A recent discovery of Townes Van Zandt's earliest known Nashville demos -- circa 66 -- while his music publisher Jack Clement was going through some old tapes yielded a couple of surprises. The just-released In The Beginning (Compadre) CD reveals that along with the expected bluesy vocal/guitar tunes about ramblin' and gamblin', Van Zandt was also getting funky with a full band. Seriously ill joints like Black Widow Blues and Hungry Child Blues, stacked with head-noddin' beats, could definitely rock a party. Compadre would be wise to press up some 7s so more adventurous DJs can bring the creepy Van Zandt vibe to the dance floor.
Since Blackalicious are preoccupied with making money for Universal, some enterprising individuals have decided to help them meet the demand for more Quannum releases by putting out the Quannum Live On British Radio (MFR) CD of BBC Radio studio performances by DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born, Latyrx, Lateef, Versatile and, of course, Blackalicious. The sound quality is excellent even if some of the freestyling is uninspired.
There have been more than a few Jamaican jams to cause a ruckus on the northern soul and deep funk scenes, but collections focusing on the crossover bombs have been relatively few and often of poor sound quality. Trojan's Work Your Soul double vinyl comp (also on CD) is a notable exception, collecting 24 rare scorchers like Lloyd & Glen's Mini-Skirt & GoGo Boots, Errol Dixon's The Hoop, Roy Docker's deceptively titled Mellow Moonlight and Jimmy Cliff's early pounder Let's Dance. Some accompanying notes would've been helpful, but you can't sweat the selection.
Just when you thought RCA/BMG had reached the bottom of the Beny Moré barrel, out comes the new King Of Son disc with five previously unknown guitar/vocal demos the Cuban Frank Sinatra recorded in his Havana home back in 62. Since he was using a cheap portable tape deck, the sound quality is very rough, but still much easier to handle than the six horrifying remixes of Moré's 50s-era Banda Gigante tunes -- silly with corny samples, lame programmed beats and rapping by some clown calling himself "P-Dirty" -- which BMG meant to be the disc's selling point. At least they had the sense to include Moré's infinitely better original swingers. A comprehensive Beny Moré box set is long overdue.