Bo knows funk
Rockin' rule-breaker Bo Diddley was well on his way to becoming a quaint anachronism in 1969 when his stalled career was kick-started by a fortuitous appearance on a bill with John Lennon and Little Richard at the Toronto Rock 'N' Roll Revival. Then, after four years without any new material, one super-funky Bo Diddley LP after another appeared, beginning with 1970's The Black Gladiator (famous for the Bo-does-bondage sleeve) through to 74's Big Bad Bo.
The 20 toughest tracks from his funk era are collected on Raven 's excellent Drive By Bo Diddley comp, the really intriguing bit being that the most badass of the bunch - Elephant Man, Black Soul, Funky Fly, Shut Up Woman, Pollution, Bad Trip and Stop The Pusher - are all composed by Kay McDaniel , his wife! Who knew?
The way Arhoolie label boss Chris Strachwitz tells the story, he had to be dragged to see his first Clifton Chenier show over on Houston's east side by Lightnin' Hopkins, whose wife, Antoinette, was Chenier's cousin. Clearly, he liked what he saw and heard, because Arhoolie played a key role in making Chenier into the king of zydeco.
His bluesy brilliant initial recording session from 1965, just reissued as Louisiana Blues And Zydeco (Arhoolie) also helped bring the wonders of roadhouse zydeco in all its raw splendour to the world beyond the Gulf Coast. Best of all, Strachwitz remastered the disc from the original four-track masters, so Chenier's genius can finally be heard in true stereo. C'est magnifique!
A Penny saved
Even if you've never heard of Milwaukee jazz diva Penny Goodwin , just the look of her Portrait Of A Gemini (Sidney) LP should indicate that it could be a one-off indie soul-jazz classic. There's the cheap-looking sleeve image of a stylin' Goodwin strangely pasted over crashing waves on a rocky seaside, the oddly mismatched type, an obscure label name and a catalogue number that ends with "O1." Happily, the music, produced by Ray Tabs , with strings arranged by the great Richard Evans and played by a killer cast of Chicago session stars, doesn't disappoint. Put on the floor-filling stunner Too Soon You're Old and you'll know why original copies of this overlooked classic go for two bills - and why you need the $14 reissue LP.
Anyone who saw the late Sudanese singer Tarig Abubakar get busy with his pan-African Afronubians band will know that their issued recordings never really captured the spirited interplay of their cross-cultural onstage workouts. That oversight has been rectified with the release of Tarig Abubakar & the Afronubians Live (CBC Recordings), culled from two local shows at the Bamboo in 95 and at Queen's Park as part of Afrofest in 97 - just six months before he died in a tragic car accident in Khartoum. A worthy memorial to an adventurous and well-loved artist.