Unlike most collections of Cuban music, which typically deal with Buena Vista Social son or the rootsy folkloric sound of the rural regions, the 17-track Si, Para Usted: The Funky Beats Of Revolutionary Cuba (Waxing Deep) collection assembled by Fredericton-based blogger Dan Zacks focuses on the fuzzed-out and synth-bent sound of Havana's jazz-rock fusion combos of the 70s and 80s.
No doubt Latin jazz fans will be familiar with the tracks by Irakere, Los Van Van and perhaps Juan Pablo Torres, but Zacks has come with more than a few freaky-fresh finds from Los 5-U-4, Combo Tiempos Nuevos, Los Tainos, Grupo Monumental, Mirtha y Raul and the magnificent Grupo Los Yoyi that you won't come across anywhere else.
The liner notes are informative, and all the material is fully licensed. You need it. www.waxingdeep.org.
Ronson's on fire
The face of DKNY Men's spring campaign, Mark Ronson, is perhaps better known as a celebrity selector-for-hire who notably spun at the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes wedding reception. But he's also the producer behind Amy Winehouse's career-saving makeover that was Back To Black and tweaked tracks for Christina Aguilera and Lily Allen among others.
His forthcoming covers album, Version (due April 17), should rid him of the "DJ to the stars" handle for good if the first single is any indication of what's in store. A booy-shaking overhaul of Britney's Toxic with ignant rhymes provided by ODB is an entertaining opener, but the real achievement is finding the funk in Coldplay with a hard-battering blast through God Put A Smile Upon Your Face on the flip, greatly enhanced by the Dap-Kings horns. Hotness.
Amnesty let loose
Compilations of 70s funk are so common now, it's no longer sufficient to simply dig up a couple of 7-inch tracks that Tobias Kirmayer hasn't yet posted to www.funk45.com. You've got to deliver stuff like "the only known acetate, on loan from Cut Chemist, who won it from Dante Carfagna in a Texas hold 'em showdown."
Or better yet, how about an entire unreleased album like Amnesty's Free Your Mind: The 700 West Sessions, which Stones Throw ace Egon just dug up for his Now Again imprint. It's a stone-cold prog-soul thriller that comes packed with a powerful political punch recalling the early work Funkadelic. The funkiest lesson in black history you'll hear this month. www.stonesthrow.com/nowagain.
Nashville's secret past
It may be hard to believe, but before Nashville became the country music mecca, Music City was better known for independently released blues, R&B, club jazz and gospel than for the twangy stuff.
Music historian Martin Hawkins, who co-wrote the book on Sun Records Good Rockin' Tonight, spent much of the last 30 years researching and writing his monumental new work, A Shot In The Dark: Making Records In Nashville 1945-1955 (Vanderbilt University Press), which documents the optimistic label entrepreneurs, players, writers and artists who built the Nashville scene from the ground up.
Hawkins's fascinating study comes with it's own soundtrack CD, Twenty Shots In The Dark, which offers a tasty sampling of what was rocking jukeboxes before the majors took over. www.vanderbiltuniversitypress.com.