Tag Archives: Maine

Charles Bradley-1948 to 2017: Losing A 21st Century Soul Man

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Charles Bradley’s cancer was made aware to me by my friend Henrique Hopkins about a year ago. That was a time I now refer to with weariness as the “funkpocalypse”. So many classic musical icons, both in and out of the soul/funk spectrum, were passing away faster than many could count it seemed. Again as Henrique pointed out recently, that was an unprecedented event. Bradley’s passing today reflects how the foreknowledge of his passing has provided the necessary time to reflect on where he fit into the contemporary soul/funk/R&B world.

Six years ago, a documentary film on the man was released entitled Charles Bradley:  Soul Of America. Its one I haven’t seen. But there was a lot I already knew about him. He was raised by his grandmother in Gainesville, Florida. His mother had abandoned him as an infant. But by age eight, she took him back to live with her in Brooklyn, New York. Witnessing a James Brown show with his sister at the Apollo in 1962, Bradley became fascinated with perfecting JB’s vocal style and image at home. At 14, he ran away from home to escape the poverty of his life. For a time, he was essentially homeless.

After enlisting in the Job Corps, he ended up in Bar Harbor, Maine. He trained to be a chef there. He worked in that position for ten years. During this time, he overcame his stage fright. Mainly at the encouragement of co workers. He performed nights with a local band-who eventually got drafted into Vietnam. He then left Maine to travel out west. Eventually living in different areas of country. And performing small shows between odd jobs until 1996. At that time, he began working as a James Brown impersonator under the name of Black Velvet

This all occurred amidst trying to re-connect with his mother, almost dying after an allergic reaction to penicillin. Plus dealing with the murder of his brother. Finally in 2011, he became part of the Daptone label’s revival of late 60’s style soul & funk. And this is where my own saga with Bradley begins. I remember purchasing his first album No Time For Dreaming  at Borders Books & Music-right as they were liquidating. I purchased his third album Changes during the time of finding out about his cancer diagnosis. In musical terms. I somehow still associate Charles Bradley with new beginnings.

Having been a predominantly Latino/African American man growing up in 80’s and 90’s Maine, its very compelling to me to think of a man who looked and sang so much like funk innovator James Brown being a chef in Bar Harbor. Although a port city in Maine with a good level of diversity, I am today very aware of the states less then 1% African American population. To think of a man like Charles Bradley first realizing his calling in Maine during the 1960’s is simply amazes me. Through all the man went through, he not only survived but thrived. And emerged as an artist fully funkified. He WILL be missed.

 

 

 

 

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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

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