SONG OF THE DAY Oscar Hart With Hartones – My Dreams

Such is the case sometimes that you come upon a great track, but its so obscure that information is hard to acquire. This is what I’ve found with today’s song! I heard it on a radio show a while back, but have only managed to get a copy of the song to share!

Issued on California label, Sage Records, My Dreams (b/w No One Else) is a song that Oscar Hart With The Hartones released in 1960. It’s an enchanting way to spend a few moments with it’s undulating, sweet-sounding lead vocals. Accompanied by the dulcet tones of the soft backing chants, this song is a little haunting, but in the most gorgeously, dreamy way! Listen above. 

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SONG OF THE DAY Vernon Green and the Phantoms ‎– Sweet Breeze

The sweet, sweet sounds of Sweet Breeze has captivated me with its fiery, emotive howls and haunting backing vocals.  It’s unexpected intensity is gripping and as lyrics proclaim how “the wind has a feeling and a soul,” the piano grips with bittersweet, melodic pangs….I’d all but given up on finding that certain something that would resonate in the form of a song tonight, but then this came along!….

From the limited information I can find out there about Vernon Green and the Phantoms, it looks like the band originally come together in 1956, with Vernon Green as the singer. Regretfully, however, they only recorded one record for the Specialty label before Green left. What became of the Phantoms after they lost their vocalist we may never know, but Vernon Green went on to sing in a band called The Medallions and his stint with this group lasted a lot longer, spanning out over the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s!

Sweet Breeze was released in 1956 as the (very contrasting) b-side to The Old Willow Tree!  Listen above. 

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SONG OF THE DAY Gnonnas Pedro Et Ses Dadjes – Dadje Von O Von Non

Cotonou-born Gnonnan Sossou Pierre Kouassivi, a.k.a Gnonnas Pedro was a composer, singer, multi-instrumentalist (guitar, trumpet, sax) who started his career at the age of 20 when he joined leading Benin band, Los Panchos. Known worldwide for his Cuban influenced creations and Agbadja (for which he is credited with updating the traditional Agbadja style of his home region) he embraced many styles of music, including highlife and juju.

In the mid 60’s Gnonnas formed and fronted Pedro y Sus Panchos, a group known as “the African band that speaks every language”.  They later reformed his as Gnonnas Pedro and his Dadjes and went on to release many singles and EP’s throughout the late 1960’s.

Today’s song is the title track from their 4-track EP Dadjê Von Ô Von Non, which was originally released in 1967 on French label, Riviera Africa.  This ridiculously bouncy ear worm also features on an Analog Africa’s 2009 compilation, Legends Of Benin – Afro Funk, Cavacha, Agbadja, Afro​-​Beat, which is worth checking out too!! Listen above.

Posted in African, Afro beat, afro funk, Analog Africa, Benin, Folk, latin world, World | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

SONG OF THE DAY Jonathan Wilson – Desert Raven

Desert Raven is a swirling dream that coaxes every part of the senses. Natural and free, this wonderful song smoulders with gentle escapism, offering soul retreat into lush wilderness realms. There is freedom in those dreamy acoustics and solace in musing vocals. Lyrics charm over the “raven who flies through the desert skies”, admiring how it “Is wiser than you or me” and marvelling how “The birds have a peace, the stillness a sleeve”.  For just over seven minutes we are transported into the realms of the wild Desert Raven and as guitars soar, we fly into scorched sunsets...”Close your eyes and fly to let the diamonds make the night/
Crystal blue will turn to ruby red”….

Desert Raven appears on the aptly titled, Gentle Spirit album, which was released by LA artist Jonathan Wilson in 2011. The record itself was a few years in the making and, leading up to its release on Bella Union, was circulated around Wilson’s friends and family. In which time it collected a large underground following which included many notable musicians, including Jackson Browne, Robbie Robertson and Elvis Costello.  Such was its success that it received the #4 spot on Mojo Magazine’s 2011 Best of Albums of the Year! Listen above and check out the lyrics below…

Fuzzy white haze in the asphalt was a lake
And the sand it was a grayer shade of blue
Spirits held desire while my eyes they did admire
The evening that we only thought we knew
Further out to sea I heard the birds wings over me
The Vibrations in the air to my ears
The sun was rising slinking low the day was saddled up to go
The desert’s lonely nightfall disappears
The raven who flies through the desert skies
Is wiser than you or me
The birds have a peace, the stillness a sleeve
And the Desert Raven he has poetry
Close your eyes and fly to let the diamonds make the night
Crystal blue will turn to ruby red
The plants become a maze under the heavens stary hazel
Pegasus he gallops overhead
The buffalo at night they follow close the river’s edge while
Saffron slowly grows inside the caves
The starry minds of hyacinth the moon below the sun’s eclipse
The sandy canyon floats beyond the waves
The raven who flies through the desert skies
Is wiser than you or me
The birds have a peace, the stillness a sleeve
And the Desert Raven he has poetry

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SONG OF THE DAY Franco & TP OK Jazz – Café

Known for his mastery of African Rumba**, and nicknamed by fans and critics as the “Sorcerer of the Guitar”, François Luambo Luanzo Makiadi, a.k.a Franco, was a Congolese composer, singer and musician.

Considered as one of the leading figures and founders of contemporary Congolese and African music, Franco founded and led the Congolese rumba band, OK Jazz (later renamed TPOK Jazz, which is short for ‘Tout Puissant Orchestre Kinshasa’, translating as “all-powerful Kinshasa orchestra”).  Together Franco and the band performed and released music from 1956, right up  until his death in 1989 and in this thirty-three years with the band, Franco and TPOK Jazz released hundreds of singles and over100 albums, as well as training many musicians!!

Café was released sometime between 1967 and 1968, but I cannot find an exact release date or the album that it appeared on (other than a 1992 compilation recorded between 67-68). This wasn’t the first version I heard, however! I initially heard a cover of Café and it was this that led me to Franco a while back, This is a great cover too, so I have included it below! This rendition was recorded by Les Shleu Shleu du Haiti and relased as a single on the Grabaciones Job label in 1972. Check it out below and listen to the original above..

**Rhumba, also known as ballroom rumba, is a genre of ballroom music and dance that appeared in the East Coast of the United States during the 1930s. It combined American big band music with Afro-Cuban rhythms, primarily the Son Cubano, but also conga and rumba.

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SONG OF THE DAY Martin Bruhn – Música Huanca

“In short, this album represents the constant search for my own carnival and this time I am happy to invite the rest of the world to join this great fiesta.”

Due for release next week, Germany’s Shika Shika Records are proud to present, Picaflor, the new album by Argentine percussionist and composer Martin Bruhn. Filled with colour and festivity, this new release takes us on a journey to Peru’s Mantaro region and is a heartfelt homage to the Huanca music and culture (The Huancas, Wancas, or Wankas are a Quechua people living in the Junín Region of central Peru, in and around the Mantaro Valley).

Recorded during the first year of the pandemic in Martin’s home studio, it has a beautifully simple, almost Lo-Fi aesthetic to it, which pays tribute to and resembles the original vinyl recordings of the Andean region’s huayno orchestras.

Ahead of the albums release comes Música Huanca, a track from the record that you can listen/preview now. At just under two minutes long, I’m sure I won’t be alone in wishing this was at least twice the duration! This burst of sounds literally explodes with vibrant elation and you cannot help but get whisked away in this buzzing eruption! It’s an encapsulating myriad of sunbeams and joy!!!

Speaking of the album Martin Bruhn had this to say:  “There are commendations, homages and dedications, call it whatever you want, but I like to think of this album as a celebration. PICAFLOR tries to go beyond a simple search for musical similarities. It pays tribute to a certain sonic aesthetic, to the orchestral originality and the great simplicity of this music. It is an ode to the greats: Picaflor de Los Andes, Flor Pucarina, Zenobio Dagna, the Ases de Huancayo orchestra, to Charlie de la Cruz Palomino and to so many others I do not know.”

If you like what you hear and want to purchase the album, you can find this here. Listen above.

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SONG OF THE DAY Stephen Cheng – Always Together

Tonight I have learnt something completely new and I wonder how many of you out there were aware of this too? How many of you knew just how entwined the music of China and Jamaica (ska/rocksteady/reggae) were? There has long been a Chinese connection with Jamaican music and legendary figures like producer Leslie Kong (Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley, Desmond Dekker etc are testament to this) – He was also apparently an original shareholder in Island Records too!!

Made sometime in the mid to late 60’s for the Chinese immigrant population in Kingston, today’s song has been described as “unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Rocksteady with Chinese vocals and phrasing. It’s killer!”(sourced from here)  Always Together is based on a traditional Chinese song which was first recorded in 1949.  There have been many renditions, but one of the most fascinating was recorded in Kingston, Jamaica in 1967.  Produced by Calypso pioneer Byron Lee (a Chinese Jamaican who had a house band called the Dragonnaires) and long-time collaborator Ronnie Nasralla, this version was performed by a Shanghai-born singer named Stephen Cheng (程俊濤).

Stephen Chun-Tao Cheng was born in Shanghai, China in 1923 and educated in the US.  He was an international actor, composer, singer and writer who wrote the Tao of Voice.  Throughout his life he constantly tried to blend eastern and western vocal styles together, and with Always Together he successfully fused Rocksteady with traditional Chinese music/vocals. This had never been done before and though not widely known, this was a breakthrough in sound! I hope my post at least spreads this sonic beauty a little further!! I love it! I love that it’s so unusual and I love the SUPER sweet voice of Stephen Cheng! This is about as tender as you can get and it makes my little heart sway every time I hear it! Listen above.

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SONG OF THE DAY The Motion – The Thief

What I love about the psychy sounds of the 60’s is that even after all these years of loving and collecting it, there is still more to discover! Take today’s song for example! Obscure and lost in time, the only 45 released by this band……and who were they? Who were The Thief? I have no idea and cannot track down any information about them! Even the B-side to their one and only offering isn’t available anywhere online to listen to, so what we have here is a rare and rather delicious slice of 1960’s garage rock history.

Written by Stan House, The Motion released The Thief on Hollywood’s Dore label (founded in 1958 by Herb Newman and Louis Bideu as a companion to their Era label) in 1966. Nothing was ever released after and the band were never to be seen or heard again, which is a crying shame! I especially love the lyrics to The Thief; they aren’t about tainted/unrequited love or any of the usual things. This is a song about a man who finds himself confronted with an armed assailant who wishes to rob him. After an exchange (and an edgy laugh) the tables seem to turn as the robber’s potential loots uncovers a “Dead Cat In a Bag/I Had an Ugly Wife Who Could Nag”….of course!! Nevertheless, this doesn’t seem to save the victim who is gets shot regardless and so ends the song! It’s one that definitely keeps you guessing and comes with the added bonus of cracking fuzz guitars, smooth vocal narrative and a whizz of tambourine and percussive layers. Check it out above.

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SONG OF THE DAY Eleven76 – The Hornet’s Nest

With their core rooted in heavy percussion and melodies a waft of Arabian mystery, Sci Fi and Library Funk, Eleven76 have released new offering, The Scarab’s Quest. 

If, like me, you had pre-ordered and are wondering what the b-side sounds like, anticipate no more!! Here it is, the Hornet’s Nest!! As driving and inviting as its flip-side, this cosmic offering is awash with intrigue, vintage synthesizers and hot tape-recorded drums!

This band issued their debut EP in 2019 with Space Voyage, a 4-track venture from the vaults of Warner Chappell’s production archive. Produced by the director of The Library Music Film, Paul Elliot, this was originally intended for films and contained some great analog synths, hearty drums and trippy sound effects. The EP made this music available outside the film usage realm and as a result it quickly caught on the diggers and producers for its unique sounds. Hot on its heels is today’s  instrumental delight which you can now purchase via Mocambo Records, here! ….and what a treat it is!! Check it out above.

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SONG OF THE DAY Balaphonics – Demain dès l’aube

The Balaphonics are a collective of nine musicians specialising in all things Afro-inspired. Celebrating over a decade of making music, they take their influences from funk, soul and jazz, also blending the sounds of Afrobeat from Nigeria, dancing highlife from Ghana and Bikutsi Camourenais or Mandingo music from West Africa.

Their name comes from the African percussion instrument, the balafon, also known as “bala” or “balani,” a kind of xylophone that has a very important place in Mandingo music. All kinds of balafons exist in different African regions and therefore the choice of this instrument is anything but insignificant, bringing together the whole continent. This brass band comes from Paris and mixes funk, jazz and traditional African music, passing through groove and highlife as they journey into these vibrant sounds. Their drums and guitars offer resonating, frantic rhythms and since the success of AfroMassivSoundSystem, released in 2016, the musicians have participated in many festivals, from France to Malta, through Cyprus, London and Bamako.

After recording their Balamako EP in 2019 (feat the griot Moriba Diabaté), the Balaphonics have now followed this up with Spicy Boom Boom. Due at the end of this month and recorded in the Mastoïd studio in Pantin, this project brings together groove, highlife, makossa, pop and Congolese rumba with harmony. All these musicians were supported by the great Manu Dibango, as well as Tiken Jah Fakoly and Hilaire Penda. It also features Kandy Guira of the Amazones d’Afrique group and Moriba Diabaté.

Demain dès l’aube (translating as “Tomorrow, at down“) appears on this new release and was, for me, my introduction to the band! How I’ve never stumbled upon them before I will never know!! It’s an exotic instrumental that takes you on an adventure into curious worlds of audio delights. Delicately woven melodies are inviting, surging horn sections add tantalising dynamics and, whilst this is addictively soothing, it’s also invigorating.. and we have the gorgeous balafon to thank for this exhilarating element! This is the most delicious feast for the ears! Check it out above, watch the accompanying video below and if you want to pre-order a copy of the album, you can do that here! (This looks like a crowd funding page too, so any money made will help boost the release of the album and launch the final stages of the process!!).

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