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Staff Picks: February 25 2021

Staff Picks: Daniel

The Rotary Connection: Aladdin LP (Cadet Concept, 1968)

Aside from the new Fairytale EP (which I must have played 15 times in the last 2 days), the record I’ve enjoyed the most this week has been Aladdin, the 1968 LP by the Rotary Connection.

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: when Dominic hands you a record and tells you to take it home, you take the record home and you listen to it, because the man knows what he is talking about. Whether you’re lucky enough that this interaction happens in person or whether you’re just reading his staff picks, Dom will not steer you wrong.

Dominic has mentioned the Rotary Connection and their visionary producer Charles Stepney many times in his previous staff picks, so I’ll leave it to you to dig through the archives on Sorry State’s site to piece together that wisdom. What I’ll tell you is that if the term “psychedelic soul” intrigues you, check out this album. To me, it sounds like Aladdin takes elements from baroque pop like the Left Banke and the Zombies, adds in some psychedelic rock elements (particularly fuzz guitars and raga rhythms), and combines that with the top-notch orchestration, musicianship, and songwriting the great soul labels of the 60s were known for. The results are magical. This album takes you so many places over the course of its 40-minute runtime, every single one of them incredible.

Best of all, as with many of Dominic’s recommends, with a little work you can score an original pressing of this record for about five bucks. What’s not to love?

Staff Picks: Jeff

What’s up Sorry Staters?

It’s been a while since I’ve written about a brand new release, so I thought I’d talk about a record I’ve been particularly stoked on, which is the new self-titled EP by Fairytale from New York.

Fairytale played at my old house (the Bunker) here in Raleigh in early 2020. They were super cool people and absolutely destroyed our little basement venue. That night, they hooked me up with a copy of their 7” flexi they had with them, which I lost somewhere in the house while raging in a drunken stupor. I stumbled across the flexi in the midst of the pandemic while I was pretty much never leaving my house. When I dropped the needle on that floppy, all I could think was, “Damn, I’m glad I didn’t lose this forever! I wish it was more than 2 songs…”

Now it’s 2021 and we’ve got this new 4-song EP, and it is NEXT LEVEL! At their core, I guess you could say Fairytale has a Swedish käng flavor to their sound. Still, there’s something else going on I can’t quite put my finger on. But then, it all made sense to me when I discovered this EP was recorded by the folks over at D4MT Labs. There’s a sonic quality to the production that sounds fuzzy and blown out, but still organic and powerful. It’s funny to frame it this way, but it’s like taking a raging D-beat band but through the lens of the leftfield, psychedelic sonic signature of bands like Kaleidoscope or Straw Man Army. Raging hardcore, for sure, but also kind of ethereal and otherworldly… Does that sound cheesy? I don’t know dude, for me it fuckin’ WORKS. The vibe I’m trying to describe is most noticeable in the guitars, which do NOT sound like they’re ran through a big amp with a hyper-compressed, clean heavy metal distortion pedal in front of them. The guitars go off in these outta control, frantic passages that are so intense. I love it. I’m a big fan of Joe B’s drumming too -- always fast, tight and punishing. The drums aren’t at all buried, but they need to compete under these thick layers of noise. But really, Lulu’s vocals make this record. So raging.

Another thing I wanna point out: It’s interesting to hear a band bring back samples. I tend to not be a fan of samples, but that’s because I associate them with like “party skate thrash,” where they’re taken from some stupid comedy and kinda bore me until the music starts back up. But the way Fairytale places these audio clips is well done. The clips are mixed with interesting soundscapes, like a pulsing radioactive buzz that just adds to the tension and atmosphere of the record.

Last thing… I wanna talk about the packaging! The vinyl itself comes packaged in a dark paper dust sleeve that’s been hand-stamped, which looks super classy. Pretty recognizably, I’m pretty sure Joe did the cover art too, which is kind of abstract, but suits the music (hope I’m not wrong haha). The sleeve is like an old school style foldout sleeve, kinda like the packaging on some old Finnish or Japanese 7”s, but it makes the entire record feel special and homemade.

This record is killer. Buy it, punk.

Thanks for reading,

-Jeff

Staff Picks: Eric

Satan’s Satyrs: The Lucky Ones 12” (2018)

I had been jamming this pretty heavy online and decided I wanted a physical copy. I hit up an old friend who plays in this band and asked him if he had any extra copies lying around, and wouldn’t you know just a few days later this record was waiting for me on my doorstep (thanks Jarrett!).

My high school band and Satan’s Satyrs used to play house shows together in Northern Virginia like 10 years ago. And when I say house show I don’t mean a dingy, lawless punk house (although I have seen Satan’s Satyrs in those settings), I mean someone’s family home. It was the kind of thing where there were like 6 local bands playing and there was a cooler of Pepsi in the garage. Drinking was discouraged at these kinds of things because someone might get in trouble with their parents. My point being, I have been seeing Satan’s Satyrs for years and I even booked them a couple gigs when I was living in North Carolina. Their first album Wild Beyond Belief! Was a masterpiece. That record was written and recorded entirely by bass player and vocalist, Clayton Burgess. Over the years and a few albums and tours later, they are still a heavy hitting machine. Their most recent record, The Lucky Ones stuck out to me.

I’ll be honest, over the years I kind of fell off the wagon as a Satan’s Satyrs fan. I think I just wasn’t vibing with the whole 70s rock revival thing. But this record struck a chord for me. It’s catchy and heavy, like Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath smashed together (for context, I have also been on a big Thin Lizzy kick). The guitar work is delightfully sloppy and punishing, and then just a song later it could sound delicate and whimsical. There are even moments where it sounds like they are taking influence from southern rock. I also like the album art, which has two women lifting weights in front of what looks like a rendition of the Hollywood sign, but instead of “Hollywood” it says “The Lucky Ones”. The track titles are listed on the front cover as well, which I thought was a cool style. It’s some corny 70s revival shit, but I guess it ain’t always so bad! Last I heard this band broke up or is taking a break. We’ll see what happens in the years to come.

Staff Picks: Dominic

Hey everyone, how’s it going? Thanks for dialing up the ol’ Sorry State Newsletter and for taking the time to read it. It’s always appreciated.

Last week I steered you toward Eugene McDaniels and his great Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse album, which I mentioned was a big record in the crate digging scene and the source for multiple samples used by hip-hop producers. This week I am going to talk about an artist whose style and innervations had a huge influence on the early hip-hop scene and from whom the ripples of creation are still being felt. Sadly, he passed away last week, another name added to the roll call of departed artists. Let’s pay our respects to the mighty U-Roy then and celebrate his life and career and talk about a couple of his records that you may know but in particular, Dread In A Babylon from 1975.

As always with these staff picks, I hope to pique your interest or serve as a reminder. I’m not qualified to offer proper biographical information and never claim to be an expert on anything. I’m a music enthusiast and evangelist. If you like my selections, you are encouraged to jump down whatever particular rabbit hole we are looking down each week. I like connecting the dots in music and seeing how one thing influenced another and so on.

I have to imagine there are a lot of you reading that enjoy listening to reggae, dub, and other styles of Jamaican music, and so might already be familiar with U-Roy. Perhaps you know or have the record I am recommending? In which case pull it out and give it a rinse. For everyone else, a quick bit of background and information for context.

U-Roy, real name Ewart Beckford, was a Jamaican artist who pioneered the concept of “Toasting,” talking and singing over other records or rhythm tracks. His “Versions” of other people’s records became hits in their own right and put on to record the real sound of the dance hall where the DJ was the man on the mic rapping over the tunes that the Selector played on the turntable. In dance halls during the early 1960s, the DJ typically worked with one turntable and so would talk on the mic between records. These pioneers with royal names, King, Duke, Lord, Count, Sir and so on developed a rhythmic style whilst on the mic and it was this that U-Roy built upon and put onto a record for the first time. The success of U-Roy’s early records such as the immortal Wake The Town (credited as Hugh Roy) kick started a whole sub-genre of reggae music, DJ. Many other toasters followed in his wake, often copying his style directly but mostly adding their own spin on things.

Picking up on this technique was Jamaican born DJ Kool Herc, who took that concept from Jamaica and reinvented it back in the Bronx in New York. He realized he could find the best bits from records, parts that had drum breaks mostly, and extend that break by cutting in another copy on the other turntable and then rapping over the top. The idea of using two turntables wasn’t new; it was the staple of a good discotheque and the disco DJs were at the same time trying to figure out how to extend the beat on records to feed the dance floors. As disco developed, a big part of that progress was the introduction of the 12-inch single, which could fit more music onto a side than a 7-inch. This idea of a disco 45 12-inch was in turn adopted by Jamaican record producers who could now extend tunes into dub or DJ versions. Between Kingston and New York in the 1970s, one could argue modern dance music was born and made.

Back to our record. It came out first in Jamaica in 1975 with a different but just as classic cover on TR International, producer Tony Robinson’s label. Virgin records took over UK, US, and European pressing and distribution. The Virgin cover, like the original, sports an image of the holy sacrament being taken from the chalice and our star disappearing under a cloud of smoke. Although routed in Rastafarianism, it’s easy to see why the image appealed to music fans and lovers of wacky backy. This is prime mid-seventies reggae with U-Roy’s inimitable vocal style riding the rhythm. Musicians playing on the record came from the Sound Syndicate and Skin, Flesh And Bones bands. The latter becoming The Revolutionaries. Recorded at Joe Gibbs with Errol Thompson as engineer, Thompson or ET was one half of The Mighty Two with Joe Gibbs, who together produced tons of great reggae records during the 1970s. Check out Culture’s Two Sevens Clash for an example.

So, the pedigree is present in this record. It’s classic after classic beginning with the poppy Runaway Girl then cheeky Chalice In The Palace and on to more dread material like The Great Psalms and African Message, the latter an early run through of the Rockers flying cymbal sound The Revolutionaries band would perfect after. The album closes out with an instrumental, a take on The Wailer’s Trench Town Rock. It’s an Augustus Pablo like tune being as the lead instrument is a melodica but it is odd why the track remained an instrumental. I can’t imagine U-Roy was stuck for inspiration. Maybe he stepped outside for a smoke and the band kept playing. Whatever, it’s a nice and easy finish to a fine record.

As I have mentioned, I am a huge fan of Jamaican music along with the country and people. I was lucky during my times working on the cruise ships to visit much of the Caribbean, but always looked forward to visits to Jamaica. During the late 80s and throughout the 90s, I visited many times and took several vacations there between stints onboard ship. I even considered buying a home there, back when I was making decent cheddar.

I have many fond memories of adventures and good times on that beautiful island. Including recreating the cover art of this album. If you know what I mean? It was always so nice being met at the airport in Montego Bay by my friend Trevor who, as we pulled away in his car and the radio played Irie FM, would hand me a spliff the size of a baseball bat. Good times.

Of course, you don’t have to indulge in the herb to enjoy good music, and I shy away from the stereotypical idea that the two must go together. You can listen to reggae not stoned for sure, just as you can listen to any kind of music straight. I mean, isn’t there a scene devoted to just that? Respect to everyone and their choices, right? I will say that reggae music does sound awesome when you smoke weed. As does hip-hop.

I bought this album in the late 80s because I remember I was in college and getting more serious about my music and digging deeper. My reggae collection had some good records in it already as, luckily for us growing up in the 70s and 80s, reggae was in its golden period and having huge pop hits. Even kids like me, a goofy and shy white boy from a small town in southern England, would see reggae records in his local shops. But I was getting a Bob Marley record or a Trojan compilation and the odd single like Police And Thieves or Uptown Top Ranking because they were hits. Once I was a little older and meeting new people and going out more, it soon became obvious that I was clueless about music and had just barely scraped the surface of most genres. I felt I had to learn as much as I could and listen to as much as I could if I was going to be even a tiny bit cool. I still try to learn about and hear something new every day if I can. Anyway, one day I was in a record shop and saw Dread In A Babylon and knew that this would be a good record. It proved to be the case, and my hip points went up just a little next time my buddies and I had a listening party. It’s a record I still pull out and play and has been a great DJ tool over the years. I have a few other U-Roy records and used to have some CDs. They are all good. There’s a later one he did in the late nineties called Serious Matter, which I like and particularly the accompanying Dub LP. Another good 70s one is Natty Rebel from 1976, also on Virgin. On the title track U-Roy versions Soul Rebel by The Wailers, a track I love, and for me he breathes new life into it. Not that he is making these old tunes better, but recontextualizing them and bringing them up to date.

Just to round things out and bring us back full circle to hip-hop and sampling, I have to mention the track Fortified Live by Reflection Eternal on Rawkus from 1997. A classic use of a sample in hip-hop. The record samples the beginning of Tom Drunk by Hopetown Lewis and Hugh Roy with Tommy McCook & The Supersonics from 1971. An early record featuring U-Roy on the Treasure Isle label. The Reflection Eternal EP was a big deal too when it came out. Featuring then new names, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek, it ushered in a new era of conscious hip-hop. It was also a contributing factor in me wanting to move to New York.

Here’s the two records for you to compare and check out.

https://youtu.be/lffTZFV1y60 -Tom Drunk

https://youtu.be/REmk4mx1UY -Fortified Live

There are some very worthy tributes and well written pieces out there on U-Roy and his career, so please have a little poke around the internet and fill in your knowledge. I should not be your one and only source of information about him. I just wanted to pay my tribute and offer my personal thoughts and recollections and if in doing so one or two more people get to hear the voice of Mr. Ewart Beckford aka U-Roy The Originator, then all well and good.

Here’s a couple of cuts to start you off.

https://youtu.be/Y37gTjNx4sA -Runaway Girl

https://youtu.be/VrFlbj8VY0 -African Message

Take care everyone, I’ll see you next time

-Dom

Staff Picks: Rachel

Earlier this week I had the time to sit down and browse the Sorry State Discogs account. I pull and pack a ton of orders during my shifts and keep finding myself jealous of the cool shit customers are grabbing. I couldn’t stand it, so I organized the SSR offerings, cheapest first, and scrolled for a long time, essentially bargain bin shopping online. It wasn’t long before I was telling myself I couldn’t pass up some records, so I started a cart and got to pick my order the next day. Here are some of my favorite things I picked up:

1. Tom Lehrer: An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer (1966)

I hate most musical comedy but have such a soft spot for Tom Lehrer. His records are usually within the bargain bin price, so I’ve lucked out on finding a good amount. I’d never seen this one in a bin, so of course I picked it up!

2. Sound in the Round (1958)

I haven’t listened to this one yet, but it’s a sound effects record from 1958 for $0.99, duh it came home with me. There’s one track that’s supposed to be ‘Nickelodeon’ so I’m interested to see what that’s about.

3. Various: Country And Western Guitars

Just some good ol’ country guitar. One of these upcoming weeks I’m going to write about the podcast Cocaine and Rhinestones; it’s a country music podcast that has super in depth information about how, not only the country music industry but the entire music industry, worked in the 20th century. It has also made browsing the country section at record stores (or on Discogs, I guess) so much more interesting.

4. Yo Gotti: I Got Them Single (2006)

I will admit the main push to look at the Sorry State Discogs was the crazy collection of early/mid 2000s singles we got in. I looked through it before we processed it and had a great time remembering the soundtracks to middle school dances. Daniel has started listing parts of the collection and some gems are already gone. I got to snag a few like this Yo Gotti track.

5. 7L & Esoteric: This is War Single (2004)

Had to pick this one up. 7L and Esoteric are now in cahoots with my fave, Holy Mountain Printing. And this song slaps.

6. OutKast: Ghetto Musick Remix Single (2004)

A lot of the singles in the aforementioned collection are weird club remixes, but that doesn’t make me love them any less. You can FIGHT ME but Speakerboxx/The Love Below is a great pair of OutKast albums. More nostalgia at work because that CD is one of the first I remember owning.

I seem to do this a lot, but this is a reminder to always dig in the cheap bins, online or in store, because that’s where some of the best shit is!

And as we say above, you can always combine a Discogs and Shopify order if you email us so check out the Sorry State Discogs account before you hit ‘buy’ next time!


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