Like many so-called Holy Grail records sought by deep-digging funk fanatics, the East Of Underground LP from 1971, which Wax Poetics magazine has selected to launch its new label, commands huge prices based more on its rarity and reputation than the musical quality of the performances.
In this case, we get mostly covers of popular songs by Curtis Mayfield and Sly & the Family Stone loosely jammed out by a group of U.S. Army servicemen who won a battle of the bands.
As far as funky military recruitment records go, it's a reasonably solid spin, with righteously heavy drumming and one standout original in Getting Over, although it's not in the same class as, say, the U.S. Navy Port Authority Soul Band's Together LP, which is easier to find and consequently less desirable to the collectors whom Wax Poetics wants to impress. The vinyl version is limited to 2,000 numbered copies, so don't sleep. www.waxpoetics.com .
Soon after Artur da Costa e Silva took control of Brazil's military dictatorship in 1967, he increased his presidential powers by effectively closing the Congress and banning the opposition with the Institutional Act 5 (AI-5). The move also placed oppressive restrictions on media and culture.
So when top Tropicalistas Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso - the movement's Lennon & McCartney - were arrested without charge in 1968 and placed in solitary confinement before being booted from the country, everyone got the message that the dope-dazed hedonism of Tropicalia was out.
The Brazil 70 (Soul Jazz) compilation does a fine job of documenting the musical aftermath of these events, when artists scattered and found creative new methods of sneaking stuff past the censors while avoiding prison and/or torture.
The psych-, prog- and fusion-bent early 70s recordings here by Novos Baianos , Alceu Valença , Secos & Molhados - and the magic-dabbling Raul Seixas - which are just as freaky-innovative as anything Tropicalia produced, show that the musical community was not about to go quietly. On the contrary, instead of turning all mainstream insipid, the most popular stars of the time, including Erasmo Carlos , Gal Costa , Rita Lee and Gilberto Gil , seemed to be driven to even more delightful flights of experimentation. You gotta love those snaky Chris Squire-style bass lines in Costa's funky-fresh Pontos De Luz. www.souljazzrecords.co.uk .
Alexander the great
Despite being the only singer/songwriter to have his compositions covered by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Bee Gees, Southern soul great Arthur Alexander knew that no one riding the bus he was driving in Cleveland in the 80s would believe him, so he never said a word about it.
Elektra A&R exec Danny Kahn finally managed to coax Alexander out of self-imposed recording exile after catching a rare appearance at New York's Bottom Line in 1991 and convinced him to take another shot. Sadly, the tastefully produced Lonely Just Like Me album turned out to be Alexander's last; his heart gave out on the road, and his exceptionally good comeback album died with him.
Fortunately, the folks at Hacktone have rescued it from obscurity and re-released it as Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter, with nine bonus songs. Along with stellar NPR performances of You Better Move On and Every Day I Have To Cry, there's an intriguing hotel-room demo session that reveals how Alexander linked his lyrics with melody lines, capped by a stirring rendition of Anna suffused with the kind of heartache the Fab Four could never conjure. www.hacktone.com .
When I first heard about a Madlib -produced 40-minute jazz workout called Summer Suite being issued under the alias The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble as a free single-track CD giveaway with purchases of his Yesterdays Universe (Stones Throw) disc, it struck me as a bit too ambitious, perhaps even a little self-indulgent for the hiphop studio ace. So I put it on half-expecting to lose interest after eight minutes of a meandering Madlib flute 'n' vibes frolic. But apart from a six-and-a-half-minute lull around the 21-minute mark, the series of gently rolling funk jams, cleverly connected by segues of beach party and outdoor BBQ ambience, hangs together remarkably well as a single piece.
A perfect chiller to go with your Labour Day getaway. If you missed the limited-run disc, Summer Suite is also available as a digital download on iTunes. www.stonesthrow.com .