation of the man to this very day. Only earlier today,when discussing this blog with him,did he discuss Shuggie’s involvement with Frank Zappa. Shuggie in fact played electric bass on Zappa’s iconic instrumental “Peaches en Regalia” from his 1969 album Hot Rats. My dad is a long time admirer of Zappa,who was an individual who often elevated musicians considered to be sidemen into positions of prominence. One such musician was the violinist Don Sugarcane Harris. It was mentioned by my father this afternoon that he first heard about Shuggie Otis via his session playing on Harris’s 1970 LP release Sugarcane. So when Luaka Pop reissued the Inspiration Information album on CD? My father,being unfamiliar with Shuggie’s solo music,was very eager to hear it. So as I was writing my own story about this man and his album? My father was telling me about the first time he heard of Shuggie Otis.

One of the reasons I still find this album to be some of the most beautiful funk ever recorded is association. When I first heard it? That magical 21’st century had arrived. The future that everyone had been dreaming about in the century before had at last arrived. And considering the dark days of the post 9/11 world would arrive in only a seasons time? This introduction to Shuggie Otis to my life always reminds me of the importance of maintaining dreamy optimism. Especially in the hardest of times. Also,with some later help from Ken Burns’ Jazz documentary? Hearing Shuggie Otis completely altered my perception of the blues. He really put a sunshine funk filter inside of his musicality. And it helped me realize that broadness of the soul/funk/jazz/blues musical spectrum-outside of any locally based misconceptions. As Branford Marsalis said of blues music itself? To this very day,whenever I hear Shuggie Otis’s Inspiration Information,it makes me smile.

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Filed under 1970's, 1990s, Funk, Local Radio, Maine, Psychedelia, Radio, Shuggie Otis, Soul

Record Store Stories: A Sunny April Afternoon From Behind The Racks

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Today I decided that instead of offering up another volume of my Amazon Archive column, it would behoove me to take this time to introduce a somewhat less regular segment that may have the effect of enhancing the overall content of this blog.  Also it is nearly National Record Store Day,so it seemed appropriate to celebrate that somehow. As with many people in today’s world, I do some shopping online. Especially rare music-usually on Amazon.com, Ebay or reissue labels such as Wounded Bird or Funkytowngrooves. However with the return of the brick and mortar record stores within the last decade or so? My interest in perusing record shops,which has always been part of the musical experience for me,has been revived to an enormous degree. In this column, both myself and Henrique have the opportunity to discuss meaningful trips to record stores. In particular the locally owned ones I just spoke about. On a personal level? I will be avoiding any of the cynical, lovelorn’d  cliches of the stereotypical dysfunctional record collector/music admirer. Of course that having a lot to do with that stereotype having nothing to do with myself. So without further ado, here is such a story that happened less than a day ago from this writing.

Recently I had been browsing through my vinyl collection-much of which is in plastic crates in the basement of my family with whom I live, to see if there were any records that could eliminated from the collection as I had replaced them with CD versions. Please note that I collect vinyl based primarily on availability,not on credibility or any musical format elitism. I managed to collect about twenty records that matched this criteria in my hand. Carrying them up from the basement into the back of one of our family cars was literally a heavy load. With my parents work schedules being so intense and my emphasis on photography during this much anticipated springtime? It was finally bought to my attention by family that these vinyl records were taking up valuable space in the back trunk of the car. And that something should be done with them. For a short time I considered selling the lot on Ebay. But their selling policies have become so convoluted, to the point where you actually have to pay unless your item(s) sell, that it was having them assessed at the local vinyl buying record store would be the way to go.  And luckily I’d be right on time to have access to such a thing.

MINNIE Teddy PendergrassWhat Time Is It                     michael-jackson-forever-michael

Above is a sampling of some of the album covers to the records that I was looking to give away or sell off. I elected to go to the the record store who sign you see pictured above you-as it’s currently the nearest available and the one of which I am most familiar in the long term. In its previous location in the collage town of Orono,where it’d been for over a quarter of a century, Dr.Records has turned out to be the picture of endurance. Once a thriving haunt for record buyers and collectors during the 1980’s and into the early 90’s, it continued to operate well into the new millennium in this location selling used vinyl,45’s,cassette tapes and CD’s. But at the time it was located in the basement of another building and wasn’t greatly accessible to many people. On February 7th of this year, the stores owner Don Menninghaus moved the store to a new location on Hammond Street in Bangor. Its a far more centralized area-near the highway enough for both people from nearby towns and even tourists will have access to it. This new location is a much brighter and exciting looking place-with a distinctly 60’s/70’s era independent record store flavor about it with eye catching record sleeves and posters displayed on the walls.

At first,I was very concerned that Mister Menninghaus would have little to no interest in the lot of 70’s and 80’s era soul/funk/jazz/R&B vinyl I was trying to unload. There is a feeling this genre spectrum is not a huge seller in this area. Even on vinyl. Luckily when I entered the store yesterday afternoon, I was instantly greeted by the sounds of the song “Cane” from the 1978 Gill Scott-Heron/Brian Jackson album Secrets,which Don Menninghaus was playing on his turntable. So that helped me to feel more at ease. Because of my discomfort with the situation? It was my own mother who actually used her stronger business acumen to ask Don if was interested in any of the records. For his part? He set aside a small stack of several records from my lot,including the ones you see above you and offered $10 dollars for them. By that time I had been browsing the bins and found a new stack of vinyl to buy from him. In the $1.99 bins (always my favorite spot to find funk and soul vinyl generally),I noticed two collage age men looking through the bin and snickering at the very idea of albums by Little River Band and Pablo Cruise being in that bin alongside some early 80’s post punk records. Realizing Don Menninghaus is ever the reserved baby boomer? The generational difference between the quit,thoughtful store owner playing Gill Scott-Heron on his turntable and the display of the 90’s “credibility war” mentality from the two customers told its own meaningful story.

Upon checking out with Don,he immediately took interest in one of the vinyl records I was buying and this led into a discussion of our mutual admiration for the documentary film 20 Feet From Stardom, in particular the presence of the strong musical personality Merry Clayton. Don also inquired as to how my own personal music demos were going, something even I’d forgotten had been discussed with him. On that note he also mentioned that a recent record seller from Oregon had unloaded  a number of vinyl albums that he thought I would be very interested in. These were all late 70’s funk albums that were in very good condition and by and large included the original sleeves as well. Although I did spend probably more money that I ever had on vinyl yesterday? It was more than worth it-considering the relative unavailability of a lot of these records and the amount of time I’d been searching for them. In the end, this trip to the record store was not only successful for my own purposes. But also led to some very positive conversations with the store owner and the opportunity to tap my feet to Gill Scott-Heron’s “Third World Revolution” while looking at the vinyl at the store.  Not to mention Don’s understanding,after knowing me most of my life, in my established musical interests. It was a wonderful revelation that, even in an area such as this where rugged individualism is often more celebrated than anything else? That something like music can create bridges of understanding between people.

 

 

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Filed under 1970's, 1980's, Funk, Jazz, Maine, Music, Record Store Day, Record Stores, Soul, Vinyl

Move Over Buskers Of Bangor…It Is Illegal,Yet.

scan0074                     During my travels to Boston,Manhattan, Austin Texas and even the Canadian city of Montreal one of the things that always fascinated me was being stopped in whatever tracks I was in by the sounds,sights and often both at once of street performers,or buskers. Even in the city of Portland,the largest in the state of Maine,they can be found. That is where the photo of the Gypsy violinist seen here was taken nearly a decade ago in front of a movie theater complex in the downtown area of the city during that summers Pride festival-if I recall.  Of course the very essence of life itself represents a musical event. That’s something a lot of us learn as children. The tapping of our feet as we stroll the sidewalk,trains rolling down the tracks and of course the birds and insects singing and humming create a unique symphony of melodic and rhythmic cadences almost everyone one travels to. When I walk along the streets of Bangor,its difficult to me to hear the train the runs through town through its own silencers. The sound of the the cars and motorbikes in traffic,along with their horns create such a cacophony its hard to hear the birds singing. And walking from street to street on the average day? No guitars,no pianos,not even the sound of a young person playing two metal garbage cans with drumsticks. Bangor Maine is one of the many towns and cities across the United States Of America-with the first amendment of its constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech,that long ago outlawed busking/street musicians of any sort in its downtown area.

 

 

 

Of course Bangor is not a non musical city. There have always been the Bangor Civil Center where many concerts have been held. And within the past decade or so Bangor has hosted both the American (originally International) Folk Festival on the last weekend of August -as well as a special summer concert series that has already attracted rock acts such as Pat Benatar,Sting and this coming year Arcade Fire. And along with the here today,gone tomorrow bars and grills that on occasion feature live local musical performers?  The musical scene of the area I live in is very low and comparatively spotty at best. It might have something to do with local economy,culture and a mild level of denial. A local culture clash in the state of Maine has resulted in Bangor being often considered the capital of a rather desolate and wilderness oriented northern area of the state-whose farthest regions contain villages that are given numbers instead of formal names. Being something of a last outpost,Bangor shares much of this regions pride in self reliance and traditional values. In all honesty they tend to appreciate perspiration over inspiration. And as I’ve grown up,its become apparent that only a minute segment of the local population view the whole idea of street musicians with anything close to a high regard.

One thing that such an environment can provide,especially for a young person growing up,is space to develop a vast imagination. Entering into adolescence during the mid 1990’s,that time where many psychoanalyst’s say many people’s strong interest in music begins,the internet was very much an internal networking device. And only available in segments of the state of Maine. Therefore ones perceptions of music either came from what tiny degree of written musical press could be found or,if you were as lucky as my family were to be able to travel to areas such as Waterville,Portland or even close  by at the University Of Maine where,every so often the occasional jazz soul and in an extremely rare case (such as Queen Latifah’s 1991 show on the UMO campus) hip-hop concerts.  That all declined as the most 9/11 economy hit the local area with particular strength. And both the Folk Festival and the Bangor Concert Series of recent years tend to be met with the same attitude as buskers-often frowned upon for their perceived noise and crowding. So in between all this,I became inclined towards finding friends with even the smallest musical inclination-either as listeners or being musicians themselves. Yet somehow never getting up the courage to tell them my own personal dreams of a musical Bangor. Which of course all came to a head when I was 19 years old and went to see a movie with my family at the Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville.

Bjork

The film in question was Dancer In The Dark,a Danish picture starring Islandic singer/songwriter Bjork with American actor David Morse,who co-starred in a Stephen King television movie my mother and I were extras in called The Langoliers. This was the story of an immigrant factory worker ending up in the middle of a financial conspiracy resulting in her committing a murder-and by films end receiving the death penalty for her crime. It was an abstract yet deeply disturbing contemporary movie musical-using the medium to create uneasiness as opposed to the usual unrestrained joy associated with the genre. One scene in the film which seemed to reflect how I viewed my future involved a number called “Cvalda”,in which Bjork’s character in the film imagines the monotonous industrial back round of her job as some steam punk styled Broadway production number-complete with harmonious chorus lines.

This idea of music being something isolated inside a building,or even inside merely ones imagination itself strongly shaped the person that I’ve become. In some ways,some creative constructs such as photography and paintings have come from that which contain their share of beauty here and there.  On the other hand,I’ve always had a somewhat secret sadness within me that,even for someone who wears their heart on their sleeve,I have trouble verbally articulating. I’ve come to live with the notion that I’m in a community that isn’t of course lacking in music,but has little music from anywhere particularly deep within its soul. And frankly? The lack of buskers-whether it be street musicians,mimes and jugglers create a general sense of dreariness on occasion. And that’s not something one desires where the winters are so long and icy. If someone were ever to ask me to paint the streets of the town in which I’ve spent the majority of my life,in fact? One would see within the completed painting an impression of the same streets filled with street performers of all kinds-delighting people of all ages with their talents and the sounds they create. In the end what is uppermost in my mind is that even if music is played there,a city without its own music is hardly a city at all.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Blogging, Funk, Jazz, Maine, Music, Soul, Street Musicians

The Maine DJ & Radio Scene: Half There And Half Square?

wkit                  As with just about any young person growing up in anywhere America during the 1980’s,I’d have to count myself as part of the last American generation whose musical interests were deeply affected by the radio. As maudlin and funereal as that might sound,it was something of a necessity in New England. Even than most commercial radio stations were very limited in their approach. Being someone interested in the music of the funk/soul/R&B/jazz spectrum? The only musical outlet local radio in my area offered this would’ve been through either European new wave era groups and soloists having soul/funk oriented hits such as Duran Duran’s “Notorious” but also with the big hits of artists such as Michael Jackson,Prince and Whitney Houston. In terms of the black population/DJ culture of the area? There was absolutely no DJ culture in that regard. And as far as the black population? I assumed it was only my mother. And that wasn’t an entirely inaccurate outlook either. One thing Bangor Maine did have at that time was Stephen King.

471px-Stephen_King,_Comicon

King and his wife Tabitha own the Zone Corporation-a  part of which is the rock radio station WKIT,which was  founded in 1979.. This is one of the few radio stations that  still has a live local announcer in the studio 24 hours a day,  however on the weekends they carry some  syndicated programming.  After the turn of the  millennium,WKIT also adapted to the digital age by  streaming their programming on the internet via the official  station website. Their personalities include the “Rock and Roll Morning  Show” hosts Bobby Russell and Mark “The Shark” Young,  midday host Jason “Rock Dog” Roberts, afternoon host  Scotty Moore, evening host Dave Isaac, overnight host Rob  Greene, and news anchor Paul Allen. As time has marched on  however, WKIT has oriented itself more and more towards  the oldies based format in their playlists. King has openly  voiced his views on the continuation of live radio DJ’s and their place in promoting music-which I feel is extremely laudable. However their format does seem to be mainly based in the “classic rock” music of their particular generation. Of course soul/R&B/funk is almost totally excluded. Some of the people involved in the station (King himself may or may not have been excluded from this) very likely supported the racist and homophobic “disco sucks” attitude of the early 80’s. And much 70’s/80’s era soul,funk and R&B has been seen only under that moniker. Even so,there is always a place for the blues on WKIT-both old and new. So that door is at least halfway open.

WERU Logo 2012 - PMS 286 Blue

 On May 1’st,1988 WERU FM first began broadcasting out of one area of an old hen house located in Orland-not too far from its base town of the fairly large coastal town of Blue Hill. Folk icon Paul Stookey was a major benefactor of this major breakthrough in non commercial,independent radio  in the state of Maine. In 1997 the station moved it’s operations from the hen house to a more traditional facility in the same town but directly on U.S Route 1-linking the state to traffic from across the country. Every Thursday at 2-4PM the station carries the X-Large Soul Show. This showcases primarily new and often independent music from soul,R&B and blues acts-with some lesser known oldies thrown in for good measure. The one difficulty WERU has it that,to this day it still operates at an effective radiated power of 11,500 watts. In a state consisting of huge amounts of undeveloped rural land connected by conflicting signals from other radio and TV transmitter,sub stations and cellular phone towers,WERU can be somewhat difficult to receive on both its translators. Especially if one happens to be in transit in their vehicle between one town/city or another.

WMEB

WMEB,91.9 FM actually began its life 50 years ago this month as a strictly on campus collage radio specifically for the University Of Maine in the town of Orono. Becoming primarily known as a progressive rock/AOR oriented radio format during the 1970’s,WMEB spent the next three decades developing a strong and diverse format somewhat similar to WERU and some of the collage stations out of Maine’s larger towns and cities such as Portland,Waterville and its capitol Augusta. For a long time they specialized in playing vinyl records. And a good part of my vinyl collection came from a giveaway they presented to the public of their entire vinyl record catalog in 1994 when they were ceasing use of this format.  This alternative oriented format began to strongly embrace DJ culture during the early years of the millennium. It was here I met Nigel Hall-than a DJ with his own funk/soul/jazz show on WMEB moonlighting with the local band Funkizon,now a moderately successful session musician who was a member of Soulive for a time. It was through Nigel’s influence that my interest in the jazz end of funk music expanded so greatly of course. Though the years since have found WMEB specializing more and more on the popular Maine Black Bears collage ice hockey radio coverage,a possible local jazz/funk underground was beginning to spring from this station in 2003-2004; the earliest years of Nigel’s show when he even managed to secure on air interviews with musicians Jan Hammer and George Duke-the latter of which I had the privilege of participating in.

While a long time DJ at the local public radio station one Rich Tozier has maintained his Friday Night Jazz show,though I believe now airing on Sundays,Tozier is very proudly an acoustic jazz traditionalist who excludes anything fusion and jazz/funk oriented from his playlist due to his own lack of interest-focusing instead on replaying the music of be-bop era jazz icons.  A good deal of the stations I talked about here,however do not attract a very wide audience of listeners. And are generally dependent on local benefactors and fund drives to stay financially afloat. Generally it is the commercial country music stations that tend to draw the widest audience where I live. In a way the DJ/radio scene in Maine has been,and continues to be rather based on its demographic. Being that even today over half of the landmass of the United States of America is still very rural it is primarily the homegrown musical variations on  folk,country and blues musics that continue to be the driving force of local radio in places such as Northeastern Maine.  While these music’s certainly have their value,people moved musically by music within more of the jazz/soul/funk spectrum face many challenges in either being a radio listener or even one of the endangered species of DJ being in such an area. Often I ask myself: it is a challenge worth facing? Or has its time come to pass? Perhaps that question is more important than it’s answer.

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Filed under Community Radio, DJ's, Funk, Jazz, Local Radio, Maine, Radio